The story of FWP Matthews Flour

Situated on the edge of the beautiful Cotswold hills in the village of Shipton under Wychwood this traditional mill produces a wide range of quality organic and conventional flours. We still use the original building that was completed in 1912.

We source as much wheat locally as possible and then carefully blend with other wheats to produce flour of the highest quality. In addition to our range of Cotswold flours we also offer a wide range of premium French flours from Moul Bie. We deliver nationwide in our own liveried lorries in bags from 500g through to 25 tonne tankers loads. We hold a British Retail Consortium A grade certificate and are certified by the Soil Association, as well as being a member of the National Association of Master Bakers.

We have a strong environmental ethos and currently operate our vehicles on B50 as well as recycling as much waste as possible (see environment tab opposite for more details). We have recently invested in a new warehouse and office facilities. These were officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal in February 2009.

Mill History

The company’s history dates back to the 1860s when Marmaduke Matthews started a small business selling seeds from his barn in Fifield, Oxfordshire. With the death of Marmaduke, his son, Frederick expanded the business selling wheat and barley from the site near Shipton Station. Frederick, with his son, Frederick William Powell, came to realise that it would make economic sense to mill locally grown wheat rather than importing it by rail.

Sadly Frederick did not live to see the completion of the mill and it was passed to FWP Matthews. Built in 1911-12, by local builder Alfred Groves, the mill has changed little in appearance since its early days and still presents an imposing presence.

In the early years the company concentrated on milling biscuit flour using the soft wheat grown locally in the Cotswold hills. Customers were mainly Huntley and Palmers in Reading, Peek Frean in Bermondsey and Jacobs in Dublin. Their flour was transported by rail in eight dedicated vans which were marked ‘To be returned to Shipton Station’. The 25 yard journey from the mill to the rail siding was made by horse and cart each pulling 8 sacks (1 ton) of flour.

In the mid sixties the market for biscuit flour decreased and the mill concentrated on milling bread flour for independent bakers. From the late 1990′s the company focused on milling top quality flours from the best quality grain available. By 1992 FWP Matthews Ltd became certified by the Soil Association to mill organic flour. Buying local grain and supporting the community is still of prime importance to the company.

The 60HP gas turbine engines, which originally ran the mill engines, were replaced by electric motors in 1950. In 2005 the mill was re-fitted with equipment to increase production and efficiency. Early capacity was 6? cwt of wheat per hour bettered slightly today by a staggering 6 tonnes per hour.

Today the mill runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week to keep up with demand. We are continuing to develop and moved into new offices and warehouse in 2008. New equipment means that modern techniques are combined with traditional values. Our premium flours and our personal service make us the first choice for a wide range of customers including leading household names in the food industry, domestic houshold users as well as craft and artisan bakeries.

Milling Process

The production of our quality flours is only achieved by using the best quality wheats which are combined and blended, a task which requires great skill and experience by the miller.

The process starts with the delivery of wheat to the mill. After weighing, the wheat is tested in our laboratory to ensure it is of the desired quality. Each consignment of wheat has random samples taken using a ‘spear’, a hollow rod which is inserted into the wheat in several places, to ensure that the representative samples are taken.

In the laboratory each load of wheat is tested to ensure that it meets the required specifications: moisture levels, impurities, density of the grain, enzyme activity, protein content and quality. Any consignment of wheat failing to reach the rigid quality standard is rejected, as this would impair the quality of the flour.

Before the milling process starts the wheat must first be cleaned. Magnets remove any ferrous metal objects, stones and other foreign objects are also removed. Currents of air remove the dust and chaff. Our new ‘colour sorter’ separates impurities from wheat by colour and so reducing the overall product waste and improving flour quality (especially stoneground and organic flours). FWP Matthews Ltd was one of the first flour mills in the UK to use this leading technology.

The wheat is then ready for ‘conditioning’. Which is the dampening with water until the desired moisture levels are reached. This softens the outer layer of the wheat and helps release the ‘endosperm’, the white centre of the grain, from which flour is made.

