Topic: Vintage Flour Mill at Poroutawhao, Levin

topic type:

A once buried and forgotten "Vintage Flour Mill" from the Poroutawhao area, has been salvaged and partly restored to its former glory. following is the story and photos off how this all came about.


              Replica of vintage flour mill opened

      By TANYA WOOD  Horowhenua Chronicle February  5-2014
      Arguably the oldest known surviving Euro­pean artefacts in Horowhenua did not end up buried under a
bypass thanks to the efforts of a local farmer.
The two metal cogs had been lying on a Poroutawhao field for more than 100 years, on land formerly owned
by the late Jim Stewart. They are the only 
surviving remains of the flour mill built there in the 1850s by local
Maori under the guidance of a French Catholic priest
 Mr Stewart's wife Gae told Horowhenua Chronicle her
husband was determined the cogs should riot be lost to posterity, following a land requisition by 'the Minis­try
of Works in the 1980s.
     Mr Stewart also resisted several offers from private museum owners to buy the cogs and stored them in
a shed for 30 years. 
Bequeathed to the Horowhenua Vintage Car Club for restoration, the cogs were on public
display for the first time at the club's open day on Sunday, housed in a 4m high replica flour mill, built 
volunteers with private funding from the Stewart Family Trust, Society of Mary and Poroutawhao Hall Society. 
     "Jim was always going to restore the cogs 'when he had time' and I feel quite satisfied for him that these
cogs, which are of historic significance, are now made 
available to the public as he wanted," said Mrs Stewart,
who cut the ribbon officially opening the replica mill. 
     More than 100 people attended the official opening of the flour mill, including members of Ngati Huia,
descendants of the original builders and an archivist 
from the Society of Mary in Wellington, the same order
belonged to by the French Catholic priest and mill builder.

Flour mill not destined to handle a daily grind

The text below is from the Horowhenua Mail Newspaper dated February 6- 2014 

    A once buried and forgotten mill has been partly restored to some of its former glory. 
The remnants ofLevin's
first flour mill, in Poroutawhao, have been restored by the Horowhenua Vintage Car Club, which now houses the
mill at its Horowhenua Showgrounds clubrooms.
    The mill was officially opened on January 26 at the club's open day. The event attracted more than 50 cars and
bikes for display, and about 70 people. 
Gae Stewart, widow of Jim Stewart who gifted the mill remains to the car
club, officially opened the replica reconstructed mill and machinery.
    Horowhenua mayor Brendan Duffy and councilors attended, along with iwi representatives from the land where 
the original
mill was situated.
Historian and car club member Peter Nightingale said the flour mill was possibly the earliest known European 
artefact in this district.
   It was built around 1850 by Father Jean Baptise Compte as part of the Roman Catholic mission at Poroutawhao, 
and one of a number built in Horowhenua, with machinery imported from France.
    The mill was sited at the north­western end of what is now Paeroa Rd, formally Mill Rd, but renamed to stop
confusion with Otaki's Mill Rd.
He said the water-powered mill was built on the western bank of a man-made water 
race, drawing water from a blocked off swamp, with a causeway across the swamp for access.

    "Little is known about the mill and it may have fallen into disuse as
early as’ the major earthquake on 23rd of January 1885 which devastated
partsof this area,
Mr Nightingale said.
It was believed the earthquake buried the mill, and
over time  it was mostly forgotten, he said. But in 1988 a family of local
children exploring a drain found the mill, and the remains were salvaged
by the farmer who owned the land, Jim Stewart, and stored in one of his
    In 2009, Mr Stewart gifted the remains of the mill to the car club for
Mr Nightingale said the Stewart family, the Society of Mary and the
Poroutawhao Hall committee had all contributed to funding the restoration.

The photo on the Left,  ( Horowhenua Vintage Car  Club members ) who took
 on |the job of researching, restoring and reconstructing the "Vintage Flour Mill"
on the Levin site.
1. John White   2. Tony Wallace 3.Murray Tinsley, 4. Bill Shattky     5. Bill Butters 
 6. Ivan Benge  7. Mick Peryer, 8.      9.         10.  Peter Nightingale, 11. Mark Morgan,
 12. Brian Wilton 13.   
14.  Bruce Scott      15.             16. Wayne Thrower. 17. Chris Clarke           
18. Brian Eastam   19. Don McIntyre  20.         21.  John Rapely  22. Warren Vaughan.
 23.       24.         25.         26.  Rex Williams  27          
  28. Warren Birch  29.        
 30.         31. Neil Bowater        32.              33. Bernard Scott  34.            35.         36.


