THAT the Mittagong Maltings was a 'British-style' plant was directly reflected in the layout and form of the buildings.
These attracted considerable aesthetic interest because, to quote from the Conservation Report of 1989 'their strong functionalism was softened through Federation-style detailing that imparted an almost domestic feel with gabled and decorated rooflines, polychrome brickwork and varied window forms'.
Even the willows along the banks of the creek and other exotic trees in the grounds added to the look of the malthouse traditions of the 'mother country'.
Tooth & Co was well aware of these aesthetic qualities. In 1928 the company removed a number of unsightly shacks on land it acquired on the western side of the railway so as to improve 'the general appearance' of the Maltings from the highway. The overriding concern was not to detract from 'the dignity of the malthouse buildings'.
The Maltings were Tooth & Co's main malt supplier until 1980, with the early 1940s being the most active period when output approximated 200,000 bushells of malt annually.
THE process, basically, was that trains arrived with sacks of barley at the private platform and were unloaded by men who trolleyed the sacks to elevators that weighed each bag and took it to the barley floor. When the barley was required to be malted it was taken to the second floor, mechanically graded and dirt and deleterious matter taken out.
The graded barley was taken to steeps, large circular tanks equipped with four revolving sprinkler arms, where it was sprayed evenly and soaked for about 48 hours. After the water was drained off and the barley let down to the germinating floor, it remained some seven days and was turned on the floor every morning and evening by means of a wooden shovel and a 'plough', a long wooden implement pushed through the barley to create a regular furrow and throwing the bottom layers up to the top. The barley then went to the kiln floor where it was gradually heated to 190 degrees (F) for three days and regularly forked over. It then passed down by chute to the malt room where it rested for 14 days. The malted barley was then stored in silos ready for a final clean before being bagged for delivery.
Many variables, including air, water and temperature, potentially affected the quality of the malt and, devoid of modern technology and quality controls introduced at newer sites, the process relied heavily upon the highly specialised and traditional, unique skills of the head maltster. The Maltings were fortunate in that regard to have the Jones family.
New Zealand-born William Henry Jones (centre in photo) came to Sydney with his wife Alice in 1895. He joined the Malting Company in 1901 and was appointed manager-head maltster in 1905 when Tooth & Co took over. He worked hard to improve conditions and amenities until his death in harness in 1928.
He left a widow and eight children, several of whom succeeded him as head maltster. His eldest son, Arthur, had joined the company in 1913 and taken over as assistant maltster in 1916 from an older brother, Harold, who was killed in action in World War I. Arthur left 10 years later to become head maltster at Kent Brewery in Sydney.
DURING the early 1920s the workforce numbered up to 40 men, with temporary hands taken on from time to time. The Maltings was largely an all-male domain. The work was strenuous and the environment noisy and often dusty from the handling of barley, malt and coke. There was a danger of industrial accidents, although the record was apparently very good.
The pay was not higher than that earned in more salubrious workplaces and turnover was high. Despite this, there were a number of long-serving employees, explained partly by loyalty to the company, Tooth & Co's early policy of not putting off old hands, and the specialised nature of the process. The 1920s saw the beginnings of modern mechanisation with various technologies, such as overhead carrying barrows, introduced. Until then, manual labour was used to heap up the 'green malt' as described: 'The grain is carried to the heap on light wooden barrows with four handles. There is one man at each end of the barrow and a third man filling a second barrow while the other barrow is being carried up. Each barrow holds a little over a hundred weight of grain and the average distance the barrow would have to be carried is about 45 feet'.
This article compiled by PHILIP MORTON is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong. Phone 4872 2169