Friday, 3 April 2009

Flour The Old-Fashioned Way

Stainsby Mill
On our recent visit to Derbyshire, we paid a visit to Stainsby Mill - an old water-driven flour mill which is (incredibly) still working. The mill on the Hardwick Estate (of which more later) and is maintained by the National Trust, whose friendly guides gave us an end-to-end tour of the milling process.

It all starts with the water wheel, of course, but unfortunately (for photographers) the wheel is enclosed within the building so it's only possible to get a tantalizing glimpse:

Water wheel
There's even a handle to control how much water flows into the wheel:

A lot of cogs, belts, and what-have-yous transfer the energy to a number of different tasks around the mill:

Mechanism connecting to the water wheel
One use of this is to winch heavy sacks of grain from the ground floor (where they're delivered) all the way up to the roof space:

Sack of grain being lifted
The grain is then milled using millstones (also driven by the water wheel), of which there are three pairs at Stainsby:

Millstones at work
The milled grain then needs to be sifted into different grades of flour and bran, for which there's an extensive mechanism:

Flour sifting mechanism
The grain is tipped into the top of a mesh tube which has holes of different sizes along the length, getting bigger further down the tube. The brushes turn and push through the appropriate grade of flour (whatever fits through the holes at each point):

Flour sifting tube
The turning of the brushes is also driven by the water wheel, of course.

The flour then falls down a set of chutes and into sacks:

All these components can be switched on or off independently, which is really quite a feat of engineering.

Where's your favourite example of 'living history'?


Chef E said...

Absolutely cool Rachel, thanks for sharing! I wish I could take my students to a place like this around here!

Lynda said...

How fascinating, & great to know that these old practices are still in use in parts of the world today. Just goes to show that sometimes "old fashioned" really IS the best !

Kazzy said...

Pretty cool. It seems so complicated. I have been to an old mill before when I took a trip to an old Ohio town once, but it wasn't as detailed as this one.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful mill. Do they sell their flour? I've got to go to an old mill around here.

There are many examples of living history around here. My fav. is the Château Guédelon in the Yonne.

Emmie said...

I like the abbey pumping station in leicester although it is a bit boring unless there is an official fun day where they have the old steam train run!

I visited a mill in Arnley (leic) over the weekend. It was lovely :o) x

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