Like many other traditional 18th Century mills, House Mill in Bromley-by-Bow, East London used gravity to facilitate the efficiency of its milling processes.
First, sacks of grain were hoisted by ropes and pulleys through one-way trapdoors from the lowest floor to the uppermost floors of the mill, where they were stored until needed.
The sacks of grain were then tipped into hoppers in the floor, which led directly through to the floors below and allowed the grain to be gravity-fed straight down into the grinding stones.
House Mill had multiple pairs of grinding stones, so the noise and the dust and the rattling vibrations when the mill was in full production must have been overwhelming.
The ground flour then dropped straight through into sacks on the next floor down, graded by fineness, which could be altered by changing the gap between the mill-stones by turning the metal ‘spiders’ on the wall above the sacks: The closer together the stones, the finer the resulting flour 🙂
PS If I’ve got anything wrong in my understanding of the process, many apologies!
House Mill is currently open on Sundays between 11am-4pm for guided tours only – it’s little more than a shell of a mill at the moment, but at least it still exists, and is well worth seeing round. It closed in 1941, with much of the original interior being sold off as salvage, and the building itself then sat derelict for almost 50 years before it was bought in the late 1980s in order to be saved for posterity rather than pulled down for redevelopment.
The guided tours of House Mill are run by volunteers, who also run the adjoining cafe and little gift shop and are very knowledgeable about the history of the mill. To be honest I’d never even heard of a tidal mill until discovering House Mill – apparently it got the water necessary to turn the water wheels from careful management of the ebb and flow of the tidal river over which it sits, the water wheels in turn powering the mill-stones to grind the maize.
Please see http://www.housemill.org.uk/ for the House Mill website and further information 🙂