Milling About Compagnes Drift in Botrivier

Posted by The Cape Country Meander on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 with No comments
The Compagnes Drift Mill at Beaumont Wines is not a quick-peak activity. Whether or not you have an interest in milling, machinery, or history, you can’t help but be blown away by the meticulous attention to detail. This is in no small part owing to the care and concern of the Beaumont family and staff, and local Overberg resident and restorer, Andy Selfe.

What makes this mill extraordinary?

Dating back more than 6000 years, milling is arguably the oldest continuous industry in the world. At one time South Africa had more than 2000 known mills. Sadly, few survived the inevitability of industrialisation and electricity. This mill house dates back to the early 1800s and includes three different mill machines. Here you can witness the living story of milling from the early Roman Vitruvian design all the way through to the transition to commercial milling.

Stories from the grave

Easy-to-read wall placards detail process, history and people. One account describes Anna Kuffner who grew up in the mill house in the early 1900s. When her grandfather, “Kwaai Oom Hannes” (Cross Uncle Hannes) as he was known in these parts, milled the grain, everything would be covered in a sheet of white flour. Anna’s grandmother would set about making her delicious milk tart (a timeless South African dessert or tea time favourite).

Reinventing the wheel

Restoring the water wheel alone required staggering commitment and precision. New buckets had to be crafted and fitted. Almost 800 bolts were replaced. The 40-metre launder, which supplied the water, had rotted away. This and the sluice at the top had to be replaced, and the *tailrace, which had become a dumping spot, had to be dug out. Finally, the water wheel was turning in 2006 and work on the Vitruvian Mill began. You can listen to Andy’s fascinating insights on the mill’s history and its restoration in short audio clips.

Important visitor information

Viewings are possible Monday to Friday from 09:30 until 16:30 and Saturday from 10:00 until 15:00. Part of the experience of a place is the welcome with which you are received. On arrival, head to the main office and someone will happily take you down to the Mill to open up. Depending on your requirements, they’ll patiently wait for you to ask questions or leave you to browse.

*A millrace, also known as a mil run refers to the current of water that turns a water wheel. The term is also applied to the sluice (channel) carrying water to or from a water wheel. The race that leads water to the wheel is called the headrace. The race that leads water away from the wheel is called the tailrace.

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