There has been a mill at Bugbrooke, on the very same site, since before 1086. This extraordinary fact is known because the mill was mentioned in an early publication of the time, the Domesday Book.
Presumably business carried on as usual for several centuries until the Heygates, a family of Northamptonshire farmers, took it over in the late nineteenth century. The direct descendants of the first of these millers still run today’s mill, which is the group’s main location, producing the biggest share of the company’s flour output from its three mills. Bugbrooke is also the base for Heygate’s Animal Feed section and many other related industries.
The Bugbooke arm of this diverse company is responsible for the group’s biggest flour output – over 200,000 tons of wheat is milled annually, resulting in 150,000 tons of flour. This is mainly for bread production, including a large share of Fine Lady Bakery’s needs, but is also for biscuit manufacturers and other specialist areas.
Bugbrooke has an ultra-modern test bakery for developing bread products, and two professional bakers who regularly demonstrate their craft to as many as one hundred people in the comfort of this purpose-built facility.
The development laboratories have a dedicated team of qualified technicians who work closely with clients on specially formulated flour blends that meet their needs exactly.
And finally, Heygate’s product is distributed to users throughout Great Britain by a fleet of eighty trucks.
Set in the Norfolk countryside, Heygate’s Downham Market mill was built in 1851. At that time it was under the ownership of a Mr. J.M.Bird. Originally the mill was steam driven, and became one of the first in the country to convert to the roller mill system – pulling away from the traditional grindstone method. J.M.Bird’s son, Aubrey took over the running of the business and, since he was a mining engineer, turned to the Heygate company for guidance. This resulted in the business becoming a Heygate mill in the 1950’s, although Aubrey Bird was involved in the running of the company until his death in the 1960’s.
Today, Heygate’s Downham Market mill has fifty staff, and mills more than 90,000 tons of wheat per year. Specialising in soft wheat, predominantly English, the mill’s main strengths lie in biscuit flour, batter flour and wafer flour. They are also deeply involved in wholemeal for a major supermarket chain, and wheat products for cereal manufacturing.
Downham Market has their own fleet of trucks for a complex and efficient network delivery system, and can always call on another member of the Heygate Group, the potato and sugar beet producer Swaffham Farm, for transportation backup.
In Tring Hertfordshire there has been a flour mill since 1875. Originally it was a windmill, and the company was run by Mr.William Mead. Sadly the windmill was demolished in 1910 to make way for a wheat silo. In those days, William Mead lived on site, in a handsome house next to the yard, and only owned half the area taken up by the mill of today. The remaining space was occupied by a boatbuilder, Bushell Brothers, who built narrowboats. A perfect location, right on the canal that is such a delightful feature of today’s mill.
The Heygate family took over William Mead’s business in 1945, and today mills in excess of 100,000 tons of wheat in a year. This is mainly bakers flour, but there is also a major commitment to wholemeal for biscuits, bulk outlets, and a large output of 1.5 kilo bags from the prepacked flour plant – especially for the consumer market.
As in the bygone days of the Tring windmill, only two men are needed to operate the system - but in those days they milled half a ton per hour, and now, with a fully automated computerised installation, more than twelve tons per hour is produced.
Heygate’s Tring mill has eighty employees, and sixteen trucks delivering to companies and outlets throughout the south of England.