  Left Photo : Part of the management team who put the project together.
  1.  Micheal Gaffenery  2. Peter Nightingale,  3. Colin Brooks, 4. Tom Hayes, 5 Colin Geange 

  How did all this start  .If we go back to the mid- 1840s this is report about New Zealands
early history.                    

      JEAN-BAPTISTE COMTE, aged 27 (on arrival in New Zealand in Group III on 9 Dec Jun 1839).
      He was one of the group of five catholic priests from FRENCH MARISTS. 
They sailed from 

London on the Australasian Packet ship on 14 June, 1839, to arrive in Sydney on 25 October
1839 via the Cape of Good Hope.

    The Martha left on 10 November to land them in the Bay of Islands on 9 December, 1839. 
He began learning Maori in the Hokianga. On 31 July 1840 he left the Bay of Islands on the  
Aube for Akaroa where he arrived on 16 August to begin a mission among  Maori. The results
were discouraging so he left Akaroa on 16 March 1842 to return to Kororareka. He
accompanied Pompallier when the bishop left the Bay of Islands in mid-February 1844 for a
visit down East Coast, and was left at Wellington about the end of March to assist 
Fr O’Reily
with the care of Maori.
    Later in the year he shifted his base to Waikawa and by 1845 had settled at Otaki. There
he built up a thriving Catholic community with its own school, flour mill and extensive gardens with a small ship to carry produce to
Wellington. He was a victim of his own achievements for he came to feel their commercial success was undermining his sense of priestly
Towards the end of 1854 he resigned his post, left the Marists, and returned to France. He died as parish priest on 14 January 1899, aged
       During the time he spent in the area he helped the local Moari Iwi at Nga Haere Pa to build a water powered Flour mill to

 process wheat grown in the area. The government of the day was encouraging Moari tribes ithroughout  New Zealand to build mills etc.
to process crops from their gardens.
There were a number of mills being built in the Wellington province at the time and parts were being
imported from Fance and England.  


               Father Jean-Baptise Comte 1854

Father Jean-Baptise Comte 1854 The French Catholic Priest who instigated the project to build the flour mill. Then taught them how to operate and service the mill to keep it operating.


   Map showing the position of Nga Haere Pa and the flour Mill

Map of Vintage Flour Mill at Poroutawhao

Green showing  position of Nga Haere Pa
Red showing position of the Flour Mill
Blue showing position of Te Konga Lagoon and hand dug water
race feeding water from the lagoon to the Flour Mill. 

   Local Neve family who discovered the Old Mill remains in the    banks of the Waitarere Stream 1988            

Vintage Flour Mill at Poroutawhao 0002

   Mr. Rod McDonald sitting amongst the remains of the Old Flour
   Mill at Poroutawhao

   Rod McDonald with the remains of the old Mill     Photo by G.L. Adkin collection 

   Chief Rangihaeata nephew of Te Rauparaha was the reigning   Maori chief at the time the flour mill was built 1780 - 1855 

 Chief Te Rangihaeata   

      Land owner salvaging the Mill remains from the swamp 1988

Land owner salvaging the Mill remains from the swamp. 1988














  by henryphillips 

 Mr. Rod McDonald holding the Old grape vine planted near Paeroa Pa near the Flour Mill sight 1860s.Grapevine planted near the Mill sight 1853       by henryphillips

   The salvaged gear parts stored in Mr Stewarts farm shed  

The salvaged gear parts stored in Mr Stewarts farm shed          by henryphillips

           Building the relica Vintage Flour Mill begins
                  Driving the first foundation peg 
Driving the first foundation peg  by henryphillips

                    The foundation all marked out

Foundation pegged out  0009
   by henryphillips 

    This is what the Vintage Flour Mill        A Model ot the Vintage 
    will look like                                     Four mill 

  This is what the Vintage Flour Mill will look like A model of the vintage Flour mill
by henryphillips

