Australian Agricultural Company
The Australian Agricultural Company (AA Co) is a company which serves to improve beef cattle
Beef cattle
Beef cattle are cattle raised for meat production . The meat of cattle is known as beef. When raised in a feedlot cattle are known as feeder cattle. Many such feeder cattle are born in cow-calf operations specifically designed to produce beef calves...

 production through responsible natural resource and land use. Founded in 1824 through an Act of the British Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

, with the right to select 1000000 acres (4,047 km²) in New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 for agricultural development, it is one of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

's oldest still-operating companies.

Its headquarters are today in Brisbane
Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland and the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane's metropolitan area has a population of over 2 million, and the South East Queensland urban conurbation, centred around Brisbane, encompasses a population of...

 and it has been listed (or relisted) on the Australian Stock Exchange
Australian Securities Exchange
The Australian Securities Exchange was created by the merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange in July 2006. It is the primary stock exchange group in Australia....

 since 2001. As of July 2008 it had a staff of 500 and operates 24 cattle stations and 2 feed lots, consisting of over 565,000 beef cattle.


Amongst the principal members of this company were the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of England, 28 Members of Parliament, including Mr. Brougham, and Mr. Joseph Hume
Joseph Hume
Joseph Hume FRS was a Scottish doctor and Radical MP, born in Montrose, Angus.-Medical career:He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and moved to India in 1797...

, the Governor, Deputy Governor and eight of the directors of the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

; the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman and five directors of the British East India Company, besides many other eminent bankers and merchants of England. All shares were speedily taken up apart from 500 which Agricultural Company's property Tahlee
Tahlee is a historic Australian property of situated on the north side of Port Stephens near Karuah in New South Wales in the suburb of Tahlee. It is the current location for Tahlee Bible College and the original site of the Australian Agricultural Company....

in New South Wales on 24 December 1829.

The area selected under the founding charter extended from Port Stephens
Port Stephens
Port Stephens is a large natural harbour located about north-east of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. It lies wholly within the Port Stephens Local Government Area although its northern shoreline forms the boundary between the Port Stephens and Great Lakes LGAs...

, embracing the Karuah River
Karuah River
The Karuah River is a major river in the Great Lakes Area of the Australian state of New South Wales. It is fed by numerous creeks and streams on the south side of the Gloucester Tops Ranges which makes up part of the Great Dividing Range....

 valley, to the Gloucester
Gloucester, New South Wales
Gloucester is a town in the dairy and beef cattle country of the Manning district on the Mid North Coast of the state of New South Wales, Australia in the Gloucester Shire....

 flats, and to the Manning River
Manning River
The Manning River is a river in the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia that flows through the Manning Valley. It is one of Australia's few large river systems not to be dammed for water supply purposes anywhere along its catchment...

, including most of the northern shore of Port Stephens, extending to 464640 acre (1,880 km²). The company had commenced its operations in order to improve flocks of Merino
The Merino is an economically influential breed of sheep prized for its wool. Merinos are regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep...

 sheep in New South Wales for export to Great Britain.

However, it soon found that better land was available and, in 1830, a communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Governor Darling notified the latter that the company was to be permitted to select land in the interior of the colony, in lieu of an equivalent area at Port Stephens, but retaining mineral rights to the latter. After an inspection in 1833, the company decided on two new areas. These were the Warrah Estate of 249600 acre (1,010 km²), west of Murrurundi
Murrurundi, New South Wales
Murrurundi is a rural town in Upper Hunter Shire, located in the Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales. Murrurundi, which is 193 km by road from Newcastle and 309 km from Sydney, has a population of 1,330 people...

, and Goonoo Goonoo estate of 313298 acre (1,268 km²), along with the left bank of the Peel River
Peel River (New South Wales)
The Peel River is a river in New South Wales, Australia. It is part of the Murray-Darling Basin.The Peel rises on the northern slopes of the Liverpool Range south of the village of Nundle. It flows generally north and west through the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, through Woolomin and...

 to the south of present-day Tamworth, New South Wales
Tamworth, New South Wales
Tamworth is a city in the New England region of New South Wales, Australia. Straddling the Peel River, Tamworth, which contains an estimated population of 47,595 people, is the major regional centre for southern New England and in the local government area of Tamworth Regional Council. The city...

. The township of West Tamworth adjacent to the present city was the original company-owned business centre for the area. In 1856, Arthur Hodgson
Arthur Hodgson
Sir Arthur Hodgson KCMG was an Australian pioneer and politician.-Early life:Hodgson was born in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, England; the second son of the Rev. Edward Hodgson and his third wife Charlotte, daughter of Francis William Pemberton of Bombay, India...

 was appointed general superintendent of the company. The pioneering settlers of the area were ordered to leave and paid little from the company for their properties.


