The Flour Mill, erected in 1883 by Hall Brothers, was the greatest asset Goorambat ever had. It was placed at the northern end of the railway yards, on the western side of the road which leads to Devenish, and was an immense three-story corrugated iron building, 63 x 50 feet, which housed the milling machinery plus a huge granary for the reserve supply of wheat as well as an area for the milled flour awaiting rail shipment to various destinations. A railway siding branching off the main Benalla-Yarrawonga line running alongside the mill verandah platform served to transport wheat and other necessities into the mill as well as taking flour away.
The mill employed a considerable number of men, working three shifts the whole year round, and was capable of crushing 300 bags of wheat every 24 hours, using four pairs of stones and three pairs of rollers. Later it functioned on a seasonal basis, with two shifts of ten and eight hours at the height of the season. The weekly wage was £2.
The mill opened on 1 January 1884, and the first mill manager was Benjamin Hall, with Mr Albert as his miller. The other director was James Stimpson Hall Jnr. Hall Brothers used “Anchor Brand” as their registered trademark. The mill machinery was driven by a steam engine at the rear of the mill, and huge stacks of wood 6 feet long were stacked in the vicinity of the engine, with huge reserve stacks in hand, in case wet weather prevented the normal flow of wood. Wood was transported to the mill stacks in drays, and a set of moveable tramlines with a flanged four-wheel trolley was used to cart the wood from the stacks to the mill itself.
Originally a medium sized chimney was erected for the steam engine but this was later replaced by a tall square brick chimney about 60 feet high surrounded by corrugated iron cladding, and which remained there until the mill was demolished. The chimney was to carry away smoke and steam from the engine.
An underground water tank capable of containing 14,000 gallons of water was constructed at the mill to provide water for the steam engine, and was filled from the roof catchment. In dry years this was not enough, so a 1½” pipeline was laid from Broken Creek (at Joseph Hall’s “Orange Grove” farm, to the underground tank, with an engine at the creek pumping water to the mill. The water tank is still in existence with houses being built on the old mill site.
The horizontal 16” cylinder steam engine and belts were imported from Glasgow at massive cost (the belts alone were £400 each).
The mill owned a draught horse which was used to pull empty trucks from the station yard to the mill, and full trucks of flour, bran, pollard, etc., back to the station yard for the goods train to collect them. The wheat was wheeled across on bag trucks and emptied into the large hopper, with elevators then carrying the wheat from the hopper to the third storey where it was shaken to remove rubbish into a chute to be carted away for chook feed. There was a ventilator in the roof area to blow out the dust. The wheat was then dropped to the second floor to get rid of barley, and finally to the ground floor where the husk was stripped off and the cleaned wheat was ground to flour by the chilled iron Hungarian rollers, which had only been invented in 1879. The flour was finally passed trough silk screens and a finishing dresser into bags below, where they were weighed and sewn before being taken along the tramway from the siding to the main line.
The flour mill failed to sell at a sub-divisional auction in 1901, although local people considered taking out shares in it in both 1901 and 1914. The crops failed and as there was no wheat to grind the mill laid idle for a long time.
On 21st August 1918 the mill was sold by Hall Brothers as a viable concern, to Leonard Panelli, for a sum of £3,500, who worked it for a further three years before selling on to Scarlett & Co of Melbourne in 1920/21. The mill resold to R G Sellick Pty in 1922, and was dismantled and removed to Numurkah.
“An old landmark in the shape of the flour mill, is being removed to Numurkah. The tall chimney, which could be seen for a great distance from the township, will be greatly missed.” The Benalla Standard, Friday January 12 1923
It was rebuilt in Numurkah, but was destroyed in a fire before it was ever used, along with a Hornsby engine which was en route from England, also for use at the Numurkah mill.
“At half past two o’clock on Tuesday morning (October 21, 1923) a large three-storied galvanized iron building which was intended for use as a flour mill at Numurkah, was burnt to the ground…the police are enquiring into the origin of the fire.” The Benalla Standard, Friday October 26 1923.
When Hall Brothers built the flour mill they built a short street of three identical cottages at the rear of the mill grounds for housing important employees, and when the mill was sold and moved these cottages were eventually demolished or removed too.
“Flour Mills and Millers of the Goulburn Valley 1858-1980” by Myrtle L Ford. Printed by Waterwheel Press, 159-165 High Street, Shepparton.
“The Flour Mills of Victoria 1840-1990: An Historical Record” published by the Flour Millers Council of Victoria 1990. Article by Arthur Feldtmann.
“Goorambat – Yesterday and Today” by Judy Bassett and Joyce Latch, published 1984 by Neptune Press Pty Ltd, 30 Rutland Street, Newtown, Victoria.
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