The match between the floury men and the iron men.

November 24th 2017 by Hannah Pomeroy

This week I have continued my research on the roller milling industry internationally and have moved on to look at Australia. Given that the Ashes have begun this week, I thought I’d see if I could find any more connections between the milling world and the world of cricket, having briefly explored the connection between mills and sport in a previous blog. Surprisingly, I have come across more cricketing stories so I thought I would share them this week.
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Firstly, some Australian roller milling history. In 1880, Messrs. W. Duffield & Co. in Gawler, South Australia, studied the advantages of rollers over stones, one of the first companies in Australia to do so. They installed 12 Wegmann porcelain rollers and, according to Jones, there’s ‘was in every respect one of the most technologically advanced mills of the late 1870s and early 1880s’ (p.16).

Not only was this company technologically advanced at this time, but they could also field a respectable cricket team. I found an article in the newspaper The Bunyip from 1878, two years before the new roller machinery was introduced. It contained an account of a cricket match that took place between W. Duffield’s and Co.’s employees (the millers) and J. Martin & Co.’s employees (the engineers). Duffield’s team had been successful against this team before as they had ‘met on three occasions previous to this match, and the millers had twice defeated the iron men, and once have played a drawn game in favour of the floury men’. The author of this report was clearly keen to find as many different ways possible to refer to Duffield’s team. Although mainly called the ‘millers’, they were also called ‘the floury men’ and later in the article referred to as ‘the dustmen’ as well! Whoever the author of this article was, they clearly understood the world of milling as they wrote: ‘Soon after half-past 3 the Captains tossed their coins, and the millers had to try their dressing powers with the willow’. Apply their dressing powers they did as they made 119, which the iron men were unable to match, being bowled out for 87.

Success for the stone millers then, but would things change when they became roller millers? I could find no report of a follow up game with J. Martin & Co. but I did find a report from 1880 of the millers playing against ‘Unions’. Although they had won in 1878, there was a suggestion of an underlying frailty as their fielding was ‘the lamest they have ever shown in a match before’. Would their fielding have improved along with the productivity of their mill, which was now producing 200 tons of flour a week? It appears not as the opposing team made 122. It was then left to the millers, who could no longer apply their dressing power with the willow, but would have to apply their rolling power instead…and roll-over they did. Bowled out for 34, their top scorer was Sam Richardson who had come in at number 10 in 1878 where he had scored 5. He was likely one of the only players to have performed better in this game as he top scored with 12. The boost in profits for the company was clearly not represented on the field! 

Meanwhile, back in England, the most prominent roller miller that I can find linked to cricket is still Joseph Rank who was a longstanding member of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. I have covered his love for the game in the previous sport blog so won’t repeat it here. However, as regards the Archive I have found another link to the game and the England cricket team itself!

The Geoff Holman Collection came to the Archive in 2012 after his death in 2011. He had been a member of the Kent Mills Society and a keen photographer. He had also been researching the history of Holman Brothers Ltd., a company his family had founded and run from its beginnings in 1816 to its closure in 1975. It was an engineering and millwrighting firm that had survived through the roller mill transition by increasing their production of agricultural machinery. Geoff himself never worked for the company but started his career working at the Met Office preparing weather forecasts. A passionate cricket fan, his brush with the England cricket team would not come about till 1960 when he started working at the department store, Chiesmans. His boss at this establishment was none other than Colin Cowdrey, the Kent County Cricket Captain and temporary England Cricket Captain.

So from floury men in the outfield to the England Cricket Captain as your boss, the world of milling and the Mills Archive can always provide an interesting story!



Jones, W. Lewis, Where Have All the flour Mills Gone? A History of W.S. Kimpton and sons – flour Millers 1875-1980 (Melbourne, 1984).

‘W. Duffield’s & Co.’s Employees v. J. Martin & Co.’s Employees’, The Bunyip, (Gawler, SA) Friday, February 1, 1878, p.19.

‘Tribute to Geoff Holman’, HOLM-13-02.