Step back in time at Smeaton's historic Anderson's Mill

TOWN HISTORY: Cheryl Just and Alan Just are passionate about keeping the history of the mill alive. Photo: Kate Healy
TOWN HISTORY: Cheryl Just and Alan Just are passionate about keeping the history of the mill alive. Photo: Kate Healy

SMEATON will come to life this weekend as its impressive historic mill is activated for the annual National Trust Heritage Weekend.

Anderson's Mill - a five-storey historic bluestone building with iconic iron water wheel - opened in the early 1860s to cater to the hundreds of people who had flocked to the region during the gold rush.

Situated on the banks of Birch's Creek - which helped to drive the iron water wheel - the oat and flour mill is a reminder of the gold rush era and the historic prominence of the town.

The National Trust weekend began three years ago as a result of a bright idea from Cheryl and Alan Just.

Mr Just said he and his wife contacted a mill in Shetland in the United Kingdom to inquire as to what they did to re-activate their mill. And their response was the Mills On The Air event.

Anderson's Mill, managed by Parks Victoria, was the first mill outside of Europe to link in to the event, closely followed by Dunn's Mill in South Australia and then mills closer to home in Maryborough.

As such, Smeaton is part of the U.K Mills Weekend, with Bendigo Amateur Radio and Electronic Club connecting with the other mills throughout the day and night. And from the activation, the Justs developed an entire weekend of events to encourage people to visit the historic mill.

"The main thing we want is for people to come and see the mill," Ms Just said. "We just love this place but we also do it for the previous owners, who really wanted to see it become a place that educated people about the history."

Visitors will have the opportunity to see the water wheel in operation, view exhibitions of historic artefacts such as heritage engines and hand milling flour demonstrations as well as art and crafts such as heritage quilts, printmaking, weaving and embroidery.

The mill was built by the Anderson family with money made from the goldfields in 1861 before it closed in the late 1950s, with much of the machinery sold for scrap.

The mill's bridge - built circa 1890 - is potentially the only fully-intact and authentic surviving bluestone and timber-beam bridge from the nineteenth century and was restored last year.

The free event will be hosted at Anderson's Mill from 10am on May 11 and 12.