Clark's Mill Complex

1017 Alma-Maheno Road (State Highway One), Maheno

  • Clark's Mill Complex, Maheno.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Elaine Marland. Date: 4/04/2018.
  • Clark's Mill Complex, Maheno.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Grant Sheehan. Date: 11/12/2016.
  • Clark's Mill Complex, Maheno.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Grant Sheehan. Date: 11/12/2016.
  • Clark's Mill Complex, Maheno. Interior of Clark's Flourmill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Grant Sheehan. Date: 11/12/2016.
  • Clark's Mill Complex, Maheno. Interior of Clark's Flourmill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Grant Sheehan. Date: 11/12/2016.
  • Clark's Mill Complex, Maheno. The Miller's House and Cottage (now known as Smokey Joes).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Elaine Marland. Date: 4/04/2018.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 346 Date Entered 26th November 1981 Date of Effect 26th November 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described Pt Lot A DP 1545 (RT OT230/58), and Lot 167-170 DP 313 (RT OT140/175), and Sec 811R Blk VII Oamaru SD (RT OT151/10) and Lot 1-3 DP 4254 (RT OT257/151), part Main South Line, and part Alma-Maheno Road (State Highway I), Otago Land District, and the buildings and structures associated with Clark's Mill Complex thereon, and their fittings and fixtures and the associated chattels (refer to Appendix 1-2 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot A DP 1545 (RT OT230/58), and Lot 167-170 DP 313 (RT OT140/175), and Sec 811R Blk VII Oamaru SD (RT OT151/10) and Lot 1-3 DP 4254 (RT OT257/151), part of the Main South Line, and part Alma-Maheno Road (State Highway I), Otago Land District

Location description

To the east of State Highway One between Maheno and Reidston in North Otago


Clark's Mill Complex, built in 1866 in the North Otago town of Maheno, is New Zealand's only surviving water-powered flourmill. First known as the Kakanui Flour and Oatmeal Mill, the mill was built for early settlers Matthew Holmes and Henry Campbell. It began operating in 1867 under the ownership of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company.

The first millers to lease the mill were James Anderson and Andrew Mowat, who already had a large Dunedin milling operation. The heavy machinery for the mill was brought to New Zealand by sailing ship from the United Kingdom, Australia and United States in the 1860s and 1870s. Wheat and oats were ground using horizontal grinding stones, which were powered by an 'overshot' waterwheel. Anderson leased the mill alone from 1876 before miller Daniel Forrest took it over in 1880. During the 1880s the way in which the mill worked was altered; the wheat was ground by roller machinery powered by water turbines, rather than by grinding stones. Despite this investment, the business was not turning a profit. In 1901, the New Zealand and Australian Land Company was relieved to sell the complex to the enterprising Alexander Clark and his brothers in 1901, after whom the Mill is now known. The Mill remained in Clark ownership for the next seventy five years.

The Clarks modernised the machinery at the mill, their last major overhaul closing the mill for a year in 1948. After two generations, in December 1976 the mill ceased operating, and was sold to the Northern Roller Milling Co, who auctioned the Mill a month later. Clark’s Mill Complex was bought by the NZHPT. Its restoration was the biggest project the NZHPT had undertaken at the time. In recent years the Mill has been regularly open to the public.

The Mill was designed by eminent Edinburgh engineer James Balfour Melville. Built from Oamaru limestone cut from a nearby hill, the four-storey Mill is a simple, striking building typical of the mills constructed North Otago in the mid-nineteenth century. It houses a significant and rare collection of working mill machinery dating from the nineteenth century through to the post-war period. The Mill includes the original mill race, which runs from the intake gate at the Kakanui River through a tunnel carved in an outcrop of stone and along a stone-lined channel. It also features the railway siding that was built in 1877 to connect the mill to the main trunk line, and former store buildings dating from the 1870s.

The millers were housed in the miller’s house and a cottage. Originally very similar, these two residences were built from Oamaru stone around the same time as the Mill. The cottage, now known as Smokey Joes, is largely unaltered. The miller’s house has since been converted into an L-shaped bungalow. The close proximity of the two buildings, one original and one modified, clearly demonstrate how the miller’s house has changed over time.

Clark’s Mill Complex is of outstanding historical and physical significance. The Mill is a unique representation of the rise and decline of wheat growing and flour milling in North Otago, an industry that was central to the district’s economy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It has special historical value as one of the earliest mills in the area and it continued to operate and expand for nearly 110 years, half a century after most contemporary, local mills had closed down. It reflects its long history through its very rare and technologically significant collection of working machinery, and in the cumulative architectural development of its buildings. Built of the Oamaru stone which surrounds the complex, the mill building is of architectural and aesthetic significance. The Mill Complex, set against the limestone escarpments typical of North Otago, remains an impressive and imposing historical landmark. It has an impressively solid and imposing presence and has defined the site for nearly a century and a half.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Mill is a unique representation of the rise and decline of wheat growing and flour milling in North Otago, an industry that was central to the district’s economy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and of importance in New Zealand’s history. It has special historical value as one of the earliest mills in the area and it continued to operate and expand for nearly 110 years, half a century after most contemporary, local mills had closed down. It reflects its long history through its very rare and technologically significant collection of working machinery, and in the cumulative architectural development of its buildings. The mill also reflects general trends in property ownership in the nineteenth and twentieth century, from its ownership by privileged landowning settlers, through to the powerful New Zealand and Australian Land Company, through to a long period of family ownership and management.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

Clark’s Mill Complex, set against the limestone escarpments typical of North Otago, is an impressive and imposing landmark. Built of the Oamaru stone which surrounds it the Complex, the buildings reflect their setting, the stone vernacular to the area. The aesthetic significance remains even though the mill house has lost its early symmetry through incremental additions.

