Historical Significance or Value
The Ida Valley Flourmill has historical significance, representing the small scale rural mills in Central Otago and more particular in the Maniototo, which processed the grain grown by the region’s farmers. It represents the period of small town self-sufficiency and industry characteristic of the nineteenth century, which was replaced by the large scale production from urban mills once the transport networks were established.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The former Ida Valley Flourmill sits in a sheltered and secluded site which emphasise the rustic nature of the place. The stone construction, its use of vernacular materials, its small scale, and garden setting give it aesthetic appeal.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Ida Valley Flourmill in its building form – three storeys, stone construction, small scale, is representative of the architectural form of a small nineteenth century flourmill. Although the building has been converted into a residence, there is still a sense of the mill’s past in its form and scale.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Ida Valley Flourmill (Former) represents the period of early agricultural development in the Maniototo, in particular the establishment of the grain industry. The story of the grain industry is one which is not often remembered in the history of the Maniototo area.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The Ida Valley Flourmill (Former) has an association with Ernest Hayes and the Hayes family from the nearby Hayes’ Engineering Works (Register No. 330, Category 1). Ernest Hayes installed the original machinery in the mill and worked there as miller and millwright, before going on to establish his works. The Hayes family also owned the mill after its closure.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The Ida Valley Flourmill (Former) sits on the same road as the Hayes’ Engineering Works. With the works the flourmill forms a picture of local industry, part of that area’s historical landscape.
The spectacular arid harsh area of Central Otago, blisteringly hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter, with its rocky outcrops and tussock covered ranges, was an area of food gathering (including moa processing), and silcrete quarry sites for Maori. The later arrivals Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu are known to have hunted weka and many other waterfowl on the Maniototo and other Central Otago catchments.
The small settlement of Rough Ridge grew up around the gold reefs which were opened up in the Ida Valley in the late 1860s, at the foot of Rough Ridge Range. There was no rush to the area as the reefs were small and difficult to mine. Coal was also mined, with the first coal-pit opened up in 1870 near the Idaburn. A small settlement grew in the area around Rough Ridge and Idaburn.
George Turnbull and Ida Valley Flourmills
Once the gold mining population stabilised and attention turned to agriculture, there was a need for grain processing. According to the Otago Daily Times there was a flourmill at nearby Naseby in 1884. Grain growers also had their grain gristed at Mr Jones’ mill at Ophir until Jones’ mill was badly damaged in flooding in the 1880s. George Turnbull was in the process of erecting his mill near the Idaburn in August 1884.
The Otago Witness reported in July 1887 that the ‘newly started’ flourmill of George Turnbull in Ida Valley had provided the impetus for cereal cultivation in the region, leading to a greater supply of the ‘staff of life’ than had previously been the case. The flour was of ‘excellent quality’, and ‘seems to command a ready sale.’ The writer went on to describe the mill as ‘an acknowledged boon to the settlers.’
Historian Janet Cowan writes that the mill was built by stonemason John McGregor, from stone quarried by John Stanley, with foundations apparently 11 ft. (3.35m) deep. Geoffrey Thornton writes that Ernest Hayes was responsible for installing the milling machinery.
George Turnbull, described as the manager of The Ida Valley Flourmills exhibited pearl barley at the Otago Exhibits in 1890. He was one of a handful of Maniototo exhibiters. The Maniototo Flour Mill Company from Naseby showed wheat grown at Eweburn, Sowburn, Hamilton, Kyeburn and Gimmerburn. The reporter described the Ida Valley Flour Milling Company as ‘to the fore with beautiful stone-dressed flour’, while the Maniototo Mill’s flour was roller-dressed.
Ernest Hayes seems to have stayed on at the mills, because in the early 1890s he advertised his services to local flourmills:
‘TO MASTER MILLERS – Wanted SITUATION by a practical Miller; over 20 years’ experience; understands stones, rolls, purifiers, centrifugals; can run either wind, steam, or water mill, and do general repairs, millwright work &c., if required – Apply Ernest Hayes, Ida Valley Flour Mills, Rough Ridge.
