HISTORY OF WHITBREADS CORDIALS – FOUNDED 1896
Cordial, Aerated waters, Soft drink manufacturing has had a long association with Charters Towers, with name like Frasers, Meilke, Kayes(De-Castres),Summers to name a few. Whitbreads Cordials started life as Wellington Aerated Waters established by Oliver Hocking. Hocking arrived in Charters Towers as one of many “Cousin Jack” miners. But in 1896 he launched out in the cordial,aerated water business with which his name was so well and favorably known. The factory was first located at the Wellington, before moving to the Queenton (corner of Millchester Rd and York St) the factory operated there from the early 1900’s through to 2011.
In 1928 the second generation of Hocking took over management, William Rapson Hocking ran the business until 1954 during this period the drinks where commonly known as “Hockings”.
In 1954 two brothers from Winton Jim and Alec Whitbread purchased the business, with William R. Hocking staying on to help but unfortunately died later that year.
The following year the name factory and business changed name to the now Iconic Whitbreads Cordials. The two brothers went in different directions with Jim taking over the milk vendors and Alec running the soft drink factory. In the early 1960’s Alec employed his friend Len Ulett and his wife May to manage the business. (Len and May’s daughter Debbie is the current owner). Alec moved to Townsville.
The business thrived at this time with them having distributors throughout west and north Queensland, and even opening another factory in Townsville. In the early seventies Alec passed away leaving the business to his son John. The late seventies saw Len and May leave. The home delivery service, the milk bars and the weddings that Whitbreads used to cater.
John ran the business and moved into transport and even bottling for Schweppes, all through this period glass bottles where used with boilers and caustic tanks to clean the returnable bottles. John sold the business on in 1987 to Wayne and Kay Lestone and family.
Kay and Wayne they kept the tradition of soft drink manufacturing going in a small country town becoming one of the only handful of privately owned factory’s still producing traditional flavours and tastes. During their time they changed from glass bottles to PET ,to move with the times ( Coke and Scwheppes). The bottles were sourced from Townsville and then with closure of Coke saw bottles then being delivered from Brisbane.
In 2011 with the Sale of equipment and recipes to Ian and Debbie Urquhart seen the relocation of the business to 11 Chapel Lane and the old site was sold to Toyota the old site was home to soft drink production for over 100 years.
As lifelong long locals Ian and Debbie (with previous family ties with the business) have continued to uphold the long and historical involvement with the Charters Towers and Northern region. As with previous owners have endured changes so will they with impact of a possible sugar tax, refund on bottles and the new labelling laws.
Cordial manufacturing has been part of Charters Towers frabric for over 120 years and Whitbreads being an Icon of North Queensland. As previously stated Whitbreads Cordials is only one of a handful of operating factories left in Australia.