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Urban Exploring: Hart’s Mill


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Location: Port Adelaide

Captain John Hart 1870.

Hart’s Mill is one of the most iconic buildings of Port Adelaide and is the longest continuously serving flour mill in South Australia, operating from 1855 to 1980. It was built under the direction of John Hart, a significant colonial figure, three-time Premier and instigator to much of the development of Port Adelaide.

Hart’s Mill was the largest and most technologically advanced mill in South Australia and at the time was claimed to be the best in the southern hemisphere. It was built to create an export market for the State’s produce and successfully shipped the finest flour all over the world. “Hart’s Flour” was regarded as one of the best and commanded the highest prices in Australia.

The large building that we all know today as Hart’s Mill was the second mill built on the site in 1894.

Hart’s Mill c. 2006. (Photo by Valerie Sitters)

In ~1894 the mode of power for the mill was converted from steam to electricity. A large electric motor was connected to the main driving wheel in the motor house adjacent to the mill building. The 1.5m diameter wheel transfers its power via rope belts to a system of drive-wheels, shafts and secondary wheels throughout the building.

Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide, Drive Wheel Diagram.

On the 14th of March 1905, the mill was destroyed by fire with the loss of everything apart from the brick walls which remained standing. All of the internal timber structure, floors, windows and roof were lost together with nearly all equipment.

Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide, 1905 Fire.

After an insurance payout of £10,356, the internals of the mill was reconstructed and new machinery purchased. The mill re-commenced operation in March 1906.

In 1928, a major upgrade of machinery was carried out and it was in this general form in which it operated through until its closure in 1980.

Some of the machinery still remains in the building including roller mills (1928), purifiers (1905), flower dressers (1928), arc bleachers, drive shafts, rope belts as well as a 360 HP electric motor (1928).

The scene inside the working mill is hard to visualise, but would have been similar to this mill in Howe Indiana:

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