The Hayes Family at Rough Ridge
Ernest Hayes (1851-1933) was born in Warwickshire where, after leaving school, he was apprenticed as a millwright at “Messrs Pinfold Engineers and Millwrights”. Millwright work was a developing occupation in the nineteenth century ‘concerned with the practical application of power to industrial processes.’ Ernest Hayes, then, brought with him a range of practical skills.
Ernest married Hannah Eleanor Pearson (c.1862-1946) in February 1882 and in August of that year, with baby Llewellyn, boarded the Taranaki, arriving at Port Chalmers in November. Following his uncle Josiah Jones to Central Otago, he worked at Jones’ Vincent Flourmill, situated at Chatto Creek. In 1884 the family shifted to Rough Ridge (now Oturehua) where Ernest was employed to fit out and manage the Ida Valley Flourmill of George Turnbull, where he worked as a miller.
A little later Turnbull was advertising for a miller, so Hayes’ involvement may have changed:
‘WANTED, Steady Practical MILLER (single) for up-country mill (stones and rollers) – Apply by letter, George Turnbull, Ida Valley Flour Mills, Blackstone.’
In 1887 the Ida Valley Flourmill was run by Turnbull who was also advertised as a corn and produce dealer, the owner of a wool washing establishment, and a coal pit proprietor. George Turnbull looks to have been in some financial difficulty by 1890. A bankruptcy statement in the Otago Witness in February of that year gives some indication of his financial situation. Station manager William Burnett was listed as a secured creditor – with a mortgage over the flourmill and machinery, sections, wheat, flour &c. for £1157 12s 6d against the value of the security of £1918 19s 7d.
A child’s letter to the newspaper about the mill gives a special insight into the place, including the changing technology of milling. ‘A Millstone’ writes: ‘I am a Millstone. I was taken from the La Ferta Quarries in France and exported to Edinburgh in Scotland. I had iron hoops put round me there to keep my joints together. My master sold me, and again I was exported, this time to New Zealand, and I am now at work in the Ida Valley Flour Mills grinding the farmers [sic] golden grain into flour. I spin round 125 revolutions per minute, and make more wholesome flour than the iron rollers.’
The Ida Valley Flourmill, on its freehold site of 63 acres, was advertised for sale or lease in March 1895. There was also connected with the mill a license for a head race for nine heads of water. For a good tenant Turnbull was prepared to erect roller mill machinery. The advertisement made mention of the proximity of the mill to the Central Otago Railway still under construction, although ironically the coming of the railway meant that farmers could transport their produce out of the area and this led to a downturn in flourmilling in the Maniototo.
By the mid-1890s Ernest Hayes was listed as a miller and grain merchant, though W.R. Louden was listed as the proprietor of the Ida Valley Flourmills. Louden was described as Rough Ridge’s ‘local miller’ in January 1895, but was reportedly planning to leave the district for ‘fresh fields.’ The Louden family seems to have remained in the district as the mill was leased to J. Louden for a term of seven years. Louden made ‘extensive alterations’ to the mill which were nearly complete in February 1896. Louden expected ‘to have the mill running on wheat in the course of a week or so, and the whole of the plant, both flour and oatmeal, is expected to be in thorough working order by the end of March.’ The Otago Witness described it as a ‘valuable property’ which had ‘undergone a complete renovation’ and ‘worked very economically’ in the centre of a large farming district, taking wheat from as far away as Tarras.
This optimism was perhaps unfounded. In September 1898 the mill was grinding flour, but was described as ‘lying idle for the greater part of the year.’ There was discontent about the price of flour, for despite having a mill in its midst, the price of flour at Rough Ridge was described as ‘anything but cheap’ at £1 8s a bag. The mill continued to operate and was still being seen as an important element in the local economy at the beginning of the twentieth century, a ‘great benefit to the settlers who have a near and ready market for their produce’, as the New Zealand Tablet proclaimed in 1901.