Archaeological Significance or Value:

The site of Clark’s Mill has been occupied since the 1860s and as such has the ability to provide archaeological information about the mill system at work and the way the site has changed over time. There are a large number of archaeological features related to the milling operation, most of which include visible features, from the Kakanui River to the eastern edge of the NZHPT property boundary and beyond.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The mill building, by James Balfour Melville, is architecturally significant. It is a reproduction of Scottish and northern English Victorian mill style and its modest and simple building form is representative of other contemporary mill buildings in the wider district that have since been lost. Fine examples of Oamaru stone construction, the buildings at the complex are part of a wider collection of Oamaru stone buildings in the region that are associated with the agricultural industry. The close proximity of the two early buildings known as Smokey Joes and the Miller’s Cottage, originally very similar, clearly demonstrate how the miller’s house has changed over time.

Technological Significance or Value:

The Mill has technological significance in terms of engineering achievement, both in its original construction, chiefly from local materials, and in its restoration more than a century later, which was the biggest project the NZHPT had then undertaken. The mill and mill machinery give the Mill special technological significance and also considerable rarity value as a mill with working machinery.

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

The history of Clark’s Mill Complex shows the development and change within the wheat growing industry, one of the early significant secondary industries that developed in North Otago. Its history of ownership and the changing technologies associated with flour milling reflects the history of milling more largely in New Zealand throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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

The Mill was designed by prominent engineer James Balfour. Balfour made an outstanding contribution in the area of lighthouse design. The Mill is an example of his work in a different field which adds to the understanding of Balfour’s work as a whole. The Mill is also associated with prominent pastoralist Mathew Holmes and the New Zealand and Australian Land Company which also operated Totara Estate.

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

Clark’s Mill has been operated by a group of long standing volunteers who have given of their time and expertise to run the mill for members of the public. Clark’s Mill is listed as one of the cultural and heritage attractions on websites which promote the attractions of North Otago.

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

Clark’s Mill is already providing public education in the form of guided tours on operating days. Visitors are guided through the Mill and shown the machinery with an explanation of the process of flour milling and then the machinery is turned on and the real education starts.

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

The design of the Mill is a significant example of nineteenth century flour mill design (with modifications) which shows the working system of a mill, its associated race and siding, and accommodation. The Mill machinery is in itself of special significance.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

Built in the mid-1860s in an area in the early stages of pastoralism, Clark’s Mill Complex is among the first flour mills to operate in rural North Otago, one of the early secondary industries to develop there which became a source of prosperity for the region and gave North Otago its architectural character.

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

Clark’s Mill is a rare type of historic place being an example of a nineteenth century flour mill with working machinery, and the associated miller’s accommodation.

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

Clark’s Flour Mill Complex represents the history of wheat growing in the surrounding North Otago landscape. The Flour Mill processed wheat grown in the area at a time when grain growing was central to the North Otago economy and is part of the historical landscape which tells of that period.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f, g, i, j, and k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

Clark’s Mill Complex has outstanding historical and physical significance. It provides a tangible link to two historical narratives of importance to New Zealand: the rise and decline of wheat growing and flour milling in North Otago in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the changing face of property ownership during this period. It embodies technological significance in terms of engineering achievement, both in its original construction, chiefly from local materials, and in its restoration more than a century later. The mill and mill machinery give the Mill particular technological significance, and also considerable rarity. The mill building, by James Melville Balfour, is architecturally significant for its reproduction of Scottish and northern English Victorian mill style, and its participation in the body of Oamaru stone buildings in the district. The Mill Complex, set against the limestone escarpments typical of North Otago, remains an impressive and imposing historical landmark. It has an impressively solid and imposing presence and has defined the site for nearly a century and a half. Clark’s Mill Complex is an impressive and imposing landmark.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Balfour, James Melville

James Balfour was born and educated in Edinburgh where he subsequently entered the family business of D & T Stevenson & Co, contracting engineers to the Scottish Light(house) Service. On Stevenson & Co's recommendation Balfour was appointed to the position of Marine Engineer to the Otago Provincial Government and he arrived in New Zealand on 23 September 1863 to take up the post. In his capacity as Marine Engineer Balfour surveyed the Clutha River and the Molyneux and Waikawa harbours, designed the Otago graving dock, was a member of the Dunedin' Sanitary Commission, and reported on the proposed harbours of New Plymouth, Timaru and Wanganui.

Of greater significance, however, was Balfour's contribution to the national lighthouse system. He designed the lights at Taiaroa Head (1864), Dog Island (1865), Farewell Spit (1870), Nugget Point (1870), Cape Campbell (1870), Ponui Passage (1871), Bean Rock (1872), and Cape Saunders (1880). Although the lighthouses at Taiaroa Head and Dog Island were both of masonry construction Balfour came to favour the erection of timber lighthouses as they could be built much more rapidly. Having been promoted to the position of General Government Marine Engineer, Inspector of Steamers and Superintendent of Lighthouses in October 1866, Balfour's other legacies to the country's lighthouse system were the first regulations governing the conduct of lighthouse keepers and the use of Stevenson's lanterns and optics by the Marine Department.

