A new pair of millstones has been fitted at Heatherslaw Corn Mill after a successful appeal on BBC News online and BBC Look North.
The stones, which weigh over a ton each, were gifted by ADM Milling in West Yorkshire after John Murphy, who heard the BBC appeal, connected Heatherslaw Corn Mill with Richard Waring at ADM. The company, which is one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers, had a number of old millstones at its site in Knottingley, West Yorkshire and kindly donated two sets of stones to Heatherslaw Corn Mill. The stones made stately progress up from West Yorkshire last summer and were fitted over four weekends, just in time for the museum opening this week.
The process of lifting and replacing a pair of stones may sound relatively simple but given the weight and size of each stone, the logistics were complex and a certain creative licence had to be employed. Shifting the bed stone, which sits underneath the top stone, was particularly problematic. A hydraulic power pack was utilised to help lever and lift it from the spindle, but this alone was insufficient, so a car jack was pressed into use. Once lifted both stones were manually rolled to the exit.
Phase two saw local farmer William Bell using a telescopic loader to lift the new pair of stones to the top of the entrance stairs so that they could be rolled towards their new home. Bell was part of the team that helped shift the original set of stones into position in the 1970s. The whole operation was overseen by Shannon Denson, Visitor Services Manager at Ford & Etal Estates, and local engineer Matthew Rawlings who generously gave his time on a voluntary basis.
Heatherslaw Corn Mill’s chain hoists took the strain of lifting and lowering the stones, which were then levered into position with old fashioned sweat and muscle. The bedstone was then wedged and shimmed from underneath to ensure it was central and level and the drive shaft bearing repositioned within the centre of the stone. Rawlings and Head Miller, Mark Robinson, adjusted and fine-tuned the position of both stones until they produced a flour that met his exacting standards.
Once this first new set of stones are successfully up and running the current working pair, worn out from fifty plus years of flour production, can also be lifted and replaced. This two-stage process ensures flour can be produced without interruption.
Both sets of new mill stones are made from French buhrstone and are a like for like replacement of the old stones. Buhrstone is a hard quartzite rock which hails from Northern France. An industry grew up there in the 1800s shaping the stones, cementing them with plaster and reinforcing the construction with an iron band. The finished product was exported all around the world as buhrstone millstones were thought to produce a superior flour.
Heatherslaw Corn Mill has operated on a single set of stones since the 1970s, though back in the days of peak production the mill had the capacity to operate six different sets of stones at the same time. For now, a leap from utilising just the one set of stones to two is seen as huge advantage. This will enable Heatherslaw Corn Mill to double its production capacity and, excitingly, to mill two different types of grain simultaneously, water levels permitting.
The generosity of ADM will help ensure a productive future for Heatherslaw Corn Mill. The second set of stones will be fitted next winter and will replace the pair that have been hard at work since the mill was restored in the 1970s.
To celebrate the occasion all entry charges will be dropped at Heatherslaw Corn Mill for the first month of the 2023 season (27th March to 30th April).
Heatherslaw Corn Mill is open daily from 10:00-17:00 (last admission to the mill at 16:00).
A new pair of millstones has been fitted at Heatherslaw Corn Mill after a successful appeal on BBC News online and BBC Look North. The stones, which weigh over a ton each, were gifted by ADM Milling in West Yorkshire after John Murphy, who heard the BBC appeal, connected Heatherslaw Corn Mill with Richard Waring […]Read more
The FitzClarence gates at Letham Hill have been reinstalled at Etal Manor after a six month absence for essential restoration work. Ollie Green, of Kelsey Metal Work in Greenlaw, undertook the restoration work as the gates had suffered considerable wear and tear; they were first installed some two hundred years ago. The gates were commissioned […]Read more
It may be difficult to imagine the circumstances under which Lady Louisa found herself moving to Ford in 1859; recently widowed and childless through fate rather than will, Louisa nonetheless lost no time in commissioning the construction of the school for the benefit of the children whose parents lived and worked on the estate. Her […]Read more
Now more than ever it seems we are being asked to remember how vital nature and the natural world is to our physical and mental well-being. Being in such a beautiful part of the world means we don’t have to go far off the beaten track to find beauty, peace and tranquillity; I can think […]Read more
Welcome to Ford, tucked away in the very north of Northumberland. This beautiful village is testimony to the philanthropic work of a tireless woman. A woman who was also tireless in her artistic achievements. But who was she? Dante Gabriel Rossetti described her as ‘an excellent artist’ who was ‘such a swell and such a […]Read more