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Australia Historic former colonial flour mill up for sale in Tasmania

02:51  28 june  2020
02:51  28 june  2020 Source:   msn.com

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a small clock tower in front of a house: Bowerbank Mill in Deloraine cost up to 10,000 pounds to build. a fortune in the 1850s. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre) © Provided by ABC Business Bowerbank Mill in Deloraine cost up to 10,000 pounds to build. a fortune in the 1850s. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

Bowerbank Mill, the historic former flour mill at Deloraine in northern Tasmania, is hard to miss.

Its six-storey chimney has dominated the Meander Valley landscape for 165 years.

Now the rescued and restored colonial-era piece of Tasmanian history is up for sale.

The mill was built in 1855 and provided flour to the colony, as well as mainland Australia.

It's been owned for the last 15 years by Anne Batalibasi.

"It's unbelievable, it was just one of the best experiences of my life to own this building," she said.

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"You kind of feel like you're in Europe or France because it's so European in style."

It's an impressive structure with metre-thick bluestone walls and massive timber beams, while the chimney is built from 12,000 bricks.

Remnants of its life as a mill are scattered through the building.

Love at first sight

Ms Batalibasi has had a love affair with the mill for many years.

"When I was eight years old, I first saw Bowerbank Mill when we lived at Sheffield, and I just fell in love with the building, just absolutely had a passion for it," she said.

"I used to say to my mum, every time we'd go past I'd say: 'Why doesn't someone love that building? Why doesn't someone repair it?'"

Special site in plain view

The mill was established by Mary Ann Horne in the 1850s.

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Historian Jill Cassidy said Bowerbank Mill was one of the most significant mills in the state.

"A lot of mills are still standing, but that one is out on its own on a road, and people see it, whereas most of the other ones are on private land so we don't tend to see them so much," she said.

"It's also the only mill in the state that I've been able to find that started out as a steam mill and later was converted to water using a turbine, which was most unusual. Well, it's unique."

It played an important role in the region and in the early days of the colony.

"It was particularly important for Deloraine, which was becoming quite an important grain-growing area, but it didn't already have its own flour mill," Ms Cassidy said.

But it wasn't the best time to build.

There was big demand for flour in Victoria and New South Wales, so the mill owner thought she would capitalise, but there were delays in construction.

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It was expensive to build, as cheap convict labour had ended, and many builders and tradesman had downed their tools to rush to the Ballarat goldfields in the 1850s.

"By that time, a lot of the labour had gone over to the gold rushes to find gold, so labour was so expensive that the two years it took them to build the mill they say that anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 pounds was spent, and this was a fortune for the day," Ms Cassidy said.

"It's unlikely it was ever going to make a profit and it certainly had financial difficulties pretty well all its life."

The building functioned as a flour mill until 1935, but then fell into decline and disrepair in the 1970s.

It was used as a hay barn, a youth hostel and even a service station.

It was bought by renowned Tasmanian leather artist Garry Greenwood in the early 1970s, who restored the building and set it up as an art and craft gallery and studio.

"It was infested by rats and birds, and was in a terrible state and part of the building had actually collapsed," Ms Batalibasi said.

"He had the vision to keep the chimney, because if you go and visit lots of flour mills they've lost their chimneys and it makes Bowerbank Mill really unique."

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After more restoration, the National Trust-listed site was transformed into bed and breakfast accommodation.

Loved by locals

The mill is surrounded by farmland against the backdrop of a spectacular mountain range inlcuding the Great Western Tiers and Quamby Bluff.

"A Deloraine oldie told me that when she was a girl she was told by her father or grandfather that if the chimney at Bowerbank Mill ever fell down Santa Claus wouldn't come to the town of Deloraine," Ms Batalibasi said.

"That's how Santa Claus finds Deloraine, and he comes down Bowerbank Mill's chimney and enters into Deloraine."

For the current owner it's been a tough decision to sell.

"Just time to move on, a bit of ill health and things happen, and it's time for the next person," Ms Batalibasi said.

"When you own a building like this you don't own it in a sense, you're like a caretaker for it for the next generation or the next owner so I take that very seriously."

Historian Jill Cassidy agrees.

"I hope somebody comes to buy it who really appreciates it's history, because it is a very important part of Tasmania's history."

The mill is expected to sell for more than $1 million.

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