After conditioning the wheat is ready for gristing. This is the blending of different wheats needed to produce each specific flour. The grist is what gives each flour its own unique taste and characteristics.

Milling is a gentle process of extracting as much as possible of the endosperm (starch) from the inside of the grain of wheat. This is achieved by passing the cleaned wheat through the ‘Break Rolls’ which are a series of fluted rollers rotating at different speeds. The rolls shear opens the grains of wheat separating the white inner portion from the outer skins. The particles of broken wheat grain are the separated by passing through a complex arrangement of sieves. The white particles of endosperm and semolina are then passed into a series of smooth rollers for their final milling into white flour.

To ensure the quality of the flour is consistent it is tested at hourly intervals. It is at this stage that the bran and wheat germ will be ‘streamed’ back into the flour for the production of brown or wholemeal flour.

Other additives such as baking powder for self-raising flours and other legally required additives (such as calcium, niacin, thiamine, folic acid, iron and B vitamins) are added at this stage.

The final stage is for the flour to pass into the packaging plant or the bulk bins ready for distribution. FWP Matthews Ltd supplies flour in a variety of sizes from 1kg to 27 tonne loads. Our liveried lorries are a familiar sight all over the UK from Cornwall to Scotland and Essex to Wales. Please note we mill both rye and wheat in this mill.

Our Story

Marmaduke of Fifield, Oxon (1782-1840) – Married Maria Baylis

Coming from a long line of Warwickshire landowners and farmers, Marmaduke settled in Fifield about 1802 as a local farmer.

Son called marmaduke

Marmaduke (1812-1883) – Married Maria Sotham

Carried on the family farm and set up a small side business selling seeds in his barn on the farm at Fifield

Son called Frederick

Frederick (1841-1911) – Married Emma Powell

Continued the seed selling business expanding it to sell wheat and barley grown on the family farm, sold at a site near Shipton Station.

Son called Frederick William Powell Matthews

Frederick William Powell (1868-1930) – Had 3 wives Grace Calvert, Elsie Merritt, Lucy Flood Jackson

9 children

1st wife children were Donald 1895-1985), Doris (1896-1986), Frederick (Eric) (1897-1973), Kathleen (1902-1990), Grace (1903-2001)

2nd wife child William Burton (Bill) (1903-1997)

3rd wife children were Lucy (1918-), Sybil (1920-2005), Paul Flood (1923-)

With his father they continued the family business and developed the idea of milling the flour locally, rather than transporting the wheat and barley, as this made more economic sense. In 1911-12 Frederick employed Alfred Groves the local builder to build the mill on the site near the railway and Shipton Station. Frederick concentrated on milling biscuit flour using soft wheat locally sourced throughout the Cotswolds. He purchased 8 own sign written rail wagons to transport the flour across the UK. He was also elected as a director of Hickman’s Brewery, Chipping Norton, and on their fusions with Hunt, Edmunds and Co’s Banbury Brewery he became director of the joint board. He farmed on an extensive scale until in 1920’s they ceased farming and sold the farm. Shorthorns being his speciality, and he was proprietor of Matthews Ltd, Millers and Corn Merchants, Shipton under Wychwood. He was a member of the Oxfordshire Country Council and a founder of the Oxfordshire Bacon Factory at Kidlington, and a member of the Oxfordshire Farmers Union. He was also Captain of the Shipton Under Wychwood Cricket Club. During the war he was beyond the age of foreign service, therefore he helped with home defence as well as supplying the navy with vegetables, housing a family of Belgians for six months and working unremittingly in every way.

