Martry Mill's flour

Martry Mill: Unveiling Flour's Hidden Journey

Author Avatar

Updated on March 20, 2024

View transcript

Imagine the Martry Mill, a centuries-old building in the heart of Ireland, its wheel tirelessly spinning, harnessing the power of the river to transform golden grains into fine flour. Within its weathered walls, a process steeped in tradition and sustainability unfolds. James Talon, the miller, carries on a craft that’s largely faded from the modern world, powering local bakeries and homes with his product.

But what’s the story behind each bag of flour that leaves the mill? To truly appreciate your next loaf of homemade bread, it’s worth understanding a bit more about the journey that transforms wheat into the flour at your fingertips.

Martry Mill: A Brief Overview


Nestled in the heart of County Meath, Martry Mill, under the skilled stewardship of James Talon since 2019, harnesses local water power to drive pre-industrial revolution millstones, producing natural flour from locally sourced grain for bakers and shops in the surrounding areas.

The mill’s historical significance goes beyond merely supplying flour; it embodies a time-honoured tradition of utilising water power, a sustainable energy source, to serve the local community. The mill’s operation is a testament to the ingenuity of our ancestors who, without modern technology, managed to create efficient, eco-friendly systems.

This process of harnessing water power is a vital part of the mill’s operations, not just for its environmental benefits, but also for maintaining a tangible link to Ireland’s rich milling past.

The Milling Process Explained

Martry Mill's flour

Delving into the heart of Martry Mill’s operations, the milling process begins with an ingenious utilization of water power. Grain processing is the cornerstone of flour production, and the mill’s procedure involves several key stages. Initially, the grain is cleaned, using an internal air system, before being blown through pipes to the hopper.

Next, the transformation from grain to flour occurs at the millstone section. Here, three different millstones, sourced from Ireland, England, and France, are used. Each millstone comprises a bed stone and a runner stone, the grooves of which chop the grain, preparing it for the final grind.

Harnessing Water Power

Martry Mill's flour

Moving from the millstone section, the role of water in powering Martry Mill’s operations proves to be a vital component. Traditional techniques, honed over centuries, convey the water’s energy efficiently into the mill wheel. A weir across the river provides the necessary falling water, whose power is then transferred to the wheel.

The water power efficiency of this system is remarkable, with very little loss of energy during the process. This harnessed power is then directed through a shaft to the pit wheel that drives the millstones. The wooden cogs on the great spur wheel are a key feature, purposefully designed to prevent sparks.

Wheat Storage and Cleaning Techniques

Martry Mill's flour

In the complex process of turning grain into flour, the step of storing and cleaning the wheat is integral to delivering a high-quality end product. Grain preservation is critical at Martry Mill, where the wheat loft, an extension built in the 1740s, offers ample storage space. This not only maintains the grain’s freshness but also prevents infestations, ensuring a clean supply.

Cleaning methods involve an internal air system that blows clean wheat through pipes to the hopper, removing impurities effectively. These practices are essential in providing the raw material for milling, setting the stage for the transformation process. Understanding the importance of these initial steps underscores the intricate journey from grain to flour, highlighting the hidden complexities within this seemingly simple process.

The Magic of Millstones

Martry Mill's flour

At the heart of Martry Mill, an array of millstones, sourced from Ireland, England, and France, breathes life into the milling process, converting grain into flour with an efficiency that’s a marvel to behold. This ancient technology, still in use today, showcases the magic of millstones.

Each millstone comprises a bed stone and a runner stone. As the runner stone spins, its carved grooves intricately chip the grain, prepping it for stone grinding. This innovative, yet dated, mechanism efficiently turns whole grains into fine flour, a testament to the ingenuity of our ancestors.

The magic of millstones lies in their ability to harness natural forces, transforming raw, earthy grain into the powdery essence that forms the base of our daily bread.

Operational Aspects of Martry Mill

Delving into the operational aspects of Martry Mill, we find that the mill’s efficiency hinges on an intricate system of water power harnessing, grain storage and cleaning, millstone mechanisms, and flour collection and packaging.

The mill’s water power system intelligently captures the energy of falling water, providing the force needed to turn the millstones. These stones, sourced from Ireland, England, and France, play an essential role in the transformation from grain to flour.

