Duckenfield Park Creamery and Butter Factory
Above: Duckenfield brought one of the first cream separators to the district in 1884.
Above: advertisement in the Singleton Argus 1 February 1896.
Duckenfield is on the Hunter River a few kilometres downstream from Morpeth. It was first settled by John Eales in 1823.
In 1882 the first cream separators were imported into Australia, thereby allowing cream to be separated from milk by mechanical means rather than by letting the milk stand overnight and then skimming off the cream when it rose to the top.
John Eales junior, as an engineer and innovator, quickly adopted the new technology and introduced a de Laval cream separator to Duckenfield Park in 1884, probably the first in the district, but it seems it did not initially operate on a large scale. In 1892 other creameries and butter factories were established in the area, at Bowthorne (now Wallalong), Osterley, Millers Forest, Eagleton and Vacy.
In early 1895 Eales decided to establish a creamery and butter factory at Duckenfield. Eales' dairy factory was variously referred to as the Duckenfield Park Creamery or the Duckenfield Park Central Creamery and Butter Factory. The factory was set up a short distance from the Hunter River in an immense two-storey stone building previously used to store wheat and other grains. The walls were reported to be two feet (600mm) thick (see photo at right). A canal about 200m long was dug and blasted from the mouth of a large creek to a dam near the factory to ensure a year-round supply of water.
Above: the first Duckenfield Park Butter Factory. It was a massive stone building with walls 600mm thick, originally used to store grain but converted to a dairy factory in 1895. Demolished in 1931 (from the 1903 sale catalogue for Duckenfield Park).
The rear of Duckenfield Park Butter Factory, showing the twin boilers (Allen Family album, State Library NSW).
In 1897 Eales' factory won first prize for butter at the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney. In 1898 it produced an impressive 818,000lb of butter that realised £35,256 'in the English and colonial Markets'.
A detailed description of the factory in 1896 indicates it had a complex of stream-driven machinery including refrigeration plants, separators and butter churns.
'When the Duckenfield butter factory and creamery started two cream separators were procured - one of Danish manufacture and the other Delaval, but these being found to be too small for the output, have been replaced by a Sharples Imperial separator which is capable of putting through 250 gallons of milk an hour'.
The Duckenfield Park Creamery and Butter Factory collected milk from dairy farms along the Paterson, Williams and Hunter Rivers by steam launch. The factory continued its innovative approach and in 1898 in conjunction with a government dairy 'expert' it experimented with the pasteurisation of cream using electricity (Aust Town and Country Journal 26 Nov 1898).
Above: staff of Duckenfield Creamery and Butter Factory, year unknown, possibly c1900 (Photo: Morpeth Museum).
Duckenfield Park butter. In the Allen Family album this photo is captioned "Truck of butter weighing about 12 cwt made Saturday (17.12.98) taken just near the freezing room". (State Library NSW).
In March 1899 John Eales jnr, the driving force behind the factory, left to manage a large refrigerating works in Sydney. About this time the Duckenfield Creamery and Factory was leased to the firm of McArthur and Company but in January 1900 William McMillan took up the lease. On 1 January 1902 the factory became a co-operative.
In June 1906 it was decided to shift the factory to Morpeth. A new, state-of-the-art factory was built there and opened in November 1906. Only 18 months later the company could not pay its suppliers and was facing bankruptcy, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported:
The Duckenfield Co-ooperative Dairying and Produce Company, whose factory is situated at Morpeth, has suspended payment, and a meeting of shareholders will be held on the 15th inst to consider the question of voluntary liquidation. The Duckenfield factory is situated on the river bank at Morpeth, having been opened about l8 mouths ago. The building is a very commodious one, and the most up-to-date machinery has been installed. The milk supplies are drawn from the farmers of the surrounding districts, most of whom are shareholders. Most of the butter from the factory has been shipped to Sydney, where it commanded good prices.
At the time the factory was trading at a loss and owed its parent company, McMillan's Farmers and Settlers Association, £4,000 (presumably incurred in construction of the new factory). When the parent company collapsed, the liquidator called in the £4,000 debt, forcing the Duckenfield Co-operative into 'voluntary' liquidation.
In September 1908 the Duckenfield factory was sold to its nearby competitor, the Bowthorne Butter Factory for £410. The steam launch Nelson used to collect cream for the factory was also put up for sale by the liquidator.
Above: the steam launch Elaine at Paterson wharf c1900, loading milk or cream destined for one of the butter factories downstream (photo: Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle).
Duckenfield on Google Earth
If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, click on this Duckenfield link. It will open in Google Earth and show part of the 1917 sale poster superimposed on the current satellite image. Using the opacity slider in the left navigation pane of Google Earth you can fade the poster in and out to discover that a surprising amount of the footprint of the Duckenfield mansion and its outbuildings remains today.
Archer, Cameron - draft manuscript on agriculture at Duckenfield (its use gratefully acknowledged).
Todd, Jan. Milk for the Metropolis - a Century of Co-operative Milk Supply in New South Wales. Sydney, 1994.
History of dairying in the Williams River valley on-line.