With the success of their store and the establishment of the railway in Katanning, the Piesse brothers decided to build a flour mill. The York firm of Thorne, Bower and Stewart erected the mill in 1891 and it was equipped with machinery supplied by Otto Schumacher of Melbourne. Head miller Charles Quigley carried out the installation of the machinery. It was officially being opened on 1st May 1891.
The mill was to become the most dominant in the Great Southern region, having its production capacity doubled by 1909 and extensive alterations and additions in 1912. Upon the death of F H Piesse in 1912 his son Frederick took over the management of the mill. Further improvements were made, which included gantries, electric elevators and conveyors, and a storehouse capable of holding 1,500 tons. In 1915 the mill also erected five silos for wheat storage.
The importance of the mill to the town was heightened when it became the sole supplier of electricity to the town in the early 1900s, thanks to an act of Parliament introduced by F Piesse who was the member for Katanning at the time.
After much debate and friction within the community, mainly due to the higher than average charges the mill levied, the electricity supply was taken over by the SEC in 1961.
There were many factors that contributed to the eventual demise of the Piesse family’s commercial dominance in Katanning and of the mill itself. The first was the death of Frederick Piesse in 1925, after which the running of the family company became lax. The second was the eventual poor trading position of the milling industry in 1927, primarily due to poor quality wheat, the relocation of poultry farms closer to Perth and the phasing out of horses. Then there was the extravagant lifestyle of the Piesse family, which resulted in major financial difficulties, even though they had already sold off their Kobeelya estate. The then WA Bank decided to clear up the Piesse estate and sell the mill.
The 1927 a group of local farmers and business people formed the Katanning Flour Milling Co., and bought the mill for £25,000, with the Piesse family retaining a major shareholding interest in the new company. A new generator was installed, more export markets were established and the product continued to be used by all local bakers. The new company, which had adopted the name “Swan Flour” for the product, ran the mill until 1970, when the mill had become unprofitable and was going to be closed.
It was projected that the site would be developed as a major retail-shopping complex, but this was prevented when a local company was formed and the mill purchased by them for $70,000. The mill then continued until 1979. The mill was then acquired by the Shire of Katanning and converted into a museum through the efforts of the Katanning Historical Society. In 1988 the Austral Terrace shop was removed and the verandah was replaced.
From the “Albany Advertiser”, Wednesday, 1 December, 1926
Katanning Flour Mill.
At the instigation of Mr. A. Thomson, M.L.A., Leader of the Country Party, members of the Albany Chamber of Commerce met Mr. A. J. Rogers and himself at the local R.S.L. Institute on Friday afternoon for the purpose of discussing the projected removal of the flour mill at Katanning. Mr, J. Norman, presided and introduced the visitors.
Mr. Thomson expressed appreciation of the fact that the president of the chamber had seen fit to take prompt action on receipt of his telegram asking for an opportunity of meeting the members. A fortnight previously he had been informed of the intention to remove the machinery of the Katanning flour mill to a town in the wheat belt. Further inquiries revealed financial obligations which it was desired to clear up. He had then secured an option over the concern and the mill freehold for £35,000. The removal of the mill, if it eventuated, would entail considerable loss to Katanning and to the district, and to the port of Albany, also. For some time, active efforts had been directed to restoring the district wheat shipments to Albany, and he had combined with their Parliamentary representatives to this end. Their objective had also been to have Katanning flour shipped from this port. If the concern went elsewhere the nearest mill to the port would be that of Wagin, and no district shipments could possibly eventuate. For that reason, he, with others, considered it would be advisable for Albany merchants to join with those of Katanning in purchasing the mill. In that way they would have a voice in the mill’s affairs, and active participation in the wheal industry of the district. It was proposed to form a company with a capital of £50,000 and to issue, in due course, a prospectus giving full particulars.
Mr. Rogers also addressed the gathering.
After full discussion it was decided to extend every assistance to the proposal and to ventilate it publicly.
The Flour Mill over the years…
Thanks to the team at Dome/Roller Flour Mill Hotel
& Katanning Historical Society for these images
Looking to the future…
$1 starts a dream for historic Katanning
Learn how Dome intends to restore and develop the Mill
Read more >>>