RUSTIC REMINDER OF MILAWA’S EARLY DAYS
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.