The Waikuku Mill was built on the Waikuku Creek. This stream had cut through an old terrace of the Ashley River near the road and the site was a promising one. A mill race was constructed and it was finished with its water wheel, mill building, flax store and mill house in 1870. The Waikuku flaxmill was the last of the Mandeville mills to strip green flax and its survival was partly due to its economical use to clean the fibre.
The local market comprised mostly of rope and rough cordage which the Canterbury Flax Association, founded about 1870, tried to improve by experiment. Much of the fibre was exported to England as good prices for fibre were reported from overseas and a flax boom occurred during the years of 1869-72. Attempts were made to produce sacking, 'cottonised' flax, a canvass, linen-type sheeting, fishing nets and fishing lines while it was reported that a good yarn had been spun from Canterbury flax in Normandy, France. But trials at different North Canterbury mills couldn't overcome the lumpiness of the wool-packs and sacks that were made from local fibre or its brittleness and tendency to curl when dry and before long even New Zealand buyers were preferring Manilla hemp which was more pliable and more consistent in quality.
The bubble burst and some of the smaller factories closed down. The experienced hung on supported by the local market for rope and cordage, until the advent of the reaper and binder in the years 1878-9 created a demand for binder twine.
The prominent red brick building which sits alongside the main North Road, has a long history as a hay baling twine factory and pottery workshop. In the 1960s The Mill was the largest twine factory of its kind in the world. Today its home to a café, pottery, boutique shops and antiques and collectables and it survived the earthquakes! We are thrilled about that :)
Today its also where my mum, walkingS, daughter A and I enjoyed hot bowls of Thai Pumpkin soup and delicious servings of carrot cake which hit just the right spot on this bitterly cold, wet and windy, winter's day.
Happy Thursday blippers :)