• Loddon Herald

Brewery's cheesy whey


WHEN a brewery sat idle more than a century ago, the local residents took the opportunity to give the building a new and productive use.

The residents of Newbridge decided to purchase the vacant Newbridge Brewery building in Burke street in readiness to open a cheese factory.

According to a report in the Tarnagulla & Llanelly Courier on August 18, 1900, the factory was opened by Richard Robert Brooks, who, whilst employed at Burkes cheese factory at Woodstock, won a gold medal at Melbourne International Exhibition and seven gold medals at Sandhurst for his cheese in 1880.

Nevertheless the Newbridge Cheese Factory Company Limited was registered on June 27, 1881, Hugh Pearson, Lancaster Bridge and John Shields Simpson, honourary secretary, being the provisional directors, there being six shareholders, the capital being forty shares of 25/0/0 each. Sixteen shares were still unallocated in April 1883.

The company had leased the former stone Newbridge Brewery building which measured 90 x 50 feet with thick walls, shingle roof, pine floor loft and a good cellar where the cheese could be stored, for two years with an option to purchase. There was a managers house at rear and an eight stall brick stable to the east along with a steam chaff and corn crushing mill.

Production commenced on August 16, 1881 at which time 600 pounds of cheese could be made a day whilst the whey was to be sold back to the farmers.

Thomas Comrie of Messrs Thompson & Comrie, merchants at Tarnagulla, visisted the factory on September 23, 1881.

He was so impressed with the cheese that he purchased one ton. A sampling took place at the Victoria Hotel, Commercial Road, Tarnagulla the following day. At that time it was reported that the factory had already manufactured five tons of cheese, two tons of cheese was sent to Melbourne in January 1882.

The Newbridge Cheese Factory Company (Limited) applied to have lots 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, section 3A, at Newbridge, parish of Tarnagulla, country of Gladstone, to be brought under the operation of the Statue, this being six quarter acre lots of the land on which the factory sat, Simpson at that time being the chairman.

The Newbridge Cheese factory was soon winning first prize for their cheese, some of these being at Sandhurst 1882-83, Baringhup & Maldon 1883-85, Inglewood and Echuca September 1884, Grand National, Talbot 1885, Kerang 1884-87, Castlemaine 1885-86, and Dunolly 1886. They were still winning prizes at the Bendigo Grand National in October 1892, Inglewood and Wedderburn in 1893.

Meanwhile on May 20, 1884 the Bendigo Advertiser newspaper reported there were four flour mills and six cheese factories in the area around Laanecoorie.

Some of the reporting in newspapers tended to be exaggerated as were the applications for a school where distances from another existing school seemed to be doubled or was it an out and back distance?

One farmer was paid 300/0/0 for his milk from just 30 cows in 1884.

Brooks offered the Borough of Tarnagulla 1/0/0 per annum to lease the vacant land between the factory and the bridge over the Loddon river on May 5, 1885.

Roberts was an agent for West Brothers of Mooroopna, for early amber cane. Roberts had solicited orders totalling 400 lbs however owing to the wet season in 1887 the West Brothers could not supply. As a result Roberts sued for 100/0/0 to which he was awarded 40/0/0 in December 1887.

Comrie was the chairman of the company when the area was drought striken. He reported that although the company had purchased 30,990 gallons of milk at a cost of 523/0/0 there was an overall loss of 64/0/0 for the previous six months, although the assets over the liabilities was 235/0/0 on September 25, 1897.

The sequestration of Richard Benjamin Brooks, of Newbridge, cheese manufacturer, at the Inglewood court on November 15, 1897 did little for the business.

On August 5, 1898 it was advertised that the first and final dividend of Richard Henry Brooks, of Newbridge, cheese manufacturer, would be paid on August 15, 1898.

Considering that Brooks had gained 14 years’ experience at Cheddar, England and later on Woodstock on Loddon along with having won six gold medals at the Sandhurst Agricultural and Horticultural shows, three gold medals at the North West Society shows held at Inglewood and one gold medal at the International Exhibition held in Melbourne, his services seem to have be retained.

William Hawkins offered two fully paid up shares in the cheese factory for sale on March 20, 1901.

Another drought in 1902-03 saw the loss of many dairy cows hence the production of cheese was at an all-time low. It would appear that this drought may have crippled the business as a prospectus was released by The Newbridge Cheese Factory Company, Limited, on August 25, 1906, the promoters being R.B. Brooks, of Newbridge, F.M. Cox and Thomas Page, both of Tarnagulla, there to be a capital of 375/0/0 this being made up of 1500 five shillings shares, 1000 of these being offered to the public.

This prospectus stated that the factory had been in operation 18 years.

It is doubtful if production recommenced as Jemima Brooks, nee Bell, died on October 9,1906, after 25 years in the area, whilst Richard Brooks died on May 4, 1907, survived by four sons.

George Brooks offered his horse, a Coffey Bros., Richmond, double seated buggy and furniture for auction on March 18, 1909 prior to the trustees of the Newbridge Cheese Factory Company holding an auction to dispose of the property on September 20, 1909.

The Tarnagulla & Llanelly Courier reported that the whole of the cheese factory had been sold at auction at satisfactory prices, the purchasers being happy.

Cheese factories were established at Irishtown (now Murphys Creek,) Eddington, Bridgewater, Pyramid Hill, Tragowel, Appin, Boort and Elmore whilst there were butter factories at Mologa, Mincha, Macorna and Wycheproof.

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