I knew the Farleigh Nettheim tannery at Concord during my childhood days.
I was born in 1935 and lived with my family at No. 6 Finch Avenue. Our back gate opened onto the eastern end of Crane Street which we always referred to as “the back lane” since it was an unpaved dirt road that started at Burwood Road and ended at the edge of what we always referred to as “the swamp”.
The swamp was at the centre of most of my boyhood adventures. We would walk out along the top of the cast iron stormwater pipe at the very bottom of Crane Street and then through brackish water to the canal that emptied into Hen and Chicken Bay, and often through the mangroves with mud up to our thighs. My dog, Buff, always went with us.
We often used to play in the clay pits that were on the edge of the swamp and next to the eastern fence of the tannery. The tannery was a really imposing building, quite unique in the area, like a concrete and brick cube, and on the eastern side I recall there were huge centrifugal fans on the outdoor side of the eastern wall.
My mates and I would sometimes climb over the tannery fence opposite our home and scurry into the factory building where we would hide from the caretaker in a shed that was stacked with masses of bags, I think full of bark. The centre of the bark bags formed a hollow where we would hide. We were never found by the caretaker even though we could hear him walking past the shed. Exciting times for a ten-year old!
The area of land occupied by the tannery on our side was huge. There was a stand of swamp oaks (casuarina trees) near the fence on our side half way up the “back lane”, and on Christmas Eve my two brothers and I would climb the fence and saw off a branch of one of the trees which we dragged across the back lane to our house where we trimmed it to became a Christmas tree. Inside our house, after a day or two the tree gave off a faint but very pleasant scent.
Some time, I think in the early fifties, a fire broke out in the long grass between the fence and the factory, but it was put out with the help of my next door neighbour, George Rigby and one other (my family members were out at the time) and they were later rewarded in some small way by the tannery manager.
The strangest thing of all I think is that for all the time I lived at Finch Avenue and walked virtually every day up or down the back lane, I never once saw the front entrance of the tannery which was in Stanley Street. I still have a small photograph of the tannery taken circa 1956 from our back lane (Crane Street east).
Thank you for such an excellent piece of research on the industrial history of Concord.
(Peter Bryant gave us permission to reprint his comments on an article on our web site about the Industries of Concord.)