It was a skill almost lost to the industrial revolution. But in a pocket of South Yorkshire, where they’re still milling flour the traditional way, they are determined to pass it down to one more generation.
Worsbrough Mill, set in 240 acres of country park south of Barnsley, is one of only around 40 working wind and water mills left in the country, and the retirement after 25 years’ of its miller has set off a national search for someone else willing to make it his or her daily bread.
It’s a council job but one separated by centuries from the 9-5 Town Hall routine, said the outgoing incumbent, Richard Moss.
At 58, he has opted for early retirement, but will keep his nose to the grindstone, literally, to pass on his knowledge.
“It’s not the sort of job that people are readily coming into,” he said. “People are more interested in high-tech computers these days and this is about as far away from that as you can get.
“But it would suit someone with an engineering background. It’s not a job, really – it’s a way of life.”
The mill, operated by Barnsley Council, was restored as a working museum in 1976, but the renewed appetite for artisan bread and granola has seen demand from small bakeries in South Yorkshire and the Peak District rise like yeast.
The mill now turns out wheat, spelt, rye and white flours, semolina and bran, using just the force of the River Dove as it flows through the Low Valley, to power the millstones.
“We use only organic British raw flour. We’ve stuck to the same suppliers and our reputation is building,” Mr Moss said.
“In six years we’ve gone from a ton and a half to 17 tons last year and it’s still growing.
“We’d like to get the flour from Yorkshire but it’s not produced in the right strength, so we have it delivered from Hampshire in 25kg sacks.”
Without the benefit of industrial revolution-era conveyor belts, the bags have to be carried on backs into the mill, though a hoist has been installed to winch them upstairs, from where gravity takes over.
It takes around 10 minutes from dropping the raw wheat onto the stones to produce a 20kg sack of wholemeal flour, with the fine white variety taking five minutes longer. Profits from the production are ploughed back into maintaining the mill.
Craig Hartley, business development manager for Barnsley Museums, said the new recruit would help to develop an on-site bakery and a learning centre.
“The ideal candidate will have a passion for baking and heritage,” he said.
“But we’re also interested in hearing from people who are interested in learning an ancient trade and taking on the responsibility of running the mill.”
The job application form is on Barnsley Council’s website from today.