A robust grain storage and cleaning process ensures that only the highest quality wheat reaches the millstones. Finally, the flour undergoes careful sifting before being packaged into 2 kilo packs and 20 kilo sacks, ready to be used in the flour production process.

This careful orchestration of operations makes Martry Mill an exemplar of efficient milling.

Bread Making: A Detailed Process

Martry Mill's flour

Turning our attention to the art of bread making, we discover a meticulous process that requires a deep understanding of ingredients and chemistry.

Yeast activation is central to this process: the yeast, mixed with warm water and sugar, begins to ferment, producing the carbon dioxide that will make the bread rise.

Kneading the dough further develops the gluten structure, essential for the bread’s texture.

The dough is then left to rise, a process known as proofing, before being baked in the oven.

The result is a loaf with a golden crust and fluffy interior.

Thus, the art of bread making is a harmonious blend of science and skill, bringing the raw products of Martry Mill full circle in a loaf of bread.

Martry Mill’s Educational Initiatives

After mastering the intricate art of bread making, the focus now shifts to Martry Mill’s commitment to education, specifically through their unique baking classes. These classes are more than just a demonstration of baking skills – they’re an immersive experience into grain processing and traditional techniques.

Participants actively learn how the mill operates, from harnessing water power, grain cleaning, to the fascinating transformation from grain to flour within the millstone section. Martry Mill offers a hands-on approach, allowing students to understand the importance of each operation in producing quality flour.

Understanding the Nutritional Content of Wheat

Martry Mill's flour

In the realm of nutrition, wheat, especially as used in brown bread, packs a greater health punch than its white counterpart. The nutritional value lies predominately in the wheat germ, a powerhouse of nutrients often discarded during the production of white flour. Wheat germ benefits include a high source of fiber, essential for digestive health, and rich concentrations of vitamins B and E. Moreover, it contains valuable antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and minerals.

Turning to white bread strips these nutrients, leaving behind mainly starchy carbohydrates. Therefore, one’s diet can significantly benefit from the inclusion of whole-wheat products, as they retain the germ and its nutrient-rich properties. Embracing the entirety of the wheat grain is key to unlocking its full nutritional potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the History of Martry Mill Prior to James Talon’s Tenure as Miller?

Before James Talon’s tenure, Martry Mill had a rich history. It’s been a vital part of the community since the 16th century, showcasing ancient milling techniques. Efforts have preserved the mill’s original structures, maintaining its historical integrity.

It’s not just a mill, but a testament to Ireland’s agricultural past. These preservation efforts ensure that Martry Mill continues to educate and serve the community, while upholding the time-honored tradition of milling.

Are There Any Environmental Impacts or Considerations Linked to the Water Power Harnessing System Used at Martry Mill?

Martry Mill’s water power system is essentially energy efficient. It harnesses natural water flow, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and minimizing carbon footprint.

However, it’s vital to ensure water sustainability. Mismanagement could alter river flow patterns, impacting local ecosystems. But, if executed correctly, it’s a renewable, environmentally friendly energy source.

They’ve got a responsibility to balance resource utilization with environmental considerations.

How Does Martry Mill Ensure the Quality and Safety of the Flour Produced?

Martry Mill ensures flour quality and safety by implementing strict quality assurance techniques. They thoroughly clean the grain to eliminate potential flour contaminants.

The millstones grind the grain into flour, which undergoes sifting to remove impurities. The mill’s operations focus on maintaining the integrity of the flour while ensuring it’s safe for consumption.

It’s a meticulous process, but it guarantees the high-quality, natural flour Martry Mill is known for.

Can Individuals Purchase Flour Directly From Martry Mill or Is It Only Available Through Local Bakers and Shops?

Yes, individuals can purchase flour directly from Martry Mill. They’re not limited to buying through local bakers and shops.

The mill offers competitive flour pricing and convenient shipping methods for customers who can’t visit in person. It’s a great opportunity for baking enthusiasts to get their hands on high-quality, locally sourced flour and support a traditional milling process that’s been in operation since the 17th century.

Besides Baking Classes, Are There Any Other Community Outreach Programs or Initiatives Offered by Martry Mill?

