LOCATION: Mount Barker Road - Midway Between Hahndorf and Mount Barker
Nixon's Windmill was constructed in 1842 and operated until 1864 when it ceased milling operations. After which the Windmill has been subjected to bushfires, storm damage, vandalism and neglect at various times.
Recognising the historical significance and the tourist potential, a number of attempts at repair and restoration have been carried out since 1928. These have mainly occurred as follows:
- 1928 - Conversion of the Windmill into a lookout tower. At this time ownership of the mill and property was handed over to the Mount Barker District Council.
- 1966 - Major restoration by the Mount Barker Apex Club. This included installation of a dome roof and four dummy sail-spars.
- 1983 - Stabilisation and repairs by Mount Barker District Council.
- 2016 - Painting, signage and major site upgrading by the Mount Barker District Council.
(--> 1928) Conversion of Old Windmill into Lookout Tower
A large bush fire destroyed all the Sheoak timbers and working parts of the Windmill in 1912, and it remained in a derelict state until a group of prominent businessmen, funded by public subscription, renovated the structure in 1928. They added a new roof, platform and staircase to the structure thus enabling it to function as a public lookout. This provided a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
At the 'Opening' of the renovated Windmill on 9 February 1929, the mill and site were donated to the Mount Barker District Council by the then owner Mr A.E. Braendler, and the Council "accepted the responsibility of looking after the mill for all time."
OLD WINDMILL, MOUNT BARKER [Extract from Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Friday 7 December 1928] - To the Editor: Sir, You have been good enough to publish from time to time particulars of this old mill which ground wheat into flour for more than ten years after it was built in 1844. The tower, about 40 ft. high, has been renovated, a roof put on, and stairs put in which lead the visitor up inside the tower to a floor near the top of the wall. From this floor one can get one of the finest views I know of in Australia — and I have travelled a bit. Standing on the top floor and looking east, south, west, or north, the panorama gives one a thrill. The work of renovation will be completed at the end of the week, barring a few finishing touches. When all is finished, this old land mark, with half an acre of land will be handed over to the Mount Barker District Council to care for it. The committee is still short of between £20 and £30 to finish, this work. Once open to the public it will be worth a motor ride from Adelaide to Mount Barker to view the "landscape o'er" from the top of this early day flour mill ----- W. Gray.
RENOVATIONS NEARLY COMPLETED - OPENING NEXT MONTH MOUNT BARKER MILL [Extract from News (Adelaide), 21 December 1928] - The work of the committee of Mount Barker residents formed by Mr. Stephen Parsons, of Adelaide, to restore the old windmill on the main road between Hahndorf and Mount Barker, and have it preserved under the care of Mount Barker District Council as a public memorial, is drawing to a successful close. Renovations to the building are nearing completion, and the opening ceremony is expected to be held about the third week in January. It will be performed by Sir Langdon Bonython. Built by Frederick Robert Nixon, who had charge of the special survey of Mount Barker then in progress under the direction of the Government, the mill is more than 84 years old. It was surrounded by a 12 acre plot of land. Mr. Nixon sold the mill as a going concern, with machinery and buildings, in October, 1844, for £220. With it went the surrounding plot of land.
Colony Hard Pressed - The reason for the low price was that the colony was then in difficult financial circumstances. The purchaser was Mr. Walter Patterson, a prominent figure in the history of the district, members of whose family have given liberal assistance to the present scheme of restoration. He worked the plant until 1853. It was then sold to Mr. W. F. Wittwer, a miller, of Hahndorf. The increasing requirements of the district led to the machinery being dismantled in 1862, and taken to the present steam mill at Hahndorf, which was built by Mr. Wittwer, and is still in the possession of his family. Mr. Parsons began his activities toward having the old mill restored as a public monument some months ago, and formed a committee comprising Mr. L. von Doussa, of Mount Barker, Rev. W. Gray, Mr. Herbert Rundle, and himself.
