A list of Concord’s industries and commercial enterprises at the turn of the century gives a clear picture of how some of the residents of the municipality earned their living, although many others, of course, travelled away from the district to work. In the 1880’s and 1890’s twenty-five grocery shops were dotted round the municipality, as well as a dozen or so bakeries and eighteen butcher shops. The remnants of some of these small corner shops and neighbourhood butcheries and bakeries can still be seen in Concord today, although some have been extensively modernised and others are well disguised as private homes or offices.
The district supported several other commercial undertakings: produce stores (which sold food for Concord’s many head of cattle), bootmakers, blacksmiths, drapers and greengrocers. Several restaurants and dining rooms had been established in Mortlake by 1890 to serve workers from the newly established gasworks. Among Concord’s other business people were fuel merchants, confectioners, timber merchants, ironmongers, tobacconists, solicitors, bag merchants, hairdressers, stationers, cab owners, saddlers, wine vendors, brickmakers and a woman who described herself as a `dyer and feather cleaner’.
In 1890 most of the retail shops and craft industries were conducted either in Mortlake, the fast developing centre growing around the gasworks, or around Parramatta Road, which had long been established as a busy transport and commercial centre.
Tanneries were established in Concord from an early period and three were listed in the district at the turn of the century. Farrell’s Tannery was on Wharf (now Burwood) Road from 1884 to 1888 and W. A. Mosley had a tannery there in 1898. The most longstanding of Concord’s tanneries was that of Farleigh, Nettheim & Co. which moved to the district in 1880. At that time Concord was a remote suburb, outside the industrial orbit of Sydney, but having at the head of Hen and Chicken Bay, a little plot containing a few pits, a shed and a well, where a few hides were now and again tanned. The `little plot’ was purchased and the Concord Tannery established. For many years `King of Mimosa’ sole leather and a range of other products were manufactured at Concord, but the tannery of Farleigh Nettheim & Co. Ltd was finally closed and its site sold to the Department of Education for the construction of Concord High School.
In the days before supermarkets and pre-wrapped sliced bread, bakeries flourished to serve the local community. Among the first bakeries in Concord was the one established by James Tinch in 1883. The business was carried on in Parramatta Road, near Burwood Road, in premises owned by the ubiquitous Emanuel Neich. By 1917 the business had passed into the hands of another Concord baker, E. S. Percival, who, seven years earlier, had built a bakery on the corner of Parramatta Road and Concord Road. When E. S. Percival died in 1922, both bakeries were conducted by a company known as E. S. Percival Ltd, which, however, later became a casualty of the Depression years.
Changing patterns of industry
Large-scale modern industrial development in Concord occurred in three major stages: the first at the end of the nineteenth century, and the second and third in the years after World War I and World War II respectively when Australian industries were stimulated by war restrictions and rationing, and by the nation’s growing population and urbanisation.
These industries are clustered around three main areas. First to be established was Cabarita-Mortlake where development was stimulated by the coming of the Australian Gas Light Company in the 1880s. Today the gasworks no longer dominate the district, neither does Dulux Australia Limited, which set up operations in Cabarita in 1921, occupying a considerable amount of riverfront land. The remainder of the Mortlake industrial site consisted of smaller factories, workshops and light engineering works.
There were two smaller industrial complexes in the eastern part of the municipality, around both sides of Exile Bay. The northerly of these two arms was occupied by Containers Limited and Wellcome Australia Limited but these sites have now been re-developed.
Concord attracted industries to the eastern part of the municipality largely because of the accessibility of the river frontage. Combined with this was the fact that, until well into the twentieth century, Concord was considered to be remote from Sydney’s industrial centre. As a result, land prices were lower than in more established industrial areas. The river provided a means of bringing raw materials to a site and shipping finished products away. In the days before public concern about pollution made such actions difficult, if not illegal, the river also provided a convenient and cheap way of disposing of waste products, many of them toxic.
The Parramatta River was a powerful impetus to the establishment of industry in the western part of the municipality in the area between North Strathfield and Rhodes. But another factor was to become even more significant: the northern railway line which was opened in 1886. As the river traffic declined, so the railway became a vital means of transporting goods and workers. The area on the western side of the railway line became an important industrial centre whose factories produce goods as diverse as stock feeds, paints, welded steel, chemicals, biscuits and a range of engineering products.