                   Foundations ready for concrete 

 Foundations ready for concrete
    by henryphillips

                       Concrete foundation ready for framingConcrete foundation ready for framing by henryphillips

               Collecting Machinery parts from the farmers shed

Collecting Machinery parts from the farmers shed
 by henryphillips

                                 Fame work being installed

Fame work being installed by henryphillips 

           Club members helping to collect parts from the farmer

Club members helping to collect parts from the farmer
   by henryphillips

                       Timber being milled for the cladding

Club members helping to collect parts from the farmer by henryphillips

                   Milled weather boards being fitted

Milled weather boards being fitted         by  henryphillips

               A block of wood for making the wooden tiles

A block of wood for making the wooden tiles by henryphillips

              A log splitter being used to make the roof tiles

 A log splitter being used to make the roof tiles
    by henryphillips

                      Wooden roof tiles in the making

Wooden roof tiles in the making by henryphillips

                   Precision work making wooden roof tiles

Precision work making wooden roof tiles         by   henryphillips

                           Fitting tiles to the roofFitting tiles to the roof by henryphillips

                                    Completing the roofing work

Completing the roofing work         by henryphillips

  Progressing well, taking shape     Hand made wooden cogs for
                                               the main gear wheel 

  Progressing well, taking shape Hand made wooden cogs for the gear wheels by henryphillips                                     by henryphillips

                           Main gears ready for restoration

Main drive gears ready for restoration          by henryphillips

                             Workers making wooden cogs

Workers making wooden cogs by henryphillips

                              Fitting cogs to the main gear wheel

 Fitting cogs to the main gear whee
  by henryphillips

                                  Precision work progressing

Precision work progressing by henryphillips  by henryphillips 

                    Main gear wheel with wooden cogs fitted

 Main gear with cogs fitted

Installing the gear assembly in              Views inside the mill 0046
the mill

 Installing the gear assembly in the mil Views inside the mill 0046
by henryphillips

                              Gears assembled in the mill

Gears assembled in the mill         by henryphillips

                              Views from inside the millViews from inside the mill by henryphillips

     Views inside the mill 0044        

   Views inside the mill 0045
   A new mill stone at the back. Parts of
   original stones on the side.  

                                                                       Views inside the mill 0044     Views inside the mill 0045

      Views inside the mill 0047     Views inside the mill 0048

 Views inside the mill 0047 Views inside the mill 0048

   Precision workmanship 0053     

Precision workmanship 0054

                          Building complete 0042
  The Horowhenua Vintage Car Club are now organizing to build the
             " Water Wheel "that powered the machinery 

 Building complete 0042 byhenryphillips


          Notice in window of vintage flour mill 0065 

                       The old Four Mill at Otaki 1848
  This photo of the flour mill built on the Watohu Stream at Otaki
  around the 1948 era. The builder of the mill was a Mr. Dodds of  Otaki. Father Jean-Baptise was also ministering in Otaki during this
time. Perhaps he had input to this mill as well. More research may
 prove this ?

The old Four Mill at Otaki 1848
by henryphillips

 Some interesting Historical facts about water powered flour mills  in New Zealand ( 1847- 1860 )

 Flour Mills under contruction in the Wellington Province during
 the 1840s

  ( Fig. 1)

Flour Mills in the Wellington province 1848 era

           Visitors at the H.V.C.C. Swap Meet day inspecting the
                                   Vintage Flour Mill

     0081 Visitors looking thru the vintage flour mill during the HVCC swap meet 33-3-2014

 Two of the instigators that promoted the restoration of the Vintage  Flour Mill. 1. Peter Nightingale and  2. Tom Hayes, by the front door 
  of the flour mill. 

      IMG_0067  Peter Nightingale and Tom Hayes
        by henryphillips 

   Some interesting Historical facts about water powered flour                      mills in New Zealand    ( 1847- 1860 )

   Maori Flour Mills South of the Auckland Province (1847-1860)

  Page 1                      University of Otago
   In the late 1840s and during the 1850s Maori agriculture enjoyed a period of expansion and importance in the economy of the North Island which has not been equaled since. In an earlier paper the location and characteristics of the Maori owned flour mills of the Auckland Province during this period were discussed. Subsequent research has shown that the demand for water-mills was not confined to the Northern Province alone, but existed in fact throughout the North Islands.

