Victorian picnic to celebrate Thomas Mort

ENTREPRENEUR WITH HEART: Thomas Mort with his wife Theresa, believed to be photographed around 1847. PICTURE: Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

ENTREPRENEUR WITH HEART: Thomas Mort with his wife Theresa, believed to be photographed around 1847. PICTURE: Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

The descendants of entrepreneurs Thomas Mort, Eugene Nicolle and Augustus Morris are hosting a re-enactment of a defining moment in Lithgow and food history. 

Three hundred guests were brought to Mort’s slaughter and freezing works by train from Sydney in 1875 to experience the wonder of preserving food using ice, technology patented by businessman Thomas Mort and engineer Eugene Nicolle in 1874.

Mr Mort did not tell his guests all the items in his banquet, including roast turkey, beef steak pie, lobster salad and quince tart had been frozen or chilled, some of it prepared several months earlier. 

MENU: A record of the original banquet menu for the event at Mort's meatworks.

MENU: A record of the original banquet menu for the event at Mort's meatworks.

When he revealed the technology behind the enormous meal he famously said, “there shall be no more waste”. 

A picnic hosted by direct descendants, David Mort and Bettina Morris, on September 9 at Hoskins Church will recreate the Victorian banquet.  

A Tin Hare Train has been organised to pick up guests from central, it will arrive at Lithgow at midday. Tania Aussel of the Lithgow Tin Shed will be preparing items from the extensive menu. 

Lithgow resident, Pamela Mason, who lives in Mort’s Estate on Macauley Street will speak at the event about her fascination with the life of her home’s former owner. 

CHEF: Tania Aussel will be recreating the Victorian picnic which included delicacies such as tongue, aspic jelly and 'wonga pie'.

CHEF: Tania Aussel will be recreating the Victorian picnic which included delicacies such as tongue, aspic jelly and 'wonga pie'.

“I really started getting interested in him when I realised he also had lived and done a lot of business in Manchester, where I had lived in England,” she said. 

“I think of him as an entrepreneur with a heart. He was the father of ten children and everywhere he went he built houses for his workers and a church.” 

Ms Mason said the business man was inspired to pioneer refrigeration technology so he could share the quality of Australian meat with his countrymen in England. 

He got the idea of freezing food to preserve it when he had read a whole animal had been found preserved in ice from hundreds of years before, Ms Mason said. 

Statue of Thomas Mort at Macquarie Place in Sydney, taken 1900-1910. Courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

Statue of Thomas Mort at Macquarie Place in Sydney, taken 1900-1910. Courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

“He had two attempts where he fitted ships with his freezing equipment and sent meat to England but they both failed. The third was a success, and the meat was served to Queen Victoria, but by this time he had died.”

Locally, however, Mr Mort created a lucrative business establishing an abattoir and ice works in Lithgow that sent meat to Sydney on refrigerated trains.  

Zig Zag beer and Megalong Valley wine will be available on the day at the gardens of Hoskins Church.

Ms Mason said that “in the egalitarian spirit of Thomas Mort” everyone is invited to bring their own food to the picnic to re-create the event. 

For more information call David Mort 6373 3576.

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