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About the mill

Gateshead Quays 1956
Gateshead Quays

Baltic Details (1966)


River Frontage: 650ft
Depth of Quay: 28ft
Silo Capacity: 22,000 tons
Warehouse Capacity: 5,000 ton


The Mill


The mill had six floors:

  • The basement and the top floor contained elevator equipment.
  • The four middle floors were for production.

The elevators were the key to the process; if one failed, production stopped completely until it was repaired - there was no back-up for moving the grain.

It took one-and-a-half to two hours for the mill to empty completely.

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Care in the silo


The silo foreman kept the records for each storage bin. If the grain was damp and had been stored for a long time a 'crust' would form on top, which might remain after the bin was emptied frombelow. Someone would then need to be lowered into the bin on a rope to free the blockage.

One of Fred Allinson's office duties was to record how long each batch of wheat had been stored. He remembers that to prevent overheating bins had to be emptied, the wheat aired and then replaced. An overtime job for Frank Charnock Jnr was cleaning the concrete sides of empty bins with a large scraper, The flour storage bins were cleaned in the same way.

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A new warehouse was built on a plot of land bought from the electricity board. It was designed to allow storage of the flour sacks on standard wooden pallets for ease and spped of handling. Paper sacks were stored on mobile tiered trooleys. A new testing laboratory was also located here. The building itself is said to have cost around £6-7m, but it was only used for two-and-a-half years before the Baltic Flour Mills closed.

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Testing and Baking


Laboratory and bakery staff worked together to test the grain and variuos samples at each stage of the flour production process.

After the flour was checked some of it was mixed into dough and baked. The quality of the bread was the ultimate tets of the product and baking took place every hour.

In September 1969 an extended quality control laboratory was opened which centralised the testing process. In the past quality control had been carried out by RHM Agricultural Industries from Poole.

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Bagging Up


The animal feed was called Blue Cross. Norman Pinkerton worked as apacker there for £29 per week, bagging animal feed. Three lads worked on each job - one would hold the bag, one would fill it and one would weigh it. Then the barrow boy would take it all away.

Workers in the loading area of the production were known as the 'heavy gang'. Striling Greenup, a worker at the Blue Cross Mill, remembers it as a particularly smelly job, but a happy one.

The empty flour sacks were returned to the Baltic by lorry. Two girls would work the 'chute' which blew air into the sacks to clean out any remaining flour. Sack worker Linda Morris sometimes worked the beater machine to remove the hard flour. This was a noisy and dangerous job. She also worked every Saturday morning to clean the 'chute' and would get covered in flour and looked like a ghost. Linda remembers the girls all singing happily as they worked.

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Contact Us

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead Quays
South Shore Road
Tel: 0191 478 1810

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday 10am - 6pm
(Except Tuesday 10.30-am-6pm)