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A tribute to Dumbrill dough mixers, their history and Sue's personal perspectives on them.

Dumbrill Menu

Mann's bakery - a childhood memory

When I was a small child, my mother would often buy bread at Mann's Bakery, Bocking, Essex, a place I became very fond of. Every morning there would be a gorgeous smell of baking bread drifting across the street. One day, when I was still very young, I was allowed to wander into the bakery itself- something that would not be allowed today, but then people knew I was a cautious sensible child who would not meddle with anything. There was a beautiful traditional oven with its silver cast-iron front. In a corner sat the dough mixer, which to me as a small child looked like a big green elephant with its trunk sticking into the bowl. The top casing formed the elephant's high forehead (must have been Indian as there were no prominent ears)! I went back up to it - if I had wanted to look into the bowl I would have had to stand on tiptoe- which meant that I was about 3 and a half feet tall. In the back room stood a planetary mixer.

I assumed that Mr Mann didn't use the dough mixer any more as I didn't see it in action- although I didn't see him mixing dough by hand either. Little did I know that he did use it, every morning, very early. I became familiar with the name "Dumbrill" at a very young age, as it was written in red letters on the top case of the machine. I sometimes got Dumbrills and dumbells mixed up, as I did Lennon and Lenin (my dad is a Beatles fan). When I was a little older I did just once see the dough mixer in action, one morning. This would have been to make up a batch that was ready in the afternoon. It is just as well that my interest in Dumbrill dough mixers is a recent one and that my fondness for this machine is "posthumous"- it was scrapped after the bakery was closed. It apparently took some breaking up, as a big bit of cast iron.

Mr Mann joined the bakery after the War, where he had served in the Army. He bought the "dough machine" (as he called it) in 1948- even though he was a journeyman baker, the senior baker being Mr Baldwin. It cost £500 and was the state of the art model. It replaced an older dough mixer, possibly an older Dumbrill; whatever it was, it had a lot of lubrication points for oiling up. Mr Mann was Mr Baldwin's journeyman for over 30 years, and Mr Baldwin retired in the early 70s.

A mix for white bread included 240lbs of flour, 16 gallons of water (or liquor in breadmaking terms) plus yeast and salt 

Nick Williamson's film

Nick Williamson was a local historian who prolifically filmed life in Braintree and Bocking on cine camera through the 60s, 70s and early 80s. He did a film about the bakery. Nick would film his footage on silent and then add his own voiceover- in this film Mr Baldwin does the commentary. It shows a youthful Mr Mann "shooting the flour" into the dough mixer, then adding buckets of water (water is "liquor" in breadmaking), salt and yeast. The water tap was next to the oven, near the fire. Mr Baldwin spent his first 10 years as a baker kneading dough by hand and was glad when he got a "dough machine" as he also called it, and didn't have to knead by hand any more. Mr Mann is then shown starting the mixer. It was made to mix for 15 minutes- although Dumbrills could mix up the dough in 7 minutes, the machine appeared to be set to run at a slower speed to knead more gently. Just before the mix is finished, Mr Mann is seen greasing the inside of the bowl to stop the dough sticking. Sticking your arm into a moving mixer would be unthinkable today, but he does this to the left of the machine, where the bowl is moving away from the beater. The machine is then stopped and a couple of flour sacks are placed over the mass of dough so it can prove for 3 hours. Mr Baldwin used a "3-hour dough" recipe because he thought it made a better loaf. The flour that Marriage's the millers supplied came in 10 stone sacks, rather than the 20 stone sacks alluded to in Dumbrill literature. The size of flour sacks has gradually been reduced over the years, making them easier and safer to handle. Amazingly, Marriage's are still in business today (in 2016), still producing high-quality flour.

After proving, Mr Mann is seen hauling great armfuls of dough out of the mixer, to be moulded and divided into various sized loaves and rolls. The white bread that this bakery produced was something else. Brown bread was made in smaller batches and the dough was mixed using the planetary mixer. Myself, I much preferred the white bread- regular customers would come for miles to buy it, and the bakery also did a delivery service almost up to the end of its days.

Although there was a skilled baker, a good recipe and quality flour, I can't help wondering if the fine quality of the bread was partly due to their big green dough mixer!

The Last few Years

The Reeves had worked with the Manns since the mid/ late 70s. Mrs Reeve is Mr Baldwin's daughter. In 1984 or 5, Mr Mann took well- earned retirement at 66, and the Reeves took over the bakery. In 1987 they decided to close the business. They were still trading in July, as my appendicitis was gossip amongst the customers, but they had closed by October as the chimney blew down in the Hurricane. A new food hygiene diktat ordered that all work surfaces and loaf cooling racks had to be made of stainless steel, and financially it would have been much more trouble than worth to update the bakery. Despite these new hygiene rules, nobody ever got food poisoning from this bakery and it was kept very clean.

