The Tarnagulla Flour Mill

Researched and written by Donald W. Clark

On the 20th December 1873 it was reported in the Tarnagulla Courier that arrangements were being made for the erection of a steam flour mill at Tarnagulla. Mr Bristol had purchased the necessary plant which would be erected with as little delay as possible. The site chosen was the premises occupied previously by Mr John Pierce, grocer and wine and spirit merchant, at the corner of King and Commercial Road. These premises were incorporated in the mill building. Suitable buildings for receiving and storing grain and flour had been erected already. On 10th January, 1874 an advertisement in the Courier called for tenders from masons, bricklayers and carpenters for the erection of a flour mill at Tarnagulla for H. C. Bristol, Esq. with all enquiries to be made from G. Minto, Engineer.

In December 1881 the proprietors made a request to the Tarnagulla Borough Council for permission to lay pipes to the Municipal Dam, which was generally known as the Company's Dam, and to obtain water from the dam for milling purposes. This was granted.

Steam was got up for the first time on 30th of March, 1882. A large quantity of wheat was stored ready for milling. Just prior to 29th of April 1882 the boiler at the mill burst, as the result of which two men, J. H. Smith and W. Hargreaves died and H. Joyce Bousfield, senior and junior, were seriously injured.

The mill commenced operations on 13th June, 1882 with Mr W Fitzgerald as manager. The price offered for wheat was thirty-seven pence per bushell. It operated with grinding stones until considerable renovations were done in the early part of 1899 when new rollers and more up to date equipment installed. The mill was then known as the Tarnagulla Flour Mill Co., with Thos. Comrie as proprietor, Mr Fitzgerald was still manager, and Mr T. Leonard was the traveller. Much new equipment was put in and each of the three floors had different processes. The rollers were on the ground floor, the purifiers and elevators reel were on the second floor, plus the clean wheat bin directly over the Ganz rollers. On the top floor was the chop reel, bran reel, inter-elevator reels, brush machine cyclone sack hoist, dirty wheat shaker, clean wheat bin, dust rooms and also double damping rooms.

A plant was also erected for the making of an improved quality of wheaten meal, for which purpose special machinery was procured and a pair of stones was left for grinding the meal. A complete plant for the crushing of oats etc was also erected.

The driving power of the mill was supplied by a new engine complete with 16 inch cylinder, manufactured and erected by Bousfield & Co. of Eaglehawk. It was fitted with Pickering governors, connected with the cylinder was a super heater. The boiler was tested and all connections etc. overhauled, with much of it being completely renewed.

There was a complete network of belts, spouts, elevators etc. all over the building, all conveniently placed. The plans etc for the new plant were drawn up by Mr J. Kilborn, manager of the firm of Bodington & Co., engineers and millwrights of Carlton, which supplied the whole of the machinery, excepting the engine. The work of erection was carried out by Mr Kilborn and his assistants to the entire satisfaction of Mr Comrie, who had gone to considerable expense to bring the mill to a completely up-todate machine, fitted with all of the most modern appliances available.

An advertisement on May 6th, 1899 read: "Tarnagulla Flour Mill Co., Patent Roller Flour. Also their Digestive Wheaten Meal specially prepared for Porridge or Bread."

In January 1901, 6000 bags of wheat were received weekly at the mill and it was a common sight to see the streets lined with wagons.

In May 1902 the mill was lighted by gas and in July 1906 an application was made to the Tarnagulla Borough Council for permission to lay a tram track from the mill to the Railways Station. Council was agreeable to this provided suitable plans were submitted.

In 1913, 15,000 bags of wheat were bought at three shillings and four pence per bushell.

In January 1914 the mill was renovated. At this time 1500 bags of wheat were coming in daily, with 20,000 bags in storage.

On 15th December, 1917 the mill was advertised for sale, to be sold on Friday, 21st December,.1917, on behalf of the Estate of the Late Thomas Comrie, who had died on 4th August, 1910. The Courier at that time recorded him as being responsible for the building of the mill and with being the sole proprietor.

The mill was closed, apparently, for a short period. The Courier reported on 13th of September, 1918 that the mill had been sold to Mr O. Albert of Talbot and that it would re-open. An advertisement read: ALBERT. O. & SON, MILLERS.

During 1920 the mill was closed and pulled down. It was later re-erected at Mildura where it operated for many years.