When wool is shorn from the sheep’s back it is anything but ‘pure wool’ – at least fifty per cent comprises impurities such as grease, dirt, dust, burrs and other matter. Wool needed to be cleaned prior to international trade to eliminate the waste product within the wool so that freight costs were calculated on the value of pure wool, not the greasy material.
Throughout the history of the Wool Industry our pioneers have used various methods to clean wool, including hand washing in tubs, fell mongering, or scouring.
In the height of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1890’s– the method of wool scouring evolved when steam power was used in the scouring process.
The development of mechanized scouring machinery began in England in around 1850, but it was not until the late 1880’s and early 1890’s that the technology began to be widely used in Australia.
The Blackall Historical Woolscour was one of many scouring facilities that were established in Western Queensland and is the only one remaining in Australia.
Three contributing factors contributed to the establishment of these scours in Western Queensland.
First, the spread of the railway network into the Western regions of the state was an impetuous incentive for enterprising individuals and companies to build scours in the area.
Secondly, the ample supply and availability of artesian water sources in Western Queensland made it highly suited for scouring, particularly because of the softness and temperature of the water.
Thirdly, the wool grown in Western Queensland was considered relatively easily to scour because it contained mainly dust and only minimal seed and burr.
Blackall Woolscour itself, opened in 1908, once the artesian bore had been sunk at the site.
It was the last Woolscour in Western Queensland to cease operations in 1978 after a progressive decline in scours across the nation with increasing freight rates and decline of the wool boom trade.
Today – little evidence remains of the Woolscour’ s across Australia, with one exception – The Blackall Woolscour.
This Scour survives remarkably intact with all the scouring equipment, the main steam engine, boiler and much of the ancillary equipment remaining.
In 1998, the Blackall Historical Woolscour Association was formed by the residents of Blackall and surrounds community to conserve and restore the complex to its full glory.