Saturday, 18 September 2021

The Narre Warren Cool Store

In 1891, William Bailey purchased 50 acres of land at Narre Warren, and began planting out his orchard, which was the first commercial orchard in the area (1). Other orchards soon followed as Narre Warren was considered to be a very suitable area for orchards. The Australasian in April 1919 reported on the advantages of fruit growing in the area -

The orchards and areas available for planting are within comparatively short distance from the railway station, where a central packing shed is in operation; the district is but 22 miles from Melbourne; the climate and soil are well suited for apple and pear culture, and, in addition, the district is settled by progressive fruit growers, who have an intimate knowledge of most matters affecting fruit production. When a district is within comparatively easy reach of the metropolis it has an enhanced value that, while difficult to estimate on an acreage basis, is nevertheless considerable.

In the first case it means that the cost of delivering produce on the market, an ever-recurring expenditure, is far less than that incurred by the up-country grower, and this same question of freight expenditure applies to everything that is purchased for use on the orchard; implements, spraying materials, manures, wrapping paper, cases, and numerous other items that must be obtained from the city, and this also applies to the initial costs connected with settlement. Then, too growers may, if they so choose, put their fruit on rail overnight, and travel to Melbourne by the evening train to sell their own produce. Several hundred acres now planted with fruit trees are within three miles of the local station and packing shed, served by a good level road, and this means easy haulage and expeditious handling of the crop during the height of the season. The co-operative fruit packing shed has been in operation over three seasons, and already there has been some talk of establishing cool stores so that the fruit may be held over for late season marketing (2).

The article also had profiles on local fruit growers including James Bailey, President of the Victorian Fruit Growers' Association (and son of William Bailey). James had 68 acres planted out in fruit trees - 34 acres of apples, 30 acres of peaches and 4 acres of pears (3).

Narre Warren Cool Store

In the endeavour to establish a Cool Store at Narre Warren, the Narre Warren Orchardists' Co-operative Cool Stores Co., was formed in 1923, with James Bailey as Chairman of Directors (4). Mr Bailey was the driving force behind the Cool Store as The Australasian reported - Although possessing a cool store of his own, sufficient for the requirements of his orchard, he has been the dominating figure in bringing about the erection of the new chambers (5).

The method of financing the construction of the Cool Store was reported in The Age newspaper - a first call of 6d. per share was made, which enabled the company to purchase the land. Later the share holders contributed 3/10 per 10/ share, making a total amount of £1700, and £2400 having been advanced by the State Savings Bank, the erection of the store was commenced. They had sufficient machinery to run a store of double the capacity, so that any additions would cost considerably less (6).

Aerial of Narre Warren - taken January 20, 1974. The Cool Store, which is opposite the Narre Warren Railway Station, is circled. The Railway Station moved from original location (west of Webb Street) to it's current location (east of Webb Street) in 1995. 
Image: Casey Cardinia Libraries.

The Cool Store at Narre Warren, built on an acre of land near the Railway Station (7) was officially opened on Saturday, March 7, 1925 by the State Minister for Agriculture, Murray Bourchier (8), who congratulated the share-holders on their enterprise and co-operation, and said he felt honored at being invited to start the machinery working (9).

Narre Warren Cool Store

The benefit to the area of having a Cool Store was explained in The Australasian newspaper - Owing to the demand for Jonathan apples for export, and also because this variety may usually be profitably disposed of within three or four months of harvesting, the cool chambers will be utilised mainly for the storage of the Yates and Rome Beauty kinds which are among the best storing varieties of apples grown. In the past many of the growers have been obliged to part with the bulk of their crops at prices which purchasers considered would leave them a margin of profit after paying storage expenses. With the local stores in operation there is the prospect that much of the fruit will return a more lucrative price to those who hold it until late in the season (10).

The Cool Store was designed to hold 10,000 cases of apples, but provision had been made to add two extra chambers if required. These chambers, each holding 3,000 cases were added in early 1928 (11). 

As with all primary production, some years were better than other and 1933 was a record year for fruit export in the Narre Warren area - Approximately 51,000 cases of fruit - 5000 cases of pears and the remainder apples - were exported from Narre Warren this season. In addition, 8000 cases were sold on the Melbourne and inter-State markets, and it is expected that a further 23,000 cases will be held in cool storage for the late markets. The quantity of fruit exported constitutes a record for the district. Last year two new cool stores were erected by individual orchardists, making four stores for the district (12).