James Balfour drowned during an official visit to Timaru harbour in December 1869 at the age of thirty-eight, but he is remembered in engineering histories as being one of a number of outstanding engineers who did so much to further the development of the colony.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Wheat Growing in New Zealand:

Wheat was an unknown crop in New Zealand until Europeans introduced it to the country. Wheat was grown throughout New Zealand but by the 1870s was concentrated in South Canterbury, North Otago and eastern Southland. The earliest flour milling in New Zealand was done by hand, using a hand-operated mill such as the one missionary Samuel Marsden had with him in 1814. In 1834 the first mill was built at Te Waimate Mission Station’s farm.

The first Otago flour mill was built by the Somerville family in 1849 at Andersons Bay, Dunedin. In late 1866, when what became known as Clark’s Mill was built on the Kakanui River, there was only one earlier mill in the Oamaru area. By 1880 the district of Oamaru produced 28,000 tons of wheat; grain stores and flour mills flourished.

Wheat growing in New Zealand declined from about the beginning of the First World War, due to shortage of labour as well as the break-up of the large estates. A decade later, wheat was increasingly imported from Australia. The first half of the twentieth century saw the closure of many small mills.

The last mill to be built in North Otago in the nineteenth century is also the last mill still working today. It was established by Milligan and Bond at Ngapara, 25km west of Oamaru, in 1898. After 1905 only the Waianakarua mill, Ireland and Co’s, and J. and T. Meek’s Mills still in operated in North Otago along with those at Ngapara, and Clark’s Mill near Maheno.

Mill Technology:

Flour mills were defined by the way they were powered and how they ground grain. Nineteenth-century mills were generally powered by water, steam or wind. Traditionally, water-powered mills used mill wheels, whose power was determined by the flow of the water, and the size of the wheel. Wheels were described as ‘overshot’, ‘undershot’ or ‘breastshot’ depending on whether the water struck the wheel at the top, bottom, or near the centre. Greater power could be achieved by water turbines, and through the 1880s and 1890s traditional water wheels were phased out in their favour. In the mid-twentieth century electricity rendered turbines obsolete too.

The process of grinding the grain to separate the husk from the flour traditionally involved using pairs of millstones aligned on a central shaft. The top (‘runner’) stone rotated, while the bottom (‘bedstone’) remained still. Grooves in the stones left sharp edges that ground the grain, sending the flour outwards. The stones needed dressed or cleaned to ensure the edges ground the grain cleanly, or the flour would be discoloured.

From the 1880s roller technology began to replace grinding stones: the grain was picked over for chaff, and passed through steel break rollers. The bran was collected, and the grain went through sieves, purifiers and reduction rollers, after which wheat germ was collected. The flour was then refined through more rollers. Through the 1880s and 1890s mills were increasingly converted to roller technology.

Early Kakanui and Maheno:

The North Otago coast was a resource rich area for Maori and remains so today. Ngai Tahu’s prehistoric presence is shown through a range of archaeological sites from middens, urupa, to rock art. A midden on the north side of the Kakanui Township bears witness to the earlier presence of Ngai Tahu. Five Maori archaeological sites are recorded near the limestone cliffs to the east of Clark’s Mill, including rock paintings and petroglyphs, and there is further evidence of Maori occupation at nearby Totara.

In June 1848 the government purchased 20,000,000 acres of the South Island from Ngai Tahu chiefs, including land at Maheno. Reserves were to be designated for Maori in perpetuity, but this was only completed after the purchase by Walter Mantell, under Governor Grey’s instructions. In October Mantell met with Chief Rawiri Te Mamaru at Kakanui, where he marked off a reserve of 75 acres. At nearby Moeraki, which had long been an important settlement for Maori, there was ongoing dissatisfaction with the 500 reserve. In 1853 the government increased the Moeraki reserve by 75 acres by taking the land at the Kakanui reserve.

Kemp’s purchase paved the way for settlement, and legislation formalised tenure under 14-year leases, taken up by runholders or ‘squatters’. Many runholders, often absentee landlords, came from educated, upper-class backgrounds with common business interests and social connections.

Mathew Holmes (1817-1901) and Henry Campbell (1824-1927) at the Kakanui Mill:

Mathew Holmes, co-owner of the Totara Estate and co-builder of the Kakanui Mill, was one such gentleman runholder. Born in Ireland, the son of a brewer, Holmes left school and worked in a woollen mill. Holmes emigrated to Victoria in 1839 where he formed Holmes, White and Co. In 1854 he returned to Britain and bought an estate in Scotland, before leaving for New Zealand in 1859. In 1860 as the ‘Holmes Association’, he bought properties in Otago, including Totara Estate near Oamaru. Holmes’s obituary states that he was working for the New Zealand and Australian Land Company (NZALC) as its New Zealand general manager before 1862. This was before the NZALC was formed, and may be an error, but could point to an early relationship between Holmes and its founders.

Holmes’ partner Henry Campbell was born in Tasmania, managing the family farm after his father died. As a young man he farmed first at Victoria and came to New Zealand in1860. The following year he helped Mathew Holmes to purchase sections from the Oamaru Hundred to add to Totara estate, and became a co-owner.

Holmes and Campbell turned to flour milling. Notice of Holmes and Campbell’s intention to build the Mill was reported in the North Otago Times in July 1865:

‘Yet another flour mill, to be driven by water power, will shortly be erected by Messrs Holmes and Campbell, at Totara. The machinery for this mill is understood to be already on the way out, and it is stated to comprise all the newest appliances. The water-wheel will be a cast iron one, six feet in diameter; and French burr stones will be employed. Many benefits to the community generally may be calculated to arise from the establishment of such mills in a rising agricultural district like our own.’

Holmes and Campbell’s eye for a business opportunity is attested by the fact that at this stage no wheat was actually being grown in the area. An update followed in December:

‘We are informed that Messrs Holmes and Campbell, of Totara, are about to proceed with the erection of their flour mill there. The plans have been prepared, and it is intended to have the establishment in working order in time for this season’s crop.’

