Clark & Butcher Mill

The Mill Tramway

Clark & Butcher Mill Aerial Photograph

There was always a link between Clark and Butcher and Henry Simons of Manchester. Alfred Clark junior went to work for Simons. In 1893, Alfred junior represented Clark and Butcher at the World Fair in Chicago. What he saw there must have impressed him because, on his return, he had a tramway built at the mill to link it directly to the railway line. Horses drew the trucks along it, and there was a difficult curve to negotiate, but it greatly improved the means of transporting freight to and from the mill.

In 1931, the tramway tracks were relayed in standard gauge. The practice of using actual horse power to haul the trucks to the line died out with the introduction of the diesel engine. Clark and Butcher bought an International 10/20 tractor, took the steel shod wheels off and fitted rubber tyres with crosswise treads, as on a traction engine. The new machine was used for shunting, and had enough power to push three loaded trucks along the tramway at a time.

The War Years

Clark & Butcher Mill

War was declared on 3rd September 1939. On the 5th of September, Clark and Butcher received a telegram from the Ministry of Food telling them that all their stock now belonged to the government, under whose instruction they would remain until the end of the war. The instructions were to come in the form of circulars called ‘Controlled Millers Confidential Circulars’. An agreement was drawn up between the trade and the government that payment would be based on the average profit for the previous three years, regardless of the amount of flour produced.

When the blitz began and many flour mills were burned out, the mills that remained working formed a pool and worked together to help one another. From 1940 onwards, there were large stocks of Manitoba wheat hidden around the countryside as an emergency measure against the possible effects of a Submarine blockade and further raids on the London docks. Large stocks of wheat in bags were stored in the Newmarket stables, and in various places around the district where suitable farm buildings were made available. By 1943 the situation had eased, but there was some anxiety about the quality of the grain that had been secretly stored for those many months. The government decided that the millers should start using it, blending it in with the standard flour, and replacing what they took with fresh supplies.

Victory day came at last. An urgent telegram arrived at Clark and Butcher. As the nearest millers to Witchford Airfield, they were requested to supply forty tons of flour, which was to be flown out and dropped over Holland where the people were starving.


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