One of these two Cool Stores was erected by Robert Haysey, which held 80,000 cases (13). An unusual cool room was built in 1932 by Arthur Robinson, on his Hillsley property, at Narre Warren North. The Dandenong Journal reported on the construction - a store had been built of bluestone boulders, some of which weigh over one ton; it was cut into the side of the hill, and the walls are built of the huge stones, which were after wards cemented. Mr. Robinson is of opinion he will be able to store many thousands of cases for a considerable period, and that they will keep equally as well as in a cool chamber (14).

Arthur Robinson's bluestone cool storage shed built on his Hillsley property in 1932.
Image: Oak Trees and Hedges: a pictorial history of Narre Warren, Narre Warren North and Harkaway (Berwick Pakenham Historical Society, 2002)

The Narre Warren Cool Store wasn't the first one built in the district. As we saw James Bailey already had one on his property, however as early as 1908 Captain Jones installed a cooling plant in his packing shed at Narre Warren, you can read about it here. Captain David Jones (15) of the Victorian Stevedoring Company had purchased 560 acres of land in Narre Warren around 1898 and established a large orchard (16). Captain Jones' property was called Tan-y-dderwen, which means "Under the oak" in Welsh (17). After his death in 1926, his son Thomas Evan Jones (18) took over the property - Tandderwen Court and Tom Jones Court in Narre Warren North are named after him.

The Cool-Air machine and oil engine driving it - photographed on Captain Jones' Narre Warren property, in 1908.

I do not know when the Narre Warren Cool Store ceased operation, but in February 1953 the Crossley Engine was advertised for sale by tender.

Tender for sale of the Narre Warren Cool Store engine

The Cool Store was demolished in the late 1970s or early 1980s. 

The Narre Warren Cool Store in the process of being demolished.
Some of the cars in this photo have been dated - a 1977 Torana Sunbird, a post 1978 Datsun 200B and possibly a 1977 Corolla and the green car in the centre is a HG Monaro. These identifications date this photo to at least the late 1970s.
Image: Casey Cardinia Libraries.

Thank you to Tracy Howard, one of our Librarians here at Casey Cardinia Libraries, and her friends, for helping to identify the location of the Cool Store in the 1974 aerial, shown above.

Trove List
I have created a list of articles on Trove, connected to the Narre Warren Cool Store, access it here.

(2) The Australasian, April 26, 1919, see here.
(3) The Australasian, April 26, 1919, see here.
(4) The Age, March 9, 1925, see here.
(5) The Australasian, January 24, 1925, see here.
(6) The Age, March 9, 1925, see here.
(7) The Argus, August 17, 1923, see here.
(8) Murray Bourchier, read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here
(9) The Age, March 9, 1925, see here.
(10) The Australasian, January 24, 1925, see here.
(11) Weekly Times, August 21, 1926, see here and Dandenong Journal, April 5, 1928, see here.
(12) The Age, May 23, 1933, see here.
(13) Dandenong Journal, January 26, 1933, see here.
(14) Dandenong Journal, January 26, 1933, see here.
(15) Captain David Jones, read his obituary in The Age, December 28, 1926, here.
(16) Weekly Times, December 26, 1908, see here.
(17) Weekly Times, December 26, 1908, see here.
(18) The following information comes from family notices in newspapers and Early Settlers of the Casey Cardinia District - Thomas Evan Jones (1898-1964) married Margaret Alice Asling in 1921. Margaret, born 1897, died July 15, 1925 at Tandderwen, at the age of 28. She left behind a son, Evan David, who had been born on March 18, 1922.  Margaret was the daughter of Edward and Elizabeth (nee Meade) Asling, of Narre Warren North. 
Tom Jones remarried in 1928 to Alice Asling. Alice Asling was the half sister of Edward and thus an aunt of Margaret.
Edward Asling (1869-1961) was the son of George Asling (1846-1934) and Margaret Neville (1839-1874). After Margaret Neville died in February 1874, George married Sarah Martha Webb (c. 1854-1923) in December 1874 and one of their children was Alice (1889-1972) who became the second Mrs Jones. Sarah Martha Webb was the sister of Sidney Webb of Holly Green, Narre Warren.

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