Skip Repetitive Navigational Links

Please login

 
The First Years of Kent Brewery
1870's - 1890s Changes in the Brewing Scene
First Decades of a New Century
A Hundred years of Trading
World War II
Corporate Management 1928 to 1981
Kent Brewery under Carlton and United Breweries
Leading by Learning - Workplace Reform and Cultural Change
Production
Work Place Culture -A Family Style Company
Recreation, Play and Pranks at Kent Brewery
Christmas Parties
Conclusion

All Material referenced from Historical Research and Oral History By Mary Ann Hamilton and Sue Andersen
For Carlton & United Breweries (NSW) Pty Ltd
August 2004 (Click Here To Download)


The First Years of Kent Brewery
John Tooth and his brother-in-law and Brewer, Charles Newnham established Kent Brewery on its current site in 1835. The site was well located on a main thoroughfare, Parramatta Road, and in good proximity to the town of Sydney. In addition water, an essential feature for a brewery, was in good supply as the Black Wattle creek ran through the centre of the property and a reliable reserve of water was located nearby at Prince Alfred Park.

The purchase of land for the brewery and the establishment of buildings, equipment and materials were financed substantially by John’s brother Robert Tooth who lived in Kent, England.1 By October 1835, Kent Brewery was ready for business and began taking orders for Ale of three strengths; X ale for one shilling per gallon, the stronger XX for one shilling and six pence and the strongest brew, XXX ale, for two shillings and six pence.2 When Kent Brewery opened there were seven other Sydney breweries vying for the local market in beer. Many of these breweries were short lived and did not survive the severe economic depression of the 1840s. Kent Brewery managed to weather those difficult times. Between 1835 and 1844, the brewery continued to expand with the addition of a granary and malt kilns to the original brewery building, as well the purchase of plant and equipment.

By 1843, John Tooth’s precarious financial position, a debt that had grown to 24,000 pounds to his brother Robert, forced him to take action. At this time, John dissolved the partnership with Newnham and leased the brewery to his nephews, Robert Tooth’s sons, Robert Jr and Edwin Tooth. Over the next couple of years, John continued to struggle to repay his debt to Robert Sr, and in 1848, with a debt now reaching 28,000 pound to Robert Sr., John Tooth was declared bankrupt. 4 He retired from the business leaving it in the hands of Robert Jr and Edwin who were later joined in partnership by their third brother Frederick.

Among other things, the brother’s prudent management skills combined with the end of the Depression and the growing prosperity in the colony with the discovery of gold meant that Kent Brewery prospered over the next few years. “During the forties and fifties Kent Brewery Ales and Porter would seem to have established themselves strongly in the public esteem and ‘Tooth’s Entire’, having won the hearts of the beer drinkers of the period, the business prospered accordingly.”

1870s - 1890s Changes in the Brewing Scene
Up until the late 1860’s, Tooth’s only real competition in the brewing scene was posed by Marshall’s Brewery in Paddington. This situation had dramatically changed by the 1870s with Tooth’s traditional market being encroached upon by numerous small country based breweries and large interstate establishments such as, Castlemaine Brewery, Tooheys Standard Brewery and Waverley Brewery. These last three Breweries were established in Sydney in 1870, 1871 and 1874 respectively and stimulated competition in the New South Wales brewing industry.

First Decades of a New Century
Continued growth and expansion remained the central theme at Tooth and Co. for first years of the 20th Century. This was the case despite the challenge of another fire at the brewery in 1903 and the effects of the 1901 Beer Excise Tax. In its first year of operation, this tax saw the demise of sixteen Sydney Breweries.15 The introduction of the 1905 Liquor Act saw the closure of many licenced establishments in NSW. A later amendment to the Act in 1917 instated 6 ’o’clock closing. Yet, these laws did little to dampen the public’s appetite for beer and Tooth’s determination to satisfy the public thirst. The enforced limitation on the availability of bulk beer in hotels was counterbalanced by an increase in the demand for bottled beer that could be consumed at home.

