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Spillers' Cardiff Mill, site of
Clipper Road, Roath Dock, Cardiff, UK
Spillers' Cardiff Mill, site of
associated engineer
Oscar Faber
date  1931 - 1933
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  ST204751
photo  courtesy ICE, published 1944
Cardiff Mill is the first of a trio of mill complexes designed by Oscar Faber, acting as both engineer and architect, in the Modernist style for Spillers Ltd — the others are in Avonmouth and Newcastle upon Tyne. Spillers had several other mills in Cardiff, but this one has not survived.
Spillers’ countrywide activities included flour milling, manufacturing grain-based livestock feed and pet foods, with biscuit and bread baking. Grinding grain for flour produces both heat and fine dust — a combination guaranteed to be a fire hazard. Reinforced concrete, with its inbuilt fire resistance, had gained popularity as a building material over the first part of the 20th century since the introduction of ‘ferro-concrete’ to Britain in 1897 by Louis Gustave Mouchel. By the time this Cardiff Mill was built, it was a common choice for constructing industrial buildings.
The first of Spillers’ mills in Cardiff was built at Bute West Dock (ST191747) and opened in 1856, manufacturing ships’ biscuits, but burned down in 1882. The company rebuilt and modernised the mill and in 1887 acquired two more, producing dog biscuits among other things. One of them is at Schooner Way on Atlantic Wharf (ST190758) — now converted into luxury apartments. The other was at the north east end of Roath Dock.
With Cardiff’s increasing significance as a trading port came opportunities for Spillers to import grain from overseas as well as from other British outlets. Faber designed a new building to contain grain silos, which was built adjacent to the south side of the Roath Dock mill.
The seven storey rectangular building had its shorter side facing the dock wall and had a high rectangular gable at this end projecting above the roof. The long sides had no windows but their plainness was relieved by piers that divided the walls into bays, echoing the internal walls behind the façade.
The structure was supported by 785 driven concrete piles of average length 12.2m, each 406mm square and reinforced with four steel rods 32mm in diameter. The piles were driven through the made ground of the dockside and into the underlying red marl bedrock. Foundation rafts were constructed with a further 2,200 similar piles to support the mill and the warehouse.
The grain silos had a total capacity of 24,410 tonnes and the structure itself weighed some 20,320 tonnes. There were 75 reinforced concrete bins arranged in five rows of 15 bins, 16 of them were further divided into quarter bins. Each bin was 4.1m square and 30.5m high. Bin walls were 165mm thick on external faces and 150mm thick for internal walls. Hopper mouths were made from riveted steel plate.
The building’s columns each carried a load of some 710 tonnes and were founded on a reinforced concrete raft 1.2m thick. The silos were slip-formed in continuous construction, with sliding formwork, which was an uncommon technique at the time. Most of the walls — from the top of the hoppers to the top of the bins — were completed in 14-21 days.
To control the concrete’s setting time, and therefore the rate at which the slip-form shuttering could be moved to the next lift, the concrete constituents were heated before and after mixing. Despite winter working this enabled the concrete to be kept at around 15.6 deg C.
The mill and the grain silos were demolished, probably in the 1990s, and road haulage and demolition companies now occupy the site.
Architect: Oscar Faber
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"British Commerce and Industry: The Post-War Transition 1919-1934",
Russell-Square Press Ltd, London, 1934
"Some Recent Industrial Buildings" by Oscar Faber, in The Structural Engineer, London, pp.466-481, November 1937
"Oscar Faber, his work, his firm & afterwards" by John Faber, Quiller Press, London 1989
www.cardiffians.co.uk
Location

Spillers' Cardiff Mill, site of