The Chaff Mill is built on the traditional lands of the Kuarna people, who have lived here for thousands of years. As European farmers colonised the area from the early 1830’s they brought with them different land management practices, planting vast fields of grain.
Starting life in 1872, the Chaff Mill provided nourishment for farm animals and people alike, milling grains from those surrounding fields and separating seeds from stalks (the eponymous “chaff”). Before long it was a thriving business, becoming a nodal point in the farmer-settler stories of the region; frequented by huge bullock teams as they hauled their loads to and from far-off Adelaide, up and over the massive challenge of Sellicks Hill.
In 1902 new owners- the Eatts family- arrived and built on the front section, which is now “The Millery”, while the original section became the grain storage and bagging area– now called “The Granary”. You’ll see evidence of this history throughout, from massive drive shafts, to the beautiful Winnower (used to separate wheat from chaff) that’s now a 2-metre-high chandelier in “The Millery”.
Being good Methodists, the Eatts family insured religiously. In those days the insurance company sent their representative around in a horse and buggy to collect up the annual dues door to door. In 1919 he happened to come a couple of weeks late, but they paid up and nobody thought any more about it. The fields grew tall and groaned with a bumper crop of wheat. After years of war and privation it looked like a wonderful return to prosperity.
Then, disaster. With summer came a run of 40 degree days. Birds descended on the surrounding fields to gorge on the harvest-ready wheat, so one of the family went out with a shotgun to scare them away. The wadding of the shot landed in the dry wheat and it ignited like a bomb. In moments, a vicious northerly wind blew the fire down onto the Chaff Mill, and the fields of grain that gave life brought destruction by fire. The Chaff Mill was gutted.
The quote for repairs came to some £2,100, which is hundreds of thousands in today’s money. Luckily the Eatts were covered- or so they thought. Calamitously, the insurance company reneged, claiming that because they paid late the policy had lapsed.
This broke their spirit, and the building lapsed slowly into ruin. By the time we arrived in 2006 it looked like this:
Over the course of the next 8 years we saved up, and in 2014 embarked on a six-year restoration.
Now, a phoenix from century-old ashes, we offer the reborn Chaff Mill to you