A Hundred years of Trading
The year 1935 marked the Centenary of Tooth and Co’s and despite the preceding years of economic struggle during the Depression, the brewery managed to maintain its prosperous position. In fact in 1929, under the new management of the legendary Tom Watson, Tooth and Co. issued new shares on the stock market and the shareholders were said to have possession of ‘gilt edged shares’. By 1935, the Company employed about 1800 men in the many and various trades that made the brewery an independent and strong competitor in NSW. The Centenary celebrations of 1935 marked the brewery’s establishment as a strong and solid identity. The Christmas edition of the Tooth’s KB Chronicle was given over to the celebration and articulated the strong corporate identity felt by employees at the time.

World War II
The prosperity experienced by the company during these years was quickly channeled back into the enterprise and between 1935 and 1937, a new Maltings was erected on the site of the Carlton St Bottling Department. In addition, the aerated waters enterprise had expanded to the extent that new premises were purchased next to the Waverley Brewery in Redfern. A brand new, state of the art, aerated waters and fruit extraction plant, Blue Bow Cordials, were operating there by 1937. Tooth and Co.’s hotel business also boomed at this time. As well as maintaining their tied houses, Tooth’s began to acquire hotels in their own right and during the 1930s embarked upon a program of upgrading existing facilities in their hotels and of planning and constructing well designed new premises intended to “improve hotel standards and elevate the trade in the public regard.” The years of prosperity were interrupted with the outbreak of WWII in 1939. While there were materials shortages to contend with and a drop in public sales, Tooth’s viability was sustained when it won lucrative contracts to supply the armed forces with beer, fruit juices and soft drinks.27 In fact, in 1939, despite the gloom of war, upgrading of the Irving Street Brewery was completed and beer production was doubled on the site.

Corporate Management 1928 to 1981
From 1928, right up to 1970 Tooth and Co. was under the paternal guidance of its renowned General Manager, Tom Watson. Tom had started his working life on the factory floor at Blue Bow and, after attending university, worked his way up the ladder to become General Manager. Tom was known variously as a force to be reckoned with and as a man of fairness and compassion. From the shop floor, Len Hanbridge, who started work at Kent Brewery as an Apprentice Fitter in 1960 recalled Tom as an ‘old school’ Manager. “He used to say when dealing with Unions – give them half what they need and not half what they are asking for…he did not give in to the Unions”. Similarly, John Murray who worked in the Malt House as a Leading Hand for many years, remembered Tom Watson as a tough boss. “One time we went on strike for 4 or 5 weeks for higher wages and in the end we only got a 5 shilling rise …But Tom was very respected in the community he made donations to charities and orphanages etc”.

Kent Brewery under Carlton and United Breweries
Early in 1983, on a Sunday morning, Ted Kunkel and Fred Coulstock, of Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne, discretely arrived at Kent Brewery. Escorted by the Kent Brewery’s Head Brewer, they conducted an inspection of the newly built, fitted and commissioned brewery. “On the plane that evening on the way back to Melbourne, Mr. Coulstock asked me what I thought of the brewery. I said that I thought it was highly technically advanced and I would like to see it in CUB hands rather than any one elses. Mr. Coulstock just looked at me and said ‘I knew that this morning’.” Ted Kunkel CUB OH V 13 – 2.12

