This is a vertical roller mill used for grinding grain into flour in a roller flour mill. It was made in England between 1890 and 1900 by Thomas Robinson and Son Ltd of the Railway Works, Rochdale in Lancashire. Robinsons supplied many of their roller mills to flour mills around New South Wales. This particular roller mill machinery is significant because it features vertical rather than horizontal steel rolls.
The roller mill was used at McIntyre's Hamilton Flour Mills in Hamilton, a suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales, operated as C.S. McIntyre Pty Ltd by Charles Shelly McIntyre (1877-1966) from 1900.
Flour mills have been very important in Australia since colonial times with the early establishment of government-owned mills. Where-ever cereal farming occurred a flour mill was never far away with the spread of them really taking off from the 1850s onwards. The expansion of the railways significantly affected the siting and marketing of these mills.
Early flour mills in Australia were powered by man, animal, wind, water and later steam. The grinding technology used was between the flat surfaces of horizontally-placed millstones. These grindstones had the disadvantage that their friction heated the grain which impaired the gluten of the flour; they crushed the bran with the grain; and required regular and expensive maintenance.
Roller mills were invented in Hungary by Jacob Suizberger from Switzerland in 1834. In the early 1860s Friedrich Wegman introduced porcelain rollers for grinding flour which gave a better colour to it. Porcelain rollers were displayed at the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 but the best were found to be grooved steel break rolls running at different speeds which were able to 'peel' the wheat kernel. Smooth steel and porcelain were then used for size reduction rolls. Rollers were mounted side-by-side or one above the other, but from about 1910, the axes were in an inclined plane.
Gradually the rollers took over from grindstones, with rollers initially working alongside stones in the same mill. White flour milled with rollers created a sensation and mills around the country began to convert their machinery at great cost. Roller mills gave millers better control of their product and an incentive to buy better grades of wheat. The flour they produced was finer and less contaminated with by-products. A new age of milling machinery had arrived and by 1890 roller mill technology had become widely accepted in Australia. This involved installing the roller equipment together with cleaning, grading and dressing machines.
Roller flour mills were initially steam driven but later converted to electric power. These types of mills are large structures with high capacity grain storage silos and grinding machinery on several floors. The process of roller mills involved the grain being passed through a number of spirally-fluted rolls in sequences to break open the grain. The resulting stock is sifted and graded and finally fed through plain rolls to produce the desired type of flour. The stock was taken from machine to machine via enclosed conveyors and finally bagged ready for market. Many small country flour mills using millstones could not compete with the large roller mills and milling was relegated to large country towns and cities.
Birmingham, Judy, Ian Jack and Denis Jeans, 'Industrial Archaeology in Australia: Rural Industry', Heinemann Publishers, Australia, 1983.
Jones, William, 'Dictionary of Industrial Archaeology', Sutton Publishing Ltd, Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, 2006
'Technology in Australia 1788-1988', Australian Academy of Technological Sciences, Melbourne, 1988.
Simpson, Phillip 'Historical Guide to New South Wales', unpublished manuscript, 2015.
Margaret Simpson, Curator