Monday, 4 March 2019

Fred Tuckfield - the maker of Ty-nee Tip tea and bird cards and Berwick resident

I love birds and I believe my interest in birds came from the fact that my mother collected Tuckfield Ty-nee Tips Tea bird cards. They used to be in Tuckfields Tea - Mum and Dad were (and are) prolific tea drinkers, they made teapot tea (tea with loose tea, not teabag tea) and every pack of tea had one card, and they were then placed into albums, which we used to look through as children. This was the 1960s and 1970s and I was going to say we were quite excited about those things then, however you only have to look at the popularity of the plastic, collectible toys put out by one of the big supermarket chains to realise that collecting sets of  anything has been and still is a popular past-time.   My Aunty also collected the cards, so that was a source of 'swaps'.

The other day, a friend of mine gave me a set of the Tuckfield albums that he had came across, so I was quite thrilled about that for both the connection to my childhood and my love of birds. Volume 1 is shown above. This post is not just an opportunity for me to reminisce about my childhood, there is an historic Casey Cardinia connection to these bird cards, as the founder of Tuckfields Teas, Frederick Stevens Tuckfield, lived in Berwick for  a time.

We will start off by looking at the bird cards - there is a very detailed and scholarly study of the bird cards on a website called Tuckfields Birds and other cards: types, variants, chronology, exchange tokens, albums, and miscellany by Mark Calabretta and Cheryl Ridge - you can access the website, here They tell us that the cards commenced in 1959 and stopped in 2008, there were five series in all which featured 480 birds. The albums also had 'notes for birdwatchers' which included good bird watching locations,  a list of Bird Observer Clubs, the second album included a foreword by Graham Pizzey, the noted ornithologist. The study talks about card types, printing, variants, storage, identifies differences between particular editions of the bird card albums, lists every card and also talks about the other collectibles such as tea caddies and tea spoons, as well as Mr Tuckfield's career, camellia growing and personal life.  It is an amazing tribute to the bird cards and Fred Tuckfield.

If the Tuckfield Ty-nee Tips Tea bird cards were not part of your childhood, then this is what the album looks like  - these are birds number 1 to 4 - the red-plumed Bird of Paradise, the Lonely Little King Bird of Paradise; the Helmeted Honeyeater and the Rufous Fantail. Click on this image to get an enlarged view.

Mr Tuckfield lived on  Manuka Road in Berwick, in a house which was built around 1891 for the Greaves family; it then had  a series of owners until 1955 when Mr Tuckfield purchased it. It was named Clover Cottage in the 1930s. In 1974, John and Engelina Chipperfield and their business partner, Trevor Burr,  purchased the property from the Tuckfield Estate and from 1979 to early 2017 operated the Clover Cottage restaurant in a purpose built building on the site (Berwick Star News November 2, 2019)

Back to Mr Tuckfield - most of the following information on the Clover Cottage property comes from Dr Cristina Dyson of Context from her report on the property for the City of Casey in 2018 (citation and link to the report is at the bottom of this post)   Fred and his wife, Hilda had a house in Manor Grove in North Caulfield, where they grew lots of camellias. The move to Berwick was to give Fred more garden space to grow more camellias. Mr Tuckfield had John Stevens, a landscape consultant, design his garden. 

Dr Dyson, says the garden represents one of Stevens earliest large scale residential designs, and is interesting as it demonstrates the two great interests of Tuckfield at the time, his camellia collection and his passion for the environment. From the 1950s onward, Tuckfield encouraged innovative gardening techniques, which would now be considered ‘environmentally friendly’. These included use of trickly watering systems, mulching, banning of pesticides and insecticides and other chemicals. He made a number of passionate public appeals against the indiscriminate use of pesticides, which he believed was rapidly destroying the balance of nature.   Stevens also designed landscapes for a number of prominent architectural firms in Melbourne, including Bates Smart McCutcheon, Roy Grounds, Robin Boyd, Stephenson & Turner. 

Mr Tuckfield's camellia, The Czar, won best bloom at the Royal Horticultural Society's camellia show in August 1952.
The Age, August 22, 1952

The garden had both a camellia plantation and an area for native plants. Mr Tuckfield was very involved in the Australia Camellia Research Society, he was at one time the President and developed 25 camellia cultivars at the Clover Cottage property.

My friend and I visited Fred Tuckfield's house in Manor Grove in March 2019 and the homeowner kindly allowed us to take some photos of the camellias in the garden, including this lovely specimen.  There are 15 to 20 camellias, still in the garden and we were told that when they moved into the house around 20 years ago, the back yard was full of camellias - all Fred Tuckfield's work!

Fred Tuckfield was born in Sale in 1898 to Fred and Ada (nee Page) Tuckfield. He married Hilda Cader in 1924 and she passed away in 1958. He remarried in 1962 to Muriel Dennis. Fred began a wholesale business selling tea in 1936, having previously worked for Rolfe & Co Ltd, wholesale grocers. By 1940 he was selling Ty-nee Tips tea. The business expanded in the 1950s and 1959 he introduced the bird cards, which were such a lovely and memorable part of my childhood. My friend, Audrey, told me this story about Fred Tuckfield - when she was 17 she worked at Ty-nee Tips Tea in, I think it was Prahran, and Mr Tuckfield came in everyday, would mix with everyone and knew everyone by name. That was around 1953. Audrey also said she earnt 4 pounds, 7 shillings and 6 pence a week and her mother took 4 pounds a week for board!


This is Volume 2 - cards 97 to 192.


Unknown said...

Absolutely wonderful. I grew up in Tasmania (Born 76) and my grandparents collected these and I loved looking at the albums and learning about the birds. They were so beautifully presented as well. Very Avante garde for Australia in terms of design.
Thank you for this lovely blog.

Heather said...

Thank you for your wonderful comment. They were such a lovely series and gave so much joy to so many people - young and old. Best wishes, Heather.

Andrew said...

During the emptying out of my mother's house not too far from Berwick, we came across my and my sister's albums. Both are far from complete though. A friend sent me a link to this post, so thanks for the history of Tuckfields tea.

Unknown said...

I still have cards and my dad used to collect the honey for him.