Shipton Mill's Two Mills

I met John Lister, the owner of Shipton Mill, last October at their Tedbury site where John’s office resides, but my first encounter with Shipton mill was at their other huge site in Frampton-on-Severn in September.  It’s not until you visit this old Cadbury’s site do you realise how big Shipton Mill are.

My introduction to Shipton Mill’s flour was in the Spring when I began to take more notice of the flour I was using and someone, can’t remember who now, recommended their flour.

I did what anyone would do facing lots of choice on Shipton Mill’s website, I ordered a bit of everything.

OK, so I get excited to try new flour out, who doesn’t.

Going from supermarket bread flour to flour like this, you realise what a difference it makes buying flour that isn’t trying to be everything to everybody for every bread recipe out there.

At the Frampton-on-Severn site I was shown around inside the milling process but wasn’t allowed to take any photos.

If you can picture a factory inside with lots of large pipes, lots of funnels, lots of rollers all going on at the same time creating a great commotion as you walk in and an incredible amount of heat, you’ll get the gist of the place.  After a while of being inside it becomes unbearable.  I don’t think my future is in milling.

If my memory serves me correctly I believe they mill over 2,000 tonnes of flour per week through this site, and they make over a 100 different varieties of mixes.

Finally after speaking to John a few times on the phone, endlessly talking flour to the point we would bore everyone around us I went to meet him at the Tedbury site, the birth place of Shipton Mill.

John started Shipton Mill 30 years ago as a co-operative with five other partners and over the years they all left, with John remaining very much in control of the business.

The mill started out as a stoneground mill but this site now produces both stoneground (wholemeal only) and roller mill flour.

If you ever wondered how they unload a truck full of wheatberries these photos will show you.

The truck reverses on to a hole on the ground, you can see the trap door to the right of the man in the blue t-shirt, the wheatberries are dropped through.

To check the wheatberries on a truck delivery are all of the same quality all the way through the load, a type of pipe is pushed through the load to catch the wheat at the bottom of the load.

In both sites Shipton Mill have machines performing various tests for the quality of the wheat arriving.

Machine for detection of moisture levels, which can be a very narrow window indeed between accepting and not.  Moisture levels reaching the highs of 14% or more are not desired.

Farinograph/ Resistograph machine to test  water absorption of flours, determine the rheological properties of dough, check production and flour blends for the mill.

John tells me they will buy as much British wheat as they can mixed with foreign grain to use in their flour mixes, and adapt different styles imitating European flours, the T55, Dark Swedish Style, Ciabatta style.

It’s not unusual for some mills to import some of their flour for a blend or to sell imported flour from other mills but here they mill everything themselves.

The first time I heard of the monopoly the American company has over Khorasan wheat, best known as Kamut was through John, did you realise this?

The affiliation of kamut with khorason wheat is so strong I use to think that was the name of the wheat itself.  John went to the source of where the wheat grows and convinced them to sell it directly to him, no payments to the middle man.  This is why he’s not allowed to call it kamut on their site.

All the times I’ve spoken to John his conversation has often evolved around the next flour quest and his holy grail, actually his holy grail is more like his oxymoron; finding a white roller mill flour with flavour.

White roller mill flour doesn’t have flavour because the volatile oils are stripped away in the ripping of the outside layer of the wheatberry since the prize for this flour is in the heart of the seed.  What this white flour gains in performance through the production of it it does at the cost of the wheat flavour. This has become very clear to me in the last few months of working with white stoneground flour and how much flavour it still has.

John wants both, roller white with the flavour of stoneground.  Well, he’s accomplished an amazing job of turning a disused mill into the big successfully company he has today, that’s no mean achievement in the face of a business’s usual adversities over so many years, who knows maybe he is just the man to do it.

After meeting John I was left with the impression of someone who is focus and determined to achieve big things, the sort of person who would accomplish those in any line of business he turned his energy to, he just happen to fall for flour.