Fleming's Creamoata Mill complex

41-43 Mersey Street, Gore

  • Fleming's Creamoata Mill complex. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 14/02/2014.
  • Fleming's Creamoata Mill complex. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 14/02/2014.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Registered List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1
List Number 7470 Date Entered 15th September 2000

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Gore District

Region

Southland Region

Legal description

Secs 1, 2, 3, 21 & 22 Block XI Town of Gore

Assessment criteriaopen/close

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical:

The history of Fleming's Mill is almost a text-book example of the changing fortunes of New Zealand's agricultural and primary processing industries. The Mill was one of Gore's most enduring industries and it played a major role in the development of both the town and the economy of Southland. The Mill went into expansion mode over the years as the consistently high grain yield in Southland encouraged growth and enterprise. Before the development of a modem transport infrastructure, many industries were located in rural areas and Gore is a good example of this. Subsequent forces of economic rationalisation and globalisation have had a largely negative impact on these rural based industries and the announcement of the Mill's imminent closure by its Australian owners is an actualisation of these trends.

The Mill has been associated with key personalities in the development of Southland, These comprise members of the Fleming family (Tom Fleming arrived in Bluff in 1862) and Thomas Green (arrived in NZ 1864). Both the Fleming's and Thomas Green were successful entrepreneurs associated with the development of the region and heavily involved in civic affairs.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Aesthetic:

The size and bulk of Fleming's Mill along with its mixture of distinctive C19th & early C20th industrial building styles and elements forms an industrial streetscape unusual for a small town. It acts as a prominent landmark feature in Gore and the surrounding region.

Architectural:

Fleming's Mill has architectural significance as a turn of the century industrial complex with substantially intact street facades and buildings. The complex consists of eight older complete buildings plus the oat roasting kiln and the chimney stack, all of which are included in this registration proposal.

The most significant elements are;

1) The oldest surviving sections of the mill (circa 1893) which are in a standard late Victorian style.

2) Subsequent additions (early C20th) which feature Empire style decoration and a hint at deco influences.

3) Later additions demonstrate the influence of Modernism and the use of large-scale glazing to allow maximum penetration of sunlight.

4) The circular chimneystack, boiler house and feed silo over and associated conveyor-way provide a strong architectural industrial presence and utilitarian robustness.

These various buildings as well as providing a reading of the progressive expansion of the Mill over time combine in a "sympathetic pastiche" to give a tangible example of industrial design from the late C19th through to the mid C20th.

Technological:

The Fleming's Mill operation is significant for its ability to demonstrate the continued use of technology from an earlier era combined with present day milling processes. This has allowed for the study of changes in milling operations.

The Fleming's were considered technological leaders in the grain milling industry throughout their long involvement with the Mill, constantly making improvements and effectively increasing plant output. The invention of what was to become the company's signature product - "Creamoata" using a new drying machine in 1918 took the company to new heights of success and helped expand the mill operation. The

company became nationally recognised for its contributions to New Zealand grain milling, in particular the development of its oat products.

The Mill is still powered in part (10%) by electricity generated by its own steam boiler (installed 1930), steam engine and alternator system (installed 1937). The fact that the boiler is fired exclusively on waste oat husks dried during the rolled oats process is of particular note even though the use of industrial by products to fuel boilers is not unusual in itself. While all of the very earliest equipment has been replaced during various machinery upgrades this steam-powered system remains as an excellent example of early C20th technology.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Cultural:

Fleming's Mill provides important associations with some of New Zealand's most enduring cultural icons.

1) Regionally the Mill is a recognised landmark. This industrial landscape provides a visual link to the history and evolution of a major Southland agricultural industry (cereal growing) and rural town development. The Mill is a source of local pride and identity.

2) Nationally, Creamoata and Fleming's products dominated the breakfast markets for decades in New Zealand. Traditionally a New Zealander's breakfast meal was a major event, which began with a bowl of oat porridge. Consumers have consistently associated this popular cereal with the Fleming's Company. An 80- cent stamp was created for the 1999 "Nostalgia" food series commemorating Creamoata as a national icon.

3) Few people aged 50 or more would not remember "Sergeant Dan the Creamoata Man" who still stands to attention on the side of Fleming's Mill at Gore. Sergeant Dan was created in the early 1920s as a marketing ploy and this quasi-military figure successfully personified porridge for much of the first half of the century. Sergeant Dan is as well-known an image in popular culture as Buzzy Bee or an Edmonds Baking Powder tin.

Social:

From its inception as Gore's first flour mill in 1877 to the present day, this industrial site/complex has provided a livelihood for Gore and the surrounding District, acting for much of that time both as the town's major employer as well as processor of substantial amounts of high quality grains grown in Southland. The existence of the Mill in Gore and its continued operation for over more than a century reflects the

development and importance of grain growing (in particular oats) and processing in Southland. The Mill played a vital role in the expansion of Gore and Southland and helped to establish the settlement as a regional service centre and self-sustaining agricultural community.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

Fleming's Creamoata Mill is one of Gore's most enduring industries having played a major role in the development of the town and the wider economy of Southland. The Mill gained the reputation for being the largest oat grain mill in the Southern hemisphere (in the early part of the C20th) and the company was well known for their technological innovation and leadership. The Mill supported the agricultural sector of

Southland for over a century and helped provide for and encourage the development of the high quality grains that Southland is famed for. The Mill's history is a good example of changing fortunes over the years reflective of changes in transport infrastructure, farming techniques, technology and the subsequent forces of "economic rationalisation" leading to the decision to close the mill in 2000.

