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Edwin Davey & Sons

Extracts from that excellent book “The Golden Grain. A history of Edwin Davey & Sons 1865 – 1985” written by Jean P. Fielding and published by Hyland House Publishing Pty. Ltd. of Melbourne. We are grateful to Hyland Publishing for granting permission to publish the following:

Edwin Davey was born near Penzance, Cornwall on 18 July 1839, ninth child of Thomas Davey and Margaret Lean, who farmed in that area.  The family left Plymouth for South Australia on 16 October 1848, arriving on 17 January 1849.

  Many of Edwin’s uncles and cousins also arrived between 1839 and 1847.

Edwin’s father obtained a land grant, some 50 miles north of Adelaide and set about clearing the land for farming. Edwin was a true pioneer, who at the age of 9 drove a bullock wagon alone to Adelaide, almost a one-week round trip.

The first “Davey” flourmill was constructed at Lyndoch, by the partnership of Benjamin Davy (Edwin’s uncle) and William James Raynor, and completed on 27 October 1853.

Raynor, was born on Hobart in 1822, the son of miller who erected the first Tasmanian mill at New Norfolk, arriving in South Australia in 1846, he worked at Ridley’s Hindmarsh mill, the South Australian mill at Hackney and then the Tanunda mill until 1850. The partnership was dissolved on 26 November 1855 when Benjamin sold his share to Raynor.

Benjamin completed a new mill at Angaston on 3 March 1856, and was later known as the “Daveyston mill”. This mill was severely damaged by fire in 1885.

Edwin Davey spent a period in the early 1850’s prospecting for gold in Victoria, but returned to work with his Uncle Benjamin, and taught himself milling engineering.

A John Davey (relationship not known) built a mill at Nairne, and worked it until 1863.

Edwin Davey married his cousin (not an uncommon practice in Cornwall in those days) Phillis Vingoe Davey at Kapunda on 8 March 1860.

Edwin’s father Thomas and mother Margaret both died in 1862 and both aged 66.

The Penrice Flourmill, built by Captain Richard Rodda was auctioned and sold to brothers Edwin and James on 24 November 1865.  Records show that the brothers Edwin, Thomas Henry, James and John had all previous worked at the Penrose mill. Capacity of the Penrose mill is quoted in 1865 - 2 steam mills with 4 stones; 1866 – 11 stones; but in 1877 was 3 pairs of stones, and by 1879 was 4 pairs.

James Davey left the partnership on 23 December 1869, and so at the age of 30, Edwin Davey owned his mill, and by 1875 was selling Davey’s Adelaide Superfine flour on the Sydney market.

The properties at Penrice were sold on 29 September 1899.

In 1870 and Adelaide newspaper stated that the Penrice miller used a “metal semi-circular tube with a pointed end” to obtain wheat samples from the middle of sacks.

Edwin purchased the Daveyston mill on 16 November 1876, but leased it to Richard Magor from 1 December 1876, but it was advertised for sale in August 1879, but this did not eventuate and the mill never ran again. The boiler and stones were transferred to the Eudunda mill.

In July 1879, Edwin purchased land at Eudunda, about 25 miles north of Angaston, but sold this land in July 1880, then obtained land close to the railway station and yards.  The new mill was not completed until after 9 December 1880, and listed as a steam mill with 3 pairs of stones employing 4 hands. By 1883, a pair of crushers was added and the staff now 5. The mill was known as the Excelsior Flourmill. Edwin’s eldest son, Arnold Edwin entered his fathers business in about 1878, and became a partner in 1883.

  This was not the first mill at Eudunda, at the southern end of the yards was Neumann’s mill, owned by Woithe in 1879, mill having 2 pairs of stones. Edwin Davey leased this mill from 21 August 1888, purchased it in October 1892, and then leased the building to F.M.H. Bevilaqua after removal of the machinery. Gustav Neumann was the miller, and most of Edwin’s sons learnt German for the purpose of doing business with the large German population in that area.

