Monday, 22 April 2013

Old Cheese Factory in Homestead Road

The Old Cheese Factory Complex consists of three c.1875 buildings and a number of re-located other buildings. It is the three 1875 buildings that are of historical significance. The whole complex was once part of The Springs property (later called Springfield). The first owner of this property was Sir William John Turner Clarke (1805 to 1874) or ‘Big Clarke’ although it is unlikely that he ever actually lived at the property. Clarke and his wife Elizabeth (nee Dowling 1801 to1878) had arrived in Hobart in 1829. Clarke set himself up as a butcher, was granted 2,000 (809 hectares) acres of land, ran cattle and sheep and by 1853 he owned 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) of land in Tasmania.

However, Clarke did not confine his property acquisitions to Tasmania and in 1837 he shipped 1,600 ewes across Bass Strait to Victoria and soon acquired pastoral leases of 30,000 acres (12,600 hectares). Five years later he set up a boiling downs work and progressively acquired more land including around 60,000 acres (about 25,000 hectares) which went from Sydney Road to Sunbury.

In 1850, he moved to Victoria and in 1854 acquired this land in Berwick which was apparently used as holding or fattening paddocks for his Gippsland cattle.  Clarke was also the member for the Southern Province in the Legislative Council from 1856 until 1870 and had shareholdings in various banks and insurance companies. He died at his home in Essendon in 1874. He left an estate of £2,500,000 as well as 215,000 acres (87, 000 hectares) of free hold land. His will left £800 per annum to his wife, from whom he was living apart and his Victorian properties went to his son William John. These properties were valued at £1,500,000.

Sir William John Clarke (1831 to 1897)  was born in Tasmania and educated in both Tasmania and England. When he returned from England he worked on his father’s properties in both Tasmania and Victoria. He married Mary Walker in 1860 and they lived in Victoria at Sunbury and also had a house in St Kilda.  They had four children and Mary  died in 1871. Two years later he married Janet Snodgrass and they had seven children. In 1874, he built the mansion Rupertswood at Sunbury. Clarke represented the Southern Province in the Legislative Council from 1878 to 1897 and became a Baronet, a hereditary title, in 1882.

However of more importance to us is that Sir William had an interest in and encouraged scientific farming.  Clarke was on the Committee of the Ballarat Agricultural Society and the West Bourke Agricultural Society and he gave prizes for the best exhibits at shows. Clarke gave his tenants long leases at moderate rents and encouraged them to be progressive. Clarke built a model cheese factory and also provided  state of the art cheese making machines. His cheese maker was Murdoch McDonald.



The Cheese Factory was specially designed by architect G Browne. The lower floor of the two storey dairy structure was used for the making of the cheese and the upper floor for its storage and maturation.  The building was designed to maximise insulation and features a cavity brick wall with a nine-inch external wall and an internal wall of half that thickness with galvanised iron wall ties linking them together. The external brick bond is an unusual variant on the Flemish bond, with three stretchers alternating with one header.  The roof is also double-layered for insulation with hardwood shingles (visible inside) beneath an outer corrugated iron cladding. Windows are tiny, to limit heat transfer, and have flat brick arches. The eaves are supported by heavy timber brackets which have a decorative effect.  This information describing the construction of the Cheese Factory comes from notes supplied by Natica Schmeder of Context Heritage Consultants http://contextpl.com.au/


Murdoch McDonald,  the cheese maker, was born about 1832 on Kintail on the west coast of Scotland, up near the Isle of Skye. His parents were John McDonald and Flora McVicar. He arrived in Victoria in October 1849 when he was 16 with his mother who was 57, his brothers Malcolm aged 35 and John aged 25 and his 21 year old sister Ann. It is believed that the McDonald Brothers leased this property from 1865. They are listed in the earliest remaining Shire of Berwick Rate Books that we have from 1876 as leasing 3,180 acres (around 1,200 hectares) from W.J. Clarke and the three brothers appear to be joint tenants until 1883 when in the next year Miss Margaret McDonald is listed with her father.


The homestead, above, and the detached kitchen, below, were built the same time as the cheese factory.


Murdoch married Elizabeth Tulloch in 1858 and they had six children although only two would out-live Murdoch. Flora was born in 1859, was married in 1880 and died the next year; Margaret was born in 1861, married Robert Hooper in 1888, had two children and died aged 88 in 1949; Elizabeth was born in 1862, married and had two 2 children and died aged 28 in 1891. Kenneth lived from 1864 to 1939; David died aged 22 in 1888 and the last child Ann also died a year after she was married in 1894 aged 24. Murdoch died in 1909 aged 77 having outlived his wife, Elizabeth, who was only 39 when she died in 1878. They are both buried at the Berwick cemetery.

