August 22, 2016

22/08/2016: FWP Matthews - Combining modern techniques with traditional values

by Andrew Wilkinson 

As you travel through the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, amongst the clusters of yellow-bricked houses, smatterings of cornfields, braying cattle and leaping lambs, you may well chance upon the hidden gem that is FWP Matthew’s redbrick flour mill.
Situated on the outer extremities of the beautiful Cotswold hills, in the village of Shipton under Wychwood, this traditional mill produces a wide range of quality organic and conventional flours. FWPMatthews still use the original mill building that was commissioned in 1912, which housed a steam-powered mill that ground the wheat grown in local fields. 

Once the wheat had been turned into flour, it was then transported using eight dedicated rail carts, that delivered to their three original customers that included Huntley and Palmers in Reading, Peek Frean in Bermondsey and Jacobs in Dublin.

War to late nineties
In 1950, the 60HP gas turbine engines, which originally powered the mill, were replaced by electric motors. The 1960’s then saw the Matthews mill repurpose from making biscuits to making bread; specialising in the 50:50 or “national loaf” In 1992 FWP Matthews Ltd became certified by the Soil Association to mill organic flour.

LSEMS members on a tour of the mill
Buying local grain and supporting the community is still of prime importance to the company. In 2005 the mill was re-fitted with equipment to increase production and efficiency. Early capacity was 600 cwt of wheat per hour bettered slightly today by a staggering 6 tonnes per hour. 

Over the past 20 years, FWP Matthews have enjoyed an exceptional period of growth; with their turnover overall turnover increasing by almost fivefold. Back in 1998, they were turning over £1.5 million with just 12 staff. However, with a few tweaks and a great deal of hard work and investment, this has now grown to £15-20 million with 75 staff.

Today the mill runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week to keep up with demand, with continued investment in new equipment meaning that modern techniques are combined effectively with traditional values; with the most recent sizable investment by FWP Matthews culminating with the opening of the Wychwood Building on 13th February 2009 by the Princess Royal.

Combining modern techniques with traditional values

FWP Matthews have 11 silo bins, with a wheat capacity in excess of 600 tonnes. With their ability to hold such a large volume for such a relatively small mill, they can receive as many as five vehicles a day, with each delivery of eight tonnes taking approximately one hour to unload.

Before the incoming product is unloaded, it must first pass through the laboratory, where the wheat and flour is put through a series of rigorous tests before it is allowed to tip, such as protein level, moisture, Hagberg and hardness.

The incoming grain is then put through a gluten wash to determine protein quality, then weighed, then it’s stretched on a ruler to determine its gluten content , which according to our guide Mark Priorly is, old fashioned but it works. Once approved, the grain is then fed through the destoner, which works using an adjustable density yoke. 

The grain is then fed through a chaff remover or Winnower, which features a vibrating horizontal screen that actually sorts the wheat from the chaff, with the latter being removed via suction. 

Their new Satake Alpha Scan ‘colour sorter’ then separates impurities from wheat by colour, which in turn reduces the overall product waste , whilst “improving flour quality,” especially their stoneground and organic flours.

FWP Matthews Ltd was one of the very first flour-mills in the UK to use this leading technology. Once destoned, winnowed and sorted, the grain then enters the steam room, where the grain is cleaned and water added. 

FWP are currently using French grain, as according to our guide, getting hold of English Organic wheat is “very hard” at present, and owing to the fact that it has been an unusually wet summer so far this year, high protein wheat has also been very hard to come by. 

Read the full article HERE.

The Global Miller
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