|Godfrey Hirst Carpets, site of the Victorian Woollen Mill and|
the Barwon Woollen Mill, later Excelsior Mills No1 and No2.
By 1870 a second woollen mill the "Albion" was up and running upstream of the Moorabool Street Bridge and by 1874 a third - the Barwon Woollen Mill, located to the rear of the Victorian Woollen Mill next to the river - was under construction. The successful tender for the latter building was that of Tippett and Barker of Ballarat, which may yet again prove to have connections to my family history as my paternal grandmother is descended from the same family as many of the Ballarat Tippetts.
By 1892 the Barwon Woollen Mill was in financial trouble and was sold to Godfrey Hirst who renamed it the Excelsior Woollen Mill No1. Likewise, and suffering from a decline in sales as a result of cheap imported fabric and inferior immitations, the Victorian Woollen and Cloth Manufacturing Co. was put up for sale. This too was purchased by Hirst and named Excelsior No2. The two ran jointly until 1912 when Excelsior 1 was destroyed by fire. It was later rebuilt as a single storey, brick structure.
|Valley Worsted Mill with Godfrey Hirst in the background.|
Despite some periods of revival - for instance during the First World War - the latter would never again attain the same level of productivity as they did prior to the 1890s. It was now cheaper to export the raw skins than to have them processed here.
Likewise, the textile industry continued to suffer as we have already seen from international competition, this time in the form of cheap artificial fibres developed in Britain and Germany. However, inspite of this, productivity continued to increase and by 1935 eight mills were processing wool in Geelong which also became a centre for research and training in the industry.
In addition to the wool school at the Gordon Institute, a Wool College was established in 1943 offering diploma courses in textiles and textile chemistry whilst Geelong was chosen as the site for CSIRO's textile research division in 1946. Victorian wool was renowned for being the best in the Commonwealth and Geelong was seen as the headquarters of the Victorian wool industry.
|Clock at Valley Worsted Mill.|
Most recently, the entire site has been put up either for lease or sale and at last report had been conditionally purchased for $6.4 million by a microbrewing company - Little World Beverages - from Fremantle who intend to make the site the base for their east coast brewing enterprise.