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Ginger Beer Brewers N.S.W.  |




Grocer, Tea and Coffee Merchant

3 Hunter Street, Sydney (1850)

487 George Street, Sydney (1850-1851)


Spirit Merchant, Sydney (1850-1852)







Base Diameter





 10.65 oz

Ginger Beer Bottle

Martin Carney 2016


Thomas Field: Pottery II-III

Pottery Chronology 


Provenanced Example

Brisbane, Queensland; Also, GDL 25/11/22 Lot 55


Edwin Campbell (1828-1852) burst into the Sydney trade scene like a super nova, but in the end, he was a mere shooting star and traded for less than 15 months before bankruptcy. In his early twenties he made his way to NSW per the Glen Huntley in January 1849 from London, via Otago NZ. The Campbell family had moved from Scotland a generation prior.[i]

Campbell first advertised from Canton House, 3 Hunter Street, Sydney, in mid-January 1850, he specialised in tea at that time.[ii]By April 6th he had removed to 487 George Street, opposite the Barrack Gates and eight doors from Hunter Street. Campbell’s focus was then patent cylinder coffee but included tea and other groceries.[iii]Under the title ‘Number One, Sydney’ from May 1850, he advertised heavily all around the original NSW, including papers in Bathurst, Goulburn, Moreton Bay and Port Phillip during 1850 and early 1851. Exporting to Otago, Wellington and Port Cooper in New Zealand, he also made provisions to ship goods to Moreton Bay, NSW (now Brisbane, Queensland) before becoming bankrupt in April 1851.[iv] A second and final dividend of his estate was released in 1852. [v]

In February 1850 he was issued a Spirit Merchants licence for Sydney and again in February 1851. It was not renewed in 1852.[vi]

If his advertising is to be believed, his grocer’s business sought to embrace every fact of the trade and a feature was his patent cylinder coffee and Campbell’s mix (tea). He also vended (like most grocers) the ingredients for ginger beer: sugar, ginger and tartic acid. Campbell soon fell foul of E. (Edward) Campbell & Co, also coffee merchants, who sought to distinguish themselves from the interloper who suddenly claimed to be the premier outlet.[vii]

The address or description ‘Number One, Sydney’, appears to have been a statement for the position he sought in the coffee, tea and grocery trade. Many grocers made and or vended ginger beer, though not many sought to brand the bottles at this period. It appears that he stylised the marking of ginger beer bottle stock, ordered from Thomas Field’s pottery, in such a way that his name was rotated 45º to vertical to also represent the number one. This may have also been applied to other stock labels that have not survived. A single surviving invoice generated by the business in August 1850 is not on company stationery and does not mention ginger beer.[viii]

In the wake of his failed business and following completion of bankruptcy proceedings, Campbell left Sydney in March 1852 and ventured to Melbourne, Victoria, only to board a return ship to Sydney, the Favourite,which departed the Port Fairy ‘Belfast’ dock on May 9th 1852.[ix] The ship was sighted briefly on the return voyage but did not reach Sydney Harbour. The ship was declared lost with all hands in early August in Australia and the news was broadcast throughout the United Kingdom in December 1852. [x]

Campbell’s will is dated October 1850 and left his estate to his brother William Branch Campbell also a NSW resident – the estate was valued at under £20 in probate.[xi]

Full references available upon request.

© Martin Carney


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