The call for tenders ‘for the erection of Mill Buildings, and other works on Kakanui River’ was advertised in March 1866. James Melville Balfour, who drew the plans, came to Dunedin from Edinburgh, where he had trained as an engineer. Appointed Marine Engineer to the Otago provincial government, he arrived in New Zealand in September in 1863. In addition to surveying work he designed a number of lighthouses. In 1866 he was appointed to two government roles as marine engineer and inspector of steam vessels. Balfour drowned in a boating accident on 18 December 1869.

In April 1866 it was announced that the contract for building the mill was let to Mr Campbell, with a three month completion date, at a cost of £2,000. The bulk of the machinery was sent from Gray’s of Uddingston, Scotland. The North Otago Times report:

‘that the building will be three storeys in height, with lofting over all. It will have a very imposing appearance. The principal apartment will measure, inside the walls, 50 by 28 feet. The kiln-house [oatmeal house] measures 18 feet square. There will be four pairs of stones employed in the mill and the entire machinery will be driven by water led from the Kakanui River and conducted in a race six feet wide to the mill. The mason work will be of the most substantial description, the building stone being procured from an adjoining cliff, and the whole mill will be run up in courses of from 12 to 14 inches in height. The timber to be employed is to be the native red pine, totara, black pine, or miro; American, Baltic, or Kauri pine being used where specifically stated.’

By October Holmes and Campbell were looking for staff, advertising for ‘a thoroughly qualified Manager and Miller for the Kakanui Flour and Oatmeal Mills’, but sold the business shortly after. At the end of 1866 the New Zealand and Australian Land Company (NZALC) purchased the Totara Estate and the Mill from Holmes and Campbell for £98,326.5s.1d.

The Kakanui Mill was running by 14 February 1867, when a flour sample from the ‘recently erected’ Kakanui Mills was found to be ‘remarkably fine and pure’. Hector Brown, the first miller, was an experienced and community minded man who had come to New Zealand from Scotland in 1864.

New Zealand and Australia Land Company 1866-1901:

From the late 1860s large tracts of land in North Otago were bought by the New NZALC. The NZALC was formed by the Glasgow banker James Morton, in 1866, with a capital of £2,000,000 when it bought the Totara Estate and mill. Holmes stayed on in some sort of management capacity for a couple of years.

Flooding was a serious issue for the Mill. The most memorable flood was that of February 1868, in which nine people drowned at Totara Estate, and much damage was done at the Mill. A newspaper story described how, ‘the water rose four inches above the upper floor, being a distance of fully 20 feet above the ordinary level of the stream, which when the flood was at its height, was nearly a mile wide. It is feared that very extensive repairs will be required to the mill and mill-race.’ It was reported a week later that the mill wheel was completely destroyed, and the water had been ‘within six inches of the flour in the second [sic; first] floor of the building’. Flooding in May 1870 reportedly reached halfway up the ground floor window. In 1908 heavy rainfall caused four foot of water to enter the Mill. There were sizeable floods in 1932, 1938, 1940, 1961 and 1968. The heaviest was in June 1980, when the mill building was flooded above the ground floor.

The NZALC’s 1868 accounts show that they spent nearly £2300 on the Mill. The repairs required by the flood must make up a proportion of this expenditure, but the company also invested in coolers, conductors and elevators.

Anderson and Mowat: 1869-76:

Douglas, Alderson and Co took over the agency of the Mill, advertising it for let in June 1869. Anderson and Mowat took up the lease and in November advertised:

‘Kakanui Flour & Oatmeal Mills. To Merchants, Squatters, Bakers, Farmers and Others. We, the undersigned, Millers and Produce Merchants, Dunedin, have now got possession of these Mills, and will do gristing at lowest current rates. We are also in a position to supply flour and other produce at lowest prices. In connection with the Mill, we have opened a Grocery Store, where everything will be kept of the Best Quality, and sold at Dunedin prices. Anderson and Mouat, Dunedin Steam Flour Mills.’

The partnership of James Anderson (1830-1912) and Andrew Mowat (also spelt Mouat) had been formed in May 1865, and they ran a steam-powered flour mill in South Dunedin. They would later have other mills at Oamaru and Teaneraki.

Hector Brown continued as miller. In January 1873 he lived at Otepopo, so perhaps he had ceased working at Kakanui by then. He died in Dunedin in 1884. At the end of Brown’s time at Kakanui he trained Thomas Fleming (1848-1930) from Invercargill. Fleming took over management of the mill by 1873 and remained there until 1875, when he returned to Southland and managed, then bought, a succession of mills, closing them down to centralise flour production in Invercargill.

Anderson and Co: 1876-80:

In January 1875 the NZALC re-advertised the lease of the Mill, ‘now in the occupation of Messrs Anderson and Mowat’. The advertisement stated:

‘The Mill[..]is capable of turning out from fifty to sixty tons of flour per week, has a never-failing supply of water, and is within two hundred yards of the Southern Trunk Line of Railway to be opened shortly.’

Anderson and Mowat dissolved their partnership and by April 1876 the Mill was advertised by ‘Anderson and Co’. The first record of David Hay as manager Mill dates from May the next year. Hay’s father, William Hay, had been in New Zealand since 1860 and was an employee of Anderson and Mowat.

The development of the Mill was closely bound up with improved transport links. The railway reached Moeraki, running past Clark’s Mill, in November 1876, and Dunedin, by September 1878. A siding to connect the Mill with the trunk line was completed around 1877. This siding has been extremely important to this property and its occupiers, enabling them to efficiently transport the flour and to diversify their business.

