The Crankmill was built as a granary in 1827, and was converted in 1835 to serve as barracks for married soldiers and their families. In 1837 a cranking mechanism, hoppers and grindstones were installed for grinding maize. The equipment was worked by 100 convicts in chains as a form of punishment. In 1844 it was written:
"The labour appears to be dreadfully severe; the yells and screams of the unfortunate criminals as they heave at the cumbersome engine almost induces a belief that the spectator is listening to the cries of lost souls."