Visit to Mill Green museum, July 2010

Photo:The miller explains the many wheels which operate from the central shaft

The miller explains the many wheels which operate from the central shaft

Alan Bunting

Photo:Flour being fed into the grinding stones

Flour being fed into the grinding stones

Alan Bunting

The mill is one of several along the River Lea, east of Batford

By Joyce Bunting

Mill Green Museum - visit on July 21st 2010

Mill Green Museum contains archives about Welwyn Garden City, the old cinema and film industry, the Shredded Wheat factory and how the city was planned. Outside is a pretty garden where, from 12noon, snacks are available.  But members of Harpenden & District Local History Society went primarily to see the restored 18th century flour mill in action.

Machinery

When we arrived, the water wheel was turning and the mill grinding grain. We were able to marvel at the machinery on the ground and first floors.  Four different types of water wheel are possible. At Mill Green, fast flowing water strikes the wide paddles half way down and passes beneath the wheel.  The central rotating hub is a massive square beam. 

Notices around the mill explain the names and functions of the various working parts, and how millstones are made and maintained. We were told that some of the best modern millstones are made of ‘French Burr’- a type of quartz - ideal for fine milling.  They are imported from a site near Paris. In the past, millers and itinerant stone dressers ended up with metal slivers embedded in their hands.  These would fly off their steel dressing tools as they worked renewing the grooves in millstones.  When a man applied for a dressing job, to see how experienced he was, the miller would ask to see his hands, hence the expression ‘Show us your metal’. 

Flour

Only organic flour is produced at Mill Green.  The miller explained that the English climate is not hot enough to produce the type of grain necessary to make a well-risen soft loaf. So wheat from Canada, Australia and Yugoslavia is added to British grain.  The strong flour thus produced contains more gluten, without which the bread would collapse and make a solid, heavy loaf.  So in days of old, a loaf would be cut horizontally. The lords and ladies had the top slice, which was light and well risen, and the peasants had to make do with the heavy, sometimes burnt, bottom portion.  Hence the term ‘Upper crust’, meaning the gentry.  (But there is evidently some doubt about this derivation!)

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 04/10/2010.

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