Also by this time, the supermarkets were starting to force small shops out of business on a large scale, consumers being seduced by the lower prices, and being able to do all their shopping in one place. A big supermarket had opened in Braintree town centre in 1982, and another had opened in around 1978.

When the bakery closed, it was completely cleared. The planetary mixer found another home elsewhere, but nobody wanted a large old fashioned dough mixer. The Reeves considered saving its bowl to use as a garden pond, but felt afraid that small children would drown in it- they had young children at the time. The one other metal item that didn't go for scrap was the front of the oven. This went to a local entrepreneur who I believe set it up in his garden as part of an outdoor oven. The wooden hand mixing troughs were set up in the garden as planters, and even after all these years, survive today.

In the 21st century, the old bakery was very briefly used as a carpet showroom by a local businessman, but he moved his shop to a place in Braintree where there is much more "footfall" to use the trendy term. It is now used for storage. It has modern hard flooring, all in one piece, so it is not possible to see where the dough mixer stood.

Mann’s Bread and Cakes

White Bread
  • Large Floor, Small Floor. Loaves shaped like these are very often nowadays called “bloomers.” Baked on the floor of the oven.
  • Large Tin, small tin
  • French Stick (baguette)
  • Cottage Loaves
  • Coburg
  • Pad - very large rolls made from a circle of dough divided into 4. Rolls like this are sometimes known in Essex as “huffers.”
  • Bap 
  • Bread Rolls made using the dough divider.
  • Bridge rolls – shaped like very small loaves but divided in 2 at 1 end.
  • All made using dough made in the Dumbrill dough mixer.
Brown Bread, made in a tin

Brown bread rolls 

The dough for these was made up in the planetary mixer.

They also sold a pre-packaged loaf called a “cobber” with a kangaroo on the wrapper.

Cakes and Pastries
  • Apple Puff (apple turnover) – gorgeous!
  • Jam Puff
  • Eccles Cake
  • Cream Horn 
  • Sticky Bun
  • Lardy Cake
  • Chelsea Bun
  • Iced Bun, with a cherry on top
  • Jam Doughnut
More details about Mann’s Bakery

Mr Mann says that in a mix, there would be placed in the dough mixer 240 lbs of flour and 16 gallons of water (or liquor in baking terms) plus the yeast and salt.

Other Equipment

The Oven (of course)

This was a classic “side flue” oven, also sometimes known as a Scotch oven. A side flue oven is built from brick with a vaulted roof. To one side is the fire, or “furnace,” on the other side is the flue to the chimney, which has a handle sticking through the wall which controls a metal plate in the flue that regulates the airflow. The coal, coke or wood is burnt long before baking commences, and the bread is baked using the heat of the embers, there being no smoke by then. The Manns’ one was coal-fired, and “6- bushel” in capacity. It took about 10 minutes to load with bread.

Side flue ovens first appeared around 1830. As it happened, the windmill which used to stand up the top of the bakery garden was dismantled in 1829 and was re-erected further up the road in 1830, due to new houses robbing it of wind. Wooden windmills were considered portable at one time. A millstone is hidden under the tarmac in the bakery yard.

Despite bakeries having to modernise and move with the times, a baker would still be allowed to use a side flue oven in Britain today.

A Planetary Mixer

This mixed dough for brown bread, pastries and buns. Planetary mixers are still very common in bakeries and restaurant kitchens today, but I think they are better for making cake mix rather than bread dough.


This machine chopped the dough into an identical loaf- sized chunks. It was one of those machines that made life a lot easier for the baker, rather than laboriously measuring out each piece of dough by hand- and also meant that loaves couldn’t be undersized. Presumably, it had large and small loaf settings.

Dough divider

I never saw this, but I knew they had one. This was a cast-iron press with a long handle, which was used to chop dough into small identical- sized chunks for making bread rolls. These often used to be found in smaller bakeries.

Bread Slicer

Mr Baldwin had one of these; it is shown in Nick Williamson’s film. Mr Mann got rid of it; I get the impression not many customers wanted the loaves sliced by that time.

Another item I never saw, but know they would have had, was a device with a conical hopper and syringe for injecting the “jam” into jam doughnuts.