Generous Lead - Mr. A. E. Braendler, of Mount Barker, owner of the mill, agreed to hand it over to the committee. His generous lead was followed by Mr. Wittwer, of Hahndorf, agreeing to restore the grinding stones originally used. The mill having fallen into a state of disrepair, the committee set to work to build a concrete floor and roof, and fences, and to effect repairs to the walls. The new concrete roof is being built two feet above the height of the original walls, and the frame to carry it will be partly glazed to provide a lookout, which will command extensive views of surrounding parts. The cost of the improvements has been estimated at £120, and the committee has already received £100 from public subscription. The committee has brought its work under the notice of the Royal Geographical Society and the Society for the Preservation of Historical Relics. These bodies have approved the lettering on a bronze plate, setting out a brief history of the mill, which will be affixed to the outer wall. It was the first windmill and the third flourmill erected in South Australia. **
[** Note: The above last sentence is not correct. As stated by Bernard Arnold of the Gumeracha and District History Centre Inc., in the Adelaide Hills Weekender August 2008, when referring to another similar statement - "This was not the second mill built in South Australia as stated but was the sixth wind-powered flour mill to be completed in that colony. Earlier mills being Lyndoch Valley (stone tower), Hay Valley, Adelaide West Terrace (Nixon's), North Road Prospect, and Adelaide West Terrace (Phillips', stone tower). Two more were completed later at Morphett Vale and Encounter Bay. Another windmill was begun in 1846 at Port Lincoln but was never completed. Besides the five earlier windmills, there were four steam mills which predated the Hahndorf windmill, namely Ridley's at Hindmarsh (December 1840), Kent's at Kent Town (January 1841), the Finnissbrook Mill at Burnside (steam and water-power) and the Company's Mill at Hackney (1842). There was also one water mill (late 1842) on Cox's Creek near the junction with the Onkaparinga River." - refer Flour Milling in the Mount Barker District for further details.]
Preserved as a memorial of the pioneering days of South Australia. This windmill was built by F R Nixon in 1842 who sold it to Walter Paterson in 1844. It was worked by him until 1853, when it was sold to F W Wittwer. It ceased operations in 1864 and was donated to the public in 1928 by A E Braendler. Tablet presented by Walter Paterson's grandchildren
(1961 - 1966) Nixon’s Mill - Restoration by Apex Club
In 1939, a bushfire destroyed the staircase and the upper portion of the Windmill. Little thought was given to the derelict structure until 1961 when Dr W.S. Lawson brought its historical interest to the notice of the Mount Barker Council. A relatively small body of men, the Apex Club of Mount Barker took on the responsibility of rebuilding. By the middle of 1966 members had spent hundreds of hours in repairing the plaster painting constructing the roof and installing a floor in the upper section. Later that year the preparation of the grounds was completed and the leader of the opposition, the Honourable Steele Hall on the 20th November 1966 opened the restored old Windmill to the public.
APEX MOVES RAPIDLY ON RESTORATION OF OLD MILL [Extract from Mount Barker Courier 6 July 1966] -- A rapid and surprisingly extensive transformation is expected to take place within the next few weeks at the old mill, which overlooks the Prince's Highway between Hahndorf and Mount Barker. The restoration of the windmill is a big and expensive service-to-the-community project being undertaken by the members of the Mount Barker Apex Club, who have given hundreds and hundreds of hours to planning, painting and rebuilding parts of the old mill.
On Sunday the public was able to see the first major change in the appearance of the mill since it was painted by the Apexians nearly 12 months ago. After a great deal of effort by members, with the assistance of the local Civil Defence organisation and a few members of the public, the mill was fitted with its new dome roof. This 12 feet in diameter and 7'6" high structure of steel and timber had to be made on the ground before being hauled 45 feet up the side of the mill and set in place.
New Sails - Within the next fortnight, weather permitting, the new dome roof will be tiled and the four new 24-ft. sails set in position. Wunderlich Ltd has seen fit to assist the Apex Club in its efforts to restore the windmill as a monument to the early agriculturists of the district, and has given free of cost, the tiles for the roof and the labour to affix them.
It has been estimated that the cost of materials and outside labour to restore the mill to this point is in excess of $1,000. Apart from a donation of $200 from the local council and other donations from a few members of the public — these total about $50—all expenses have been met by the Apex Club. With further plans in mind to improve the area as a beauty spot and tourist attraction, progress will be held up for a considerable time because of lack of funds. A public appeal was made some time ago but the response was disappointing.
