Compensation

Edmund Morewood (born in Wandsbeck, Germany, died August 1876, Brazil) is recognised as the founder of the Natal sugar industry. Morewood visited Natal in 1833 en route to Australia and New Zealand. He returned to Natal in 1838 via Mauritius where he observed sugar cultivation. In 1840 Morewood was appointed Harbour Master and Commissioner of Customs for the Voortrekker Republic. A position he held until the defeat of the Boers by the British in 1842. He was granted a farm where Westville is today. He later sold this land and purchased a farm on the Umvoti River. The Natal Cotton Company meanwhile employed him as manager and he first planted sugar cane in 1847. The company did not favour its cultivation and he resigne in July 1849 in order to experiment with. sugar growing and manufacture. His farm on the Umvoti however fell within a proposed location and he asked the government for an alternative farm, which he named “Compensation”.

He took the sugar cane with him because he was convinced that sugar was the crop for the north coast of Natal. At Compensation Morewood employed six white ploughmen and 20 black labourers. By 1850 they had established six acres of cane, which expanded to 100 acres by 1854. He was confident of the worth of sugar cultivation and by the end of 1859 they built a crude little mill. By 1851 he crushed the cane for the first sugar to be produced in Natal. Compensation farm became a focal point of interest as innumerable visitors journeyed to view the beginning of the Natal sugar industry. On 20 August 1852 the Natal Witness advertised the first sale of colonial sugar and in October 1852 Natal exported its first sugar to the Cape. It realised 6d per pound; a price high above the market value, but it was attributed to its novelty factor.

During 1853 Morewood unsuccessfully placed an advertisement calling for a shareholder in his farm. The Natal Government also refused to assist him financially and he thus left for London, never to return to Natal.

A replica of Morewood’s pioneer sugar mill has been built in a garden on the site of the original mill.

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