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The Dumbrill Dough Mixer

Dough mixing machines started appearing in the 1870s, although there had been a few one-off dough mixers built before then. The Romans are known to have had a few, powered by donkey or slave. Kneading was one of the most arduous jobs in a bakery, and so having a machine to do it made life a lot easier for bakers. By the turn of the last century, dough mixers were starting to appear a lot in bakeries.

The Dumbrill dough mixer is a "diving arm" mixer. There are over 10 basic types of dough mixer, which can be divided into 2 "families"- diving arm mixers, and those with revolving beaters. Diving arm mixers have 1 or 2 beaters that move in an oscillating fashion, diving into the mix and then out again, which mimics the action of kneading by hand. Most types of dough mixer have a revolving bowl, apart from horizontal, planetary and Tweedy type mixers.

There were 2 other single diving arm types around at the time when the Dumbrill type mixer was first invented. One type that was around before the Dumbrill had a single beater that would "dive" into the middle of the revolving bowl and then up the back of the bowl. This design often had a lid, if it did not, then flour and half mixed dough could be thrown on the floor behind the machine. On the Dumbrill, however, the beater entered the bowl from the back, thrust forward, then up, then back again in an elliptical motion. The other type, popular in Germany, had an L shaped beater that ran in an ellipse from one side of the bowl to the other. A modern version of this is still made today by the German firm Diosna, and is called the "Hubkneter."

How it All Started

The Dumbrill type dough mixer was originally designed by the engineer Wilhelm Pott of Aachen (1873 - 1949) around 1900. It was originally built by Pott's company Rothe- Erde Maschinenfabrik (Rothe- Erde is a district of Aachen), and possibly by other German manufacturers.

Aachen is conveniently near the Dutch and Belgian borders and by 1907, the Dutch bakery equipment company Nieulant Pelckman were producing Pott's mixer. As well as having a factory in Amsterdam, they had a base in Brussels with promotional material in French. In their catalogue for 1907, there was a dough mixer of the Pott type. Between 1907 and 1909, Pott took out a couple of patents on his machine in Austria and France. The wordings for these patents appear to have been lost.

Pott also appears to have designed another diving arm dough mixer where the beater swings from side to side in the bowl in an elliptical path, and with an inverted cone-shaped bowl like the Dumbrill type. Several other companies appear to have made dough mixers like this, but with a more rounded bowl; this sort was also popular in Denmark.

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The Pre War Dumbrill

Photo coming soon

Design Features

The pre-war Dumbrill was built to Willi Pott's original design. It had a driveshaft with large "fast and loose" pulleys, so it could be driven by a choice of power sources- layshaft, stationary engine (these tended to be used by smaller bakeries) or electric motor in the base (the big round holes in the bottoms of the side frames allowed access to this and saved on weight and cast iron). The fast and loose pulley system was an early clutch mechanism, where one pulley is fixed fast to the driveshaft, and the other revolves freely on it. The engine or motor was started up, causing the loose pulley to revolve, and then a  lever was used to pull the belt onto the "fast" pulley to run the machine, and onto the "loose" pulley to declutch it.

The bowl could be tilted after mixing,so as the dough could be removed more easily. My local baker would haul the dough out in great armfuls without tipping the bowl up.

The mechanism and lubricating points were designed so that there was little risk of lubricating oil flying into the mix.

The cogs at the top of the machine were skewed, as these are quieter than straight cogs in metal gearing.

The belt from the driveshaft to the bowl was crossed, as a crossed belt runs more truly, and more of a crossed belt embraces the pulleys than a straight one, hence more traction. In old fashioned machinery, crossed belts are also used to make pulleys run in opposite directions, but on a Dumbrill it wouldn't matter which way the bowl revolved, and so the belt is crossed for the reasons mentioned above.

Dumbrill said in their literature that the initial buying cost and upkeep costs were low because of the "extreme simplicity" of their dough mixer design. Before 1927, the machine had the piston- style upper arm.


The mainframe was made from 2 parallel flat metal slabs, rather reminiscent of the frames of a steam locomotive. The bowl had a cast iron base, and the sides were made from 2 pieces of sheet metal, all welded together. The whole inside of the bowl was tinned. Most other components were made of cast iron.

Later design refinements

In 1927, Wilhelm Pott patented the "link portion" that forms the top of the kneader arm, British patent GB273631. This design meant that lubricating oil was much less likely to be thrown into the mix than it was on the previous piston-like upper arm.

A wheel-out bowl option was available, with the bowl mounted on a trolley, so that one mixer could mix several bowls. This is found on some other types of dough mixer. All Dumbrills I have seen have the fixed bowl.

