The Almost Automatic Mill

 

The technical block of the Campania District Area School on Reeve Street, Campania, has a history that links to the region's strong agricultural production and the dominance of Tasmania's wheat growing industry in the fledgling colonies.

The Coal River Valley was settled in the early 1800's predominantly for wheat growing, and from the 1820s to 1840s it was known as the granary of Australia. When Henry James Brock purchased a wheat enterprise at Campania Estate in 1873, he was quick to capitalize on his purchase and the completion of the Tasmanian Mainline Railway through the area in 1876.

The technical block at Campania District Area School was originally constructed under the direction of Brock to house a stream-driven mill in a location that would allow for the easy transfer of wheat and flour from the mill door to the railway station.

The Mercury spruiked the mill as 'the newest construction, and almost automatic'. This was the first time that any mill in the colony converted to the new technology. In addition to employing the latest labour-saving steam-powered machinery, no handling was required from the time the wheat was taken up an elevator to storage, through to the time it came out as flour. The only hands required were those of the engineer and assistant to operate the mill.

The Campania Mill was in production in 1855 under the management of John Bradshaw, who owned and operated Callington Mill in Oatlands for a period. The Mercury reported that the mill was 'turning out a splendid article, and this must be a source of pride to both the manager and the spirited proprietor, Mr HJ Brock, who has spared neither time nor money to raise the quality of our Tasmanian flour to the standard of the neighbouring colonies.'

The building retains the heavy timber columns and beams of the mill characteristic of mill building designed to house machinery and grain store.

Campania Mill ceased operation by 1897 and was used for various enterprises until the 1940s when the communities in Campania and the surrounding area asked the Education Department to establish an area school in the town. By 1948 plans were drafted to convert the Campania Mill to a 'temporary' school, which opened in 1949. Campania's education facilities moved from 'temporary' to permanent in the 1960s, with archived plans from the Public Works Department dating from 1966 showing changes made to convert the existing four classrooms, library, headmaster's office and staff room into an open area technical block.

Campania Mill is a living example of adaptive reuse that respects the region's history and continues to be a valuable resource for the local community.


Over a thousand cubic yards (approximately 746 cubic metres) of rough-faced sandstone was used in the walls

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