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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Australia’s only working 19th century windmill is in Tasmania

The historic town of Oatlands, Tasmania was settled in 1821 and in 2016 the population was just under 700. 84kms (52mi) north of Hobart and 115kms (71m) south of Launceston, it is off the main highway, and definitely worth a detour to see its splendour and also the Callington windmill precinct.

The windmill is a Lincolnshire tower mill, built in 1837 by John Vincent. John and his wife Susannah emigrated in 1823 from England to Tasmania. Both were aged 44. They operated two licensed hotels in Tasmania. Rumour has it that John also ran an illegal distillery on the side here, to supply his hotels.

Flour milling was important to the fledgling Tasmanian economy in the 1800s, its products exported to the Australian mainland and overseas.

John and Susannah's son John bought the mill from his father in 1840, running it as a mill until he left for the Victorian goldrush in the 1850s. Passed from owner to owner over the years, it worked as a mill until eventually falling into disrepair.

The mill has now been fully restored and recommissioned (from 2009 to 2010). Visitors can buy flour here to this day. Just as in the 1800s, grain is grown locally by farmers and transformed into delicious baked and cooked good. Visitors can also get an amazing view over Oatlands township and surrounding district by climbing up the internal stairs.

The Miller lived near the mill and his hut still stands on the property. The sandstone for the walls of buildings in the town was sourced from nearby Lake Dulverton.

The precinct also housed a barn, stables, piggery and granary, all still true to their 19th century designs.

Dry stone walls were built in the Oatlands area, and a plaque commemorating this skill is found on one constructed with the help and knowledge of Eleanor Bjorksten, completed in 2007. As many as thirteen women have been erecting these tediously labour intensive walls.

Some of the buildings are still undergoing restoration. Different repair styles over time have added to the fabric of the building. The mismatched brickworks and moss covered bricks have their own beauty and stories to tell. Modern and necessary guttering compliment the historic tales, rather than competing.

Today, the mill stands tall and proud as the Callington Mill Distillery where whisky is now produced once again. Learning techniques from distilleries in Scotland and New Zealand, this Tasmanian company produces a mighty fine product. It is worth the trip to Oatlands to admire the mill precinct and sample of a dram or two of this delicious tipple. I am sure that original mill builder, John Vincent, would be proud!

Happy Travels!

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