RUS­TIC RE­MINDER OF MILAWA’S EARLY DAYS

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Steve Kelly photos Marc Bongers

MILAWA is known na­tion­ally for its ex­em­plary wine and award win­ning cheese but when driv­ing into the small town on the Snow Road, there’s a build­ing that ev­ery­one no­tices, but not much is known about it.

A glance to the left on the corner of Wood­berry Road is an old flour mill that’s been in the fam­ily of the same name since the late 1800s.

Norm and Joy Wood­berry still work the land it sits on and the iconic, rus­tic struc­ture has been well pho­tographed over the years.

It’s been a back­drop of many cou­ples’ wed­ding days, cu­ri­ous tourists’ photo scrap­books, or even the sub­ject adorn­ing an artist’s easel.

Be­neath the in­trigue lies a story about the past, a solid build­ing that gen­er­a­tions of the Wood­berry fam­ily still look at as part of their daily scenery.

Norm’s grand­par­ents Ge­orge and El­lis Wood­berry bought the land in about 1890 and with it came the Ox­ley Steam Flour Mill build­ing.

The five acres was for sale when the mill busi­ness, owned by Wil­liam Al­lan, re­lo­cated to Wan­garatta due to trans­port issues.

“Orig­i­nally the road to Sydney was sup­posed to go through Milawa and it didn’t, it went through Wan­garatta as did the rail­ways,” Norm said.

“Ev­ery­thing was horse and cart in those days so they shifted to Wang and built an­other mill.”

Norm said the flour mill busi­ness was set up in a build­ing on the corner of Ely and Mur­phy streets where Medi­care used to also be lo­cated, many decades later.

“I can re­mem­ber go­ing to the flour mill in Wan­garatta when I was a lit­tle kid,” Norm said.

Sev­eral ma­chines are still in the old Milawa build­ing to­day and the story has it that ev­ery­thing - ma­chin­ery, pens were just left and “they just walked out of it”.

When the build­ing was built in the late 1850s, bricks were made on the prop­erty and the house that Norm and Joy still live in was built at the same time.

“The mill build­ing is still struc­turally sound but you have to watch your­self when you go in­side with a few holes in the floor,” Norm said.

“Dad took some of the floor­boards out dur­ing the war be­cause he was build­ing a new kitchen in the house.

“You can still walk right up the top of the old mill if you know where to go, oth­er­wise it’s dangerous.”

Ge­orge and Norm’s Dad Leo later pulled down what used to be a boiler house that had a com­pound steam en­gine in it.

Norm re­mem­bers his Dad say­ing they got 18,000 bricks out of the chim­ney alone.

The icon sta­tus of the mill partly comes be­cause there’s not many like it in Vic­to­ria, with two oth­ers that Norm and Joy know about in Port Ar­ling­ton – made of stone - on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, and one at Kyne­ton.

Like many farm­ing fam­i­lies in the district the Wood­ber­rys have car­ried on the fam­ily busi­ness and Norm and Joy still milk 80 cows ev­ery morn­ing.

It’s a chore that Norm’s fa­ther be­fore him used to do along with share crop­ping and cart­ing but­ter for a few years.

Who knows how much longer the build­ing will stand for, but one thing’s for sure, they were built to last in those days – just ask the Wood­ber­rys.

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