The 1937 Factory Act had been brought in to improve health and safety and wellbeing in the workplace. Dangerous machinery had to be "kept behind a fence." Dumbrill responded by building their dough mixers (by now electrically powered) with a guard encasing the pulleys and drive belt. The bowl drive guard was improved so that it now boxed in the pulleys and belt from the sides.

By 1939, Dumbrill was using the name "Superhuman" for their dough mixers, or at least those sold in Unecol catalogues.

Another feature found on some Dumbrills by this time was the top casing. Earlier ones had a narrow metal guard over the edges of the cogwheel/ flywheel and the driveshaft cogwheel that it meshed with, which also helped stop grease getting into the mix. The later casing ran the full width of the top of the machine between the frames, and also boxed in the crank.


Dumbrill could provide equipment for every size of bakery. Their dough mixer came in 5 sizes; 2-6 (for some reason there wasn't a size 1). The capacity of each machine was measured by the "sack." In those days a sack of flour was 20 stone. The Size 2 would take half a sack (140 lbs of flour) and the size 6 would take 2 sacks- 40 stones worth of flour. The machines would happily mix a much smaller amount of dough than they were designed for. The Size 2 stood 6' 1" high, with a 2' 11" wide bowl, and the Size 6 was a 7' 2" high monster with a 4 and a half inch bowl. The company mentioned in their literature the amount of power required to run each size of machine, ranging from 2hp for the size 2 to 7 and a half horsepower for the Size 6.

By the late 30s, as well as using the "Superhuman" name on their dough mixers, Dumbrill produced a "Superhuman Junior." This was a smaller version of their dough mixer, and the idea was that the Confectionary Department of a bakery could use it for mixing doughs, batters and pastry for cakes, buns, pies, mincemeat (I assume as in mince pie filling) and "slab cake" (I assume this is now what is known as traybakes). It could mix up to 4 stones worth of dough or batter.

Dumbrill dough mixers’ Power sources

Before the War, some bakers had their dough mixers powered by a stationary engine. The engine would sit in an engine house and drive the dough mixer with a long belt. Dumbrill had an arrangement with Lister of Dursley, Gloucs, who is very well known for their stationary engines. A baker could buy together as a package a Dumbrill dough mixer and a Lister engine, most often an “A.” This type suited small to medium mixers; larger ones would need a bigger engine of course. The famous Lister D was 1 and a half horsepower and (as far as I know) was not originally used to power dough mixers.

For electrically powered dough mixers, Dumbrill appears to have sourced all their motors from Brooks of Huddersfield. At one time, this company made about 70% of Britain’s electric motors. They also supplied the control box. This had a handle that would be turned from “Off” to “On” via “Start Slowly.” The motor was placed in the base of the machine between the frames, and the control box was either mounted on the wall near the mixer or on the mixer itself. The mixers still had fast and loose pulleys with the clutch mechanism to engage or disengage the belt.

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The Post War Dumbrill

Photo coming soon

In 1946, Albert William Dumbrill applied for a patent on a dough mixer design which was in effect a “Mk 2” version of Pott’s machine. It was both more refined and sophisticated. The side frames were placed further apart and they were broader from front to rear. This meant that all of the belts and pulleys were now placed inside the frames, and could be boxed in under a sheet metal casing, making the machine safer and more hygienic. There was also a sheet metal casing over the top, completely enclosing the top wheel and crank, with a small sliding piece of metal above the beater that moved up and down with this. The kneader arm was changed, so that the lower arm was placed on the front of the link portion at the bottom, forming a dogleg shape. This meant that the machine was a little shorter in height. The bowl drive cogwheel was proportionally bigger than those on the older design. A few things remained the same; the beater, the bowl (apart from the brim), the Brooks electric motor and its control box. The control box could be mounted on the back of the machine, or on a wall nearby. The machine was started using a sliding clutch mechanism; the control box was used to power up the motor, then a handle on the back of the machine was pulled from right to left which engaged the motor with the belts.

The drive belts were much more sophisticated. On the pre-war model, these were traditional flat belts. On the Mk 2 model, they were a combination of link belts and V - belts. Link belts are numerous small pieces of canvas or leather, held together by metal studs. By adding or removing pieces, the machine’s owner could easily tighten or slacken a belt. On a V- belt system, the belt pulley is grooved, and the belt sits within the groove and is less likely to slip. Most car fan belts are V- belts. The motor drove, by belt, a “countershaft” about halfway up the body, from which drive belts went up to the beater and down the bowl.

