Text Karen Agutter
John Dunn (1802-1894) arrived in South Australia on the Lysander in 1840 with his wife and four children and took up land near Nairne. He later established Dunn & Co. which owned and operated mills across the Adelaide Hills District, including the Bridgewater Mill which was built in 1860. The mill used water from Cox’s Creek via an 11 metre, 26 tonne wheel known as “Old Rumbler” to grind grain into flour. In 1890 steam and diesel were introduced (Times Victor Harbor, 30 January 1991 p. 8).
During the 1860s John Dunn & Co. regularly advertised in South Australian newspapers for the purchase of grain and also their capacity to store grain on the Bridgewater site (see for example South Australian Weekly Cornicle, 28 May 1864). The company’s founder, John Dunn, regularly hosted parties at the site including the 1863 New Year’s Day picnic when ‘vehicles of all descriptions were used, from a four-horse but to a hawker’s cart, to convey the guests’ to the mill (Observer, 10 January 1863 p. 7). In 1866 50 employees of the company presented John Dunn M.P. with a large silver cup as a mark of respect on the occasion of his retirement. In receiving the gift from his grateful workforce Dunn stated ‘This cup you have presented to me to-day is the richest gift I have ever received, not on account of its intrinsic value … but on account of the spontaneous, unsolicited, hearty, and willing manner in which you have subscribed towards it; and I need only tell you it shall have the best place in my house’ (South Australian Weekly Cornicle, 3 November 1866 p. 3).
The mill was destroyed by fire in 1910 and was re-built by a consortium including J Standen and FP Knight who had worked for John Dunn.
In 1948 F. J. Anthony & Co. Ltd., grain, stock and poultry food merchants, acquired the controlling interest in the Mill valued at £4,527. The new board of directors included family names well known in the district such as C.L. Bonython and H. Jarrett (Advertiser, 22 May 1948 p. 4). The mill operated until 1961.
Today the Bridgewater Mill is a popular tourist destination. It also operates as restaurant and has hosted various events and concerts.
For over 150 years the Bridgewater mill, in all of its guises, has employed people. From carters, engineers, clerks, millers etc. to, more recently, hospitality workers. Do you have memories or photos of the Bridgewater mill across the decades? Did you or your relatives work at Bridgewater Mill. We would love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.