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Ginger Beer Brewers N.S.W.  |




Confectioner, Pastry Cook, etc.

8 George Street, Sydney 1825-1829

2 York Street, Sydney 1829-1830

Underwood’s Buildings, George Street, Sydney 1832-33

William Place, Sydney 1833-1835

George Street, Parramatta 1835-1843

Publican’s Licences

Australian Hotel, George Street, Sydney 1830-31

St Andrews Coffee House, George Street, Sydney 1831-32









Base Diameter




Ginger Beer Bottle Fragment

Photo from private collection (2017)


Jonathon Leak: Pottery I: 1822-1831

Pottery Chronology





Stephen Bax (c.1774-1843) a cook and confectioner of Kent, England was sentenced to life transportation at Chelmsford, in 1812, and arrived in Sydney NSW per the Fortune (II) in June 1813. The description of his complexion is variously given as ‘Blk,’ dark or ruddy. In August 1810, a Stephen Bax described as a baker of Ramsgate, Kent, had his estate assigned for the benefit of his creditors in August 1810.[i]Bax’s wife and four children followed him to Australia on the Kangaroo in 1814.[ii]

By 1822, Bax, with his ticket of leave was able to trade as a baker. Bax received a conditional pardon in November 1825 allowing him to remain in the district of Sydney and set up business shortly thereafter as a cook and confectioner.[iii]His address was given as 8 George Street during 1826- 1829 opposite the Chamber of Commerce. [iv]Bax advertised that he had moved to this new address in September 1826, his earlier premises is not known.[v]Bax advertised this address up to August 12th, 1829 though had removed to 2 York Street, near the south Barrack gate, prior to December 1829. [vi]Bax briefly operated in York Street late 1829 and early 1830.[vii]

Bax received a conditional pardon in 1829 and from April 1830 until December 1831 acted as licensee of the Australian Hotel, George Street. He left the Australian Hotel in December 1831 and took over the licence for the St. Andrews Coffee House at the same time. The license being formally granted in January 1832. [viii] The coffee house business was not successful and a sheriff’s sale was held on the premises in June 1832 to recover debt from Bax.[ix]During this period, Bax also provisioned the steamer Sophia Jane on her maiden voyage in Sydney in June 1831.[x]In November 1832, all of Bax’s household possessions were auctioned at his residence at the top of Barrack Lane, on Clarence street.[xi]

It is the author’s thesis that during the years c.1825-1831, Bax ordered ginger beer bottles from Jonathan Leak’s pottery to be used in conjunction with his confectioners shops or licenced houses in Sydney, and that these bottles were then vended with contents to Tasmanian suppliers or re-sold as imports to Tasmania after one of Bax’s failed enterprises. The dates given are based on Bax’s dates of operation and stylistic data associated with the sample recorded.[xii] Although Bax did not advertise ginger beer, many of his fellow confectioners and trading partners did and some ordered bottle stock from Leak (e.g. Webster q.v., who operated in both Sydney and Hobart). Ginger beer was a common product of confectioners and hoteliers and, by 1838, licenses were issued for confectioners to vend ginger beer.

In the mid 1820s, its was reported that the ginger beer trade was booming in Hobart (similarly in Sydney and London), and one author lamented that the many dozens of bottles imported from Sydney could not be locally made. Another observed that ginger-beer was viewed as a cure-all. At the same time confectioners shop’s multiplied in Hobart centred around the Wellington Bridge which several commentators indicated had become a place to seen. Some of these confectioners and ginger beer vendors, like the Moses brothers (John, Jacob, Abraham and Moses), the Websters and Wises had trade links, if not stores, at various times in both Sydney and Hobart. Bax is known to have had dealings with some of these familes and his son, a seaman, also named Stephen Bax, was a regular visitor to Hobart.[xiii]

Not only were bottles imported to Tasmania from Sydney for local manufacturers but the finished product, was vended, if not manufacturered at all manner of stores and hotels. In 1826 similar regulations were enacted in Hobart to those enacted the same years in NSW, while the previous laws were unclear (and Tasmania was a part of NSW until 1825) the new twin laws prevented the sale of ginger beer in less than 5 gallons without a license. This did not really affect publicans who had licences to vend stronger drinks, but the ginger beer brewer was harder hit and paid the same licence as a publican for a cheaper and less intoxicating beverage than even small beer (usually). [xiv]

After the failure of the hotel ventures, the directory of 1833 (prepared in 1832) shows that Bax was again a confectioner operating in Underwoods Buildings in Sydney. He advertised in August 1833 that he had returned to the trade by taking over the Business of Mr Moses, in William Place, George Street opposite the Colonial Treasury building.[xv]Bax and Moses were involved in legal proceeding in 1834 in which Bax was successful.[xvi]In early 1834 Mrs Bax gave an address as Adelaide Place, off George Street, perhaps their home.[xvii]

Between late 1835 and 1838, Bax and his wife operated a confectioners shop in George Street, Parramatta. Bax removed from his initial premises in 1838, to larger premises next door. Mary Bax died in 1840 and Stephen Bax in 1843, having received a full pardon in 1841.[xviii]

Full references available upon request.

© Martin Carney


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