The Buninyong Brewery was opened in early 1855 by Mr Allan, according to an article in the Miner and Weekly Star, 24 April 1857.
The following advertisement appeared in the Melbourne Argus on 2 October 1856:
Thomas Sheppard took over the brewery by early 1857. On 28 September 1857 Sheppard purchased the land on which his home 'Kingshill', in Simpson Street was built, where he lived till his death on 25 January 1873.
The brewery was called Sheppard's Crystal Malt Brewery, and was the first to be established in the Ballarat area, according to the Miner and Weekly Star. Prior to its opening, beer was imported from England and the Buninyong brewery had to use imported malt until a local barley industry was established. In 1857 it was producing 50 hogsheads of beer per week, using the pure water from the nearby spring. The establishment included a malting mill, cooperage and bottling department, and Sheppard 'bottled his best brand on his own account and label with his own signature'. By 1857 there were other local breweries operating at Ballarat and Warrenheip. In fact the gold rush of the 1850s was responsible for a dramatic rise in brewing activity. The first Victorian brewery was established in Melbourne in 1837; by 1856 there were 50 breweries in Victoria and by 1874 there were 142, the largest number ever recorded. (Deutcher, p. 10-11). Ballarat alone had 10 breweries operating in the 1860s.
The Ballarat Star of 18 July 1861 records that the architect Henry Caselli of Ballarat had been engaged by Mr T. Sheppard to design a brewery.
An 1869 directory has two advertisements for breweries in Buninyong - Thomas Sheppard, Ales and Porter, Buninyong Brewery, and W. Saunders, Brewer, Soda Water and Cordial Manufacturer, Buninyong (suburban).
The brewery did not continue long after Sheppard's death in 1873. The last Directory entry for the brewery was in 1875. Other brewers in Buninyong were William Saunders, Augustus Peyroux and Charles Topp, who was listed in directories as a brewer in Herriott St. from 1875 to 1885, and in 1900 was listed as a 'cordial maker'.
In 1898 a new company, the Temperance Crystal Malt Ale Co. Ltd., reopened the brewery on 1 August. (Letter book, Buninyong Borough Council). The 1899 Directory lists the Crystal Malt Ale Company, and an article in the Buninyong Telegraph on 2 June 1899 referred to improvements being undertaken at the brewery costing 2000 pounds, to bring the plant up to 'the most modern character. The buildings to be erected will include a five-storey brewing tower, two-storey bottling rooms, cask washing shed, cooperage and engine house.'
There is a story around Buninyong that the Temperance Brewery got into trouble when some local boys were found in an inebriated state after drinking the 'temperance' ale. This may well have been under the supervision of Charles Topp. It appears the brewery closed in 1900. There is a bottle with the Buninyong Temperance Crystal Malt Ale label in the Sebastopol Historical Society collection, and we have a copy of a Buninyong label.
Another local story is of boys finding stacks of old labels in the brewery in the 1930s, and throwing them into the Gong.
Thomas Sheppard was born in Wiltshire, England in 1809. He trained as a chemist.
According to the Narrative of George Russell (p. 169), he commenced storekeeping in Geelong in 1839. The Geelong Advertiser of 8 May 1841 noted that he was opening a general store on the corner of Corio and Kardinia Streets, Geelong, and soon afterwards opened a drug and chemical department next door
In the 1840s Sheppard was in business with Harry Gosling, who established a wine and spirit trade. The business grew throughout the colony, and also involved coaching services. (Brownhill, History of Geelong, p. 378.)
He was elected to the first Geelong Town Council in February 1850, the Geelong Advertiser of 25 Sept. 1850 announced that he was selling out and returning to England.
It is not clear when he first established his store at Buninyong. However an article in the Ballarat Miner and Weekly Star of 12 February 1858, p. 101, reported that he had started a store at Buninyong in the early 1840s. At the Buninyong Race Dinner in February 1858, he said that he had a store at Buninyong in the early days which he visited every month or six weeks, and in 1843 went up to the Pyrenees to see Petrel win his first Pyrenees Pannican when the first race meeting was held in the district. (Ballarat Star, 6 February 1858).
He sold this store to Dunsford and Co. in 1850, prior to his departure for England. (See advertisement for sale of Buninyong Store, Geelong Advertiser, 15 August, 1851)
However the discovery of gold in 1851 provided a dramatic change to his activities. He returned to Geelong and apparently established himself again as a chemist, according to an advertisement in the Ballarat Star 6 September 1855, for Poynton and Sheppard, Wholesale Druggist, Malop Street, Geelong. An article in the Miner and Weekly Star of 24 April 1857 states that the Buninyong Brewery was opened in early 1855 by Mr Allan, turning out 50 hogsheads of beer a week. Allen had purchased the land on 27 September 1853. Sheppard took over the brewery and certainly on 28 September 1857 purchased the land on which his home 'Kingshill', in Simpson Street was built, where he lived till his death on 25 January 1873.
He was elected Chairman of the first municipality of Buninyong in 1859 till 1863.
He reputedly was a generous donor to the churches of Buninyong, notably Holy Trinity and St. Peter and Paul's.
He was an acquaintance of Dr. Walter Richardson, made famous by his daughter in her novel The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney. Dr. Richardson arrived at Buninyong in 1853 with a letter of introduction to the Sheppards and lived with them for some months before he went to Ballarat in 1854 and established a store at Mount Pleasant.
Peter Griffiths, Three Times Blest, Buninyong, Buninyong Historical Society, 1988.
Elizabeth Summons, great-granddaughter, 'Ethel and Florence and Arthur and Mattie', Overland, no. 72, 1978, p. 26.
Meg Probyn ed., Marriage Lines; the Richardson Family Letters 1854-1877, Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2000, pp. 56-7
John Sendy, 'Than Henry Handel Richardson fella', Eureka Street, September 1998, pp. 28-31.
Portrait in collection of BDHS, illustrated in An Illustrated History of Buninyong
Keith Deutsher, The Breweries of Australia, Port Melbourne, Lothian, 1999, p. 109.
Photograph of the Brewery and Sheppard collection of BDHS, illustrated in An Illustrated History of Buninyong.