Bradshaw's Mill, Bathurst






Post date: 07/08/2012
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History: This wool mill was built in 1821 by Samuel Bradshaw, an 1820 Settler. It played an important role in the history of the wool industry in South Africa.

The remains of the first wool mill to be built in the Eastern Province and probably the first in South Africa, stand on the left bank of the Bathurst River about a kilometre south-west of the town of Bathurst.
After the British Settlers had established themselves in this area, they suffered severely through the lack of quite elementary necessities. Clothes and blankets were so scarce that they had recourse to making them of skins. At the same time, they were handicapped by the absence of reasonable markets for their produce. Under these circumstances one of them, Samuel Bradshaw, a weaver from Gloucestershire, saw an opportunity to erect a wool mill. He was the leader of one of the parties of Settlers and a man of many parts; at a later stage he was to build the lovely little St. John’s Church in Bathurst.
In December, 1821, Bradshaw was already occupied in building the wool mill of local stone. He was assisted by Richard Bradshaw and a carpenter, Isaac Wiggall, and he employed a sawyer, Jeremiah Goldswain, at a wage of R4.50 per month with free board and lodging, to saw up the massive yellowwood beams for the interior of the mill. Having sawn enough timber, Goldswain left for Grahamstown in May, 1822, the year in which the mill was probably completed. Bradshaw imported the machinery, consisting of a spinning machine and loom, from Gloucestershire.
Bradshaw obtained the wool for this mill from local producers. The Rev. George Barker of the Theopolis Mission Station started a small flock in 1816. Other British Settlers followed his example and soon the wool production of pioneers like Henry Nourse, Lt. Alexander Bisset, Edward Philipps and Thomas Springfellow exceeded the capacity of the mill.
The mill produced mainly woollen blankets and kersey, a kind of coarse twill, thereby supplying a particular need of the inhabitants of the border area. It was in production until 1835, but on 13th March of that year it was set on fire by marauding Xhosa. Lt. Joseph Wilmot set out with a detachment of the garrison at Bathurst to save it, but arrived too late. Although the equipment was destroyed, the building itself suffered little damage. Even the yellow- wood beams were merely blackened.
The old wool mill symbolises the modest beginnings of South Africa’s great and flourishing wool industry. The Simon van der Stel Foundation bought the property in 1962 and restored it a year later.
Visual Description: The structure originally consisted of two storeys measuring 5 m by 4 m internally. A third storey of brick was somewhat smaller and was probably added later. The roof was of slate from North Wales, brought out to Port Elizabeth as ships’ ballast. The machinery was driven by a waterwheel with a diameter of 5,4 m. To ensure a regular supply of water, he built a weir in the Bathurst River some distance above the mill and a furrow to lead the water to a millrace which directed the water on to the waterwheel. A short distance below the mill there was a stone building for washing the raw wool.
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Construction Date: 1821
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