by Cathy Jones
The Bakehouse Quarter in George Street Homebush is the redevelopment of the former Arnott’s Biscuit Factory. This factory was relocated to Huntingwood in 1997.
The Bakehouse Quarter incorporates a range of businesses such as Arnotts and NRMA Head Offices, shops and cafes. It has successfully readapted many historic buildings of the former Arnott’s Biscuit Factory, preserving icons such as the prominent SAO neon sign.
Arnott’s Biscuits and the Arnott family are important in the history of Strathfield. Many members of the Arnott’s family lived in Strathfield including its founder William Arnott and his sons and grandsons, who managed the business after his death in 1901.
Arnott’s Biscuits were originally established in Newcastle but the first Sydney factory at Forest Lodge was opened in 1894. In 1905, the Arnott family wanting to expand, decided that a larger factory was required. Requiring access to the railway for transportation, the Arnott’s purchased a six and half acre site at Homebush in 1906. The purchase was known as ‘Arnott’s Folly’ as the site was considered too far from the City to attract workers. However, the Homebush factory which opened in 1908 was eventually the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and exported biscuits from Homebush to the rest of the world.
The architect Charles Slatyer was engaged to design the new factories in 1906. Slatyer, one-time President of the NSW Institute of Architects was also a resident of Strathfield until his death in 1919. He designed many private residences in Strathfield but also designed commercial buildings such as the Art Nouveau remodelling of the YMCA in Pitt Street Sydney. Slatyer’s Arnott’s factory designs have been described as Edwardian factory buildings at their best, incorporating fine brickwork detailing.
Though the Arnott’s factory has left Homebush, the Bakehouse Quarter provides many references to its Arnotts history ranging from the SAO sign to small Arnott’s Parrot emblems woven into building facades. George St has been recast with a cobblestone road and Edwardian style-lighting harking back to the days in the early twentieth century when the Arnott factory was first built.
© Cathy Jones 2005. This article is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the author.