The post-war Dumbrill also had 4 angle plates on the base, to secure it to the bakery floor with large bolts, as are found on most pieces of heavy machinery, but for some reason, not on the pre-war Dumbrill. Presumably, it stayed in the same place due to its weight and the fact that its machinery was relatively slow-moving.

As far as I know, no continental companies produced a Mk 2 version of Pott’s dough mixer.

Dumbrill Product range after the War

In 1951, Spon's Architectural Directory lists Dumbrill as making the following items;

"Model A" dough mixer (presumably the post-war design)

"Superhuman" dough mixer

"Supermixa" (sic) cake mixer

"Uniheat" oven

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Albert William Dumbrill 

The man and his family

Albert William Dumbrill was born in Gravesend, Kent, in August 1879. At this time the family lived in Robert Street, which was near the town centre and had small terraced houses. This road was obliterated by the St. George shopping centre. In 1883 the family moved to Kempthorne Street nearby. The 1891 census lists the 11-year-old as a "scholar," and the middle one of 5 siblings. In 1901, the family still lived here, but Bert had moved to London and was boarding at a terraced house in Eccles Road, which is south-west of Clapham Junction.

By 1911 he was living in Elspeth Road, Battersea. He had married Florence (also born 1880, nee Inman) in 1905 at East Sheen. They had 5 children- Doris (1906-84), Winifred (1909-99), John (Jack)- 1913-67, Reginald, (1913-67), and Henry (1917-85).

Dumbrill is listed as being an "electrical engineer" and a "worker" (ie working for an employer and not his own boss).

By 1920 the family had moved to another house in Winsham Grove, quite near Clapham Common. Both areas are surprisingly untouched by the War, considering how heavily some parts of London were bombed.

By 1929, the family had moved to Godstone, Surrey, to a quite large detached house that was either brand new or recently built. When they grew up, all the children except Winifred became directors in the family firm. Reginald was also a churchwarden at Godstone church.

Bert Dumbrill died in September 1969, aged 90.

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Company History

The Early Days

Dumbrill Plant and Engineering appear to have started business in 1920 when the Post Office Directory for the area lists them at Queen's Road (now Queenstown Road) Battersea. They are not listed in the 1917 directory (there appear to be no directories for 1918 and 1919, perhaps because of the 1st World War). They shared the premises with 2 other businesses and were listed as "AW Dumbrill and Co., Electrical Engineers." The yard is still there today, behind a 3 storey residential terraced building, reached through an entrance that is just big enough to get a transit- type van through. The building appears to be Victorian, and unaffected by the War, considering how heavily some parts of London were bombed. The site looks surprisingly small, considering the size of the businesses here, and that Dumbrill required iron casting and sheet metal rolling in their manufacturing.

By 1927, Dumbrill had 2 businesses running on the same site - one electrical engineer, and the other bakery engineers. Florence, Bert's wife, helped Albert run the business.

In 1930, Dumbrill applied for a patent on a Viennese oven of his own design, shortly before the business moved. 

The Move to Croydon

In 1931, the business moved "out of town" to much bigger premises listed as Beddington or Beddington Lane, near Croydon, which appeared to be purpose-built for the company. A lot more industrial units have been built along this road since that time. The site was fronted by a low flat-roofed single-storey building with large windows and central doors. An article in a Croydon newspaper in 1932 sang the praises of the company. By this time Dumbrill was producing, as well as dough mixers, cake mixers and a large variety of ovens. The cake mixers had gearboxes so that they could be run at a variety of speeds. All parts were manufactured on-site. At one time the company made bread slicing machines. This type of machine first appeared in the 30s. As well as making the above products, the company could also supply a large variety of other bakery equipment.

The article mentions how "everything was made from British materials and in these days this is a point worthy of consideration" and that was back in 1932 when Britain still manufactured a great deal.

A group photograph of the workforce was taken in 1949, showing around 61 employees, some in overalls, some in suits. There are just 4 women, 2 of whom are probably Albert's wife Florence, and his daughter Winifred, who were both involved in running the company.

The End of the Business

Dumbrill lant and Engineering ceased trading in about 1964 or 65- this was when the business stopped appearing in local directories. The company appears to have had its assets taken over by the bakery company Mono, who still exist today, and is listed as a "dormant business" online. Bert Dumbrill died in 1969, aged 90. 

