This is the old Yorkshire Brewery in Collingwood

The Sketchbook has told me something I really wanted to know: what this beautiful and seemingly taken-for-granted building with its French-inspired roof was: the Yorkshire Brewery, cleverly captured in this image by Ronny Restrepo. According to Walking Melbourne, it was designed by James Wood son of Yorkeshireman Thomas Wood who founded it, and built in 1880, and was for 10 years Australia’s tallest building. Today, it’s in a state of disrepair (for a photo of it in 1974, see here). Brian McKinlay wrote:

“Brewing and Collingwood have a long association. …

Melbourne’s first brewery was opened in 1838 by a young pioneer publican named Moss at the back of the Ship Inn in Flinders Street. Earlier pioneer breweries tended to be linked wth one or several local pubs or inns, and there seem to have been almost as many small breweries in early Melbourne as there were pubs. By 1856 it was estimated that there were thirty-five breweries in Victoria and by 1871 the number had grown to 126.

Sometimes the backyard brewer was tempted to dilute his product, and he added substances in order to give the beer the correct bitter taste much prized by brewers and drinkers alike. Sometimes their search for a bittter aftertaste led brewers to introduce ingredients like Epsom salts, arsenic, or even sulphuric acid. In such cases the result was disastrous for the drinker, who paid for his pleasure in more ways than one.

Gradually Melbourne’s brewing passed into the hands of a number of larger breweries on whose product the public could rely. Several of these were located in Collingowood. A Yorkshireman, Thomas Wood, had established a chain of breweries in the area and by 1864 he had become Collingwood’s major brewer. In 1877, with his sons as partners, he established a brewery in Wellington Street which was noted for its six-storey tower complete with hydraulic lift and a groud-level stable to accommodate twenty-six brewery horses.”

And, according to Walking Melbourne:

“The former Yorkshire brewery is a stunning landmark consisting of a huge romanesque and second empire combination tower that features polychrome brickwork. Surprisingly, the Yorkshire was the tallest building in Australia for 10 years until it was superceeded by the 10 storey Finks building in 1888. The Yorkshire is currently being converted into apartments, although several speculative developers have left the site scarred, with the original stables now demolished. The Yorkshire brewery building is now heritage registered and controls are in place to preserve it.”

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33 Replies to “This is the old Yorkshire Brewery in Collingwood”

  1. I’m doing family history research from England on my great great grandfather – Thomas Graham – who set up Graham’s Brewery in E. Collingwood in 1865 and was later taken over by the Shamrock Brewing Co – same period as the Old yorkshire was established.
    Does anyone have any leads or information on either him or the brewery; it has become really hard to find any further information since the initial excitement of finding him out there!
    thanks in advance for any help
    Keith Graham

    1. Hi there Keith. I am currently researching (and have been for 20 years) and now writing the history of brewing in Victoria. I have a great deal on your grandfathers brewery and it is one of great interest to me. I am currently trying to unravel the mystery of a number of breweries in the immediate area on the Yarra River. There were at least four within a quarter of a mile of each other. I would love to exchange information with you to get an insight into the family side of things. you can contact me at andy_bails@hotmail.com.

      1. Hi Andrew,

        Have you read The Amber Drop? It was published about 20 years ago by Keith Dunstan(?) on the history of brewing in Vic.

        Best wishes.

        1. Cheers Robert – Yep, have read all current books (including the Amber Nectar) and have just had mine on the Carlton Brewery released. Am working on the next which takes in all the suburban breweries in great detail. looking for any relatives of early brewers to help with the family side of things.

  2. Anne – many thanks for the web site lead – this has all the makings of a good detective novel because I’m working from fragments of information!
    I have a letter he wrote in 1871 when he lived at Ferry Lodge, Victoria Street, East Collingwood – I wonder if the house still exists?
    I’ll let you know how things develop
    regards – Keith

  3. Hi Keith
    I spoke to the President of the Collingwood Historical Society yesterday after I had posted and she knew of the brewery. I don’t believe that that house exists, but I think I have seen it represented on a map. If you want to take this offline you can contact me at hecuba2005@hotmail.com. I can then put you in touch with the relevant people.

    Anne

  4. Anne – have tried writing using your hot mail address but it keeps being returned – should I go through the Abbotsford blog or do you have an alternative – many thanks – Keith

  5. Readers of the Abbotsford blog may be interested in this talk about the Yarra.

    Kristin Otto, author of “YARRA: a diverting history of Melbourne’s murky river” will present at talk on Friday 29 February at 2pm in the Hawthorn Library Meeting Room, 584 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn.

    Yarra is an entertaining and witty celebration of our city’s murky icon; a moving and surprising exploration of the history and meaning of the Yarra River and those who have lived and worked on it.

    Afternoon tea will be served.

    Free admission but bookings are essential.
    You can book by phone: 9278 4666 or on the website at
    http://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/library

  6. I happened top walk past the Yorkshire Brewery ruin today, 2nd May, 2008, and was surprised that I’d never noticed it before. The building is beautiful but has been trashed by squatters, grafitti vandals and ancillary buildings have been most crudely, partly demolished, and even worse, had their roofs removed. The place is a rubbish dump which serves as a council car park. It is such a shame. It has so much history and the architecture and polychrome brickwork is breathtaking.

