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This picturesque photograph of Berry’s Bay was taken by the Sydney based photographer Charles Kerry around the turn of the century. Looking across Sydney Harbour towards Berry’s Bay this beautifully framed scene and the suburb’s current affluence belies the industrial history of Berry’s Bay.
The Western Kerosene Company made the first kerosene oil in Australia in the latter part of 1855 as a result of the discovery of oil bearing shale in Hartley by Mr. S. Samuel. This led to a number of new companies being formed, one of which was the North Shore Kerosene Works situated at the head of Berry’s Bay. The buildings were originally made by a Mr. Robey to use as a sugar refinery but the three buildings running in a line, running north and south by 1868 were being used to refine kerosene.
By 1870 the St. Leonards Chemical Company’s Works which manufactured various acids, sulphate of lime, sulphate of iron, and soap had set up shop on the eastern arm of Berry’s Bay. There were some good practical reasons for setting up here where there was not only an abundant supply of pure spring water but also a bay deep enough for the ships to bring coal, sulphur, and other materials to the works. This business had a number of buildings including a boiler shed, sulphur furnaces as well a large leaden chamber forty feet long, twenty feet wide, and fifteen feet high, closed in on all sides by woodwork in order to equalise the temperature. A year later a new tin smelting and refining company had been built next to the chemical works. This company had a water frontage of 240 feet which reached back from the face of the rocky hill that bounds the shore of the bay, and forms a wall behind the furnaces.
In 1873 the Chief Inspector of Distilleries visited the new premises of the New South Wales Distillery Company. This was run by Mr. E. M. Meyer who show him arounf the works which were housed in the building once used by Mr. Berry (whose family Berry’s Bay was named after) for storing wheat and other things. Mr. E. Meyer was using a new method of distilling which he had patented in the hope it would save both time and labour costs. Meyer who was a pupil of Baron Berzelius, professor of chemistry at the University Of Stockholm also built one of Australia’s first refrigerators as a part of his patent still.
In this close up of Kerry’s photograph taken some 25 years later we can see the residential houses have displaced some of these industrial sites. Some owners were no doubt thankful to loose the unpleasant odours and noise generated by local industry but for others, like the Fig Tree Hotel (seen in the left of this close up), proximity to a distillery may have had its own benefits.
Tyrrell Photographic Collection, 85/1285-955
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