PortCities London

Flour milling and the port

Mills at the Royal Victoria Dock
 

The three mills

Grain elevators, Ranks and Spillers Mills, Royal Victoria Dock.
View full size imageGrain 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 Flour Mill at the Royal Victoria Dock.
View full size imageThe 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) alongside the CWS Mill.
View full size imageThe 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

The Surrey Trader alongside the Rank Premier Mill.
View full size imageThe Surrey Trader (1964) at the Rank Empire Mill. © NMM
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 Grace Harwar alongside the Rank Premier Mill.
View full size imageThe Grace Harwar 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 Millennium Mills

The Grace Harwar in the Royal Victoria Dock.
View full size imageThe Grace Harwar in the Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM
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 Sunrip (1954) alongside the Millennium Mills.
View full size imageThe Sunrip (1954) at the Millennium Mills. © 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. 

Storing the grain

Two grain silos at the Royal Victoria Dock.
View full size imageTwo 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. 

Port of London Authority grain silo.
View full size imageThe PLA grain silo at the Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM
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.

 

 

  

Closure and demolition

The Spillers Millennium Mills.
View full size imageThe Spillers Millennium Mills. © NMM
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.

 

 





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