The Flour Mill Ltd is engaged principally in the repair and overhaul of steam locomotives, although it undertakes other railway-related activities such as the valuation of historic locomotives and luxury train operations. Owned and managed by William Parker, who had previously kept working engineering alive at Swindon after British Rail Engineering Ltd closed, the business occupies a workshop converted from a historically-listed colliery electricity generating station.
The colliery was known as the Flour Mill, presumably because the way to it from the village of Bream passed the Oakwood water mill. There is no evidence of a flour mill ever being on the site, and no known association with flour or milling. However the colliery was at one time the largest employer in Bream, and most families originating from the village have one or more relative or ancestor who worked there.
The site, and subsequently the building, have been used for a multitude of activities. It was originally part of a royal hunting forest. Later no doubt oaks for the Royal Navy were grown, although the villagers kept sheep and pigs in the woods, legally or illegally. With the arrival of the industrial revolution the site was used first for distilling chemicals from wood and later in the 1860’s a coal mine, which in due course took over the chemical works’ buildings. After coal mining ceased in the 1960s, various oil businesses took over, and recycling and refining has taken place on the site ever since. However the colliery’s former power station was eventually sold to a plastics recycling firm, operated by Brian Yarworth and then by Brian Bennett. Having escaped a dubious fate as a BSE incinerator, it was bought by William Parker in 1994 for restoration and conversion to a steam railway workshop.
The property was opened as a railway workshop on 1 July 1996 by Swindon Railway Workshop Ltd, which had previously operated the old GWR works in Swindon after its closure by British Rail Engineering Ltd. Considerable confusion resulted from SRWL operating so far from Swindon, and once it became apparent that there was no chance of returning it the company ceased trading and the premises are now operated by The Flour Mill Ltd.
This of course is just as confusing, if not more so, but at least it is technically correct!