All About Arnott’s History

In 1865, a small bakery opened in Hunter Street, Newcastle,

north of Sydney. It supplied bread, pies and biscuits to the local

townspeople as well as to the crews of the many ships that

docked at the port to load coal.

From these humble beginnings rose a company whose name is

now synonymous with biscuit-making. This is the story of Arnott’s

Biscuits and its founder, William Arnott - a man whose passion for

his business led him to create one of the most successful and

enduring biscuit making operations in the world. Today, Arnott’s

employs thousands of people and supplies biscuits to more than

40 countries around the world. Millions of Australians have grown

up on Arnott’s biscuits and for them, Arnott’s is more than

a biscuit company, it is a piece of Australia’s history.


William Arnott was born in Pathhead, near Kirkcaly, Fifeshire

in 1827. During his teens he became an apprentice journeyman

baker and pastry cook, earning two shillings and sixpence a week.


For an ambitious young man like William Arnott, Australia offered

wealth, opportunity and a positive future. The Scottish newspapers

promised that any man of enterprise could succeed. Bakers,

it was reported, were reaping grand fortunes.

William and his younger brother, David, set sail for Australia

in October 1847. During the voyage, William met a young

Irishwoman called Monica Sinclair, who would later become

his wife.

The journey took 135 days. While at sea, the passengers’ diet

included oatmeal, scotch barley and a starchy vegetable called

arrowroot. This was a popular commodity in the Colony. It was also

a name that William was to remember and use for what was

to become one of Australia’s best-loved biscuits.

Arriving in Sydney, William moved to Maitland with his brother and

new wife Monica, where the brothers found work as bakers.

Like many young men of the time, William was swept up in the

goldrush fever that hit Bathurst. Although he didn’t find any gold,

he set up a successful bakery on the fields and made enough

money to return to Maitland and open his own bakery.


William Arnott

Sailing to Australia

Page 2


After the disastrous Maitland floods of the early 1860’s and the

death of his first wife, William and his five children moved to

Newcastle. William had a bankroll of just £14, but Newcastle was

a busy coal port with huge potential for population growth and

business opportunity.

In 1865 William Arnott re-married, to Margaret Maclean Fleming

from Dumbarton, Scotland. William rented a small shop in Hunter

Street and built a small oven at the back. As the demand for his

goods increased, William worked around the clock. Eventually the

demand became too big for the Hunter Street shop, so William

purchased the entire building and set up a larger second shop.

One of William Arnott’s biggest sellers at this time was Ships

Biscuits. These were essential food for the hundreds of ships that

called at Newcastle. They were thick dry plain biscuits packed in

large, sealed tins to ensure they would stay fresh for long periods

at sea.


Business continued

to grow and William

Arnott extended his

product range to

include cakes and

sweet biscuits.

In 1875, he built

his first factory in

Melvell Street, Newcastle – “William Arnott’s Steam Biscuit

Factory” – and fitted it out with the best bakehouse machinery


Three years after the factory opened, Arnott’s was employing fifty

people. Around 1.5 tonnes of biscuits were produced daily. William

Arnott, who always insisted on the best quality and freshest

ingredients, purchased two hundred cows to ensure a constant

and reliable supply of fresh milk, a vital ingredient for many of his

baked products.


During the 1880’s William decided it was time to expand to

Sydney. The biscuits were a hit and became widely distributed in

the colony’s capital city. Production at the Melvell St plant

increased significantly and by the end of the decade more than

300 people were employed.

In 1882, Arnott’s launched one of its most famous biscuits, Milk



Hunter Street Bakery


Steam Biscuit Factory

Melvell St. Newcastle

Original artwork for

Arnott’s logo

Page 3

Arrowroot was at the time considered a good source of nutritious

starch, so the biscuits were marketed as an ideal food to help

babies grow big and strong.

An inspired advertising campaign was launched , called Living

Pictures. As part of this campaign parents were encouraged

to send in photographs of their plump, healthy children, who had

been fed Arnott’s biscuits.

The healthiest babies were selected to appear in advertisements

that ran in a Sydney daily newspaper. These children were given

a few shillings and a tin of Milk Arrowroot biscuits as a prize.