Cereals & Grains Association
Log In

02 Features
Cereal Foods World, Vol. 64, No. 4
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1094/CFW-64-4-0038
Print To PDF
The Rise and Fall of the Millstone1
Mildred M. Cookson2

The Mills Archive Trust, Reading, U.K.

1 Copyright of original images published with the article belongs to the author or The Mills Archive Trust; republished images are from publications that are more than 100 years old.

2 The Mills Archive Trust, Watlington House, 44 Watlington Street, Reading, RG1 4RJ, U.K. Tel: 01189 5020 52; E-mail: mills@millsarchive.org

© 2019 AACC International, Inc.


Millstones have been used for more than two millennia for the milling of cereals. They were developed from primitive, hand-operated querns and today have largely been replaced by chilled iron rollers. The sources of motive power (energy) for milling also transitioned from human to animal to water to wind. The introduction of steam power helped to usher in the age of the roller mill. Increased demand for white (refined) flour and increased importation of harder wheat varieties accelerated the decline of the use of millstones as ever larger mills were built near ports. From the perspective of a millstone miller, my greatest regret is the progressive loss of traditional craft skills, such as those required to dress millstones and sense when the wood and iron machinery is not quite running properly. Fortunately, the health food trends of the late twentieth century ensured the use of millstones in milling continues, although on a very small scale.

Trying to reach content?

View Full Article

if you don't have access, become a member


  1. Anonymous. Commercial lives of celebrated millers: Potto Brown. Miller, September 6, pg. 165, 1875.
  2. Bennett, R., and Elton, J. History of Corn Milling. Vol. 1–4. Simpkin, Marshall and Company Ltd., London, U.K., 1898–1904.
  3. Buckland, S. Lee’s Patent Windmill, 1744–1747: A History of the Development of the Windmill Fantail. Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, London, U.K., 1987.
  4. Campbell, G. M. Roller milling of wheat. Page 383 in: Handbook of Powder Technology. Vol. 12, Particle Breakage. Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2007.
  5. Clark, H. O., and Wailes, R. Bell alarms and sack hoists in windmills. Excerpt Trans. Newcomen Soc. 45:55, 1972–1973.
  6. Collins, E. Food grains, grain foods and milling techniques. Page 338 in: Meules a Grains. Proc. Int. Conf. La Ferte-sous-Jouarre. M. Barboff, F. Sigaut, C. Griffin, and R. Kremer, eds. Ibis Press–House of Human Sciences, Paris, France, 2003.
  7. Cookson, M. M. Practical experience in using French millstones. Page 344 in: Meules a Grains. Proc. Int. Conf. La Ferte-sous-Jouarre. M. Barboff, F. Sigaut, C. Griffin, and R. Kremer, eds. Ibis Press–House of Human Sciences, Paris, France, 2003.
  8. Cookson, R., and Cookson, M. Mills at War: Mills Archive Research Publication (10). The Mills Archive Trust, Reading, U.K., 2019.
  9. David, E. English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Allen Lane, London, U.K., pg. 32, 1977.
  10. Evans, O. The Young Millwright and Miller’s Guide. 13th ed. Lea & Blanchard, Philadelphia, PA, 1850.
  11. Ferguson, E. S. Oliver Evans: Inventive Genius of the American Industrial Revolution. Hagley Museum, Greenville, DE, 1980.
  12. Hockensmith, C. D. The Millstone Industry: A Summary of Research on Quarries and Producers in the United States, Europe and Elsewhere. McFarland and Company Inc., Jefferson, NC, 2009.
  13. Kozmin, P. A. Flour Milling: A Theoretical and Practical Handbook of Flour Manufacture for Millers, Millwrights, Flour-Milling Engineers and Others Engaged in the Flour Milling Industry. M. Falkner and T. Fjelstrup, trans. D. Van Nostrand Co., New York, NY, 1917.
  14. Moore, C. Millstone ventilation—A tribute to the life of George Hinton Bovill, 1822–1868. Int. Molinology, Vol. 81, 2010.
  15. Moritz, L. A. Grain-Mills and Flour in Classical Antiquity. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K., 1958.
  16. Peacock, D. The Stone of Life: The Archaeology of Querns, Mills and Flour Production in Europe up to c. AD 500. Highfield Press, Southampton, U.K., 2013.
  17. Pelham, R. A. Corn milling and the industrial revolution in England in the 18th century. Univ. Birmingham Hist. J. 6(2):161, 1968.
  18. Watts, M. The Archaeology of Mills and Milling. Tempus Publishing Ltd., Stroud, U.K., 2002.
  19. Watts, M., and Watts, S. From quern to computer: The history of flour milling. Published online at https://millsarchive.org/explore/features-and-articles/entry/171161/from-quern-to-computer-the-history-of-flour-milling/11642. Mills Archive Trust, Reading, U.K., 2016.