Fence ‘pays homage’ to Sunnyside’s 109-year story

May 9, 2020 BY

Pleasant’s past: The sound of the Woollen Mill helped people across the city tell the time. Photo: SUPPLIED

THE personalities and industry of days gone by at Mount Pleasant’s Sunnyside Woollen Mill are acknowledged in its new fence made of historic image panels.

Installed around the mill’s perimeter by its private owner, as part of an ongoing total restoration, metal sheets about eight feet high have been shaped into silhouettes including depictions of historical men and women, the factory and old modes of transport.

Max Duthie, a former teacher, and historian within the Mount Pleasant History Group grew up next door to Sunnyside in the 1950s. He knows the site well, having raced tricycles around the grounds when the mill was “running full steam.”

“The owner has decided the historical panelling is a good way to pay homage to the fact that the mill was there from 1872 to 1981,” he said.

“It was the largest employer in Mount Pleasant itself. Lots of men and boys worked there, and after the war, lots of women worked there.”

Ballarat families knew when to rise in the morning, have their lunch, and head home after work because of Sunnyside’s loud whistle.

“In 1981 it closed, because the government removed the tariff protection that mills in Australia had enjoyed for a long time, so they couldn’t compete with imported materials,” Mr Duthie said.

Through the 80s until last decade, when it became a vocational education centre, the building had hosted an antique auction room, indoor sports centre, and weekend market. A truck driver education program even utilised the open land.

With a new owner in the last four years, Mr Duthie said it’s “wonderful” to see an investment in the mill that embraces its heritage while setting it up for the future.

“The plan has been to restore the main mill building to what it was like when it first closed, completely stripping out anything that was there from 1981 onwards. It’s a long-term project,” he said.

“The owner has been able to do a lot more than we ever could, and it’s bringing back the history to people in the suburb and those that pass through it.”

The building is set to offer meeting and office spaces for the public to use, and it’s expected that written information will be added to the fence panelling.

Discover Historic Mount Pleasant, a collaboration between the Ballarat East Neighbourhood House, and Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre, Mount Pleasant History Group and City of Ballarat, is helping residents to gain a greater understanding of the significance of where they life.

The suburb has 20 key places with stories to tell, and this project has seen graphic designer, Peter Lambert create seven interpretive signs which share the background of some locations.

Sunnyside Woollen Mill has its own sign on Hill Street, and a broader Discover Historic Mount Pleasant trail booklet, with details on all sites, is available at hulballarat.org.au/cb_pages/discovermtpleasant.php.

To get in touch with the Mount Pleasant History Group, make inquiries, share your historic stories or photos, email [email protected]. Visit facebook.com/History-of-Mount-Pleasant-Ballarat-1700362523541241.

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