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For most people in Perth today, mentioning an 'old mill' will only refer to one such: Shenton's Mill on Point Belches, Mill Point Road, South Perth, which exists in a reconstructed form. (There were many other mills.) The original flour mill was the property of William Kernot Shenton. It was built by millwrights Paul Lockyer and James Lockyer. It was rebuilt as the Alta Gardens in 1870 by 'Satan' Browne.
William Shenton recognized the need for a more efficient method of milling. He was an engineer from Winchester in England where his family already owned a mill. He arrived at Fremantle in 1829 bringing machinery for a saw mill.
Shenton built a windmill in Fremantle and Point Belches (now Mill Point) before building in 1835 a second mill at Point Belches that remains today. In many ways the mill at Point Belches seemed ideally placed along the river. The first horse drawn ferry crossing from Mount Eliza to Point Belches was in 1833 and Shenton’s mill became a popular meeting place. In addition the people of Perth would travel on the ferry to the south bank to collect timber.
Unfortunately the mill was not a profitable concern. It was not well located in relation to the major markets and erratic winds meant that it was often unable to grind wheat. There were also rival mills.
Tragically William Shenton was drowned at sea on his way from Perth to Bunbury in 1842.
One of the more significant characters associated with the mill was a lessee. Thomas Brown[e] known as ‘Satan Browne’, was an architect and convicted forger, who arrived in the Colony in 1865. In 1879 he took out a lease on the mill. He added a balcony and viewing platform and named it the Alta Gardens Hotel. (South Perth webpage.)
Thomas 'Satan' Browne, entry on the Fremantle Prison page.
Thomas Henry Johnson Browne, entry on the Design & Art Australia Online page.
'A Brief History of the Old Mill', page on the City of South Perth page (except above)
The Alta Tea Gardens', Victorian Express, Wednesday 31 March 1880: 3.
City of South Perth Local Heritage Inventory page for 'Old Mill and Cottage (former)'.
Thanks to Eleanor Chaos for gathering all the data.
Garry Gillard | New: 10 April, 2020 | Now: 12 September, 2020