According to an article (partially reproduced here) from the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of November 17, 1880 Murdoch McDonald employed a dozen workers by 1880 and milked 200 cows daily and made 150 cheeses each week. Murdoch was at the property until December 1888 when in due to the  expiration of his lease a clearing sale was held on December 13 and 14. Two hundred and twenty four head of pure and half bred Ayrshire cattle were advertised for sale as well as a 300 gallon copper cheese tub, four double cheese presses and a 100 gallon churn.  It is therefore likely that cheese making at this site ended in 1888.

In December 1903 Clarke’s Berwick Estate was sold, the homestead portion on 1,275 acres being purchased by William Wilson Junior, and renamed Springfield. Another section was purchased by the Sweeney Brothers and the remaining section of 1,620 acres was purchased by Edwin Greaves who retained the name The Springs for  his property and for the house he built around 1904. According to E.C Henry, in his paper Historic Estates Surrounding Berwick, written in the 1960s, Greaves had been leasing the entire property from Sir William Clarke from 1880.

William Wilson Junior leased the property to the Anderson Brothers, who trained and raced ponies, from 1904 to 1912. William was the son of Pioneer settlers and brothers, James and William who came to Berwick with their sister Anne in 1854, and purchased land from Robert Gardiner. They had arrived in Australia from Ireland with their parents in 1841. Upon arrival in the area they lived in tents until they built a small one room house, which was later extended and became Quarry Hills, which is one of the oldest in Berwick. The brothers grew wheat, potatoes and later went into dairying. In 1858 William (1830 to 1907) married Euphemia Brisbane and he kept Quarry Hills. They had three sons and two daughters including William Junior (1860-1936).

A basalt quarry was opened on William Senior’s land in 1859 (where the Wilson Botanic Park is today) when he gave contractors the right to remove stone. The quarry expanded after 1874, with the building of the Gippsland railway line to Sale as it provided ballast for the line, and William Junior took over its management in 1877 and provided blue metal for roadmaking. William Junior became a well known figure in public life as a representative on Council and through running the quarry.

Wilson later leased the property to the Willmott family  from 1912 until 1928. There were eleven children in the family and  William (1865 to 1923) and Katherine (nee Gervasini 1870 to 1940) Willmott paid £95 per quarter for the 1 square mile property, although some of the land was very poor and often under water during winter. The farm was used as a dairy farm and 60 cows were milked daily by hand. They also grew oats and hay and had 30 horses.  The seven sons all slept upstairs in the old Cheese Factory and the four daughters slept in the homestead with their parents. The property was purchased by The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in 1925 and later subdivided and became Solder Settlement farms.  The family stayed on until 1928 when they moved to Thompsons Road.

The last family to live at the property was the Hatten Family. Charles Hatten (1891 to 1980) served in the First World War and reached the rank of Second Lieutenant. He married Elsie Gell (1892 to 1970) in 1921. They moved onto their Soldier Settlement block in 1936 when their sons, Bruce and Neville, were 13 and nine years old. When the family arrived there was no garden, in fact, a crop of potatoes had been planted right up to the house. Mrs Hatten set out the garden. The family remained at Springfield until 1980 and as Mr Hatten had never taken up the option to purchase the property it was resumed by the Crown after his death. It is now owned by the City of Casey. Bruce Hatten donated some photographs  to our Archive, and they show the life of the Hatten family at Springfield in the late 1930s and 1940s.


Bruce and Neville Hatten


The Hatten family (and a visitor) - south side of the house, circa 1937.



The east or front of the house, showing the timber sleep out at right.


Mr and Mrs Hatten in front of the detached  kitchen, above, in the jig and below, in front of the fernery.



Monday, 15 April 2013

Heritage Festival April 21, 2013

The City of Casey and the Casey Cardinia Branch of the National Trust present their second annual  Heritage Festival which will be held on Sunday, April 21 2013 from 11.00am to 3.00pm. Venue: The Old Cheese Factory, Homestead Road, Berwick.


Have  a high tea in the 1870's homestead or take a tour of the c. 1875 cheese factory. Heritage groups from the region will be on hand to answer your local history questions. Have your antiques appraised by a professional  valuer - you might find out that the hideous vase you inherited is worth  a fortune! Lots of free entertainment  for the whole family.  Free entry.