Underground Flour Mills

Xlendi flour mill interior sourced from XV Architecture
When the threat of nuclear war became imminent, the British Services in the Maltese Islands prepared a civil defence system aimed at ensuring a supply of food for the population of the Islands. These preparations took the form of a number of flour mills which were excavated in live rock and were self sufficient as regards the power required to run them.

These flour mills were each composed of a pair of large silos where the grain was stored, archimedian screws which transported the grain to the milling machines, and the machines proper. The milling machine ran was started by first firing up a starting engine which would then fire up the engine proper of the milling machine. The machine functioned through a series of leather belts which provided traction for all the moving parts. Of particular note is the fact that the milled grain was segregated into its different components by the machine itself and the miller's work mainly consisted of ensuring the bags of milled grain did not overflow.

The mills were all underground and were spread around the Maltese Islands in areas that were at the time mainly arable. Some of the locations have now been developed, but most of the mills are still located in areas that are predominantly rural. The eight mills are still extant in the following localities:

  • San Pawl il-Baħar (Xemxija)
  • San Ġwann
  • Mellieħa
  • Mġarr (San Martin, Il-Palma/ Ta' Mrejnu)
  • Munxar (Xlendi)
  • Siġġiewi (Buskett)

The Buskett mill is particular since it is composed of two mills in one. This means that the ramp leading underground forks into two paths, each of which leads to a complete and separate mill.

The Xlendi mill is the only one of its type in Gozo. It is also one of three that are mostly intact together with the Xemxija and San Gwann ones. The Xlendi and Xemxija are both open to the public.

Another part of the civil defence system of the Islands was the construction of some nuclear bunkers where the leaders of the Islands could retire to in case of attack. Very little information is available on these bunker,  however it is known that at least two were constructed, one in Mosta and one in Attard. Currently neither one is accessible to the general public.

The locations of the flour mills is available through Google maps from here.


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