 This is just conjecture, but I wonder if Dumbrill were put out of business by the "Chorleywood Baking Process," which was introduced in 1963. There were bread mass production systems around before the War (see Dumbrill Plant and Wonderloaf) but this process could mass-produce bread on a scale previously unseen and is still used today for 85% of the bread we eat. The type of dough mixer used in the original Chorleywood plant was the Tweedy mixer, originally designed as an industrial mixer and not for dough. It had a vertical drum with 2 rapidly revolving beaters in the bottom and could thrash out dough in 3 minutes; a Dumbrill takes at least 7 minutes. The loaves were baked using an oven which is like a metal tunnel with a metal conveyor belt, so they went in raw and came out baked. This type of oven was around by the 30s, but as far as I know, Dumbrill did not make them.

A lot of cottage bakeries were forced to close in the 1960s, some of whom were, of course, Dumbrill customers. Supermarkets were beginning to emerge by this time, although 1960s ones were a fraction of the size of modern superstores.

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Other Customers

As well as selling equipment for bakeries who sold their wares to the public, Dumbrill supplied their bakery equipment to a number of other customers. These included the Government, steamship companies and hotels. They even sold their equipment to bakeries and hotels abroad. In 1945, the Exe Vale Psychiatric Hospital in Devon bought a 1 and a half-sack, size 5 Superhuman dough mixer for their in house bakery. I imagine that the patients were not allowed to take part in breadmaking, although this can be very therapeutic for people with particular mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The building still exists, but I don't expect the dough mixer does!

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Dumbrill Ovens & Plant

Dumbrill Ovens

Although this site is mostly about Dumbrill's dough mixers, it is worth mentioning the company's bakers' ovens, which they were producing by 1930. A large selection of design variants was available to suit all sorts of bakery. They could be fuelled by coke, gas, or even crude oil, and by 1932, electricity. They could install brick-built ovens and made portable ovens. As well as conventional ovens that were loaded and unloaded by peel, the company made "drawplate" ovens. On these, there is a rack that covers the entire bottom of the oven and pulls out on a set of wheels on a short track. This made loading and unloading the oven quicker and didn't require as much skill as is required with a peel. Drawplate ovens tended to be used in bigger bakeries and were the start of the move towards mechanisation and mass production of bread.

Albert William Dumbrill took out his first patent in 1930, on an oven for baking Viennese loaves. For this type of bread, steam is used in the first part of the bake, and then dry hot air for the latter part to give a crispy crust. By 1932, the company specialized in "steam tube" ovens. The steam tubes projected from the back of the oven, where they were heated (usually by a coke furnace) and so would radiate heat over the whole oven.

The Dumbrill Plant

By the late 30s, Dumbrill could provide equipment for bakeries who produced bread on an industrial scale. They produced dough mixers that ha, instead of a bowl fixed to the machine, a separate wheel-out bowl on a trolley with a handle (found on many other types of dough mixer). This system meant that one mixer could make up more than one load of dough. One piece of Dumbrill literature shows a mixer with a wheel-out bowl, and 9 other wheel- out bowls around it!

The company provided equipment that mechanised dough mixing further. Above the machine would be mounted a "water meter" and a sifter. The sifter would sift the flour into the mixer bowl from the sacks up above, and the water meter would measure in the correct amount of water, with the water temperature also being measured. The machine's own motor would power this. A small pulley was placed on the end of the driveshaft of some Dumbrills so as to power the flour sifter. (It is possible that some machines were built with this pulley but did not have the sifter).

Although this equipment could help large bakeries turn out a large amount of bread, they would not be able to mass-produce bread on the same scale as the "Chorleywood Baking Process" that was to be developed in the early 1960s.


The company Wonderloaf started business in 1937 and used mass production techniques to produce white tinned sliced loaves in bags. They used dough mixers with multiple wheel-out bowls. As far as I know, these were another type of diving arm mixer, as mentioned in the introduction, where the beater enters the centre of the bowl and leaves at the edge, with a lid over the bowl. They had "Wonder Bakery" bread factories at various places in Britain including Croydon, which makes me "wonder" if they might have used Dumbrill equipment here.

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New use for old machines

In the 60s, when many small bakeries were forced to close, pottery became popular. Some potter must have discovered that certain types of old dough mixer made good clay mixers, and so a number of Dumbrills found a new home and use. A long-retired baker once told me that at least once, a potter approached him, asking if he could buy his Dumbrill (a pre-war one). At the time, the bakery was still buoyant and the baker did not wish to sell it.

It tends to be large, and or long-established potteries that have dough mixers. They are used for mixing brand new powdered clay with water to make a plastic clay or are used for "reclaiming" where dried up but unfired clay, such as that that is trimmed off pots on wheels, is rehydrated. As for Dumbrills in potteries, all but one of the ones that I know of are the pre-war models, which either means that a lot more pre-war Dumbrills were sold, or that bakeries that had post-war Dumbrills were still managing to make a living at this time, as my local bakery was.

