Faces of Tamworth: baker, brewer, businessman Charles Jeffries Britten

An unofficial “live” pigeon shoot at “Woodhouse” in about 1914. C. J. Britten is standing sixth from the right in the back row, just to the right of the verandah post. Photo: Tamworth Historical Society
An unofficial “live” pigeon shoot at “Woodhouse” in about 1914. C. J. Britten is standing sixth from the right in the back row, just to the right of the verandah post. Photo: Tamworth Historical Society

AS one of the city’s pioneering businessman, Charles Jeffries Britten came to Tamworth as a 19-year-old flour maker from England.

He had begun his apprenticeship in Herefordshire, had run away from home in the middle of it and had then returned to complete it.

He first came to NSW in 1872-73 to be the chief miller for Lewis Bros.

During 1876, while Britten was flour maker for the Phoenix Flour Mill, it received first prize for its flour at four different exhibitions: Sydney, Philadelphia, Melbourne and Paris.

The flour for the Paris exhibition had been ground from wheat grown by J. J. Cadell of Dungowan Station.

During October 1877, Charles J. Britten returned to England, where he married Annie Hughes of Worcestershire, a neighbouring county to Heredfordshire.

On their return to Tamworth, it is thought that they lived in the house that still stands at 97 Carthage Street, on the southern corner of Carthage and Brisbane streets.

On February 21, 1879, Lewis Bros decided to concentrate on their store business and sold the flour mill to C. J. Britten.

He went into partnership with Albert S. Bolton, a former Goonoo Goonoo overseer at Wallamore, and the two traded as “Britten & Bolton”.

Many stories have been told about Britten and Bolton’s ownership of the flour mill.

It is said that C. J. Britten was a very powerfully-built man and was reputed to have weighed “25 stone” or 155 kilograms.

The story is told that he was able to walk up a flight of steps carrying a 109 kilogram bag of wheat under each arm.

Another story has it that one day, the water level in the boiler was allowed to sink too low and the boiler burst.

Some of the flying pieces of metal landed in the yard of the Tamworth Hotel at the western corner of Peel and White streets.

A disused boiler from the A. A. Company’s old washpool near Dungowan was used to replace the one which had burst.

The most intriguing story relates how, in the course of a cricket match at “The Oval” (now Bicentennial Park), someone hit a mighty “six” which landed, unnoticed, in a bag of flour that was being filled.

Several months later, a surprised South African storekeeper found a cricket ball in an imported bag of Australian flour!

The Britten & Bolton partnership at the Phoenix Flour Mill was dissolved during 1884 when C. J. Britten decided to turn his hand to brewing.

After completing his flour milling contract, Charles J. Britten purchased the Royal Standard Brewery at the corner of Peel and Dean streets.

It had previously been owned by J. S. Oddy who had gone into insolvency.

On June 17, 1885, the local press announced the Royal Standard Brewery, which would include the manufacture of cordials, was “now in full work”.

C. J. Britten proceeded to some necessary major improvements at the brewery and in the meantime, involved himself in Philbert Besson’s farm machinery firm.

Britten employed as his brewer, a man named William Charles “Fred” Jahns who lived in Marius Street “behind the brewery”.

It appears that Jahns, a German who weighed 20 stone or 127 kilograms, had previously been employed in a similar capacity by T. S. Oddy.

Some eight years later, in 1893, Jahns either retired or was replaced as Britten’s brewer .

The next brewer was L. C. Daniell. It was he who was able to make good quality vinegar from a liquid which had previously been poured away as waste in the brewing process.

By 1889, Charles J. Britten and his wife had occupied “Avondale”, a large house which they had built overlooking the new park.

Although much altered, the home still stands as two separate dwellings at 66 and 66A Napier Street, opposite the Tamworth Bowling Club.

This home, and others built for the Britten family, contained all that money and workmanship could provide - rich red carpet, cedar fittings, marble mantelpieces and period furniture.

“Avondale” even boasted a copper hot water heater.

Before long, the general public was referring to the block opposite “Avondale” as “Britten Park”.

This was not at all inappropriate as it appears that at one stage, the Council had given C. J. Britten a temporary grazing lease on the block.

C. J. Britten died of a blood clot on March 22, 1919 at the age of 66.

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