Aerated Waters Katanning

Wises Post office Directories list the names of THOMAS KIRKPATRICK, W LANGLEY, GEORGE A PIESSE and F & C PIESSE as early manufacturers in the town of Katanning, followed by GSR MINERAL WATER  CO LTD in the mid 30’s. Katanning is 280 km’s south east of Perth and the Roads Board was first gazetted in 1892 although the town was settled before this time.


The brother’s father, William Roper Piesse, had arrived in Newcastle (Toodyay) in the 1840’s from London and son Frederick was born at Northam in 1853 followed by his brother Charles in 1855. They were part of a large family which also included brother’s GEORGE ALBERT PIESSE born in 1875 and ARNOLD EDMUND PIESSE born in 1872. Frederick, with Ernest von Bibra opened up the pearling industry at Shark Bay and then returned to Perth in 1875 where he joined the Post and Telegraphs Department.

F & C PIESSE moved to WILLIAMS where they formed a partnership on 1 April 1881 as storekeepers, auctioneers & commission agents. The family was hard working, interested in development and community affairs and also State Government. By November they had opened a branch store at the 124 mile (ARTHUR RIVER) where they sold general merchandise and dealt in hides, kangaroo skins and sandal wood. In May 1885 they purchased a BARNETT & FOSTERS aerated water plant to establish a factory at WILLIAMS. By March 1886 production was booming.  Their MARBLE BOTTLE had the inscription, F & C Piesse, Manufacturers, Williams River, WA and it is a Dan Rylands, Safe Groove Patent. This bottle came in a small and large size. The GREAT SOUTHERN RAILWAY had commenced and in January 1889 it was opened to connect Beverley with Albany and all places in between. Katanning now had a chance to develop to its full potential with the railway to transport goods and passengers, mail etc. The PIESSE brothers saw the opportunity this area offered and went to Katanning in 1889. F & C PIESSE bought Hugh Climie’s business in September 1890 and proceeded to build a new roller flour mill in the town. It was operating by April 1891 and by August on their block they had planted an orchard and vineyard. They had twenty one acres of land under cultivation, including the planting of 700 apple trees and over 1,000 vine cuttings. They had plans to export the fruit. Soon the town comprised Piesses Premier Roller Flour Mill, National Bank, F & C Stores, Warehouses, Offices, Aerated Water Factory and Charles Chipper had the Katanning Hotel.

W H CARSTAIRS produced Piesse cool drinks in 1890 and in June 1891 he had a nasty accident when a Lemonade bottle burst and cut his wrist.  He left Katanning in September 1892 to join the firm of S GIBBINGS, Knight Templar Cordial factory at Northam.  Hugh Climie who had left Katanning in 1890 was now at Coolgardie and Piesse had his ads for his flour, bran, pollard and cordials listed in Climies ads for the goldfields area, in the Coolgardie Miner.

During the 1890’s Piesse produced their earliest known, aerated water bottle, a hybrid Niagara Patent Codd, impressed with the inscription F & C Piesse, Katanning, GSR. This mention of GSR appeared with the name Katanning numerous times in newspapers etc as I believe Katanning wanted to be known as on the Great Southern Railway, so that customers would realise where it was situated. A disastrous fire occurred in January 1897 when Piesse’s Katanning Hotel managed by Mr Cook was engulfed in flames. It was a wooden building and a baby died in the inferno. The aerated water factory was only 30/40 feet away and narrowly escaped damage. F & C PIESSE dissolved their partnership and disposed of their mercantile business at Katanning to ARNOLD EDMUND PIESSE & Co.  Their brother Arnold was born in 1872. Frederick and Charles, thanked their customers for their patronage over the past 17 years. This company name was still used in later years. GEORGE ALBERT PIESSE was Katanning’s first Post master and in 1897 was now the manager of the cool drink factory. However, he had health problems and advertised for a competent man to brew drinks for a short term in the small factory in September 1897. I believe THOMAS WILLIAM LANGLEY may have joined the firm sometime after 1899 as he is listed in Wises Directory in 1900 – 1902 at Katanning. George Piesse died in 1902 aged only 26 years and is buried in the Newcastle (Toodyay) Cemetery. In 1903, F H Piesse introduced a bill in Parliament to manufacture, generate and distribute power in the town of Katanning. In 1904 an ad appeared in the newspapers proclaiming their 1st prize at the National Exhibition in Perth and Bronze medal in 1900 in Paris for their claret and port wine 1899/1900 vintage. They had established the winery in 1898 to produce wines from their extensive vineyard.

