ALTHOUGH it is currently in its centenary year, the origins of Worksop's Albion Flour Mills can be traced much further back to the Smith family who established mills at Langley Mill and Walsall in the early 1800s.
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Flour milling in Worksop goes back further to when the first settlers in ground their grain by hand-worked stones.
In the 19th century, Worksop boasted three mills propelled by wind, water and steam.
But in 1906 those mills were dwarfed when the Smith Brothers set out to build their huge new mill on Eastgate – the Albion Mills.
The building was to become something of a landmark, as well as the employer of hundreds of Worksop men and women.
Not wanting to let their centenary pass without a celebration, Smiths sent out invitations to their retired workers to join them at their old workplace.
It also gave them the opportunity to have a look at archive photographs and documents, tuck into a buffet meal and turn back the clock with old
colleagues and friends.
"It really was a very special occasion which I am sure was enjoyed by everyone who managed to join us," said the company's Jenny Carstairs.
"The exhibition we had set up took a lot of time to organise, but it went down really well."
One man who put in over 40 years with the company was Fred Watson who had driven lorries and eventually ended up as hygiene manager. "I saw off four managing directors in my time. Every one of them was first class. I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it," he said.
Pearl Webster, who started in 1946 also praised the company for being a people friendly company to work for.
"You knew everyone. It was a real family atmosphere," she added.
For maintenance man Dennis Simpson, joining Smiths was something of a family tradition.
He worked for the company for over 50 years. His father put in 53 years, his brother worked there for over 50 years and his grandfather and one of his uncles also worked at the Eastgate site.
Looking over the company's fleet of state-of-theart Scania lorries parked in the yard, former lorry driver Jim Haywood recalled that life on the road used to be a lot tougher in the early days.
"The old lorries had no power steering and all of the loading was done by hand," he said.
"We were on the road from Scotland to Cornwall for days at at time and in those days we weren't allowed to sleep in our cabs – we had to look for transport digs."
Although the Albion Mills had been constructed on the canal side to make good use of the narrow boats, the Smith Brothers eventually realised that steam power was the way to go.
By the 1920s the company was boasting a huge fleet of steam lorries – all based in Worksop. The buildings also housed the head office of the
Smiths was eventually bought out by Northern Dairies in 1972 and considerable capital investment followed between 1975 and 1983.
This included a new maize mill on the Worksop site. A small rice mill was later added to give the company a wider range of products for the baker, food manufacturer, biscuit and snack food suppliers.
By 1993 Smiths was a go-ahead company with an installed capacity of 4,150 tonnes of wheat flour per week across five sites.
The old flour mill in Worksop, together with other mills at Walsall and Nafferton was closed in March 1999 to be replaced by a larger and fully
automated building on the site.
Demolition of redundant buildings followed and a new technical centre established. This marked the final phase of the Worksop development programme.
A miller for 34 years, the company's managing director Peter Knight said the company had always been very forward thinking with an emphasis on caring for its employees.
"I have been on this site since 1993 and in that time I have noticed just how loyal some of our employees have been," he said.
"Today has been all about recognising their loyalty by inviting them to share in our celebrations."
"It has meant a lot of hard work, but it has been well worth it. All of us are very pleased with how it has all gone," he added.
The centenary celebrations concluded with a dinner-dance for all 85 existing staff at the Clumber Park Hotel.