Only residents who have lived in Kentish for more than 50 years are able to recall the mammoth three-storey flour mill that dominated the landscape at the western approach to Sheffield. Standing like a gigantic guardhouse on the corner of Main St & West Nook Rd, this colossal building erected for James Hope in 1896 became the district’s most imposing landmark for almost 80 years. But before we tell the story of this mill and the four generations of James Hope’s family who operated it, we need to learn how his younger brother Henry Hope came to own the whole western end of Sheffield and gradually sold it off to the very first developers on both sides of Main St. Originally the township of Sheffield ended at High St, but in 1882 16 acres was sold for a second hotel 100 yards west of that boundary and other businesses followed. It wasn’t until 1921 that the Sheffield township was extended down the Mill Hill to include Hope’s Mill on Hope’s corner.
When David & Janet Hope sailed from Lanarkshire, Scotland, aboard the Forest Monarch, with them were their seven sons: John (15), James (14), David (13), Andrew (11), George (10), Thomas (5) and Henry (2). On the day of their arrival in Launceston, 23 July 1857, their first baby daughter, Janet, was born. Imagine this double excitement, also the chaos of family disembarking in a distant colony. The Hopes settled at Bowerbank Mill, Deloraine, where David gained employment for the next nine years. Two final children born there, Ann & William, made 10 children in all. By 1866, David (48) & Janet (47) Hope, were ready to settle on the 151-acre block two miles south of Sheffield that David had selected five years earlier. They called it Burnside (now Glen Lea, 349 Claude Rd). Interestingly, when David Hope’s family moved to Kentish, three of his older sons were not with them to help. Eldest son John upon turning 21 had been lured to the goldfields: first in NZ, then in Vic, NSW, and Qld. Second oldest son James had secured an apprenticeship at Bowerbank Flour Mill and chose to stay there, whilst third son George Hope (17) had drowned in January 1864 trying to cross the flooded Meander River near Deloraine.
Tragedy followed the family to Kentish when, within two years, their father David Hope Snr developed liver disease and died. Upon receiving the devastating news of his father’s untimely death, eldest son John, now 27, hastily returned from six years adventuring around Australasia to take charge of developing the big bush property for his mother. In time, this eldest son became Kentish’s first great leader; the life-story of Hon John Hope MHA was told in detail in the Kentish Voice Nov 2020 issue.
Ten years after returning to establish his mother’s farm, on 24 Oct 1878 John Hope purchased two prime 60+ acre blocks off the western end of Sheffield. These two blocks were divided by Kentish Rd (now Main St). Their western boundaries were West Kentish Rd & West Nook Rd, while their eastern boundaries ran along Duff Drive and across Main St to its southside. John Hope had probably intended to establish his own farm there, but then backtracked and purchased his mother’s Burnside property for himself. Six years later, on 24 May 1884, John Hope sold both these town blocks to his younger brother Henry (Harry) Hope (1855-1940) who had married Agnes Jeffrey on Christmas Day 1880. What follows is how Harry Hope and those who first purchased land from him developed their properties on both sides of Main St.
8 Main St – Harry Hope’s Farm and Homestead
Soon after Harry purchased these two blocks from his brother in 1884, he selected the area he wished to farm. Then, at the end of a long lane, he built his first home in which he and Agnes raised their two children James and Janet Hope. Harry trained his dog to carry an empty basket with a note inside it up the hill to the shops and return with his newspaper and meat each day. Several of the Hope family became enthusiastic members of the Sheffield Golf Club after it was formed on 16 Dec 1896. Both John & Harry Hope were elected vice chairmen. The picturesque golf-links laid out on James Husband’s land behind the present Kentish Hills Motel quickly became very popular. Even the Governor of NSW, Lord Hampden, a very ardent golfer, while on a visit to Devonport in Feb 1897, was driven up to Sheffield to play several rounds of golf on this new course. In 1902, Harry Hope added a final 9th hole on his farm. This meant golfers had to hit their last ball diagonally across the road intersection to finish on Harry’s farm. Later, Harry used his whole farm and adjoining land as the local golf links. In 1907 Hope built the present homestead on this property, incorporating a small section of the original house. Agnes became an invalid in 1899 and continued to live in this house until she died in Jan 1916 aged 56. By contrast, husband Harry kept fit and well, still winning golf trophies in his old age and climbed Cradle Mt for the last time when he was 82. He died 26 Sept 1940 aged 85 and was buried with his wife in the Sheffield cemetery. Hope’s farm was purchased by George Bye in 1942 and called Caythorpe. Peter & Evie Morse bought it in 1966 and lived there for 50 years.
