Visits to Stanway Mill

As promised the other day a quick post about Stanway Mill

Stanway Mill Zeb Bakes

Stanway Mill is part of the Stanway Estate in Gloucestershire. It is a reconstructed, not a restored mill, with all new machinery. There has been a mill on Stanway Estate for centuries, though used for different purposes at various points in its long history.

I have been there twice now, one mild damp day with Gill the Painter and again with Brian on another rainy morning!  Stanway is a fun place to visit – particularly on a rainy Thursday as you are warm and dry inside.

Its primary purpose, as I understand it,  is to provide an educational service to the children of Gloucestershire. I am very bad at remembering facts and details about machinery but it is all clearly explained when you get there.

There is a great gadget which shows you how the runner or revolving top millstone) works with the fixed lower mill stone (the bed stone) , which makes you go slightly cross eyed while you watch it. There are two sorts of mill stones on show at the mill. The ones they use are made from French Burr, extracted in small pieces from a quarry near Paris, then fitted together like a jigsaw, cemented and bound with steel bands. The other type is known as ‘peak stone’ and was quarried in Derbyshire. These can be seen by the door in the top photo. This type of stone was more often used for making animal feed.

You can go up and down the stairs and see how it all connects up and peek through at the water rushing down from the pond on its way to the waterwheel.

There is a little handmill to play with and you can see how hard it is to grind even a small quantity that way and understand why we had so many mills at one point, powered by wind and water all over the country in the days when we all ate a lot more bread.

If you are in tourist mode in the Cotswolds and visiting Stanway House and Gardens, the lavender fields or Snowshill Manor it is worth a visit.

The noise when the mill is working at full pelt is deafening, reminiscent of steam engine fairs and maybe that is why I always end up a bit befuddled when I come out.

Zeb Bakes at Stanway

The water is held in the Mill Pond until it is needed to power the wheel and generate the energy to make the milling machinery work.

Stanway Mill produces a good quality bread flour from wheat grown on the Stanway Estate and I have been baking very happily with it for a few months.   I find the flour easy to work with both for yeasted and sourdough.  The dough holds its shape well without cracking in unwanted places on baking – and I get nice oven spring. It has a wonderful fresh flavour, I think maybe it has been sieved more finely than some stoneground flours I have used. Stanway have built all their equipment themselves as I understand it –  but whatever the reason it suits my style of baking well. Sometimes I have problems getting good results with stoneground homegrown flour, and it is nice to find a flour that ticks so many of my boxes that is also relatively inexpensive.  I recently took advantage of an offer from Big Barn and ordered loads (3 x12 kg bags) so as to achieve an economy of scale and it worked out at under 80 p a kilo with the postage. I am yet to receive my order as I write, so can’t comment on how well the ordering system works. I wouldn’t advise ordering flour like this unless you have already tried it out and seen whether it suits you and your baking either!

Apart from using it to bake my regular breads as in the previous post,  I had a go at a sourdough Tomato Bread which is flavoured with tomatoes and spice, recipe from How to Bake Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. It went very well with these splendid spicy sausages!

I am not usually a fan of vegetable flavoured breads, I would rather have plain breads that taste of the grain and I often find them a bit overwhelming, getting fed up with them long before we have eaten the whole loaf, but this one looks so pretty that I am glad I had a crack at it. I was enticed into making it by Ray’s lovely bread photos on his blog garlicbuddha. Hmm, maybe I should try that beetroot bread too, Ray, it looks awesome!

28 thoughts on “Visits to Stanway Mill

  1. hotlyspiced

    I love the images. The mill is beautiful. What a setting. It’s so English and not like what we have here in Australia at all. I also love the look of the spicy sausages – what a great low-key meal xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      There used to be mills everywhere, wind and water and locally to me there were mills at the confluence of the Avon and the Severn that worked on the tides, though all that remains of them I think is the name Sea Mills. This one is particularly beautiful, Gill the Painter noticed that the rooftiles got smaller as they went up towards the top. It is a very lovely part of England too :)

  2. heidi

    The millstones are gorgeous! I am intrigued by the French stones- they look like puzzles and I’m wondering the why of them. Don’t the French have whole stones large enough? Does the grain get stuck in the cracks? Do they work well with the solid millstones?
    I have several stones in my garden and would love to find one of those French stones as they look very decorative!
    Your tomato bread looks very good- I generally like a plain loaf as well, but would try this in a flash. We have a mill nearby- Fowlers Mill- and I’ve gone through their tour- but the flour is much more expensive than what I buy at the Amish bulk food stores.
    Thanks, Joanna- loved this post!

    1. Joanna Post author

      They only use paired French Burr in the mill, the other one is on display and I am not sure if we took a photo of it. I asked the same question and I can’t remember the answer properly (failed again) I have a photo of one of the texts that are pinned up around the mill and it says “it was extracted in small pieces… fitted together like a jigsaw, cemented and bound with stell bands.” The grinding surfaces of the stones are cut into or dressed with ‘furrows and stiches’ shallow grooves which run parallel to the ‘lands’ or grinding surfaces. I am quoting here, brow furrowed like a stone, mind whirling. There is lots more about the mill on the Stanway site, its history, how the mill works, diagrams, how it fits into the National Curriculum.

