Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Wessex Flour Mill

I found this photo in an old packet of prints. At a guess it is around 15 years old as it's from a camping trip in my VW, and I've not been anywhere in that for over 10 years (still for sale!).

Wessex Flour Mill is still a working mill - I could give you some history, but it's much better on their own website. 

It's an odd looking, and slightly posh building. Those arches over the top of the square windows are a decorative feature I've not seen before.. The whole lot looks a bit spruced up to satisfy the good citizens of Wantage to me, but then we are a long way from dark satanic mills, so perhaps it's always been pretty?

I like that ugly pipe sticking out of the top though. 


James Finister said...

Sadly over the last 35 years, I've watched a very similar mill not a million miles from there go from renewed prosperity to bankruptcy. The main causes were the lack of investment in new machinery that had the same flexibility as that installed in the sixties, and the disappearance of the type of baker who was their main customer.

Christopher said...

Aha, it is not often I see somewhere I recognise locally! (I live a brisk 20 minute walk away.) I've always known it as Clark's Mill, and appropriately it is located at the foot of Mill Street in Wantage and built over Letcombe Brook.

If I've got my bearings correct, you would have been standing on what was the entrance to the old canal basin and wharf -- now mostly redeveloped as flats and houses. To your right and slightly behind you was the Sack House, part of the wharf complex and fortunately now restored. In the days of the Wantage Tramway, most goods traffic was handled at the Lower Wharf, which was built just to the east of the canal basin. (The photo is looking mostly south.) Sadly, very little now remains of the Wantage Tramway: the original passenger train shed, which survived for decades as lock-up garages and should have been preserved as a bit of local history, was apparently demolished and burnt by developers when the Sainbury's site was built...

Christopher Payne said...

This mill, at the time “Clark’s Mill”, was in its original form (before rebuilding after the fire of 1945) a significant source of traffic for the Wantage Tramway in the form of flour for biscuits (Huntley and Palmer in Reading, Serpells in Tilehurst) and pie pastry (Harris in Calne). The mill was only a short distance across Mill Street from the Lower Yard of the Tramway. Previously in this vicinity had been a wharf of a branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal. When the Tramway built the Lower Yard in 1905 there was a proposal to extend a siding across Mill Street into the mill. However, this was not pursued and flour was regularly carried the short distance to the Tramway’s yard by horse and cart (later motor lorries). For full details see Nicholas de Courtais: The Wantage Tramway. Wild Swan, 2017, ISBN 978-1-912038-71-8, pp. 51-53, 80, photograph on pp. 56-57, and plan on p. 94.

Christopher Payne

Mark Collier said...

This structure proves the old adage that 'there's a prototype for everything' in model railways! All those manufacturers and modellers of low relief buildings take note. There's a real one in Wantage!