Crown Flour Mills (Former)

1 Meek Street, Oamaru

  • Crown Flour Mills (Former). Image courtesy of vallance.photography@xtra.co.nz.
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 31/12/2007.
  • Crown Flour Mills (Former). Image courtesy of the North Otago Museum.
    Copyright: North Otago Museum.
  • Crown Flour Mills (Former). Image courtesy of the North Otago Museum.
    Copyright: North Otago Museum.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2285 Date Entered 7th April 1983

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Secs 1-2 Blk XCV Town of Oamaru (CT OT225/261), Otago Land District, shown as part of Lot 5 on DP 6043, and the building known as Crown Flour Mills (Former) thereon. Registration includes only the original portion of the building.

City/District Council

Waitaki District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Secs 1-2 Blk XCV Town of Oamaru (CT OT225/261), Otago Land District. Note: these land parcels are shown as part of Lot 5 on DP 6043.

Summaryopen/close

The Crown Flour Mills (Former) building was constructed in 1878 for millers J.T. Evans and Company. Designed by architect James Johnston, the mill is an important survivor from North Otago’s flour-milling boom of the 1870s and 1880s.

North Otago was one of New Zealand’s premier grain growing regions in the 1870s. The North Otago Times proclaimed that ‘mills are multiplying in this district...We have a windmill, steam-mills, and water-mills, and milling enterprise is evidently not yet at an end.’

John Thomas Evans (1841-1913) entered the milling business with James Lees and Charles Moore in the 1870s. When millers J.K. Anderson and Company put their Teanaraki Mill up for sale, the three men took over the business, trading as J.T. Evans & Co. Judging the Teanaraki Mill too small, the company decided to build a larger mill in Oamaru that would provide both storage and manufacturing space. Architect James Johnston advertised the tender in September 1877. Mr Barclay was the stonemason, Henry Sidon, the carpenter, and Jack, Steel and Hendry, the engineers. The mill was built of Oamaru stone and ‘American pine.’

Building was well underway by June 1878, when the paper reported the construction of the 90ft high chimneystack. The stonemason used over 60,000ft [18,300m] of stone. The mill was the biggest building in Oamaru: it was 120ft long [36.5m], 54ft [16.5m] wide, with a 53ft [16m] high façade over four storeys. The two-storey engine house, built partly of stone and partly of iron, was 59ft [18m] long, 40ft [12m] wide and 34ft [10m] high. The mill was steam powered and ran four pairs of millstones. Elevators moved the grain from the receiving floor to the upper floors of the mill. The Crown Flour Mills operation was running by September 1878. The mill had storage for over 5000 tonnes of merchandise or for fifty thousand sacks of grain. The scale of the mill showed how optimistic millers were of a prosperous future.

J.T. Evans and Company ran into financial problems almost right away. A four-month delay in the building contract meant that the company missed a season of production. The partners attempted to float a company but this attempt failed. John Evans and Charles Moore ended up in bankruptcy court, and the mill was sold to millers J. and T. Meek.

Scottish-born Thomas Meek (1842-1905), a joiner by trade, arrived in Oamaru in 1863. After buying a threshing machine, which he worked for six years, he then developed a flour milling business with his brother John. Thomas was prominent in local politics, being a member of Oamaru Borough Council for many years, and held a seat on the Oamaru Harbour Board.

The Meeks set about developing the mill – replacing the iron engine house with stone around 1880. In 1886, the Meeks installed a roller system and electric light, and renamed the mills the Crown Roller Mills. The Otago Witness praised the modern technology and convenience, describing how the mill had its own railway siding and weighbridge with a turntable. On the first floor were the rollers with spouts that conveyed the products from the machines on the floor above to the elevators. The flour was bagged on the first floor. On the second floor were more conveyors to the third floor where the scalpers and dust collectors, flour bins and bran bins were located. On the fourth floor were the tops of all the elevators and its central shaft and drive belt. Meek’s Crown Roller Mills, producing the ‘Snow Drop’ brand of flour, operated until the 1980s.

Milling changed in the twentieth century. New wheat varieties meant grain could be grown more widely, ending North Otago’s predominance as a wheat-growing region. The local market was static. Freight was expensive. Imported wheat and flour from Australia competed with the local products. By the mid-1930s, farming had changed; meat and wool were in vogue. In Oamaru, only Meek’s and Ireland’s mills survived. The Ireland milling group took over the Meek’s in the 1960s. In 1981 then managing director J.K. Ireland wrote that the mill was one of the ‘few remaining early mills which continue to run efficiently in almost original form’ and its products were as good as any produced by modern mills.

In December 1987, Queenstown’s Defiance Mills took over the Ireland Group’s mills. Defiance sold the mill in 1988. The mill closed. Since the late 1980s, the former mill has been home to a car wrecking business.

In 2013, the former Crown Flour Mills building remains home to Smash Palace Auto Dismantlers.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Johnston, James

James Johnston, a mason by trade, was the main rival to Forrester and Lemon in Oamaru. He designed a number of large buildings in a Renaissance palazzo style. These include the Globe Hotel (1881), the Waitaki County Chambers (1881) and Smith's Grain Store (1882).

Sidon, Henry

Henry Sidon was an Oamaru builder. He was born in London and served an apprenticeship to a builder after he left school. He came to Oamaru in 1859. After owning a sheep run for some time, he returned to the building trade in 1878. Sidon built many Oamaru buildings, including some of those associated with Waitaki Boys’ High School, the grandstand at Oamaru racecourse, the Union Stores, a number of dwellings and the Ardgowan Presbyterian Church.

Source: Information Upgrade Report for Crown Flour Mills (Former), Oamaru, Register No. 2285, Sept 2013

Barclay, Mr

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Jack, Steel and Hendry

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 -
Building completed, circa November 1878

Modification
1886 -
Converted to a roller mill. Begins operating in May.

Other
1914 -
Fire in engine room

Addition
-
Addition to the south east elevation (Thames Street side)

Addition
-
Addition to north west elevation

Completion Date

25th September 2013

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

McDonald, 1977

K C McDonald, White Stone Country: the story of North Otago, Capper Press, Christchurch, 1977, [1962]

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from Otago/Southland Area 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.