Arnold returned to manage the Penrice mill in 1884, and his brother Thomas managed the Eudunda mill. Thomas had become a partner on 20 November 1884 at the age of 21.

Edwin moved to Semaphore, then by 1885 moved to Unley, in order to handle the business in Adelaide and at Port Adelaide.

  2 July 1885, the Penrice mill was burnt out, and although the insurance company paid out, it was decided to replace it with a new mill at Angaston, on the corner of Murray and Tyne Streets. Babcock supplied rollermills, which were already in use in South Australia, at 5 mills by 1884 and 4 more a year later.

  The new mill was named the Eureka Roller Mills, having 14 sets of rollers and 1 pair of stones. Four roller mills were built by S, Devario, and Ganz, Budapest, Hungary, and were still in use in 1972 under the ownership of Lauke Milling.

  A letter from Edwin to Arnold dated 7 July 1886, says “Thomas & Co. have started their new Mill, making 15 to 17 bags per hour”. William Thomas had built his flourmill at Port Adelaide in 1878, and had doubled the capacity to 12 sacks per hour in July 1886 changing to 15 roller mills supplied by Thomas Robinson of Rochdale, believed to be the first roller mills supplied in Australia by an English company.

  By at least 1875, Edwin was selling his flour on the Sydney market through agent Henry Dare of 46 Pitt Street, as well as another agent Geo. A. Lloyd & Co., at 362 George Street. Then by 1888, Edwin had established overseas trade, selling flour to Auckland, Samoa, and also considering shipments to Calcutta.

  By March 1889, the Eudunda mill had been remodelled with 9 sets of rollers, and staff increased to 9, but retained the 3 pairs of stones from the Neumann mill. In 1891 another roller mill was added. It is believed that these roller mills were Hungarian, and the rolls stated as porcelain.

  1891, Edwin purchased land in Adelaide, corner of Angas and Moore Streets, for a store and city office.

  Edwin purchased the Salisbury flourmill on 5 January 1892, having been built in 1855 by Talbot & Mynott, with 5 successive owners before Edwin. The mill had been remodeled to 4 sets of rollers in 1889 and a further 4 sets in 1890. The location was not satisfactory as it lacked connection to the railway.

  Johannes George L. Heidenreich was miller and draughtsman, being responsible for the remodel in 1893 increasing the mill capacity from 8 to 10 sets of rollers. He stayed there until 1906. George Davey, at the age of 21 on 15 May 1895, entered into the partnership and managed the Salisbury mill.

  Sometime after 1891, A. Herzig, miller, was killed after being caught in belting and thrown against the rafters.

  By 1893, sons Maurice and George were at the Angaston mill, and Thomas at Eudunda. The youngest son, Bertram John was clerk in the Adelaide office.

  During this period, Edwin considered buying the Northam mill in Western Australia, but his son-in-law Henry Thomas of Thomas & Co. Port Adelaide later purchased it.

  On 13 July 1896, Edwin purchased land at the corner of Currie Street and Light Square, Adelaide, moving from Angas Street.  Stan Davey drew up the building plans.

  The Davey families were active members of many trade and business committees and associations over many years in South Australia.

  An interesting paragraph states: “On 18 August 1898, Wm. R. Dell & Son, Milling Engineers, of Croydon, near London, made inquiries for proposed alterations to No. 3 Break Plansifter for Messrs. Davey & Son, Australia, from John Stanear & Co., Milling Engineers, Manchester.”

  In 1898, Edwin made a nostalgic trip back to Cornwall, which he had left at the age of 9.

