In 1835, two brewers, John Tooth and his brother-in-law Charles Newnham, established a new brewery on the outskirts of the city. Named the Kent Brewery after the part of England they’d come from, it was set in a lush green area of market gardens and fresh water, ideal for a brewery. Chippendale has changed.
There were lots of breweries in Sydney at the time – it was believed, with some reason, that beer was better for you than drinking water as it had at least gone through some kind of purification process during production.
Newnham left the business in 1843, and in 1848 Tooth’s nephews Robert, Edwin and Frederick took over the business.
One of their innovations was the X system, that we are probably most familiar with today in the form of the Queensland brand XXXX. A marker of strength, the more Xs there were, the stronger the beer. The stronger the beer, the more you could charge.
In January 1853, a huge fire destroyed much of the brewery. No lives were lost, but this wasn’t through lack of trying by some of the fire fighters: As The Empire reported:
‘fortunately, however, no accident of any kind occurred, although several persons employed in putting out the flames managed to get access to the casks of ale, and in a very short time became so beastly drunk that if they had not been taken out of the cellar by the police, they would, in all probability have been burnt to death, or suffocated by the falling in of the lower floor’.
The Tooth brothers rebuilt on the site, tripling the brewery’s size. At its peak the brewery covered the block between Kensington Street, Parramatta Road, Abercrombie Street and O’Connor Street.
Other fires occurred, including another huge fire on December 3, 1903 that was at first reported as having destroyed the bottled ale store, and the 600,000 bottles of beer it held, only three weeks before Christmas. Luckily for the thirsty crowds who flocked to watch the fire, the damage was overstated, with no bottles lost at all, despite what had looked like a serious fire at the time.
In their 170 years or so at Chippendale, Tooths absorbed many of their competitors from around New South Wales, including the Reschs brewery in Waverley. The Reschs brand is still popular today, a colonial product that survives in the modern Sydney market.
Before it closed in 2005, the Kent Brewery on Broadway was the oldest operating brewery in New South Wales, although by then it had also succumbed to take-over, when it was sold in 1983 to the Melbourne brewer Carlton United Breweries.
Today the site has been adapted and developed into the Central Park retail and housing complex.
Tooths & Co Ltd records are available through the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the Australian National University Archives and provide a wealth of information about pubs and the brewing industry. Much of the collection has been digitised. Search the collection online HERE.
Dr Mark Dunn is the author of ‘The Convict Valley: the bloody struggle on Australia’s early frontier’ (2020), the former Chair of the NSW Professional Historians Association and former Deputy Chair of the Heritage Council of NSW. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the State Library of NSW. You can read more of his work on the Dictionary of Sydney here and follow him on Twitter @markdhistory here. Mark appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity. Thanks Mark!
This year the 2020 Conference and Annual Meeting of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres, will be held online at the State Library of New South Wales
Join a fascinating array of speakers as they examine the various ways in which the humanities enrich our lives and contribute to a wide variety of fields including medicine, law and the environment.
This event is open to all – academics, students, independent scholars, those working across the cultural sector and anyone with an interest in the important roles that the humanities play in the world today.
The conference will commence with a Public Lecture by Professor Mark Ledbury on the evening of Wednesday 2 December 2020. This will be followed by keynote addresses, panel sessions and lightning talks over Thursday 3 December and Friday 4 December 2020.
See the full program and register online on the State Library of NSW website here: https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/research-and-collections/research-and-engagement/humanities-and-conference