By August 1983, Carlton and United Breweries had purchased the newly commissioned operation, confident that they could turn the tide in market share. No time was lost in slotting in CUB personnel into key management positions at Kent Brewery. Fred Coulstock was appointed General Manager and Col Siney was Chairman. Ted Kunkel was Chief of Manufacturing, a role that encompassed the role of Head Brewer, which had been filled by Chuck Hahn prior to the takeover.39 CUB took management of the brewing side of the old Tooth’s and Co Brewery. The Property Division, responsible for the Tooth’s owned hotels, remained a discrete Tooth and Co. enterprise. In 1984, many of the staff from that Division moved out of Kent Brewery premises to take up offices in North Sydney. 40 In 1985, Tooth’s decided that they would lease all their hotels to Tooheys and as a consequence many of the staff were under the threat of redundancy. Such a move in the market was not to the advantage of Carlton and United Breweries who moved quickly to take out an injunction against Tooth’s action. Gary Cook who worked in the Property Division at the time recalls; “It was a huge court case – anyway as a consequence I was made redundant in 1985. Just prior to this though I had had some quiet discussions with Carlton who were toying with the idea of buying some pubs in their own right and they wanted me to run them – so soon after leaving I was back at the brewery again.”

Leading by Learning - Workplace Reform and Cultural
Change Around 1988, the Industrial Relations Commission wage case, introduced the concept of structural efficiency paving the way for a restructure of the award system beginning in 1989. This eventually resulted in the enterprise bargaining system that was meant to tie productivity and efficiency of the labour force to wage increases. In this environment, under the leadership of Mel Miles who was then General Manager, a program of cultural and work organisational change was embarked upon through the Leading by Learning Program and the later change to a work team organisation. The aim of the program was to turn traditional work culture and expectations around; to make the brewery’s workforce multiskilled and productive, to make the brewery a workplace characterized by involvement and cooperation between management and workers and, to make Carlton’s products more competitive in the market. In 1991, the first Enterprise Development Agreement between workers and the Company was entered into. The document laid out a structure of new style consultative forums set up to manage and direct workplace reform and nut out how the brewery would restructure.

Production
Kent Brewery was a workplace alive with activity. Prior to the 1980, one thousand personnel worked at their daily routines. Regular deliveries of malt, hops and other raw materials for the production process came into the site and there was a constant flow of outward traffic, trucks loaded with kegs and cartons of bottled and canned beer headed for the market. The workforce was made up of skilled and unskilled people from Brewers, Laboratory staff and Engineers to tradesman, Electricians, Plumbers and Fitters and Turners. There were also many craftsmen working on site, such as Coppersmiths, Blacksmiths and Coopers. Trades Assistants, Storemen, Drivers and Security personnel were integral to the production and distribution of beer. Very little work had to be outsourced and most could be done in the well-equipped trade shops on site. “It was overwhelming at first…it was my first, close hand experience of industry and felt like I was in the thick of it. I thought wow, this is going to be work for me…when I first started they took me for a walk around the plant and that really accentuated the fact that it was like a city within a city. You walked past all the workshops…each one was like a shop in a town. Because it was an old plant that had been developed progressively, there were a lot of stairwells up and down and nooks and crannies and tunnels.”

Work Place Culture -A Family Style Company
Tooth and Co. had a long tradition of being a family style company that looked after its employees. Kent Brewery was seen as a secure place to work. To a certain extent, since the takeover by Carlton and United Breweries in 1983, this management style continued. Many young people grew into adulthood at Kent Brewery. “I was 21 years when I left home and I have been here [Kent Brewery] for 25 years – so you sort of relate growing up to being here – its a big part of your life. Its been longer here than with my parents growing up at home.” Stuart Green CUB OH 2 Side B - 112 Boys as young as 15 years started working in all fields of work, from production and maintenance, to the clerical and administration. Young girls also found employment at Kent Brewery, mainly in administration areas, although others like Bernadette Williams, who started at the brewery in 1959, worked in the Laboratory. A good percentage of the Tooth ‘family’, especially in production, were migrants. Len Hanbridge recalled that in the 1970s, people from over nineteen different nationalities worked at the brewery. Despite some cultural differences it seems that working relations between nationalities were reasonably harmonious. “There were many different nationalities working at the brewery. The B3 Bottling Line next to the racking area had one team there that was called the ‘Ski’ team. They were all Macedonians and their names ended with ‘ski’ – we’ve got Portuguese, Maltese, Greek, a lot of Italians – I haven’t seen any cultural clashes. We all have a joke, people cope with it – no one is being nasty.”

