The application of steam power
|James Watt (1736-1819), inventor of the improved steam engine. © NMM|
The future of flour milling lay in larger steam mills, powered by the new rotary steam engines invented by James Watt.
These mills were not dependent on the weather, and could process far larger amounts of grain in a shorter time.
Milling was one of many applications of the Watt engine, which allowed the mechanization of many processes in many industries, particularly textiles.
London's first steam mill
|The entrepreneur Mathew Boulton (1728-1809). © NMM|
The Albion Mill in Bermondsey was completed in 1786. It was the first of the steam-driven mills, and many of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution were connected with it.
The promoter was Mathew Boulton, the entrepreneurial partner of James Watt, inventor of the rotary steam engine. The mill used the new Boulton & Watt steam engines, with components built by John Wilkinson. John Rennie oversaw the construction.
|A commemoration of the great engineer John Rennie (1761-1821). © NMM|
The mill stood on the Thames and received grain directly from the river. It was so efficient, it could have driven most of London's traditional millers out of business.
In 1791, after only five years of operation, it was destroyed by fire. The cause was never established, and the mill was not rebuilt.
Other flour mills on the river
|The Sun Flour Mills on the River Lea. © NMM|
The Albion Mill was far ahead of its time. For most of the 19th century, the majority of flour mills were still very small.
On the outskirts of London, several windmills remained in business much as before. Several smaller steam mills used the Thames and its tributaries.
On the River Lea in Bromley, the Sun Flour Mills received their grain from lighters and small craft.
|Mumford's Mill on Deptford Creek. © NMM|
On Deptford Creek, Mumford's Flour Mills were founded in 1790. The mills were supplied by small craft entering the Creek from the Thames. Mumford's Mills flourished throughout the 19th century and were rebuilt in 1897.