Foulden Sugar Mill

1872 - 1887


Foulden Sugar Mill (Source: Mackay Historical Society Archive no. 85-318t)


Foulden was established on 357 acres of land taken up in 1865 by Michael Bryson as Sugar Selection No. 22, on portion 29 in the parish of Bassett.  The property was transferred, first to Robert Wilson and on 14 October 1869 to John Ewen Davidson and Thomas Henry Fitzgerald.

Full-scale work began after Francis Tyssen Amhurst acquired the selection on 24 November 1870 on behalf of the partnership between himself and his cousin Bertram Mitford Pocklington.  Amhurst also owned the adjoining portions 47 and 25 in the parish of Bassett.  F.T. Amhurst named Foulden plantation after his birthplace in Norfolk, England.

Foulden plantation covered 730 acres of rich alluvial soil fronting the Pioneer River.  Bullock teams were at work in April 1871 breaking up more ground for planting cane while John Walker & Co. secured the order for the mill.  The bulk of the plant had arrived on the ketch Enterprise in April.  John Dow, Walker's agent, supervised erection of the mill and operations began in September 1872. The first crush yielded 2 tons of sugar for each acre of the 200 acres.

Management of the plantation was placed in the hands of 26 year old Robert Walker in 1871.  He remained in that position  until Amhurst's death in 1881.  Most of the day-to-day running of the plantation was left to him as Amhurst was away in Brisbane and London for a large part of the years 1875 to 1881 when he represented Mackay in parliament.

Foulden was the second big mill on the north side of the Pioneer River, and the first mill in the district built with a vacuum pan and at the time, the biggest mill at Mackay.  In October 1875 a shipment of Foulden's sugar was sent to Brisbane where it was classed as equal to the best in the colony of Queensland.  Foulden continued to produce brilliant white refined sugar and marketed golden syrup, which gained a good reputation in southern markets.  In that year Amhurst with Walker and John Altereith broke new ground in sugar recovery techniques in the Mackay district by adopting the Eastes Charcoal Filtration Process.  This reduced the amount of molasses in the final sugar so less recoverable sugar was lost.  

Also in 1875, the mill closed for six weeks due to a measles epidemic.  Islanders had virtually no immunity to the disease and 20 died at Foulden out of 58 that died in the Mackay district.

By 1877, Foulden was valued at 20,000.

In 1879 Foulden was described by a visitor, W. Senior, as "One of the loveliest gardens I had seen in Queensland.  The richly flowering tropical shrubs were at their best, the English flowers, especially the verbenas and geraniums, were in full bloom...from the creepers screened verandah the mill was visible, and the merry laughter and shouting of the boys' - kanakas - intermingled musically with the noise of the machinery and the whistle of the engine."

Amhurst bought a neighbouring plantation, which he named Farleigh, in 1873.  Following Amhurst's death on board a ship to London, in January 1881, the estates were joined.  The Foulden mill  ceased operations in 1887 at the finish of the 1886 crushing.

Following Cyclone Eline in 1898 remnants of the old Foulden mill stack collapsed in the Pioneer River where it remained visible for many years until being totally covered by river sand after the floods in February 1958. 


Map of 1908 showing Amhurst's original selection Portion 29 in the parish of Bassett.  Mackay Base Hospital added in red to the right to show relative position of Foulden plantation.  The mill itself was located close to the Pioneer river bank.

References -

Kerr, John. (1980).  Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council. p. 32, 49, 58-59, 73, 84, 100.

Manning, K.W. (1983). In Their Own Hands. Farleigh, QLD: Farleigh Co-op Milling Association Ltd. p. 36-37, 41-46, 55, 66, 87, 124, 200, 206, 246.


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