Next time you go to the fridge to get out the butter or meat, spare a thought for early Ipswich residents who had no refrigeration and minimal access to ice.
In the late 19th century Ipswich consumers were dependent on ice shipped from Brisbane. This was both expensive and insufficient in quantity. This situation prompted Mr Frederick Springall of Down Street, North Ipswich to establish an ice works close to his residence in the same street. His plan included a brick factory with cold storage and refrigeration rooms. The plant was ordered from England and travelled to the colony on R.M.S. Jumna. It was an ammonia compression system that Mr Springall considered the most economical process for manufacturing ice at that time.
On Saturday 23rd December 1893 history was made in Ipswich when ice was manufactured in the city for the very first time. Apparently the weather was hot and the ice was “first class”. By 1895 production was so good that Springall was sending ice to Toowoomba and Dalby as well as supplying local requirements. Delivery in Ipswich was by horse and cart. Parcels of ice were also sent to Munbilla on the train to be used for butter making. In Ipswich most of North Ipswich Ice Works custom came from hotels, confectioners and fruit shops with smaller demands made by the hospital and some doctors. Several private households were regular customers but these were very much in the minority. The ice works was regularly turning out one ton of ice however Springall reported that 9 tons per week was possible. Some local butchers were taking advantage of the available cool room to store meat however this facility was not being used to capacity. At this time Springall tried to interest the railway in utilising refrigerated rail cars for the transport of butter and primary products. He provided a quote to supply ice for the venture and the proximity of his ice works to the North Ipswich rail yards (across the road) lent credibility to his proposal.
Early in 1896, local dairy associates Messrs Du Reitz and Pommer entered into an arrangement with Springall to make butter at the North Ipswich Ice Works thus taking advantage of the cooler environment and storage. This was a success and before long it was proposed that a butter-making room with brick walls on the western side of the premises, facing Down Street, be constructed. Architect H. E. Wyman of East Street was engaged to design the new addition that was to incorporate 2 new churns, a circular butter worker and a 4 horsepower engine to power it all. By July of that year production of butter had increased to 1000 pounds per week.
Within a couple of years, Springall leased the enterprise to Du Reitz and Pommer. Around this time it became known as North Ipswich Ice and Butter Factory. Greater quantities of butter were produced which demanded a constant and larger supply of cream from farmers in the area. In their turn local farmers now had a dependable market for the sale of their cream. The company even exported butter to England in 1897. On 1st November, 1899 the partnership of A.J. Du Reitz and Harry Pommer was dissolved with Du Reitz starting the Bremer Butter Factory in Nicholas Street in the old “Advocate” premises.
The Pommer brothers continued to operate the factory at North Ipswich and in 1903 new modern brick premises were erected at 9 The Terrace, featuring a concrete floor, significant insulation for the cool rooms and up-to-date appliances. The new factory was designed by M.W. Haenke and constructed by H. Woodford. It was expected that a ton of ice per day as well as butter would be produced in the new facility. Included also was a large compartmented storage room for butchers to use. Frederick Springall sold his Down Street factory in 1912 and it was then operated by Angus Linton. It closed during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Subsequently the building on The Terrace was used by Fowler’s Engineering from 1961 to 1991.
Information taken from: