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The Great Float Flour Mills #331704
23rd Jun 2009 8:41pm
23rd Jun 2009 8:41pm
Joined: May 2008
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Wirral
uptoncx Offline OP

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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.

[Linked Image]

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.

[Linked Image]

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.

[Linked Image]

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.

[Linked Image]

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.

[Linked Image]

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.

[Linked Image]

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.

[Linked Image]

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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Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: uptoncx] #331710
23rd Jun 2009 9:43pm
23rd Jun 2009 9:43pm
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 243
cheshire
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w10694 Offline
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excellent report mate, what this site is about. Thanks for sharing.

Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: w10694] #331718
23rd Jun 2009 10:04pm
23rd Jun 2009 10:04pm
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 9,995
Back of the wardrobe
MissGuided Offline

Awesome
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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



Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: MissGuided] #331722
23rd Jun 2009 10:15pm
23rd Jun 2009 10:15pm
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 683
Wirral
uptoncx Offline OP

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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).

Last edited by uptoncx; 23rd Jun 2009 10:16pm. Reason: added Tony
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: MissGuided] #331724
23rd Jun 2009 10:18pm
23rd Jun 2009 10:18pm
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 243
cheshire
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w10694 Offline
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cheshire
A Luftwaffe bombing target map showing the mills as targets outlined in red:

Attached Files
0335_large.jpg (811 downloads)
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: w10694] #331731
23rd Jun 2009 10:53pm
23rd Jun 2009 10:53pm
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 21,231
Wirral
Mark Offline

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Mark  Offline

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wow that's an amazing piece uptoncx

Got to Rate you 5 stars for that one smile


My Avatar images are all from the Wirral Gallery.Click Me
Wow Wirral History is coming along Great! Wirral History

we get +200 new members a month now smile
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: Mark] #331744
24th Jun 2009 8:12am
24th Jun 2009 8:12am
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 13,526
Birkenhead
diggingdeeper Offline

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Here are some Mills on the East Float - Wallasey, putting up a fight.

Attached Files
198115_36fe0f7c-by-Peter-Craine.jpg (814 downloads)
(C) Peter Craine - Creative Commons Licence
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: diggingdeeper] #331754
24th Jun 2009 9:49am
24th Jun 2009 9:49am
Joined: Sep 2008
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South Wirral
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buddy Offline
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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

Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: buddy] #331762
24th Jun 2009 11:21am
24th Jun 2009 11:21am
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 6,642
Wirral
Pete_Robbo Offline

Keep It Real !!
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wow 10 out of 10 for the report well done smile


[Linked Image]





Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: Pete_Robbo] #331908
25th Jun 2009 1:10pm
25th Jun 2009 1:10pm
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 308
Prenton
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Doctor_Frick Offline
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Enjoyed reading that. Thanks


Over 5000 years of Wirral History:
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: uptoncx] #332216
26th Jun 2009 9:32pm
26th Jun 2009 9:32pm
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Isle of Wight
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bri445 Online Reading

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Some pics from a 1950s M D & H B handbook on the 'Port of Liverpool'.

Attached Files
Scan-090626-0001-s.jpg (753 downloads)
Spillers silo
Scan-090626-0002-s.jpg (765 downloads)
Vernons' advert. I don't think you're allowed to make a claim like that nowadays!
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: bri445] #332222
26th Jun 2009 9:40pm
26th Jun 2009 9:40pm
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 13,526
Birkenhead
diggingdeeper Offline

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Good stuff Bri happy

Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: diggingdeeper] #340834
5th Aug 2009 5:28pm
5th Aug 2009 5:28pm
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,438
Birkenhead
BandyCoot Offline

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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.
Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: BandyCoot] #358280
18th Oct 2009 10:22am
18th Oct 2009 10:22am
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
West Sussex formerly Oxton
masterbun Offline
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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 !!

Re: The Great Float Flour Mills [Re: masterbun] #358302
18th Oct 2009 1:32pm
18th Oct 2009 1:32pm
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Isle of Wight
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bri445 Online Reading

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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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