Francis Street

Port Heritage Trail - Site 5 

Factories and industry

Factories and industries first established along the Yarra River in the 1840s. By the early 20th century, factories and wharves lined the riverfront. 

Some of the industries and factories established by 1875 on this stretch of the Yarra River included Raleigh’s Boiling Down Works (established 1844), the Victoria Meat Preserving Company (1860s), MacMeikan Bone Mills (established in 1870, later to become Cuming Smith and Co.) and Joshua Brothers Sugar Refinery (established 1873, later to become CSR). 

Sugar Australia now operates what was Joshua Brothers. The refinery continues on the same site, and many of the original buildings survive, including the main refinery building (Pan House). 

The Yarraville Sugar Refinery

Joshua Brothers Sugar Refinery viewed from the eastern bank of the Yarra River, 1876 (Source: Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)

Condition of the rivers

The river was used to deliver supplies and finished products to and from the factories, but also as a dumping ground for waste products. 

In 1879, an inspection of offensive trades noted the water in the Saltwater (now Maribyrnong) River was ‘being impregnated with blood and filth, [it] stank horribly, and [had] discoloured a considerable extent of the river, into which it was flowing rapidly’ (The Argus, 13 August 1879). Conditions along the Yarra River would have been similar if not worse. 

Trade between industries

By the 1890s, larger factories had replaced some of the smaller industries, including Miller and Co.’s rope factory on the site next to the sugar refinery. 

The various companies traded with each other. For example, the refinery using bone char from Cuming Smith, and both the refinery and Cuming Smith buying hessian sacking from Miller’s rope factory. 

Wharves

Each factory had its own wharf until the 1880s when the Melbourne Harbor Trust became responsible for all port berthing facilities. The Trust built a single wharf extending from Francis Street to Somerville Road in Yarraville.

Downstream is Holden Dock, built in 1971 and used for the transport of refined petroleum products. It replaced an earlier oil wharf constructed in 1926 for the Vacuum Oil Company.

Upstream, the wharf served the Mt Lyell Company complex, established in 1905 for the manufacture of sulphuric acid and fertilisers. (That wharf is now Port of Melbourne Corporation’s Yarraville wharves Nos. 5 and 6).

Port Heritage Trail - Site 5 

Factories and industry

Factories and industries first established along the Yarra River in the 1840s. By the early 20th century, factories and wharves lined the riverfront. 

Some of the industries and factories established by 1875 on this stretch of the Yarra River included Raleigh’s Boiling Down Works (established 1844), the Victoria Meat Preserving Company (1860s), MacMeikan Bone Mills (established in 1870, later to become Cuming Smith and Co.) and Joshua Brothers Sugar Refinery (established 1873, later to become CSR). 

Sugar Australia now operates what was Joshua Brothers. The refinery continues on the same site, and many of the original buildings survive, including the main refinery building (Pan House). 

The Yarraville Sugar Refinery

Joshua Brothers Sugar Refinery viewed from the eastern bank of the Yarra River, 1876 (Source: Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)

Condition of the rivers

The river was used to deliver supplies and finished products to and from the factories, but also as a dumping ground for waste products. 

In 1879, an inspection of offensive trades noted the water in the Saltwater (now Maribyrnong) River was ‘being impregnated with blood and filth, [it] stank horribly, and [had] discoloured a considerable extent of the river, into which it was flowing rapidly’ (The Argus, 13 August 1879). Conditions along the Yarra River would have been similar if not worse. 

Trade between industries

By the 1890s, larger factories had replaced some of the smaller industries, including Miller and Co.’s rope factory on the site next to the sugar refinery. 

The various companies traded with each other. For example, the refinery using bone char from Cuming Smith, and both the refinery and Cuming Smith buying hessian sacking from Miller’s rope factory. 

Wharves

Each factory had its own wharf until the 1880s when the Melbourne Harbor Trust became responsible for all port berthing facilities. The Trust built a single wharf extending from Francis Street to Somerville Road in Yarraville.

Downstream is Holden Dock, built in 1971 and used for the transport of refined petroleum products. It replaced an earlier oil wharf constructed in 1926 for the Vacuum Oil Company.

Upstream, the wharf served the Mt Lyell Company complex, established in 1905 for the manufacture of sulphuric acid and fertilisers. (That wharf is now Port of Melbourne Corporation’s Yarraville wharves Nos. 5 and 6).