Not many people in Britain can say that their workplace operates exactly as it did 200 years ago. Karl Grevatt can. He spoke to Tessa Waugh; portraits by Richard Cannon for the Country Life Picture Library.
‘A Victorian miller could walk in tomorrow and know exactly what to do,’ says Karl Grevatt of Charlecote Mill in Warwickshire.
The mill was built by the Fairfax Lucy family in 1752, but there had been a mill on this site for centuries. One is mentioned in the Domesday Book, valued at 6s 8d.
Charlecote, where Mr Grevatt began working as a volunteer, still belongs to the same family and is one of only a few commercial working watermills remaining in the UK.
‘I learned everything I know from the previous miller, John Bedington, who was responsible for restoring the mill in the late 1970s,’ he says.
‘John was incredibly generous with his knowledge and I feel as if I’m continuing his legacy.’
Mr Grevatt’s working day begins at 9am, when he sets about greasing all the parts. ‘My day is spent feeding the mill and packaging and weighing everything up, after which I load the van and do my deliveries.’
Charlecote Mill has two strands of business, one of which is producing chapati flour for the Asian community. ‘We supply roughly 600 families around Coventry, employing exactly the same milling process that they use in India,’ explains Mr Grevatt.
‘It’s very gentle, it doesn’t burn the vitamins and oils and it keeps all the flavour in.’ The mill also produces traditional stoneground flour for bakers, restaurants and home bakers.
The 1000-year history of milling at this spot is now in jeopardy, however. A proposal by the Avon Navigation Trust to adjust the depth of the waterway on this stretch of the River Avon is causing concern for Mr Grevatt and his supporters.
‘If there’s too much water, it acts as a brake on the watermill,’ he explains. ‘If there’s too much pressure at the back, the sluice gates won’t open, all of which would be catastrophic for the business and the future of the mill.’
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