Bodalla - Thomas Sutcliffe Mort
In 2010 Bodalla will be celebrating 150 years since Thomas Sutcliffe Mort purchased over 13,000 acres in 1860 and established the Bodalla Estate.
Prior to Mort’s purchase of the estate, the previous title holder, John Hawdon had employed managers and spent fourteen years pioneering agricultural development in the area to little success.
Recognised as an Australian patron of the 19th century for his contributions to developing the country’s resources, Mort achieved success in Sydney establishing the first public wool sales in Australia, promoting the Sydney to Parramatta railway and setting up the first company to work some of the recently discovered gold deposits. He also played a part in the founding of AMP, he pioneered refrigerated transport and built the business known today as ‘Goldsborough Mort and Co’.
His decision to move from tenanted properties to employing managers for his dairy farms enabled the control of producing milk and cheese of great quality. His investment in modern machinery to assist the manufacturing processes at the Estate’s cheese factories gave rise to the methods being emulated by other farmers. He gradually developed his total holding to 56,000 acres and provided the foundation of the dairy industry still continuing today in the district.
The Bodalla village (in present location) was constructed in 1870 on the main southern road including a store, smithy, bakery, carpenter’s shop, company office, public hall and a number of workers cottages. The hotel was built some four years later after Mort discovered that alcohol was being consumed despite his preference for prohibition.
The Bodalla School first operated in 1867 at Comerang Farm and eventually in 1878 after a number of schooling arrangements had been trialled the Bodalla Public School was completed.
The Mort family dedicated the building of the All Saints Church to T. S. Mort’s memory with the foundation stone laid in 1880, two years after his untimely death from a chill he contracted. The church was completed in 1902.
Over the late 1800’s and early 1900’s The Bodalla Company endured fluctuations in economy and converted the Estate into thirteen leased farms for a time. Eventually, in 1925, the Bodalla Cheese Cooperative Society Ltd was formed being a combination of the farmers and the Bodalla Company - most of the farms are still operating today. The Cooperative purchased two of the Company’s cheese factories and continued the tradition of cheese-making that had been pioneered in the early days.
The village was sold off in 1926 to most of the occupiers of the buildings.
The Bodalla Cheese Factory was built in 1954 and closed in 1987 owing to lack of milk supply and production costs.
From its gradual development into the community of today, its grand attempts at community farming and experiments in modern methods, its pasture improvement, irrigation, dairying, husbandry and its failures, the Bodalla story is so very interesting and integral to the making of the town and the building of a nation. The beauty of its site and surroundings still persists and has provided over 150 years of delight.
Referred to as ‘Bodally’ and later ‘Boat Alley’ and was once described as ‘the Devonshire of the south’. However, the name is commonly recognised as a derivative of the Aboriginal word ‘Bularra’ meaning ‘near two or many waters’.
The Bodalla Estate Book
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Contact Moruya & District Historical Society Inc Telephone: (02) 4474 3224 or postal address: 85 Campbell St Moruya 2537