Wind, Water and Steam is a survey of the industrial milling heritage of Hertfordshire, covering primarily the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a well-written and easy, with no compromise to scholarship, read and thus is an essential text for people studying the history of this industry.
The author covers in depth, and with extensive footnotes, these areas:
National and international developments
The national and international developments include the government measures to regulate the trade in milling products such as the Corn Laws and the repeal of these laws plus commercial treaties with France.
He looks at the siting of mills on sources of power – water, wind and the adaptation of steam power and the conversion from mill stones to roller mills.
He also looks in depth at the changes in transport from rivers and canals to roads and rails for the transport of milled products and the reception of imported grain.
Finally, he brings us up to date with discussions on survival in a challenging environment and the shift of users of English corn to speciality products.
Corn mills form the bulk of the study but other milling industries are discussed, such as paper and silk mills. There is also a chapter on preservation and restoration of the milling heritage.
The book is greatly enhanced with appendices with contemporary accounts, primarily from the trade journal ‘The Miller’, of the changes in the industrial age of the 19th and 20th centuries. These accounts give us a clear understanding of the issues faced by mills in light of new technology, Parliamentary changes in international taxation policies and competition from imported corn.
Additionally, there is a comprehensive glossary explaining the different types of milling equipment and forms of mills. A gazetteer gives a very handy list of mills for the local historian.
This book does not cover the longer history of milling in the county, from the Middle Ages, but there are references to mills dating back to the late 15th century.
This is a fascinating book and an essential tool for anyone studying the technology of working mills in Hertfordshire. It also illuminates how those mills worked in other counties of the county.
I highly recommend this book.
Bucks Historical Association