In 1859, Grazier Thomas Austin released 12 pairs of wild rabbits on his property at Winchelsea in Victoria’s Western District. A keen hunter, his aim was to provide sport. They bred prolifically and spread rapidly. By the 1920s there were more than 10 billion rabbits across Australia. More
The Café de Paris restaurant was among the earliest European-style restaurants to open in Melbourne, although four-penny, six-penny and shilling restaurants were abundant in the 1850s. These generally offered basic, English-style food. Rita Erlich’s article on the eMelbourne website gives an insight into early Melbourne restaurants. More
In 1857, newspapers in Melbourne carried advertisements for Gregory’s Tavern and Restaurant at the Hall of Commerce Hotel, announcing the introduction of a counter lunch – “Cold in Summer, Hot in Winter”. The lunch included a glass of best Burton brew or Yorkshire Ale and the charge was one shilling. Over the next year or two, other Melbourne hotels (including Williams’s in Elizabeth Street) began promoting their counter lunch offerings, with a shilling being the going rate. However, the push for custom became more competitive and publicans soon began offering free food with the purchase of a sixpenny, or even threepenny, glass of ale. So began the troubled history of the counter lunch. More
In 1857, Frederick Sherwood founded the Swan Brewery on the banks of the Swan River. After his death in 1874, the company passed through the hands of many owners. The brewery was relocated, but continued its dominance in Perth, with many ‘tied’ pubs. Swan Brewery was bought by entrepreneur Alan Bond in 1981. It is now part of the Lion Nathan group, owned by the Japanese Kirin Holdings Company Limited.
In 1856 an establishment called the Spanish Restaurant was operating in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. It seems that it was a joint venture between a French man and Catalonian immigrants Josep and Francesco Parer. Another Parer brother Estafan soon joined them and became a partner in the business. In 1861 the Spanish Restaurant moved to 40 Bourke Street and continued at this address for 23 years. Two other brothers, Felipe and Juan, arrived and the family built a hotel and café empire that endured for many decades. More
The Moira Lake Fishing Company (later known as the Murray River Fishing Company) was founded by Joseph Waldo Rice in 1855, fishing mainly for Murray cod. The company employed six European and several local Aboriginal fishermen. Initially, the fish were mostly sold in nearby communities, but once the railway reached Echuca fish could easily be sent to the goldfields and the Melbourne markets. More
Engineer James Harrison, of Geelong in Victoria, was among the pioneers of refrigeration. He created Australia’s first vapour-compression refrigeration system using ether. In 1851 he developed his ice-making machine, in 1854 it began operation commercially, a patent was granted in 1855 and he was commissioned to build a refrigeration system for the Glasgow & Co. brewery in Bendigo. His system was soon in use for meat packing houses and breweries.
The first biscuit company in Australia was founded by Thomas Swallow in 1854. He took a partner, Thomas Ariell and they established a factory in Port Melbourne (then known as Sandridge). Swallow & Ariell began by manufacturing ship’s biscuits, but grew to be the fifth largest biscuit company in the world, with over 150 varieties. More
In Victoria, railway refreshment rooms are as old as the railways themselves. The first railway, constructed by the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay Railway Company, opened in September 1854. It ran from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). The refreshment room at Sandridge Station was leased to William Peter McGirr, who successfully applied for a liquor license in April 1855. More
River navigation became an important way to transport goods and supplies to and from farming districts. The first of the paddle steamers on the Murray River, the Mary Ann, made her first voyage in 1853. In the spring of that year, both the Mary Ann and the Lady Augusta reached Swan Hill and Echuca. More
Famous for their frog cakes, square pies and custard tarts, as well as the cafés they ran in Adelaide for many years, Balfours is a household name in South Australia. The company can trace its history back to 1853, when Scottish emigrant James Calder and his wife Margaret (née Balfour) opened their first bakery and shop in Adelaide’s Rundle Street. Balfours is now owned by San Remo – another South Australian company. More
As men deserted their farms to try their luck at the goldfields, production of food in Victoria fell dramatically. Food was expensive and, early on, consisted mainly of mutton and bread. Initially, miners were not permitted to plant productive gardens, but in 1852 at Castlemaine, Owen Jones planted what was possibly the first vegetable garden on the goldfields near his claim.