29-31 Main St – Wm Jeffrey’s House & Workshop
One week after purchasing his new property, on 30 May 1884 Harry Hope sold a ½ acre block to his sister Janet Hope who had married his wife’s brother Wm Jeffrey (1859-1945). This was the second of three Hope-Jeffrey marriages, both families having been together at Bowerbank Mill, Deloraine. As an infant in 1861, William was brought to Kentish by his pioneering parents in an open dray. But after four years, the Jeffrey family moved to Longford where young William became an apprentice carpenter. Returning to Sheffield after his marriage, William erected his own homestead at 31 Main St and his carpenter’s workshop next door. He constructed many significant buildings throughout the Kentish district and became local undertaker. William & Janet had two sons & four daughters; their eldest son James (17) died May 1904 from a protracted illness. The Jeffreys moved to Devonport in September 1906 where William continued his construction/undertaker business for over 30 years. Their only other son David was killed in 1917 in France during WW1. Jeffrey’s six-roomed house at 31 Main St, Sheffield, was purchased in Aug 1923 by Frank & Doris (Manley) Smith who ran it as a boarding house until Nov 1930 when it was destroyed by fire. Next door, Jeffrey’s undertaker business was taken over by Jim Ford. Much later, the building was purchased by Wilcox Mofflin & Co where Norm Croome received thousands of opossum skins until their big new skin shed in High St (now The Hub) opened in April 1934. The old skin shed was later used by Ray Imlach as a blacksmith/welding shop. William Hope bought the vacant boarding house block to build a house for his son Allan Hope. About 1957 it was purchased by Kevin & Betty von Stieglitz.
24-26 Main St – Blacksmith/Wheelwright
On the opposite side of Main St to Wm Jeffrey’s house, Harry Hope sold another block to Peter Ford in 1885 to open a wheelwright shop halfway up the hill. Prior to this, Peter & Susan Ford (5 chn) had come from Longford in 1879 to set up a wheelwright shop next to Robert Manley’s new general store. Together with blacksmith Arthur Wright, they began manufacturing the first farm drays and wagons in Kentish. Two years after Ford bought his new site, he was joined by blacksmith Benjamin Bye and newly-wed wife Mary who bought an adjoining block. In 1889 Benjamin’s brother William Bye (30) purchased Sky Blue farm off the southern end of High St, but four years later died of typhoid fever. Benjamin Bye (35) took over his brother’s Sky Blue farm and for a while tried to be both a blacksmith and farmer. But in 1893 he sold his blacksmith business to Chas McGuire and put Thos Buckley in his house, then moved to Sky Blue farm where he raised his six children: Herbert (Bert), Spencer (Ern), Edward (Ted), twins Wm (Billy) and Elvie, and George. In 1912 Benjamin bought Chas Banfield’s farm on the west side of West Kentish Rd and called it Bonnie Doon where later Bert & Winnie Bye lived. George & Vena Bye took over the Sky Blue farm from his aged father and in 1942 bought Harry Hope’s farm and his remaining properties on both sides of Main St. But two years later, George Bye developed heart problems and was forced to sell Sky Blue in 1947 to the government to become the Sheffield school farm. Benjamin Bye (89) died 19 December 1949 at Bonnie Doon, after which Bert & Winnie Bye retired in 1950 and built Kincardine at 20 Main St Sheffield. George Bye (49) died in Launceston in Jan 1950, Herbert Bye (72) died in Sheffield in 1960.
