A stone and plaques on Hinton Road mark the site of the former Osterley creamery (GPS: 32° 43.524'S 151° 42.276'E).
By the 1890s dairying was an important part of agriculture in the lower Hunter Valley after tobacco and wheat production had all but disappeared due to disease and, in the case of tobacco, reduced market prospects.
In 1882 the first cream separators were imported into Australia and by the late 1880s many milk factories and creameries were operating, particularly on the south coast of NSW. Farmers brought their milk to their local factory or creamery in cans to have it separated into cream and skim milk. They usually sold the cream to the factory and brought home skim milk to feed to pigs.
Commomly known as the Osterley Creamery, its official name was the Hunter River Pioneer Co-operative Creamery Co.
The Osterley creamery was typical of creameries at that time (see photo at bottom of page). They were usualy two storeys high so carts could drive underneath where the milk cans were hauled to the top storey by block and tackle. Here the milk was weighed then fed by gravity into steam-powered separators where the cream and skim milk flowed into different containers. If the farmer wished he could move his cart along to a skim milk line (note the raised pipeline at the right in the photo below) and fill his empty milk cans with skim milk to take back to the farm.
By the turn of the century, the widespread on-farm separation of cream combined with the establishment of larger regional butter factories sounded the death knell for small district creameries. One by one they shut down, the Osterley creamery closing in November 1903.
Osterley creamery in 1896. The structure at right is probably a raised skim milk pipeline so farmers could drive their carts under to fill their empty cans with skim milk (photo: The Hunter Valley, 1953). The two men standing in the doorway of the engine room are the Manager, Mr S Rothwell and his assistant Mr A E Chin.
History of dairying in the Williams River valley on-line.
Maitland Mercury, 8 October 1892.
The Hunter Valley - An Anniversary Tribute. Hunter Valley Co-operative Dairy Co Ltd, Hexham, 1953.
Tribute to the Past. Hunter Valley Co-operative Dairy Co Ltd, Hexham, 1963.
Todd, Jan. Milk for the Metropolis - a Century of Co-operative Milk Supply in New South Wales. Sydney, 1994.