Cheese Press, double screw, cast iron and tin, made by J. & T. Young, Ayrshire, ...


Illawarra Museum


Cheese Press, double screw, cast iron and tin, made by J. & T. Young, Ayrshire, cheese hoops by William Radford, Melbourne, used at Horsley Homestead, and later Dapto Cheese Factory and Browns Mill

About this object

The use of a press was an essential component of any cheese-making technique, and would be called upon numerous times in the production process. The key function of the press is in the first instance of its use to give correct form to the product which would allow it to be stored with ease so that it may be cured during aging. The second pressing incurs a much higher imposition of weight (commonly one ton) to firmly tighten the product.

A general description of the process of producing cheese begins with the obtaining of fresh milk from the cow’s udder. It is important that the whole content of the milk obtained is used as any removal of the fat content will cause deterioration in the quality of the cheese produced. The milk is cooled overnight to stabilise it before it may be treated. The next stage involves the addition of colouring and rennet to the milk, which can only be done once the milk has been heated to a temperature of approximately 84-86 degrees. The small window of error may be understood by considering that a temperature too high would allow the fermentation to occur too freely, while a temperature too low would impede fermentation.

In the late 19th century, rennet was available in three forms, those being liquid, tablets and powder. In liquid form, rennet appeared as a reddish-brown colour and was prepared from the fourth stomach from suckling calves. If the tablets or powder varieties were chosen, they would need to be diluted in a precise quantity of water before their addition. The rennet, stimulated by the acidity of the milk, acts to coagulate the milk to produce the cheese curd, a process that would usually come about five to ten minutes after the rennet was added. The time for the curd to sufficiently coagulate may take between half an hour to an hour after the rennet had been added. In this stage the product was known as junket. To test if the junket was ready for being cut, a finger would be inserted beneath the upper skin and raised. If it broke cleanly then the junket was ready to be cut with a curd knife.

Two knives would be drawn as alternative pairs through the coagulated curd- one with vertical blades and the other with horizontal ones. This would produce small square or rectangular blocks in the vat. The next process was to scald the junket by gradually raising the temperature to 102-104 degrees C. and then it was stirred so that the thickened curd would settle to the bottom of the vat. The whey that was separated would be drained by a tap fixed to the side of the vat. After a period of ripening, the junket would be passed ground through a machine known as a curd mill. Commonly, this mill would be clamped sideways across the vat. Spiralling rows of metal teeth were turned by a crank handle. The curd passed through this and through a metal grill which grinded it into tiny fragments.
After being milled, it would be ready for salting. The amount of salt was affected by the acidity of the milk, and the taste desired by the maker. The curd was now ready for being pressed. For this stage it would be wrapped in cloth muslin (also known as cheese cloth) and placed in curd mould. A wooden block (or multiple blocks depending on the depth that the curd filled the mould) were placed on top.

Cheese presses could be purchased in many styles, including the commonly used screw lever press (like the press in the museum’s collection), horizontal designs and spring presses (where the compression of a powerful spring would provide the necessary pressure). Many cheese presses in use in the early cheese industry in Australia were home made efforts constructed from readily obtainable materials that would include the cheese hoops, wooden planks, a few pieces of scantling wood and heavy weights.

The press held by the museum was used by wrapping the curd product in cheese cloth and placing them in the hoops that would be placed on the two platforms. The platform above the hoops would be brought down by the iron thread, and weights would be added to the two ends of the upper levers to place further downward pressure as it was left overnight. In this time the product became more dense as superfluous whey was removed. The next day it would be removed and placed in a bath of warm water to encourage the curds to further coalesce and then it would be pressed for a second night. Finally, it would be removed, packaged tightly (often in new muslin or a thick linen bandage), date stamped and then placed in a separate curing room so that it may age. The cheese would be turned every other day to ensure that its shape was conserved. A press of this size was sufficient for small to medium cheese factories.

[Production Notes]

The manufacturer of the cheese press was J. & T. Young Ltd. The works of the company were known as Vulcan Foundry and were located at Ayrshire, Scotland.

The cheese hoops were constructed from tin by William Radford, a tin-smithing company. The Company was based at 19 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, at the time of the making of the hoops.

