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Colonial Wind and Water Mills

In the early days, windmills were a prominent features of the Sydney skyline. Sydney's first windmill was erected by and for use of the military at the top of Grosvenor Street. The mill tower was built of stone and the machinery and grindstones were imported from England. Damaged by violent storms in June 1799, the mill was operational again in 1802 and remained in use until its demolition in the 1840s. Governor Hunter built another mill in 1798 to the south of the earlier windmill just near present day Grosvenor Street which remained operational for less than ten years.

Gov. Hunter brought out the essential working parts of a public windmill when he arrived from England in September 1795. The four grindstone wheels, wooden shaft and associated ironworks cost £99/18/- and came out with a scale model to assist in its erection. Operational by the early months of 1797, it was never a success. The millwright sent out from England to operate the mill had to be discharged at considerable expense because he was unable to manage the job. Some of the sails were stolen in its 5th month of operation and though its designers claimed the four blade mill would last 200 years, it had totally collapsed in its third year. A storm damaged the head in 1805 and by 1810 only the tower was left. The walls of the never completed Fort Phillip were built around the tower in 1805. The tower was eventually demolished to make way for the Observatory buildings erected on its site in 1858.

In 1804 Gov. King brought millwright Nathaniel Lucas back from Norfolk Island prison to Sydney to build a wooden octagonal, post type windmill with 4 blades for the Government on Church Hill. The first of its type in Sydney, the upper unit, holding the propellers rotated on a post with their direction being determined by sails placed like rudders. The mill was prefabricated on Norfolk Island and shipped together with another two mills on the HMS Investigator. Their millstones were also manufactured in Norfolk Island. Lucas was required to build two mills for the Government and in return he was granted the right to run his own mill at another location. Whilst the exact location of the the Church Hill mill is not known, it is believed to be where the toll gates for the Sydney Harbour Bridge now stand. Completed in mid 1805 within the space of six weeks and operated by Lucas at that time, the mill was capable of grinding six bushels per hour. Lucas operated the Church Hill mill for a time. It was advertised for public lease in about 1823, but soon fell into disrepair. The second mill Lucas built for the Government was erected on the site of Fort Phillip (Sydney Conservatory) in February 1806. An octagonal smock mill, its frame was 12 metres high.

Lucas built his own mill on a quarter acre block of land in the Government Domain which he leased. The mill, which was also prefabricated in Norfolk Island, was erected and brought into operation in 1805 on a site believed to be where the Shakespeare Memorial stands near the State Library of NSW. Lucas later leased this mill to Henry Kable and Underwood. It was advertised for auction in 1807 and again in 1811 and was known to have been still standing in 1819.

One of the colony's first free settlers, surgeon and apothecary John Boston, who arrived in Sydney in 1795, built a mill in the Domain in 1802 on Government ground near the Huntsman and Dogs statue in the Royal Botanical Gardens on the site of the Garden Palace not far from Lucas's mill. Located near the government bakery, it was erected on land leased by First Fleeter John Palmer who built another mill nearby at a later date. The mill was in use by 1813 and was still standing in 1836. A second mill, known as Palmer's Mill, was erected by Palmer in 1807, where the Arthur Phillip statue now stands. This displeased the Governor, William Bligh, who refused to renew the lease on the land but Palmer defiantly stayed on. It remained in use until 1813 when the new Governor Lachlan Macquarie was successful in seizing the land and having the mill demolished, using Palmer's land for the Government House stables (today's Conservatorium of Music) which he had built.

Barnett Levy, the brother of Sydney businessman Solomon Levy, arrived in Sydney from London in 1821 to work for his brother. Solomon owned the Royal Hotel in George Street and Barnett built a warehouse behind it. In 1826 he attempted to erect a windmill on top of his warehouse but the Government refused to approve its construction as it was feared it would be a danger to the public. Levy went ahead and built the mill anyway, but at the front of the building, opening it for business in January 1828. The 27 metre high mill was rarely used and Levy soon abandoned it and proceeded to pursue his interests in live theatre. His Royal Theatre was initially a success, however it burned to the ground in 1840 after falling into disuse three years after his death.

Millers Point

The most well known of Sydney's early windmills is that of John Leighton, which stood in Millers Point and gave rise to the locality's name (Jack the Miller's Point) and Windmill Street. Leighton arrived in Sydney as a convict in 1804. He bought several acres of land at Millers Point in 1814 and erected his mill there soon after. By the 1820s there were three mills operating on the point, all of which are believed to have been operated by Leighton. The first, erected in 1814, was located near Bettington Street on the high ground near on on the corner of Rodens Lane. The houses pictured left today occupy the site of this mill. The second mill was built to the west of Merriman Street on land granted to Joseph Underwood in 1817 for the purpose of erecting a windmill. Located in the southern corner of Clyne Reserve, it was demolished prior to 1842 to make way for a residence to be built on the site. Another mill was built to its south near Merriman Street on land that has now been reclaimed and removed to make way for the Millers Point wharves.


John Macarthur, who owned the whole Pyrmont Peninsula at the time, built Pyrmont's only windmill in 1810 on one of the highest points of his land. Located in an area bounded today by Church Street, Point Street and Ways Terrace, the mill was known to be still standing and operational in 1832. St Bartholomews Church of England, which has since been demolished, was built on the site of the mill.

St Johns Church of England school Darlinghurst, 1871. American & Australasian Photographic Co. Source: State Library of New South Wales


The ridge of Darlinghurst was a popular site for windmills in the early 19th century. A merchant named Thomas Clarkson built a windmill of stone, three stories high with 4 blades. The exact location is not known but is believed to be near the end of Liverpool Street and not far north of the old Darlinghurst gaol. Two post mills stood for many years not far from Clarkson's mill to its north, on Liverpool Street near Darley Street. One of the mills is thought to have been Kable's mill relocated.

