Former Bancroft Meat Canning Works
THIS COMPONENT OF THE PROJECT was to undertake a preliminary investigation to identify possible remnants of the former Bancroft meat canning works. No surface evidence survives which indicates the location and extent of the canning Several photographs of the canning works do indicate its general location (see Figures 22, 23, 24 and 25). These photographs indicate that the canning works was a substantial operation and that subsurface evidence such as drains, pipes, footings, etc. may survive.
HISTORY OF THE MEAT CANNING WORKS
Joseph Bancroft had a long interest in techniques for preserving meat. Long before he purchased his property at Deception Bay he had developed a apparatus for preserving meat. He had experimented with a technique soon after his arrival in the colony and registered a patent for the apparatus in 1867.
The Queenslander in December 1869 described the process:
The meat is first cut from the bones, and then minced by steam power, after which it is spread out upon a shallow metal surface heated by steam. After the meat has been well turned over in the trays, a current of warm air is brought to bear upon it by means of a fan, and after some hours it becomes crisp and dry. It is then subject to a grinding process, all the superfluous fat is drained off, and it is ready for packing … Tins of Bancroft’s desiccated meat can be left open for any length of time without the quality of the contents deteriorating.
The appliances at present made use of by the inventor are exceedingly simple, the most costly of all being the steam engine and the necessary boilers. With those appliances, two men can turn out from thirty hundred weight to two tons of prepared meat per week.5
In about 1890, Joseph built the meat preserving works at Deception Bay.6 It was a substantial complex with a large timber building, associated sheds and yards. It was located on the southern side of a small tidal creek which was dammed to provide water for the works.
When Joseph died in 1894, his son Thomas continued his father’s business interests, including the meat factory. The factory became profitable in the mid- 1890s when the British War Office placed an order for the product as a supplement to their emergency rations.7 The meat was probably used to supply troops during the Boer War.
The Deception Bay factory ceased to be profitable in 1904 when Thomas lost the British War Office contract. The canning works was dismantled and some of the equipment and materials were reused in a tannery at Alderley.
The site of the meat preserving works reverted to grazing. In the 1960s part of the area was subdivided for residential allotments and the remainder became Apex Park.
Apex Park is bounded on the east by Captain Cook Parade and to the north by Emerald Avenue. Residential allotments abut the park on the west and south. The park is predominantly an opened grassed area with a toilet park, playground equipment and approximately 20 mature trees (mainly eucalyptus and melaleucas) scattered throughout the site. The northern end of the park was formerly a creek which has been filled.
The first task was to determine the approximate location of the meat preserving works from photographs, maps, survey plans and oral testimony. As the meat works was dismantled in 1904, no direct oral testimony was obtainable. Doug Smith and Vivian Tucker, two Deception Bay residents with a long association in the area, could not recall any buildings but did recollect some remnants relating to the canning works including a metal grate. From their understanding, they did agree that the meatworks was located within Apex Park.
A thorough search of maps and survey plans did not reveal any indication of the location of the canning
2 Excavate by machine a series of narrow trenches to maximum depth of 800 mm.
5 Recommend whether further archaeological survey is warranted and what approach should be adopted.
Good photographic evidence taken by Thomas Bancroft does survive of the canning works. Determining the exact location, however, was difficult to ascertain due to the changes in topography, in particular the infilling of the creek. This creek ran to the immediate north of the meat works and then veered to the south-west. At times the creek formed a substantial lagoon and one photograph indicates a large body of water to the rear of the meatworks.
The most efficient and cost-effective approach to ascertaining if any evidence existed of the canning works was through exploratory trenching. Four trenches were excavated in selected parts of the site. These trenches were 250 mm wide and varied in depth between 800 and 850 mm and limited in their extent by existing infrastructure and trees (see Figure 27).
No evidence of the canning works was revealed in any of the trenches. Moreover, and significantly, no cultural material of any type was revealed.
The profile of all four trenches was remarkably consistent with a layer of sand from the surface to approximately 800 mm. At 800 to 850 mm the top of a red clay layer was observed. Some tree roots intersected two trenches.
The lack of any evidence of the canning works indicates two possibilities. The first scenario is that the canning works was located elsewhere in the park or on the site of one or more of the houses fronting Sampson Street. This is a possibility but the photographic evidence suggest the canning works occupied an extensive area.
The second and more likely scenario is that no evidence survives anywhere of the preserving works. The canning works was erected in c. 1890 and dismantled in 1904. The meat preserving works were subsequently re-erected at Alderley. Because of the short duration the meat preserving works was in operation and also because it was relocated elsewhere, it is probable that all the fabric was removed from the site. The buildings and yards were of timber and all the timber members were probably removed as they were in good condition. Similarly, any equipment and other infrastructure such as tanks, and pipes were in good condition and removed as well. Furthermore, because of the short duration of operation, only a limited amount of debris would have accumulated in and around the site. If the works had been operating for fifty years, accumulation of debris on the ground would have been more likely.
This investigation indicates that further excavation of the site is not warranted.