Caffe Belgiorno operates in the building formerly known as The Commercial Flour Mills, established in 1867 by TH Williams who also later constructed three more mills in the town.
The building cost approximately 1,000 pounds with costs of land and machinery in the vicinity of 3,000 pounds. The mill itself had an internal area of 65ft x 75 ft capable of storing 15,000 bushels of wheat.
Before coming to Mount Gambier Mr Williams had erected a Mill at Port MacDonnell in 1864.
Hard work lays the foundations
The Border Watch in 1867 reported that the road from the Mill to Commercial Street was a quagmire after heavy rains and the council was urged to make improvements.
Two years after constructing the imposing Mill, Mr Williams (later Mayor of Mount Gambier) sold to Mr T Wilson (also a future Mayor) and for 20 years, the Flour and Grain Mill continued under its second owner until in 1889, Mr Wilson had to assign his estate due to financial difficulties.
The Mill was closed for a few months and then re-opened under new management, a company of local business men appointing Mr G T Wright as manager and miller.
New machinery was installed in 1892 and 1893. A luncheon was given for more than 50 gentlemen in February 1893 to mark the arrival of the new roller machinery and the discarding of the older millstones and obsolete portions of machinery that had served since the opening days.
Again in 1898 further machinery was added and the name of the business changed to the Commercial Roller Flour Mills.
The next major improvements to the thriving business was in 1898/99 when the Mill was doubled in size and then late in 1901 a new section on the east of the main building was erected, three stories and four floors, 60 feet wide, 30 feet deep and 40 feet high.
The business was formed into a Limited Company in 1916 and 20 years later, self-raising flour was first manufactured. The first Chairman in 1916 was Mr John Watson who was succeeded in 1925 by his son, Mr J R Watson. A three-generation trio was completed in 1948 when Mr R J R Watson was appointed.
Caffe Belgiorno today boasts of being a three generation business so history has indeed repeated itself.
In the late 1930s the company purchased the Mill of A A Brice and Co and further major alterations were made at the main premises in 1957 with showrooms and an office erected for Sunshine Harvesters (now McIntosh & Son).
In the foundations of this latest building, a number of interesting original relics of the first Mill were unearthed, including a bottle containing records and two heaving flat round mill-stones first used in 1867.
The business which commenced gristing wheat into flour in a new building opposite Fidler & Webb in 1867 continued to function as a flour and oatmeal mill celebrating its centenary in 1967. Operations ceased in 1975 and parts of it have been used for cinema, retail and restaurant purposes since 1984.
Many of us today enjoy the traditional oatmeal cookies so why not download the recipe here.
Why not take a personal heritage walk or drive around Mount Gambier. The Mount Gambier History Group Inc has guides available for sale.
Stay tuned for the next installment – The birth of Caffe Belgiorno.