Local History – George and Mary Marchant
Marchant Ward is named after George and Mary Marchant who were the original owners of a large area of land, now known as Marchant Park. The couple were very influential in the local area and worked with a large number of local organisations.
George was born in England in 1857 and arrived alone in Australia from Kent in 1873 at 16 years of age. He was employed at an aerated waters factory in Brisbane where he learned the essentials of the business. In 1877 he married Mary Jane Dwyer, a dressmaker. In 1886 they bought a ginger beer manufacturing business in Spring Hill. George invented and patented a bottling machine which became widely used in Australia and overseas.
They expanded interstate with factories in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Newcastle. A feature of their management was their care of the employees with whom they shared the profits. George and Mary were also extremely supportive of their female employees. The girls received profit bonuses of up to $6 and $8 for the year based on attendance and wages earned.
During a shipping strike in 1890 George chaired several public meetings to raise funds for the strikers. One newspaper referred to him as a capitalist turned socialist; many consider him to be a bit of both.
As lifelong Christians they were interested in the Swedenborg New Church, of which they contributed very generously in Australia. Both of them were committed to improving the welfare of others especially the low paid and the very young.
George and Mary Marchant died in 1941 and 1925 respectively and are both buried in Brisbane. A portion of their fortune was distributed among many Brisbane charities that Mr and Mrs Marchant had supported throughout their lifetime.
In 1899 George and Mary Marchant bought the 40 hectare (100 acre) paddock that is today’s Marchant Park which they used as a spelling area for their delivery wagon horses. During World War I the paddock was extensively used by the Army as a training camp and a remount centre for the Light Horse and returned to the Marchant family in about 1919.
With the end of the war the State Government was encouraging local councils to develop land for public recreation areas so the Kedron Shire Council approached the Marchant family for a 4 hectare (10 acre) section of the paddock for a park.
The gates to the park, erected by public subscription, were dedicated on Saturday 3rd May 1924 to the memory and honour of the 284 Diggers, and one Nurse, who went to the First World War from Kedron Shire; 53 of whom never came home.