Historians wowed by Robert’s collection

WHEN purchasing a “pricey” old photograph in Victor Harbor over two decades ago, local Robert Haysom never imagined that what he was really holding on to was a piece of untold Gawler history.

Mr Haysom, who moved to Gawler East 33 years ago, quickly became interested in the town’s past and has since built a large collection of historic artefacts.

But it wasn’t until taking a day-trip down to Victor Harbor just over 20 years ago that he found an 1875 photograph of Albion Mill – something that local historians have said has never been seen before – that he realised just how important historic items are.

“There’s nothing peculiar about how I found this photo,” Mr Haysom said.

“Me and my wife had a day out in Victor Harbor and I went into the antique shop and this (the photo) was on the wall.

“I said ‘how much do you want for it’, this is going back about 25 years ago, and he said ‘$18’.

“I thought ‘well, that’s a bit pricey’, but I got it.”

According to a research paper by Susan Phillips and Michael Pilkington, the Albion Mill, located on the corner of Cowan Street and Murray Street (the now Coles Gawler site) was the third and final flour mill to be established in town, and was completed in 1869.

However, on January 19, 1877, it was partially burnt down, and then re-erected by around 1878.

Gawler History Team chairman Brian Thom said, when he was shown the item recently, he was blown away.

“I suspected that we only had photos of Albion Mill from 1900 onwards – after the fire – and so, I was very excited when I saw that photo because I thought ‘I don’t think we’ve ever seen that photo before’,” he said.

Mr Haysom’s history collection isn’t just limited to the one photograph, but also extends to other items, such as the final will and testament of the famous manufacturer, James Martin.

“I’ve always been interested in engineering, all my life,” Mr Haysom said.

“When I came to Gawler I had heard about James Martin and just studied it a bit, and me and a friend of mine, Ken Weller, we used to devote a day a week to the James Martin research…over a two-year period.

“When we had exhausted everything in Gawler, we went to the archives in Adelaide, so that’s where the will would have come from.”

Mr Thom said it was pleasing to see the document, as James Martin is a town icon.

“As far as the will is concerned, of all the significant people in Gawler, James Martin does stand out, and by far,” he said.

“To have his last will and testament is the icing on the cake, so…when Rob produced it, I thought ‘wow’.”


Growing up in Roseworthy and attending Kapunda High School, Laura joins The Bunyip in June, 2016 whilst completing the final year of a double degree in Journalism and International Relations at University of SA. This is Laura's first role as a Journalist following a stint at Gawler Council in the Communications Department. She will cover the news in the Playford and Mallala council regions. Outside of work, Laura enjoys anything health and well-being related, and can be regularly seen shopping for fresh, healthy produce at local markets.

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