Despite such developments NZALC were unhappy with the return on the Mill. In 1878 William Soltau Davidson, general manager of the NZALC, took an active interest in the company’s holdings. He noted that it was necessary to spend £400 repairing the foundations, and to buy a new wheel that could drive more pairs of stones, with the rent to increase accordingly, a potential point of dispute with tenants.

Daniel Forrest: 1880-84:

In early 1880 the NZALC listed the Mill for sale or let, stating that ‘The Mills are capable of turning out 50 to 60 tons of flour per week at present, with power for 100 tons, besides oatmeal.’

Daniel Forrest was a partner with Allan King in a Green Island mill until the partnership was dissolved. Forrest bought the Mosgiel Flour Mill in 1870. He marketed his flour under his own name, as ‘For(r)est’s Flour, Kakanui Mills’ from mid-1880 until mid-1885. Forrest frequently complained to the NZALC about the lack of water power and offered to pay interest on the cost of replacing the water wheel. Davidson noted that ‘I think on the whole it will be advisable for the company to sell the place when a good offer is obtained for it’. At the end of 1882 the NZALC called for tenders for a new turbine water wheel to make the Mill more productive. The turbine was installed the following year.

D. and J. Hay: 1884-97:

Former manager David Hay had left the Mill when Forrest arrived, advertising in March 1880 but also acted as agent for Forrest. Railway licence applications show that Forrest handed the Mill over to Hay around May 1884. David Hay advertised as a flour miller in Wises directory for ten years from1887.

Hay seems to have driven a fairly hard bargain with the NZALC, Davidson privately noting in 1886:

‘The Kakanui Mill has been a never ending trouble for the company as we have to go on introducing improvements to keep the tenant in the place as he naturally says that unless he can produce flour equal in quality to that ground at the new roller mills lately erected in the colony, he can not make his rent. We are getting about half the rent we got in 1878 and are glad to get a tenant at all seeing that the mill is rather old fashioned[..] The erection of the mill was a mistaken venture for the company and they would have been better without it.’

Davidson frequently reiterated this sentiment throughout the 1880s and 1890s, while considering other uses the Mill might be sold for, though other proposals came to nothing. Having sunk so much money in the mill, it was decided in mid-1892 to upgrade it by installing roller technology. The roller plant, with seven sets of elevators, was made by Otto Schumacher (Melbourne).

The Clarks: 1901-77

Clark Bros: 1901-1915:

Scottish born James Clark (d.1886) and his wife Anabella (née Lownie) arrived in New Zealand in 1878. In 1879, they took a lease on a farm near Maheno. After trying life as a sailor, and then a policeman, their son Alexander Clark (1863-1934) went into farming and contract threshing with two of his younger brothers in 1888, as Clark Bros.

Alexander Clark described how in 1901 he chatted with John Macpherson, manager at Totara and a regular client of Clark Bros. Macpherson asked ‘if I would care to buy a flour mill, as word had come from Glasgow to dispense with the mill at Maheno. I assured him that I knew nothing whatsoever about a flour mill but he persuaded me to pay a deposit, and having committed myself we left to look over the mill.’ The NZALC cut its losses, the £2200 paid by the Clarks well below its £5720 valuation two decades previously.

The transfer of the siding licence identifies the Clark Bros as Alexander Clark, David Clark, Robert B[l]aikie, and Al[l]an Stuart Clark. The railway siding enabled the Clarks to successfully diversify and they bought the quarry at Taipo, changing its name to A1 Stone Quarry.

A few months into their ownership the Clarks work on the mill, spending what Alexander later called ‘a small fortune’ on structural repairs and upgrading the machinery. The flour produced by Clark’s Mill was branded as ‘Snowdrift’, and their oatmeal as ‘Muscular’. The flour was later rebranded as ‘Snow wreath.’

Alexander Clark / Clarks Milling Co Ltd: 1915-77:

In 1915 Alexander Clark became the sole owner of the Mill, with the assistance of Robert McDowell, who was to become a shareholder. Alexander Clark had five children of whom Lex (the eldest), Colin and Allan (twins) followed him into the business. In 1929 they, alongside younger brother Lindsay became partners in Clark Milling Co Ltd. The brothers continued the business after Alexander’s death in 1934. Allan, was Managing Director, and managed production, whilst Colin was the company secretary and ran the business side. Lex worked in the business but retired due to ill health in 1966 and died in August 1975. Upon Allan’s death in April 1975, his son Warwick Clark became a director and alongside Colin managed the business until it was sold in 1977.

The Clarks continued to update the mill’s workings, in 1921 installing rollers and 1 plan sifter. In 1948 major works were carried out to the design of Henry Simon of Christchurch, requiring the mill to be shut down for almost a year. The improvements almost doubled the mill’s productivity. The power of the mill joined the national grid in 1945-46. New turbines were installed, driving the machinery and also generating electricity for lighting. These turbines were replaced by an electric motor in 1967.

During the Clarks’ ownership the Mill developed its status as a locus of social interaction and recreation. The Mill office now known as Smokey Joe’s gained its name and character after Allan Clark. Allan was sometimes referred to by his twin brother Colin as ‘Joe’ and he was also a heavy smoker. He may have returned from the war with this nickname. During service in the Middle-East he saw many night clubs and after returning to New he converted the company office into a ‘music hall’. The internal walls were removed and the walls and ceiling lined over with pinex. During the late 1940s a travelling sign writer stayed in Smokey Joes and painted Hawaiian scenes on the walls. The space was decorated with war memorabilia. Allan had a large music collection which he played in Smokey Joes. The space was sparsely furnished and had a record player and reel-to-reel tape recorder set up on a curved bar from which Allan entertained. Smokey Joe’s was used as a venue for parties and private functions. It was also used as the clubrooms for various sports organisations.

