Onkaparinga Woollen Mill Museum Inc.

By Kendrea Rhodes

Visiting the Lobethal Bierhaus on a sunny evening in March is a delight that many locals and visitors know well. Add to that an invitation to the launch of a secret ‘something’ from the dedicated Onkaparinga Woollen Mill Museum Inc. (OWMMI), creates intrigue too.   

On Friday 12 March, the blowing of the 150-year-old Mill whistle aptly heralded the unveiling of OWMMI’s project: a bespoke Mark I Exhibition Trailer. The trailer is the next step of OWMMI’s commitment to the community to share the joys of history, the museum collection, and the knowledge and stories of the Woollen Mill. The trailer contains several illustrated panels, audio-visual facilities, Onkaparinga Woollen Mill products, and photographs, and is accompanied by an experienced guide and/or ex-Mill worker.

The trailer was built by Lobethal locals, Brian Brock and Jeff Picket, and supported by many OWMMI members, locals and businesses. The Department of Human Services provided a generous grant for the project.   

Ex-woollen mill workers with the Onkaparinga Woollen Mill Museum’s (OWMMI) touring trailer. Brian Brock and Jeff Pickett built the trailer with much support and help from OWMMI members and local businesses. The launch took place at the Lobethal Bierhaus on Friday 12 March.

The Exhibition Trailer will tour schools, community events, and wherever an interest and association with the history of the Mill exists. It will promote its extraordinary artifacts, history, and the expertise of the Mill workers, past and present.

OWMMI are the custodians of a unique collection of equipment from the Lobethal Woollen Mill, such as looms, blankets, photographs, documents, fabrics, and more. It is believed that the collection of three different kind of looms—Dobcross, Sulzer and Smit Rapier—form a unique trio, with no known museum display in Australia having all three kinds of weaving machines. Currently the collection is housed in one of the sheds on site.

Helen Smith, OWMMI Chairperson, said at the launch that OWMMI wish to “provide more appropriate conditions for the collection’s conservation.”

The Woollen Mill was a crucial part of the community from 1872 up to its closure in 1993 and remains so today. Its voluminous spaces, sawtooth architecture, memories, woollen products, stories and people, live on in the community well after the Mill produced its last woollen blanket.

Over the years since its closure, many dedicated volunteers, business owners, ex-Mill workers, local people, Council representatives, and devoted groups like OWMMI, have shared the passion for the Mill precinct. The power of the Mill as a versatile community gathering place is palpable, and the fact that today it is still a busy, bustling venue, illuminates the Mill’s value to Hills people.  

The Lobethal Bierhaus was the perfect place for the launch, not just because of the specialty brewed beers and delicious cuisine, but because of its direct links to the Woollen Mill. The Bierhaus boilers are required to operate the Mill whistle today. In the past life of the Woollen Mill, the Bierhaus beer garden was a loading bay and the main restaurant was used to sort wool. The Bierhaus is open every Friday–Sunday and do brewery tours by appointment for small groups. Please contact them on Facebook, their website, or phone 8389 5570.

To volunteer, sponsor or find out more about OWMMI and the Exhibition Trailer, please visit their Facebook page and message Arnold Kelly, or call Brian Brock on 0400 234 816, or email smithhelen23@bigpond.com.