The Sugar Mill

One of Louis Hope’s first agricultural experiments was in cotton growing, but he became convinced that sugar offered better prospects than cotton. In 1863 he produced his first experimental sample of sugar on the Ormiston property using improvised equipment. By 1864 the mill on the property was completely operational, and he successfully grew and produced Australia’s first commercial sugar. The first commercial sample of sugar produced on the property consisted of three tons of sugar, which was estimated to be worth between £38 and £41 per ton.

The machinery supplied by the famous firm of D Cook & Co. of Glasgow consisted of a powerful single crushing unit driven by a steam engine, an open battery, a Bour pan, granulators and a centrifugal machine. Hope engaged John Buhôt as manager of the property, and after Buhôt’s employment had ceased, he employed J W Strachan, a practical engineer with experience in the Jamaican sugar industry as manager.

As was common at that time, a number of South Sea Islanders were brought to the Ormiston property in 1864, where they lived in separate accommodation on the property for many years. More information on this practice can be found at the National Archives of Australia and Queensland Historical Atlas.

Hope’s greatest success was in stimulating cane growing and in fostering the growth of the industry in Queensland. His title as the ‘Father of the Commercial Sugar Industry in Queensland’ was well deserved. He supplied plants for several experiments by John Buhôt and advised other sugar pioneers such as Claudius Buchanan Whish.

In 1935 the International Society of Sugar Technologists erected a cairn at Ormiston to the memory of the pioneers of the sugar industry. It is constructed of granite from four important sugar growing areas (Gordonvale, Bundaberg, Herbert River and Giru). Its base of unworked stone rises to partially dressed stone and then on to the machined capping stone. These three stages represent the sugar industry’s pioneering days, its progress and its present efficiency. The plaque at the base of the cairn was donated in 1994 to commemorate 100 years since the death of Louis Hope.