Report - - Foster Bros. Oil And Cake Mill, Gloucester Docks - 09/01/2010 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Foster Bros. Oil And Cake Mill, Gloucester Docks - 09/01/2010


( . Y . )
Regular User
Woop woop! Finally got this one done!

This fantastic mill building has evaded me for a long time now. I have only ever half-heartedly tried when I'm in the area, and there has always been someone watching or not had the time. Which is silly, seeing as it's so close to me and pretty cool inside.

The building is very well known in Gloucester because of its striking appearence. But very few people know what it was used for. In 1862 Thomas Nelson Foster and his brother Richard Gibbs Foster moved their oilseed business from Evesham to Bakers Quay in Gloucester, following a fire. Gloucester was an ideal location as they now had direct access to sea-going ships. Originally, the oilseed crushing mill they built, designed by George Hunt and built by William Eassie and Co. consisted of a 6 storey warehouse for storage, and a 2 storey extension behind which contained the crushing equipment. There was also a gabled wooden structure that projected over the quay with an elevator inside to lift seeds (which can be seen in the picture below). Unfortunately, in 1892 subsidence damaged the elevator and a newer corrugated tin structure was built, which still looks quite funky even today.


In the mill, linseed and cotton seed were crushed, heated and then pressed to extract the oil. The residual slabs of compacted seed was sold off as cattle cake, a nutritious livestock feed. Seeds could be bought in by barge and finished products sent out from a rail siding adjoining the mill. At first, Fosters only employed 10 people but in 1891 - 1893 a large expansion increased this to over 100. The output was increased to 600 tons per week. The original machine building at the back was demolished and the 6 storey warehouse (what we see today) was extended. The machinery was moved to a large single storied building to the south of the warehouse, and a boiler house and tank house was built to the east. It housed a 400hp Hicks Hargreaves engine.


In 1899, Fosters merged with 16 similar firms to form the British Oil and Cake Mills (BOCM), now part of BOCM Pauls. This was in turn taken over by the In 1910 further expansion took place, the milling part was extended, and output increased to 1000 tons per week. In 1925 BOCM was taken over by Lever Brothers, but members of the Foster family continued to manage the mill until 1945. In the 20s and 30s Fosters processed linseed from Argentina, India and Canada, cotton seed from Egypt, Bombay and Greece and groundnuts from the west coast of Africa. Local boys would often pinch groundnuts from barges when the watchman wasn't looking. Materials came by large ship to Sharpness docks and then by barge to the mills quay.

When BOCM installed a large oil extraction plant at Avonmouth in the early 1950s the mill was deemed too inefficient and it closed in 1955. However, the building was sold to West Midlands farmers and was used for grain mixing and storage, and became known as Provender mill. But by the 1980s the mills time had really come and it closed c1987. This is the mill shortly before closure.


I guess the reason I never put much effort into trying is I couldn't imagine it being anything other than raped inside, judging by the outside. Every single pane of glass is smashed. The roof is sinking, and buckling. There are plants growing out of the walls and the roof. The wriggly tin tower that hangs over the canal looks like it would collapse if you touched it. Everything about the outside suggests that if you exhaled too hard at it it would all fall into the canal. But, like they say, never judge a book by its cover. Inside it is absolutely intact, aside the broken windows which I think were mainly done by the pigeons anyway. There's very little vandalism and it's very original, and the floors are generally sturdy and solid, much to my amazement. I was imagining them being like wafers!

Anyway, that was a massive history and it took a long time to research and write. Hopefully someone will read it. :rolleyes:


I love this kind of mill architecture. Fosters mill was full of original doors, staircases and machinery.


What's that I spy over there?!


Yes! A super fun happy slide!!! Win!


Well, it's not actually a super fun happy slide. :(

Really, it was for sacks of seeds or cattle cake so they could be transported from any floor to the loading bays on the ground floor. Unfortunately it was really hard to photograph 'cos of how bright the windows were.


Lovely original stairs and doors...


There was also a nice elevator that allowed sacks to be transported to the top of the mill as well...


Irritatingly, my camera ran out of flash at this point 'cos I had to use the flash as a torch in dark basements. :mad: So I had to borrow Paskeys instead so I missed out on loads of photo opportunites. But I got a few; this is the machinery at the top of the elevator - very old.


It's barely been stripped at all inside - pretty much all of the hoppers, machinery and elevators are still in-situ. This hopper was attached to a grain chute and I think was some sort of weighing scale that was linked to the control rooms downstairs (see below).


On the high-ceilinged ground floor some more modern offices had been built off to one side by West Midland Farmers. These were largely stripped, but there were a couple of control rooms down here which was unexpected. The control rooms were for the grain hoppers and silos on the above floors - from here "bins" as the buttons were labelled could be emptied and the contents carried down chutes to the loading bay.


Alternatively, bins could be filled by some grain elevators (some still contained 30 year old seeds!) and the weights of the bins contents could be monitored. The big dial in this picture was one of several and went up to several hundred kilograms. I think the weighing scales in earlier pictures might have been to do with these dials.


That's all for today guys, thanks for reading and I shall be returning soon to get some more pictures with my own camera! :eek:

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