Excerpt from the article “The Story of Our Secondary Industries” The Age Saturday January 23rd 1937

 

 

To Melbourne by Bullock Waggon:

The firm of T.B.Guest and Co. Pty. Ltd. had its origins in Sydney about 86 years ago, 

but for over 80 years it has been in Melbourne. It began as Barnes, Guest and Co. in 

1851 at a small factory in Pitt-street, Sydney. Ships’ biscuits were the sole product of 

the factory. The partners took turns at baking, and delivered the goods by hand truck. 

One night while Mr. Barnes was walking along Pitt-street he was shot in the back by a 

hold-up man. Mr T. B. Guest carried on the business, but reports of Victoria’s wonderful 

progress drew his attention southward, and after a time he closed the Sydney factory, 

packed his plant and machinery on a bullock waggon and set out for Melbourne.

It took T. B. Guest three months and a half to travel to Melbourne. He set up his 

machinery in premises in William-street, opposite the site now occupied by the Law 

Courts, and opened the new factory in 1856. The buildings consisted of two large iron 

stores- the front one used as a warehouse; the other as the factory. A notable feature 

of the plant at the time was a travelling oven, consisting of an endless chain of 

perforated iron, eighteen feet in length, which passed slowly through the heated area, 

bearing on its surface the biscuits in process of baking. The business was still carried 

on in the name of Barnes, Guest and Co.

A visit of inspection to the factory of Messrs. Barnes, Guest and Co., “proprietors of the 

sole biscuit factory in Melbourne,” is described in an industrial article published in 

“The Age” of 6th May, 1857 (Sandridge-Port Melbourne, where Mr. Swallow’s biscuit 

factory already had been established, was not then regarded as part of Melbourne 

evidently.) It is stated in the article that the firm (Barnes, Guest and Co.) employed two 

men and three boys, “who turned out as much work as twelve men on the old 

system,” and, although the works had not been in operation more than six months,

the excellent quality of the goods produced had procurred for the firm medals of

distinction from the Victorian Industrial Society.

“The Firm,” the article continued, “has a weekly average of one ton of fancy goods

and five tons of cabin biscuits. The ship bread, indeed, derived from the other 

Australian colonies and America, is now nearly driven out of the market, and very little 

is sent from England. The market at present is excessively overstocked with English 

fancy goods and the strong prejudice in their favour confines the sale of those made 

in Victoria to a very small compass; but as the excellence of their quality, in fact their 

positive superiority, is daily being discovered, the sale is gradually increasing. The 

only other biscuit works now in the colony are those managed by Mr. Swallow, 

at Sandridge, where the machinery is worked by hand power. There are two biscuit

works in Sydney which formerly supplied the whole of the ship bread here.”

After a couple of years the name of the firm was changed to T.B.Guest and Co. In 

the course of time the factory premises were extended along William-street to the 

corner of Lonsdale-street, and in 1898 the firm moved to its present premises (since 

considerably extended) in Anderson-street, West Melbourne. The factory now- a

four story building-covers an area of 400 x 200ft.;employs about 350 people and 

has a delivery fleet of 25 vehicles. The factory foreman, Mr.C.H.Judd, joined the 

staff when he was a boy of ten-68 years ago and the secretary, Mr.L.W.Whitton,

has been with the firm for 58 years. The late chairman and managing director, 

Mr. Edgar L. Guest, who died recently, was a son of the founder, and two sons remain 

in the business.