Northern Roller Milling Company: Jan.-Feb. 1977:

In late 1976 Clark’s Milling Company sought tenders for the sale of the Mill and sold to the Northern Roller Milling Company in January 1977 with its flour quota of 2394 tonnes. One factor in selling the Mill may have been that it would have required upgrading to meet health department regulations. The primary interest of the Northern Roller Milling Company was the flour quota, which was transferred to its northern operations, along with some machinery. They never ran the Mill.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga: Feb. 1977- :

The NZHPT had first signalled their interest in the Mill in mid-1973. NZHPT wanted to work with the Clarks in the hope of preserving the Mill and its machinery for the future: if the Clarks in the future did want to sell the property the NZHPT would consider purchasing it.

After the Mill was sold to the Northern Roller Milling Company, NZHPT initially contacted its chairman to discuss the significance of Clark’s Mill and an NZHPT acquisition. After some negotiation the Northern Roller Mills agreed to sell the machinery with the buildings. In February 1977 the NZHPT purchased Clark’s Mill for $56,000.

The NZHPT intended to open the mill as a working exhibit, but not to produce flour commercially. The NZHPT offered Warwick Clark the role of caring for the mill machinery during the restoration project and ensuring it was kept in working order. At that stage it was estimated it would be five years before the mill could open to the public.

The works on the Mill were complicated and expensive, involving the demolition and rebuilding of large parts of the mill. Additional complication arose in 1978 when the dam was washed away, and in June 1980 with severe floods; resourcing problems further delayed progress. In March 1984 NZHPT received a development plan (never formally adopted) commissioned from Dr Jill Hamel. In addition to surveying the history and present status of the site, it proposed recommendations for developing and managing its future potential as a tourist attraction.

Milligan’s Milling Company of Ngapara approached NZHPT with a proposal to lease Clark’s Mill, to once again produce flour there and create a visitor attraction. The proposal fell through in 1989 and as a result NZHPT mothballed the mill, whilst leasing out the miller’s house and Smokey Joes to private tenants.

Like the Creamoata Mill Complex in Gore (Category I, Record No. 7470), the history of the Mill illustrates the changing fortunes of New Zealand's agricultural and primary processing industries. Flour milling was one of Otago and Southland’s most enduring industries and it played a major role in provincial development. Subsequent forces of economic rationalisation and globalisation have had a largely negative impact on these industries.

Clark’s Mill is an outstanding example of milling technology, being the only surviving water-powered flour mill with some machinery still intact. Clark’s Mill represents the rural flour mills that were built in the 1860s when wheat production was at its peak. Fleming was trained in his trade at Clark’s Mill, an important link with the establishment of Fleming’s Invercargill and Gore mills.

Other significant mills include Fleming’s Flour Mill in Invercargill, an important urban survivor of the flour milling industry, like Meek’s Flour Mill in Oamaru. Like Wakelin's Flourmill in Carterton (Category I, Record No.7634), and the Crown Milling Company Building in Dunedin (Category I, Record Number 366), Clark’s Mill Complex is a landmark in its community. Such mill buildings are special survivors as many were destroyed by fire, a fate to which the combustion of wheat made them prone.

In 2011 Clark’s Mill is a significant tourist attraction. The Mill opens on Sunday afternoons, October to April. Of late a group of skilled volunteers has been restoring the mill machinery (see figure 20), and in the last year it has been demonstrated as a working exhibit on special operating days.

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:

Designer: James Balfour

Contractor: Mr Campbell

Physical Description and Analysis:

An in-depth description of the changes to the physical fabric of the buildings and structures associated with Clark’s Mill Complex appears in Jonathan Howard’s 2011 Conservation Plan. This section is based on his description of the buildings and structures as they exist in 2011. For more information please refer to the Conservation Plan.


The complex of buildings and structures associated with Clark’s Mill (The Mill itself, the Miller’s House, Smokey Joes, the storage sheds, mill race and railway siding, are set in limestone country in North Otago. The Complex sits amidst low lying open farm land at the foot of a limestone escarpment which runs immediately to the north of the complex. The Kakanui River runs through the flat land to the south, between the mill Complex and the small town of Maheno. State Highway One and the main trunk railway run to the west of the Mill Complex.

The mill building:

The existing mill building consists of the original mill building (completed at the beginning of 1867). It is a rectangular building of four storeys with a gable roof. The west and south walls are constructed of Oamaru stone rubble core walls, whilst the north and east walls are constructed of Oamaru stone with a reinforced concrete core. Like the west and south walls these walls were originally the walls were unreinforced with a rubble core. The basement floor is concrete whilst the floors above are laid with T & G floorboards of varying species, widths, thicknesses and ages. These are supported on native joists and on beams with the supporting posts. The floor spaces are taken up with milling machinery and the floors are punctuated with holes for belts, chutes and elevators. The roof is clad in short run corrugated iron sheets and with a number of rooflights. From the roof projects a number of machinery housings and a roof dormer with double doors. In the centre of the south elevation (front elevation) on each floor are a set of double doors, on either side of these are two twelve- and fifteen-light windows. The majority are now fixed although the two sets of windows at the west end of the basement and ground floors are opening. The wall of north elevation is punctuated by a door opening onto the mill race fluming and a number of other openings for machinery. There are no glazed windows on this elevation although some of the openings are grilled.

