Bodalla is the birthplace of Australia’s commercial cheese industry thanks to the efforts of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-1878), one of the nineteenth century’s greatest industrial visionaries, who made Bodalla his country home. The name Bodalla is derived from the Yuin word for the area ‘Botally’, thought to mean ‘haven for boats’ or ‘several waters’.
Bodalla’s history is therefore synonymous with dairying and the Mort family who owned the Bodalla Estate for 127 years. Mort’s enterprises range from the auction of wool and pastoral properties, mining, building ships and railway locomotives, and he pioneered the refrigerated export of Australian meat.
Mort’s association with Bodalla began in 1855 when he financed squatter John Hawdon’s purchase of ‘Botally’, acquiring a half share in the property himself. In 1860 he acquired the entire property.
At Bodalla Mort changed cheese production from a cottage industry into a large scale factory system when milk from different sources was manipulated in 1864 to produce a uniform quality cheese to rival English imports. Bodalla became ‘one of the few showplaces of the industrial progress and enterprise of the Colony’. Ideas developed there were taken up by dairy farmers elsewhere.
The ‘village’ of Bodalla was initially on the river flats but floods in the 1860s and 1870 prompted Mort to establish a new village on higher ground to service the Estate and its many families.
Today Bodalla is home to two significant churches designed by two of the Colony’s most famous nineteenth century architects, two historic cemeteries, a number of heritage listed buildings some of which house galleries, and award-winning cafes.
Bodalla and the Morts
Bodalla and the Morts is a ‘warts and all’ account of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his family’s long association with Bodalla by local historian and rural journalist Laurelle Pacey. It tells of the fortunes and trials of the Bodalla Estate through many years, ending with the family’s sale of the Bodalla Company in 1987 to Panfida in its bid to control the Sydney milk market, and the subsequent break-up of the Estate in 1989.
The author has drawn on an extraordinary wealth of primary source material including Bodalla Company records, Mort family correspondence and diaries, over a thousand contemporary newspaper reports, and hundreds of early Mort family photographs.
“My aim has been to try to understand Thomas Mort, his fascination with and expectations of Bodalla, the people who played major parts in the operation of the Bodalla Estate over the years, and the family’s continuing involvement with Bodalla,” she said.
The 144 page book has over 160 images including maps.
The Bodalla Estate Book
By Helen Townend
Using “voices from the past”, the Bodalla Estate book is an extraordinarily valuable historical record of the development and establishment of the dairy industry in early Australian European history through to modern times.
The story begins with TS Mort’s 1860 decision to establish a single vast integrated dairy farming estate & butter & cheese manufacturing enterprise over 50,000 acres of land at Bodalla.
A series of eye-witness documents, quoted exactly as written at a particular time, describe in detail how this huge estate was established, the landscape, buildings, workers, practices, regulations, facilities etc & the difficulties and successes of daily milking & cheese making.
Beginning in 1860, the original reports continue through the years to the final outcome for the “Bodalla Estate” in 1989. This book provides a rare opportunity to present to the reader an accurate a view of history as is possible.