Yes, besides baking classes, Martry Mill also offers other community outreach programs.

They’ve got a fantastic initiative where they provide Mill tours, giving folks a chance to delve into the fascinating world of flour production.

They also run educational workshops, aimed at spreading knowledge about the importance of local food production and traditional milling methods.

It’s a great way for the community to engage with and learn more about their local heritage.


Martry Mill exemplifies a traditional and sustainable approach to flour production. Harnessing water power and using age-old millstones, it transforms locally sourced wheat into high-quality flour.

The mill not only fuels the local community but also educates, emphasizing the importance of understanding each ingredient. Through its operational practices and educational initiatives, Martry Mill keeps the historical art of flour-making alive, highlighting the hidden journey of flour that connects tradition, sustainability, and community.

Video Transcript

Speaker 2 (00:00)
Hi, guys. I’m here today with Amazing Food and Drink to do some filming of Marjorie Mill. My name is James Tallon, and I’m the miller here. I’ve been the miller here since about 2019. My role here is to make amazing flour with locally-produced grain to service the local bakers, local shops around County Mead and in surrounding areas. So if you come with us today, we’re going to take a tour around the mill. We’re going to learn all about how the water is harnessed to create the power to drive the pre-industrial revolution millstones, to make a fantastic and natural flour for people all around County Mead and surrounding areas to enjoy. So follow us on now. We take a walk inside and have a look around the old mill. Before we go inside to take a look at the internal machinery, just take a minute to understand how the water power is harnessed. For every mill, the crucial element is having a wear across the river. The wear across the river creates the level change, and it’s the falling water from the level change that’s creating the power to turn the mill wheel like we see here.

Speaker 2 (01:20)
Behind the mill wheel, the level change right directly behind the mill wheel that you see in the river is replicated in the mill race. When we open up the sluice gate at the back of the mill wheel, the water pours through the sluice gate. On the mill wheel, the paddles of wood, they’re all very close to the mill race walls. They run within a centimetre of the walls. So when we open up the sluice gate, the water coming through the sluice gate, all of the power from that water is transferred into the wheel. There’s nowhere for any of that power to escape. It hits the paddles, it’s transferred into the shaft of the wheel. The shaft of the wheel feeds through into the mill, and that will turn a series of more wheels that are all linked up to the millstones to create the beautiful flower. If you’d like to follow us on inside, we’ll go on inside and see how all that works.

Speaker 1 (02:21)
This is our wheat store here at Mairtrree Mill. In the past, wheat would have arrived in the mill in great big sacs via horse and the cart would have been stored in the sacs. We would have had cats in the mill at that point working as pest control. However, nowadays we can no longer have cats in the mill, so it’s safe to store our grain in a great big room like this. Once the wheat gets to the mill, it comes in this window here from the truck via a big pipe. It takes less than an hour to get about 30 tonne of grain into this storage room. The process from here, as you can see, the The grain is pretty clean. The drummen do a great job in giving us the best quality wheat, the grade A millimetre wheat. But we do have further cleaning processes before we bring the wheat to the millstones. This great blue pipe that you see here, it has an internal auger system. The grain is sucked up by the auger into a vacuum machine in the corner. The vacuum machine is going to Hoover the wheat. The grain is It’s not too heavy, but these loose particles, the light particles that you see coming off the shovel of wheat, the shell and some dust, that will be removed by the extraction fan into a bag for disposal.

Speaker 1 (03:45)
And then the rest of the clean wheat is blown across via a blower through pipes over to the hopper at the other side of the mill. Once the grain reaches the hopper, it goes through another sieve to remove any bigger particles that shouldn’t be in there. From there we use gravity. The hopper is above the millstones. Gravity takes the grain to the millstones. And then from there, the gravity takes the flour downstairs to a meal box where we collect it below. You’ve seen our wheat loft. We’re going to follow the wheat now. It’s blowing over to the very top level of the old mill. In the old mill, it will be relying on gravity, falling down from the hopper level, down to the millstone level, and down to the very bottom level where we collected in the meal box. We go on over and have a look. This third level here on the old mill section was built in the 1740s by a miller named Matthew Lee to extend the existing mill. At that time, the mill here would have been quite small, a little two-story building. It didn’t have the middle section and the section where the wheat store is.

