January 15, 2015

15/01/2015: The Roller Flour Milling Archive

by Mildred Cookson

Originally published in Grain and Feed Milling Technology, September – October 2014


The Mills Archive, based in Reading in the UK, is expanding its scope to collect and care for documents and images recording the history and contemporary situation of roller flour milling. We are looking for material without a permanent home and raising funds to house such items securely and to make them freely available to the public.

During the 19th century Britain's expanding industrial cities rapidly increased the demand for flour to bake bread. Steam-driven, high-speed metal rollers that produced flour much faster and in greater quantities than the traditional method rapidly superseded the tried and tested method of using millstones to grind flour.
 

http://issuu.com/gfmt/docs/gfmt1405_w1/1

There are only a few reminders left in the UK now of this important phase in milling. During the late 1890’s and early 1900’s quite a few country mills made the transition to either replace all millstones with a complete roller plant, or to go halfway and keep one or two pairs of millstones alongside roller mills. The transition to either partial or full removal of millstones for the installation of a roller plant was not a cheap business, but some millers found it worthwhile to do so to keep up with the changing times.

We still have some of the large milling firms in business, but there are also survivors of the time when small country and town mills were trying to keep up with the competition of the larger mills. Caudwell’s mill (mentioned by Rob Shorland-Ball, one of our supporters, in the last issue), which is still working, gives us a glimpse into how a small country mill took up the challenge of going fully over to the roller system. On the Isle of Wight four watermills turned over to roller milling, Upper Calbourne being the last of the four to convert to rollers. These former small port mills were supplementing their island trade to the mainland. Today, you can still see the roller mills installed by Henry Simon at Calbourne Mill. Although these are still workable, the mill is now using millstones to produce its flour.

Windmills were not to be left out and those at Newington Ramsgate, Watlington Norfolk, Press Brothers, Green Cap mill at Yarmouth and Tring Flour Mills were some which continued working alongside a newer, larger roller mill building. A Mr R Randerson of York had his tall seven-storey windmill fitted out with a complete Henry Simon roller plant.

The Mills Archive contains material on roller flour milling from around the world, although the modern industry is poorly represented. In Hungary, the home of the porcelain rollers, there is a fine museum on the history of milling. If you know of any roller men who would be happy to talk to us about their experiences or donate any roller mill material, we would love to make contact and thus add to our new project.

For more information please contact Mildred Cookson at mills@millsarchive.org


Read the magazine HERE.
 

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