Sugar Crushing Mill; c1871; 2008.11


Port Macquarie Museum


Sugar Crushing Mill

About this object

This sugar crushing mill is significant because it was owned and used by local sugar cane growers, Peter and Bernard Muscio at their property on the Hastings River near Wauchope during the 1870s and is a rare provenanced piece of 19th century agricultural equipment within the collection.

The 1870s was a time of realisation for many cane growers and sugar millers on the Hastings that sugar production in this area was not going to be profitable due to the high capital costs involved in extracting sugar from cane and the unsuitable weather patterns particularly winter frosts causing severe damage to crops.

Port Macquarie has a founding association with the sugar industry in Australia. The first Australian sugar crops were grown at Port Macquarie in 1821. Planted by the penal settlement Commandant Captain Francis Allman, and tended by West Indian negro convict James Williams early cane plantings at the settlement looked promising. Experimental plantings and sugar production at the settlement continued under the supervision of Thomas Alison Scott, considered a pioneer of the sugar industry in Australia, however unsuitable climate and management issues saw the Port Macquarie sugar plantation abandoned in 1830, when the penal settlement was opened up to free settlers.

The penal settlement sugar plantation at Rollands Plains was the site of Australia’s first purpose built sugar mill, including its sluice, underground mill stream, curing house, boiling house, forge, crushing mill and dwelling. It appears this mill was dissected and pieces of it distributed to local farmers after the settlement was abandoned.

The Muscio’s like many Hastings farmers tried their hand at growing cane and producing sugar during the 1860s and 1870s. Encouraged by Scott and also Rev. Edward Holland, a Port Macquarie resident experimenting with sugar production, local farmers planted cane crops and built mills of various sizes and descriptions to extract the sugar and molasses from the cane crops.

The sugar crushing mill belonging to the Muscio brothers is a simple yet effective piece of machinery. Compared to other sugar mills built in the area such as that by Richard Meares it is simplistic in its design and operation. It also appears to have cost £500 which is considerable less than the £3000 for Meares mill. Perhaps because of its simplicity and also its cost, the mill survived beyond the abandonment of sugar cane growing in the Hastings in the early 1880s. The mill also indicates the scale of the Muscio’s sugar production operation as a relatively small one.

The sugar crushing mill is an excellent example of horse driven or powered machinery used in the late 1800s. It clearly demonstrates how horses were harnessed to a ‘horse works’ to provide power to operate farm machinery. This is the only ‘horse works’ in the Port Macquarie Historical Society collection.

The mill is physical evidence of the sugar production that took place on the Hastings River during the 1860s and 1870s and the Muscio brothers who amongst others tried hard to master cane growing and sugar production in the Hastings beyond the experimental phase of the 1820s.

This equipment also evidences the settlement of European migrant farmers to the Hastings region.

Debbie Sommers
30 January 2010

Date Made


Place Made


Medium and Materials



Overall: 7.38m L
Crusher: 1.45m H, 0.79m W, 1.8m D
Rollers: 44cmL, 50cmDiam
Feeding chute: 82cmL, 66cmW
Whim: 1.0m H, 1.36m Diam (trapezium shape)
Shaft: 5.24m L

Credit Line

Donor: F Muscio

Object Type

Agricultural machines

Object number


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