Now the only independent, family miller in the northwest of England
and Scotland, the company was founded in 1820 by 19-year-old
William Nelstrop, who set up a corn dealing business on Lancashire Hill,
where the Nelstrop mill stands today.
The history of the Nelstrop family in milling goes back even further. The photo above is of the Nelstrop family farm and mill in Ackworth, Yorkshire where the family originated from before William Nelstrop set up business in Cheshire.
The current site of Albion Mills in Cheshire is itself an historic milling site. When excavations were being carried out recently for a new office complex, a large millstone was unearthed - evidence of a windmill that had stood on the site for centuries.
William Nelstrop moved into the steam-powered Albion Mills on Lancashire Hill a year after it was built. He became an important local figure, served as mayor of Stockport and was offered a knighthood by Queen Victoria for his part in defusing the anti-Corn Law riots in the 1840s. Nelstrop refused the honour, partly because he had sympathy with the poor who were starving because they could not afford to buy bread and partly because lower wheat prices would benefit his own business.
William Nelstrop died in 1877. Through an unbroken line of family control, the business is now run by fifth-generation Conrad Nelstrop, who succeeded his late father, Francis, as Chairman.
Over the years, Nelstrops has had its share of problems and crises. The original mill was destroyed by fire in 1893, but rebuilding provided the opportunity to replace all but one of the stone grinding mills with the newly developed Henry Simon steel rollermills.
During World War II, all the central Manchester flour mills were destroyed in air raids. The remaining family mills in the suburbs stepped up production to meet the urgent demand for flour.
Nelstrops introduced three-shift work schedules while family members and staff stood by with sand buckets on the roof to douse incendiary bombs. The mill escaped damage but, having survived the war, Nelstrops faced a difficult time in the 1950s and 60s as the industry began a period of restructuring and consolidation, when many family businesses were taken over by the national millers.
Nelstrops, however, resolutely retained its independence, and in the next decades, began to see new opportunities as customers started to look for new tastes and textures. In the 1960s, Nelstrops were the first to implement Simon's new Entoleter milling system, which enabled much higher levels of water absorption control.
Nelstrops continued to invest, adding a second mill to the site in the 1990’s and then being the first millers in the world to commercialise the use of Peritec in flour milling, a process of removing outer layers of bran from the wheat before milling. This process results in flours that are brighter in colour and free of bran specks, whilst retaining more of the nutritional components of wheat.
In the past, as now, most of the Nelstrop family have been assigned for extended training and commissioning periods to the technical activity of Henry Simon and its successor Satake, to gain a sound background in technology. Some have returned to the family business whilst others have made their careers abroad including leading milling and grain positions in Canada, Asia and Australia.