The work of the Archive

The Mills Archive preserves and provides access to information and records about traditional and contemporary mills and milling. It was set up in response to an expressed need to preserve and where possible integrate the various threatened sources of information on the mills of the UK and the rest of the world.


The Archive holds a large number of documents (research notes, correspondence, ledgers and wage-books, press cuttings, digital files etc.) and images (photographs, artwork, architectural drawings etc.) relating to mills and milling. You can search our online documents and images catalogue.

These items have come to the Archive from a wide variety of sources and are catalogued in collections by creator. The Archive was originally set up to care for four historically important “Foundation Collections”:

  • The private collections of M.M. Cookson, J.K. Major and A. Stoyel are three of the largest collections of material on traditional mills and milling in the UK, and represent between them more than 130 years of researching and working with mills.
  • The fourth collection consists of material deposited over the years with the SPAB Mills Section by various mill researchers and enthusiasts. As the Section did not have the space or the expertise to develop these collections it passed them into the care of the Mills Archive.

In addition to these, the archive has been given more than 260 other collections of varying size. These show the rich and diverse crafts, buildings, machinery, equipment and people involved with mills in the UK and around the world.


Many donations include books and journals and the Archive has therefore formed an extensive library of mill-related books, journals, pamphlets, maps and trade literature. You can search our online library catalogue.


The archive exists to ensure that the records in its care remain accessible for future generations. To that end, we work to follow best practice and national and international standards in the preservation of material. This includes:

  • Using suitable packaging (e.g. acid free card);
  • Monitoring and controlling temperature and humidity in our storerooms;
  • Training staff, volunteers and visitors in the correct handling of items.


Preservation of items would of course be futile if nobody made use of the material. Our aim therefore is to publicise as widely as possible the contents of our collections so that researchers who would find the material useful know what we have and where they can consult it. We carry out our cataloguing to ensure that as much as possible of our collections is listed in our online catalogue. Digitising material increases access as researchers are enabled to view items online from their own homes; items which are not digitised are available at the Archive and can be consulted in our Library and Research Centre by booking an appointment.