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Ancient mill resumes flour production to help ease shortage caused by COVID-19

The Sturminster Newton Mill, believed to have been in Dorset since 1016, stopped producing flour in 1970.
The Sturminster Newton Mill, believed to have been in Dorset since 1016, stopped producing flour in 1970. Getty Images

An ancient mill has resumed producing flour for the first time in 50 years in response to a shortage during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Sturminster Newton Mill, which was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, ceased flour production in 1970 and became a historical museum, the BBC reports.

The mill has been open every summer to the public as a museum, where flour milling demonstrations occur. Visitors can even buy the flour made by the ancient machinery.

When the lockdown began, the mill had to be closed, a statement shared with Global News reads, but they made sure to ask if local businesses needed any flour.

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“A couple of businesses responded, so the grain that would have seen us through the summer for demonstration purposes was milled and distributed.”

More local businesses began reaching out, and millers have been continuing to produce flour for them.

“The mill remains closed to the public at the moment, [and] the millers keep their social distance from each other and work behind closed doors.”

Miller Pete Loosmore said it’s been a “pleasure” to be milling again, per the BBC.

The Sturminster Newton Mill in Dorset was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. All of the Middle Ages equipment is original.
The Sturminster Newton Mill in Dorset was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. All of the Middle Ages equipment is original. Getty Images

According to the publication, Loosmore’s grandfather was a miller at the site for 50 years and restored the machinery 26 years ago.

“We would have been milling, on the whole, about two days each month,” he said. “That would have supplied us with enough flour to keep going throughout the whole of the season.”

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“And then suddenly we had lockdown, and our first impression was that we couldn’t do anything with the mill because of social distancing.

“This year we have got through the whole of that ton in two to three weeks and we’re still chasing more and more grain,” he said.

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It’s seemingly been a walk down memory lane for Loosmore to see the mill up and running again, almost like it was before.

“It’s been nice to bring the place truly back to life and back into something like it used to be when it was working six days a week.”

Sturminster also has an interesting Canadian connection. The building once also produced Swanskin fabric, along with grains.

“It was an extremely thick, warm fabric used by the fishing industry and there was a strong fishing trade between Dorset and Newfoundland,” the release reads. “We understand there are Dorset place names there to this day.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca