Matthews Mill by the Shipton train station is a fine heritage industrial building. Built in 1912, if the walls could talk, they could tell us about both world wars and of course the Spanish flu. What has been going on in the mill during our current Covid-19 pandemic?
The mill is now run jointly by Paul Matthews and son Bertie, but the Covid-19 lockdown kept both of them away from the mill. Due to his age, Paul had to isolate at home and Bertie, aged 29, was caught in Australia for several weeks. Luckily Michelle, who joined as an apprentice miller, has stepped up, and is loving her new role and of course mobile technology allows for good communication and remote working wherever we are.
Paul and Bertie want to take this opportunity to thank all their local staff who worked flat out during lockdown to keep the mill going both day and night as flour production was doubled to meet demand. They would also like to thank their local customers for their support over the years.
Before lockdown, the majority of Matthews flour was supplied in large 16 kg bags to artisan bakers and professional chefs. When lockdown came this core trade business to restaurants, pubs and local shops stopped immediately. It was replaced however by the surge in home baking, but this put added pressure to produce more flour while also putting it into much smaller bags. You may have seen the tent in the mill yard which was erected to enable faster packing of more of these smaller 1.5 kg packs while also observing social distancing rules.
The lockdown has been tough on traditional mills like Matthews, where the machinery is not designed for constant working and in fact a slower speed of milling is part of what produces a better quality flour.
Finding a balance between old and new is part of the challenge for the mill, and buying the highest quality grain and sourcing as much as possible from local farmers around Shipton is a key part of Paul’s job.
Bertie has been working hard to modernise the mill’s trading and has developed a new e-commerce website and online sales platforms which have proved life-savers for the mill. As we pass the halfway mark for 2020, the future now looks very bright for Matthews mill and we hope it continues to prosper and be part of our landscape and local community for many more years to come.
August – September 2020