The Condong Sugar Mill, a grand old sugar mill, sits on the banks of the Tweed River, and has been crushing cane since 1880. The mill is located on McLeod Street, which runs parallel with Tweed Valley Way.
Opposite the Mill is the Condong General Store and Post Office which was established in 1901.
The first attempts of growing sugar cane in the Tweed Valley was in 1869 by two early settlers in the district, Joshua Bray at Kynnumboon near the present town of Murwillumbah and Michael Guilfoyle at Cudgen.
The Mitchell Library in Sydney holds the diaries of Joshua Bray and Samuel Gray. The diary entries recorded in November 1868 that the two men planted sugar cane and described the results of their sugar-making experiments.
During the 1870s, a number of individual farmers built small mills on their properties and produced sugar with varying degrees of success and quality. Most of the small mills of the time didn’t survive. Their efforts were hampered by lack of reliable supply of good quality cane and inefficient production methods. They used hand operated rollers to crush the cane and boiled the juice over open fires which was very labour intensive.
In 1872, sugar growers on the Tweed were dissatisfied with the production of the small mills and approached CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company) to build a mill on the Tweed River.
Edward William Knox (1847-1933), second of four surviving sons of Sir Edward Knox, founder of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was Superintendent of the CSR Mills on the Clarence. Knox visited the Tweed in May 1877 and commented on the miserable existence led by farmers on the Tweed.
He convinced his superiors that CSR should purchase large areas of land in the Tweed and lease farms at low rent to farmers who would grow cane for the proposed Condong Sugar Mill. By the end of the 19th century the foothills of the Tweed River Valley had been largely cleared and replaced with sugar cane plantations.
CSR initially bought 2,435 acres, including a site at Condong for a mill. After lengthy negotiations, the CSR mill at Condong was completed in 1880 and began crushing cane.
Small mills at Cudgen, Bilambil and Tumbulgum were gradually replaced by the large mills at Condong and the Robb Mill at Cudgen. The new mills were built with more sophisticated machinery that was driven by steam.
Some 1.9m tonnes of sugar cane is forecast to be harvested in NSW over the next 6 months. Over half a million of these tonnes will come from the Condong area which was heavily affected by flooding earlier in the year (March 2017).
The Condong Sugar Mill is still the economic mainstay of the Valley. Today, the plant at Condong is fuelled primarily by sugar cane material and operates as a power station within the mill which is owned by NSW Sugar.
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