WHITEMILL VIRTUAL TOUR

Ground Floor First Floor Second Floor

Grain Bin with Access Ladder
Our tour of the mill concludes on the second floor. There is a third-floor, but for logistical reasons, no one is allowed up there. On the second floor we find grain storage bins, grain cleaning facilities, flour dressers, the west-end sack hoist and the hand mill.

Any mill required the capacity to store large quantities of grain prior to milling, this could be many tons. Here we see one of the three remaining storage bins, all of which are flat bottomed, and we think there were originally more than that, complete with the stepladder that allowed the miller to climb in and out of the bin. You can't climb a pile of loose grain - you can in fact drown in the stuff.
Winnowing Machine
Before the grain can be milled it must be thoroughly cleaned. Not simply because grit or dust in the grain would spoil the flour but also because the millstones themselves are a major investment which must be protected from foreign bodies such as pebbles, metal swarf, etc. Typically the grain will pass through two separate cleaning processes.

The first of these cleaning processes is the winnowing machine, of which we have only the carcass. The winnowing machine housed a large paddle fan in the drum section nearest us, which created a wind that vented through a hole in the wall to the rear. Freshly delivered grain would be taken to the top of the mill and would then be trickled down through the winnowing machine so that the wind could carry the bulky lightweight rubbish, such as chaff and straw, out of the mill leaving just grain and any heavy foreign bodies behind. The winnowed grain would then be bagged and taken back to the top of the mill before passing down through the grain cleaning machine.
Grain Cleaning Machine Closeup of Grain Cleaning Machine
The grain cleaning machine is used to remove dust and grit from the grain and also to remove any surface contaminants on the grain itself (known in the trade as "smut"). The grain cleaner is an inclined cylinder, lined with a course wire mesh, through which the grain descends and is brushed against the mesh as it goes. Dust and grit will fall through the mesh and any surface smut on the grain will be dislodged by the brushing action. All that emerges from the end of the cylinder is good, clean, golden brown grain along with any remaining large foreign bodies. These large bodies may either be sifted out before the grain reaches the millstones or may simply be left to accumulate in the eye of the millstones as they are too large to actually get between the stones and do damage. It is interesting to note that the brushes have straw "bristles" - presumably because they need to be stiff and cheap to replace as they will wear quite rapidly.
The Original Wire Machine
Flour dressers were an integral part of latter-day flourmills. Once upon a time everyone was eating wholemeal flour which produces a fairly solid and heavy loaf, but by the Victorian period it was fashionable to eat white bread - although we know from his son's book that the last miller himself ate only wholemeal bread. This meant that the miller needed some means by which he could remove some, or all, of the bran from the meal produced on his millstones. To this end he installed a number of flour dressers (also known as wire machines or bolters): One on the first floor, which we see here hanging from the ceiling, and two more here the second floor.

The flour dresser is basically just a large power-driven sieve. The cylindrical body is lined with a fine wire mesh, inside of which are a number of longitudinal brushes spinning around a central axle. The meal from the millstones is fed in at the upper end of the inclined cylinder and as it proceeds down the cylinder it is brushed against the mesh. The finer, or whiter, flour will brush out soonest with the brown flour coming out further down. Bran emerges from a small hole in the end of the cylinder. The miller therefore hangs two sacks under the cylinder to collect the white and brown flour respectively. There would have been some sort of enclosure for the cylinder but it is not known what this would have looked like.
The Bigger & Better Wire Machine Wire Machine (Eling)
Larger flour dressers, as seen in our skeletal remains here and this complete one at Eling Tide Mill, were enclosed in floor mounted cabinets and the various grades of flour would pass down hoppers to the floor below for bagging up. Such machines could produce up to three different grades of flour as well as bran. With advances in technology the cylinders would be fitted with different grades of mesh to help produce the different grades of flour.

Before wire mesh was available the cylinders would have had a loose outer sleeve of silk and the entire cylinder would have rotated. The meal was thrown against the silk and the silk in its turn struck against fixed wooden beaters thus forcing the finer meal through the fabric.
West End Crown and Pinion
The drive for all the ancilliary machinery in the mill is taken from a crown wheel on the main drive shaft.

The miller can engage or disengage the drive simply by moving the large wooden handle on the right. This pivots the beam carrying the drive shaft and lifts the iron pinion wheel away from the crown wheel.
West End Sack Hoist Winding Shaft
The arrangement for driving the sack hoist at Whitemill is particularly unusual in that it is engaged by means of crash gearing rather than the much more common friction take-up. Normally, drive from the waterwheels is connected to the sack hoist by means of tensioning the belt connecting the powered and unpowered shafts - drive is therefore applied gradually and gently. At Whitemill however, whenever the miller engages the sack hoist, a pinion wheel is driven down onto the moving crown wheel - not exactly the most subtle on/off switch in the history of milling.
West End Sack Hoist Reduction Drive
Looking at the winding shaft, above, we can see that the original wooden pinion has been destroyed by this crash mechanism and the entire winding shaft has been flipped end-for-end and a new iron pinion has been fitted. We also know, from the Bankes family accounts, that the crown wheel also had to be replaced around 1860. In an apparent attempt to reduce the shock of the loading we have a curious down-gearing arrangement in the roof space such that the rope on the winding shaft is not the same rope as attaches to the sack. The rope going off to the right of the picture carries the sack, the rope from the winding shaft can be seen coming up from the bottom of the picture.
West End Trap Door
To get a 2cwt sack through the floors of the mill, as it is hauled to the top of the mill, obviously requires a sizeable hole in the floor which would readily admit the miller going in the downwards direction. To eliminate this risk trapdoors are fitted over the hole which are lifted by the sack as it comes up the mill falling back automatically as soon as the sack has cleared.

The trapdoors are fitted with leather hinges which have a built-in spring effect such that the trapdoors will always close rather than falling all the way over and open. The leather also has a shock absorbing effect which prevents the trapdoors from shaking themselves loose.

The flaps close with an almighty bang as the sack goes through. This allows the miller, who will normally be on the ground floor, to tell how far up the mill the sack has progressed. After the third bang he knows that it has reached the top floor and he can let go of his control cord safe in the knowledge that there is a floor in place for it to settle on. Four bangs on the other hand mean that he's broken something.
West End Trap Door West End Trap Door
Handmill - Tun and Hopper
At some time in the past there was an independent mini-mill on this floor although only its bedstone remained, in-situ, when the conservation work started. As there was nothing left to damage the Trust felt safe in commissioning their millwright to produce his interpretation of what this miniature mill might have looked like, and that is what we see here. It has been beautifully produced and follows the style of the timberwork found elsewhere in the mill. It is fitted with German lava stones which suggests that it was originally for milling barley but it has now been used a couple of times for milling grain. However, the quality of the meal it produces is such that one can see why flour dressers were so important.
Handmill - Gear & Chute Handmill - Drive Gear


Ground Floor First Floor Second Floor

WHITEMILL HOME TOUR HOME