The colonial government was not able to manage coal production efficiently. On 3 May 1833 the company received land grants at Newcastle
Newcastle, New South Wales
The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in the Australian state of New South Wales and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Local Government Areas...

 totaling 1920 acre (8 km²) plus a 31 year monopoly on that town's coal traffic. The company became the largest exporter of coal from Newcastle for many decades. They also bought 1280 acre (5 km²) of freehold and 3131 acre (13 km²) of leasehold land on the South Maitland coalfields
South Maitland coalfields
The South Maitland coalfields was the most extensive coalfield in New South Wales until the great coal mining slump of the 1960s. It was discovered by Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson's party when they were engaged in an exploratory visit to the Hunter River Valley during July 1801.Mention has been made...

 at Weston, near Kurri Kurri
Kurri Kurri, New South Wales
Kurri Kurri is a small town in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia, in the Cessnock LGA. At the 2006 census its population was 5,644...

, where they built the Hebburn Colliery. Because of drought and depression during the 1840s mining created more profit than wool production did.

By December 1903 the pit was sending a fully loaded train away each day. By 1912, the output exceeded 2500 long tons (2,540 t) per day and a large overseas trade had developed from this mine. In May 1906 the company purchased a half-share in the Aberdare Junction to Cessnock
Cessnock, New South Wales
Cessnock is a city in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia, about by road west of Newcastle. It is the administrative centre of the Cessnock City Council LGA and was named after an 1826 grant of land called Cessnock Estate, which was owned by John Campbell...

 railway for £40,000 which, already owning the other half, placed them in full ownership of the line. With the post-Great War slump, the company ceased its coal-mining activities in the early 1920s, sold their assets therein, and moved on into the cattle industry.

The AA Co's coat-of-arms are affixed to two stone columns erected in Gordon Avenue, Hamilton, New South Wales
Hamilton, New South Wales
Hamilton is a suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, located from Newcastle's central business district. The main commercial centre is located around Beaumont Street and boasts a vibrant multicultural atmosphere providing an array of restaurants, retail, fashion and commercial outlets...

 (originally known as Pittown, Borehole or Happy Flat)—Located on the corners Learmonth park (Alexander Street and Gordon Avenue, and Jenner Parade and Gordon Avenue)—in an area once known as Newcastle's Garden Suburb.

Australia's first railway

On 10 December 1831 the Australian Agricultural Company officially opened Australia's first railway, located at the intersection of Brown & Church Streets, Newcastle, New South Wales
Newcastle, New South Wales
The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in the Australian state of New South Wales and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Local Government Areas...

. Privately owned and operated to service the A Pit coal mine, it was a cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

 fishbelly rail on an inclined plane as a gravitational railway, described as follows:
Once raised up the shaft, the coal was yarded or emptied into wagons; each of 1 t capacity. Loaded wagons were run in pairs down a self-acting inclined plane railway (two loaded wagons going down hauled another two emptied ones up). They were then pushed by hand, assisted by gravity, along a graded wooden trestle. It crossed a sandy area, now occupied by Hunter Street and the Great Northern Railway, to a loading staith at which small ships could berth while coal was tipped into their holds.

The Australian Agricultural Company constructed a total of 3 gravitational railways: the second was in 1837 to service B Pit and the third was in mid-1842 to service C Pit. The gravitational railway from B Pit connected with the 1831 railway. The gravitational railway from C Pit, which made use of the last of the Government’s offer of cheap convict labour, feed onto an extended gravitational railway to reach the port. It is presumed that when the A Pit mine was exhausted in July 1846 its railway was directly transferred to form the C Pit railway, although no hard evidence can support this thought.

On 10 December 2006 a plaque was unveiled on the southern shore of Newcastle Harbour celebrating this event.

Short-lived coal monopoly & providing land access: disputes with James Mitchell

In 1828, 3 years after commencing their 31 year lease, the Australian Agricultural Company was accorded a monopolistic position after the company received a grant of 2,000 acres of coal land in the centre of Newcastle. Further, it was feared that the company may have had control of the entire coal supply in the Colony had the Crown Law Officers responsible for the substitution of a grant for the lease not objected and an alternative agreed upon.

Between 1835 and 1850, the Australian Agricultural Company was involved in significant Australian historical law events relating to monopolistic coal mining and private railway access.