Speaker 1 (05:02)
The extension was probably commissioned as a result of a famine in the early 1740s. So this room then was built along up at the top to have an extra storage space for grain so that you could save some of previous year’s harvests in case the following year had famine conditions or if there was a problem with the crop. Nowadays, the primary function of this room is to house our hopper. So this is our hopper right here. The grain arrives from the wheat store through this hollow metal pipe. It pumps out the top here and goes through another sieve. The sieve is to remove any bigger particles. You wouldn’t want a big stone, for example, going between the millstones. On the hopper here, it’s a very useful tool for any tour, but in particular for school tours. It’s a very good explanation of how the mill itself it works. It covers the water power. The water power is generated here with the mill wheel. That power feeds through into the mill via a big shaft, connecting into the pit wheel, which is the sunkened wheel at the back once you go inside the door of the mill.

Speaker 1 (06:17)
This is linked into a wallower, which is another metal wheel below the great spur wheel. The great spur wheel is the biggest wheel downstairs. It’s the engine, the driving room of all the machinery. The great spur wheel will have wooden cogs because it connects to the pinions. There’s four different pinions downstairs. Each pinion is connected to either a millstone, there’s three for the millstones, and there’s a fourth pinion for a drive shaft. The drive shaft, the millstones, the pinion turns the runner stone on the millstone. It’s self-explanatory. The drive shaft is a shaft that runs down on the second level, just down middle of the mill here and various different machines in the mill, such as this bucket elevator. We can see here some belts. The bucket elevator, there’s hollow columns in here. Before we had blowing machines and fancy metal pipes like we have over there for transporting the grain, it was possible to run a bucket elevator. There’s a hollowed out section there and a section of belts with little buckets on it will collect grain from a bin at the bottom of the mill and transport it up to the top of the mill.

Speaker 1 (07:35)
It will come out right here. You can strap a bag on right here and collect your grain, and then you can throw your grain into either your oak hopper or your wheat hopper. A hopper will have a cone-type shape bottom. You can see at the very bottom is feeding through the floor. The cone will work its way into a series of shoots and pipes to control the the flow of the wheat into the millstone. We want to control the feed. It needs to be fed in at a very, very slow pace, essentially drip feeding the wheat in between the millstones. So this floor here is the middle section of the old mill, and it’s actually where the transformation from grain, from two flour, takes place. The wheat feeds down from the hopper below and in between the millstones. When it leaves this floor, it’s falling down to the bottom level as flour. Over here in the millstone section of the room, we’ve got three different millstones, one from Ireland, one from England, and one from France. So this old millstone here is the Irish millstone. A soft stone in a milling context would be used for de-shelling rather than for making flour.

Speaker 1 (09:01)
So it was used to separate the millable part of the oak from the waste part of the oak. And these millstones, like the other millstones in the room, would have had a cover around it when it was in operation, and the finished product is going to escape through a hole in the floor. When it gets downstairs, it goes through a wallower. The wallower is further refining of separating the millable part of the grain. The millable part of the grain then was sent back upstairs through our elevator, our bucket elevator. These wooden columns, it was refurbished in about 2012. Because they were hollow, the woodworm had the woodworm I got at them. But inside you have a thick belt, felt belt with buckets on it. The buckets will pick up the millable part of the oak from the bin below down between the Derbyshire peak stone. That would have made the oatmeal for porridge and the oatmeal flour back in the day. However, the stone got damaged at some stage, we think in the 1950s, and the oats discontinued here at this mill. Since that time, my family has focused primarily on making a great wheat flour.

Speaker 1 (10:20)
The millstones here come from France, the Bur region of France. They’re called burstones. They come in a pair, like all millstones. You have the bedstone at the bottom and the runner stone on top. The runner stone, our runner stone, is quite big. Typically, a runner stone will do upwards of 100 revolutions per minute. However, because this millstone is oversize, about 80 revolutions per minute is right for the stone. The bedstone stays still, the runner stone is still about 80 revolutions. So the grain is going to drop down between the stones. This part here is called the damsel. The damzel will be rotating and it is going to move the shoe from side to side, dropping the grain into the central mechanism, which kicks the grain out in between the millstones. There’s a gap at the bottom of the runner stone, which allows the grain to land onto the bedstones. On the bedstones and the runner stones, we’ve got a series of Grooves cut into the stone, into the face of the stone. You can’t see it from here, but the face of the stone has this series of Grooves, which is known as harps. These harps intersect with each other when the runner stone is rotating above the bedstone.

