Sunday, December 5, 2010

Clark's Mill

The land near Oamaru was recognised by early European settlers as being well-suited to raising wheat. Flour was an essential crop, and in this North Otago region (these days about an hour's drive from top to bottom) there were by the end of the 19th century thirteen flour mills. Of those thirteen one still operates, and still uses locally-grown wheat: the Ngapara Mill, built in 1898.

Clark's Mill was one of the earliest (1866) of the North Otago mills to be built, and it's the only one where traces of the original water-powered equipment survive. It's an attractive limestone building, built of stone quarried from the cliffs behind it. The mill began operating with a wooden water wheel driving millstones. While the equipment became more sophisticated, with the wheel being replaced by a water-turbine (and eventually electric motors) and the millstones by roller mills in the 1880s, the mill continued operating until 1976. Water came from a river several miles away; digging the mill race in the days of pick and shovel must have been quite a task.

Old photos show lines of horses and carts bringing in their loads of wheat, and bags of flour being carted to the mill's railway siding. It must have been a bustling place, and probably somewhere to catch up on the latest gossip while unloading the grain.

Today Clark's Mill is a peaceful spot a short drive from Oamaru, lovingly restored, and open on Sunday afternoons in the summer months.

More pictures here.

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