The Mills Archive receives a nationally important collection from the Science Museum

September 06th 2019 by Liz Bartram

The Mills Archive Trust is pleased to announce that it has received one of the most important mill collections of the 20th century from the Science Museum. The material was assembled over decades by the late Rex Wailes OBE, who was an engineer and the leading consultant for the repair of windmills. Rex’s passion took him on adventures around the world, and his records offer an unusual insight into people’s lives, engineering ingenuity and environmental changes.
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The collection is a time capsule full of photographs, glass plates, large technical drawings, notes and correspondence that immortalise the fascinating structures of mills, the people involved and the landscape that they shaped.

Following negotiations with the Science Museum, Rex’s records have now been entrusted to the Mills Archive. The collection is being kept safe in archival storage that has been made possible by the support of Perendale Publishers, who are sponsoring ‘The Milling & Grain Room’. This Room is named after the successful monthly magazine that is produced by Perendale for the milling industry.

We are delighted to have received this collection from the Science Museum, which has been made possible by the continuing support of our Friends and donors, as well as by Perendale. As the national repository for the history of milling, Rex’s material forms a vital part of the story of how the world has been fed and fuelled by mills. This is only the start of the journey, as it will take time and further funding to help us preserve and open up the collection to the public.

The next stage is for the Archivist to examine the collection and assess conservation, digitisation and packaging needs, and to launch a public funding appeal in the autumn that will help open up the collection for the public to learn from and enjoy.

While the collection is not yet ready to be used for research, the Trust welcomes those with a specific interest or who have memories of Rex to get in touch to arrange a visit and get a glimpse of the work that goes into caring for our collections and making them available.