Frederick (Eric) (1897-1973) – Married Elsie Margaret Sutton

2 children Frederick Gordon (1922-), Ian Marmaduke (1930-1999)

Both sons took over the running of the mill

Born in Fifield house, went to Kings College Worcester. During the war he joined the Queens Own Oxfordshire Infantry and was given 8 hours training to be a pilot. He was shot down in WW1 by a German aeroplane over France, he was shot in the Shoulder. He landed on a hill where some Germans on foot came and arrested him. He was a prisoner for 18 months and has his 21st birthday in captivity, he also taught himself German. After the war he came to work at the mill with his father in the 1930’s, he was responsible for the growth of the company during the difficult financial times. He transferred the mill from gas turbine power to electrically powered in 1950’s. Before the 1960’s refit all the wheat came to the mill by bag direct from the farmer and all locally sourced. It would be taken up through the mill by sack chain hoist. Eric made the decision to stop milling biscuit flour and concentrate more on milling bread making flour in the 1960’s.

Frederick Gordon (1922-) – Had 3 wives Jill Handy, Jean Mary Turner, Mary Rosenberg

4 children

1st wife children Sally Anne (1949-), Frederick William Paul (1950-)

2nd wife children John Stephen (1960-), Anthony Richard (1960-)

Born at Oak Lodge near to the mill. Went to school at Miss Johnson’s school in Mawles Lane, Shipton Under

Wychwood, it was a small school and he was the only boy for a while. At 8 he went to prep school, he went by train to Hillcrest school in Swanage, Dorset, many past family members attended this school also. He only came home from school in the summer and Christmas. At 13 he moved to St Edwards in Oxford and at 16 he left school to join the family business as an office boy, including the jobs of lighting the fire in the office, answer the phone, ledgers, unload coal, fetch cigarettes, he also attended a typing course. Occasionally he visited the bank in Shipton but usually his father went as he liked to call in at the Red Horse pub for a beer on the way home. They only had one flour type at the beginning called Soft English Biscuit Flour. The drivers were able to load 128x280lb hessian sacks onto the company lorry in under an hour, which Gordon helped with occasionally. He joined the Home Guard and had a post at the top of the hill from Oak Lodge near the Lynham turn. He was then called up and sent to Lords Cricket Ground to learn morse code. After that he went to Brighton for a week doing lots of drills and marching, he was fortunate enough to march in front of King George, Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth and Winston Churchill for United Nations Day. He then travelled to South Africa, in Rhodesia he took a four week pilot training course, he passed the course and later became a flying instructor in Wolverhampton but returned home every Friday. Gordon then trained with Twyford Seeds for a year before returning to the mill with the role of buying and selling malting barley. He dealt with 4 generations of farmers, he used to go to Dorset and London selling flour. During his time at the mill they also sold animal feed, coal, seeds and malting barley as well as flour. During the war there were government restrictions on mills in that they could only make £310 profit, any more and the government would take it, FWP Matthews Ltd got around this by diversifying to show that profit was made in other areas of the business. He retired from the family business in 1997.

Ian Maraduke (1930-1999) – Married Anne de Launay Biggane

3 children Charlotte Anne (1957-), Emma de Launey (1959-), Edward Graham (1962-)

Born at Oak Lodge near to the mill on his mother’s birthday. He was educated at Cotters Bow in Fulbrook being picked up by the school bus at the end of the drive each day, he then went to Hillcrest school in Swanage, Dorset with his brother. At the outbreak of war his father brought him away from the south coast and the fear of invasion, he went to the Dragon school in Oxford where he became head boy, before going to St Edwards school, he obtained his school certificate and higher school certificate. He served his National Service at Park Hall Camp Oswestry in the army with the gunners, after fourteen months he got early release to go to University at Aberystwyth and got his degree in agricultural botany. He was the fourth Matthews to join the mill staff, joining in the early fifties, concentrating on the accounts and office work, corn merchanting, grass seeds and wheat. He had worked previously for one penny an hour lighting the fires in the offices, particularly the small hut on the upside of the station which has now been demolished. During the school holidays he went as a drivers mate on the lorries making deliveries or picking up grain from the local farms. Before grain driers Ian and his brother had to move any damp wheat and barley off the farms quickly, they worked late into the night collecting grain samples and then deciding on values for the samples they had bought in, they would also attend many markets to sell their wheat and barley, they would go to Mark Lane in London on Mondays, Stratford upon Avon on Tuesdays, Oxford on Wednesdays, Banbury on Thursdays and on alternate weeks, Kingham and Andoversford on Fridays as well as Bristol. Matthews would be paid for their seed corn at these markets and at Stow Horse Fair where they had their own desk manned by the company secretary. During 1968 Ian went to the Czech Republic to look at the latest mill machinery to replace the Robinsons of Rochdale milling equipment. Ian was always interested in grass seeds and clovers. He attended the meetings of the Cotswold Seed Growers in Cirencester. He died unexpectedly at home in 1999, he was still working in the mill and although unwell he had driven down to the mill to get some books to do his wheat returns at home.

