Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History:
1845 Alexander McDougall, previously a struggling Scottish shoe merchant from Dumfries and then a Manchester schoolmaster, finally achieved his ambition of setting up as a manufacturing chemist.
1864 He recruited his sons into the business and, in 1864, the McDougall Brothers developed and produced a patent substitute for yeast. This was the starting point which was not only to revolutionise home baking, but firmly position McDougall’s as a household name, as pioneers of self-raising flour.
1869 The first large mill to be built alongside any of the London docks was the Wheatsheaf Mill, at Millwall Docks, which stood on the southern quay of the Millwall Outer Dock. Its construction was started in 1869 by the Manchester-based McDougall Brothers.
The firm of McDougall Brothers evolved into the first of Britain’s giant flour milling concerns, more often known by the name of their product McDougall’s. They owned several large mills elsewhere in the country. The Wheatsheaf Mill, rebuilt several times over the following century, became one of the major landmarks of the Isle of Dogs.
This 1890 map shows the location of the flour mill:
The same location today:
British Survey Online:
A fire in 1898 destroyed the mill, despite the efforts of 25 engines from all over London. A new McDougall & Company flour mill was built in 1899–1900. H. Jameson Davis was the milling engineer and Robert E. Crosland the architect. The lowest tender for the building work was from Holliday & Greenwood. The mill, again on the north-west quarter of the site, was of brick, built around three sides of a yard. The north range housed timber and cast-iron storage bins over wheat mixers. Its north elevation to the dock was a symmetrical façade with decorative gables. The south range had offices under the mill proper, which had 12 grain elevators, top-floor sifters for grading the flour, and second-floor purifiers with mahogany hoppers feeding 13 first-floor double-roller mills. An 82ft-tall tower linked the main ranges and housed wheat-cleaning machinery and a water tank. South of the mill there were offices, stores, a 142hp steam engine, and a chimney, 120ft tall.
As Wheatsheaf Mills, this building became the centre of McDougall & Company business. The east or fertilizer premises were sublet to J. Taylor & Sons in 1914 for the production of cattle food. Two long ranges of 51ft-tall timber bin silos were erected on the northeast quarter of the site. Around 1926 two-storey office, canteen and laboratory buildings were built to the southwest.
The rebuilt Wheatsheaf Mill:
In 1934, a new silo building was built. It had ten 20ft-diameter cylindrical bins, was 100ft tall and had a capacity of 8,000 tons.
In 1960, two steel-bin silo cylinders, each 30ft in diameter and 50ft high, were erected west of the main silo.
The company, by then named Rank Hovis McDougall Branded Foods closed the mill in 1982.
The buildings were demolished in 1984–5.