Crown Mill

Map Location c32

Demolished in 1994. The walnut tree which stood in front of Crown Cottages is still there (2007), on the small green behind the village sign.

Photo No.1 has on its reverse: Orig. Baker. Crown Mill and cottages c.1960.

But as Photo No.4 was dated 1966 and is almost identical, we must presume No.1 to be also 1966.

Photo No.3 is from the Newsletter of Nov '93: "John Bennington with the Ruston & Hornsby Size 9 Class HRCA Lincoln twin diesel stationary engine which drove Crown Mill. John looked after the engine for many years. It was supplied by Park Garage, Wetherden, now known as Rands."

Crown Mill (named after the pub which stood (or maybe had just closed?) between the mill and station road) was built in 1911, soon after the bacon factory opened. Much of the bricklaying was done by one man, who came from Ipswich daily by train and laid up to 1000 bricks! The mill was owned for many years by the Hitchcock family, who also owned Pakenham Water Mill and another mill at Rattlesden, but by the 1930s it lay redundant.

The Baker family purchased Crown Mill in 1936; they did not initially use it for milling, though much of the equipment had been left in place: it served as storage, and later for seed cleaning and mixing, as the business of compound animal foodstuffs got under way. They also crushed linseed cake there, kibbled it (broke it up so that chickens could eat it).

In 1941 Colman's flour mill in Norwich was bombed and the Ministry insisted Crown Mill be reinstated, as it already had rollers etc.; Bakers had carte blanche for any materials and fuel they needed. The old engine was unserviceable so they had to install a new one (pictures). It was delivered at the weekend so Harry and the lorry driver had to unload it! Rands of Wetherden installed it in a separate brick-built engine room which had been converted an old piggery by the four Brand brothers (who also repaired Crown Cottage in '42). It drove the whole Crown Mill by a system of belts, from shafts which Harry installed under the roadway from the engine house. A carpenter-millwright did all the wooden chutes; they needed silk for sifting flour; they also needed cooling water needed because the machines ran 24 hours a day, so a brick pond, the "swimming pool", was added. The first of the flour came out of the mill in early 1942, shortly before Robert died. Most of it went to Bury for bread to feed the troops.

In 1946 the mill was sold to Reckitt & Coleman, who installed new machinery and produced semolina there until the mid 1950s; then Bakers repurchased it in order to concentrate their milling there, using such of the new machinery as had been left by the Norwich firm, and transferring specialist machinery across from Home Mill.

Animal feed production at Crown Mill

Previously animal feed had been produced in meal form, but in use this resulted in considerable wastage. Pelletts were found to be much more efficient - loaded into the feed troughs or scattered over pig-yards and fields, little escaped uneaten. By the addition of molasses and injection of steam into the meal, it could be formed into cobs or cubes. [In 1959 Jim Baker bought the redundant water tower from the Tate & Lyle depot, and installed the tank at Crown Mill for the storage of molasses (and the steel beams went into their new house 'Millstones').] By this time the grain was being delivered in bulk-carrier vehicles, and carried elevators to storage at the top of the mill. [Contrast the hoisting of sacks, one by one, at Home Mill!]

In 1960 Crown Mill was producing about 50 tons of products per week, rising to 180 tons in the late 1980s. Some output was bagged in thick paper bags, but much of it left as it had arrived, in bulk transporters. Jim Baker also invented the Karibak system for efficiently delivering 1 ton of feed in reuseable bins, which became an instant success. But market conditions gradually became tougher, and in 1989 Bakers reluctantly decided to give up milling. The redundant Crown Mill buildings and the Ivy House farm buildings nearby were demolished in 1994.

1. Crown Mill .. Full size

2. Crown Mill, late 1980s

3. Power for the mill

4. Crown Mill, 1966

5. Crown Mill, 1971

6. Picture in Eric Rayner's 1972 article

7. New diesel engine