The oatmeal house is attached to the east end of this building, which was constructed at the same time as the mill or very shortly after. It is constructed of Oamaru stone with a reinforced concrete core. The roof is clad in short run corrugated iron and hipped at the east end. The ridge has a louvered vent projecting from it. The interior can be accessed from an external wooden door at basement level or through a door through the east end of the original mill building. The interior has a reconstructed representation of hopper and furnace. There are grilled openings in the top floor of the Oatmeal House.

A two-storey corrugated iron clad store building built in 1872 is attached to the west gable of the original stone mill building. The roof is gabled and punctuated with rooflights. There are four small four-light windows, another small window and three large sliding doors on the south elevation. There is a corrugated iron canopy attached to east end of this building was designed to protect the on-loading off-loading of wagons. It now protects the main entrance into the mill complex. Like the south elevation the north elevation has four four-light windows. The corrugated iron structure stands on an Oamaru stone plinth. The interior is not lined and there is a mezzanine floor accessed by a set of wooden stairs.

Running along the east end of the mill building is the mill race fluming. There are some maintenance issues, but the building is in relatively good condition and has been recently repainted.

The miller’s house:

This Oamaru stone building was built during the same period as the original mill building (1867). It was originally constructed as a cottage with a lean-to, and has now developed into an L-shaped bungalow. There are eight rooms, including three bedrooms. There is a verandah running the length of the inside corner of the building. The twentieth-century additions are ashlar in treatment whilst the exposed sections of the original cottage have rough adzed facings. The building has a range of window styles including double-hung windows and casement windows. The roof is steeply pitched and is clad in short-run corrugated iron. The north end of the L-shaped roof is hipped whilst the west end terminates in a gable, the wall of which is shingled. Below this is a bay window.

The building is currently tenanted. It requires repainting, repairs and improvements to ensure that existing defects do not result in further damage to existing building fabric.

Smokey Joe’s:

Outwardly this Oamaru stone building has changed little since it was built. The east, west and south elevations retain the original roughly adzed finish whilst the stone facings of the north elevation have a far more carefully dressed surface. There are two four-light double-hung sash windows on the north elevation separated by a door opening which was raised by the 1920s. The door is a six-panel bungalow door. The interior, which was once split into three spaces, was opened up in the late 1940s to provide a single entertaining space. The ceiling and walls are lined with tongued, grooved and beaded (tg&b) 150mm kauri boards. The boards of ceiling and the walls of the east half of the space have been painted whilst those of the west half of the space have been lined with two or three layers of wallpaper. In the 1940s when the space was opened up all walls and the ceiling were lined over with pinex. The floor is t&g (tongue and groove). There is an early Oamaru stone fire surround in the west wall which has been faced with a brick fire surround.

The windows have been recently replaced. The upvc gutters and downpipes have deteriorated and are unsympathetic. The chimney stack should be rebuilt. Exterior cracking needs to be remedied and the building needs to be treated for excessive moss and lichen growth on the south and east walls. The building then requires repainting.

The office building / workshop:

This circa 1945 building is rectangular. It is clad in rusticated weatherboard. It has a gable roof clad in fibrolite cement (asbestos) super ‘6’ corrugated sheets, with fibrolite gutters. There are pairs of fixed four-light windows to the north and south elevations. The north elevation has a pair of crude double doors with corrugated iron. Another set of large double doors has been removed and the opening heightened roughly to allow the chaff cutter to be stored in the unfloored space. There is a corrugated iron canopy supported on railway irons attached to this elevation. On the east gable end of this building is attached a later 1940s ‘bren carrier’ shed. The shed has three bays and the structure is clad in corrugated iron. On the west gable end of the building is the main entrance into the office section of the building. Under a small corrugated iron porch a set of stairs led to the office door. There are two rooms including the office at the west end of this building. Behind these is a large space, once a workshop space. Behind this a door opens up onto what is now unfloored space in which the chaff cutter is stored.

The south elevation and east gable of the building are severely deteriorated. The office / workshop building is urgently in need of repair.

Building B:

This corrugated iron storage shed was built in two phases. The east end of the building stands on an Oamaru stone plinth. The western section is steel trussed portal framed and was built in the 1960s. The eastern section was built just after the Second World War and is timber framed. This section has been inbuilt with Office and other rooms to service the North Otago Vintage Machinery Club. It has a floated concrete floor. There are small access sliding doors on the north and south elevations but the main entry is gained through the large double roller doors on the west gable end.

The mill race:

The mill race runs from the intake gate at the bank of the Kakanui River through a tunnel carved through an outcrop of stone and along an Oamaru stone lined channel and under a one laned, single-arched Oamaru stone bridge. This bridge spanned the race for the old coach road which led up to what was later the Medora Hotel. This bridge is overgrown and in parts is collapsing. The water race continues under State Highway 1 and under the trunk line viaduct. The race is now lined with concrete and prior to reaching the west end of the mill building (the end with the 1872 corrugated iron store) it is transformed into fluming which runs almost the full length of the mill before terminating at the point at which the water would drop down into the turbines.

The race requires significant works to clear vegetation and deposits from its bed. There are areas where the side of the race has been broken through and the section with concrete lining is cracked and distorted. There are currently a number of health and safety issues with the structure which require addressing.

The railway siding:

Built around 1877, the railway siding connects the mill to the main trunk line about half a kilometre away. Built with very light (40lb) rail, it has not been used since the 1970s and is overgrown.

