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The Gartside Family

James Gartside was born on April 8, 1838 and was the last recorded child of Jonathan and Ann Gartside of Oldham, United Kingdom. The family was involved in the cotton industry and it would be imagined that James would have had training in this field. However, there is no mention anywhere, (in particular the 1861 Voter's List) of his occupation.

James arrived in Melbourne aboard the Great Britain which left Liverpool on January 22, 1863, arriving in Australia 90 days later. He was 25 years of age at this time. The lure of easy wealth and the success of an uncle in the gold industry must have convinced him to travel to Australia. James spent some time in Bendigo with his relations before leaving for Melbourne to follow his own interests. He joined John Bundle & Son before transferring to Cliff & Bunting, Agricultural Engineers, where he worked for many years as a specialist in chaff cutters.

James, at the age of 32 years, married Georgiana Elizabeth Edgley at her father's residence in Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) on March 2, 1871. They produced a family of twelve children as follows:

Ann Alfreda - born 1872 (died in infancy)
Alfred James - born 1874
Alma Florence - born 1875
Gerald Spencer - born 1877
Elsie Melita - born 1879
Georgiana Isobel - born 1881
Henry Jonathon - born 1884
William Albert - born 1885
Charles Percival - born 1887
Ada - born 1889 (died in infancy)
Hilda May - born 1891

Click on thumbnail image to link to larger image

Charles, Jack, Alf and Bill Gartside in their International Harvester Car outside Christ Church, Dingley. Photograph courtesy of Kath Kent.

The property the family leased from 1902 to 1914 for use as a market garden was owned by Christ Church, Dingley and was situated on the intersection of Old Dandenong Road and Tootals Road. The produce from the garden was taken to the Victoria Market by horse and cart and horse manure was brought back on the return trip. It was accepted that a load of horse manure was required to produce each load of vegetables produced in the bayside sand belt region. Steel rails were laid along the side of the road to enable the carts to negotiate more comfortably the unmade road to Cheltenham. Research with Sands & McDougall Directories has shown that in 1911 James Gartside was living at Tootals Road, Heatherton and the Gartside Brothers were living in Old Dandenong Road, Heatherton. It is possible that both would be living on the church property which is classified as Dingley today. By late 1914 the lease on the property was due to expire so the boys looked into the possibility of preserving vegetables as a business. They experimented by making tomato sauce in an old copper outside the back of the house (since demolished). The male members of the Gartside family decided that they would set up a business making pickles and so Charles and William exchanged land which they owned near the "Five-Ways" (junction of Springvale, Centre Dandenong and Lower Dandenong Roads) with land owned by Charlie Griffith and which was situated near the land owned by their other brothers in the centre of Dingley. A partnership was formally registered in 1916 and operations commenced on the site owned by Charles Gartside as it had an excellent natural water supply.

Gartside Bros. Pty Ltd was a particularly large employer of labour in the Dingley area, especially in the canning season, when about 50 people had jobs. Charles Gartside had gone to America in 1928 to look at canning methods there, but was only able to import a small amount of machinery. However, he had picked up a number of ideas which his brothers were busy putting into operation. A huge boiler, fired by oil, provided steam for cooking the vegetables and the plant was driven by electricity. The factory produced canned carrots, parsnips, beetroot, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, peas, cauliflowers, spinach, beans, celery, onions, mushroom, sweet corn and asparagus. The brothers grew some of these vegetables in Dingley as well as cultivating mushrooms in moist tunnels underground, claiming to be the only mushroom canners in the world. Allegedly, during the thirties, Gartside Bros. Pty. Ltd. Along with Edgells in Bathurst were the only 'straight' vegetable canners in Australia.

Most of the work involved the preparation of the vegetables - tipping and tailing beans, podding peas, taking the eyes out of potatoes (which were machine peeled). At times bags of beans were run around to homes in Dingley and the prepared vegetables collected later in the day. As time went by, up-to-date and more efficient machinery was introduced and produce came from as far away as Colac area and Koo-wee-rup.

The factory reached its peak in production during the war years as the government required more and more supplies for their armed forces overseas.

By the 1970's all the original members of the firm had died and the factory ceased operation to make way for the housing boom which was taking place in Dingley at that time.

The business of vegetable canning was a seasonal affair and generally the last of the asparagus and pea crop was safely sealed in cans and warehoused ready for labelling by Christmas or, at the latest, New Year's Day. The next production of sweet corn did not start until late February so that it became a family tradition, after 'the hectic season', to take holidays. These were often taken together and one of the places chosen to set up camp for fishing purposes was Flinders.

Conveniently, next door to the camp site at Flinders was, and still remains, a respectable golf course. Being sports-minded it was inevitable that the 'golf bug should bite'. Very soon Jack (Henry Jonathon) Gartside and his wife Nell, along with brothers Gerald and Alf joined a club in Dandenong. This course was built on wet and heavy soil producing a good growth of onion grass. When a wet season was experienced the game became even more hazardous and difficult.

These circumstances were the basic reasons that the Gartside family, who owned many acres around the canning site situated in Dingley, persuaded the golf club members to transfer the golf club to Dingley. Kingswood Golf Club was subsequently transferred and the course constructed on land made available, on a long term lease with the right to purchase at the expiration of 25 years.

Members of the Gartside family were instrumental, with others, in the formation of Dingley State School, Dingley Tennis Club and in later years, the Dingley Reserve and were always community conscious. Charles Gartside became Shire President of the Dandenong Shire and Minister of Health in the Victorian Parliament.


Douglas N Gartside

Article Cat. People
Article Ref. 80

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