    By the second half of the decade of the 1840s wheat growing had become a major agricultural activity in most areas of Maori settlement. Along the Wanganui River, for example, the land devoted by the natives to this crop was by early 1848 estimated to be at least 2,000 acres. At first steel hand mills were exclusively used for grinding the grain, but the Maoris found them tedious and with but a limited output. Repairs were also a problem. Besides, many districts were growing wheat in excess of that which the local tribe could consume, and some tribes recognized that if they wished to sell the flour to Europeans, only the better quality flour as produced by watermills would be saleable at an acceptable price. This was a further inducement for the Maoris to build water-powered mills and for a number of years surplus Maori ground flour was sold in the European towns.

    The earliest reference to the building of a flour mill by a Maori tribe south of Auckland Province appears to be in mid-1846 when the Maoris at Waikanae were said to be proposing to erect one as soon as they could obtain the necessary funds. However, a mill at Warea, some miles south of New Plymouth, appears to have been the first actually in operation, being at work by the closing months of 1847. The pioneer mill in Auckland had been erected at Aotea in the previous year.

    By mid-1848 four mills were reported as built or under construction in Wellington Province and three in Taranaki. Nine years later some nine mills were reported to be in operation in Wellington (including two in the Ahuriri district) with a further six in the Taranaki Province. Throughout the period some twenty mills in all appear to have existed in southern North Island. (Fig. 1).   

  Some interesting Historical facts about water powered flour mills   in New Zealand    ( 1847- 1860 )

                      Flour Mills in the Manawatu area

Page 2        From the map above it can be recognized that the greatest concentration was to be found in the coastal region from Horowhenua to Porirua where some seven mills were located. A noteworthy grouping within this region was centered on Otaki. Elsewhere concentrations of mills occurred in coastal Taranaki, along the Wanganui River, and in the Ahuriri district.
     As in the Auckland Province, many of the mills were built as a result of encouragement by missionaries. Thus at Otaki the Church of England missionary, the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, encouraged the local Maoris in their agriculture and mill building. Unlike their practice elsewhere, the Roman Catholic priests in Wellington Province, particularly along the Wanganui River, took an active part in promoting the construction of flour mills.                                              
   All missionaries, however, were not happy with this activity. One, for example, writing from South Taranaki, stated: "I regret that they do so little for the cause of God; but hundreds of pigs have been sent to New Plymouth to pay for their Mills, and they are still in arrears.
From the available contemporary evidence it seems that in comparison with the Auckland Province a greater proportion of the mills of the southern area were financed by the tribes themselves with apparently no help from the Government. For example the capital for the Otaki mill was raised by the formation of a company, the shares of which were taken up by individual members of the tribe concerned. As was true in the north the usual method of raising the necessary funds was by sale of pigs, wheat and other native grown produce to European traders or in settlement markets. In some places, such as Hawkes Bay, the money received from the sale of land was also probably devoted in part at least to this purpose. The only exception known where a mill was erected with financial assistance from the Government was at Papawai.
  In order to reduce construction costs, the Maoris provided the unskilled manual labour required, but a European millwright was always employed to install the machinery in the mill.
   Unfortunately there is little or no information available on many aspects of the flour mills of the region. Thus it can only be assumed that the number of pairs of stones per mill was usually one, as was the case in Auckland, although definite proof is lacking. No data was found on the size of the stones employed.

As in the Auckland Province, the flour Mills in the southern part of the North Island were too often " kept partly as a showy plaything and as the contemporary observer put it," like the first watch a boy gets, they run a great chance of being damaged". Thus two mills in southern Taranaki were reported to be out of repair in early 1850, although they had been erected but two or so years earlier. The fear was expressed that, unless a European was employed to superintend operations, this would be the fate of all Maori water mills. 




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Vintage Flour Mill at Poroutawhao, Levin

Construction date:1850s
Architect:Father Jean-Baptise Compte
Constructed by:Ngati Huia Tribe
Original owner:Ngati Huia Tribe
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Vintage Flour Mill at Poroutawhao, Levin by henryphillips is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License