Old Agricultural Equipment - It is planned by the Apex Club to display in the area surrounding the old mill items of farming equipment used by the pioneers of the district. Already several ploughs, a bullock yoke and bows, and a couple of trimming axes, which were brought out from England in 1838, have been collected. Mr Brian Brittain, who is in charge of this aspect of the project, said that he would like to get an old German wagon, or log cart, and an old hand pump. If any person has these items or anything else that is of historical value, would they contact Mr Brittain at Mt Barker 434.
● Top right: Apexians are seen putting the final touches in the construction of the framework of the dome roof. Nearly 500 feet of Kauri was used for the tile battens and 400 feet of piping for the framework.
● Top left: Inch by inch the roof was hauled 45 feet to the top.
(1975 - 1988) Action to Restore Windmill
From 1979, the National Trust of SA Hahndorf Branch initiated research and fund-raising programs in an attempt to restore and maintain the Windmill. In 1980, an $80,000 appeal to restore Nixon’s Windmill was officially launched at a fund-raising dinner where Mr David Wotton, Minister for Environment and Planning was guest speaker. The long-term objective was to restore the mill to full working condition.
A Windmill Restoration Committee was set-up by the Mount Barker Council, which included representatives of the Hahndorf branch of the National Trust, service clubs and the Council. It was hoped that work would start before the end of that year on restoring the structure of the mill, including cleaning the stone work, painting, pointing, strengthening the floors, timbers and doorways, etc. This work was expected to take most of the $13,000 Commonwealth Grant which had been awarded the previous year. Local Architect, Mr George Liptak, was appointed project manager by the Mount Barker District Council for the restoration work. The committee planed to build a caretaker’s cottage near the mill, as well as installing full working mechanism, restoring the roof and the sails.
Unfortunately the $80,000 appeal came to nought, however, in 1983 after the project manager was appointed, stabilisation of the Windmill structure, masonry repair, water proofing and repairs to door and windows were completed. No attempt was made at that stage to restore the Windmill to its condition with dummy sail arms and dome roof as existed after the 1966 restoration. Just the repaired empty shell of the Windmill structure remained.
In 1988 it was announced that: "Nixon’s Mill, the windmill nestled behind Old Mount Barker Road, will be restored if proposals to be put to the State Government are accepted." The Nixon’s Mill Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Mount Barker Council, had requested a grant from the State Government Planning and Development Fund following a decision by the owner of land adjoining the mill to sell. The committee treasurer, Mr Robert Macrow, stated that the Windmill would cost about $100,000 to fully restore, and that the committee hoped not only to restore the interior of the mill to working order but also hoped to replace the sails. It was believed that the mill not only had great potential as a tourist attraction, but also could be a valuable piece of community heritage. The committee hoped to get funding from the Government to redevelop the area through the heritage branch of the Department of Environment and Planning, that the extra $100,000 would be vital if the mill were to be made into a permanent tourist attraction; and if the surrounding land were bought, a cottage, shop and historic display centre could be built. The Mount Barker District Council were interested in supporting the project, but would not commit funds due to the high cost. Funding for this project did not eventuate from the State Government.
(2016 -->) Major Upgrade
Despite the many attempts to initiate restoration after the 1983 repairs, the Windmill structure slowly deteriorated over the years, and it wasn't until 2016, when the Hahndorf Community Association succeeded in reviving the project, that the Mount Barker District Council commenced a major upgrade to the Windmill site.
In 2015, local residents Jim Fowles and Eric Aliffe, through the Hahndorf Community Association (HCA), persuaded the Mount Barker District Council to consider enhancing and restoring Nixon's Windmill and surrounds. As a result, a major upgrade and conservation project was undertaken by the Mount Barker District Council which consisted of the mill tower being painted, drainage improved, access steps replaced, the boundary redefined and re-fenced, electricity and lighting connected to the site, a shelter for artefacts constructed and interpretive signage installed. This upgrade project did not include restoration of the sail arms and other components of the Windmill that previously existed.
This project commenced in 2016 and was programmed to be completed within a few years. The work was carried out by the Mount Barker District Council in collaboration with the Apex Club of Mount Barker, Beerenberg Foundation, Hahndorf Community Association, Hahndorf Lions Club and the Hahndorf and Mount Barker Branches of the National Trust of South Australia.