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sturminster newton mill
In a quiet agricultural village of only five thousand inhabitants located in the county of Dorset, between the green of the English countryside and the flow of the river Stour, in a scenario that would have inspired the brush of some impressionist painter, stands a mill with a thousand-year history: the Sturminster Newton Mill.

A BIT OF HISTORY

The first historical traces of the Sturminster Newton mill date back to the year 1016, when these buildings were regularly built along the banks of the Stour River. Another important documented trace of it dates back to the year 1086 when the grinder was recorded in the Domesday Book, a manuscript that collects the results of a census wanted by William the Conqueror. Since then the mill has undergone various changes, including reconstructions and technological developments. The present building consists of two parts: the south wing which was rebuilt in 1650 on an existing site, and the north wing, built in 1611, which was originally a fulling mill, separated from the rest of the building and which was demolished in the eighteenth century and rebuilt shortly after to unite and extend the structure. Until 1903, the mill was powered by a pair of water wheels that worked side by side and that drove four groups of stones; a system that from 1904 was replaced by a single water turbine. The milling activity of this idyllic place continued until 1970, when it was definitively closed.
sturminster newton mill

the mill of Sturminster Newton

sturminster newton mill grain

the mill of Sturminster Newton

MUSEUM

Since 1989 the mill has become a museum run by the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust to tell its thousand-year history and how the miller’s profession, wheat culture and milling techniques have evolved over the centuries. In addition, the mill, for two days a month and for demonstration purposes, returns in business to produce some flour that you can buy directly in the museum shop. Currently, due to the Coronavirus, the museum’s activity is temporarily suspended.

THE MILLER

The miller’s trade is an ancient activity, handed down from father to son, which today risks being forgotten. Every milling machine worthy of this title, had its own secrets for the milling of cereals and it often happened that entire families entrusted him with the wheat to be milled to obtain optimal flours. To make them, it was essential to use a stone mill with two horizontal grinding wheels suitable for wheat or maize, based on the grooves that were drawn on them. Another important task that our miller had to perform, was to carefully adjust the flow along the water catchment channel through the doors, both at the opening and at the lock.
miller

the miller

inside of the mill

the inside of the mill of Sturminster Newton

sturminster newton flour mill

Sturminster Newton’s flour

inside of the mill

the inside of the mill of Sturminster Newton

OUR EXPERIENCE

After visiting Durdle Door and Corfe Castle in Dorset, we reached the mill, I and the photographer Giuseppe were greeted by the owner and miller Pete Loosemore and his assistant Imogen Bittner. Entering this place means making a journey back in time: every dusty stone speaks of history, starting from the fact that everything is still executed manually keeping the traditions of a past that, at a glance, does not seem so far. The expert hands that still has the best on numerical control machines, makes such a place really unique and difficult to find in circulation. Imogen and Pete then explained the whole process of processing the wheat in the three basic stages: cleaning, conditioning and grinding. The cleaning phase aims to eliminate material of different nature compared to wheat; it is of great importance and therefore must be carried out with particular care as it can influence the quality of semi-finished or finished products. The conditioning phase requires that the grain is wet with a sufficient amount of water to facilitate the detachment between the external parts from those inside. Finally, the milling phase is the passage of the grain in flour through rolling mills with actions of breaking, undressing and millstone. They also explained that when it came to dealing with the great pandemic of our time, when the flour disappeared from all the shelves of the supermarkets of United Kingdom, Pete together with his assistant Imogen, thought to bring back into business the ancient mechanisms of the mill and to return to produce flour. Only in April they ground more than a ton of wheat and it was chosen to allocate the flour produced to local realities, using the gain for the maintenance of the mill. The activities of the two millers will continue until the emergency is over. This news has been around England and beyond. The ancient traditions return to cope with the emergencies of the modern era, that all this is a good omen for other mills.

the inside of the mill of Sturminster Newton

inside of the mill

the inside of the mill of Sturminster Newton

LOGISTICS

HOW TO GET:

  • by bus with theNational Express from London to Gillingham (Dorset) then take the bus nr X4 to Sturminster Newton
  • by train from London to Gillingham (Dorset) then take the bus nr X4 to Sturminster Newton
  • you can rent a car from Heathrow Airport

MILL:

The mill is open on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 to 17 from April to September (the activity will reopen to the public in 2021 due coronavirus). Entry costs £4 for adults and £1 for children under 16.

MUSEUM:

The museum is open from February to the end of March from 10 am to 12.30 pm on Monday, Friday and Saturday while from April to December it is open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.

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