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Published June 1st 2021
Historic Goldfields Grain Mill
If you're looking for a picturesque, quiet picnic spot with a splash of history about it, look no further than Andersons Mill at Smeaton, a fabulously preserved example of a 19th Century grain grinding mill sitting on the banks of Birch Creek.
Wonderfully well preserved Andersons Mill provides an insight into early goldfields agriculture and industry. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Three Anderson brothers, John, James and William, migrated from Scotland to South Australia in 1852 and then joined hordes of diggers heading to Victoria's Mount Alexander goldfield. Their time prospecting was short-lived and they next turned up in Melbourne, where they set up business as building contractors in Collingwood.
Joined by their mother and three younger brothers in 1854, the three elder brothers moved again, this time to Dean near Creswick, where they established a successful timber milling business in the Bullarook Forest.
The site is well documented with signs detailing the history of all aspects of Andersons Mill. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
By 1861, John Anderson was among a group of locals lobbying to establish a flour mill at Smeaton. When those plans fell through, the Anderson brothers determined to build their own flour and oat mill with construction commencing in that same year.
With Victoria's population flourishing on the back of the richest gold rush the world had ever seen, the Anderson's expected business to take off when the mill commenced operations in 1862. They had made a major investment in equipment and set about building their five-storey bluestone mill, a massive water-wheel 8.5-metres in diameter and a nine room family home.
Over the next ten years, a granary, huge brick chimney, a bluestone office, stables, and a blacksmiths forge were all added.
The bluestone office was added after the mill had commenced production. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The business flourished for a while but eventually, new technology rendered it less efficient than newer mills. David Anderson converted it to a roller mill in 1896 and showed some success right up to his death in 1929. His widow continued the operation on a small scale but by the end of World War 2, the railway had bypassed Smeaton and the majority of grain production had moved far away to the Wimmera and Mallee regions of the State.
Andersons Mill closed in 1957 and within a year or two, most of the machinery had been sold off for scrap.
The mill lay abandoned for many years despite a report in 1979 that the site should be purchased by the State Government due to its historical significance. It was eventually purchased by the Victorian Government in 1987 and has been administered by Parks Victoria since 1996.
A rear view of the complex shows a number of additions to the original bluestone structure. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Today, Andersons Mill stands as a monument to the skill and determination of Victoria's pioneer industrialists and the site, well maintained as it is, has a number of excellent picnic spots along the creek and adjacent to the mill complex.
The mill is open to the public about six times a year, usually on a Sunday afternoon between midday and 4 PM. Check the Parks Victoria website for specific dates.
The grounds around the mill may be enjoyed at any time but the toilet facilities are only available when the mill is open to the public.
Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash at all times. There's no camping and fires are not permitted.
One of the very large grinding wheels is on view in front of the mill. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
While you're there, you might like to check out the Tuki Fishing Complex just 10-minutes down the road, the stone cottages built by Swiss settlers at Yandoit and the nearby historic gold mining centre of Creswick.
Getting There …..
Smeaton is 133-Kilometres northwest of Melbourne, about a 1-hour 40-minute drive via the M8, C291 and C292.
Andersons Mill closed in 1957 and within a year or two most of the machinery had been sold off for scrap. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media