Lifting the lid on Houghton Mill’s annual mill stone inspection

Specialist millwrights inspect the mill stones at Houghton Mill

Houghton Mill is the last surviving mill on the River Great Ouse able to produce stoneground flour from a water-powered wheel. The historic mill uses French Burr stones and the same traditional methods used over 150 years ago.

Once the mill reopens for the season each Spring it produces over 150kg of flour each Sunday, and double that during the summer months when the mill runs twice a week.  

Milling flour using 18th century machinery is a noisy and very physical process that can eventually take its toll even on even the most hard wearing of mill stones.  

In preparation for the season ahead, each year specialist millwrights Dorothea Restorations and our experienced volunteer millers work together to inspect, clean and prepare both pairs of mill stones for the year ahead. 

Lifting the lid on traditional milling

The casing is removed and stones separated

Before the mill stones can be inspected, our millers carefully take apart the wooden casing that protects the mill stones (and our visitors) when they are in action and use a stone crane to raise the top running stone.

Inspecting the inner surfaces of the millstones

The millwrights inspect the inner surfaces of the mill stones to check for any uneven wear, glaze or moisture damage as well as measuring how deep the furrows are.

Measuring the running stone

The high-quality Burr stones used at Houghton Mill should only need to be replaced every 100 years but every few years they will need to be redressed to make sure they work efficiently.

Removing any grain from the bearings

The neck bearing is taken apart, any grain cleaned away and re-greased.

The 'furniture' is replaced

The mill stones are then put back together and the ‘furniture’ (tun, quant, horse and shoe) put back around the mill stones before a test run of the waterwheel.

Ready to mill!

When the millwrights and millers are happy everything is working, we are ready to start producing freshly milled Houghton Mill stone ground flour.