September 09, 2019

The Mills Archive receives a nationally important collection from the Science Museum, UK

The Mills Archive Trust is pleased to announce that it has received one of the most important mill collections of the 20th century from the Science Museum.

The material was assembled over decades by the late Rex Wailes OBE, who was an engineer and the leading consultant for the repair of windmills. Rex's passion took him on adventures around the world, and his records offer an unusual insight into people's lives, engineering ingenuity and environmental changes.

The collection is a time capsule full of photographs, glass plates, large technical drawings, notes and correspondence that immortalise the fascinating structures of mills, the people involved and the landscape that they shaped.

Image credit: The Mills Archive

Following negotiations with the Science Museum, Rex's records have now been entrusted to the Mills Archive. The collection is being kept safe in archival storage that has been made possible by the support of Perendale Publishers, who are sponsoring 'The Milling & Grain Room'. This Room is named after the successful monthly magazine that is produced by Perendale for the milling industry.

Development Director Liz Bartram said, 'We are delighted to have received this collection from the Science Museum, which has been made possible by storage support from Perendale Publishers. As the national repository for the history of milling, Rex's material forms a vital part of the story of how the world has been fed and fuelled by mills. This is only the start of the journey, as it will take time and further funding to help us preserve and open up the collection to the public'.

'We at Milling and Grain are honoured to have the opportunity to support the Trust's acquisition of the Rex Wailes Collection from the British Science Museum,' says Roger Gilbert, publisher of Milling and Grain magazine.

'Our magazine dates back to 1891 when wind and water mills were giving away to new steel rollermills powered by steam. 'Milling and Grain is extremely aware of the significance of the industry's history and the importance of preserving as much of that history for future generations as possible, particularly as we live in a world where more and more people will come to depend on flour and bread to balance sound nutrition.

'Milling has and will continue to play a pivotal role in meeting nutritional challenges that face a growing world population. Knowing our history and how our industry has developed will help in that process. That is why we support the aims and objectives of the Trust in its goal to record the history of milling. We congratulate the Mills Archive Trust in securing this very important collection,' adds Mr Gilbert.
Image credit: The Mills Archive

The next stage is for the Trust to examine the collection and assess conservation, digitisation and packaging needs, and to launch a public funding appeal in the autumn that will help open up the collection for the public to learn from and enjoy.

While the collection is not yet ready to be used for research, the Trust welcomes those with a specific interest or who have memories of Rex to get in touch to arrange a visit and get a glimpse of the work that goes into caring for our collections and making them available.

About the Mills Archive Trust
The Trust is the national centre for the history of milling and seeks to tell the story of how mills have fed and powered the world. A registered charity (no 1155828) established in 2002, the Trust is an Accredited Archive Service and has been awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. The Trust employs 5 members of staff, most of whom started as volunteers, and approximately 20 volunteers contribute their time and efforts to the charity.

Based in the Grade II*-listed Watlington House, which itself dates from the 1600s, the Archive operates in central Reading and welcomes visits from the public.

For more information or to arrange a visit, call 0118 950 2052 or email

Visit the Mills Archive website, HERE, and the Mills Archive Facebook page, HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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