March 17, 2006 at 9:18 pm #237125forestMember
Technology Transported; 1788-1840 
The First Fleet brought with it flour, wheat, ships’ biscuits, salted meat and the sanguine expectations of the London officials that the infant settlement would quickly be able to supply itself with fish and the ‘vegetable productions’ of the land which, it was confidently hoped, would rapidly be tilled. The difficulties of bringing the land under cultivation have been well documented and the reliance of Sydney Cove on the imported provisions for many a long day is also well known. Wheat from India and the Cape and salted meat from Tahiti were, for many years, the major foods of the colony.
Milling, and its concomitant baking, was the first branch of food technology practised at Sydney. Within a few weeks of the arrival of the fleet some forty iron hand mills were landed and put to use grinding wheat to produce flour. There was no provision, however, for their maintenance and they rapidly became blunt and almost useless. Nevertheless, they, and various other hand grinding methods, such as querns and pestles and mortars, were used night and day for long periods to prepare flour for baking. It was less a technology than a technique and the unremitting labour required led to innovation, and man-powered treadmills and capstan mills were built. The latter were more efficient and easily powered by horses, so that the former lasted only a short time.
The most common source of power in England at that time was the water-race. Watermills were installed at Norfolk Island in 1795, but, in spite of earlier attempts, the first on the mainland was that at Parramatta in 1804. Unfortunately, it suffered from an intermittent water supply. Windmills were the obvious answer but Phillip had no competent millwright, though two windmills were operating at Norfolk Island in 1796. In 1795, Governor Hunter brought with him the essential working parts of a windmill, but it was not until he found a convict who knew a little about the subject that they were assembled and Sydney’s first windmill began operation on Millers’ Point in January 1797. By 1809 there were seven windmills working in Sydney, and the first steam driven mill was John Dickson’s, opened by Governor Macquarie in 1815.
By this time agriculture was becoming established and farmers were beginning to realise that they were losing yield by transporting grain to Sydney for milling. Accordingly, milling became decentralized and from 1820, there was a sharp increase in the number of mills in New South Wales. There were 46 in 1830, most of them small and many of them on individual farms. Only 13 of them were in Sydney. By 1840 there were about 100 in the colony and from 1850 to the new roller technology of the early 1880s, the number fluctuated between 140 and 200.
The pattern was repeated in all the Australian colonies, the sources of energy being steam, water, wind, or horse, but the milling technology was the same in them all; a fixed bed stone, and a rotating ‘runner’ on top with feed through a central ‘eye’. Both stones were grooved in such a way that the wheat grain was cut and the starch granules released for further size reduction by grinding. The ground meal was delivered to the edges of the stones and refined by sieving through silk screens. It was a very ancient technology and it remained in use until the Hungarian system of roller milling was introduced in 1879. For a long time, however, milling in Australia remained essentially a village technology, though the period under review saw the introduction of some improvements in the pretreatment of wheat, in the sieving of the meal, and in the separation of mill streams.
Often the miller was also the baker, but others purchased flour and set up for themselves; in 1821 there were 52 licensed bakers in Sydney. Problems with the food supply led Governor King by an ordinance of 8 May 1801 to regulate milling and baking. The extraction rate was fixed at 76 per cent and for the next twenty years or so the price, weight and quality of loaves were controlled in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land by fiat in the respective government gazettes. The punishment of the inevitable cheats was also recorded from time to time. Baking remained a personal art throughout this period and much bread was baked by housewives, but ships’ biscuits for commercial rather than domestic consumption were being manufactured at least as early as 1829.
Brewing, too, was a farmhouse and village technology, though in England it was the first part of food production to be centralized as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Brewing depends on supplies of barley and hops but other raw materials such as wheat and maize and various bittering agents such as Lycopersicum spp., or love apple, may be used to make beer of a kind. Australia’s first brewer was James Squire, who arrived with the First Fleet and brewed small quantities of beer from 1790. He used locally grown maize and barley with hops obtained from England. In 1795 he established a brewery at Kissing Point but lack of the proper raw materials and public preference for spirits were against him. In 1803, W. Stabler was advertising his own beer in Pitt’s Row, Sydney, and in 1804 a brewery at Parramatta began production; but the supply of barley was unreliable and the hops were imported. James Squire may also have been the first to grow hops; he had two hundred poles growing in 1805, but New South Wales production languished. The Derwent Valley in Southern Usmania was far more suitable climatically and it was there that hop growing was successfully established by William Shoobridge in 1822.
Brewing expanded in the Sydney area. Eleven different breweries, though never more than four at once, were operating in Sydney in Macquarie’s time, but poor technology, deriving essentially from lack of knowledge of things microbiological, together with the warm climate, was against any form of centralized brewing in Australia at that time.
In Van Diemen’s Land, home brewing was attempted from the very beginning of the colony in 1803 but in 1806, in order to conserve what wheat there was for bread, brewing was forbidden. Later, there were several small breweries in the Hobart area and at Launceston, but there, as in New South Wales and later still in Victoria and the other colonies, climate, and lack of cooling facilities for storage and transport were against large breweries and favoured, indeed forced, the decentralization of this activity. Farmers’ wives and innkeepers brewed their own beer as required and brewing remained very much a farmhouse and village technology. The number of breweries in New South Wales, for example, fell to single figures only in the 1850s, whereas those in Victoria under the impulse of the Gold Rush increased from 14 in 1850, to 125 in 1871. Of the latter, 99 were in the country.
The introduction of mechanical refrigeration in the latter part of the century aided the expansion of brewing to country districts and the establishment of breweries of significantly commercial size, but it was very late in the nineteenth century before the brewing industry became centralized to anything like the extent it had been in England by 1815, when eleven breweries were making 20 per cent of the beer being drunk.
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