Historic mill demolished

ONE of Felixstowe's oldest and best-known landmarks is being demolished today just a month after celebrating its centenary.The Rank Hovis flour mill - still known locally as Marriage's Mill - has stood at the port's Dock Basin since the early 19th century, harking back to the days when the basin was the hub of a traditional cargo dock.

By Richard Cornwell

ONE of Felixstowe's oldest and best-known landmarks is being demolished today just a month after celebrating its centenary.

The Rank Hovis flour mill - still known locally as Marriage's Mill - has stood at the port's Dock Basin since the early 19th century, harking back to the days when the basin was the hub of a traditional cargo dock.

But now the mill, which closed in 2005 with the loss of 15 jobs, is being pulled down to make way for a £250 million redevelopment of the southern part of the port.

For many years, the basin and the mill, a fine example of Edwardian industrial building, stood isolated among fields and the mill could be seen on the skyline from many parts of the resort.

Today it is enclosed between warehouses, office blocks and kaleidoscopic stacks of containers.

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The mill was built on the north quay of the basin by Henry Simon Ltd for Colchester-based milling firm E. Marriage and Son under the name East Anglia Flour Mills.

It opened September 1, 1907, accompanied by a silo house, built by the port at a cost of £11,000 and leased to Marriage's for £485 a year.

The port hoped the mill would provide it with a huge trade boost and in the last third of 1907 wheat imports grew and more than 650 tonnes of flour were exported. In the following three years the imports of wheat doubled.

During the second world war disaster struck. On June 13, 1940, a Hampden bomber - known by those who flew them as flying coffins - was returning after attacking military communications centres in France when it struck the cable of a barrage balloon guarding the harbour.

It crashed into the mill and its four crew were killed.

Mill worker Donald Grayling, of Langer Road, was injured and died later that day at Felixstowe Cottage Hospital. Two others were badly injured.

The mill exploded in flames and four barges moored alongside - the Golden Grain, Pheonician, the Miller and the Rayjohn - and five railway trucks were destroyed.

A large part of the mill was demolished and it was out of action for two years, a terrible setback at a time when Britain was trying to produce as much of its own food as possible. It was not until 1948 that repairs to the outside of the building were completed.

In 1960 Marriage's merged with Hovis McDougall Ltd, which two years later merged with Joseph Rank Ltd. In 1984 it underwent modernisation in a £2.4million project, creating a very different environment than early millers would have known - a streamlined, clinically-clean, computer-controlled operation tailored to provide the flours needed for the modern market place.

From 18 sacks an hour in 1907, to more than 600 sacks an hour today - 1,340 tons of flour a week for the company's bakeries for the production of sliced white bread.

What do you think of the decision to demolish the mill? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Port expansion

Demolition of the mill, filling in the Dock Basin and removing the old P&O Ferry terminal will make way for a new 1,350-metre modern deep-water terminal at Landguard.

The new terminal will be able to handle three of the world's largest ships at once.

Four-and-a-half miles of the Ipswich-Felixstowe rail line will be dualled and a second rail eight-track terminal will be built at the port.

Around 50 buildings, including many of the oldest ones on the port, will be demolished.

The development is expected to create 1,500 new jobs - 621 port jobs and 860 in dock-related employment - within ten years of opening.

The viewing area will be revamped with a visitor centre, extra parking and a coach turning area, and a proper berth for the cross-harbour ferry.

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