This Victorian postcard is an example of the 1876-81 1d “Bell” Post Cards, a variant of the initial issue which had a fine outer frame-line of the ornamental border, for the outer frame-line is thick. It was issued in mid-1878 and this example was postmarked with the duplex MELBOURNE/ 11Y/ SE 27/ 81 and was addressed in bold print to Mr.T. Aitken, Victoria Parade Brewery, East Melbourne (Figure 1).

The reverse was interesting in that it came from the Australasian Wool Stores, Collins Street West, Melbourne, Sept 27 1881, presumably on behalf of The Australasian Mortgage & Agency Company Limited (Late Hastings Cunningham and Company Limited) with a part-printed, part-manuscript message: Will offer for Sale by Public Auction, at their Stores as above, on Wednesday next, the 28th inst., at 11.30 o’clock, WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS,[Maize added in mss.] &c. (Figure 2).

Thomas Aitken (recorded as Aiken in the Scottish records) was founder of the Victoria Parade Brewery, and he was born in March 1822 at Blantyre, Lannark, Scotland to Archibald Aiken, a baker, and Elizabeth née Twaddle. Thomas and his sister Jean left England in October 1841 on the Manlius, bound for Melbourne, arriving in mid-February 1842. He married Mary Magee from Belfast at Geelong in 1843 and his occupation was listed as a baker. His parents and siblings joined him in a few years. Thomas took over the Market Square Hotel in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, renamed it Rob Roy and became the owner of several more hotels.

In 1851 he worked at the Corio Brewery, then the Union Brewery until 1854 when he founded the Victoria Parade Brewery, near Powlett Street, East Melbourne. His wife Mary died in 1858 leaving him with 3 children and he married Thirza Leach of Somerset, England, who bore him 12 children over the next 26 years. Aitken died in January 1884 and left the Brewery jointly to Archibald (eldest son of first marriage) and Thomas (eldest son of second marriage) and the partnership lasted until 1885, the business passing to Archibald’s brother-in-law, Alfred Nation and the latter’s father, James. In 1905 the Brewery and several associated properties were sold into the hands of Carlton Brewery.

Thomas senior in spite of his wealth (18 hotels, several other properties and the family home The Elm Grove) was less important than the much more celebrated Auguste Joseph François De Bavay, brewer, chemist, bacteriologist and metallurgist who was born on 9 June 1856 at Vilvoorde, Belgium, and whose family can be traced back to at least 1193. He graduated as a surveyor, worked as a brewer and chemist, establishing links with Louis Pasteur and others active in research in France and Belgium. He became a plantation manager in Ceylon and in March 1884 he arrived in Melbourne to take up the position of brewer with T.(homas) & A.(rchibald) Aitken’s Victoria Parade brewery and distillery at a salary of £6 plus a commission of 1 shilling for every hogshead of good beer. De Bavay soon became the Australian expert on yeasts and in 1889 he succeeded in producing a ‘peculiarly Australian beer’, establishing Melbourne at the forefront of beer brewing technology.

In 1900 De Bavay signed a long-term contract with Fosters, but also acted as consultant for the Swan brewery in Western Australia, the Cascade brewery in Tasmania and after 1907 with Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne.

This short summary of his brewing activities does not do De Bavay justice and the two-page entry in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography is recommended to anyone interested in this multifaceted man. He was naturalized in 1902, appointed an O.B.E. in 1918, and he died in his Kew, Melbourne home on 16 November 1944.

Categories: Business, Postcards, Science