J. Tidmarsh & Co

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J. Tidmarsh & Co. was a soap and candle manufacturer in the early days of Adelaide, in the colony of South Australia.



John Francis Tidmarsh (17 January 1824 – 11 November 1906) was born in Cork, Ireland, where he was educated at Dr. Radcliffe's school. At age 17 he joined the office of Dublin architect Anthony as an assistant draftsman and went on to assist in the Ordnance Surveys of Ireland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cumberland. This was followed by Parliamentary surveys of the West Riding Union Railway (later part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) and some other railway projects.

He emigrated to Australia aboard Madawaska, bound for Sydney [1] which arrived in Adelaide in July 1849, and either decided to continue no further or returned there shortly after arriving at his destination.

He was appointed surveyor and valuator to the General Land and Building Society, Adelaide's first building society, but was persuaded by William Martin Letchford (c. 1824–1880), [2] who had in 1848 established a candle-making factory on Sturt Street, to join him in that business, which promised to be more lucrative. Tidmarsh left Letchford & Son the following year, forming a partnership with William Moore (1822–1898), another Letchford employee, [3] and as Moore & Tidmarsh set up a candle-making factory on South Terrace. The business proved successful, and they were able to purchase the Sturt Street factory from Letchford. In 1852 Tidmarsh joined the rush to the Victorian goldfields, leaving his partner in charge. Moore however was not to be left behind and also left to try his luck, as had most of South Australia's able-bodied men. The following year Tidmarsh returned to Adelaide and brought the factory back into production. The partnership with Moore was formally dissolved in September 1859 [4] and, needing additional capital to expand the business, took on Letchford as a partner in May 1860, [5] and as John Tidmarsh & Company business thrived and underwent a major expansion.

The factory on Sturt Street, between Russell and Norman streets, was by 1875 turning out 30 tons of soap and 6 tons of candles per week. The process of boiling down fat and tallow produces some particularly foul odours, and Tidmarsh was diligent in reducing this nuisance to a minimum by ventilating the vats through charcoal or quicklime. The lees were transported away from the factory in a large airtight container on wheels, to be dumped at some remote location. [6]

The partnership was dissolved in 1877 [7] after Letchford suffered a deterioration in his health, and Tidmarsh ran the business alone. He was in 1880 the first to introduce stearine candles to South Australia. In March 1881 he sold the business to W. H. Burford conditional on the business continuing to run with no change to the name or product. [8] The new management was not so fastidious about reducing smells where it affected profitability, and drained the lees to the town sewerage. The Adelaide City Council was powerless to force the issue, as the factory pre-dated habitation in that part of the city, and it was not until a great fire destroyed the complex in 1919 that a move was made to Dry Creek.

Tidmarsh retired to his home in Glenelg. His wife of 35 years died in 1886. Twenty years later, after years of suffering "strained sinews" (perhaps tendinosis), Tidmarsh killed himself at home with a pistol shot to the head. [9]

Their only surviving son, Francis Frederick Tidmarsh, about whom little is recorded but was factory foreman after Burford's took over, [10] founded his own soap and candle manufactory in Broken Hill some time around 1888. Burford's, owners of the Adelaide Tidmarsh factory, promptly issued a statement denying any connection between the two companies. [11] F. F. Tidmarsh was subsequently proved insolvent; in 1890 Burford's purchased the business and installed their own manager. In 1894 Tidmarsh and his family moved to Bourke, where as a member of the firm Tidmarsh, Baker & Co. he carried on with soap manufacture. [12]

Other interests

For two years Mr. Tidmarsh was a member of the Glenelg Corporation, but otherwise had little involvement with public affairs.


John Francis Tidmarsh (17 January 1824 – 11 November 1906) was a son of Francis Edgar Tidmarsh (c. 1789 – 8 January 1885) of Rathgar Road, Dublin. He married Sophia Birch (c. 1831 – 28 November 1886) in 1851. Their children included:

  • Ethel Tidmarsh (23 December 1879 – ) married Clement Stanley Collison (1875–1927), son of C. N. Collison, in 1905, lived in South Australia
  • Elsinore Tidmarsh (23 February 1881 – ) maybe married Dugan, lived in Yeoval, New South Wales, then Bourke
  • Kathleen Tidmarsh (17 September 1882 – ) married W. Woodfield, lived in Ashfield, New South Wales, then Bourke
  • Jesse Audrey Tidmarsh (1885–1885)
  • Gertrude Emilia "Gertie" Tidmarsh (5 July 1886 – ) married Walter Baker on 4 May 1910, lived at Rathgar Station
  • Adeline Tidmarsh (22 October 1888 – ) maybe married W. Manning, lived in Randwick, New South Wales
  • Francis Edgar Tidmarsh (26 May 1884 – ) lived in Bourke

See also

Some other soap and candle manufacturers of early Adelaide:

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  1. "Shipping Intelligence". South Australian Register . XIII (959). South Australia. 21 July 1849. p. 2. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  2. "Death of Mr. W. M. Letchford". Adelaide Observer . XXXVII (2046). South Australia. 18 December 1880. p. 28. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "The Late Mr William Moore". Yorke's Peninsula Advertiser . XXVI (2024). South Australia. 15 April 1898. p. 2. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Advertising". Adelaide Observer . XVII (938). South Australia. 24 September 1859. p. 1 (Supplement to the Adelaide Observer.). Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "Advertising". South Australian Register . XXIV (4230). South Australia. 5 May 1860. p. 1. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "South Australian Industries". South Australian Register . XLI (9137). South Australia. 26 February 1876. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "Advertising". The Express and Telegraph . XV (4, 158). South Australia. 1 December 1877. p. 4. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "Advertising". South Australian Register . XLVI (10, 709). South Australia. 11 March 1881. p. 1. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "Death of Mr. John Tidmarsh". The Register (Adelaide) . LXXI (18, 720). South Australia. 12 November 1906. p. 6. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "The Burfords Nuisance Case". The South Australian Advertiser . XXV (7693). South Australia. 15 June 1883. p. 3. Retrieved 6 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "Advertising". The Age (10, 466). Victoria, Australia. 7 September 1888. p. 10. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  12. "Francis Frederick Tidmarsh". Western Herald (1535). New South Wales, Australia. 2 March 1934. p. 2. Retrieved 5 May 2017 via National Library of Australia.