The Aljezur Flour Mill
When the Aljezur flour mill was founded in 1914 by José Brabo Marreiros, it was powered by steam. The industrial licensing documents reveal that in 1930 the steam engine was replaced by an internal combustion engine. The chamber for the producer gas, as well as the generators, were located to the left on the ground floor. The machines that operated the flouring process were also on the ground floor, straight ahead and to the right. The cereal was unloaded onto a grain tank found on the far right. From there it was carried up to the first floor, to be prepared, through a conveyor belt elevator – passing through the sieve, the stone removal tray and a cleansing device – before being stored above the millstones, which it would later feed. These were located on a worktop that was perpendicular to the rear wall. A second sieve completed the setting.
In the mid-30s, the Crystoph producer gas engine was replaced by a Robinson engine fuelled by heavy oils. The Aljezur Industrial Society Ltd purchased the factory in 1941. Rice milling was also undertaken until the mid-40s, when this section of the building was converted to the three-storey residential building that can be found to the right of the flour mill building. Once the firm was dissolved in 1960, the factory was taken over by Manuel Duarte Fragoso, and miller Ricardo Lourenço Vilhena began his work at the mill in the mid-60s. He was responsible for the refurbishment undertaken in 1969. The worktop was moved and became adjacent to the rear wall on the ground floor, and the diesel engine was replaced by electric motors which were placed next to each pair of millstones. The machines for moving and cleaning the cereal on the first floor were kept. They have been removed recently to enable the entire upstairs room to be used as an activities space.
The mill worked with grain collected from Lagos to Odemira. After agreeing prices with the producers from these areas, the cereal would be stored in the granary across the road from the mill. The flour would then be delivered to the farmer, after the payment of a fee. The cereals milled in these premises were wheat, corn, barley, fava bean and oat. A hammer mill was installed in 1963, enabling the production of animal feed. The firm’s 1970 stamp says the mill was dedicated to ‘Grocery, fertilizers, ironware, bulk tobacco and cereal milling’. The social changes that resulted from the Revolution of 25th April 1974 lead Manuel Duarte Fragoso to pass on the business management to his miller and driver, who created the company José António e Ricardo Ltd. In 1977 this firm was dissolved, and the mill remained with Ricardo Lourenço Vilhena, who kept it running until 2001. The premises were leased in 2008 and 2012 to distinct people for milling, but both enterprises were stopped.
Three years after the centenary of the flour mill, the building was taken over by a collective that has maintained its original name - Moagem – and uses it as a cultural centre, for artistic and ecological activities, personal development, theatre, dance and music, and as a vegetarian bistro and café. For the refurbishment and characterization of the space and its atmosphere, the new occupants drew from the history of the place, combining a new use with its old industrial machines and artefacts.
Rui Maneira Cunha
Portuguese Association of Industrial Archaeology