Sandstone Heritage Trust bids successfully on Phoenix Mill in Grahamstown!
On Thursday, 12th May, 2010, the historic Phoenix Roller Mill went under the hammer. The auction, held by Dave Mullins of ReMax Frontier clearly separated the contents of the building from the property itself. By prior negotiation, the woodwork supporting the machinery, the lower and upper floors and the trusses, were included with the mill machinery. Sandstone Heritage Trust was represented at the auction by Wilfred Mole, Peter Elliott and Andy Selfe for technical back-up.
We were keen to keep the scrap-man away, there being a considerable weight in iron and steel, to say nothing about the used wood; there being several cubic metres of Oregon-type pine and possibly yellowwood involved. In the event, there were only two serious buyers for the Mill machinery, and the hammer fell to Sandstone Heritage Trust.
I did not stay for the auction of the property, rather returning to explore the Mill and photograph and video everything, with my mind on the next operation, marking and dismantling everything. Luckily, included in the sale is a General Arrangement drawing of the entire mill-house, which will be carefully reproduced.
The Mill consists of four Roller Mills and six rotary screens, on two floors, with line shafting under the ground floor and another shaft the full length of the building in the rafters. For handling the grain or flour, there are at least ten elevators. Motive power is a massive Crossley single cylinder open crank suction gas engine complete with its producer and scrubber, as last used. The Mill last ran 26 years ago.
A small amount of stripping has been done on the engine, and correspondence between the Mill owners and Crossley regarding their problems is included in the paperwork. It should be noted that Crossley were not entirely helpful in their reply regarding spares for an engine dating from 1907! The original invoice from Mangold Brothers was for £600, for the engine and plant, installed.
Dave mentioned in the preamble to the auction that he had been in contact with the still existing E R & F Turner of Ipswich, makers of the Mills, to check on their possible age. A helpful person there informed him that their records don’t go that far back, but according to their earliest records and their rate of manufacture, he assumed these Mills to date from the 1880s.
There follows a selection of photographs to give an impression of what the Mill entails:
What next? The property is likely to be sold for re-development, so after careful numbering, referring to the GA drawing, the entire contents must be dismantled and removed, loaded and removed to Sandstone Estates.
The best way to display it would be inside a large shed, big enough to enclose the entire building, and to substitute the walls with an exoskeleton of steel beams where the walls were. In this way, a visitor can stand back and view the four levels of the Mill working, while the whole is safe from the weather.
A Stencil for marking bags.
Included in the display must be the paperwork described above, amongst which are the complete records of every pound of meal it produced and a wonderful photo album.
Before leaving the area, we visited Ann Palmer, widow of the legendary Geoff Palmer, the guiding light behind the Bathurst Agricultural Museum. From there, we visited the Museum and were given a guided tour and entertained by the two Alan’s who are steering the Museum on a steady, uphill course!
We were kindly put up and well fed at Peter and Michelle Elliott’s farm outside East London for the night, ready for our trips home.
16th May 2010