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MESSRS ROWLANDS & LEWIS, SODA WATER MANUFACTURERS, BALLARAT

This unusually addressed entire with the two Victoria ‘Half Lengths’, the 1d rose (S.G. 28a) and the 3d prussian blue (S.G. 30), postmarked by the barred numeral ‘98' of Malmsbury, was sent in November 1856 to the above firm in Sturt Street, Ballarat, (the reverse with Malmsbury, Melbourne and Ballarat postmarks are not shown), is seen in Figure 1.

Two Ballarat miners, Evan Rolands and Robert Lewis started to manufacture mineral and aerated waters, bitters, cordials and liquers in 1854, in a tent on the shores of Lake Wendouree at Ballarat. Another 13 firms at that time employed manual operations, whereas they introduced a Taylors No. 1 machine that speeded up the process, and laid the foundation for a fortune. Evan Rowlands was a pioneer in the aerated water trade in Australia. He was born on August 2, 1826, in North Wales. In 1852, during the gold rush, he emigrated to Melbourne, and in 1854 he went to Ballarat and formed a partnership with Robert Lewis, the firm being called ‘‘Rowlands & Lewis’’.

Their next step was to secure a supply of pure water. They felt that this was indispensable for the production of a superior article. They had read a great deal about the history of Mineral Waters and believed that natural spring water existed in Victoria. With the aid of experts they at last found a natural spring at Warrenheip, the analysis of which proved that the spring contained valuable medicinal ingredients, and in addition it was free of any organic matter. From the outset, the beverages made from this water gained repute, and were in great demand by invalids and others. Their business prospered so well that in 1858 they were able to build a commodious factory at the corner of Sturt and Dawson Streets, Ballarat and to fit it with the most improved machinery then in use at a cost of £1000.

By 1870 their business had increased so much and demand had grown to such an extent that Mr. Rowlands erected another factory, covering over an acre of ground at the corner of Dana and Doveton Streets, costing £13,000. The factory was fitted up with the most modern improvements in the cordial and aerated water trade. In 1873 Rowlands established an agency at 116 Collins St, Melbourne, because the demand for the products of the Melbourne factory became so large.

Success followed this enterprise and Rowlands went to Sydney where he laid the foundations of a prosperous trade. The firm did well and resulted in his building a large factory at a cost of £15,000, at the corner of Burns and Little Hay Streets, Darling Harbour. In the preparation of the commodities sold by Rowlands the most important factor was the purity of the water. With the hope of finding a natural spring, he spent much time with experts analyzing springs.

Eventually a very fine spring of water was discovered at Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, and the site was leased from the government. The water was brought to Sydney by rail. In the meantime the Melbourne concern had progressed rapidly and in 1888 a magnificent factory embodying all the latest ideas was built in King Street and the business moved their from Collins Street. Rowlands competed at the exhibitions at London, Paris, Philadelphia, and the Indian and Colonial Exposition, and carried off gold medals. It is impossible to consider the rapid and unparalleled growth of the cordial trade without Rowlands, who was one of its top promoters.

Robert Lewis was a fellow Welshman born in 1816, and he arrived in Port Phillip in 1853 and became a partner but with lesser and shorter involvement in the firm, from which he retired in 1876. He was perhaps better known as Ballarat’s first mayor and a Member of the Legislative Assembly. He was a strong supporter of local charities, president/treasurer of the Eisteddfod committee, a major force in the development of the Ballarat Hospital, and he was the mayor of Ballarat five times, the first in 1863, (having been a councillor as early as 1859) and for the last time in 1881. Lewis died in 1884 of a stroke in Ballarat, and he is pictured in Figure 2.

Rowlands continued in the firm and invented and patented an improved soda water bottle. The water used in Rowlands products was filtered four times but his attempts to use local corks failed on quality grounds. He was a stickler for quality, which was so good that many outside Victoria paid the 'premium' imposed by inter-colonial customs duty payable at that time. By the 1890s, Rowlands had factories in Ballarat, Melbourne, Sydney, and Newcastle. He died in 1894 but his company continued until well after the Second World War, when it was sold to Schweppes.

Examples of labels used by Rowlands on his bottles are shown in Figure 3.

A picture of the firm’s premises in Ballarat is shown in Figure 4.


 
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