By 1858, windmills were being produced in Australia and by the 1890s the original timber constructions were being replaced by geared, metal windmills more like those we would recognise today. Windmills were used to pump water either from dams or rivers or from underground bores and naturally the developing farming communities along the banks of the Barwon River were keen to tap water supplies for their stock and crops.
|Windmill on the Barwon off Wilsons Road, St Albans Park|
Once on the river itself however, and able to see previously inaccessible farmland, I discovered just how widespread windmills still are even in today's fuel-driven society. This was particularly evident on the section of river between the upper and lower breakwaters. I have not made a formal attempt to count them, but can think of at least half a dozen between the aqueduct and the end of Coppards Road and generally appearing to be in good working order.
|Disused windmill on farmland above the Ring Road|
|Pump house beneath the Barrabool Hills|
Once again Google came promptly to my rescue with the website of The Windmill Journal, an Australian site which aims to collect information and photos relating to Australian and New Zealand windmills and their history. Bryan Brothers of Colac I soon discovered was established in 1888 by Australian born brothers Archie Mark Bryan and one of either George or Thomas Pierce Bryan. The company was a foundry which in addition to windmills also made stoves, tanks, tank stands and other items. Like others before them, the Bryan brothers made their own contribution to advancing windmill technology, introducing several changes to the structure of the wheel (as described in the above website).
The Bryan Brothers company still trades in Colac to the present day. From its establishment, it continued under the ownership of the Bryan family until 1944 when it was sold to R.A. Borch and from 1960 traded as Bryan Bros and Borch, adapting their production methods over the years in response to changes in the market and in environmental standards. In 1987 the Colac Water Supply Specialists purchased the company which became what today is Bryan Windmills Colac. The company still manufactures windmills along with tanks, troughs and tank stands as well as distributing solar pumps and irrigators.
The only exception I have noted so far to the Bryan Bros monopoly, was a rather tall, Southern Cross windmill, peeking above the treetops next to a small lagoon off Wilsons Road. The history of this company is almost as Australian as Bryan Bros. The Toowoomba Foundry was originally established in 1871 as an ironmonger's shop in that town by English immigrant George Washington Griffiths and his brother-in-law W. Atherton. The Southern Cross line of products including some of Australia's earliest windmills built in 1876, were developed by the foundry which had replaced the shop some two years earlier. These early wooden products were based on the Californian models mentioned above.
|Southern Cross Windmill behind trees|