The first sawmill on this site was built by The Knysna Steam Sawmills Company, established by William Lloyd of Port Elizabeth in 1875.
The steam sawmill was powered by a 16 horsepower, Ransome engine imported from England. Prior to this, all cutting and working of timber from the Knysna forests was done manually on-site. The company was bought in 1891 by George Parkes, Chairman of A&F Parkes of Birmingham, Edge Tool manufacturers, who exported Kamassie (boxwood) needed for the manufacture of bobbins in England. The company changed its name to the Knysna Forest Company in 1892 and manufactured wooden wheelbarrows, wagon-parts and tool handles. The company was renamed George Parkes & Sons in 1902. In 1919, a new sawmill was erected at the same location.
The sawmill was closed in 1984 and transferred to the Knysna Industrial Area.
Chris Edwards designed and developed the old mills into the Woodmill Lane shopping centre which was launched in 1990. Woodmill Lane was built, and is still owned by, the well-known, local families, the Thesens and the Edwards. Chris Edwards passed away in November 2010 but his legacy for the town and its people continues.
The design embraced the idea and feel of a village. It still aims at the local communities as a gathering place where one can listen to live music in the wonderful courtyard, be seated beneath beautiful trees and surrounded by history. It provides a relaxed yet arty atmosphere. The mill, and extensions, are now home to interesting shops with the majority been run by long-term Knysna residents. Explore for flowers, paintings, clothes, freshly baked rolls and much more.
Woodmill Lane hosts The Village Market every Sunday in the courtyard area. It’s become a warm attraction for families seeking good deals, morning coffees and tasty lunches.