I have heard of a novel use for a small Dumbrill mixer's bowl, even if the rest of the machine was scrapped. It became a planter in a garden.

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Preserved Dumbrills

There are only 2 museums in Britain where you can see preserved Dumbrills. One is Branscombe Bakery in Devon, owned by the National Trust. The bakery closed in 1987 for much the same reason as Mann's, and the baker wanted the bakery preserved and left as it was when last used. The Dumbrill is actually a pre-1927 one with the piston type upper arm and is possibly the oldest Dumbrill left in Britain. The baker bought it secondhand, which makes me wonder if its previous owner traded it in for a new mixer.

The other is at Beamish at Herron's Bakery. It was donated to the museum in the early 70s when a bakery in the North East closed and languished in a field for nearly 40 years. In 2012 the museum decided they wanted an Edwardian bakery, and so thoroughly restored it for this. It was painted an authentic bright blue, with "Superhuman Kneader" neatly handwritten on the top casing, a modern motor, and probably a brand new bowl. The bakery opened in September 2013, where the machine has been put back to its original use. This one carries a Unecol badge on the kneader arm as well as the Dumbrill manufacturer's plate above- either it was reconditioned by Unecol or built under licence to the Dumbrill design. There are presently no specific bakery museums in Britain.

A few engine driven Dumbrills have been exhibited at vintage rallies- in fact at one time an exhibitor had a whole working bakery on the back of a lorry. A man in the Cotswold Oil Engine and Preservation Society has a late 20s Dumbrill on a trailer with a bakery exhibition, driven by a Lister N. It was saved from Radways Bakery in Fairford, Gloucs, along with some other bakery items which were saved when this closed in 1999. It underwent a heavy overhaul in 2014 because it was finally showing its age, but was shown at a rally later in the year.

Dumbrill type dough mixer at the bakery of the Bakkersmolen, Wildert

On the Continent, there are a few bakery museums in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands that have Dumbrill- type dough mixers.


At Veurne, is a very fine Bakery Museum with spacious grounds in which stands a very small but fully functioning recently built post mill. The museum was set up by the bakery equipment salesman Walter Plaetinck. He saw that old bakery equipment was going for scrap and was determined to save some of it. Inside is a display of belt-driven bakery machines on a layshaft, driven by an electric motor- I believe this was quite a common set up in Belgian bakeries at one time. The Dumbrill here is probably a Nieulant Pelckman one and was built after 1927 (it has the slotted link portion upper arm). Out in the garden stands another Dumbrill type mixer, pre-1927, painted pale grey. On the roundabout for the museum stands a "fork mixer"- a type of dough mixer popular in France and Italy.

The Bakkersmolen Museum at Wildert, near Essen, is a fantastic place for "vintage things" with an authentic 1981 built tower mill, a narrow-gauge railway, a Continental steam carousel, and a collection of stationary steam engines. Their belt-driven bakery display is powered by a British built Marshall stationary steam engine. Their Pott dough mixer is almost certainly a Nieulant Pelckman and was built between 1907 and 1927 as it has the original type of upper arm, like a piston. At both museums, the machines on the layshaft are painted pale blue; there appears to be a convention in parts of western Europe that bakery machines are often painted blue.


In Ulm, a place with a very fine Minster is The Museum of Bread Culture, which does have a website. They have a display of a "1900 Bakery" which has a blue Pott mixer, pre-1927, and filled with a pretend dough mix. It is much smaller than any other continental Dumbrill type mixer I have seen; about the size of a Size 2 Dumbrill.This one has "MR" embossed on it, suggesting it might have been made by Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen of Regensburg. This museum has a website.

Near the town centre of Ottweiler, Saarland is a little bakery museum with another pre-1927 Pott mixer, painted pale blue. They do not have a website or email address.

Bremerswvorde, Saxony is in the Elm region, which is hilly. Here there is a museum windmill called "Henriette" with a little bakery museum. The mixer here, built to Pott's original design, is pale grey with a green bowl, which is of a slightly different design from usual. It is most likely a Rothe- Erde machine and was built between 1900 and 1927. Again, this museum does not have a website or an email address.

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Two Dumbrill Daydreams

With the rise of "artisan bakers" producing real bread, I feel there could be demand for a modern version of the Dumbrill. The only issue is, that it would have to have a guard over the top, boxing in the beater and top of the bowl as all up to date European dough mixers must have. Pott's original design was for an "open bowl" mixer, but I feel the smaller sized mixer designs (which would suit artisan bakers better than big ones) could be adapted. The guard would be glazed or grilled so that the baker could see the mix. As with all other up to date mixers, the bowl would be made of stainless steel.

