Jordans Mill, Biggleswade

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watermills Jordans Mill, Biggleswade

In recent years Jordans have carved a substantial niche on our supermarkets shelves supplying breakfast cereals and cereal bars, but the firm has its roots as flour millers since 1855 at Holme Mills near Biggleswade. The historic Holme Mills was last used for active production in the early 2000s, but has since been reborn as a visitor attraction under the branding of "Jordans Mill".

The mill site is believed to be a Domesday one, but the current mill is a rare example of a mill which was thoroughly modernized at the turn of the 20th century. A couple of fires at that time gave the Jordan family of millers the opportunity to upgrade their overshot waterwheel driven millstones with turbine driven roller mills. That milling equipment is supplied by a fascinating array of automated grain elevators and worm drives, and the grain and resultant flour were also processed by a variety of surviving cleaning and sieving equipment.

The mill is no longer part of the main Jordans company, but is administered by the separate Jordans Trust. The transformation from working mill to visitor attraction has taken many years, and the surprising fact that the mill was not a listed building allowed the architects to make some substantial alterations to the building. Key amongst these is the immense 4 storey high cutout that was made to the end wall of the milling halls, that now provides a window on to the whole top to bottom process that goes on in the mill. This cutout is double glazed, and effectively keeps the noise of the machinery from the rest of the building.

The Gilbert and Gilkes turbine that powers everything is of course out of view in the watercourse, but it is still functioning, though it has to be said that these days it merely idles along - the roller milling plants are not in use, (which does mean their covers can be open so that the rollers can be seen), but some of the other ancilliary machinery which can run "dry" is turning, so that you can see its operation without the dust that would have been ever present in its working days. The mill is refreshingly free of obscuring safety cages, electing instead to keep visitors behind a simple fence, but this has been achieved at some cost to the layout, with the main line shaft having been moved sideways to allow the visitor walkway to be placed where the shaft once turned. Similarly another line shaft has been cut through to give headroom above another walkway.

The turbine drives the horizontal spur wheel, and from there power is passed via belts and those line shafts to the rest of the building. There's also a belt driven dynamo in place, whose output contributes to the power needs of the building. One floor up from the power floor is the roller mill equipment, where the 4 roller mills by Turner of Ipswich are still in place, split as 2 break rolls, followed by 2 reduction rolls. Off to one side there's also an example of the earlier Henry Simon's Carter roller mill which was in use from 1894 till the second fire of 1899 when the Turner equipment was installed. The second floor houses the purifier and centrifugal sifter machines which cleaned and separated the flour, and from there it's possible to glimpse the huge and impressive plansifter on the otherwise inaccessible roof floor above.

The machinery is explained in a short video which you view as part of a guided tour of the mill, and outside the main mill building is a secondary educational room which has further poster based information, on both the mill and the Jordan family - one of the owners in particular had a great passion for racing cars and stunt flying. Also adjacent to the main mill building there's an auxillary engine that has yet to be restored. The site is reached through a very impressive newly built oak framed building, which houses the restaurant, ticket office, shop (Jordans cereals much in evidence!), and some meeting rooms and offices. This building opens on to decking over the River Ivel, and in the spring sunshine of the first open weekend this was already proving a very popular place to sit, eat and drink. Plans for later this year include opening up more land alongside the river, in the form of a market garden (to include examples of various cereal crops), and a wildflower meadow.

A further selection of photos can be found on my specific page about Jordans Mill.

Tags: [#watermill] [#turbine] [#roller mill]
Item: #866, Posted: 22/4/13.

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