The floury language of Houghton Mill

Electric mill stone at Houghton Mill

Houghton Mill is the last surviving mill on the River Great Ouse able to produce stone ground flour from a water-powered wheel. Just as the traditional 18th Century methods may be unconventional now, some of the language may also be unfamiliar. You might find this short guide to floury language useful before or after your visit to Houghton Mill.


The chute is a white cylindrical tube that connects the grain bin (storage container) to the hopper. At the top of the chute is a slide that can be opened and closed to allow grain in.


The hopper is the upside down pyramid shaped box at the bottom of the chute that sits on top of the horse. The hopper has a door in it that allows the flow of grain onto the shoe to be regulated. It also has a warning bell if the grain runs out.


The horse sits on the tun and is the framework that holds the hopper, shoe and alarm bell.


The tun is the wooden casing that encloses the mill stones.


The shoe feeds grain into the centre of the millstones and is the sloping trough shaped piece of wood you can see being shaken by the damsel on the spindle. We can adjust the angle of the shoe to increase or decrease the flow of grain. 


The damsel is what shakes the shoe in order to move the grain down into the millstone.

Burr stones

The millstones used to grind the grain into flour are French Burr stones from the Marne Valley in Northern France. They are made of quartzite stone and built up in sections from several shaped boulders, bound together with an iron band and then embedded in plaster of paris.

Tentering gear

This is the gadget for raising and lowering the top of the millstone so that the miller can adjust the texture of the flour. 

Wire dresser

A wire dresser is used to produce white flour. Wholemeal flour is put into the dresser which has a series of brushes to brush the flour through a fine wire gauze. When the husk is trapped and drops to the bottom only the white flour is left.