Nestles and Abbotsford House

Nestles Plant on harbour front on Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) West End

Nestles Plant on harbour front
on Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) West End

This week, The Past Present again decided to investigate a snapshot of Sydney’s Industrial History. Many of the black and white photos in the collection, all from circa 1936 and by an unknown photographer, show industrial sites in Sydney and other cities along the Australian East Coast. Today we are focussing on the image above, showing the old Nestles Factory at Abbotsford on the Parramatta River.

If you look closely, in the centre of the photo there is an ornate old house amongst the factory buildings. This is Abbotsford House which was built between 1877 and 1878 for Dr Arthur Renwick and it is this house from which the suburb of Abbotsford takes its name. The property eventually passed to Albert Edward Grace, one of the founders of Grace Bros, who sold the property to Nestles in 1917.

The property was not just a house though. It included orchards, sporting fields, a boatshed and a large pavilion which had been built by the Grace family. This pavilion was the original site of Nestles production at the site while Abbotsford House served as an administrative office. A purpose built factory was constructed around the house between 1918 and 1920. Being located on the Parramatta River, the factory could easily be supplied with their raw materials, including coal. These products were delivered by boat to the factory jetty, and from there were transferred to a specially built narrow gauge tramway and then to the various storerooms and boilers.

Although the factory was most famous as the home of Nestles, producing their famous milk products and chocolate, it also served other, more surprising, roles in Australian history. In 1927 the grounds and riverfront were used to shoot scenes for the Australian film For The Term Of His Natural Life and later, in World War II the factory turned to packing supply rations for soldiers serving on the Kokoda Track. The factory closed in 1991 with the factory buildings being demolished and replaced by housing, while Abbotsford House survived the destruction, being preserved and restored. Today it is again a private residence.

Sydney’s Tallest Building! Marcus Clark

Sydneys Highest Building Marcus Clark Building Front copy

Today, when you think of ‘Sydney’s Tallest Building’ you probably think of Sydney Tower (which many remember by the name of Centrepoint). A nine storey building like the one shown in this postcard would certainly not rate a mention today, but at the time the postcard was printed, this was a landmark building, the tallest in Sydney, dominating the skyline. It was of course The Marcus Clark Building.

Marcus Clark and Co was an Australian department store chain, one of the largest and most successful in Sydney. Their first store opened in Newtown in 1883 when Henry Marcus Clark purchased a drapery business from John Kingsbury, his former employer. Soon the department store chain was growing in leaps and bounds with shops opening in Marrickville and Bondi Junction. It was not until 1896 though that a store was opened closer to the city itself.

In 1896 a new store opened near Railway Square, on the corner of George and Harris Streets. Where Marcus Clark and Co had been seen as expensive and exclusive stores elsewhere, this new shop was given the name Bon Marche (referring to the Paris department store and a store in Liverpool, England where Clark had been apprenticed) and sold less expensive wares. So successful was this shop that in 1909 the original shop was demolished and a new, larger building was constructed to house the business. The success of the shop also encouraged Clark to open other shops around the city.

One of these shops was to become a landmark building in itself. In 1906 a new building to house the store was constructed at Central Square. The building was designed by James Nangle and modeled on New York’s Fuller Building (better known as The Flatiron Building). The Marcus Clark Building was one of Sydney’s earliest skyscrapers, towering over the city skyline. With nine storeys, standing at 150 feet in total height it was Sydney’s tallest building and would have been clearly visible to all visitors to the city approaching from the South. Today the building, still known as The Marcus Clark Building is home to the Sydney Institute of TAFE.

White City Amusement Park

The Central Lake At White City Amusement Park

The Central Lake At White City Amusement Park

This week, as it is Valentines Day, it seemed the perfect time to examine a popular pleasure resort from years gone by. Sydney had many pleasure resorts, including beaches, parks and gardens. One of these was White City at Rushcutters Bay.

White City was probably most famous as a tennis venue, built in 1922 and home to the New South Wales Championship (now known as The Sydney International, though it is not played at White City today). The stadium also hosted some of the Davis Cup tournaments during the 1950s and 1960s. However, it did not start its life as a tennis centre.

The White City site was originally market gardens but in 1913 Cosens Spencer, a well known film entrepreneur, established White City Amusement Park on the site. The name was not only a derivative of the famous London Theme Park, but referred to the white buildings constructed from timber, overlaid with chicken wire and plaster. The park was designed and built by T.H. Eslick, the man responsible for the design and construction of the famous St Kilda Luna Park in Melbourne.

The amusement park included a fun fair, music hall, ballroom and fairground, as well as what was termed ‘seasonal entertainment’. Among the many attractions there were a Japanese Village, giant carousel, fun factory and scenic railway. White City was very popular but in 1917 tragedy struck when lightening hit and started a fire which destroyed the amusement park. The next year White City Limited went into liquidation and all the remaining assets were sold.

Newcastle Depression Camp

Group of transient shacks on vacant land between abbatoirs and River in Waratah. (Man being barbered in open)

Group of transient shacks on vacant land between abbatoirs and River in Waratah. (Man being barbered in open)

The extraordinary photo above, dating from circa 1936, is one of many in the Past Present collection focussing on Newcastle in NSW. It provides a glimpse not only into the history of Newcastle, but the history of Australia during the Great Depression, showing one of the depression settlements which sprung up not only in Newcastle, but in other cities, including Sydney.

During the Great Depression, many Australians lost their only sources of income and were forced from their homes. Many took to the road looking for work, while others moved into camps like the one pictured. Whole families took up residence in these camps, often arriving only with the possessions they could carry, and starting from scratch. They would choose an empty area and erect a rough shack, using whatever materials they could access, including wood, corrugated iron and even hessian sacks.

In Newcastle, many sought jobs at the various factories, but work was hard to come by. Unemployment in Newcastle was high, estimated at 30% of the working population, and many moved into the shanty towns which sprung up at Nobby’s Beach, Stockton, Carrington, Adamstown, Lambton, Waratah and Hexham. Life in the camps was hard, but there is evidence in this photo which also shows the normality of life – a man is being shaved and children play between the shacks.