William Blake’s poem about seeking to build
“dark Satanic Mills” is sung on such diverse occasions as the start of cricket
Test matches and meetings of the Women’s Institute. Blake may have had in mind England London’s
Albion Flour Mill on the Thames, near where
Blake lived, at a time when industrialisation seemed to threaten workers’
livelihoods. In fact the Albion Mill was
burned down in 1791, with suspicions that the fire was caused deliberately.
Prior to 1984
had its equivalent of a “dark Satanic Mill” brooding over the eastern approach
along Quay Parade in the derelict Weaver’s Four Mill. Unlike the Albion Mill, its very means of
construction caused some to believe that it could never be demolished. Swansea
Weaver and Company had been founded in 1892, importing wheat from
and North America to produce flour for
distribution to bakeries over a wide area.
The firm occupied adjoining buildings around the one-acre off the North Dock, the earliest
of the town’s five docks. As their
business expanded there was need for a new mill and silos. A ferro-concrete construction system had been
patented by French engineer François Hennebique, whose agent in Britain Louis Mouchel
had an office in Briton Ferry. Mouchel
knew a director of Weaver’s, John Aeron Thomas, who was Mayor of Swansea in
1897. They visited Beaufort Basin to see ferro-concrete
construction, after which the contract was signed to construct Weaver’s new mill
using the Hennebique method. France
Co-designed by local architect Henry C. Portsmouth, the mill was built on a site beside the half-tide basin that linked the North Dock to the river. It was constructed of materials imported from
- cement, aggregate and steel. When
opened in August 1898 it was called the Victoria Flour Mills, and is believed
to be the first ferro-concrete building in France . Although the construction is often described
as “reinforced concrete”, ferro-concrete is a combination of concrete and steel
in order to utilize the strengths of each material. Britain
The flour mill was six storeys high, 80ft by 40ft by 112ft, with its lower floor cantilevered some 10ft above loading bays. The reservoir on the roof could hold 20,000 gallons of water. Around the roof parapet in capital letters and visible from a considerable distance was the name WEAVER AND COMPANY, and above that the brand name OREX. Though the North Dock closed in 1928, its basin remained open for vessels going to and from Weaver’s, which was producing 70 sacks of flour an hour in 1930.
Weaver’s survived aerial wartime bombardment, but closed in 1963, and was left standing amid the post-war clearance of other industrial buildings in the area and the filling-in of the adjacent North Dock basin in the late 1960s. Depending on one’s point of view it was either an important piece of industrial archaeology - or a dreadful eyesore on the eastern approach to
With considerable difficulty it was demolished in early 1984 to make way for Sainsbury’s supermarket, whose car park occupies the site of Weaver’s Flour Mill.
All that remains now is a column on the riverside path by the wall of Sainsbury’s car park, where a plaque states “This column was part of the old Weaver’s Mill, the first reinforced concrete framed building built inAt Liverpool docks stands a prominent ferro-concrete building that is still in use - the