Chas McGuire learnt the blacksmith/wheelwright trade from Jacob Lehman, then married Catherine Kennedy in Latrobe and had 14 children. On 10 Oct 1912, a severe gale caused McGuire’s blacksmith shop to collapse; fortunately at the time he and his men were in his house having breakfast. McGuire then bought Tom King’s business on the site of the present RSL. But with blacksmithing in general decline, in Mar 1921 he moved to Launceston, then in 1929 back to manage the Railton Hotel, and finally to Victoria. In 1917 Chas Billing Jnr (37) rebuilt McGuire’s blacksmith shop but didn’t stay long. The last blacksmith there was Clarrie Lincoln, while Tom Rees bought the house.
12 Main St – Kentish Butter & Bacon Factory
In July 1893 Harry Hope sold the present 12 Main St property to farmers to build the Kentish Butter Factory. It was erected by Wm Jeffrey assisted by James Grundy, with stonework done by Sam Jones. The factory was opened 10 Oct 1893 by John Hope JP with Robert Milne appointed manager. During the summer months, Sheffield district supplied about 700 gallons of milk, Barrington 350 gallons, and Wm Henry’s Gowrie farm brought in 100 gallons. Cream was also brought in covered wagons from a creamery built at Barrington. J.B. Charleston had control of the cool room, and in hot weather the first churning would be completed by 5am in the morning. About a ton of butter was produced each week, with 14 boxes (700lbs) sent to Zeehan. However, from March milk supplies seriously declined because of the farmers’ reluctance to continue milking through the winter months. This became the yearly pattern, ultimately causing the butter factory to close in 1897. Two years later, T J Clerke, who had just erected his big new general store opposite the Don Co, tried to re-open the butter factory, but after two years sold its plant and equipment to the Emu Bay Butter Company.
In Sept 1907 James Belton, owner of the Table Cape Bacon Factory, purchased the empty butter factory in Sheffield and opened a new bacon factory run by his two sons Samuel (27) and Stanley (22) Belton. In the first month they processed about 140 pigs, but their bacon business didn’t run smoothly and by mutual consent the partnership was dissolved 19 Oct 1909. Local butcher Edward Rees bought the business, but on 12 Dec 1914 a fire destroyed the factory. Rees’ block lay vacant for 30 years and gradually became covered with young saplings until purchased in 1941 by Alf Rowe to build an elaborate two-storey concrete dwelling with round corners. After inspecting the site, the government planning approval officer told Alf his plans were fraught with problems, but for £5 he could fix them. Alf paid £5 and had no further troubles. He used 27 tons of Goliath cement and 200 square yards of gravel from the Barren Hill before running out of money and leaving a large windowless monstrosity facing Main St. In 1950 the government bought it to be made into a maternity hospital, then found it less expensive to build a brand-new hospital in Nightingale Ave. In 1956 the local Junior Farmers finished the upstairs section and used it as club rooms until in 1970 the building was completed to become the Sheffield Youth Hostel. In 1988 it was sold as a private residence.
1895 James Hope builds his Cornelius Roller Flour Mill
In 1895 Harry Hope sold to his 2nd oldest brother James Hope (1844-1922) the corner block of Main St & Nook Rd to erect a huge three-storey flour mill. As mentioned, young James remained in Deloraine to finish his apprenticeship at Bowerbank Flour Mill. In February 1871 James Hope (27) m Susannah Harding (21) at the Wesleyan Parsonage, Deloraine, and eventually had 10 children. Hope began managing Samuel Shorey’s flour mill in 1873, which he continued for 16 years. Then in 1889 James Hope and his family all moved to Kentish, where he built a water-powered flour mill on the Don River opposite the public cemetery, one mile out of Sheffield. After a few years, James, again, found his mill too small, so in 1895/96 he distinguished himself by erecting a mammoth three-storey landmark James Hope’s Cornelius Roller Flour Mill on the corner of the crossroads at the approach to Sheffield. And that’s our story for next month.
Next time: James Hope’s Gigantic Flour Mill