The Sturminster Newton Mill sits on a site that has housed a mill for more than 1,000 years, but had been reduced to a tourist’s attraction for the last 50 years–until COVID-19. Now, the mill has returned to operation temporarily to meet local flour needs.
But with tourists in lockdown, millers Pete Loosmore and Imogen Bittner have turned it back into commercial production.
And in just 10 days they have already milled a tonne of wheat – which is usually a year’s supply for the facility.
The mill, which has been run by local charity the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust since 1994, has already supplied 200 bags of flour weighing 3.3lbs to local grocers and bakers.
Mrs Bittner said: “We were due to open on March 28 and had already bought our grain for the season.
“Without visitors, we’ll be taking quite a hit but this will help to make up for a bit of the lost income.
“We’re only doing this while the crisis lasts and it’s not only helping us but the local community because there is a shortage of flour.
“In one way we have an advantage over the bigger mills, which are used to selling large sacks to the wholesale trade and don’t have the machinery or manpower to put the flour into small bags.”
A lot of reports about this refer to the mill as being more than 1,000 years old, which leads into more philosphical questions about at what point modifying or rebuilding an existing structure results in a “new” building.
According to the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust,
Sturminster Newton Mill is one of a series of ancient flour mills built on the River Stour. It is thought that there may have been a mill on this site in Saxon times and there is evidence that a mill existed in 1016. The Mill is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 where four mills in the Sturminster area are mentioned.
The present L-shaped building consists of the south and north wings. The south wing, which sits firmly on the river bank, was last rebuilt c.1650 on a centuries-old site. The north wing, which juts out into the river, was originally a completely separate fulling mill built in 1611. It was demolished in the late 18th century and rebuilt in brick on its original stone base to join with and extend the grain mill.