1880 First Chillend meat sent from Lithgow to England

1878 First Brewery opens

Designer Phil Spark's comment:

I was talking to Wayne Saunders, a knife maker, about the project and the difficulty of matching the event to the sculpture. “For example what would you do for Ned Kelly/First meat”? With no hesitation Wayne said “meat axe”. And he made this.


Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-1878) was a Lancashireman who arrived in Australia in 1838 and became enormously successful, with wide ranging interests as a pastoralist and dairy farmer, financier, horticulturalist, manufacturer, coal and copper mine owner and proprietor of the vast Mort’s Dock in Balmain, as well as the founder of the town of Bodalla. Mort Street in Lithgow and Mort’s Estate are named for him, but there are few tangible reminders as to why.

Morts Meat Works
Mort's Meatworks

The story behind Mort’s involvement in Lithgow is his attempts to develop a refrigeration works for the export of meat. Mort developed a large abattoir where sheep and cattle were driven in from the west and were slaughtered and refrigerated for later transport. Surplus tallow from Mort's abattoirs was used to make soap in a soap factory in Soapy Gully, later to be known State Mine Gully. The New South Wales Fresh Food & Ice Co. was formed in 1875, and a refrigeration plant was developed in Inch Street.

In 1875, to mark his achievements in the refrigeration techniques, Mort arranged a picnic for 300 guests. He organised a special train from Sydney and fed his guests food that had been refrigerated at his plant for over 18 months, including beef, mutton, lamb, wonga pigeon pie and lobster, with jellies, tarts and creams. However it took five years for him to make the first successful shipment, and Lithgow soon proved to be too far from Sydney markets and ships.

As his biographer wrote:

The refrigeration venture, on which Mort spent over £100,000 and from which his return was negligible, points up more sharply than any other the business judgments and character of the mature Mort. Like the dock and Bodalla, the investment was a community service that could not be justified after the event by normal economic criteria.

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Lithgow Tourism, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and Refrigeration Works

Lithgow Primary School Centenary Committee, 1875-1975 : Lithgow P.S. : centenary, 1975

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