Frederick William Paul (1950-) – Had 2 wives Rosemary Anne Gorey, Merie Leach

8 children

1st wife children are Kim Michelle (1974-), Frederick Luke (1976-)

2nd wife children are George (1986-), Scarlette (1988-), Bertie (1991-), Jack (1993-), Lillie (1994-), Talloulah (1996-)

Joined the family business in 1973 following 2 years in Australia. He had however worked in the mill for 18 months prior, learning all aspects of the business including office functions to running a shift in the mill. In the 1970’s the business was milling, grain trading and producing farm feeds. Malting barley was a large aspect of the company revenue. During the late 1980’s early 1990’s Paul changed all the products names to become the names of local villages and rivers to promote the image of the Cotswold environment, he also changed the logo to the image of the mill amongst the Cotswold hills. The movement in 1992 to milling organic flour as well as conventional flour provided the funds to invest heavily into the milling process and new buildings on the site,

including a warehouse, office, test bakery and blending plant. Paul is sales Manager for all customers in Wales, he also purchases all the wheat to be milled. He is currently Managing Director of FWP Matthews Ltd.

Edward Graham (1962-) – Married Sarah Reeve

2 children Edmund (2003-), Lydia (2006-)

He joined the family business as the sixth Matthews working in the mill, just after he had got his degree and had qualified as an accountant in Brighton in 1986. He became the company secretary. Graham used to help his father mix seeds on the floor in the seed shed, the seeds were carefully weighed and tipped into a large heap, which was turned over three times with large shovels before being picked up into bags and weighed again. He also helped out as a drivers mate on local runs as well as further afield to Devon, Dorset and London. He also had a summer job in the mill of Nitrogen testing in the office using a chemical process involving sulphuric acid, this was to determine the nitrogen content of malting barleys which were traded at Mark Lane in London. Graham saw the huge changes in the office from Kalamazoo accounting system and manual typewriters to modern technology. He worked at the mill as Joint Managing Director, managing the accounts side of the Company, and he left the Company in 2014 to pursue other interests.

John Stephen (1960-) – Married Hilary Jane Burns

3 children Fiona Grace (1990-), Catherine Mary (1992-), Hugh William Paul (1994-)

Born in Chipping Norton and educated at Audley House prep school near Bicester and then at St Edward’s School, Oxford, following in his father’s and uncle’s footsteps. While at school and university, at New College, Oxford, he worked in summer holidays making deliveries, collecting samples of malting barley and helping around the office. After university he qualified as a chartered accountant with a City firm and worked for many years with an insurance services business before re-joining the family business in 2014 as the Finance Director.

Where We Source Our Grain

We attempt to buy as much locally grown wheat as we can, our priority is quality. Our bakers’ flours are produced from the best NABIM Group 1 Varieties, with the higher protein grades incorporating a blend of Canadian wheat which is considered the gold star of all wheat!
Our organic flours, especially the higher protein bread making lines have a blend of UK, EU, Eastern European, Canadian or Argentinean depending on quality and availability, unfortunately the UK does not have the climate to produce HP Organic bread making wheat.

