The three mills
|Grain elevators, Ranks and Spillers Mills, Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM|
In the 20th century, the Royal Victoria Dock became the leading centre of flour milling in London.
Three large mills were built on the south side of the dock. They converted imported grain into flour for the London market.
As with the Wheatsheaf Mill at Millwall, these mills were set up by major milling companies with branches in many ports in Britain.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society Mill
|The CWS Mill at the Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM|
The Co-operative Wholesale Society was founded in Manchester as part of the wider Co-operative movement.
It was involved in the bulk buying of goods to supply co-operative shops. The CWS later built its own factories to produce goods for these shops.
|The Hendrik Fisser (1961) at the CWS Mill. © NMM|
In 1891, the CWR had built its first huge flour mill at Dunston, near Gateshead, to process grain arriving via the River Tyne.
In 1901, it was the first company to open a mill at the Royal Victoria Dock. Much of the this mill was rebuilt in concrete in 1938-44.
The Rank Premier Mill
Joseph Rank Ltd opened the Premier Mill in 1904. Rank had built his first mill at Holderness in Yorkshire in 1875 and his first roller mill at Hull in 1886. The mill was enlarged with new concrete buildings in the 1930s.
|The Surrey Trader (1964) at the Rank Empire Mill. © NMM|
The company (known as Ranks Ltd after 1933) built many other famous mills, notably the Baltic Flour Mills in Gateshead. The silo has survived as the Baltic Arts Centre.
|The Grace Harwar at the Rank Empire Mill. © NMM|
The Millennium Mills
The Millennium Mills were founded by William Vernon and Sons in 1905. They later became part of Spillers Milling. Spillers built large mills in several cities, including Liverpool, Cardiff and Cambridge. Spillers' Tyne Mill in Newcastle, built in 1936, was Europe’s largest flour mill at that time.
|The Grace Harwar in the Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM|
Like all the other mills at the Victoria Dock, the Millennium Mills were rebuilt as the scale of operations grew. Before World War II, Scandinavian barques like the Grace Harwar were still common visitors. By the 1950s, far larger vessels unloaded at the mills.
|The Sunrip (1954) at the Millennium Mills. © NMM|
Storing the grain
|Two grain silos at the Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM|
The mill complexes at the Victoria Dock consisted of several types of buildings.
The silos for storing the grain before milling were notable for their characteristic shape.
After World War I, the Port of London Authority also built its own grain silo at the Victoria Dock. It stood at the Western Quays.
|The PLA grain silo at the Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM|
Closure and demolition
All three flour mills survived the end of the Royal Docks and still stood in 1990. Sadly, the Empire and CWS mills were demolished in the following decade. Only the granary of the Millennium Mills still stands. It is likely to be converted into housing once the area is redeveloped.
|The Spillers Millennium Mills. © NMM|