Speaker 1 (11:45)
The intersecting of these harps allows for the grain to be chopped up more and more finely as it works its way from the inside of the stone out to the outside of the stone. This is the room in the mill where I spend most of my time. It’s where the flower arrives in the meal bin over in the corner from the millstones above. So it’s where we do our packaging. From a visual perspective, though, when you walk in the door, you can’t help but notice the giant wheels turning in front of you. The wheel at the back that is sunken into a pit is called the pit wheel. The pit wheel is being powered directly from the mill wheel outside. The power generated by the wooden mill wheel is fed through a big hole in the wall via a shaft and into the pit wheel here at the back. The pit wheel linked then directly with the little one in the middle, which is called the wallower. The wallower then is linked to this big wheel directly above it, which is called the great spur wheel. This great spirit wheel then is the engine for the whole mill for all the machines.

Speaker 1 (13:06)
How the machines run off the water power, they’re all connected up to these little gears. They’re called pinions. There’s four pinions around the great spirit wheel. There’s a couple of them at the back as well. To operate the machines off the water power, first of all, you need to stop the great spare wheel. Once the great spare wheel is stopped, you line up the wooden cogs in the great spare wheel with the metal cogs in the pinion that you want to run off the water power. From there, it’s a simple case of either using a wheel like this or on this one here, there’s a bar. You twist the bar down and that will lower the pinion in between the cogs, and that will power your millstones upstairs or your drive shaft. The cogs in the great spur wheel, they’re all made from wood because once the pinion starts turning, it works like the back of your watch. The big wheel goes quite slowly, but then the little wheel that’s connected to the big wheel, it will be absolutely racing. So in in a mill where there’s a lot of dust and there’s a lot of dry old wood, if we had metal on metal, you’d be creating sparks.

Speaker 1 (14:23)
With the dry wood and the dust, that would only add to the problem and you could potentially cause a fire. So this is why we have the wooden cogs on the great spirit wheel. But the place in this room where I spend my time is generally over here. This is where we collect the flour. You can see we’ve been doing some grinding here already today. There’s a little peak of flour from the mill box. We collect the flour in the box. Using the scups then, I’m going to fill these 2 kilo packs for the We also have these 20 kilo sacs. These are much easier to fill because there’s less manual effort involved. This is where we collect our flour in our meal box at the very bottom of the mill. The millstone is directly above this pinion here. We saw upstairs at the side of the millstone, there is a hole in the floor where the flour escapes, and this is where the flour is escaping to. It’s down this shoot. It goes through a sieve system here, another sieve. This will remove if a piece of straw, tiny piece of straw comes through.

Speaker 1 (15:40)
The sieve inside here is fine or it will remove this and ensures we have a very clean flour. But the waste coming off is collecting in this bag. To make a good healthy flour, you want to use all of the whole wheat, good quality whole wheat, and good stone-ground process. We put the mill on real quick here just to show you how we make a pack of two kilo packages for our customers. You can find these in Supervalues in County Meath or local shops in New Orleans in Dublin. We’ve quite an extensive supply network. There’s details on our website. But yeah, I’ll turn it on real quick. First of all, we’re going to open up the millstones a little bit. Pushing that lever effectively lifts the runner stone by a couple of millimetres, which helps it to get a little bit of momentum and helps the stone to get going. So we’re just going to give it a few seconds.

Speaker 2 (16:41)
So we have our scales over here. And that’s two packs of flour ready for our shops.

