James Rutherford and the Eskbank Ironworks, 1881 – 1892
Thomas Brown sold Eskbank Estate to (James Rutherford (1824 – 1911) in 1881 for £45,000. Rutherford is credited with the establishment of Cobb & Co, a major stagecoach network, which he purchased in 1861, therefore gaining a monopoly in mail transport.
Rutherford had already been leasing land from Thomas Brown to operate the Eskbank Ironworks in 1873, in partnership with parliamentarian John Sutherland (1816 – 1889). It was the second pig iron works in Australia, after an early attempt at Mittagong, but it was the first to successfully smelt ore. By 1876, a small blast furnace was running at the site, although it struggled against cheap iron imports from England.
Rutherford didn’t live at Eskbank House. Instead, Rutherford renamed Eskbank House “The Grange”, and rented it to various individuals and enterprises, such as Mrs Cabot, who supposedly ran a girls finishing school.
In 1886 Rutherford leased the Eskbank Ironworks to Bristol-born iron master William Sandford, and eventually sold the estate to Sandford in 1892.