The production of Creamoata (cream of the oat) porridge provided a breakthrough for the company after its invention in 1918 at a time when the company was struggling. Creamoata went on to become one of New Zealand's most popular breakfast cereals. Generations of New Zealanders grew up on the porridge carefully marketed by the use of the famous icon, "Sergeant Dan the Creamoata Man." Both have strong cultural associations for New Zealanders with Sergeant Dan being illustrative of the quasi-militaristic "sons of the empire" attitudes that demonstrated New Zealanders continuing emotional and social links to Britain.

In addition to successfully advertising Creamoata, the advertising campaign of "eat Creamoata with a silver spoon" 1918-1932 contributed significantly to the history of New Zealand aviation. Fleming and Company sponsored the first flight from Invercargill to Auckland in a De Havilland DH9A bi-plane in 1920 releasing silver spoons via parachutes over towns en route.

The early relationship formed by Fleming's with the NZ Railways and the consequent development of inland railways to rural Southland and Otago strongly contributed to the success and expansion of the Gore Mill. The history of the Mill thus demonstrates the importance of railways to the development of rural New Zealand towns.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The Fleming's Mill is significant in that it is historically linked to both the development of Gore and two of New Zealand's most important icons. Creamoata porridge and Sergeant Dan became a New Zealand institution for much of last century and these symbols have served to encapsulate the childhood experiences of generations New Zealanders. (also see (a) above).

The Mill is associated with successful entrepreneurs and key personalities who contributed significantly to the development of Gore and Southland through their personal, political and business activities. These comprise Thomas Green who established Gore's first flourmill in 1877 and was involved in a number of other major Southland industries and the Fleming's family who were largely responsible for developing and expanding the mill between 1883-1930s. The Fleming's trade name became synonymous with Gore and the high quality range of grain products produced up until the present day.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

The Fleming's Mill is a fine, intact working example of an early C20th grain processing plant and is one of only two remaining commercial oat mills in New Zealand. The Mill provides a link to the history of grain milling and has excellent potential to provide knowledge of the importance that the grain industry played in the development of regional rural centres. Fortunately historic archives, displays of artefacts, written records, photographs etc. associated with the Mill have been collected and preserved in a small on-site interpretation centre that is presently open to the public. The present management has also operated guided tours of the more historic sections of the mill when possible. There is obvious potential to further develop historic interpretation at this site.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:

Fleming's Mill is important for its association with some of New Zealand's most enduring cultural icons. The Mill is especially important for Southlanders particularly residents of Gore who connect it to both the development of Gore as a rural service town and the evolution of an important long term agricultural industry. Furthermore Sergeant Dan (as seen on the building facade) is a town icon and local identity, often used to portray important events happening in the town. E.g. Seen as a Santa at Xmas time, and with a broken arm when the Gore hospital was threatened with closure.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

The Mill offers excellent opportunities to promote the importance that the agricultural industry played in Gore and Southland as well as its contribution to the wider New Zealand economy. There is potential to further expand on the present heritage interpretation on offer (see (c) above) by focusing on a variety of themes/stories. E.g. technological changes and challenges, industrial architecture, social history, and the

development of cultural icons. It is obviously vital that the present museum collection stay's intact, ideally on-site for educational purposes. Further, if the 1930s steam machinery can be kept running, this offers a unique opportunity for the public to view an intact operation and gain an understanding of early steam/electric technology.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

Refer to Architectural and Technological statements in Physical Significance.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

See "Cultural" and Section (a) above. In addition the use of the "thistle" as a Fleming's branding and advertising motive emphasises the historical links between Scotland and Southern New Zealand.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

The architectural presence of the Mill is rare and unique in that its bulk and height and architectural integrity is very unusual for a small interior country town in Southern New Zealand.

Also rare is the fact that the early C20th steam/electric generating plant is still in operation and is fired on oat husks. This plant is still supplying 10 % of the Mill's electrical energy requirement.

The Mill is one of only two large-scale commercial oat processing plants remaining in New Zealand. Furthermore the fact that the mill is able to demonstrate the continued use of historic machinery combined with present day milling technology and processes is considered unique.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The creation and continuing operation of the Fleming's Mill in Gore for over a century has contributed significantly to the establishment of Gore as an important regional service centre and rural community. The Mill has played a vital role in the development and expansion of Southland's agricultural industry as well as creating national cultural icons through its products and marketing innovations.

See also Cultural Significance and (a) & (b) above.

Linksopen/close

Additional informationopen/close

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Fleming, J. F. 'Fleming, Thomas 1848 - 1930', updated 22 June 2007, URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern region office