The Farnborough Sugar Mill

Livingstone Shire Historical Markers

A project of Capricorn Coast Historical Society and Livingstone Shire Council

Yeppoon Sugar Company

The Historical Marker's location is located off Farnborough Road.

William Broome owned the “Woodbury” property just north of Yeppoon where he experimented with growing sugar cane.  Concluding that it was a viable crop, he and others floated the Yeppoon Sugar Company in 1883 to build and operate a mill.

5. Map of Farnborough showing the mill location and land that had been cultivated.

The Early Years

William Broome owned the “Woodbury” property just north of Yeppoon where he experimented with growing sugar cane.  Concluding that it was a viable crop, he and others floated the Yeppoon Sugar Company in 1883 to build and operate a mill. Not all the shares were sold, leaving the venture financially stressed.  The mill continued to operate even after it went into receivership and was eventually wound up and auctioned in 1889. It was passed in and later bought by two of its original shareholders, George Tuson and Edward Pike Livermore, who still had faith that the business would succeed.

The new owners, later including Tuson’s daughter Isabel Sams, spent £20,000 upgrading the mill to peak production standard and appointed Rowley Rutherford Armstrong as mill manager.

Photo to Left:
5. Map of  Farnborough showing the mill location and land that had been cultivated.

Importance to the Community

Armstrong introduced a system of tenant farmers who were able to rent mill land provided they used 25% of the land to grow sugar cane for the mill. Harvested cane would be paid for at a set price of 12 shillings per ton, less one shilling per ton rent on the land, giving farmers income security. New equipment had increased mill capacity from 10 tons to 130 tons a day, or approximately 2,000 tons in the 5-month season.  However output in 1896 was only 1400 tons due to dry weather and a fire which destroyed some of the crops.

In 1893 the mill employed 62 white men at £1 per week and keep, and 120 Kanakas who were not permitted to engage in white men’s work but were employed handling cane about the mill.  The mill crushed 12 hours a day, the men working staggered 10-hour shifts.

In spite of Armstrong’s energy and initiatives, the difficulties in moving the raw sugar to the Bundaberg refinery (still no railway to Yeppoon), a shortage of both Kanaka and white labour and a  prolonged period of low rainfall resulting in reduced crop yields, all contributed to the closure of the mill in 1901.

The Later Years

The Farnborough Mill was dismantled and the main building and machinery were used in construction of the Cattle Creek Sugar Mill west of Mackay. Parts of other buildings were used locally, for example the famous Myola Hall dance floor came from the sugar shed.  One of the Mill houses was later used as an artists’ retreat, and was the original home of the Mill Gallery established in 1983. The gallery later moved into Yeppoon when the mill building burned down.