The old grist mill in the town of Thamesford, Ontario has been a familiar landmark on the Thames River for more than a century. The first mill on this site was built in 1845 when Thamesford, then known as St. Andrews, was establishing itself as a major agricultural center in southwestern Ontario.
The mill produced both grist (ground grains) and finely ground flour, and when it was destroyed by fire in 1898, it was quickly replaced by a new five-story building that soon became one of the best flour mills in Ontario.
Flour from the Thamesford mill was sold across Canada, and shipped to Great Britain and the Caribbean Islands.
In the 1970s falling water levels in the Thames River made it difficult to operate the mill machinery, and it became necessary to use electrical power to turn the grinding wheel. Sadly, the mill eventually closed, and for more than a decade it has been a derelict building with a proud past, but an uncertain future.
Citizens in Thamesford have been attempting to generate interest in the old building in the hope that it may be possible to restore all, or part of it, and give it new life.
In July of 2012, I was invited to join a group of 24 artists in southwestern Ontario who were asked to submit their interpretations of the historic Thamesford Mill site for a traveling exhibition organized by Oxford Creative Connections in Woodstock. Each artist submitted up to three pieces to the jury. The media ranged from watercolour, acrylics, and oils to photography and a three-dimensional construction. The jury selected one piece from each artist.
My three submissions included a view of the mill with the river in the foreground (see above), a cascade of fallen bricks shown at the left, and the long, narrow piece shown below that emphasizes the array of interesting shapes in the old building.
The jury selected the log, narrow piece. This was a good choice – it sold on the fourth day of the exhibit that opened at the Elm Hurst Inn in Ingersoll on December 18 and ran until January 15.
The exhibit will be on display at the Community Employment Services Gallery in Woodstock until March 05. It will then move to the Woodstock Hospital Gallery for the period from March 05 to April 09, and then it will be on display at the Thamesford Library.