Part Four of a 4-part series
Originally the Maltings at Mittagong obtained water from Nattai Creek, which runs through the property, by means of a small dam, but this proved uncertain.
The creek was superseded by the use of specially filtered water from the Mittagong town supply.
Prodigious amounts of water were required as the steeping process needed three changes. By the 1940s the average water consumption was 94,000 gallons per week.
Arthur W Tooth, one of the early Company directors, had played a leading part in inaugurating the municipal water supply that commenced in 1909 and subsequently a larger municipal reservoir was completed in 1930.
The issue of water supply and the requirements of the Maltings regarding quantity, quality and regularity of supply dominated the relationship between the company and the local town and shire councils for decades.
From 1919 the Maltings supplemented town water with an artesian bore drilled close to the creek and in the 1940s used professional water diviners. Nattai Creek ceased as a supply but took most of the site's stormwater and remained valuable for fire fighting purposes.
Without it, the fire of August 1942 would have been even more disastrous. The first of three major fires, this was in Malthouse 2 and it burnt for over 24 hours and also damaged some of the facilities shared with Malthouse 1.
The malting process had to be halted for more than a year in number one and for a decade in number two as wartime shortages and restrictions made rebuilding impossible. However Malthouse 3 as an autonomous unit remained in continuous production.
Malthouse 1 was returned to service by constructing a temporary shell of timber and fibro inside the original brick walls, and fuller repairs were made during the ensuing years. Malthouse 2 was completely rebuilt and recommenced active operation in 1953.
The impact of fire and mechanisation saw the size of the labour force slowly drop, so that by 1950 there were about 22 employees.
Between 1938 and 1953 the managerial and head maltstering roles were split between John Kennedy as manager and G C (Clarrie) Jones head maltster. Clarrie had joined the company in 1916 and, upon his appointment, took up residence in the company cottage that had been home to his elder brother and late father, while Kennedy resided at The Gib.
From 1953 to 1974 Clarrie was in sole charge until supervisory control shifted to Tooth & Co's head maltster in Sydney and yet another member of the Jones family, Clarrie's younger brother Ernest, then became local manager.
Until 1969 the three malthouses were in continuous production and this period saw significant technological improvement with the introduction of an oil-fired kiln, bulk handling systems and greater mechanisation.
In December 1969 a second fire caused major damage to Malthouse 1 and, as it was decided not to rebuild, its interior was dismantled. Production continued in Malthouses 2 and 3 until early 1980 when a third major fire caused significant damage to the tower section of Malthouse 3.
The capacity of the Maltings had been severely curtailed and Tooth & Co faced a major and costly repair job. In view of the high running costs and the ability to readily secure supplies from contract maltsters, Tooth & Co decided to close down and sell off the entire complex.
A major clearance sale was held on site in November 1981 at which were offered many pieces of equipment and materials including shovels and augers, diesel engines, pumps and office equipment. Some pieces were taken by Tooth & Co for its museum at Kent Brewery and were later donated to the Powerhouse Museum.
In 1981 the site was sold to a consortium of local businessmen who drew up plans to develop Malthouses 1 and 2 as cultural centre, theatre, gallery and craft workshops, Malthouse 3 as a hotel, restaurant, conference venue and museum, and the company cottage as a gymnasium. These proposals were approved in principle by Council but financial and other problems arose and the project was abandoned.
A comprehensive survey of the Maltings site, commissioned by Wingecarribee Shire Council and undertaken in 1989 in association with Dr D K Mead, Consultant Industrial Archaeologist, concluded that the Maltings was a place of important heritage significance with strong community association and it supported a sensitive heritage development.
Despite several changes of ownership, 24 years further on the now derelict site is almost beyond redemption, given the high cost of even modest restoration.
Yet it possesses a rich heritage and retains an essential spirit and style.
This article compiled by PHILIP MORTON is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong. Phone 4872 2169. Email email@example.com or web: berrimadistricthistoricalsociety.org.au