Cheers as wheel restarts at historic mill

BACK IN ACTION: The wheel at Bradshaw’s Mill in Bathurst is turning again thanks to restoration work by Historic Bathurst and members of the community Picture: JON HOUZET

THE wheel at Bradshaw’s Mill in Bathurst was officially restarted on Saturday evening after six months of repairs and restoration by volunteers, and thanks to the donation of materials by other individuals.

The special occasion was attended by people who either donated materials or lent their skills in repairing the wheel, as well as members of the organisation Historic Bathurst, which has been looking after the mill for the past three and a half years.

The assembled group applauded as the water flowed and the wheel began turning.

Chairman of Historic Bathurst Tom Barrett said the metal plates holding the wheel had rusted and the wheel was in danger of collapsing before the repairs took place.

“If it were to collapse, I don’t know if we’d even get the wood to make a wheel like this,” he said.

The mill, a historical icon dating back to the 1820 Settlers, received major restoration by the Simon van der Stel Foundation in the 1960s.

It fell into disrepair in more recent years until Dave Hawkins of Port Alfred Rotary spearheaded a restoration project in 2013, when the wheel was first restarted.

“If it wasn’t for Dave I don’t know what the mill would look like,” Barrett said.

He said the present wheel was made by Geoff Palmer in Grahamstown.

“It seems like an absolute miracle to build it in Grahamstown, transport it and fit it.”

Historic Bathurst has signed a 10-year lease for the mill with the Kowie History Museum, which holds the title deeds.

Barrett said maintenance of the mill was an ongoing issue. Other work recently done was repairing and resealing the water supply tower.

For the wheel itself, Gavin Came of the Pig n Whistle Inn funded the galvanised steel plates, Marius and Cindy Claassens of CosiHomes donated the timber and Hans van Eck sourced the necessary hardware, made the new steel bands on the axle and worked for many hours on the project.

Members of Historic Bathurst Howard Butler, Wally Hill and David Forsdyke were also thanked for carrying out repair work.

Initially a wool-mill, and the first in the Eastern Cape, the mill was built by British settler Samuel Bradshaw in 1825. For 10 years it produced blankets and Kersey cloth (a coarse-ribbed cloth originally produced in Kersey in the UK) until it was burned down during the Sixth Frontier War.

After reconstruction in 1836 it was used as a grain mill, and bought by Phillip Hobbs in 1840. Hobbs ran it till about 1870.

It fell into disuse and disrepair for about 80 years until the Simon van der Stel Foundation bought the building in 1964 and restored it.

The water that powers the wheel comes from a nearby dam and the outflow returns to the Kowie River.

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