[Alison and Knight's Mill]

Initially wheat and flour were imported into the Port Phillip District mainly from Sydney and Van Diemen's Land. John Batman had sown wheat soon after he arrived at Port Phillip and other settlers followed. John Pascoe Fawkner planted barley at Moonee Ponds in 1840.

Local flour production probably commenced with the first successful crops in 1837 using small hand cranked grinding mills. These were labourious and there was need for something more efficient. Iron Hand mills were still advertised in 1840, when within 50 kilometres of Melbourne 1940 acres of wheat were harvested yielding 50,426 bushels.

Local powered milling started in February 1841. Seven names were prominent in the initial development of milling in or near Melbourne. They were John Alison, Andrew Halley Knight, John Dight, Manton Brothers, Arthur Sergeantson, George Coulstock and Peter Hurlstone. All of these established mills between 1840 and 1845 and although they were individually small, should have collectively met the needs of the 31,280 inhabitants in the Port Phillip District in 1845. By 1853 the Central Business District had 9 flour mills and 13 saw mills.

John Alison and Andrew Halley Knight built the earliest commercial flour mill in the Port Phillip District. It was situated off the southern line of Collins Street near King Street, Melbourne. The mill started operating in February 1841. Initially the mill could process 3/4 ton of wheat per hour, 40 tons per week. Arthur Sergeantson was listed as their miller. In March 1843 they bought 800 bushels of wheat from Westernport - Messrs. Coulstock and Flintoff of the Plenty Valley. It appears that their Melbourne mill had a relatively short life as the Port Phillip Directory listed Alison & Knight as merchants not millers in 1849 and in 1853 they were listed as bonded stores. In 1849 they built the Rosebrook Mill at Belfast (Port Fairy) as well as a basalt storage store in Gipps Street, Port Fairy. The mill was advertised for sale in March 1866. The store is presently on the market.

The Manton Brothers, Frederick, Charles and John had a family history in milling in Lincolnshire and decided they would carry on the tradition in Melbourne. Initially they wanted to build a water mill at the Falls but as they couldn't get Government permission they built a steam saw and flour mill on the land they had bought in Flinders Street. The mill started working in June 1841. By September 1842 Frederick Manton had sailed to Valparaiso with the intention of arranging a yearly supply of 50,000 bushels of wheat to be exported to Port Phillip to increase production at their mill. Due to the collapse of the ecenomy in 1843 Manton & Co. was dissolved and their milling operation in Melbourne ceased.

[Ceres Mills]

On November 7th 1838 John Dight acquired 26 acres on the Yarra River near Gardiner's Falls. These were later named Dight's Falls, and it was here that John Dight decided to build a water mill, but like the Manton's he had delays due to the Government's lack of foresight. He had problems with regular water flows in the river and eventually the mill was destroyed by fire. In 1854 he built a mill in Leicester Street, Carlton which was the largest in the colony and was very successful. John Dight abandoned flour milling in 1864.

Arthur Sergeantson owned acreage at Morang known as "Sergeantson Hall" but after he built a water mill it became known as "Carome." The mill was small and barely provided enough income for the miller and his family. It was leased to Hugh Anderson who operated the mill until Sergeantson's death in 1850. It was then enlarged by William Hardesty and Abraham Willis in an attempt to make it profitable. Like other mills on the Plenty River there were water supply problems after the Yan Yean Reservoir was completed when millers had to apply to the water bailiff to release water back into the river. Willis was awarded £600 compensation for loss of water power. The mill burnt down in suspicious circumstances and an insurance claim was rejected as the fire was found to be due to arson.

George Coulstock's farm was called "Mill Park" where he grew wheat, winning a prize for wheat he grew in the first Agricultural Show in 1842. The mill on his farm didn't operate satisfactorily and when he died aged 32 years in 1842 the business and land were sold to John Brock. The area then became known as Janefield. In 1848 the mill was leased to Peter Hurlstone who refitted it in order to have twice the capacity of the "Carome Mill." It is thought that the Plenty Mill gristed wheat for local farmers at an agreed price per bushel, small production volume avoiding the need for the mill to store large quantities of wheat and flour. The mill closed in 1862 due to water supply problems. Peter Hurlstone also had a wind mill at Brighton that appeared on the early Brighton Coat of Arms.


1841 JOHN HEPBURN'S "CAPTAIN'S MILL" was the first mill built in Smeaton.

1842 ANDERSON & MASSIE built a "Tidal Mill" at Bass.

1846 JOHN LANDLES operated a steam mill near Banksia Street, Heidelberg, and owned the only recorded windmill in Central Melbourne in A'Beckett Street.

1849 BARBER & SON had a steam mill at Campbellfield.

1851 WILLIAM DEGRAVES established a flour mill in Flinders Street, Melbourne.

[Margaret Kaan]

( Abridged from an illustrated talk given at the February 2012 PPPG Meeting by
Margaret Kaan - PPPG Member No. 1146

( Image Source - State Library of Victoria )

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