Another large mill stood for many years in Caldwell Street at the top of Beares Steps. With a large stone tower and four blades each about 12 metres long, the mill's height is believed to have been in the vicinity of 32 metres. In 1825, both Thomas Hyndes and Henry Ashley applied for permission to build a mill here and it would appear this mill was built by Ashley on his property. By the mid 1860s the mill had fallen into disrepair. An attempt was made to convert it into workmen's residences in 1865 though it had been demolished by 1873.

Windmill Hill (Kings Cross)

Kings Cross

One of the most successful mills on the Sydney skyline was the stone towered mill belonging to Thomas Barker who made a fortune from his milling business. Located on the Kings Cross ridge near the corner of Rosleyn Street and Darlinghurst Road, it was built in 1826 on a small grant made to Barker and his partner named Smith. The mill was still standing in 1838 and probably remained in use well into the 1860s when the millstones were used to build two houses near the former site. 30 metres to the south of Barker's mill was the mill of French born convict Francois Giraud, which was also erected in 1826 on the same plot of land as Barker's. It is not known how long Giraud's mill remained operational or if Giraud's was the mill purchased by local businessmen Daniel Cooper and Solomon Levy.


Charles Gordon received approval in 1829 to build his 4 sail post mill at what is now 7 Stewart Place on land granted to him for that purpose. The mill, erected in 1829, featured a circular stone lower level around its base and a two storey stone miller's house next door. The mill was still standing in 1859 and appears to have remained operational well into the 1870s. Located near the corner of Boundary and Dillon Streets was a water powered mill, its dam being 40 metres upstream from the mill near the bottom of Liverpool Street. The mill was built by Thomas West who arrived in Sydney as a convict in 1803 and was given a conditional pardon by Gov. Macquarie in 1813 as well as a cow in return for building the mill. West's son Obed took over the mill, added an orchard, dairy and quarry, but the mill had ceased to operate by 1832.


A watermill on the Woronora River was built around 1825 by local settler, John Lucas, to grind corn grown for Illawarra farmers. The mill burnt down in the 1830s. Lucas' name is remembered in the name of the locality, Lucas Heights.

Bondi Junction

The last windmill to be built in Sydney was erected by Henry Hough on his 24.7 hectare (10 acre) Hope Farm property. The farm centred on what is now 27 Mill Hill Road. The wooden post mill of an hexagonal design operated between 1841 and 1879. It was located on the site of St Barnabas' Church of England in Oxford Street which was erected in 1902.


A flour mill was built on the Denham Court estate of Richard Brooks and was operational c1830. By the end of the decade it had ceased to operate. William Mannix built a flour mill in 1829 which he operated until 1836. William Rixon built a flour mill on the Appin Road in 1838. Some years later, Thomas Rixon leased a post mill located on John Wild's grant on the Appin Road. It is not known if the two men were related or if the mills were one and the same. A numbers of windmills were erected on Mount Giliad near Campbelltown. The first, a flour mill. was built by Thomas Rose in 1834. It had an 18.3 metre high 4 storey sandstone tower with machinery constructed of ironbark timber. Lessees continued to operate the mill after Rose's death in 1837. Captain G.B. Christmas also operated a windmill on Mount Giliad in the late 1830s.


John Coghill built a flour mill at Kirkham which was operational by 1828. Edward Larkin was a Sussex miller who migrated to Australia with his wife Jane in 1837. By 1840 Larkin was operating a mill at Narellan. Two years later he was operating two windmills. John Tooth, co-owner of the Kent Brewery, operated a windmill near Campbelltown in 1841. It is believed to have been connected with the malt brewery operated briefly at Narellan in 1845 by Tooth. It appear likely that his mill was the old Kirkham mill of John Coghill.


George Muckle built and operated a flour mill at Minto c1840.

Holsworthy The Brisbane Mill, named in honour of Gov. Brisbane, was a water powered mill on the west bank of Williams Creek. It was built in 1822 by John Lucas, the son of Nathaniel Lucas who built and operated three mills in the Sydney area.


Henry Thompson built and operated the first flour mill in Camden on the corner of Argyle and Edwards streets. The mill was powered by water. In the 1850's he supplemented it with a steam driven mill.


A mill was erected by John Dight in 1833 at Airds. Its exact location is not known.


Edward Larkin built a post mill at Windmill Hill, 1.5 kilometres south of Appin in about 1845 and operated it for almost 25 years. It appears that James Bocking obtained the grinding rights to operate this mill in 1870 but it appears he never operated it as, by 1873, it had fallen into disuse.


In 1792 Thomas Allen, a master miller, was sent out from England at the Governor's request to manage a mill being erected at Parramatta. Government records indicate it was a large windmill with a stone tower. It is known to have still been operational in 1831 as the miller was fined 5/- for working his mill on the Sabbath Day. A combination water and wind mill was erected near where the Gasworks bridge crosses the Parramatta River in 1796. The mill was operated by a free settler named George Holwell who migrated from Staffordshire in 1790. Howell owned a second at Mays Hill that appears to have been operated by his son. The latter was killed in 1838 while carrying out repairs to his mill. The two mills were shut down after his death and the northern one soon demolished but the one on the river was used as a residence until 1879.

Badgerys Creek

John Blaxland set up a dam on the Nepean River for his water powered flour mill and brewery on his Luddenham estate on South Creek. The mill was built in the late 1830's but by 1841 Blaxland had mortgaged the whole estate.

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