According to the Shelley family, the origin of Shelley’s soft drinks can be traced back to 1893 in Broken Hill. A newspaper article from 1908 relates that the founder, J.A.M. (known as Jam) Shelley began brewing hop-beer in a small shed, employing three men. After his death in 1927 his son, Matthew, moved to Sydney where he commenced operations in Marrickville in 1930. The company was sold to British Tobacco (now Coca-Cola Amatil) in 1964.
Shelley had three sons and three daughters. After his death the family divided his assets and one of the sons, Matthew, moved to Sydney with his own son Bert, using his share of the inheritance to found a new business, Shelley & Sons. Another branch of the family continued to produce soft drinks in Broken Hill, and in 1949 Matt Shelley obtained a controlling interest in that business. The Broken Hill factory was modernised and new equipment was installed.
The business continued under family control until 1963 when the company was floated to raise capital. British Tobacco acquired a shareholding and the following year bought the remaining shares. BT/Amatil operated the Broken Hill factory until the 1980s, then sold it to Clem Gillespie who produced Clem’s soft drinks there until 1988. In 2000, Shelley’s, together with Gest, Halls (SA), and Marchants (Victoria), were merged under the brand name of Kirks.
Two of the Shelleys (J.A.M.’s great-grandsons) formed their own soft drink company, Bert’s Soft Drinks, in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in 1968. That company remains family-owned and is one of the few remaining local brands in the industry.