Management of the mills, in 1898, was George at Eudunda, Thomas with youngest son, Bertram John, at Adelaide. Maurice Davey was absent at this time, and it is possible that Friedrich Laucke managed the Angaston mill.  George A. Davey was in charge of the Salisbury mill, and Friedrich Laucke moved there as second miller from May 1895 until 1898.  This was the beginning of the Laucke family into flour milling in Australia, and Friedrich purchased the Greenock mill in 1899, going into partnership with Rathel between 1903 and 1909, thereafter alone. This mill had been built in 1858 and known as the Victorville mill and owned by Thomas Victor and Edward Barkly. Edward Barkly dropped out of the business in January 1859, and then Victor owned the mill, which was run by Thomas Cummins.

  Other “owners” at Greenock were Palmer, Kruger & Co., and Christian Finck in 1878.

In 1884, Fink purchased roller mills (7 sets) “from his native land” believed to be the first in Australia.

  Sir Condor Laucke, son of Friedrich, stated in 1963 that these oldest rolls had only recently been thrown out. The Greenock mill was severely damaged by boiler explosions in 1888, 1890 or 1891, and 1905.

  In 1950, Friedrich Laucke was still in the business and one of his sons managed the old Eudunda mill from 2 January 1951, and also purchased the Stockwell mill, built in 1856, and purchased by A.E. Boer on 23 September 1896.

Thomas Victor had built a mill at Kapunda, near the railway station, in 1864.

  Edwin Davey patented his Lion Brand on 17 December 1897, and was still use when the Pyrmont, Sydney mills closed.

  Arnold Davey, after completion of his year as President of the Chamber of Commerce, handed over to John Darling Junior, and sailed to England to attend the Annual Millers’ Conference at Ilfracombe, and then on to America to the International Commercial Congress in Philadelphia. Edwin’s eldest daughter, Florence Emily married Henry Thomas, miller, and only son of William Thomas of Port Adelaide, on 29 November 1899.

  In 1886, they remodeled the mill, calling in “Standard Roller Mills”, using equipment The Thomas family also originated from Cornwall.  William Thomas had worked for Dunn & Co. at their Port Adelaide mill, and in 1880, in partnership with Thomas Grose started their own mill in Leadenhall Street, next to the flourmill of W.C. Harrison & Co. supplied by Thomas Robinson of Rochdale, their first order in Australia. Capacity of the mill was designed for 12 sacks, but produced up to 15 sacks.  William Thomas died on 21 November 1891, and was replaced by his son, Henry.

Part 2:

On 9 May 1900, Maurice Charles Davey married Ellen Gertrude Shorney, daughter of the late George Shorney, miller. George had been manager of the John Dunn & Son mill at Cox’s Creek, later called Bridgewater, in 1857.  Another mill at Bridgewater was the Lion Mill owned by Johnston Bros.

John Dunn, junior, built a mill at Port Adelaide in 1866.  George A. Davey replaced his brother Thomas at Eudunda in about 1898.

 On 17 August 1900, a boiler explosion damaged the mill and killed the engine driver William Jonas Charnstrom. The boiler was about 20 years old and had come from the Neumann mill, then in 1892 to the Salisbury mill and to Eudunda in 1897.

Edwin purchased the Ultimo Roller Flour Mills, in Allen Street, from S. Freeman & Sons Ltd. on 14 January 1901, the mill having been built in 1895.

“Edwin Davey’s “Angas Mill”

photograph taken during its ownership by Laucke Milling Co.

A store building was quickly added, and Maurice Charles and his younger brother George Arthur managed the mill. Brother Bertram John took over management of the Salisbury mill in 1901.

On 17 September 1904, the Company applied to register a trademark for the Ultimo mill, utilizing a crowing cock and the word “Chanticleer” and “Patent Roller Flour – Edwin Davy & Sons, Sydney.”  In 1906 further land was acquired at the back of the Ultimo property, and the Company was exporting flour and wheat to many parts of the world.