 F & C PIESSE became partners in Thomas R Lowe & Co at Kalgoorlie and installed Mr R Cromellin as manager in 1905. T W LANGLEY was now managing their business in Perth. He had been associated with Golden West & Co in Perth and had registered the trade mark “Lagerine” for that company in 1898. By November 1905, T Ockerby took over F & C Piesses, 289 Wellington St, Perth, flour, bran and pollard business and F H Piesse’s son, CECIL PIESSE was transferred to the cordial factory in Katanning. Piesse’s new brick cordial factory was fitted with the latest machinery and visitors to the town were given tours of the building.  Cecil Piesse cut his arm on glass when corking a bottle of their prize beverage, Dry Ginger Ale, when it exploded in 1907 and he again had an accident and lost the joint of his left forefinger in a machine in 1908. In Oct 1907, THOMAS LANGLEY gave an interview where he stated he had been in charge of Piesse’s cordial factory since 1897 (although I feel it was after 1899, as he was with Golden West in 1898) and was the 1st to open an auctioneering business and when he left to manage Piesse & Lowe & Co in Perth & Kalgoorlie, he was presented with a gold watch. THOMAS KIRKPATRICK  1904 – 1906 Wises Directory, was living in Argent street, Katanning. By 1914 Kirkpatrick had decided to move to Sydney with his family and the Great Southern Herald mentioned his service as manager of F & C Piesse cordial factory.

Charles Moore and Co of Perth had a shop window competition in January 1909 and on display was a selection of Piesse cordials. Their ads of 1910 celebrated their Dry Ginger Ale. November 1910 mention is made of the opening of the new factory 3 years ago to manufacture dry ginger ale and aerated waters. However, the machinery was faulty but once new machinery was in place, they could hold their own with other manufacturers. They used rain water, cane sugar, essences and flavouring provided under the Pure Food Acts. They were the first to introduce Crown Corks which were a great advantage. The machinery was run by electric motors and they produced a new non alcoholic beverage/tonic called Chili Liqueur and a range of cordials. In 1911 a trade display featured Wines, Mineral Waters, Aerated Waters, Cordials, liqueurs and a giant facsimile of a bottle of their new liqueur “Chili”, plus numerous diplomas and medals at the State show. Sadly, FREDERICK HENRY PIESSE passed away in 1912. Amongst his achievements was as Director of Public Works in Sir John Forrest’s government, Commissioner of Railways and his involvement in the Great Southern Railway and the beginnings of the town. He left a widow, one son and four daughters. Their Dry Ginger Ale was shipped to the North West and 4 tons went north in April 1913. The firm was now discarding the old Patent bottles with the rubber band and ball (Marble Bottles) and were substituting crown cork bottles. Duty on these bottles was a drawback despite Australian manufacturers endeavouring to produce crown cork. The cost was too high. He added colouring to his Lime Juice but this was against regulations so he had to discard a large stock of paper labels even though the colouring made no difference to the product.

CHARLES AUSTIN PIESSE – passed away in 1914 aged 58 yrs. He had been ill for some time. He was also a member for the S E Province and with his brother in branches at Perth, Katanning and Wagin. He concentrated on farming and business in Wagin and had land at Arthur River and was also instrumental on bringing the G S Railway to the district.  F H Piesse son, CECIL ERNEST PIESSE worked in the cordial factory in 1910 but by 1914 he decided to go farming. He acquired a half interest with his brother in 4,600 acres used for wheat and sheep and another property of 4,800 acres. He was born at Williams in 1882 and worked for Piesse in their Perth branch, then Sargood Bros before returning to run the cordial factory and go farming.  He drowned at Marvel Loch whilst with J Edwards on a prospecting trip in August 1915. He left a widow and two young children.

ERNEST LENG – In October 1914 he was promoted to manager of the cordial factory. He had been with the company for four years and served under Thomas Kirkpatrick ex manager of the firm. He was listed as a labourer of Broome street, in the Electoral Rolls of Katanning in 1916. He joined the services in WW1 and by 1925 was a steward living at 104 Lincoln St, North Perth with his wife. In 1954 he was in Palmerston St, Perth as a secretary.

JOHN GEORGE GOLDING was making aerated waters in Kalgoorlie on the Electoral Rolls of 1915/16 however mention is made of an accident at F & C Piesse factory in September 1915 when Stanley Golding, son of the manager got burns to the left side of his face and body when Sulphuric acid he was pouring from a jar, split over his body when the jar fell.

To commemorate the contribution F H Piesse had given to the Great Southern, Katanning and surrounding areas, a bronze statue was unveiled at the railway station. A fitting tribute to a man who had championed the Railways cause.

GEORGE RICKET – He was manager of the cordial factory in 1916 when his son was listed as a prisoner of war. He had previously been making cool drinks whilst he lived in Victoria Street, Fremantle. He lived at “Cliftonville” Katanning in 1917. He had a buggy accident in 1919 and by 1925 was at 30 View way, Nedlands and listed as a mineral water manufacturer.

