Our 8th generation family farm has an historic watermill that for many years (up until the mid 1990s) ground maize and wheat to farmers from around the district. It is a marvellous piece of settler engineering and has fascinating machines that work off the main mill. It is cultural, historic and educational and would likely be the most complete mill in the country should it be restored to its fullest glory.
Much work has been done this 2022/2023 summer to get the mill grinding again and although there is still much to do we're happy to offer guided tours to visitors and self-guided tours to resident guests.
The Water Mill was built by Robert Hart, owner of the farm Glen Avon, Somerset East, between 1822 and 1825. Machinery and equipment was shipped out from England to Port Elizabeth and then transported via the old Zuurberg Pass to Glen Avon, a distance of some 200 km. Here, it was assembled and installed, an incredible feat for those days. Most of the wood used in the construction was sourced off the farm, mainly yellowwood, olivewood and sneezewood.
In 1861 a new and bigger iron wheel was installed (30ft in diameter) and is still in fairly good repair. It is presumed that the first and original wheel was a wooden wheel as there are no remnants of it to be found. This mill was still in working order in 1991, though only one grindstone was operational. It worked on average once a month.
When in full working order, the mill operates two grindstones, capacity about 2.25 tons per day. It also has two mealie crushers, a grain crusher for stock feed, two winnowers for cleaning seed and a circular saw and cleaver for firewood. Wagon loads (5 tons) of grain used to be brought in from farms in the surrounding areas – farmers would camp for a day or two, then set off again, delivering meal to farms along their route. Testimony to this can be seen in the ‘graffiti’ on the yellowwood beams inside the mill with dates as far back as 1890.
The Water Mill is certainly one of the best preserved mills in Southern Africa. Its uniqueness and great historical and cultural value cannot be overlooked.
In addition the numerous machines associated with and accommodated inside the mill e.g. Maize threshing machinery, winnowers, “New Improved Corn grinder” and wood splitter are all of mechanical and historical significance.