Milling journals of the past at The Mills Archive


An article in The Miller in February 1903 was written in recognition of the setting up of the Irish Association of Millers. The Irish millers had a good reputation for proficiency and commercial enterprise in their craft as well as "their plucky efforts to compete not only with the large mills on their island, but also against the great imports of American flour, and a fine fight they did".

In the city of Cork, the well-known St. John"s Roller Flour Mills belonged to Messrs George Shaw and Sons. The milling engineers ER & F Turner had fitted out their mill with an excellent five sack plant. The installation was on the most modern lines and described as working very satisfactorily. The milling arrangements in Ireland were not the same as England. The visiting reporter pointed out that the arrangement of spouts, machines and flow of material had required a great deal of business acumen in order to ensure the absolute perfection to be seen at the model plant of Messrs George Shaw and Sons.

There was practically no sale for even secondary brands, and the problem presented to the engineers, who were so successful here, was not an easy one to solve. However, this did not deter Turners. The firm had apparently entered into the work with "their customary energy and verve" and the result was highly commendable. Mr Pertwee from Turners had the work in hand and showed the visitors round the mill while Mr Brown, the managing partner, was left to running the mill, whose prosperity demonstrated that he was a fine first class practical miller. He was very willing to exchange views and give the benefit of his observations on flour mills and flour milling science.

The mill itself had the customary array of elevator bottoms on the ground floor. The spouts connecting these with the roll hoppers were built in very symmetrical style, the room being around 14 or 15ft high. The loftiness, always a good starting point for milling engineers, cleared the way for building a plant on economical lines. In the whole mill there were only three short worms for by products, the rest falling into their appointed hoppers and elevators by gravity. There was plenty of walking space around the elevators and shafting on this bottom floor, another good point.

Mounting the first flight of stairs, the visitors came to the roller floor, where they were faced with a fine array of Turner rolls but were surprised given the capacity claimed of five sacks an hour. The visitors were reassured that five sacks were indeed the capacity. It became clear that more break roll surface than had ever been seen before either in England or elsewhere was installed in this mill. The number of inches allotted to the first break was a revelation. On closer inspection, this combined with the particular surface area was found to provide a result that was much superior to the generally accepted practice. After the close examination, the visitors were convinced of the value of the innovation and had no doubt that it would ultimately stand as an additional principle in flour milling technique.

The same thinking was seen on the reduction side of the mill, the roller surface being most lavish. The stock had evidently been studied both physically and scientifically; the space allotted coinciding so correctly with product"s nature and yield. It was abundantly evident throughout the mill"s arrangement that a maximum of patent flour had been aimed at, with the view that only the highest qualities were saleable; anything under a good patent was not accepted. This high yield of high-class flour was only possible through Turners personally having made a detailed local study of what was required to construct the mill equipment. The St John Mills had been thoroughly thought through before installation using Turner"s study of the wants and the surroundings.

There were seven purifiers of the Turner"s "Dustless" type. The middlings were treated upon the first five, and, because of the elaborate division of stock upon the first break rolls, the sizes of middlings produced were so uniform that very little secondary purification was needed. The reporter stated that it was becoming more widely known and recognised that elaborate primary purification was "the thing" and that middlings, once or twice rolled, never purified so easily. All could be obviated if millers went all the way, paying attention to primary preparation.

It was found that Turner"s inter-elevators did a first-class job as scalpers; the stock from each break was treated with just the right amount of friction and movement necessary to free the feed to the succeeding roll from all sign of dusty material. The last break stock was treated on centrifugals. On the top floor of the mill was the usual complement of dressing machinery.

For better examination of the flour from each machine the triple flour worm was not bolted to the roof, but was a table worm running alongside the wall, about 40 inches above the floor. Any flour could be diverted to any worm and it was possible to make almost any grade that was demanded by the trade.

Throughout the whole mill simplicity and efficiency went hand in hand and the mill was noted as a great credit to all concerned. Messrs George Shaw and Sons were the oldest millers in Cork and extended back to the third or fourth generation. They had advanced with the times and were always classed as being right at the forefront of scientific milling practice.

by Mildred Cookson, The Mills Archive, UK

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