In 1902 the land was transferred (by power of sale in mortgage) from Turnbull to William Burnett. Burnett appears as one of thirty eight master millers in a meeting of the flour millers’ union in 1900.
Burnett leased the property to John Ryley for five years from May 1904. John Ryley was a flourmiller trading as Anderson and Co., Flour and Oatmeal Millers. He was a key player in the flourmill industry, with two mills in Dunedin, one in Green Island and others in Naseby and in Palmerston. The mill is sometimes still referred to as Ryley’s Mill. It seems Ryley may have undertaken some improvements to the mill as the Otago Witness reports in 1906 that the proprietor was ‘making considerable alterations to the plant, and at the same time adding a steam motive plant, so that work will be continuous now instead of, as formerly, having to wait for water during dry spells.’
Original proprietor George Turnbull died around 1907, with his estate sold off by the executors.
Burnett sold the property to Llewellyn Hayes, Ernest Hayes’ son, in September 1920, so renewing the connection with the Hayes family. The mill was used for storage for E. Hayes and Son. Llewellyn Hayes sold the property to E Hayes and Son in June 1954. The property was sold shortly afterwards to Hayes and Smith, who had continued to operate the adjoining engineering works after E. Hayes and Son shifted the business to Templeton.
Later owner John Sorenson converted the by then derelict mill into a residence in the 1980s. His car broke down close to Oturehua and he was advised to visit the Hayes Engineering Works. Wandering further up Hayes Road he spotted the derelict flourmill behind some trees and was determined to acquire the mill as a holiday home. The mill was subdivided from the larger property. At this time the mill was sound but the adjoining oatmeal house was crumbling. The oatmeal house was replaced with a timber addition of a similar size. The windows and doors openings were enlarged. The new interior was largely contained within the existing building; gabled dormers were added on the top floor to provide light additional to that of the slit windows on the gable ends. Subsequent owners John and Marie Eagles continued the renovation.
In 2012 the former Ida Valley Flourmill remains a private residence and a boutique Bed and Breakfast – ‘The Mill B & B.’
The Ida Valley Flourmill is located at the end of Hayes Road, just south of the small Maniototo settlement of Oturehua. Hayes Road only leads to two properties, the complex of buildings associated with Hayes’ Engineering Works, and the mill. The road is gravel and closer to the house is more like a farm track winding through willows. The mill building sits within a secluded garden setting at the base of a hill. The setting is very private.
The mill is three storeys high and built of schist. The stone foundations are reportedly 11 feet (3.35m) deep, to support the above ground structure. The mill is a simple single gable structure, rectangular in plan. The roof is corrugated iron. The oatmeal house has been replaced with a modern timber addition which houses bedrooms and bathrooms. The original window openings have been enlarged when the building was converted to a residence.
The interior of the mill is still three storeys, which gives a sense of the scale of the place. The interior is fitted out simply with timber and stone which still gives a sense of the history of the place. The stonework is exposed on the walls. The three storeys are arranged with living/dining/kitchen on the ground floor, bedrooms and more living space on the first floor, and further bedroom accommodation and a bathroom on the top floor.
Mill underwent ‘complete renovation’
1900 - 1905
Mill ceased operation
Mill converted to a residence and Oatmeal House demolished
Schist stone, corrugated iron, timber
5th December 2012
Report Written By
Janet. C. Cowan, Down the Years in the Maniototo: A Survey of the Early History of Maniototo County and Naseby Borough, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Whitcombe and Tombs, Dunedin, 1948
Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982
E.N. Harraway, ‘A History of Flourmilling In Otago’ MA Thesis, University of Otago, 1965
A fully referenced registration report is available from the Otago/Southland Office of the NZHPT.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.