Clarks Flourmill is New Zealand's only surviving water-powered flourmill with early machinery still substantially intact. It provides a tangible link to one of New Zealand's most important agricultural industries.
The mill was built around 1865 as part of the Totara Estate, which belonged to early settlers Matthew Holmes and Henry Campbell. Part of the mill was created with limestone cut from the hill behind the mill. The heavy machinery was brought to New Zealand by sailing ship from the United Kingdom, Australia and United States in the 1860s and 1870s. Wheat and oats were ground using horizontal grinding stones, which were powered by a 'undershot' waterwheel. Houses for the mill manager and workers were thought to have been built about the same time as the mill, and a corrugated iron grain store at the west end was built in 1872 and extended around 1906.
After Totara Estate was sold to the New Zealand and Australian Land Company in 1866, the mill was leased to several different millers. During the 1880s the way in which the mill worked was altered; the wheat was ground by roller machinery powered by water turbines, rather than by grinding stones.
In 1901 the mill was sold to the Clark family, who operated it for the next 75 years, and it is now best known as Clarks Mill. Electric power was added in the 1930s. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust purchased Clarks Mill in 1977, and it is now open to the public by arrangement.
Clarks Flourmill and its machinery provide substantial insights into early industrial processes in New Zealand, and are particularly valuable because the machinery is still largely intact. The mill is also aesthetically and architecturally significant as a particularly fine Oamaru stone building, forming part of the large group of Victorian Oamaru stone buildings in the Waitaki district.