On the 14th April 1884, the premises of William Radford is recorded by The Argus (page 6) as being 19 Post-Office-Place, Little Bourke Street East. The article refers to two recent robberies of his workshop. The burglars made away with a modest bounty of 3s. in silver, 5s. in stamps and a box of small tools. His shop sold many types of dairy utensils and a variety of consumer goods.

In another article in The Argus on 9th December 1880, Radford is seen to be selling japanned coffee canisters in various colours, travelling cases and boilers.

[History Notes]

Before being acquired by the museum, there are at least three known factories that had used this cheese press. The first known user was the Weston family at Horsley Homestead, Dapto who occupied the property from 1818. The press was later in use at the Dapto Cheese Factory and a Cheese Factory at Brownsville (near Dapto) that was known as Browns Mill. In bringing the press to the museum, it was dismantled and reassembled, and is believed to be a smaller set-up than what it would have appeared during the decades of its use.

Captain Edward Nicholas Weston (of His Majesty’s East India Company and later a Judge in India) came to Sydney in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Before returning to his post in India he married Miss. Blanche Johnston, the youngest daughter of Colonel George Johnston, of Annandale, New South Wales.

Between 1821 they travelled to India and back to Sydney many times before returning in 1931 with their two children. They settled in Australia on a 2,000 acre property located near to Parramatta that was known as the King’s Grant. He renamed the place “Horsley”; the namesake for the property (and that also of his son’s in later years) was a previous place of residence in England at West Horsley in Surrey County.

West Horsley was the birthplace of Lieutenant William Frederick Weston, the brother of Captain Edward H. Weston and the son of Edward Nicholas Weston and Miss. Blanche Johnston. It was William who received the grant of land at West Horsley, near Dapto, in 1818. On the 25th of April, 1826, William Frederick passed away aged 33 years and subsequently the land was divided by partition. The partition on the east was named “West Horsley’s Place” and the partition on the west continued to be known as “Horsley”. Horsley was occupied from this time by Elizabeth Weston, daughter of William Frederick. She married Andrew Thomson, and died in 1859.

The other occupant was Augusta Brooks, who had married Richard Brooks Jnr. (son of Captain Richard Brooks). Brooks Jnr. was also in possession of an estate on Maneroo Plains. He died at West Horsley on the 10th of July 1855 at the age of 43. After this time the property came into the hands of Elizabeth’s husband, Andrew Thomson. A later occupant of the property was the well known dairy breeder, George Lindsay, who converted it back into one property and came to call it ‘Horsley Home’. Following the passing of George Lindsay, the property was again partitioned and placed in the names of George and James Lindsay, the sons of George Lindsay. A cattle branding iron owned by James Lindsay is also in the museums collection.

The cheese press was later in use at two cheese factories located nearby. The press was transferred first to the Dapto Cheese Factory and later still to Browns Mill. The latter factory also produced cheese and was located at Brownsville.

[Physical Characteristics]

Double lever cheese press constructed from cast iron. Pressure was imparted by the tightening of the upper platform which sat above the tin cheese hoops and was brought down firstly by circular, cast iron wheels that moved along the iron thread. They forced the levers to tighten and place increased pressure on the cheese. The wheels sat above a platform shaped like two yolks used by pack animals. Iron weights were hung from the side ends of the levers. These weights applied further downward pressure on the lever ends when left overnight.

The weights have a short, cylindrical shape, with each having a vertical inlet that enabled them to be placed on the rod extending from the lever ends. The rod had a hook at its upper end that was used to thread it to the lever end. Four tapered feet were nailed to the base of the press, a small distance from the vertical and horizontal edge.

The cheese hoops which held the wrapped cheese had the form of four rows of evenly-spaced, small perforations that allowed for the escape of superfluous whey during pressing. Perforations were also made on the wooden base of the hoops. Two cast iron handles were affixed to the sides of the hoops by iron nails. Each hoop had three, thin iron bands that gave support to the hoops.


J. & T. Young

Maker Role

Manufacturer of Cheese Press


William Radford

Maker Role

Manufacturer of Cheese Hoops

Inscription and Marks


"12 CWT" [raised lettering on the weights]

"J. & T. YOUNG AYR" [raised lettering on the cast iron platforms brought down by the metal thread]

Cheese Hoops:

MELBOURNE" [tin plate on the outer side of the hoops]

Object Type

Cheese Press

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