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#331704 - 23rd Jun 2009 9:41pm The Great Float Flour Mills *****
uptoncx Offline
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Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral

In the 1930s Merseyside was the second largest flour milling centre in the World, with the bulk of the mills located around the Great Float in Birkenhead and Wallasey. The Great Float was designed as one large dock, running from Poulton Bridge to Tower Road, however the Duke Street Bridge had to be built to maintain ancient rights of way, so the Great Float was divided in two: the West Float on the Poulton Bridge side and the East Float on the river side. The Birkenhead mills were built on the West Float and the Wallasey Mills on the East Float.



The first mill was built on the East Float by Robert Buchanan in 1894, this was soon followed by mills built by W Vernon & Sons (West Float), Paul Brothers (Homepride Mills) and Spillers & Bakers (both East Float). One of the last mills built was Ocean Flour Mills which was built in Birkenhead in 1913 for Joseph Rank Ltd.



Ocean Flour Mill was built next to Gill Brook Basin, the site of William Lairds first shipbuilding yard. The mill was separated from Vernonís Mill to the west by a basin called Rankís Creek. A post war extension to Vernonís Mill was built on the site of the Canada Works of Thomas Brassey.



The six storey buildings on the East Float were originally built as granaries, and were the first granaries in the world to have hydraulic grain elevators and hoists. By 1900 most of the granaries had been converted to mills.



Buchananís flour and cattle food mills lined both sides of the dock road and were connected by numerous high level covered walkways.

The mills were highly automated for their day, using hydraulic grain elevators to lift the grain from the ships and barges to the top of the granaries. Numerous spiral chutes carried the grain back down to the milling areas. The mills were dusty and dangerous, flour dust in air is an explosive mixture and fire was a constant worry in the mills, to such an extent that if it was necessary to interrupt the water supply to a mill, then fire engines had to stand by outside.



The Homepride mills and granaries, owned by the Paul Brothers of Upton, consisted of four buildings, again joined by high level covered walkways, these were built on either side of a narrow dock. This dock, which opened into the East Float, was used by barges which brought grain from ships berthed elsewhere in Birkenhead and Liverpool. Barges were moved about the docks by a series of hydraulic capstans.

During the second world war, the mills were badly damaged by bombing and fire, part of Buchananís mill being totally destroyed. The mills retained the scars from the war right up to their demolition.



The last remaining East Float buildings are the granaries of the Liverpool Grain Storage Company, now converted into flats, these were part of the Homepride mill complex. The last mill was operated by Spillers in the Homepride mill and was demolished in 2000.



The last Mill operating on the Birkenhead side was the Ocean Flour Mill, operated by Rank Hovis, which closed in 1988. Click here to see all that remains of Ocean Flour Mill today.

The mills were often demolished by blowing out the base of the building and allowing the rest to collapse inwards. This process went wrong when the newer part of Vernons Mill was demolished. When the base was blown out, the building just dropped down intact, leaning at an angle of about 10 degrees.

[picture to follow when I find it!]

There is a video of one of the mills on fire, and views of the docks here.

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#331710 - 23rd Jun 2009 10:43pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: uptoncx]
w10694 Offline
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Registered: 31st Dec 2008
Posts: 240
Loc: cheshire
excellent report mate, what this site is about. Thanks for sharing.

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#331718 - 23rd Jun 2009 11:04pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: w10694]
MissGuided Offline

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Registered: 18th Jul 2008
Posts: 9995
Loc: Back of the wardrobe
Fantastic little bit of History. My vague memories of the mills were when I went for swimming lessons at Guinea Gap (before the refurb). It was like entering another world going along the dock road. I also remember the smell that used to sometimes drift over from Spillers. And of course being able to see the top of the Rank building from my Nan's front bedroom window on Norman Street. frown
_________________________


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#331722 - 23rd Jun 2009 11:15pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: MissGuided]
uptoncx Offline
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Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral
I also remember travelling that route to Guinea Gap Baths, on a Sunday morning with my father. This must have been about 1960 when we were living in Manor Hill.

The instructor was called 'Tony' (probably had another name, but I don't remember ever hearing it).