My other dream is for a model engineer to build a fully functioning miniature Dumbrill, which would be just big enough to knead one loaf's worth of dough.

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More details for the rivet counters!

The design features on Pott's dough mixer varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, such as the shape of the crank, bowl brims and drive pulleys. The Dumbrill drive pulleys had 4 curved spokes, the Nieulant Pelkman had 5 straight spokes and the Rothe- Erde appeared to have 6. Both the Pott mixers at Veurne museum have circular holes in the topwheel. Nieulant Pelkman's 1907 model, named "Belgica,"could be built with a fixed or wheel out bowl. It did not have the large circular holes in the bottoms of the side frames; it was designed to be driven off a layshaft rather than an electric motor in the base. Continental Pott mixers appear to be larger or smaller than Dumbrill standard sizes, presumably, they were made to take metric ingredient measurements.

Pre-war Dumbrills could be set up with the fast and loose drive pulleys and the bowl pulleys on either side, depending on the layout of the bakery. There were 2 designs of topwheel cover, one a plain curved metal plate, flat in section, the other was an angular C- shape in section and enclosed the cogs of the topwheel.

Colours- Pre-war Dumbrills most often painted grey, and sometimes bright blue.

Post-war Dumbrills appear to have been painted dark green or black.

Beater blades- The second blade on the beater, about halfway up the lower arm, was an option on Dumbrill mixers from at least 1927 onwards. It could be bolted on either way up. This helped push any mix that had gone high up the bowl back into the bowl. It is not usually found on the smaller machines, and I do not know if any Continental makes had this feature.

Size 4 appears to have been the most common size of Dumbrill produced; this could take up to 20 stones of flour in a mix.

The bowl drive belt on Pott's original design was crossed, but on Dumbrill's Mk2 version this was straight, which meant reversing the twist on the worm and the skew on the cogwheel under the bowl.


Pott's original machine;

Austria- AT 37666- 1907/9- Dough mixer with revolving trough and a kneading arm swinging in an oscillating path.

France- FR 389201- 14.4.1908- Rotary kneader.

Pott's slotted link portion

Great Britain- GB 273631- 7.7.1927- Rotary mixers. In a dough kneading machine comprising of a rotating bowl in which a kneading arm is oscillated. The arm is slotted and rides over a roller mounted on the frame. The arm is also guided by rollers.

Germany- DE 483973

Netherlands- NL 20377, 9.10.1929

Dumbrill's own version of the mixer

GB 609410

GB 609409- Both applied for 13.3.1946 and published 30.9.48.

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Many thanks to;

  • Irme Ruckebusch of Veurne Bakery Museum for sending me a lot of information about old Belgian dough mixers.
  • Sheila of Wobage Pottery for letting Cathy photograph the Post War Dumbrill here, and for posting a short You Tube clip of it running.
  • Doug of Cotswold Oil Engine and Preservation Society for sending me pictures and measurements of his Dumbrill.
  • The Reeves, Bocking’s last bakers.
  • Mr. Mann, one of Bocking’s last but one bakers, and my parents’ neighbour Maureen for passing on my queries to him, and talking to him as I couldn’t do this easily. He worked at the bakery non- stop for about 36 years.

Also thanks to;

  • The people at Coolavokig Pottery, Co. Cork, Ireland, for sending me pictures of their Dumbrill.
  • The owner of Winchcombe Pottery for letting me photograph his Dumbrill.
  • Old Glory Magazine for printing my letter requesting information about old dough mixers and particularly Dumbrills.
  • A small number of Master Bakers who answered my request for information about Dumbrills. All the info they sent or told me happened to be about pre-war ones.
  • Beamish Museum, for sending me a copy of a page from a late 30s Unecol catalogue showing Superhuman Kneaders (bigger ones than theirs).
  • The lady at Aachen Local History.
  • People at local history centres and libraries in Gravesend, Croydon and Battersea.
  • The lady at Reading Museum of Rural Life for looking through various bakery trade magazines of around 1947, although it turned out there were no articles about post-war Dumbrills.
  • David Cohen at the pottery, near North Berwick, Scotland, for sending me a picture of his dough mixer, although it turned out to be a horizontal mixer and not a Dumbrill.
  • And last but not least, the Jigsaw Centre for letting me use some of their spare webpages for my Dough- Kneadin’ Line site.

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