BODALLA is a thriving community that offers great hospitality and diverse range of attractions including its old church to its historic streetscape.
The Yuin people are considered to be the traditional owners of the region, and it is from their language that the town and the previous estate and station derived its name. Several meanings have been put forward including Boat Alley", "tossing a child up in the arms", "haven for boats" and "several waters".
Heritage buildings house galleries run by talented artists and craftspeople and its choice of award winning cafes using fresh local produce is reason enough to stop for a meal.
The history of the town is based around dairy with the most famous label of all being Bodalla Cheese. You can watch cheese making through the windows of the Bodalla Dairy Cheese factory and then go next door to try the dairy products from designer cheese to the absolute freshest of milk. Down the back of the dairy you will find Ritchey Sealy’s art gallery plus a host of poddy calves eager for a pat.
To best appreciate Bodalla it helps to have some history. The Bodalla Walking Guide below will also offer insights into the history of the village.
In 1860 Mort somewhat unwillingly had acquired the Bodalla, originally Boat Alley, estate near the mouth of the Tuross River.
He saw in Bodalla both a potential country estate for his retirement and a challenge to his concept of the productive purposes of capital.
He planned to make it into a model of land utilization and rural settlement: a tenanted dairy estate run as an integrated whole. He had the beef cattle on Bodalla removed, land cleared, river swamps drained, fences erected, farms laid out, imported grasses sown, provided milking sheds and cheese- and butter-making equipment and selected tenants. Butter and cheese of steadily improving quality were produced for the Sydney market.
In 1864, he changed Australian cheese production from a cottage industry into a factory system where, for the first time, milk from different sources was manipulated to produce a uniform quality cheese to rival English imports. Bodalla was regarded as ‘one of the few showplaces of the industrial progress and enterprise of the Colony’. Ideas developed here were taken up by dairy farmers elsewhere.
In the early 1870s the whole estate was run as three farms with hired labour. Specialized labour, first-class facilities, efficient stock control, careful stock-breeding programmes and controlled blending of milk from different breeds and farms all paid off in higher quality products.
Mort died on 9 May 1878 from pleuro-pneumonia at Bodalla where he was buried.
It was in July 1887 that The Bodalla Company was incorporated as a way of managing the pastoral estate of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort for his beneficiaries.
During his lifetime, Mort rose from a poor Lancashire clerk to a towering figure of Australian business and industry. After arriving in Sydney in 1838, Mort soon established himself as a successful wool auctioneer, expanding to livestock and pastoral property as well as other business ventures such as Mort’s Dock at Balmain.
In 1856 Mort acquired the 13,000 acre Bodalla Estate near Moruya on the NSW South Coast, adding another 4,000 neighbouring acres soon after on which to build his home. Mort planned to establish a “model of land utilisation and rural settlement: a tenanted dairy estate run as an integrated whole”. The estate grew to 56,000 acres, with dairy cattle, mixed agriculture and tenant farmers. In 1861 he commenced dairy production and built a cheese factory at Comerang in 1874.
Mort originally operated the property on a share-farming system, but in the 1870s he took back the estate and ran it as three farms with hired workers.
Mort became interested in refrigeration as a means of accessing the lucrative Sydney market, and financed work by engineer Eugene Nicolle which produced commercial refrigeration systems including a cold store at Darling Harbour, milk depot in the Southern Tablelands and refrigerated railway vans.
When the main road crossing of the Tuross River was moved from Widget to Trinketabella, Mort moved the Bodalla village to its present site in 1870.
Mort, a twice-married father of ten, died of pneumonia at Bodalla in 1878 at the age of 61. Trustees of his estate included his second wife Marianne, eldest son James (who later renounced his trusteeship) and his friends Benjamin Buchanan, Leslie Herring and Charles Manning. The Bodalla Company was incorporated under the ‘Bodalla Estate Act’ to manage the estate with capital of £200,000 divided into 2,000 shares of £100 each. By the Act, the beneficiaries were given 1/10 shares in the Bodalla Company.
In 1925, the Bodalla Cheese Co-operative Society Ltd was formed, being a combination of the farmers working on the Bodalla Estate and the Bodalla Company. The Co-operative purchased two of the Company’s cheese factories and continued the tradition of cheese-making that had been pioneered in the early days. Bodalla village was sold off in 1926 to most of the occupiers of the buildings. The Bodalla Cheese Factory was built in 1954 but closed in 1987 owing to lack of milk supply and production costs.
Australian National University Archives hold a number of records of the Bodalla Company and Co-operative Cheese Society dating from the 1850s to 1980s including correspondence, financial records, meeting papers and a variety of maps of the Bodalla Estate and surrounds.