Passion for artisan bread puts wind in the sails of Britain's mills

As hundreds of traditional millers throw open their doors to the public this weekend, their profession is undergoing a renaissance

A growing appetite for artisan bread produced by Britain's burgeoning army of small independent bakeries has set the wheels turning again in previously defunct windmills that have stood forlorn for decades.

Thanks to Britain's changing appetites, a new generation of millers is struggling to meet the demand for traditional flour. Tens of thousands of Britons will flock to visit mills this weekend, as hundreds – wind- and water-powered – open their doors to the public.

A number are being brought back into working order, such as the Grade II listed Bunbury Watermill in Cheshire, which reopened in March, after being closed for two years. And last year, Melin Talgarth Mill in Wales reopened for the first time in more than 60 years after major renovation. Moulton Windmill, in Lincolnshire, Britain's tallest windmill at 100ft high, is now in its final stages of restoration, as is Holegate Windmill in York. And today Bardwell Windmill in Suffolk is set to grind corn commercially for the first time in 100 years.

The Traditional Cornmillers Guild, which promotes artisan flour milling, has seen its membership more than double since it was set up in 1987 with 16 mills as members. It now has 35, and the guild claims more are being brought back into production in Britain than anywhere else in the world.

Although still a niche market, it is not insignificant, with some 8,000 tonnes of flour a year now being produced in a tradition stretching back more than 1,000 years.

There were around 6,000 mills in England listed in the Domesday Book in 1086. By 1931, there were just 200 working mills left. This number fell to below 10 by the 1960s, ironically a time when Camberwick Green's resident miller, "Windy", was being watched by millions of children.

But the efforts of enthusiasts helped to stop them disappearing, aided by tens of millions of pounds in Lottery grants in recent years. There are now more than 30 mills that produce enough flour to run as going concerns, along with more than 100 others that can produce flour.

Television programmes such as The Big Bread Experiment and The Great British Bake Off have helped sustain interest in locally produced flour, part of the home-baking market now worth more than £500m a year.

Jonathan Cook, chairman of the Traditional Cornmillers Guild, said: "The majority of our members, especially those selling to local artisan bakers, have seen a significant renaissance of interest in their products. And as a working miller myself, my turnover is up by about 20 per cent over the past year."

Mr Cook, who runs Swaffham Windmill in Cambridge, added: It's indicative of what we are seeing in wider society, which is about people looking for something that links them to something more profound – something with a local identity."

The trend is set to continue, according to Michael Stoate, who runs Cann Mills in Dorset: "I see no reason why this trend won't increase and that old redundant mills can be brought back to life and serve their local community once again."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game