Castleford Heritage Trust

Queen's Mill

Queen's Mill by Rod Rayner Queen's Mill, previously known as Allinson's Mill, was the world's largest stone grinding flour mill with twenty pairs of grinding stones.   Although not a listed building the mill is of National Significance because of its history, heritage and importance in the local community over hundreds of years.   In fact archaeological evidence has produced wheat grains on this site dating from the Roman period.

According to the West Yorkshire Archaeological Society there has been a working mill by the river Aire as far back as Roman times.  Watermills, some dating from at least the twelfth century were established on both sides of the River Aire in Castleford.   In mediaeval days the mills were owned by the Crown and used chiefly for milling wheat just as the Queen's Mill continued to do until 2010.  Through the ages Monarchs began to sell off their mills to private entrepreneurs in a search for new sources of income.   The mills in Castleford were disposed of in 1615 and eventually the current mill came into the hands of the Bland family of Kippax Park.  In the 1700’s the Aire and Calder Navigation was cut and the Navigation Undertakers purchased the mills, leasing them to tenants.

In Sagar's 1752 map of Castleford the 'Old Mill' is shown on the north side of the river standing by the side of a cutting which took water from upstream on the Aire and deposited it back just above the bridge.   Water to the wheel being controlled by means of a lock in the cutting.  In the 1770's a new mill and farm buildings, called the 'Castleford Old Mill', were built by John Smeaton for a Mr. Crowther on the site of the 'Old Mill'.   In 1822 when Thomas Heptinstall was the miller he moved the mill to its present location in Aire Street.  Building works were completed on the Queen’s Mill in 1888.   The water wheel was a 20 foot diameter piece of iron and timber Victorian engineering, large for its type and with high efficiency features, it turned six mill stones using water from the River Aire.

During the second world war the milling operation was increased with the addition of another fourteen sets of electrically driven mill wheels and an external silo which could hold six hundred tons of wheat.   It was this addition that gave the mill the distinction of being the largest stoneground flour mill in the world.

When the mill was operating nineteen pairs of stones would be grinding flour with one pair being taken out of service for dressing and general maintenance.   Dressing the millstones is one of the most important aspects of routine maintenance carried out in a mill.   After the basic stone has been prepared, the surfaces are smoothed and a pattern of grooves is cut into them.  It is these furrows that do the real work.   As the stones are used, the furrows gradually become worn and must be refreshed or "dressed".   The tools of the millwright are the "millbill" and "pick", which are made from a very specially tempered steel.   The bill or pick was set in a wooden handle known as a "thrift", holding the thrift in both hands, the stone dresser pecks away at the stone until it is ready for service.

Dr. Thomas Allinson In 1921 the mill was leased by the Allinson family to continue the work of noted tenant Dr Thomas Allinson whose name has been retained through the years and today the mill is still locally known as ‘Allinson’s Mill’.

The mill remained under the ownership of the Navigation Undertakers until 1948 when the surviving Queen's Mill was taken back into public ownership, becoming part of the British Transport Commission under the Docks and Waterways Executive.   In 1962 it became vested in British Waterways, or as it is now know the Canal and River Trust.  From 1972 the mill was leased by Booker McConnell, then taken over by Allied Mills from 1994.   Finally the lease was taken by the American company ADM who took the decision in 2010 to close the mill.

Amid a history of many fires and subsequent re-buildings, the mill had largely been rebuilt by 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.   Castleford Heritage Trust made an offer to purchase the mill in 2012 from the Canal and River Trust and the contacts were signed on 19th April 2013.   Since that date CHT has opened the mill and thousands of people from the local community and beyond have visited the site and learned about its history and Trust's vision of the future.