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Introduction

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, blending and packaging oils.

In 2017 we acquired the remaining buildings on the site, some originally part of the Oakwood Chemical Works but all repaired, rebuilt or built in the first decade of the 20th century by the Flour Mill colliery. Most recently used as an oil blending facility, we are seeking sympathetic and appropriate uses for them.