Outback roads

Lake Fellmongery

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Overview

Fellmongering was carried out on the shores of Lake Fellmongery, on the outskirts of town. The process traditionally involved removing wool from sheep skins, washing it, then drying both the fibre and skins.

According to local historians, the fellmongery business at Robe was prompted by successful attempts to salvage wool from a shipwreck in 1853. The Duilius was the first ship chartered to take wool direct from Guichen Bay to London. She came to grief in the bay during a fierce westerly gale, after her anchors failed. The crew managed to land 183 bales, but another 352 stayed in the hold, submerged in seawater. At least some of those bales were retrieved, and then taken to the lake to be washed free of salt.

In 1857, Yorkshire fellmonger John Battye, advertised that he was ready to wash and scour wool 'on the most moderate terms'. Twelve years later, Robe's fellmongery was rented by the Guichen Bay Boiling Down and Meat Curing Company, which set up the town's first large-scale processing industry. It slaughtered and rendered down thousands of sheep to produce canned and dried meat, tallow, bone manure, skins and scoured wool. The enterprise folded after twelve months, but the fellmongery continued under the management of John Hotson who employed 30 men to scour 800 bales that season. Fellmongering continued at Robe until the 1890s.

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