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An extract from "Twelve Generations" Compiled by John Coales.

An Apprentice's Letter - 1877

In 1877, a young Newport Pagnell man, Walter John (Jack) Coales, was lodging at Isham whilst serving an apprenticeship at the nearby mill at Burton Latimer belonging to T. & J. Wallis.

This extract is from a letter to his grandparent describing activities at the mill, which was in the process of being modernised.

October 22 1877


My dear Grandpapa,

I am very much obliged to you for your kind present.

We have not quite finished the floors of the mill, we hope to be finished by the end of the week; they are made of broken bricks and cement in arches; we make the arch of planks & then put the bricks and cement on it until it is quite set and then take the boards away.

Sketch showing method of erecting floors at Burton Mill.
Jack Coales' sketch of the method of erecting floors at Burton Latimer Mill.

I don’t know whether Father told you about the mill. The stones are upright instead of flat on the ground: we have 3 pairs of stones, they will do the same amount of work as 9 pair of the old fashioned sort. They use all steam, two engines, one horizontal the other a beam; the beam is worked by the waste steam of the horizontal. which is 25 horse power, & the horizontal 45, so we get 25 horse power for nothing.

At the top of the arch it is only 5 inches thick; it is wonderful the weight they will carry. In one room we have 9 bins made of sheet iron each weighing a ton & these will hold 140 sacks of wheat [these would weigh 15.75 tons] each so they must he very strong. The mill is close against Isham station, so we have a line made so that trucks can come to the door of the mill; that saves a great deal of trouble.

I hope Grandmamma is quite well & Auntie & Uncle and all Newport friends.

When will Mr Taylor go into his new house, I suppose not before next spring. I think Uncle will go into his house in a few weeks

Please give my best love to Grandmamma, Auntie, Uncle & yourself

I am dear Grandpapa

Your affectionate Grandson

Walter John Coales

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