Bailey's Saw Mill at Wisemans Ferry

aka Gunderman, Dillons Creek, Myrtle Creek, Bill Bailey's Mill, Butler's Mill

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A tidal sawmill, known as Bill Bailey's Mill, stood at the mouth of Dillons Creek (also known as Myrtle Creek and Mill Creek) near Wisemans Ferry, NSW. It was on Portion 46 in the Parish of Spencer.

This appears to have been the one of the only tidal-powered sawmills in mainland Australia.

Drawing of Bill Bailey's Sawmill in about 1920, by Ian Webb

Ian Webb's drawing of Bill Bailey's Saw Mill at Wisemans Ferry, based on the recollections of Herb O'Neil. [1]

Some of the machinery and materials used in the construction of this mill came from James Singleton's flour mill that had been built earlier, about 350m further up Dillons Creek.

Ruins on the site

The mill, located on the western bank of Dillons Creek, was demolished by 1939 to allow the construction of a timber Allan Truss Bridge over the creek at this site.

According to a report prepared by Ian Rufus in 2011, the remains of the sawmill include a rendered masonry wall, the concrete formation of the inset for the mill wheel and the stone edge to the mouth of the creek. The concrete floor of the mill probably lies under soil and vegetation on the bank of the creek. [2]

Above: ruins of the stone edge of the wharf area beside the Bailey's Mill site. Photograph by Anne Dollin, 2007.

Description of the mill

Bill Bailey's Mill was a rare example of an Australian tidal sawmill. In 1978, local historian, Ian Webb, interviewed Herb O'Neil and wrote a fascinating report with detailed diagrams on the mill, based on Herb O'Neil's recollections. [1] Herb at that time was about 71, and he had worked as a messenger and billy boy at Bailey's Mill in his younger years.

Ian Webb's full report on Bailey's Mill is presented in our PDF eBook that is available for free download – see green box below for details.

The mill was a three-storey galvanised iron structure, built on the western side of the mouth of Dillons Creek.

A dam wall was built across Dillons Creek about 20m from its junction with the Hawkesbury River. A gate and waterwheel were mounted in the wall. This allowed water from the incoming tide to be trapped, and then be directed onto the waterwheel to power the mill machinery.

In the 1900s the mill was mainly used as a sawmill, but it also was used for chaff cutting, corn cracking and small boat repairs. However, Les Dollin suggests that earlier, the mill on this site may have ground grain as one of its functions, as explained in our eBook below.

Herb O'Neil's descriptions, that were meticulously recorded by Ian Webb, reveal clever engineering features in this early tidal mill.

To read the full story of Bill Bailey's Saw Mill at Wisemans Ferry,
download our free PDF:

Bailey's Mill – a Rare Australian Tidal Sawmill

Free eBook about Bill Bailey's Mill at Wisemans Ferry, NSW

Ian Webb's in-depth report on Bailey's Mill, including his detailed illustrations; and

commentary and background research by Anne and Les Dollin.

Ian Webb's report, that is based on the recollections of Herb O'Neil, is reproduced with kind permission of the Dharug & Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society.

History of Bailey's Mill

Walter Bailey of Redhead (near Newcastle, NSW) purchased James Singleton's 50 acre property on Dillons Creek in 1878. However, it was managed by Walter’s son, William Bailey. [3]

Walter Bailey died in 1906 and his son, William, acquired the property. William Bailey was described on the 1906 land transfer document as an orchardist.

The date when Bailey's Mill was built is not known. However, our background research suggests that two other Wisemans Ferry sawmills, operated by the Sydney Wood Block Paving Company and by the Colonial Hardwood Company in the 1890s, may have been linked with Bailey's Mill.

Sylvester Butler took over the operation of Bailey's Mill in about 1918 and his son, Purtell (known as Pert), converted the mill to steam in about 1919. It was then powered by a steam engine and boiler, rather than by the waterwheel.

The Bailey's Mill building was demolished by 1929.


1. I.F. Webb (1997), Bill Bailey’s Mill – Mill Creek Spencer Road, Wisemans Ferry. Original information from 1978. Ian Webb's report on Bailey's Mill is reproduced in full in our eBook: Bailey's Mill: a Rare Australian Tidal Sawmill.
2. Ian Rufus (March 2011), Mill Creek Bridge: Heritage issues with artefacts. "Hillcrest" off Eskbank Street, Lithgow NSW 2790.
3. Obituary of Walter Bailey senior in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, 16 March 1906.

Further Reading on Mills at Wisemans Ferry
The Wisemans Ferry MillsJames Singleton's tidal flour mill at Dillons Creek
The Sydney Wood Block Paving Company sawmillThe Colonial Hardwood Company sawmillOtto Olson's sawmill