      I confess, Heidi, I am a very bad tourist, I get over-excited, gloss over detail, and just bounce around – I am a nightmare to take anywhere – something like a small child :(

      A bit more about stones here on Wiki

      … and the answer to the question, yes, this stone was only found in small pieces apparently… more here ….

      and here is an excellent piece

      1. heidiannie

        Thanks, Joanna- sorry to have peppered you with questions!
        I think you are very good at sharing the sites you visit- that is why I always look forward to your posts! Your pictures and explanations make me feel as though I was standing next to you and your enthusiasm has just the right amount of bounce to keep everything moving along.
        I have a small hand mill that I use when teaching children the joy of baking bread- they love to get the handle going and are determined to come up with the requisite 5 cups of flour to make the whole wheat bread. I’m going to use some of the information in the links to surround the grinding process- so thank you, once again, for sharing!

  3. Abby

    That tomato bread is a gorgeous color! What a fun trip to a mill…I keep wishing I could visit one, but not sure that we have any around these parts……

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Abby! We did have a fun time out on both visits :) I hope you find a mill to visit one day.

  4. gillcox

    Fun fun fun place, Joanna. And the setting is glorious even during the rainy season.
    We do seem to find some cracker places on our days out together.

    1. Joanna Post author

      The art of finding places to go on wet days in engrained in the English psyche I think – lets hope for dry weather next time :)

  5. leamn

    Simple machinery but sure gets a lot of things done! I love bread. Currently addicted to cioccolato croissant :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I didn’t post the pictures of the machinery inside, lots of winches and pulleys, and wooden hoppers (I think that’s what they’re called). I love croissant too, but it’s one of the breads I haven’t ventured to make yet :)

  6. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    What a lovely place! I adore the fact that it’s a proper working watermill. And really impressed you’re getting such a great result from stoneground flour – I’ve always found them dense and heavy to work with, so this one definitely sounds like a keeper, no wonder you stocked up! xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      As Gill says, it’s great fun to visit! On the blog’s first birthday, a while ago I posted a picture of a fountain, that’s the Stanway fountain which is very very tall, I don’t think I knew they had a mill when I visited that time. I think there’s so much more to milling than meets the eye, the choice of grains, the quality of the milling, how it is sieved. Dad brought me a little beautiful spelt from France which I have cautiously added into to some of this dough and it worked very well too. Maybe I am on a roll right now xx

  7. Misky

    I’ve put this mill on our to-do-list, and when Mr Misky retires next year we’ll plan a long weekend in that area. We love the Cots.

    p.s. Did you change something with your blog’s theme? It looks very nice – clean and fresh.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks for reading Misky ! I am trying out the 2012 theme at the moment, though I miss the old one a bit, just thought I would have a change. It’s like getting a haircut ;)

  8. cityhippyfarmgirl

    What a sweet spot this would be to spend an afternoon. I would love to be able to access flour like this, and 3 bags of 12 kilos… that should keep you going for awhile!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have a theory that this year’s harvest is going to be pretty bad so I thought I would stock up. I hope I haven’t overdone it !

  9. bakecakecrumbs

    Your mill visits sound lovely – I very much enjoyed visiting Little Salkeld mill a few years back – it’s so lovely to see the workings of grain grinding. There’s something very relaxing about watching water too (although rather less if it is falling from the sky!). Your tomato bread looks really lovely but I am impressed as ever by the oven spring and opening of your other loaves. I must try harder to learn how to judge when bread is ready to be baked.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi C! Hope you’re well ! Little Salkeld was up for sale recently. . There is a film about that mill on Vimeo There are so many different factors that lead to the bread looking the way it does. It sounds silly, but if you touch and lightly pat the top of the dough with the flat of your fingers and feel for the tension there that will give you some clues. One analogy is to think of a flower opening into bloom, you want to get it just before it is fully open with some energy yet to come.

    1. Joanna Post author

      The other way I like to use all the little tomatoes is pressed into the top of a dough with other autumnal vegetables and baked in a round pan as a sort of foccacio type bread like this :
      Round Focaccio with Tomatoes

  10. Jan

    What a beautiful place, very Mill on the Floss-ish (Floss-ish – I’m going to be saying that all afternoon, it’ll keep me happy!). What fabulous bread – I love that kind of focaccia.

    1. Joanna Post author

      There are lots of wonderful mills around the country, one day I will go ‘on tour’. Flossish, not the easiest of words to say (imagines yelling after a dog who has run away and spluttering FLOSSISH!!! Shcome back here….) xx

  11. ceciliag

    As well as grinding grain, and being so useful and essential to the community in the old days and all that – what gets me is that these buildings are just SO beautiful. So gloriously appointed. So balanced and natural as though they have been of the earth and were brought forth from the earth..I love where you live.. gorgeous pics joanna.. thank you

    1. Joanna Post author

      I don’t live in the Cotswolds sadly, they are over an hour’s drive from here. Glad you enjoyed the pics c :)

Comments are closed.