Local Landmark: The Cannery

April 12th, 2024 - by Brad Gillespie

Located at 61 Mentmore Ave, Rosebery (and taking up much of the whole block), The Cannery is a warehouse complex that dates back to 1913, and was best known for being a production site for the famous Aussie food brand Rosella.

Almost a decade ago, the Cannery was converted into a retail and entertainment precinct, which pitches itself as a one-stop shop for food, wellness and lifestyle. It now has pretty much everything a foodie needs, from amazing pastries to boutique gin and from food markets to a cooking school. It also boasts several great cafes, restaurants and bars.

We think the Cannery is one of the truly great things about living in Rosebery and has been a major factor in helping turn it into a foodie destination.

So, we take a look at its history.

In the beginning…

The Rosella brand was started in 1895 by two friends, Mr HR McCracken (a commission agent) and TJ Press (a grocer). They started out making preserves and sauces in a backyard in Carlton, Melbourne.

Naming their company in honour of the Australian bird seen on their logo, their famous tomato sauce was first created in 1899 and became one of their flagship products.

With financial backing from another grocer, The Rosella Preserving and Manufacturing Company quickly grew into a bigger venture, with factories and, later, interstate expansion to produce its sauces, jams, and canned fruits and soups.

By 1921, according to a Herald report, Rosella was already a notable resident in the model industrial suburb of Rosebery, which had transformed over the previous decade from an area of “gardeners and dairymen”.

Rosella opened a second, newer Sydney factory in 1925 as part of further interstate expansion. A tender was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald in March by “Messrs. H. E. Ross and Rowe, architects” of 850 George Street, Sydney, for the “erection of first section of large factory premises at Rosebery for the Rosella Preserving Company.” The architects were one of Sydney's most significant architectural firms in the interwar period, and also designed the Commonwealth Bank building in the city.

A Daily Telegraph news report later that same year reports that the company was raising more capital to fund its expansion, and “the factory building at Rosebery, Sydney, was now completed. It was being fitted for manufacturing purposes and was expected to be in full swing early in the new year.”

The Rosella brand

A 1928 advertisement for the Rosella stand at the Show described it as a “monument to quality and efficiency”, promoted the food’s “purity and goodness”, and invited people to taste their famous tomato soup and pick up a free recipe book.

By the 1930s, Rosella had over 1,000 employees and was exporting 14 different products to New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, Sweden, and other countries. The large Rosella factory is visible in this aerial photo of Rosebery from circa 1940.

The State Library of Victoria holds an archive of old company material, including an oversized company record book from the 1940s with monthly production details of tinned and bottled goods, including many foods that have gone out of fashion, such as ‘Gherkin Paste’, ‘Cocktail Tomato’, ‘Coffee Essence’ and ‘Oxtail soup’. The archive also contains images of can labels for ‘mutton broth’, ‘game soup’, ‘kidney soup’ and ‘black currant fruit jelly’, plus ‘whole chicken in jelly ready to serve’ with fashionable label designs from the era.

Remarkably, there’s even a letter from Douglas Mawson from his 1930 Antarctic expedition complimenting the brand:

“The Expedition has been well stocked with many items of your excellent food preparations. I have pleasure in advising that in every case these preparations left nothing to be desired either in the matter of quality or packing. Rosella preparations set a high standard.”

The Rosella brand was sold in the 1960s, then again in 2012, before being placed into receivership when the Sydney factory closed down in March 2013. But the brand lives on - it was acquired by a private family company, Sabrands Australia, and you can find the classic family-favourite Rosella sauces, chutneys, relishes, pickled onions and soups in supermarkets.

After changing hands several times over its 130-year history, it’s once again an Australian-owned company, which is something to celebrate and support.

The conversion

The Cannery is yet another example of adaptive re-use in our area. The project to convert the 11,000-square-metre warehouse space began a couple of years after the factory closed (the site is said to have spent some time as a warehouse for Aristocrat Poker Machines).

The building is designed to be functional and flexible, with multi-purpose spaces. It cleverly retains its industrial vibe, with most building facades intact, exposed beams, high ceilings, stripped-back brick walls and concrete floors.

Paying homage to the building’s roots, The Cannery has a strong emphasis on food. You’ll find big names including Black Star Pastry, Archie Rose, Messina, Frenchies, and Three Blue Ducks alongside many other bars, restaurants and stores. There’s also an Aldi.

There’s a whole offering dedicated to lifestyle, from fashion to homewares and even a Petbarn. And, of course, there’s a gym and other health and wellness services.

Great Markets are held on the ground floor of The Cannery on the first weekend of every month. We love checking out what’s on at The Cannery - it’s always changing.

Want more?

Contact our team today to find out more about how we can help you buy and sell in Sydney’s inner city and inner west.

Photo credit: The Cannery Roseberry Facebook page