Sargents Pies were first produced by George and Charlotte Sargent at their shop in Paddington. The small pies sold for a penny each. Although this business was eventually sold, in 1901 the couple and their son Harley opened two bakeries and refreshment rooms in the city. Sargents Pies (now distributed only in frozen form) account for about half of Sydney’s pie sales.
By 1905, Sargents had established a reputation as “high class pastrycooks”. An effusive editorial in Sydney’s Evening News gushed:
The firm of Sargents makes only one kind of pastry— the purest, lightest, and best. Upon its quality, alone and absolutely, the firm has built up, in a phenomenally brief period, a leading business and reputation. Public recognition of this quality, has resulted in a demand that has necessitated the establishment of numerous branches, in addition to the- principal city establishments. A commodious and centrally-situated factory has been fitted with machinery of the latest improved type, whereby the handling of the ingredients Is reduced to a minimum, and absolute cleanliness maintained.
As the Sargents establishments became successful the company Sargents Ltd was established in 1906. Their principal café in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, included a luxuriously furnished banquet hall that could seat 200 people. “SARGENTS’ is the most convenient and pleasant place for Luncheons, Dinners. Afternoon Teas, etc.,” they advertised. “The menus are to your liking, as well as the way in which everything is served, and your enjoyment is not curtailed by unreasonable charges.”
In 1909, Sargents expanded into Melbourne, opening a café in Elizabeth Street and advertising their pies, pastries, confectionery and cakes. They also began to cater for the Victorian parliament, as well as for the federal parliament which was, until 1927, based in Melbourne. They claimed that Sargents Pies were famous throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
In 1913, Sargents were producing 150,000 pies each week in their new factory in Burton Street, Darlinghurst. By 1915, they had 36 refreshment rooms and shops, a manufacturing depot, a catering section and ballrooms. When the first Parliament House was opened in Canberra, Sargents provided pies for the public at the opening event. Sadly, someone had over-estimated the size of the crowd and more than 10,000 left over Sargents pies had to be buried at the local tip.
In the 1960s, the cafés began to close. While Sargents Pies had been a staple at the Royal Sydney Show, they stopped selling at the Show in 1964. The company was sold in 1967 and then again in 1978 to the present owners. Until 1981, fresh pies were distributed daily to small shops and canteens. However, since then, all distribution has been of frozen product.