Fremantle Stuff > buildings > flour mills

Flour Mills in Perth and Fremantle

The first locally-grown wheat was ground into flour in Colonel Latour's horse flour mill, which was situated on the corner of Market Street and Bay Street, during 1831. Hitchcock 1929: 22.

Cyril Bryan:
The mill from which Mill-street takes its name was Kingsford's Mill, erected between the Adelphi Hotel [the Parmelia Hotel is now on this site in Mill Street] and Mount's Bay-road by Samuel Kingsford in 1833 to grind the wheat of the earliest settlers. It was not the first mill in Perth; that honour goes to Reveley's Mill, the site of which is marked by a brass tablet in the [former] technical school grounds [in St George's Terrace].
Kingsford obtained the right to drain the lake (from that time called Lake Kingsford) which occupied the site of the present central railway station and extended from Wellington-street over Roe-street and almost to James-street. In October, 1833, he commenced to cut a drain between this lake and his mill in Mill-street to supply power for the mill.
Kingsford was nothing if not ambitious, for he acquired from the Government the "perpetual right" to drain for the purpose of his mill not only Lake Kingsford, but Lake Irwin (now the railway goods yards), Lake Sutherland (beyond West Perth railway station) and Lake Henderson (now Robertson Park [in Fitzgerald Street]), as well as an option for five years over Monger's Lake and Herdsman's Lake. He called his enterprise the "Perth Mills," and on August, 1839, was advertising flour at 4d. a lb. He died in 1840, and the advent of steam apparently led the mill to cease work shortly afterwards. 'Cygnet' - Cyril Bryan - West Australian 18 February 1939.

For most people in Perth today, mentioning an 'old mill' can only refer to one such: Shenton's Mill on Mill Point Road, South Perth, which exists in a reconstructed form. It was, however, not the only mill close to the city. The first was designed, built, and run in 1832 by Henry Reveley on St George's Terrace on the site where the former Technical College and Boys School still stand. The next was that of Samuel Kingsford, built in 1833 to the west of Reveley's, on the corner of Mill Street, and yet another, a steam mill, built by Schoales and Nash, was at Lewis Point, close to where the former Swan Brewery now stands.

Shenton's Mill.
Shenton built a windmill in Fremantle 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 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. However, by 1881 Browne was in debt and being sued. His case was to be heard in the Criminal Court but before his sentence was passed Browne committed suicide by taking strychnine.
The property deteriorated and despite being resumed by the government in 1929 little effort was made to conserve it until 1957. In that year H.L. Brisbane and Wunderlich (later Bristile) agreed to take up a long lease for the site from the State Government, and restored and repaired the mill and miller’s cottage, creating a folk museum and brick and tile display to advertise their products. (City of South Perth)

In Fremantle, the Eureka Flour Mill was (and is) in Nairn Street at number 6. W.D. Moore bought the property in 1864. Possibly in partnership with W.E. Marmion, he established the Diamond Flour Mill on the site in c. 1870. That mill was burnt down and a new mill built in 1876, and known at that time as the Phoenix Mill. The property was bought by Fremantle Milling Company in 1891 and renamed the Eureka Mill. The company moved to Cottesloe in 1905. In 1950 the former mill and warehouse were used by Westralian Farmers Ltd as a woolstore. In the 1980s the building was altered to house a restaurant with accommodation on the upper level, and in the 1990s the former warehouse was converted to apartments. (Hutchison)

The Port Flour Mill was (and is, but no longer a mill) in Essex Street. It was built before 1870 and is classified by the National Trust. The land and property was originally owned by Anthony Cornish. He sold by auction on 16 July 1884.

The Dingo Flour Mill is a well-known structure in North Fremantle, occupying the whole block surrounded by Stirling Highway, Craig Street, Thompson Road, and Leslie Road. The Dingo sign is well-known, and can be seen from some distance out to sea.

To the Editor.
Sir,—It often occurs to me, when I look back on the many long years that have rolled by what high hopes and ambitions the early settlers had respecting Western Australia as a wheat-producing country, caused. I suppose, by the enormous blocks of land taken up by the early settlers, such as Sir James Stirling, Mr. Thomas Peel, and many others The colony had not been established more than ten or twelve vears when we had four flour mills in Perth. At the present time I don't think we have more than two in any district in the colony. The first mill built in Perth was the old windmill at Point Belches, opposite The Narrows. It was conducted by the late Mr E. [W.K.?] Shenton, cousin to the late Mr. George Shenton. The next was Mr. W. Reenely's [Reveley] watermill, on the property adjoining the Government Boys School [in St George's Terrace]. A little later Mr. Samuel Kingsford built another mill in Mill-Lane, driven by water. He spent enormous sums of money to procure a constant supply of water, as he had to get it from the lake. The lakes in those days were where the present railway line runs from Perth to Fremantle, and to convey the water to Mill-lane he had to have large trunks made, and placed in deep drains from the lake across Wellington street, Murray street, Hay-street, and St. George's-terrace, into Mill-lane, where he had a large dam, with flood-gates to regulate the supply. There was not much wheat produced in the colony at this time, and his trouble and disappointment brought on illness, from which he never recovered. The next was the steam mill built by the late Mr. John Schoales and Mr. George Nash, on the spot where the Swan Brewery now stands. This was the first steam mill in the colony. Its owners hopes ran very high, as they were under the impression that they could do all the grinding for the whole colony. But, unfortunately, the project turned out a terrible failure, owing to the difficulty in getting wheat to the mill, as there were no fine roads around the Mount to the mill, and most of the wheat had to be conveyed in boats. Another great drawback was the want of a competent person to set the engines in proper working order. The late Mr. James Lockyer was the millwright, and appeared to understand his part of the work, but the man who had the management of the engines did not seem to understand the machinery. The consequence was a break down almost every week, causing delay and expense, and in a short time the owners were compelled to close the mill doors and turn the mill into a depot. Poor Mr. Schoales broke down through misfortune and disappointment, and died in Perth, a poor but honourable gentleman. Mr. George Nash returned to his native country Ireland where he became a minister of the Anglican Church, leaving his brother, Richard, a barrister by profession, in Perth. The first three mills to which I have referred were built in the thirties.-Yours, etc., W. E. SYRED. Bejoording, September 4.

Courtesy SLWA # 008248D govt photo 1950 North Fremantle

Courtesy SLWA # 008250D govt photo 1950, 111 Stirling Highway North Fremantle. The sign over the door now says Allied Pinnacle, but they still make flour.

References and Links

Bekle H. & J. Gentilli 1993, 'History of the Perth lakes', Early Days, vol. 10, part 5: 442-460.

Hasluck, Paul & F.I. Bray 1927, 'Early mills of Perth', Early Days, vol. 1, part 8: 62-84. [This goes into some detail about the three first mills in Perth: those of Shenton, Reveley, and Kingsford.]

Syred, W.E. 1900, 'Reminiscences of old Perth', Western Mail, Saturday 22 September: 68. Bejoording is between Bindoon and Goomalling.

City of South Perth, 'A Brief History of the Old Mill'.

Note. This page was written after I wrote a page for the building which houses/d Mills Records in Adelaide Street. It is called "millsperth" to distinguish it from the earlier page ["mills.html"], but it refers to flour mills in both Perth and Fremantle.

Garry Gillard | New: 26 June, 2018 | Now: 20 April, 2021