Winds of change

Winds of change have swept over the heritage-protected Windmill Farm of Kyneton.
It is home to a rare 1850s bluestone windmill, the last of its kind in Victoria, and following restoration works, it could soon become open to the public for the first time.
New custodians, Sallyanne and Andrew Craig, with their three children, purchased the property last year and recently completed the first stage of works in a long-term project for future public enjoyment.
“We want to restore it to the point that people can walk up to the top. First we need to get it to a safe point so nothing can happen to it,” Ms Craig said.
“When we purchased the Windmill Farm in April of last year, the windmill came with its very own ‘KEEP OUT, DANGER’ sign leaning against the front door.
“The only occupants of the windmill for the past 40 years have been the pigeons, rain and wood rot. It may be that I’m a romantic, but the windmill has been sad and lonely. Inside of it swirls a gentle nostalgia for its glory days.”
Growing up in the region, Ms Craig recalls there has always been something special about the windmill, and its proximity to the Campaspe River in the beautiful countryside only adds to this.
“I had an instant connection with it,” she said.
The Victorian Heritage Database indicates the windmill was likely built in 1856 for Joseph Hall at a time when the town and surrounding districts were part of an important agricultural region. The database states the windmill is now a ‘battered’ tower with its openings boarded up. None of the milling machinery or the cap or sails survive.
The windmill continued to operate only until the late 1860s but the property remained in Hall ownership as a working farm.
Hawthorn hedges were planted by the late 1860s and a substantial farm building was constructed in the early 1900s, comprising stables, shearing shed, milking pen, garage, loft, yards and hay store.
Adding to the damage of time was a wild storm before Christmas last year that destroyed half of the windmill roof, leaving its inner timber structure exposed to water damage and risking the integrity of the structure. It was at grave risk of collapsing.
The Kyneton Historical Society auspiced the Craig family with a state government Living Heritage grant application for roof and stone works to complete emergency waterproofing, which began last month.
“The historical society is pleased that finally Windmill Farm has passionate owners who see the potential of the significant windmill and to conserve and preserve, and share it with the community,” said Larina Strauch, society secretary.
The family set about completing emergency works with repairs to the roof beginning last month. Further works are planned to make the windmill safe and accessible.
“Many people have told me that they looked at the windmill as buyers, and although they loved it, felt a failure of courage or capacity and believed it would be a reckless undertaking!” Ms Craig said.
“We are not dissuaded and though it financially stretched us to the limit, we are now undertaking to fulfill the promise I made then to the place and to the windmill.
“We are grateful to the Kyneton Historical Society for auspicing us for a small matched-funds grant under the state government’s ‘Living Heritage’ program which has allowed us to begin these works.”

The Craig family became caretakers of Windmill Farm last year and have a plan to improve the property. Pictured are Evie, Sallyanne, Andrew, Holly and Finn Craig.
The Craig family became caretakers of Windmill Farm last year and have a plan to improve the property. Pictured are Evie, Sallyanne, Andrew, Holly and Finn Craig.

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