Normanby Distillery


In the 1870s, the Strathpine region had been a sugar growing area with at least three sugar mills in the vicinity. The most successful was the Port Royal Mill which opened early in the decade and was owned by a prominent Brisbane businessman, Owen Gardner. The distillation of rum from molasses, a by-product of the sugar milling process, was an activity carried on in many of the early Queensland mills. The Port Royal, which had changed its name to the Normanby Mill and moved to a more central position in 1873, commenced producing rum in 1875. When the growing of sugar eventually fell into disfavour in the Pine Rivers area, the Normanby concentrated solely on the production of rum using molasses obtained from other mills.

The rum, named in honour of the Marquess of Normanby who was Governor of Queensland from 1871 until 1874, quickly became popular and it achieved the rare distinction of being awarded the Bronze Medal at the Paris International Exposition of 1878. During the first ten years of its operation, the Normanby Distillery produced a weekly average of around 260 gallons (1,180 litres) of proof spirit. Small steamers, especially the Normanby commissioned by Owen Gardner in 1884, navigated the South Pine River on the high tide to deliver molasses from mills on the Logan, Albert and Coomera Rivers and take away the rum. By 1889, the Distillery was producing between 300 and 400 gallons (1,300 and 1,800 litres) of rum each week.

After changing ownership several times, the Normanby Distillery was taken over by Frederick Bennett and a partner in 1908. A lightly built branch line connecting the Distillery with the North Coast Railway line was constructed about 1911. Horses, bullocks, and later tractors, hauled wagons across Gympie Road near the present site of Westfield Shoppingtown to the Distillery, which was located on the western bank of the South Pine River. By the late 1920s, the Distillery's production had increased to over 1,100 gallons (5,000 litres) of rum per day and the Commonwealth Government was receiving 300,000 pounds per annum in excise duty. The railway siding was strengthened in 1942 to enable locomotives to shunt across the road. Bennett family members continued to manage the Distillery until 1963 and it finally ceased production in 1968.

[Source: Pine Rivers Shire - Shire History, cited 2013]

The Lang family ran a sugar mill on the corner of Millar Road, on the site of the golf complex during the 1880s. Severe frosts spelt the end of the sugar in Bald Hills, but sugar grown in nearby Lawnton was processed into rum at the Normanby Rum Distillery which once stood on the site of Westfield Shopping town in Strathpine.

[Source: BRISbites - Suburban Sites, cited 2003]

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