Speaker 1 (16:59)
Today, Today, we’re going to go a little step further here in the mill, and we’re going to process some of this flour into its next stage and make a little bit of bread. And that’s just about enough flour to make a nice traditional loaf of brown bread. Hey, guys. Welcome to our baking basement. In more recent times, we’ve been using it as a baking classroom, as a baking Making Studio, giving young students an opportunity to learn all about the history of mills, the history of flour and grain consumption in Ireland. They also have the opportunity to make a loaf of bread to take home with them. All right, guys. Today, you’ve seen the whole process from wheat to flour. And now we’re going to make some bread. So just a little bit about our ingredients before we get into the bread bacon. We use buttermilk. Buttermilk is quite acidic, and the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the different ingredients, in particular with the sodium bicarbonate. That reaction helps our bread to rise and gives us a nice airy loaf. We’re going to add about a teaspoon of salt. A lot of people will call brown wheat and bread.

Speaker 1 (18:28)
They call it soda bread because it’s such a key ingredient as the rising agent. The other two dry ingredients are the wheat flour. I use some plain white flour, about 40% plain white flour, 60% brown flour. The plain flour increases the amount of particles in the mix, which again helps the bread to rise. Each one of these white grains, grains of wheat, can be broken into three different parts. The white flour is just the centre part of the grain. It’s called the endosperm. The endosperm is quite heavy in starch and quite low in nutrients. Most of the good nutritional content of wheat is either in the bran and to a greater extent is in the germ, which is just underneath the bran. All of that goodness is in the brown flour. So this is why people say that it’s much healthier to have some brown bread as opposed to always going for the easier option in the white toast. So we’re going to get into the bacon. It’s a very, very, very simple process. We’ve got our brown flour. It’s going to be first into the bowl. We just add it all in just like that.

Speaker 1 (19:45)
We don’t need to sieve it or anything. White flour, though, it tends to stick together a little bit more, so it’s better to sieve your white flour. We’re going to add some white flour into the sieve just like that. We’re going to add about a teaspoon of salt. I wouldn’t say a heat teaspoon, I’d just say a fairly flat teaspoon. Just add that into the mix as well. Then is your bread soda. For your bread soda, you want a heat teaspoon, something like this is plenty. If they’re not evenly mixed, your loaf isn’t going to rise evenly for starters because the bread soda hasn’t been evenly distributed. Then the last ingredient that we’re We’re going to add before we add it, we’ll make a little bowl in the middle, a little hole, a little well. Then give our buttermilk a bit of a shake. In terms of the measurements, we had 300 grammes of the Marjorie mill flour, 200 grammes of white flour, and we’re going to add about 450 to 500 millilitres of buttermilk. So just right into the middle of our mix. Now, once you add the buttermilk, you don’t want to use your hands anymore.

Speaker 1 (20:59)
The dough will stick to your hands. So just use a spatula. And that’s essentially what’s going to make your brown bread. I have greased the bread loaf tin with some butter all the way. It’s important to get it all the way up to the tops and thoroughly grease the tin. If you put on too much butter, that’s going to burn the crust. So something like this is about right. And then it’s a simple case of getting the dough into your tin. Or not so For example, this is probably the trickiest part. We’ve preheated the oven here to about 220 degrees. You need a good hot oven for making bread. In your preheated oven, just slip your loaf in in the middle of the shelf if you can. The baking time is going to be about 50 minutes. There’s a couple of different ways that you can check whether your loaf is fully baked. If you put a skewer through the middle and it comes up clean, yeah, it’s pretty good. It means it’s cooked through to the middle. Then the other thing is once you get it out of the bread loaf, if you give it a Well, it sounds hollow, so the hollow sound.

Speaker 1 (22:18)
It’s a lovely, delicious bread, loaf of Mahrtree Mill bread ready for us to enjoy. There’s a multitude of toppings that you can enjoy with brown bread. For me, I like a bit of butter. My favourite topping of all, I guess, to go with the butter would be some nice ham and a bit of Coleman mustard. It’s really, really tasty. Thanks for joining us today at Marjorie Mill. I hope you learned plenty about traditional milling and traditional bread production. Thanks for watching us on Amazing Food and Drink. Like and subscribe, you’ll find a lot more our great local food producers. If you want to come and visit us here at Marjorie Mill, we do private tours for larger groups. If you have a group, reach out to us on our website or on our email address. You’re welcome to come and visit us and see Marjorie Mill for yourselves and enjoy a tour here. The interactive element of the baking will keep you busy and you’ll have an enjoyable and educational experience here at Marjorie Mill. Thanks again watching. All the best, James.

Share with our social media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *