Wakelin's Flourmill

147 High Street South, Carterton

  • Wakelin's Flourmill.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 16/09/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7634 Date Entered 9th December 2005 Date of Effect 9th December 2005


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land comprised in Certificate of Title 270/197, Wellington Registry, and the buildings and the fittings and fixtures relating to the operation of the building prior to 1965, thereon.

City/District Council

Carterton District


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 4601 (RT WN270/197), Wellington Land District

Location description

Access to the site can be obtained from both High Street South (main street frontage) and Wakelin Street, Carterton.


Established in 1869 by Edward Louth Wakelin, Wakelin's Mill was one of Carterton's earliest businesses. The remains of the flourmilling operation date back to 1875, and provide insight into early flourmilling in New Zealand.

Wakelin emigrated to New Zealand in 1858, and relocated to the newly established 'Three Mile Bush' (Carterton) the following year. Wakelin initially struggled to make a living as a baker, but in 1863 he mortgaged his land to establish a water powered flourmill on the banks of the Mangatarere River. The operation proved to be located too far from the town centre, and from 1869 Wakelin began operating from section 6 on Carterton's main street. This building was a single storey structure made from timber, with two windows and a central door opening onto what is now High Street South. In 1875 Wakelin constructed a four-storey, timber building to contain a steam-operated grinding plant.

Wakelin continued to run the flourmill and bakery until the late 1890s, when two of his sons took over. The sons expanded the business, constructing a three-storey building adjacent to the grinding plant in the early twentieth century. They operated the mill under the name 'Wakelin Brothers Limited', and sold their flour under the brand name 'Golden Crown Roller Flour' until the 1960s, when the proposal to close the mill and consolidate the business in the Horowhenua was put forward. Despite considerable protest from the community, the mill closed in 1964. The buildings were purchased by Renalls Joinery Limited.

The new owners carried out a number of alterations and additions in order to put the building to a new use. In 1996 the Flourmill was threatened with demolition, prompting further outcry from the community. Negotiations are currently underway with the owners to restore the building.

Wakelin's Flourmill has significance as a remnant of New Zealand's early flour-milling industry. Wakelin's flourmilling business was the second established in the Wairarapa and one of the earliest industries in Carterton. Associated with one of the township first settlers, the Flourmill became one of its longest running businesses. The four-storey grinding plant has considerable landmark value and is of technological interest for its potential to provide insight into early industrial processes in New Zealand.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Wakelin's Mill has historical value as a remnant of New Zealand's early flour-milling industry. Flourmilling was one of the first industries established in New Zealand in the nineteenth century, with the first recorded mill being established by missionaries in Waimate in 1834. Early mills were almost invariably powered by water, although the first recorded steam-powered mill began operating in Wellington in 1842, and a wind-operated mill (Partington's Mill) was established in Auckland in 1851.

The first flourmill in Carterton was established in 1863 by Edward Louth Wakelin. Located on the banks of the Mangatarere River, the water-powered mill was the second established in the Wairarapa region. However, it proved unprofitable due to the distance from the main town centre. In 1869 Wakelin transferred the business to Carterton's main street and began using steam-operated machinery. The business was successful. Its buildings were expanded and machinery updated over time, and it became known for the brand 'Golden Crown Roller Flour' from the 1890s. It continued to operate until 1964 and is now one of the few remaining examples of building associated with early flour milling still extant in New Zealand.

The Flourmill has historical importance for Carterton. The Flourmill was one of the township's earliest established, and longest running businesses. Edward Louth Wakelin, founder of the Flourmill, was one of first to settle in the area. Carterton, originally known as the 'Three Mile Bush' was established in 1859 to provide a connection between the two established towns of Masterton and Greytown. Wakelin arrived that same year, and laid claim to sections 6 and 54 of the township. Despite facing considerable poverty and hardship, Wakelin was one of the few original settlers to remain on his land. Wakelin, his wife, and their eight children, and grandchildren went on to make an important contribution to the township. As well as establishing the Flourmill, Wakelin served as a Councillor on the Carterton Borough Council and had Wakelin Street, off High Street South, named after him. His grandson, Ron Wakelin, became mayor of the town, and was involved in the protests against the closure of the Wakelin's Flourmill in the 1960s.

Wakelin's Flourmill is located on the main street of Carterton. Although relatively plain, the grinding plant (1875) is the only four-storey building in the township, and has been there for over 130 years. As such, it has considerable value as a local landmark. The building is also of technological interest. Constructed to bear heavy machinery, the four storey grinding plant has potential to provide insight into early industrial processes in New Zealand.

Wakelin's Flourmill has social value as an integral part of Carterton's heritage. Established by one of its original settlers, the building was part of one the township's first commercial enterprises. It is also one of Carterton's longest running businesses and was an integral part of the town's industry for 95 years. When the Flourmill was threatened with closure, protests from the local community, indicated the importance of the business to the townspeople. Concern was particularly prevalent among farmers and bakers, with both Federated Farmers and the Wairarapa Master Bakers' Association registering protests against the move. When the demolition of the Flourmill was proposed in 1996, there were calls for the building's heritage values to be recognised. The NZHPT was contacted, and negotiations with the owners to retain the building are underway.

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

Wakelin's Flourmill is representative of the steam-flourmilling industry in New Zealand. Flourmilling was one of the first industries established in New Zealand in the nineteenth century. As was typical, Wakelin's Flourmill was one of the first operational industries in the newly founded settlement of Carterton. For convenience, Wakelin abandoned his water-powered mill (1863) for a steam-powered mill in the town centre in 1869. The business was successful, creating flour for the local area using steam powered grinding stones. As was typical, around 1897, the Flourmill was installed with roller milling machinery, first tested in New Zealand in 1882. It began promoting its flour with the brand name 'Golden Crown Roller Flour'. Around 1926, the boiler was replaced with an electric motor. It continued to operate until 1964, when it was sold to a joinery company to allow its company to merge with a Wellington based milling business.

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

While in operation, the Flourmill was an integral part of Carterton's industry. Just prior to closure in 1964, Masterton bakers used approximately 15 tons of Carterton flour each week. The closure prompted protests from the local community, indicating the importance of the business to the townspeople. Concern was particularly prevalent among farmers and bakers, with both Federated Farmers and the Wairarapa Master Bakers' Association voicing protests against the move. The proposed demolition of the building in 1996 prompted calls for the building's heritage values to be recognised.

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

The building has technological interest as a rare remaining example of a steam-powered grinding plant.

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

Wakelin's Flourmill is an early remaining example of a steam flourmill in New Zealand. Of the known steam-operated mills still extant, Wakelin's is the second oldest known example in the North Island, behind the 1866 'Egmont Steam Flourmill' (Record Number 907). There are at least nine remaining examples in the South Island, the earliest example being the 1867 'Crown Milling Company Building' (Record Number 366). Wakelin's Flourmill is also one of Carterton's oldest commercial buildings.

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

Wakelin's Flourmill is an early remaining example of a steam flourmill in New Zealand. Although the first recorded steam-powered flourmill was constructed in Wellington in 1841, a preference for water-powered mills meant that they were relatively rare, and few have survived intact. It is one of only three known nineteenth century steam mills still extant in New Zealand. Wakelin's Flourmill is also the only remaining example of the many flourmills that once operated in the Wairarapa region.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Bennett, Thomas

Born in 1838 at Bath, England, Thomas Bennett came to New Zealand on the Oliver Lang in 1856, after having served in the Crimean War. Bennett lived in the Hutt Valley for a time and was involved in a number of military actions around New Zealand, including at Parihaka in 1881, as well as prospecting on the Otago goldfields. He moved to the Wairarapa in 1865, where he traded as a builder, constructing a number of buildings in Carterton including the first Carterton Town Hall, the town’s first court house, St Mark’s Anglican Church and Wakelin’s Flourmill, as well as laying the town’s first footpath and the Carterton racecourse. In 1896 Bennett moved to Coromandel, where he built the Coromandel Hospital.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Edward Louth Wakelin

Born in 1832, Edward Louth Wakelin emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 25 years. Travelling on the Southern Cross he arrived in Wellington in 1857. In 1858, after initially working in the bakery business in Wellington, Wakelin relocated to the Three Mile Bush in the Wairarapa. The Wellington Provincial Council was then offering settlers a rebate of 25 per cent (5 pounds) on their passage to New Zealand, allowing them to purchase 10 acres of land at 10/- per acre. Wakelin took up the offer, travelling to settle in 'The Three Mile Bush', later renamed Carterton, in 1859. The Three Mile Bush was a new township that had been surveyed and established that same year to provide a connection between the two established towns of Masterton and Greytown. Upon his arrival in the Wairarapa, it appears that Wakelin occupied at least two sections in Carterton, namely section 6 on what is now High Street South, and section 54. He, together with other Carterton settlers, soon found that his allocated ten acres were insufficient to support him and his family, which then included his wife and four children. In 1859, when the Wellington Provincial Council requested that Marcus Collison identify settlers enduring hardship and privitation when he led a petition against a decrease in funding for roading, Collison put Wakelin's name forward, stating that his 'circumstances were known to all'. In 1861 Wakelin supported by a petition signed by nineteen Carterton settlers requesting that the size of Carterton sections be increased from 10 to 40 acres. Despite this, no relief was forthcoming.

Milling Operations

Around 1863, Wakelin commenced a milling operation on section 54, on what is now Belvedere Road, near the Mangatarere River. Warwick Ritchie Lawrence, who authored a history of Carterton at the age of 18 in 1934, claimed that: The mill stones were brought to Carterton over the Rimutaka Hill in a bullock dray by the late Mr. Thomas Hooker. The old mill (situated where Mr. Thomas Bond now resides) was three storeys high, and driven by water power, but did not run for many years, owing, no doubt, to the distance from the main road, and the inconvenience of the bad roads. In 1865 Wakelin mortgaged section 6 for 35 pounds. Shortly afterwards, in June 1865, Wakelin's ownership of the land was officially recognised when he was issued a Crown Grant for 9 acres and 39 perches in Carterton.

During this period Wakelin is described variously as a settler, and a farmer. However, it appears that the mortgage may have been used to finance the construction of a bakery shop on section 6, on the corner of what is now High Street South and Wakelin Street. The fortunes of this bakery appear to have waxed and waned. In 1874, for instance, a report in the Wairarapa Standard claimed that 'We are also going to support a baker...'. This suggests that there was not a functioning bakery in Carterton at that time but that one was soon to be one established. In 1868, Lawrence notes, Wakelin 'erected the old portion of the present mill', namely the Flourmill on section 6 in what is now High Street South. It is probable that the 'old portion' is the single storey structure on the north-east side of the Flourmill in early photographs. The following year, in 1869, Wakelin opened the mill and obtained a further mortgage, which was financed by George Dixon of Birmingham, England. The new mortgage for 150 pounds repaid the original mortgage of thirty-five pounds, and may have been used to help finance a house, and a milling operation. In 1870 Wakelin took out another mortgage, this time for 250 pounds. Wakelin, again described as a farmer, secured the mortgage against his estate, sections 6, 54, and 55 'and also together with the Mill Machinery, Engines, boilers, plant, and also fixtures now or hereafter to be erected or placed upon the said land...', indicating that the mill was in operation around this period. In 1874 Wakelin repaid his mortgages and took out a new mortgage for 400 pounds on 9 October that same year. The new mortgage was secured against sections 6 and 54 'together with the erections and buildings thereon'. The mortgage money appears to have been spent on improving the flourmill operations on section 6. The following year, in 1875, Lawrence claims that Wakelin, possibly with the assistance of Thomas Hooker, constructed a 'four storey premises and installed machinery in it'. It is probable that this is the four storey portion of the Flourmill that remains extant. From this point onwards, Wakelin begins to describe himself in official publications a 'miller' or 'flourmiller'. A survey of the 215 Carterton householders in 1878 indicates that Wakelin was the only flour miller in the township during this period.

From 1880 it appears that Wakelin's bakery venture became successful, as his profession is described as 'miller and baker' from this point onwards. In 1881 Lawrence notes that Wakelin transferred the last of the equipment located on section 54, to the Flourmill on section 6. Around 1885, five years after the opening of the railway link from Wellington, Wakelin diversified into sawmilling, as the opening of the railway made involvement in the timber industry profitable during this period.

The Wakelin Brothers Limited

Wakelin continued to run the flourmill and bakery until the late 1890s, when his son, Joseph, began assisting him with the bakery. Around 1897 the mill was installed with 'the latest roller milling machinery'. Then, at the age of 68, Wakelin sold the Flourmill to his sons Edward Louth Wakelin, junior, and others for 400 pounds. In 1903, the Wakelin brothers advertised their wares in the Wises Post Office Directory. The advert noted that the 'Carterton Flour Mills' were manufacturers of 'the well known brand Golden Crown Roller Flour'. The advert claimed that: The Proprietors have spared no expense in procuring the most up-to-date plant procurable, and guarantee to give satisfaction to everybody. They grist cheaper than any manufacturer in the island (sic), and are buyers of wheat in any quantity. Flour, bran, and pollard always on hand. It is possible that the Wakelin brothers constructed the three-storey structure to the south-west of the flourmill during this period. In 1906 the Wakelin brothers subdivided section 6, selling the corner site bounded by High Street and Wakelin Street (where the bakery had been located) to Mr. Lindop, chemist. They applied to have the remainder of the land brought under the provisions of the Land Transfer Act. The following year, the land and Flourmill were transferred to James Albert Wakelin and Edwin Louth Wakelin the Younger. The brothers became an incorporated company under the name 'Wakelin Brothers Limited' in 1920. Two years later, James Albert Wakelin transferred his portion to Edwin Louth Wakelin the Younger, who continued to run the Flourmill. Annual Reports for the company indicate that it was generally profitable. It had a production quota of 720 tons of flour, although annual reports indicate that the mill sold approximately 750 tons of flour per year, as well as wholemeal flour, bran, and pollard, from the late 1930s to the 1950s. Ground via closely spaced, finely serrated rollers, and separated via a series of vibrating sieves, the flour produced was consistently graded top quality by the Wheat Research Institute for quality, despite the considerable age of the mill's machinery.

On 24 June 1942 the Flourmill was damaged by earthquake. The area primarily affected was the three storey structure to the south-west, which was clad in brick, and the rear gable. Architect Frederick C. Daniell was employed to create plans for the proposed repairs. The plans are the earliest available that depict the interior layout of the Flourmill. They indicate that the four storey structure contained the grinding plant, while wheat was stored in the structures to the south and rear. Following the completion of the plans, the brick cladding on the three storey structure was removed and replaced with timber weatherboards, and the gable was replaced with a hipped roof.

Closure of the Flourmill

The Wakelin Brothers Limited continued to operate the Flourmill until the mid 1960s. In 1958 approval was obtained for the construction of a new mill in the Horowhenua. The new mill would take over from the Wakelin's Brothers Flourmill in Carterton, and Rowe's Mill in Wellington. The proposed closure caused considerable concern in Carterton, and prompted protests from Federated Farmers and the Wairarapa Master Bakers' Association. Both considered that closure would increase costs and inconvenience to the industries they represented. The President of the Wairarapa Master Bakers' Association commented 'The quality of Carterton flour is as good as any you'll get', and pointed out that Masterton bakers used approximately 15 tons of Carterton flour each week. Despite the protests the Flourmill was closed on 30 September 1964, and the milling machinery was removed. Wakelin Bros. Ltd was struck off the Companies Register in 1965.

Renalls Joinery Limited

Following the closure of the Flourmill, the building was sold to its current owner, timber company Renalls Joinery Limited. While under the ownership of its new managers, a number of changes were made to the building. In 1966 extensions were made to the rear of the structure to accommodate the needs of its first floor tenants Messrs Bolt and Sutherland. That same year an application was made for a new amenities block for the north elevation of the factory. In 1976 an application was made to demolish the single-storey lean-to located on the north side of the Flourmill. This portion appears to have been on the site of the original portion of the Flourmill constructed around 1868. Further alterations and additions to the rear of the Flourmill were proposed the following year. However, the permits were allowed to lapse and the work was not carried out. By the 1990s, the Flourmill was in need of maintenance and earthquake strengthening. An engineering report indicated that the costs of carrying out the proposed work would be considerable, prompting the owners to consider demolition. In 1996 a building consent for the demolition of the flourmill was issued by the Carterton District Council. However, the permit lapsed and members of the public began advocating for the retention of the structure on the grounds that it had heritage significance.

Physical Description

Wakelin's Mill is oriented along the north-west, south-east line on what was originally section six of the Town of Carterton. The section is bounded by the streets now known as High Street South and Wakelin Street. Originally rectangular in shape, the section was subdivided in 1906, and land on the corner of High Street South and Wakelin Street was sold off. The section is now 'L' shaped.

The Flourmill consists of a number of structures created at different times. The earliest portion of the Flourmill appears to have been constructed in 1868. It was a single-storey, timber structure, with a flat roof, central door, and two windows facing the street. Located to the north-west of the section, it was demolished in 1976.

The earliest remaining portion of the Flourmill was built in 1875. It is a four storey timber structure constructed from timber and clad in weatherboards. The weatherboard cladding has now been supplemented with corrugated steel on the street frontage and the north-west side of the structure. The street frontage features eight large windows. This portion of the mill contained the grinding plant. Originally, wheat was transported in bags to the top floor where it was poured into a large hopper. The wheat was then husked and cleansed. On the third floor the wheat was ground into flour. Originally, this process was completed using horizontal grinding stones. These were replaced with a roller mill, which ground the wheat using closely spaced, finely serrated rollers. Flour was separated from the bran and pollard via a series of vibrating sieves, and then bagged on the second floor, and loaded onto trucks via wooden chutes located to the rear of the building. The ground floor originally contained the boiler that drove the steam plant. However, this was replaced by an electric motor in 1926, and the area was used to store wheat. Wheat was transported to the top floor via a channel fitted with a worm drive shaft. All machinery, including the power plant, have been removed from the building.

In the early twentieth century a three-storey extension was constructed on the south-west side of the four storey structure. Supported by brick masonry walls, this structure was badly damaged during the 1942 earthquake. The brick cladding was then replaced with weatherboards, and the flat roof was rebuilt with a slant.

The Flourmill has had extensions to the rear. Supported by a brick masonry wall, the extensions are two stories high and made from timber with a corrugated iron roof.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1868 -
Wakelin constructs the 'old portion' of a flourmill.

Original Construction
1875 -
Wakelin constructs four-storey building and installs machinery.

1900 -
Three storey premise constructed next to four-storey building.

1942 -
Mill repaired following damage by earthquake.

Demolition of original portion of Mill.

Construction Details

Four storey structure: heavy timber framing, clad in timber weatherboards, and timber weatherboards and corrugated steel on street frontage and south-east wall, and corrugated iron roof.

Three storey structure: timber framing, brick masonry, original cladding replaced 1942, corrugated iron roof.

Extensions to rear: brick masonry, timber weatherboards, corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

7th June 2005

Report Written By


Information Sources

Bagnall, 1957

A. Bagnall, A History of Carterton, Carterton, 1957

Lawrence, 1934

W. Lawrence, Three Mile Bush (Carterton); An Early History of the Wairarapa and Settlements from 1840 to the Time of Settlement, and Carterton from 1857 to Date etc, etc, Masterton, 1934

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Wairarapa Archives

Wairarapa Archives, Masterton

Plan: Wakelin Bros., Carterton - rebuilding of brick flour mill, 90-014/P147. MD28

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office

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.