Bowthorne Butter Factory
Above: Maitland Mercury 16 July 1892 reporting the full operation of the Bowthorne Butter Factory.
Above: a Bowthorne milk truck, year unknown (Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle). If you know the year model of the truck please contact the webmaster.
The Bowthorne Butter Factory was established at the rear of a grocery store in the village of Bowthorne (now Wallalong) in July 1892 by Mr John Lavis as a private business trading as Bowthorne Creamery and Refrigeration Works. This was in contrast to the nearby Osterley creamery established a few months earlier as a co-operative owned by shareholders.
The factory was located nearly opposite the Great Northern Broom Factory whose address now is 44 McClymonts Swamp Road, Wallalong.
According to the Maitland Mercury of 8 October 1892, the Bowthorne Butter Factory was 'a commodious little building, 35 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 15 feet high, provided with an 8-horse power engine, a first class separator, capable of putting through 350 gallons of milk an hour, and a churn of the latest and best make ... Starting with 40 gallons a day, the supply has increased to upwards of 400, and as the summer advances the supply will in all probability be trebled'.
The enterprising Mr Lavis purchased milk from local farms, along with eggs, bacon and other produce, and sold widely, travelling to the coalfields and parts of Newcastle. As local dairying expanded the business became a farmers' co-operative with the formation of the Bowthorne Co-operative Butter Factory Ltd in December 1906. The Co-operative purchased the factory for £3,934 in January 1907, retaining John Lavis' services as manager.
Above: Staff of the Bowthorne Creamery prior to 1906. Many have their tools of trade with them. The young man at front left with the oil can would be the steam engine and machinery attendant and those with wooden paddles the butter makers. The man in the heavy oil-skin coat holding a pipe is probably the wagon driver. One of the two older, well-dressed men is presumably Mr Lavis (photo courtesy of Ann-Maree Smith).
The photo was possibly taken in 1896 by a travelling photographer who photographed several lower Hunter creameries at the time. If you can identify anyone in the photo please contact me.
From about 1900 onwards, most farmers separated their milk on the farm and delivered cream rather than milk to the factory. Mr Lavis' staff picked up the farmers' cream by horse-drawn wagon and by his oil-burning launch aptly named 'Bowthorne' which had a reputation for grace and speed on the Paterson and Hunter Rivers.
After the co-op was formed it leased additional premises at Gresford from J Ireland and Co where butter was being produced. Later the factory at East Gresford became a branch of the Bowthorne co-op.
In 1908 the Bowthorne co-op purchased the Duckenfield Park Butter Factory at Morpeth after that business collapsed and led to a forced sale. In 1910 the Bowthorne Butter Factory made Morpeth their new headquarters. In 1915 the Bowthorne co-op tried its hand in the supply of fresh milk (in addition to making butter) and in February 1916 its shareholders agreed to enter the milk trade.
Above: Cream boats 'Penshurst' at left and 'Bowthorne' at right, moored outside the Bowthorne Butter Factory's base at Morpeth (photo courtesy of Wayne Patfield).
In 1952 the Bowthorne co-op lost its identity when it became part of the Hunter Valley Co-operative Dairy Co Ltd (previously the Raymond Terrace Dairy Co).
Above: a Bowthorne milk truck in the 1920s (Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle). If you know the year model of the truck please contact the webmaster.
Above: the Bowthorne Butter Factory at Morpeth about 1940. It was later the Oak Factory, and the building is still there (photo courtesy of Wayne Patfield).
Operational details 1894, (Maitland Weekly Mercury, 4 August 1894 p3).
Operational details 1896, (Maitland Daily Mercury, 30 March 1896 p2).
History of dairying in the Williams River valley on-line.
Maitland Mercury, Sydney Morning Herald, Raymond Terrace Examiner, various issues.
Scarr, PD. The Oak and the Dairy Industry from the Beginning. Self published, c1994.
Todd, Jan. Milk for the Metropolis - a Century of Co-operative Milk Supply in New South Wales. Sydney, 1994.