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Ginger Beer Brewers N.S.W.  |




Ginger Beer Brewery

Pitt St., Sydney (c1821-1834)

Dealer & Ginger Beer Brewery

Pitt St., Sydney (c1835-1836)











Ginger Beer Bottle

Courtesy M. Carney.


Jonathan Leak Pottery II

Pottery Chronology 

Emancipist II

Provenanced Example

Unknown: Private collection

Archaeological site: PWP06


Arriving per the Eliza in 1820, Stedman, from Shropshire, England, had been convicted and sentenced to seven years transportation in August 1819. He was briefly detained on the hulk Justitia in 1819, prior to transportation. His former occupation as a butler provided immediate opportunities in N.S.W. [i]

A full pardon was issued for Stedman, in 1821.[ii]He sought a grant of land in 1822 claiming that Governor Macquarie had so promised.[iii] Stedman was trading in an unspecified business at the time. Stedman was assigned convicts at a Pitt Street address in February 1822.[iv] Stedman was provisionally granted lot 15, section 37 Pitt Street (then No.91, later No.17), on the west side, next to the tank stream, near King Street, in 1825. Although he appears to have occupied the property continuously, the grant was still not finalised at the time of his death.[v]

The first record of his ginger beer brewery is found in an advertisement of September 1825, however as a butler, the brewing of small and ginger beer were likely part of his ‘tools of trade’ and he may have begun as early as 1821 or 1822.[vi] Stedman’s advertisement provided a list of prices for pint and quart bottles of ginger beer. Physical evidence suggests that Stedman sought the services of the potter Jonathon Leak to fill his early orders for bottle stock, and these are marked in several styles “T. S’’. In later years, when Stedman used the Moreton pottery, these bottles were marked ‘T. STEDMAN’, however only pint and half pints bottles have been identified.[vii]Stedman was an associate of Leak’s and in 1832 witnessed title transaction documents for him.[viii]

An incident in 1828, with one Mr Lemon, a customer, highlights a facet of ginger beer vending at the time: Lemon was served at a counter and bottles of ginger beer were uncorked for his consumption, until Stedman determined sufficient of the slightly alcoholic beverage was consumed. This brought about a dispute and blows were exchanged.[ix]  Thus the brewery and shop operated also as a refreshment bar or type of inn.

Records show that Stedman was assigned convict servants as early as 1822. Several, including Thomas Forster, James Howard, and George and Eleanor Williamson became ginger beer brewers in their own right.[x] The record of George and Eleanor Williamson’s marriage, in 1834, indicates that Stedman agreed to employ the pair until George Williamson [q.v.] received his ticket of leave.[xi]On Stedman’s death, the Williamson’s carried on the business in Clarence Street.

New legislation, in 1830, prevented small transactions of ginger beer, unless under license, but did allow wholesale transactions (2 gallons or over).[xii] By 1832, Stedman was in direct competition with his neighbours Ambrose Foss (1832-1836) and, later, John B. Bossley (1836-38) successive chemists who were exempt from the license and were both able to manufacture and sell ginger beer in less than two gallons. The Chemist’s ginger beer was, however, artificial rather than brewed.[xiii]Stedman remained un-licenced in so far as surviving records show, and he prevailed in brewing, presumably as a wholesaler, up until his death, in January 1836.[xiv]

Full references available upon request.

© Martin Carney


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