  7. I am totally amazed by some of the comments I have been reading in regards to the "Yorkshire Brewery"

    Specifically the post by Rob Boot 22 May 2008 "The place is a rubbish dump which serves as a council car park." If it is heritage listed why is the council allowing this to happen???? Especially when the Heritage data base states that this is the ONLY substantial intact example remaining of the 19th century brewing and is expressive of the first generation of industrial development in the Collingwood area. The previous developers were taken to court and fined for removing the roof of the stables, big deal, if as Rob Boot says the council is not doing much better. I ask what is the use of Heritage Listing??? I also read that the site had been re-developed and 150 apartments had been built in the old tower. I will be visiting myself in Jan 09 as there are so many conflicting stories. I might add that I have a personal interest as my Great, Great, Grandfather John Wood established the Brewery and my Great Uncle James Wood designed the brewery and Tower. He was an Engineer and Architecht and also designed St Augustines Congregational Church, if any one has any info on the church please advise.

    1. Hello Diane my name is Leanne (nee Wood ) and I am a descendant of David Wood, older brother to John Wood-brewer .I live in Melbourne and have always been aware of our Collingwood connections. I had no idea that the family was so large. David Wood was born 1820 in Yorkshire and came to Australia about 1853 and was a publican in Collingwood with his wife Ellen. My grandfather George Wood born 1902, and my mother remembers he was still driving a cart for a brewery about 1960. I have traced the family back to Upper Cumberworth Yorkshire . you should check out "eastcourt" 54 Powlett St. East Melbourne.-home of James Wood

      1. I too am decended from David Wood of Cumberworth Yks. David ran the Shepherds Arms in Smith Street Collingwood so the brothers had the beer business in Collingwood/Fitzroy tied up. Happy to share family info and would love a pic of David and Ellen. hmdarwin@vic.chariot.net.au
        Heather

      2. So Leanne, are you a descendant of Frederick, Mary Ann, Hannah, Emily, Mary, Mark, James, Ellen, William or Charles ???. I am John Wood, 2nd great grand nephew to David Wood (1820-1885). You can email me at ftree@snappyjohn.com

  8. John wood set up the yorkshire brewery John wood & sons. His son James designed it. I have a complete history of the brewery if anyone wants. Hey Diane we must b cousins as John was my grt grt grandfather. My dad is John Hilton wood

    1. Hi there, as I said in an earlier blog I'm researching breweries in Melbourne. My book on the Carlton Brewery has just been released (it contains a small amount on the Yorkshire, which will be covered in more detail in my next book.) I am working on this at present and would love any family input. I already have a great deal of information which I am happy to exchange

    2. Hello Alice

      I would like a copy of the brewery history.

      My lineage from
      John Wood (1826 – 1878)
      his first born Albert Edward Wood (184 6 – 1912)
      Albert's fitth born Arthur Hilton Wood (1878 – 1953) came to Perth WA chief brewer Swan Brewery
      Arthur's third born Edward Hilton Wood (1913 -1963) my father
      I was born in 1953 and live in Perth

      Thank you

      regards

      Anthony (Tony) Wood

      1. Wow anthony I am a descendant of frank wood who had a son John Hilton wood who had my father John hiltonwood. I was born 1970. We heard of wa family and the swan brewery but u r my first contact! I will email u what I have. What is your email? Mine is alice@tooheaven.com

        1. Hello Alice

          I am sorry that I have not replied earlier.

          After my post in October 2010 I would check your blog every month or so until my lap top malfunctioned and I lost a bit of data and references.

          I have now rediscovered your blog and found your post of August 2012. Look forward to reading what you have.

          Thank you.

          regards

          Anthony Wood

      2. Anthony – I have just some of your info above to my tree. If you would be interested in doing a data sych (!!!), you can email me at ftree@snappyjohn.com (I am John Wood, 2nd great grandson to John Wood (1826-1878)).

    3. Hi Alice
      You must also be a cousin of mine as great great grandfather was
      John Wood (1826-1878),
      Frank Wood (1859 – 1919)
      Frank Wood (1898 – 1976)
      Chistopher Wood (1933-1996)
      Me – David Wood b 1965

      I live in the area and would love a copy of the history of Yorkshire brewery. I also have a photo of a portrait of John Wood and photo of a portrait of possibly Elizabeth Hilton (John Wood's wife) or Elizabeth's mother?? info@seakayakaustralia.com

      David

      1. Hi David,

        My name is Stewart Hunter and I have just read your blog relating to the Yorkshire Brewery. My gr gr grandparents were John Wood and Elizabeth Hilton. I have been researching for many years and have a great deal of information on the Wood family history. As far as memorabilia goes, we have the prize winning tray with ‘awarded to Wood and sons’ for fine spirits, plus heaps of newspaper articles, brewery ale labels, letters, documents and photos (including a photo of their home ‘HiltonWood’) . I would be happy to share our family information. You mentioned in your blog a portrait you have of John and possibly Elizabeth?? I would dearly love a copy if possible! Also, did you get your hands on the copy of the history of the Yorkshire Brewery??

        Look forward to your reply!

        Stewart and Margaret Hunter

        marst81@hotmail.com

    4. Hi Alice
      My great great grandfather was John Wood – great grandfather James Wood , grandfather Percival Wood and Percival Norman Wood(1919-2002) was my father. Would love to get the history of the brewery. I live in Toowoomba Qld.

  9. hello Alice, I am a relation of yours who is very interested in the Yorkshire Brewery. Could you please send me the history of the brewery. I am the Great great grand daughter of John Woods brother David Wood born 1820 at Upper Cumberworth and have been collecting as much info as possible.
    thanks
    Leanne.

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