Three silos:

These silos were installed on the property in 1966. The walls are constructed of horizontal sheets of corrugated iron (unpainted) with a galvanised rib sheet roof. The three stand on a concrete pad. Their condition is sound, but there corrosion is evident and there are some missing elements (such as skirtings)

The weighbridge and weighing office:

This site is situated along the south boundary of the property. The building is mono-pitched, with the roof sloping down to the north. There are windows on the east, south and west elevations, with a door on the north elevation. It is timber framed with unpainted corrugated iron clad walls and roof. It is unlined inside, and has a concrete floor upon which are the metric scales for the weighbridge. The weighbridge itself is to the south of the building. It is functional but requires re-calibration.

The truck washdown facility:

This is situated immediately to the east of State Highway 1, just south of the water race. There are only remains of this structure which dates from the 1960s. There is the sloping concrete pad and the remains of a studwork wall on the north side of the pad. Backing onto the studwork is a small corrugated iron shed.

Construction Dates

1866 -
Plans by James Balfour Melville are put to tender.

Original Construction
1867 -
February, the Mill is operational. Construction of the Mill is complete.

1868 -
February, the Great Flood. The water rises to within six inches of the ground floor. The millwheel is destroyed.

1872 -
Anderson and Mowat build a corrugated iron storage shed extension to the 1867 mill building.

1879 -
New masonry arcs are built for the millwheel axle, and the millwheel is replaced again.

1883 -
The water wheel is replaced with a turbine. Construction of the pen-stock to house the turbine.

1893 -
Roller technology is introduced, complete with seven elevators, and cyclone dust collectors. This is probably when the fenestration on the south elevation was altered and the dust room constructed out over the fluming on the north elevation.

1901 -
Repairs to the mill machinery and race.

1905 -
Removal of the Phoenix Mill.

1906 -
A new corrugated iron extension made to the earlier 1872 corrugated iron extension to the 1867 mill building. This new extension known in the plan as the 1906 corrugated iron extension.

1906 -
Perhaps it is at this time that half the first floor was removed from the 1872 extension. Installation of a replacement water turbine, and introduction of ball bearings to machinery. Substantial repairs to elevator joinery.

Possible date for fire in Oatmeal house which finally ended its use.Phoenix mill building relocated to the Clark’s Mill site to provide an extra wheat storage building, forming the first phase of what was to become Building A.

1912 -
Building erected to house a Ruston gas suction engine. Alterations to windows of mill building.

Extension of the miller’s house, and addition of garages to Smokey Joe’s

1932 -
Heavy flooding. The former Phoenix mill building has a corrugated iron extension to its western end of Building A.

1938 -
Heavy flooding. Building A extended to east at some time during the last years before World War Two.

Original Construction
1939 -
Construction of the first of two phases of Building B. Corrugated iron construction

1945 -
The Mill joins the national grid.

Original Construction
1945 -
Construction of the office / workshop building to replace the earlier sack store building which recently burnt down. This allows the office which was housed in what is Smokey Joe’s to be relocated.

1946 -
Around this time the cottage which had performed as mill office begins to be turned into Smokey Joe’s. Last replacement of turbine. Demolition of the gas suction engine structure, supplanted by a 65-horsepower electric motor. First phase of Building B.

1948 -
The mill is closed for extensive works for most of 1948. This period marks the retirement of draught horses for shunting and the acquisition of ex-army bren gun carriers for shunting. Refurbishment of mill machinery, extension of awning and addition of dining room above fluming.

Roofs are spray painted green. South elevation of original mill building / oatmeal house is rendered with stucco. Weighbridge constructed.

Original Construction
1961 - 1962
Second phase of Building B built by Warwick Clark.

1966 -
Three grain silos installed, with loading equipment; addition of hopper and concrete vehicle ramp to the west end of the south elevation of the original mill building.

1972 -
Although from 1965-6 the mill had been increasingly reliant on electricity to power the mill machinery, in this year it finally goes completely electric.

1976 -
Clark’s Milling Co calls for tenders for the sale of the Mill. Mills closes 22nd December 1976.

1977 -
January, the Mill is bought by the Northern Roller Milling Co. February, the Mill is bought by the NZHPT. Some milling machinery removed by Northern Roller Milling Co. Weighbridge converted to metric.

1978 -
July very heavy flooding. Deconstruction of parts of the mill building and oatmeal house begins. The water turbines are removed. Removal of one Bren gun carrier to the Army Memorial Museum

Demolished - Other
1979 -
Demolition of the 1906 addition to the mill building.

1980 -
June, the worst flooding on record. The new timber spillway lost during floods. The mill building roof is painted brown.

Demolished - Other
1980 -
Demolition of the timber lean-to carport on Smokey Joe’s. Demolition of Building A.

Demolished - Other
1983 -
Demolition of the Oamaru stone lean-to carport on Smokey Joe’s.

1985 -
Office / workshop building put up for sale (not sold).

1985 -
June, NZHPT works are complete.Construction Professionals

Construction Details

Limestone, timber, corrugated iron

Completion Date

20th July 2011

Report Written By

Jonathan Howard/abridged Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McDonald, 1977

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

Roberts, 1890

W H S Roberts, 'History of Oamaru and North Otago', Oamaru, 1890

Reprint: 1999

McDonald, 1998

McDonald, K.C., History of North Otago for Centennial Period 1840 to 1940. Oamaru, Oamaru Mail Co, 1940; repr. 1998

Other Information

NZAA Recorded Archaeological Site J42/145:Building - accommodation/ boarding house, Dam, Flour mill, Water race. This flour mill complex consists of a weir-type dam, a water race and tail race, a flour mill, and millers house.

A fully referenced report is available from the Southern Region office of 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.