Construction of the first government water mill began in 1792 at Parramatta. Thomas Allen, previously employed at King’s Mill, Rotherhithe on the Thames was engaged at a salary of £52 per annum, to work as master-miller for the colony. The construction was beset by problems. The government water mill was completed in 1804 but lack of water, and then floods, hampered operations.
A second government water mill was established upstream from the first, but was fed by the mill race constructed for the original mill. This also proved unsuccessful and uneconomical. Reverend Samuel Marsden then established a water mill further upstream on his own grant (known as the Vineyard).
In 1828 a privately operated mill was built by George Howell and his son ‘George Jnr.’ Howell was a 50-year-old ex-convict. The difficulties with the previous government water mills meant that farmers in the region needed to grind their grain by hand or transport it to Sydney for grinding. Howell’s new mill was larger than previous mills. It was 100 feet tall and had six separate floors.
The site of ‘Howell’s Mill’ was more suitable than that of the earlier government mills. To create a continuous flow of water he constructed a dam across the river, leading to conflicts with his neighbour. However, Howell won the support of John Macarthur for his venture, helping him to resolve these legal battles.
Howell’s wind and water mill operated successfully at Parramatta until the mid-1860s.