Work started in Spring 2015 to see flour being produced at Queen’s Mill for the first time since it ceased mass production in 2011.
Since May, when trustees gave the go-ahead to the project, a team of volunteers with the support of community organiser Dayna O’Brien have been working in the mill to adapt some of the grinding stones and milling system so flour can be produced on a smaller scale. The team consists of volunteers, John Bell, Peter Dickinson, James Knowles, Rod Rayner and Steve Yates.
Among the work has been replacing an augur, which drives the flour through the milling machinery once it has been ground, so the public can see the process taking place. They have also installed a new extractor fan to remove dust from the milling room, which has included building and soundproofing a new room to house it, as well as putting a door on the hopper so wheat can be fed to the grinding stones. Changes have also been made to how the flour is collected once it has been ground. Originally it was blown through the factory to the silos where it was stored, but it has been converted to a bagging system.
At the start of July engineers from JC Electrical Services installed new switchgear to control the milling process so flour production could begin in earnest. The switchgear controls the speed of the millstone so the team can produce a finer flour which is ideal for baking. In addition a perspex cover has been fitted to the auger so the finished flour can be seen as it goes to be bagged. In addition to the practical work, the team is also looking at how to brand and package the flour.
The first batch of flour to be produced was passed to Stuart our on site baker who did a test bake a batch of bread for the team to assess. Further flour was then produced enabling Stuart to bake bread for visitors to sample at the open day on the 11th of July.
On Thursday 27th of August the team produced the first batch of flour for sale to the public milled from locally grown wheat. The flour is on sale in 1.5kg bags which can be bought in the Queen‘s Mill Tea Rooms and the Trust Craft Shop in Castleford Market Hall at £2.50 per bag.
Update: 28/12/2017 Volunteer Dave Weatherson has taken on the role of head miller and is overseeing the operation. As demand for our stoneground wholemeal flour increased it was decided to automate the sieving process before bagging. In the past we had to manually sieve the flour to take out any whole grains of wheat that had passed through the stones. Being true Yorkshire men we did not throw these away but carried them back upstairs to be put back into the feed hopper.
It was noted at a very early stage that the wheat was fed into the stones by a vibrating table. We set about converting one of the spare vibrating tables to have a sieve built into the table so as to separate the flour from the wheat. The flour drops through the sieve into a collection tub and the wheat flows over the sieve to be collected ready for re-working. Enclosing all the working in dust proofing made it a better and safer working environment.
Periodically we open up the stones for cleaning. We vacuum clean any excess flour and then steam clean them to maintain our high level of hygiene. At the last cleaning it was noted that the stones we use would soon require sharpening or dressing to use the correct term. This will be undertaken during the summer.
So as not to stop production we are going to connect up a second pair of stones to the control panel. The dust extraction, wheat flow and flour sieving components are common between stones 19 and 20 so there will be only a little disruption when changing from one set of stones to another.
We are re-branding our flour with new labels and it is now available in 1.5 kg bags and smaller 500g bags.