Hampshire Mills Group



Hovis - a history

This undated article is a short history of the firm to 1918.    As the address for Hovis is given as Mill Street, Stone, Staffordshire, we presume that this is the site of the mill referred to.  


Built in 1795, it ceased milling corn about 16 years ago and now out of the dust, grime and decay, the mill has taken on a new life with the far reaching reputation of a fully licensed free house and a restaurant of high quality.   Corn has been ground on the present site for many years going back to the time of King Henry VIII. The site then was the Priory Mill, milling flour for the monks there, now the site of the present St. Michael's Church.   It is believed the mill .had two water wheels and was described as “Two Mills under one roof*.   

 The present building dates back to 1795, being built by Robert Bill in that year. A stone on the front of the mill is inscribed thus 'R.B. erected in the year MDCCLXXXXV'.   After over four hundred years of milling, the site and building, now restored, offer a pleasant setting for your enjoyment.   The Mill is fed by a leat which enters the building by means of a bridge at second floor level.

 Prior to 1890 the water rotated an over-shot wheel of some 25ft. in diameter.   In 1890 the wheel was replaced by a turbine which could produce up to 30 kilowatts of electricity.   The main spur  wheel, measuring 13 feet 3 inches across, survives, and pierced wooden struts indicate the existence of three pairs of millstones, one pair of which remain.

 These pairs of stones would produce 18Olbs of fine dressed flour per hour while the top floor of the mill would house up to 100 tons of grain.   The pair of millstones can be found in the Millstone Bar.   Also to be seen is the arched cast Iron window removed from the front of the wheelhouse, which Is now the entrance,

 The Millstone Bar with its relaxing atmosphere and a wide selection of drinks is available to non-diners.   On the first floor, the Mill is proud of its unique restaurant with seating for 70 persons offering superb meals in leisurely comfort.   A new addition to the Mill on the ground floor is a Function Room affording pleasing views to the Coppice Valley, accommodating up to 85 persons seated  for functions, in particular now having gained a high reputation for weddings.

 Stoney Richard Smith, son of Richard Smith, was  born in the mill house opposite on 16th February 1836.   His brainchild is “'Hovis Flour”.   Smith conceived the idea of extracting the highly nutritious wheatgerm from the wheat, lightly cooking it to preserve the nutrients, then putting back into the flour many times more wheatgerm than it originally contained.   This flour was known as 'Smith's Patent Germ Flour* and the bread produced from it 'Smith's Patent Germ Bread'.

 Smith patented his process In October I887 and teamed with a firm of millers in Macclesfield, S. Fitton & Sons Ltd.   He joined the Board of Fittons and died in 1900.   He is buried in Highgate Cemetery, North London, close to the grave of Karl Marx.   'Smith's Patent Germ Flour' was considered a cumbersome title, even by Victorian standards, and in 1890 a competition was held to find a mre appropriate name.   The competition was won by a Mr Herbert Grime, an Oxford schoolmaster, who suggested 'HOVIS' as a contraction of the Latin couplet 'Homonis Vis' (the strength of man).   Until after the second war the 'O' in `Hovis' was always shown thus: — 'o' thereby indicating the original contraction.

 The word 'Hovis' was registered as a Trade Mark in 1890.   Later, in 1898, Fittons changed their name to 'The Hovis Bread Flour Company'.   Later still in 1918, 'Hovis Limited' was launched as a public company.   The Hovis Trade Mark is registered throughout the world.          

Detail by kind permission of Hovis Limited.           

A link to an article about the Macclesfield Hovis Mill is Macclesfield Mill

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