 In January 1919 a Prospectus was issued for BCD & PIESSE CO LTD, listing capital of 30,000 pound to represent 30,000 shares at 1 pound each, for the purpose to acquire the business of Messrs F & C Piesse aerated water factories, KATANNING and PERTH AERATED WATER COMPANY. BCD & Piesse were situated at 200 Wellington St, Perth. The company had a large share of the market in the 1920’s and WILLIAM R STARR was a traveller for the company promoting their wares and was hit by a tram while on his motor cycle in April 1925 and killed. BCD used the services of HENRIQUES LTD, the Perth crown seal manufacturer. In the Call magazine on 29 May 1925 a large editorial is given to the working of this establishment where 40 hands turned out 600 odd/minute tops with the aid of machines. Paper was imported from England and cork from Spain and Portugal. Main buyers of their product were Swan, Emu and Castlemaine Breweries and BCD & Piesse. Years move on and in 1933 Miss Ervie Quartermaine who had been in control of Mr Harold Piesse numerous business operations in Katanning was appointed to their BCD & Piesse factory in Perth as Secretary Accountant. A newspaper ad for 1934 stated “don’t go thirsty, don’t forget BCD & Piesse aerated waters, cordials, Famous dry Ginger Ale and Stone Ginger.” Their ALBION STREET FACTORY in Katanning was one of the oldest in the country in 1934. The last link to the old firm was ARNOLD EDMUND PIESSE MLA born 1872, who died at sea returning from a holiday in England in July 1935. JOHN COVENTRY was the new manager, proprietor of GSR MINERAL WATER COMPANY LTD, factory and used the same plant that had been used by Piesse. In 1940 the BCD company in Perth had GEORGE PAYNE at the factory but he moved to Pinjarra Cordial factory in July. From the newspaper, 5th Feb 1941, Great Southern Herald,”the GSR Mineral Water Co established in 1898 by F & C Piesse, has been under different ownership for various periods. Today it is under management of John Coventry. Dry Ginger Ale, Real fruit drinks – Grapefruit, orange, Lemon, Claret drinks and the latest Barl – E – Lem.” During the war years of 1943, bottle supplies dried up and all manufacturers had trouble encouraging the public to return empty branded bottles for re – fill. BCD mentioned they had 20,000 dozen in circulation in the metro area and asked country clients to send bottles by rail and BCD would cover the costs. The bottles were needed for the fighting forces overseas and to maintain a supply to munition & civilian workers. They would supply the drinks on a ration basis. The advertisement was signed by Ervie Quartermaine. HARRY EDWARDS became BCD’s factory manager in January 1943.  In 1944, HAROLD VIVIAN PIESSE 3rd son of F H Piesse passed away. He had been a Managing Director of BCD & Piesse Co Ltd. By 1951 the company was desperate for the return of bottles as since 1948 no bottles had been available from the eastern states. GSR drinks were also manufactured in Albany. GSR Mineral Water Co Ltd also had a branch in ALBANY in 1936, NARROGIN in 1937, BUSSELTON in 1940 till the 1960’s when Coca Cola began their ownership of some factories in the state and as small companies couldn’t compete against such a large business, the smaller companies closed their doors. GSR in Katanning was acquired by Coca Cola in 1966 and the premises was closed and a new factory operated in Daping Street. Albany and Busselton factories were then used as warehouses for Gest and other lines until the 1980’s when the plant at Katanning was closed.

Piesse produced a number of marble bottles with their name in a triangle or circle plus with GSR on the bottle with sizes from 185 to 230mm. Piesse crown seal bottles include a dark green 6/7oz made by Melbourne Glass Works with the impressed wording Piesse’s running down the front of the bottle, 12 oz light bluish glass bottle with the same inscription & maker, BCD & Piesse, 6oz in a variety of greenish shades impressed Perth & Katanning with BCD in a triangle, 7oz clear BCD and Piesse with swirl under the name and made c 1920’s, clear 6/7oz with BCD  & Piesse Ltd, Perth impressed in a triangle enclosed in a circle with AGM on base, GSR ceramic label bottles with black and white trade mark in 8, 12 and 26 oz sizes. Ceramic ginger beers include crown seal with blue top Piesse’s Stone Ginger Beer, property of BCD & Piesse Ltd made by Mauri Bros & Thompson, Blue top crown seal ceramic with BCD and Piesse Limited Perth WA brewed Ginger beer, bottle made by Govancroft, Glasgow.  There are many more bottles including marble bottles connected to BCD & the Perth Aerated Water Company and also their WILLIAMS bottles but I have endeavoured to concentrate on Piesse at Katanning.  

Author –  Vivienne Sinclair.