The troubled existence of the Beech Forest Butter Factory

Beech Forest Butter Factory 1905


An architectural beauty and an imposing presence in the main street of Beech Forest amongst a number of smaller shops,  the Beech Forest Butter Factory opened for business in 1902 after Beech Forest locals, Cokerill, Bowen, Harrison, Shepherd and Young lobbied to raise the necessary capital.  The factory was located in the main street opposite the railway station with Mr Athorn as the first manager.   

By 1905 the production had increased with the Olangaloah area, east of the Beech Forest township, alone providing 26 cans of cream three times a week to the factory, from 22 farms grazing 600 cows.  The factory's existence was however a troubled one and various problems caused by cream shortages and equipment deficiencies to lack of shareholder support resulted in it closing in 1906.  It did however reopen shortly after under new management.

At its peak the factory processed about 200,000 lbs of butter under the Fern Leaf brand.  A fleet of wagons was employed on cream cartage and these ranged as far as Johanna and Upper Gellibrand. The company went under liquidation in 1912, and remained idle for a time only to once again resume operations under a new entity this time adding rabbit carcass processing and ice production.  It then closed again in 1918.  The Otway Dairying Co revived the building for a few years but it soon closed permanently and cream and milk were then transported in cans by road trucks to the Colac Dairying Co. following improvements to the roads in the area.

There were eleven butter factories in the Otways including those found at Carlisle River, Lower Gellibrand, Johanna, Weeaproinah and Lavers Hill.

Today the well of the factory remains and is listed on the Victorian Cultural Heritage register and is part of the Beech Forest Walking Tour.

See also The Cheesy Side of the Otways