Croucher's Flour Mill and Bakehouse


In 1873 the view across Queen Street was very different from what you see today. A large flour mill stood where the Richmond Mall is now. In front of the mill was a bakehouse. In its heyday the bakehouse operated seven ovens, churning out loaves of bread, cakes and other baked goods for the residents of Richmond and Nelson. In 1864, John Martin Croucher set up a bakery from his home, across the road from the Star and Garter Hotel. In 1873 he commissioned builders G. Saywell & Son to build a flour mill next door to the hotel. 

J M Croucher Mayor Richmond Borough Council 1903 1906

J. M. Croucher, Mayor of Richmond 1903-1906.

Unfortunately the mill was completely destroyed by fire in 1878. The Nelson Evening Mail reported that Mr Charles Martin was riding towards Stoke from Richmond about 10 pm when he spotted flames at the back of the mill “and at once galloped back and raised the alarm”.

“The neighbours mustered in force … but their efforts to subdue the flames were perfectly futile, owing to the difficulty of procuring a sufficient supply of water, three of the wells in the immediate neighbourhood of the blazing building … being very speedily emptied without producing any perceptible result.”  Nelson Evening Mail, 8 June 1878

While some wheat and flour were saved, and Croucher was insured for 400 pounds, it was still a big loss. However, Croucher was able to build a more modern and efficient mill to replace the old – named Phoenix Flour in reference to its rise from the ashes - and by 1903 the successful business expanded with a new bakery and shop built in front of the mill. Carts delivered Croucher’s baking around the district. The mill was large and loud, with its gas engine letting out a periodic “bang” that could be heard throughout Richmond – everyone in town knew when the mill was operating!

For efficient delivery of flour from the mill to the bakehouse, a flying-fox style wire was strung between the two buildings and sacks of flour were sent along it.

As well as a being a prominent businessman in early Richmond, John Croucher was also the mayor from 1903 to 1907. After his death in 1916, his sons Ethelbert (Bert) and Hayes took over the mill and bakehouse. In turn, Hayes’ sons Sidney and Albert also worked in the family business after leaving school, doing the deliveries by horse and cart and running the bakehouse and shop.

By 1945, when the bakehouse and shop were demolished to make way for a block of shops, Croucher’s had been supplying bread to the people of Richmond for 80 years.

Text taken from Croucher’s Flour Mill and Bakehouse - Queen Street Heritage Board 2018

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