In 1835 James Mitchell purchased approximately 900 acres of coastal land extending from the far side of Merewether ridge to Glenrock Lagoon and named the property the Burwood estate, which was later extended to 1,834 acres. Not long after Ludwig Leichhardt’s
Ludwig Leichhardt
Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt, known as Ludwig Leichhardt, was a Prussian explorer and naturalist, most famous for his exploration of northern and central Australia.-Early life:...

 visit to the Burwood estate in 1842, Mitchell announced the planned commissioning of tramroad tunnels, Australia’s first two railway tunnels, through Burwood ridge (or bluff).

Whilst Leichhardt visited the Burwood estate he drew up the stratigraphy
Stratigraphy, a branch of geology, studies rock layers and layering . It is primarily used in the study of sedimentary and layered volcanic rocks....

 of the coastline. It is speculated that Leichhardt may have established the extent of the coal seams under Mitchell’s property. Mitchell claimed the construction of the tunnels was to allow access to Burwood Beach in order to build a salt works. It is further speculated that Mitchell actually sort to destroy the Australian Agricultural Company’s legal monopoly on coal mining. Prior to these events Mitchell had already approached Governor Gipps seeking:
  1. a repeal of the Metallic Ores Act;
  2. Newcastle be made a free port and
  3. that he be permitted to mine and use coal from Burwood estate as fuel for a copper smelter.

Mitchell was unsuccessful with only his request to use coal as fuel in a copper smelter.

Although Mitchell had no legal use of coal, the commissioned tunnel project commenced in 1846 with the cutting line being directly into a coal seam. Between 2 and 3 thousand tonnes of coal were extracted but unusable owing to the Australian Agricultural Company’s monopoly.

Whilst Mitchell’s operations were going on, a number of small illegal mines operated in the district in defiance of the monopoly. A mine near East Maitland
East Maitland, New South Wales
East Maitland is a suburb in the City of Maitland, New South Wales, Australia. It is on the New England Highway and it has two stations, Victoria Street station and East Maitland station , on CityRail's Hunter line.It is also home to a major commercial district called Greenhills, which includes...

 operated by Mr James Brown undercut the Australian Agricultural Company’s price to supply coal to steamships at Morpeth
Morpeth, New South Wales
Morpeth is a suburb of the City of Maitland Local Government Area in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the southern banks of the Hunter River at the border between the City of Maitland and Port Stephens Council LGAs...

 which lead to prosecution. The Government’s legal advice after this case was that they would have to individually prosecute every illegal mine, which Governor FitzRoy believed the cost of the prosecutions should be paid for by the Australian Agricultural Company. In 1847, the NSW Legislative Council created the Coal Inquiry and appointed a Select Committee
Select Committee
A select committee is a committee made up of a small number of parliamentary members appointed to deal with particular areas or issues originating in the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy...

 to investigate the matter. Both Mitchell and Brown gave evidence; Mitchell in relation to his tunnel and Brown in relation to price cutting. Before the Committee could issue any recommendations the Australian Agricultural Company relinquished its monopoly. Mitchell proceeded to lease out the coal rights on the Burwood estate, with five mines being quickly established by J & A Brown, Donaldson, Alexander Brown, Nott and Morgan.

Because Australian Agricultural Company owned the land between the Burwood estate and the Port of Newcastle the company refused to allow Mitchell to transport coal by rail across its land. Mitchell successfully lobbied the Government again by having New South Wales’ first Private Act of Parliament
Private Member's Bill
A member of parliament’s legislative motion, called a private member's bill or a member's bill in some parliaments, is a proposed law introduced by a member of a legislature. In most countries with a parliamentary system, most bills are proposed by the government, not by individual members of the...

 titled, Burwood and Newcastle Tramroad Act 1850, passed, that specifically allowed Mitchell to carry coal through Australian Agricultural Company lands.

Also in 1850, the coal mining monopoly ended with the peal of the Metallic Ores Act as promised by Governor Gipps, allowing copper to be brought into NSW duty free. After the monopoly ended, Mitchell established the copper smelter in 1851 until its closure in 1872. In 1913, salvaged bricks from the site were used to cap some of the old mines.

Company towns

  • Stroud
    Stroud, New South Wales
    Stroud is a small country town one hour north of Newcastle, New South Wales. It is part of the Great Lakes Council area. The major road through Stroud is the Bucketts Way...

  • Carrington
    Carrington, New South Wales
    Carrington is a suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia and is named after Lord Carrington, governor of N.S.W. in 1887 when the area was proclaimed a municipality.-Origins:...

  • Hamilton
    Hamilton, New South Wales
    Hamilton is a suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, located from Newcastle's central business district. The main commercial centre is located around Beaumont Street and boasts a vibrant multicultural atmosphere providing an array of restaurants, retail, fashion and commercial outlets...

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