Edwin Davey retired on 20 November 1906, and transferred his portion of the business to his sons. I n 1906, the Company was considering construction of a mill in Melbourne at Kensington facing Lennon Street, but sold to James Minifie and James Gatehouse. Minifie had been head miller for W.S. Kimpton & Sons in Melbourne. Davey then acquired property at 475 La Trobe Street in about 1907, which had been used for various purposes since it, was built in about 1880. A mill was constructed in the building, George Heidenreich transferred from Salisbury to start up and manage the mill. Registered as Edwin Davey & Sons, Melbourne on 25 May 1907, and becoming known as the Monarch Mills.

Many trademarks were registered during the period 1907 to 1911.

The Angas Street, Adelaide property was leased to A.E. Morris and C.J. Horgan on 23 August 1909.

On 24 march 1911, the Ultimo Mill was extensively damage by fire, which started on the top floor about 3.30, am.  Firemen saved a large stock of wheat, and the property was fully insured.

Arnold Davey was also a director of the Queensland Insurance Co. Ltd.  Crago & Co. milled wheat for Edwin Davey & Sons for a period, but it was a costly exercise.  On 29 March 1911, Thomas Robinson & Son of Rochdale submitted a quotation for complete new machinery, was installed later that year, and some of it was still in use when the mill closed some 80 years later.

The years following 1911 saw considerable discussion between the family members as to how the company should proceed after Edwin died, and Arnold intending to retire developed detailed proposals.

Bertram Davey was managing director of the separately registered Melbourne Company from 1 November 1912, and brothers Arnold, Thomas, Maurice and George were partners. The “Monarch”, “Oriental”, “Cycle” and “Triton” brand names were transferred to the Melbourne Company. Bertram was given virtually complete powers, and ignored his fellow directors, speculated in American wheat futures just as World War I broke out in 1914, the Australian drought also contributed, and lost money. Agreement to creditors 50% was reached on 7 January 1915.  The Melbourne Company was liquidated in 1915, and the property sold to W.C. Thomas of Queen Street, Melbourne, but was on sold to Ramsay & Treganowan on 5 July 1917. The creditors were finally paid “every penny”, and Bertram John Davey left the business and went into a real estate partnership, then later became a farmer and dying in 1946. 22 January 1915, the Salisbury fire broke out in the afternoon, the manager Theo. Heidenriech narrowly escaped death. The mill was destroyed and was never rebuilt mainly due to the loss of export trade during the war. The site was sold in 1919 to F. H. Kuhlmann. Theo. Heidenreich built a small mill at Salisbury in 1917 next to the railway station, and the business continued until the late 1980’s.  Arnold Davey retired and the company then only owned the Angaston and Eudunda mills in South Australia, the Salisbury and Melbourne mills having closed with two weeks of each other.

Edwin Davey and most of his sons served the communities in which they lived for many years and held various voluntary positions of influence.

Maurice Charles Davey retired on 31 March 1918, aged 47, and left only Thomas H. Davey and George A. Davey of the original members still in the business. Thomas remained in Adelaide, and George in Sydney.

On 9 February 1919, the Eudunda mill was destroyed by fire; serious lack of water hampered fire fighting.  A.E. Boer, miller of Stockwell purchased the ruins on 9 June 1920, who managed to secure from various mills enough machinery to start milling again. Mr. Boer sold the mill to Laucke Milling in December 1950.  The Kapunda mill was also sold at that time to F.T.P. Heidenreich.

Arnold Davey died in France on 8 March 1920, the day of his parents Diamond Wedding.

A railway siding to the Sydney mill was constructed in 1922, and extended in 1927.

Thomas Davey retired on 20 November 1923, and his half share of the business passed to Gordon E.M. Davey.

Edwin Davey died at his home on Park Terrace, Adelaide on 8 November 1923, aged 84, and leaving only one son George in the business, and only two mills operation, Angaston and Sydney.  Edwin’s body was carried by special train and was buried at Angaston. A staunch member of the Methodist Church, joining in 1858, Edwin must have been saddened at the end of his life at the decline of the business and that all but one son George had retired. George did not have any sons to pass the business down to.

