Nether Alderley millers

Historic image of John Rawlins surrounded by his family

The life of a miller was a tough one, with long hours and back-breaking, dangerous work. Nether Alderley Mill had several millers over the centuries, sometimes passing down father to son.

The earliest miller at Nether Alderley may have been Benjamin Tasker who died in 1693. However, his will and list of effects describe him as ‘Over Alderley’ which suggests there's a possibility that this was not his mill.

From 1800 onwards, it's possible to trace a series of milling families who worked here. The Mottrams from 1800-11, 1843-51, the Blease farmers from 1878-83, and the Rawlins from 1884 until the mill’s closure in 1939. In the 1800s, successive millers occupied part of the Old Hall until Lord Stanley built Mill House for John Rawlins and his family in 1920.

A tough life

The miller worked long days, from dawn until dusk. He began his day by hoisting the many sacks of grain, one at a time, onto the millstone floor above him using the sack hoist.

This was back-breaking work. Throughout the day he had to keep the hopper full to make sure the millstones didn’t run dry, and check the bags weren’t overflowing.

A risk of fire

If the stones ran dry they would become damaged, but it was also dangerous as flour dust is highly flammable and if a spark is created from the dry millstones this will start a fire.

By the end of the day, the miller would be covered in flour and had to spend time clearing up.

The miller would also check over all of the mill machinery and make any repairs before the next days work. All this hard work impacted on their health and they often developed nasty coughs from inhaling flour dust all day. One of the last millers, John Hogg Rawlins died from congestion in the lungs.

Testing the flour

The miller would test the flour between his thumb and forefinger. If the flour felt smooth and not greasy or rough he knew that all was well.

If the millstones were set too closely, the flour would feel greasy as it was too bruised and wouldn’t rise well. The daughter of the last miller describes helping her uncle, Ernest Rawlins, at the mill when she was a little girl. She remembers testing the flour, describing it as feeling like ‘warm silk’.