Mill innovations over the years

Product innovation

1912 – Milled mainly Biscuit flour and grain trading.
1960’s – Milled mainly bread flour and grain trading.
Late 1960’s – only flour milled was white, started milling self raising flour.
1970’s – Continuing grain trading, ventured into farm feeds, malting barley, as well as milling.
1980’s – Expanded into horse and chicken feed industry.
1990’s – Reduced product range, focusing purely on high quality flours.
1992 – Imported French flour as well as milling.
Early 1990’s – Started contract milling of organic flours.
1999 – Launched our own Organic range of flours, selling mainly to other millers.

Mill innovation

1950’s – 60hp gas turbine replaced by electric motors, new office building built.
1969 – New machinery installed.
2005 – New equipment installed increasing production and efficiency.
2006 – Stones for milling installed.
2008 – New warehouse and office built.
2009 – Mixing plant installed.
2012 – Prepack machine installed

Interesting information:

1969 Matthews decided to invest heavily in the mill and purchased a whole new milling set up, eight fitters and one translator from the Czech Republic came over for eight weeks. All the equipment was hauled up through the mill by pulleys with the old equipment being thrown out of the windows. Previous to the mill upgrade all the shuts were wooden, square and lined with either tin or zinc, now they are stainless steel and round. There was no testing on intake but the millers would make a dough boy to test the strength of the gluten, they would use spatulas to wipe a flour sample across a special board to look for contamination and texture. All the sifters were made of silk and magnifying glass was used to look at the threads.

1967 the union demanded that mills had to supply uniforms to their employees, they had 2 boiler suits a year or 2 sets of bibs and brace with jacket. Millers had white and everyone else had blue. In 1969 steel toe caps came in and they had a new pair each year.

Late 1960’s the bags started to change from hessian to paper, early 1980’s hessian completely stopped when we went metric and the government put a 50kg limit on manual handling.

1960’s pest control was not a major issue but a man used to come every month from Birmingham with poison. Every year the mill was shut down and fumigated. All windows and doors were sealed and over the weekend a strong gas was put through a small hole in the ground floor. Over the weekend the gas went throughout the whole mill killing everything, any rodents, mites, even pigeons, it would take a few days to sweep it all up.

1970’s The wheat was cleaned and dressed with chemicals by hand and no dust masks. Before 1980’s shift was 6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm, night shift introduced in the 80’s.

before weigh bridges the height of grain piles were gauged the circumference was paced out to measure the tonnage.

1.5kg prepack flour introduced in 1960’s

1960’s new silos installed

1970 only had 1 company lorry

The technology of flour milling has changed remarkably little since Victorian times but wheat varieties, yield, transport, information and communication technology has changed out of all recognition.

Current Employees

FWP Matthews Ltd is led by brothers Paul and Stephen Matthews who are the Great, Great Grandsons of Frederick William Powell Matthews. Stephen is our Finance Director and Paul is our Managing Director. Glynn Williams is our Production Director who has over 25 years experience in the milling industry.

Millers

Our Millers are of the most elite in the UK. Using our traditional methods of milling, they are responsible for all of the machines used to create our flour. With qualifications recognised globally, they are the heart of the mill.

Packers

Our packers handle a range of machinery which they regularly modify to pack many different sized bags of flour, they also do all of the blending of our flour mixes.

Warehouse

Our warehouse team put all the orders together, which is heavy work as many pallet sized orders are made up of many different products on a pallet. They are all fully qualified on the forklifts.

Logistics

Once the perfect flour has been created it is down to our logistic team to ensure it is packed up and ready to be delivered all over the UK. Our drivers are on the road with LGVs, HGVs and tankers.

Accounts

Our accounts team are responsible for all money going in and out. If you enjoy working with numbers and have a keen eye for detail, this is the role for you.

Quality Control

Our quality department are a thriving team made up of people with a passion for food science. They are required to keep up to date with the ever changing Food Regulations.

Sales people

Our sales people are on the road, they are knocking on bakery doors, enticing new customers with our flour and maintaining relationships with old customers. They are the face of FWP Matthews.