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Smeaton Mill

ANDERSON’S MILL FESTIVAL SMEATON

a celebration of local foods, wine and music

From the Anderson’s Mill Festival webpage..

“Within this fabulous setting the Andersons Mill Festival is an emerging event of note in Victoria’s impressive calendar of events. If people only visit one festival a year, this has to be the one!”

Click HERE for info on the 2017 Smeaton Mill Festival.

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HISTORY of ANDERSON’S MILL

Land auctions were held in Smeaton in 1856 and among the first purchasers were two of the Anderson brothers, William and David.

Smeaton had become a prosperous agricultural district when Captain Hepburn died in 1860. His executors let out the Hepburn flour mill erected on the Hepburn Estate in the 1850’s, to Messrs Baird and Brown of Ballarat. Within a month Smeaton farmers were angered by the low price offered by the new millers and their reluctance to purchase local grain.

In February 1861, at a public meeting, in which John Anderson took a prominent part, the Smeaton farmers agreed to float a ‘Farmers Joint Stock Flour Mill’. When plans for this mill fell through, the Anderson brothers decided four months laterto tap into the local agricultural and population boom and announced that they would build their own flour and oat mill. They secured a site, with a 25 foot drop for water power, and work was rapidly commenced to have the mill ready for the 1861/2 harvest.

Anderson’s Mill Smeaton – 1860’s

John Anderson using his knowledge as a mill-wright, helped in the design of the Smeaton Mill. The height of the building reflected the need to use gravity in the milling process, the siting to utilise the water from Birch’s Creek. In 1862 the Advertiser reported that work had stopped for want of water. However the Anderson brothers obtained a portable engine to avoid this problem in the future.

At the end of the 1861/2 harvest, a journalist from the Creswick Advertiser inspected the new mill. He reported that the three storey building was full of wheat and flour and that the whole works, although only recently completed, presented already a “very business like and busy appearance”. The journalist was impressed with the massive machinery at the mill: there was a fly-wheel thirty nine feet in circumference, with a breadth of two foot, and two tramways extended three miles into the forest. The large water wheel, erected at a cost of 1500 pounds, also worked well.  

In 1860 popular protests to ‘unlock the lands’ resulted in the passing of the first Land Selection Act. In the Smeaton district small landowners and tenants seized the opportunity of acquiring larger estates and migrated to the newly opened wheat belt. Furthermore, as the Smeaton deep lead mines were developed, other tenant farmers abandoned agriculture for mining.

This migration to the north enabled the Andersons to consolidate their own holdings, and by 1881 the family controlled almost 7000 acres. The Anderson brothers in these years gained possession of the Hepburn Mill which they closed in favour of their Smeaton establishment.

Anderson’s Mill Logo

The number of flour mills in Smeaton declined from three in the 1860’s to only one in 1882.

By the late 1880’s grain millers were a dying race. The Anderson family tried to resist progress but situated outside the main wheat producing centres and with no direct railway link, this attempt was in vain. The mill survived for a further sixty years, but rather than wheaten flour the Andersons concentrated on the milling of oaten meal.

The Anderson family owned and operated the Mill for all of it’s working life, almost 100 years, through boom times, depression and war. It was sold by the Anderson descendants to the State government of Victoria in the 1970’s and restored in the 1980’s.

Anderson’s Mill Smeaton – today

ANDERSON’S MILL, SMEATON

The most important attraction in Smeaton (and a clear indication of its economic history) is the 19th century industrial complex which includes an beautifully preserved four-storey bluestone flour mill which is possibly the largest flour mill ever built in Victoria and the most perfectly preserved mill in Australia. The flour mill includes a 25-tonne waterwheel which is 8.5-metre across, and a huge chimney. Outbuildings include a bluestone office, stables, a granary, a residence and a blacksmith’s.

The complex was built in the early 1860s by the Anderson family who had made their fortune on the Victorian goldfields. When wheat production shifted to the north-west the mill was refitted for oatmeal and continued to function until 1957. The complex still stands near Birch’s Creek which once drove the mill.

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Anderson’s Mill

In a picture postcard setting on the banks of Birch’s Creek at Smeaton, Anderson’s Mill stands as a powerful reminder of an industry that flourished after the gold rush of the 1850’s.

Located in Smeaton, an area well known for it’s fertile volcanic soils and gold-mining past, the Mill was built in two sections.

Construction for the five storey flour Mill commenced in 1861, and was operational within 6 months. The Oat section of the Mill was completed by the following harvest. The water-wheel was cast locally in Ballarat at Hunt & Opie’s foundry. Outbuildings such as the stables, grain store, and bluestone office were added later as the operation expanded.

Water was released from Hepburn Lagoon, about 5km from the Mill, then released into Birch Creek before being channelled into the water race to turn the huge wheel. The amount of water required depended on what product was being processed. The person operating the release gates at Hepburn Lagoon would be asked to release ‘half oats water’ or ‘full flour water’ for the shift’s operation.

Anderson’s Mill advert – 1862

Standing today much like it did 150 years ago the bluestone building and its magnificent water wheel are still in place. The Mill has played host to wedding parties, photographic exhibitions, picnics, art shows, etc., but is more widely known for the ANDERSON’S MILL FESTIVAL held in April each year. In addition to the wares from local wineries and food producers, the festival offers visitors a large variety of art and craft stalls, blacksmithing, sheep-shearing demonstrations, wood turning, pony rides, and much more, all to the strains of top quality jazz music.

Anderson’s Mill is open Sunday afternoons or by appointment, tel: (03) 5345 1352 or (03) 5337 0689.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ash L permalink
    July 30, 2015 6:15 am

    Many great memories of the mill while growing up in the area, very informative website too, well done!

  2. kangjaro permalink
    January 12, 2015 8:37 am

    Various of Kennedy relatives lived above the Smeaton Mill on the Smeaton reserve from about 1901 to 1960. Catherine Kennedy (nee Fitzpatrick) died in 1932 in a bus crash in Ballarat. Some of her children had their first jobs at the mill, including my grandfather Denis. At the day of Catherine funeral, the funeral party made there way past the mill where the workers paid their respects by standing outside. One of Catherine’s sons was possibly working at the mill at that time. I have asked around about any early records of the mill showing who was employed there. If any one is aware of any I would love to know about them. cheers Rosemary Kennedy

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