World first Milling Museum coming to Bathurst

Councillor Jess Jennings and owner Stephen Birrell pictured outside the historic Tremain's mill.
Councillor Jess Jennings and owner Stephen Birrell pictured outside the historic Tremain's mill.

An Australian first is coming to Bathurst as a heritage mill in the town is turned into the nation’s first museum dedicated to the history of the grain milling industry.

The Australian Milling Museum (AMM) will be housed in the 19th century industrial heritage site of Tremain’s Mill, which only ceased operating some of its grain handling equipment last month.

The museum aims to research, preserve and celebrate Australia’s flour milling history from pre-1788 to present day, with a focus on the vital role milling has played in underpinning Australia economic development.

The first mill at the Tremain site was built in 1857 and purchased by William Tremain, a Scottish proprietor, in 1857, and from there an industrial dynasty begun.

Prior to federation, family-run businesses like Tremain’s formed the backbone of milling industries in most states, with technological innovation impacting the industry throughout the 20th century.

Owner Stephen Birrell and Councillor Jess Jennings pictured inside the historic Tremain's mill.

Owner Stephen Birrell and Councillor Jess Jennings pictured inside the historic Tremain's mill.

Tremain’s Mill owner Stephen Birrell, who purchased the property in 2015, has plans for the site to become a new tourist attraction.

“The grain handling equipment at Tremain’s Mill has remained operational and in use right up till the beginning of May, but other parts of the mill will be retained as exhibits for the Australian Milling Museum,” Mr Birrell said.

The facility will house artefacts, milling equipment and a library that will tell the stories of those who have milled flour throughout the nation’s past. 

“We are calling on farming families and communities across Australia to dig through their sheds and conjure up their property’s old heritage milling equipment and the stories that go with them. These stories will be an important part of the museum,” Mr Birrell said.

He said Tremain’s heritage flour milling equipment would be included in the museum, but he hoped to find a lot more to add to the collection.  

In order to collate the huge amount of research and information required for the museum, Mr Birrell engaged Dr Jess Jennings to research and write a definitive narrative on the history of milling in Australia.

This work will form the back-story for the museum itself and tell of how grain milling was a vital part of the development of the country.

Dr Jennings’ work has already uncovered a number of interesting finds including a previously unpublished database of 700 mills in existence across NSW between 1788 and World War One. It’s expected that more stories will be uncovered when Australian farming families come forward to tell their own tales, bits of milling machinery, and their family archives.

“The dataset was compiled in the late 1970s and was an incredible find given the hours of time and travel to pull all the information together, and it demonstrates just how important the milling of grain was to NSW’s early economic development from 1788 to World War One,” Dr Jennings said.

“This research has a lot to offer, particularly because no single, nationally-focused story of the milling industry has yet been told, and it will likely change the way we view Australia’s milling history as it will show how important the flour industry has been (to the nation).

“We are creating a spiritual and physical home for Australia’s grain milling industry, and from what we can tell no such museum exists anywhere in the world.”

The museum is expected to open early in 2020.

Contact Stephen Birrell on 0407 415 167 or via info@tremainsmill.com if you have any milling equipment or stories to share.