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SSC Newspaper : June 2010
The sweeT smell of success T here are Australian towns that are built on gold rushes, others on oil or coal. But Strathfield originally thrived because of biscuits. Not any old biscuits, mind. It’s in Strathfeld that Arnott’s, the biscuit brand that’s Australian as kangaroos became the national force it is today. And it’s Arnott’s that helped make Strathfeld the great town it is today. Arnott’s came to Strathfeld by way of Fifeshire, where William Arnott was born in 1827. During his teens in the idyllic Scottish county (now Fife) he became an apprentice baker and pastry cook. Like many young Scottish, Irish and Englishmen with dreams and a sense of adventure, Arnott decided to seek his fortune in the colonies and in 1847, set sail for Australia with his younger brother, David. On the 135-day journey he met a young Irish lass called Monica tonnes of biscuits annually and employing 50 people. Arnott even purchased his own cows for fresh milk, 200 of them because he was a stickler for good ingredients. The business grew and grew and when William Arnott died in 1901, at the age of 74, his fve sons took over. In January 1906, they purchased a six-and-a-half-acre lot at North Strathfeld, which became the site of their new factory, opened in 1908. At the time, detractors dubbed the factory “Arnott’s folly”, because it was perceived as too remote from the city. Now, of course, it’s in Sydney’s geographic centre, and indeed, before long, proving true the edict that “If you build it, they will come”, people focked to the area to be close to the work the factory provided. In the ensuing years, wars would come and go, the factory would expand and its workforce grow and, along with it Strathfeld. Great household biscuit brands such as Sao, Iced VoVo and Tim Tams would be launched and Arnott’s would become one of Australia’s most iconic brands and Strathfeld one of Sydney’s most vibrant suburbs. The Arnott’s Biscuit Factory was relocated to Huntingwood in 1997. Today, the North Strathfeld site is the base for Arnott’s head offce. But like the sweet smell of baking that used to permeate the Strathfeld air in the morning, the history of Arnott’s lingers, a proud chapter in a great suburb, and a monumental one for a nation. Arnott’s became part of the fabric of the municipality, with people flocking to the area to find work. Sinclair who would become his wife. And he also had another fortuitous meeting … On the ship the passengers’ diet included scotch barley and the starchy vegetable arrowroot. It was known for its health- giving qualities, and the name would be something he would save for signifcant usage when he would invent one of Australia’s most famous and favourite plain sweet biscuits, the Milk Arrowroot. SHIPS BISCUITS ON arrival in Australia Arnott went to Maitland on the Hunter River, the then second largest town in Australia where gold was making fortunes. But Arnott wasn’t interested in gold. He put his trade to use and built a successful, yet small bakery business, fathering fve boys along the way. But in the 1860s, his wife Monica passed away. Then the famous Maitland foods swept through the town. With fve children to look after, he moved to Newcastle, carrying only £14 in his pocket. In Newcastle, he met a Scottish lady called Margaret McLean Fleming and together, in 1865, they began a bakery on the waterfront. It quickly became popular and before long they were making what were called “Ships Biscuits” as staple food for the many ships that called at Newcastle. By 1875 they were producing 1.5 “Arnott even purchased his own cows for fresh milk. ” From humble beginnings as a small Newcastle bakery, local icon Arnott’s today employs thousands of people and supplies biscuits to more than 40 countries. By Julietta Jameson. For over 125 years, Arnott’s has been perfecting the art of baking to bring Strathfeld residents their favourite biscuits ... ... and we look forward to the next 125 years.