Fowler’s “Lion” Factory is one of the few remaining significant industrial buildings in Adelaide. Well, two thirds of it is. The former left wing, as you look at it in my second picture, was lost in 1966 when Morphett Street was widened. You will correctly surmise that the yellow blotches are recent additions giving a hint to the building’s current use as an art centre and original live music venue (Fowler’s Live – previously the Lion Arts Centre), somewhat removed from its original use.
Many travel writers advise readers to ‘look up’ when they travel. This is very sagely advice, particularly when one ambles in cities and towns.
Once you arrive at 68 North Terrace admire the quality of the brickwork but, above all, look up at the beautiful parapet and the stone lion (the company’s trademark), on Fowler’s “Lion” Factory. The original lion, carved by stonemason John Patrick Jackson, was taken by the Fowler Family when it sold the business to Southern Farmers Ltd in 1982-83. The present lion is a copy installed in 1988.
Lest the name of this factory confuse you, it was not a place were lions were breed or otherwise produced but rather a flour mill (or more specifically a flour packing facility) belonging to D & J Fowler (Australia) Ltd and dating from 1906. It was one of about a dozen mills operated by the Company.
D & J Fowler Ltd was established in 1854 by David and James Fowler, pious Baptists and hard-working immigrants from Scotland. The Company started out as a retail grocery shop on nearby King William Street. The business soon expanded into a wholesale venture dealing in all manner of grocery produce. The retail side of the business was closed in 1865.
By the early 1880s D & J Fowler Ltd was one of the, if not the, largest commercial houses in the southern hemisphere. It had branches in London and Freemantle (West Australia) with representatives in the Northern Territory and on the Murray River. This was in addition to large storehouses in Port Adelaide and elsewhere in the city and factories producing jam, confectionery and preserved fruit. As well as engaging the services of others in their import business Fowler’s ran its own shipping agency importing foodstuffs while exporting wool, wheat, flour, meat, butter, copper and tanning bark.
The British Journal of Commerce of 11 October, 1889, commented that the Lion trademark was “accepted throughout the Australian colonies as a synonym for the highest state of excellence and purity in preserved fruits, jams, pickles, sauces, etc”.
The old postcard image pictured above shows that by 1939 D & J Fowler Ltd was a wholesale purveyor of flour, coffee & chicory, tea, custard and plum pudding while the reverse side of the card (pictured below) lists many more of the finest LION branded groceries available from the Company.
In later years, David and his brother and then business partner, George (James had died in 1859) dappled in politics as staunch supporters of free trade. Their unwillingness to accept any form of protection for native industry and their strong temperance views put paid to their political endeavours but not their business success.
All in all, a lovely reminder of a family which helped develop the economic and civic life of the then fledgling British colony.
Address: 68 North Terrace
Directions: Directly across the road from City West tram stop.