The Otterton Mill has been milling flour for over 1,000 years. Yep, you read that right. It is the 18th oldest still operating business in the world. Today, in addition to making flour, they have an award-winning café and a fantastic assortment of gifts and housewares made by local artists.
How the Mill is Unique
The mill is unique in that it uses a “Poncelet” type water wheel and has Dreadnought” stones to grind the grain into flour. They are known for their stone-ground wholemeal flour. Wholemeal means nothing is added or taken away from the grain as it is milled. The Dreadnought stone allows them to mill the grain to a fine human consumption grade flour.
On milling days, you can try a sample of the warm flour as it is made. They mill the grain twice a month. (Check their website for actual times and days.) Fresh bread, scones, and other wonderfully smelling items are baked daily. They can be purchased in their store or take a seat inside (or outside) at their award-winning café to enjoy a full breakfast (10 am to 11 am) or lunch.
If you have a water wheel, you need to have a water source. The River Otter runs close by. They have a sluice system that goes to a millpond and then flows through the mill to turn the wheel. The water is returned to the river to continue its journey to the historical Jurassic Coast of England.
Fast Water Wheel
The Poncelet wheel is unique in that it has scooped blades; most wheels are a bucket style. They are much faster than the bucket wheels. The rotation rate for a Poncelet wheel is 12 rotations per minute but would only be two to four for a bucket wheel. This also means the Dreadnought stones will spin quickly as much as 120 revolutions per minute.
Managing the speed of the water and with the highly productive water wheel, they can mill a 56 lb sack of wholemeal flour in less than 10 minutes. Amazing.
If the smell of warm bread, the beauty of the area, and the award-winning café are not enough to intrigue you, they have one of the best gift shops. Local artists make all items, and there is a large variety of beautiful pieces ready to be taken home with you.
This mill was included in the “Doomsday” book completed in 1086 by the order of King William the Conqueror. The mill was in operation long before the book was written, so the actual date is unknown. It did close for a short period but then was lovingly restored and re-opened by a local family. The mill is a treat to visit, a great stop on any southern England outing.
Trivia – First and Second Oldest Companies in the World
The oldest company in the world is a construction company in Japan— Kongo Gumi. Established in 578 AD, they specialize in building Buddhist temples.
The second oldest is Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. It was founded in 705 AD and is also in Japan. It is a 37-room hot spring hotel. Amazingly it has been managed for over 1,300 years by the same family.