Consideration had been given to purchase land and build a mill in Adelaide in the Mile End area, but due to economic conditions in South Australia at that time, did not proceed.

On 7 July 1924, having not run for some months, the Eureka Roller Flour Mills at Angaston, the last Davey mill in S.A. was sold to Kahlbaum & Hooper (the engine driver and miller), but Hooper sold his share to Kahlbaum on 27 February 1925.

Kahlbaum died on 27 September 1929, and his widow ran it until the sale to Friedrich Laucke on 4 August 1933. The Angaston mill finally closed in November 1976.

  In 1946 Friedrich Laucke brought his four sons into the business under the name of Laucke Milling Co. Ltd. of Greenock, which included Eudunda, Stockwell and later building a new mill at Strathalbyn.

  By 1929, the head office of the company was 2A Allen Street, Pyrmont, NSW.

  On 14 May 1936 the remaining partners George Arthur Davey and Gordon Edwin Macklin Davey incorporated the company as Edwin Davey & Sons Pty Ltd.   Gordon died on 11 December 1941 aged 42.

  The connection with the Love family goes back to 4 June 1924, when Phyllis, daughter of George A. Davey and Mabel Matters, married Nigel Borland Love at Strathfield.   Nigel Love became a flyer with the Australian Flying Corps during World War I, and on return to Australia became sole agent for the building and sale of A.V. Roe 504 K trainer aircraft, and formed the Australian Aircraft & Engineering Co. Ltd. with premises at Mascot. But the company went into liquidation in 1923.  Nigel Love joined Edwin Davey as a flour salesman, and also made wireless sets in his spare time.

  In November 1928, N.B. Love purchased a bakery from A. Donkin at John Street Lidcombe, and whilst still working for Edwin Davey, spent evenings and weekend working his bakery.  N. B. Love, with additional capitol from Walter Arnott and two others, (one believed to have been W.H. Lillieblade) approached Henry Simon Australia to build a new mill on a new site at Enfield, the mill started up on 14 January 1935. The mill was similar in design to the mill at Albion, Brisbane.

‘George Davey laughingly told Nigel Love one morning: “A terrible thing has happened. I’ve just broken the only tooth I’ve got that can crack a grain of wheat. I’m finished as a miller.”

  15 August 1940 saw the N. B. Love Pty Ltd. purchased all the shares of Edwin Davey & Sons Pty Ltd., but continued to trade at the Allen Street mill as Edwin Davey & Sons.

  George A. Davey died on 8 November 1954, on the anniversary of his father’s death, 31 years earlier.

  R. W. Chamberlain (ex. ATMA member) was head miller in 1972, and is quoted as saying how generous the Company had been during 1930’s depression, his grandfather had been given three months work to assist him.

  Subsequently, N.B. Love has expanded and progressed, briefly as follows:

1944 purchased a flourmill at Boggabri.

1953 formed Millmaster Feeds, with a separate mill at Enfield.

Also forming N.B. Love Starches and N.B. Love Bakeries.

1962, George Weston (Australia) Pty Ltd purchased the group then known as N.B. Love Industries.

1964, W Thomas mill at Port Adelaide merged with George Weston, bringing together another old company that had been linked to the Davey’s by marriage and trade.

  Nigel Love died on 2 October 1979, aged nearly 88, leaving sons Jeffery N., Robert B. and John G. to carry on milling.

  This is an amazing and detailed account of one of Australia’s most influential millers, and it is interesting to see references to other well known milling families, such as Cummins, Minifie, Darling, Heidenreich, Kimpton, Laucke, Love and Thomas.

  The above is only a brief digest of a book full of historical data and interesting aspects of the lives of the Davey families, and readers are recommended to locate this book at their local library.

Our thanks also to the author Jean P. Fielding, grand daughter of Edwin Davey, and to Hyland House Publishing Pty Limited of Melbourne.