|Barwon Paper Mill at Buckley Falls during flooding|
16th January, 2011
At the time of its opening, the complex was at the forefront of paper-making technology and its backers included such notable Geelong names as Silas Harding, James and Andrew Volum and William Francis Ducker. A more detailed discussion of the technology involved can be found here.
The mill buildings themselves were constructed from bricks and locally quarried bluestone with corrugated iron and the equipment was powered by a water turbine wheel whose performance was enhanced by an impeller housed in a tower which can still be seen facing onto the river. Likewise, the water race is clearly visible carrying water from the weir along its full length until it reaches the mill where in times of adequate supply, it tumbles down to the rocks below and back into the river.
|Water race running to the Barwon Paper Mill during drought|
Originally, they were used to house some of the 200 men whom it is estimated, worked in the mill, making over 40 different types of paper.
Unlike today, paper-making processes in the Victorian era - and for 2000 years beforehand - relied on the pulping of old rags, rather than that of wood fibres and the Barwon Paper Mill was no different in this respect. The rags went through a number of treatments designed to break the fibres into small enough pieces to be formed into paper.
A curious side effect of using rags, was the need to first remove any old buttons or fastenings which may still be attached to the cloth. This task was undertaken by women whose job it was to sit and remove the unwanted attachments. Once removed, the buttons were simply dumped in a pile near the mill site. It was this practise which gave rise to the name Button Hill for the land which rises to the east of the mill. According to descriptions by the Victorian Heritage Database, there are hundreds of thousands of buttons, beads and other clips and fastenings on the hill made from bone, ceramic, glass, metal and other substances. The site is located partially on private property which does not belong to the mill and currently still awaits comprehensive archaeological examination.
|Mill cottages built in 1878|
After paper production ceased, the complex was taken over for the manufacturing of ice before being commandeered in 1941 for use by the navy during World War II. Nowadays, the mill is privately owned and whilst no longer used for its original purpose, the buildings are utilised by a number of small businesses which operate out of the site. Unfortunately for those of us who are interested, this has the disadvantage of excluding access by the general public to the mill complex. So, for the present we will have to continue as I have done for several decades now, to view the mill from the south bank of the river.
Well, that was, until today (6th June, 2015). See this post.