All About Arnott’s History
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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
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.
Sailing to Australia
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
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
to grow and William
Arnott extended his
product range to
include cakes and
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
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
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.
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William Arnott, SAO, Arnott, Biscuit, McVities, Bakers, Arnotts Biscuits, Halse Rogers Arnott
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