Edited by uptoncx (23rd Jun 2009 11:16pm)
Edit Reason: added Tony

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#331724 - 23rd Jun 2009 11:18pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: MissGuided]
w10694 Offline
Addict

Registered: 31st Dec 2008
Posts: 240
Loc: cheshire
A Luftwaffe bombing target map showing the mills as targets outlined in red:


Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
0335_large.jpg



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#331731 - 23rd Jun 2009 11:53pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: w10694]
Mark Online   Reading


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Registered: 9th Nov 2003
Posts: 21001
Loc: Wirral
wow that's an amazing piece uptoncx

Got to Rate you 5 stars for that one smile
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Wow Wirral History is coming along Great! Wirral History

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#331744 - 24th Jun 2009 9:12am Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: Mark]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9660
Loc: Birkenhead
Here are some Mills on the East Float - Wallasey, putting up a fight.


Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
198115_36fe0f7c-by-Peter-Craine.jpg

Description: (C) Peter Craine - Creative Commons Licence



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#331754 - 24th Jun 2009 10:49am Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: diggingdeeper]
buddy Online   content
Forum Veteran

Registered: 18th Sep 2008
Posts: 5006
Loc: South Wirral
Thank you uptoncx for a very interesting post - my father worked at Buchanan's Flour Mills for 40+ years before retiring about 1974 - I had many visits there as a child

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#331762 - 24th Jun 2009 12:21pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: buddy]
Pete_Robbo Offline

Keep It Real !!
Wiki Guide

Registered: 11th Aug 2008
Posts: 6640
Loc: Wirral
wow 10 out of 10 for the report well done smile
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#331908 - 25th Jun 2009 2:10pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: Pete_Robbo]
Doctor_Frick Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 24th Nov 2007
Posts: 308
Loc: Prenton
Enjoyed reading that. Thanks
_________________________
Over 5000 years of Wirral History:

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#332216 - 26th Jun 2009 10:32pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: uptoncx]
bri445 Offline

Veteran

Registered: 27th Apr 2009
Posts: 678
Loc: Isle of Wight
Some pics from a 1950s M D & H B handbook on the 'Port of Liverpool'.


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Scan-090626-0001-s.jpg

Description: Spillers silo

Scan-090626-0002-s.jpg

Description: Vernons' advert. I don't think you're allowed to make a claim like that nowadays!



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#332222 - 26th Jun 2009 10:40pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: bri445]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9660
Loc: Birkenhead
Good stuff Bri happy

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#340834 - 5th Aug 2009 6:28pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: diggingdeeper]
BandyCoot Offline

Forum Veteran

Registered: 7th Dec 2008
Posts: 5346
Loc: Birkenhead
There used to be an old dear lived in Livingstone Street and her tale was that when her husband joined up to fight she moved her bed downstairs into the front parlour. When the flour mills got bombed she was in bed and was woken up by a flag stone coming through her front window and landing in her bed beside her and missing her completely but collapsing the bed somewhat. This tale used to come out now and again when the old 'uns were talking about the war and she wasn't the only one to tell it so I would say it was quite true.
_________________________
Birkenhead........ God's own Room 101.

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#358280 - 18th Oct 2009 11:22am Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: BandyCoot]
masterbun Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 16th Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Loc: West Sussex formerly Oxton
This is facinating to me as my father was a director of Spillers and what was then called Area General Manager (some sort of CEO nowadays no doubt) from 1947 till the late 60's with offices in The Cunard Bulding. He was in charge of all the operations in the Northwest. There were four other areas based in Southwest (Bristol & Cardiff), London, Hull and Scotland. Spillers HO was then Old Change House London.
Vernon's and Paul Bros were part of Spillers along with UVECO in Dock Road Wallesey. I think Buchannan's belonged to Ranks.
Unfortunately all the photos and documents relating to Spillers during mt father's time were lost (read destroyed) when his house was demolished.
I will try find out more. However the following will give some insight into Spillers as of 1934

Spillers 1934 Review

Master Bun the Baker's son !!

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#358302 - 18th Oct 2009 2:32pm Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: masterbun]
bri445 Offline

Veteran

Registered: 27th Apr 2009
Posts: 678
Loc: Isle of Wight
Thanks for the extra information and the link to 'Grace's Guide' which I'd never seen before. It led me to lots of other companies I was interested in, mainly to do with previous jobs.

Bri

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