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27 January 1876 Walter Duffield

 27 January 1876   Walter Duffield

On 27 January 1876, for the third time in nine years, the flour mill of Walter Duffield in Gawler burnt to the ground. In 1842 Duffield bought the Victoria Mill in Jacob Street from Stephen King, enlarged it in 1849 and again in 1853. He prospered in the 1850s when the gold rush in Victoria pushed the price of flour up from £12 a ton to £37. 

On 23 June 1867 the mill caught fire and was burnt out. Duffield immediately decided to rebuild on a new site; the foundation stone was laid on 20 September and the new mill was working by Christmas. By the end of 1868 that mill also burnt to the ground, but the indomitable Duffield rebuilt yet again, only to see the property destroyed by fire early in 1876. It was 13 months before he opened his fourth mill in Gawler, although by this time he had other mills in Wallaroo, Snowtown and Port Pirie.

His other interests included pastoral properties in the mid-north, south-east and in New South Wales. He was an MHA and MLC for a total of 18 years. In 1862 he built the Georgian style mansion, 'Para Para', which features a ballroom with an impressive circular cedar gallery above. The Duke of Edinburgh was entertained there on his visit in 1867 and was served wine made from grapes grown on the property.

Duffield died on 5 November 1882 and the town of Gawler closed down for his funeral. 'Para Para' remained in the family until 1924, after which it fell into disrepair until 1940 when it was purchased and carefully restored. Further restoration has been done recently by the new owners.

Judith Brown, Country Life in Pioneer South Australia,  Rigby, 1977, pp. 109-124

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