Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

John Wood


Publican, liquor merchant, brewer, councillor, magistrate

Personal Photo 1

John Wood left his home in Yorkshire and arrived in Australia in 1848, aged twenty two. After a stint as a timber merchant in Fitzroy, he purchased a two acre site on the eastern side of Wellington Street in Collingwood, where he became in succession, the owner of the Yorkshire Hotel, and the founder of the Yorkshire Brewery Company. He also owned a wine and spirits store in Peel Street, on the Wellington Street corner. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace and occupied a seat in the Council of the Borough of East Collingwood.

The Yorkshire Hotel was licensed in 1853 and was described in the 1864 rate book as a brick and stone hotel of 14 rooms. Brewing was becoming an important local industry and in 1858 Wood established the Yorkshire Brewery, which traded initially as Wood and Ware. Now concentrating on his brewing activities, Wood handed over the reins of the Yorkshire Hotel to publican Abraham Howgate in 1860. In due course his eldest son Albert joined the business, which from 1865 was named John Wood and Son. The enterprise prospered and a new factory complex in Wellington Street was designed in the 1870s by Wood's architect son James. It must have been a proud day for John Wood in early October 1876 when his wife Elizabeth laid the foundation stone of the new brewery building. The spectacular brew tower was described in the Australian Builders Journal (20 July 1890, p. 267) as ‘the most prominent feature of the Collingwood streetscape, and a conspicuous object for many miles around.’ The brew tower was also intended to provide a superior vantage point, with the viewing platform on the mansard roof offering 'a splendid view of the surrounding suburbs ... [with] the Plenty Ranges, Mount Macedon, and the Bay clearly discernible’. The tower remained the tallest building, not just in Collingwood but in the whole of Melbourne, until 1888.

John Wood and the younger members of his large family had already moved out of Collingwood in 1869 to live at Riversdale in Riversdale Road Hawthorn, where their youngest child was born. In the 1850s they lived in the hotel, and in the 1860s their residence was apparently the large two storey bluestone and brick house depicted in an 1862 photo with a chemist shop on the ground floor. (Then known as number 82: see link under Images, below). In 1878 Wood left on a trip to England, his first visit to the old country since his arrival in Australia. Back in his home town with his wife and three of his children, he would have been seen as the emigrant who had made good in his new homeland, but the journey did not end well. He was taken ill, perhaps as a result of some injuries previously caused by a fall from his carriage near the intersection of Gertrude and Smith Streets in Collingwood. He was recommended to take a trip to Scarborough for the sea air but there he died, aged only 52.

At his death Wood, as well as his extensive business interests in John Wood and Son, and various properties in and around Wellington Street, owned ten percent of the allotments in West Clifton Hill, most of which were put up for sale not long afterwards. In January 1882 the Melbourne and Malting Company bought the stock, book debts and goodwill of the business, but in 1883 sons James, Charles and John renewed their involvement in the brewery business, which from 1887 was named Wood and Sons Yorkshire Brewery Company Limited. Their business failed in the 1890s and was liquidated in 1895. The complex was purchased in 1909 by the newly formed Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) and was used for many years as a stand-by plant to the main brewing complexes in Carlton and East Melbourne (Victoria Brewery).

In recent years there was much controversy over various plans for the semi-derelict site. From being the most prominent landmark in the area, the polychrome tower has now been all but lost to view from most points of the compass, crowded in by modern developments. The wine and spirit store and neighbouring bakery, two of the oldest extant shops in Collingwood, were demolished

Work Photo 1

Grocer shop in 1862 prior to Wood's purchase

Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
1826 Cumberworth, Yorkshire, England
Spouse Name Date of Marriage Children
Elizabeth Hilton, c. 1826 - 4 June 1894 Albert Edward, Abraham, William, Green 1851-54, James, Amelia, Charles Henry, Frank, Alice, Emily, Alfred 1862-63, John, Maria, Ada Jessie.
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
Yorkshire Hotel, 86 Wellington Street Collingwood Demolished
88 Wellington Street Collingwood Demolished
Work Addresses
Work Street Work City Status of Building
Wellington Street, between Waterloo and Robert Street Collingwood Brewery extant
111 Wellington Street Collingwood Demolished
Church Lodge
St Peter's Anglican, East Melbourne
Death Date Death Place Cemetery
10 August 1878 Scarborough, Yorkshire Cumberworth, Yorkshire

Barrett, The inner suburbs; Allom Lovell, City of Yarra Heritage review: thematic history; Cannon, Melbourne after the gold rush; Allom Lovell, Former Yorkshire Brewery; Australian Builders Journal, 20 July 1890; Mercury; Weekly Times; Ballarat Courier.
Wikipedia: tallest buildings in Melbourne
CHS: Yorkshire Brewery
University of Melbourne Archives

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