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The Disused Chapman's Smallgoods Factory

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published March 8th 2013
Update June 6th 2013
Note: There is now a guard dog and live in caretaker at this site!

The revenge of the pigs
The Disused Chapman's Smallgoods Factory

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Chapman's Smallgoods Factory


For around one hundred years Chapman's Smallgoods was an icon for the small Adelaide Hills town of Nairne.

Nearly everyone in Nairne had a family member working at the Chapman's factory, or knew someone who did.

But the symbiotic relationship was to change dramatically in the 21st century.

In 2002 Chapman's closed their factory at Nairne, and relocated to Murray Bridge.

Even now, the town is still struggling to recover from the blow. And the disused Chapman's factory at one end of the town is a bleak reminder of a better past.

While it awaits a new life, the factory has become a popular target for urban exploration.

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The Disused Chapman's Factory


The Factory Is Born

Chapman's Bacon Factory was founded in the Adelaide hills town of Nairne in 1899 by George Chapman and his brother Albert.

Born in 1857 in Nairne, George was one of seven children of David and Anna Chapman.

Although he initially worked as a blacksmith, George found that he had a talent for processing meat into bacon.

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Nairne Railway Station


The original factory was located very close to the site of today's building, and despite some early financial difficulties the business steadily grew. Adelaide Hills food was in strong demand, and the Nairne railway station made transport convenient.

It must have been far more cost effective than operating the factory in Adelaide. After George Chapman died in 1912 the factory was acquired by the Harrison family in 1923.

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Former Chapman's HQ @ 63 Light Square Adelaide


By 1926 Chapman's Bacon Factory employed 19 people and premises in Waymouth St Adelaide were used as the head office and distribution centre. Subsequently the head office moved to 63 Light Square in Adelaide.

The Early Years

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An Entrance to Chapman's Factory


It's easy to find stories about how Chapman's impacted on life in Nairne. One former resident reminisces about the 1930's:

There was a great deal of live-stock traffic to the Chapmans' Meat Works and from local farms, and we young boys used to earn a half-penny by driving sheep through the low roofed compartments of the double decked bogie sheep trucks. A ha'penny would buy a good sized lolly such as a 'Gob-stopper' then.



Another resident recalled:

As children they earned 3 pence helping to drive cattle and pigs from the station to Chapman's factory. Sometimes, the animals were from remote parts of the state and were not used to people and towns, so it was often chaos in the main street. Residents soon learnt to anticipate the event and bolt their gates.



The Advertiser newspaper reported in 1934:

A large Shorthorn bull, when being driven along the main road from the station to Chapman's bacon factory, evidently decided to see the sights of the town on his last Journey. Every open gate was entered, and the drover experienced difficulty in driving the animal.

The school children were startled by pistol-like reports of a stockwhip just outside the school windows as the animal inspected the school yard. He then entered the next-door yard of Mr Hopkins and even poked his head into the kitchen door. The animal was evidently satisfied with what he saw, for no damage was done.




Chapman's smallgoods were a popular Adelaide food. The Mail reported in 1935:

The flavor and nutritive value of Chapman's hams and bacons have been enhanced by the careful raising of pigs. Peas are used exclusively in feeding. This means that the quality, which is of most importance to the housewife, is all that can be desired, and the bacon does not sizzle.



The Factory Matures



During the twentieth century Chapman's had a dominant role in the town. The number of Nairne employees grew to 380, while a further 70 were employed elsewhere in SA and interstate. Around 30% of the employees were women, mainly performing lighter work in the slicing and packaging areas.

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Employee Time Clock Station


In 1968 the Chapman's headquarters relocated to 3 Unley Road, Parkside, and in 1973 Southern Farmers became a minor shareholder and closed their bacon factory in Woodside.

The need to increase production prompted Chapman's to upgrade their equipment, and new machinery was imported from overseas to reduce the manual handling component in processing meat.



The pigs were stunned before slaughter, which was applauded by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1935.

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The Offal Tunnel


After being passed through a scalding bath to soften the hair, the carcase was suspended by its back legs on a moving chain to be "dressed" and checked by government meat inspectors.



Depending upon what product was being produced, there were different methods for processing meat. Meat needing curing was passed through amulti-needle pumping machine, which saturates the meat with a brine pickling solution.

It was then left to mature in the curing cellar for four days. From there it was moved to the smoke houses, where the cuts are dried and smoked.



Of course sausages did not need curing - once the meat was boned and graded it was then minced and put through a Silent Cutter. The cutter converts the meat into a smallgoods mixture, to which is added the required spices and flavourings.



End Of Life



Chapman's Smallgoods merged with the Southern Farmers group in 1982 becoming the biggest smallgoods manufacturer in SA.

In 1987 it was acquired by huge international conglomerate George Weston's Foods.



By 1994 Chapman's manufactured 60% of the Adelaide food market for smallgoods, with a delivery fleet of 35 trucks distributed around the state.



The rosy days for the Chapman's bacon factory and Nairne were about to end. In 2002 Chapman's Smallgoods relocated to Murray Bridge and the factory was no longer required.

Renewal



In the ten years since the factory closed, there have been a number of businesses operating from there as an industrial estate. I understand that a market also operated there for a time.



Somewhat appropriately, one of the last tenants to leave was Skara Smallgoods - a family company producing award winning artisan smallgoods.



The factory is now a stark reminder of a proud past. A site briefly used for urban exploration before finding a new future.

A local newspaper carries a report of a proposed redevelopment, but there is dissension as to whether the factory site is the best location.



But it will take a long time for memories of a happier past to fade.



The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by the Mount Barker Local History Centre in writing this article.
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Why? The pig's story should be told.
Where: Nairne, SA
Your Comment
A friend of my parents and employee of Chapmans had his arm severed in a piece of machinery there. Chapmans kept Mr. Duffield on as an employee for the rest of his life and paid all his expenses That sort loyalty would be all too rare these days. Brendan McGuire
by slogg (score: 1|52) 536 days ago
The Facebook group "The Ghosts Within" have produced a great video of Chapman's, including links. Check it out:
by Dave Walsh (score: 3|7318) 521 days ago
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