Farleigh Sugar Mill
1883 - 1900, 1905 -
Farleigh Mill. c. late
1800's. Note the Cuban water cooling tower on right of picture.
The Farleigh selection was purchased by Francis Tyssen Amhurst from Eliza the widow of Emilius Hifling in 1873. Amhurst named Farleigh after an area inside the Greater London boundary in England.
Following the deaths of Michael Carroll of Miclere and Amhurst from Foulden estate, these plantations were added to the Farleigh plantation.
The mill itself was one of 10 built in the district in 1883. It was said to have cost between £25,000 and £30,000. It was erected by Foulden engineer George Wolfe. A pipeline linked the mill to wells at Foulden. The selection of the site for the mill was a problem due to the distance from where the best cane had to be hauled from.
The mill began with a single set of 5 foot 6 inch rollers.
In 1888 the Farleigh manager, F.W. Bolton began to install tramways. The largeness of the estate meant improved transportation was imperative.
In 1889 the Royal Commission on the sugar industry had heard from Bolton that the plantation was valued at £151,699 and comprised of 3,400 acres of which 1,159 were cleared for cane but only 711 acres were cut in 1888. From this 310 tons of white sugar and 10,000 gallons of molasses was produced. In 1891 the tramline was extended with the purchase of old rails from the River Estate tramway. Also in April of that year Bolton imported machinery from Mirrlees Tait and Watson and began making cube sugar.
Complete maceration was used at Farleigh for the first time in 1892 as was the manufacture of golden syrup.
The Ashburton plantation was purchased by Lawes in 1893 along with the old Pioneer plantation. The Ashburton mill was incorporated in the older and smaller Farleigh mill in 1895.
In 1897 Lawes formed the Farleigh and Foulden plantations into "The Farleigh Sugar Plantations Limited". Despite improvements to the mill profits were not forthcoming and Lawes decided that the last crushing would be in 1900 with the mill and machinery dismantled and sold along with the lands.
The hilly country that supplied Farleigh with its cane soon had its soil depleted resulting in poor crop supply. Combined with the labour uncertainties and accumulation of losses the mill closed in 1900.
The mill was purchased by a company formed on 20 December 1904 by Frederic Buss, John Cran, Thomas Penny and W.H. Williams and called the Farleigh Estate Sugar Company Ltd. Buss and Cran were involved in the sugar milling business in Bundaberg and Maryborough respectively. Cran soon realised the old plantation system was not going to be able to supply the mill sufficiently so the company commenced to subdivide and lease farmland to yeoman farmers in preparation to crush in 1905.
The new Farleigh mill upgraded to become a giant mill like CSR's Homebush made a profit of £4,964 after its first crush for the 1905 season.
The January 1918 cyclone badly damaged the Farleigh mill. A large section of the mill stack collapsed, causing further serious damage from the fall. The sugar shed roof disappeared completely and the carrier shed lost its roof. The roof over the boilers collapsed and the rest of the mill buildings were badly damaged. Two of the three sugar sheds in the mill yard and half the roof of the third were blown away. 1,500 tons of the 2,000 tons of sugar stored in them were lost. The tramways were severely damaged by flooding. After heavy losses in 1918 the company directors considered the 1919 Local Cane Prices Board Award would lead o another heavy loss.
New machinery was installed in 1923 to help cope with increased cane supplies following the closure of Homebush mill the previous year.
The Farleigh Mill's situation worsened after 1923 when the Australian sugar price dropped to £27 a ton. Problems with mineralised water affecting the boilers and locomotives affected the crushing rates and disrupted loco schedules. The added problems of crushing harder varieties of cane grown in the area added to the company's woes. Suddenly in April 1926 a liquidator was appointed to the company.
On 7 May 1926 the Farleigh Co-operative Sugar Milling Association Ltd. was formed with a capital of £500,000 in £1 shares. The mill under new management started the 1926 crushing on 8th September. Crushing of cane from the Homebush area once again proved an ongoing problem due to the distance involved. It was resolved to sell the Homebush assets to Racecourse Mill and Oakenden to North Eton.
The Association now acquired the North coast lands north to the Calen-Wagoora area in 1927 from Racecourse, Pleystowe and Proserpine mills.
In 1988 the mill became part of the Mackay Sugar Co-operative.
The mill over the years has gradually expanded and updated plant and is one of the most modern mills in the district.
1908 map of the Parish of Bassett shows the selections purchased by Amhurst in 1872.
Manning, K.W. (1983). In Their Own Hands. Farleigh, QLD: Farleigh Co-op Milling Association Ltd.
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