Several generations of the same family often worked for Tooth and Co. When John Barnes started work at Tooth’s in 1952, his father had been working in Accounts for many years. Between John and his father, they worked at the brewery for a total of a hundred years. Similarly, Jack Rutledge’s father had worked for the Company since 1922 as a driver when Jack got his apprenticeship in 1944. Three generations of John Balzan’s family has worked at Kent Brewery, his father as well as his son. Although it wasn’t termed mentoring in the early years, the nature of relationships between older and younger personnel at Kent Brewery has always been distinctly paternal. “It became a big family - everyone treated it as family. Fred Whiddon, Bill Earth and Merv Ivash, Len Balzari they were guys a lot older than I was but they all kept an eye on me. I used to play up a lot – try and tell you not to drink as much…”

Recreation, Play and Pranks at Kent Brewery
It seems that production and administration employees rarely mixed. Nevertheless, a culture of socializing, fun and cohesion typical of old school, family style organizations permeated the workplace. Barry Schurr, who started out in the administration side of the business as a ‘Box Boy’ in the 1960s, fondly recalled the impromptu parties enjoyed by staff in the Ledger Room while working back one Thursday night each month to balance the ledgers. Similarly, Jack Rutledge recalled the spontaneous cricket games played in the brewery driveway and John Barrowman enjoyed the ‘pommies’ vs ‘ozzies’ soccer matches held at lunch breaks. Jack was also involved in more organized cricket games played between the Coopers and the Fitters held at the Cooks River in the 1950s. “About 10 years after I started I went to the cricket matches they had on the weekend when the Coopers played the Fitters the matches used to be at the Cooks River…and it always ended up in a brawl – because the wrong team won!. The brewery used to always send a keg of beer and in those days you couldn’t have a keg in the open …so they put up a big marquis and put the beer under that and the police would leave you alone. But they always ended up in a blue.”

Christmas Parties
For many years, the Tooth’s annual Christmas party was always a memorable event and was well attended by administrative employees and management. These affairs were held in the Museum on Christmas Eve. “There was no air conditioning in those days and you’d sit up there and it was sweltering. Quaintly, they had all the young men and boys around outside and in the middle in some sort of configuration seated at tables were all the woman and never the twain shall meet of course, because all sorts of dreadful things could happen…it was all very stilted. They had a bit of entertainment in the form of an elderly man who came every year, an elocution teacher and he came and read poetry, pretty daring stuff it was. There was a speech from the chairman of the board, his name was Mr Jim Victors [from Victors Woolen Mills] – every year he would say ‘pay tribute to the lovely ladies all looking splendid in their Victors Woolen Mill fabrics’…the beer was never really cold – in long necks – you couldn’t get another beer until you produced the empty…but there were ways and means of getting more – someone smuggled empty bottles into function and hid them under table…when that was over around 2pm we disappeared.”

Conclusion
Kent Brewery has a long and rich history. Its history tells the story of a determined and successful corporate past and also the broader story of the Brewing Industry in Australia. Over Kent Brewery’s 170 year history, it has survived World Wars, Depressions, changing marketplaces and technological changes, as well as corporate takeovers. The oral history and other research for this Project provides an insight into the brewing industry and process, as well as the culture that was alive at the brewery. The interviews articulate the social historical uses of the site and give context to the personalised experience of workers at the brewery. The Report and research materials gives an insight into what it was like for many young men and women to work and ‘grow up’ at Kent Brewery. It tells the story of an incredibly dedicated work force that has a sense of pride in the history of the brewery and a strong sense of attachment to the site and the companies which have managed the brewery over the years.

Please Download Historical Research and Oral History For a full and comprehensive history of Kent Brewery

All Material referenced from

Historical Research and Oral History

By Mary Ann Hamilton and Sue Andersen
For Carlton & United Breweries (NSW) Pty Ltd
August 2004