Kelsall's Soap Works

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Alternatively known as Kelsall's Soap Works, Kelsall & Co., and the Canadian Soap Works, they were soap and candle makers operating from premises in Ballarat and Buninyong in 1887. [1]




In July 1898 John Kelsall offered his business for sale. It was purchased by J. Kitchen and Sons in August 1898 for 1000 pounds. [2]


Mr J. Kelsall’s new soap and candle manufactory, known as the “ Atlas Soapery,” was opened on Thurs day, in the presence of a number of ladies and gentle men from Ballarat and Buninyong. Soap and candle making is a colonial industry that has now obtained such a firm footing in this colony that nearly all, the common kinds of soap used here are made in the country, the fancy soaps only being imported. Mr Kel sall commenced the making of soap and candles, in connection with his fellmongery at Buninyong, as far back as 1856, and at this time there was no other manufactory of the same kind in tho colony, out of Melbourne and Geelong.. Up to this time, too, the soap had been boiled by fire in the colonial manufactures, and Mr Kelsall was the first to boil by steam, and the first here to successfully use silicate of soda, which is largely used in the manufacture of common soap. Mr Kelsall continued in business at Buninyong ever since 1856,and finding it necessary to have another establishment nearer a market, he had new premises erected at Sinclair’s Hill, just off the Buninyong road. The work was carried out under Mr Caselli, architect, of Ballarat, by Messrs Longstaff and Southwick, contractors, and the new building was finished a few days ago. It is built on the face of the hill, a large excavation having been made, and part of the building, which is of wood and brick, is two stories high. The cost of the new building, with the expense of altering and adding to the plant which has been taken there from the Buninyong works, was about £1000. The site is so good, that it will allow fellmongering and leather making to be carried on in addition to the present works, at any future time, the water having been laid on by the Ballarat Water Supply Committee on payment of £75 by Mr Kelsall, as a guarantee that he would consume water to that amount. Steam is to be used at the new works at Sinclair's Hill, and this is supplied from a Cornish flue boiler, of a size sufficient to work an 18 horse-power engine. The rough fat, when first taken to the works for melting into tallow, will be lifted by a crane from the drays to the upperroom, in which are three vats of kauri pine, each able to hold two tons. In these the rough fat is melted by steam. Provision has been made to prevent the spreading of the horrible stench generally rising from the vats in which the first melting process is carried on. These three vats are fitted with lids, and the steam from them is conveyed through large zinc pipes to a tank of cold water, where it is condensed. The water from the tank runs down to another deodorising tank filled with charcoal and sand, and from this through a box drain off the premises down to a creek, on the bank of which is another char coal filter-bed. , All solid refuse matter is to be immediately mixed with earth and sold for manure. The. tallow, after being melted in the first vats is allowed to fun into casks, when it is ready for sale as tallow. That intended to be used in soap making is allowed to run into the soap-pans, of which there are three. Two of these-soap-pans will hold about three tons each, while the third, which is one of the largest in the colony, will hold about ten tons. This large pan is fifteen feet deep. There are also two tanks in which the caustic and soda are to be dissolved. This solution will be conveyed in shutes to the soap-pans in which the tallow is. This mixture is boiled by steam, but Mr Kelsall has one of the soap pans so constructed that he can use five for the boiling of soft soap, for which he expects there will be a good demand, as the squatters were beginning to use it very largely. The mixture, after being boiled in the soap-pans, off into moulds, which are removed when the: soap is cooled. The blocks of soap thus left are about three feet high, and 18 inches thick, and they are cut up into bars of the required size with wire. . . Both iron and wooden moulds are used. Mr Kelsall holds the ground upon which the works are situated, and about 3 1/2 acres of land around, under miner’s-rights, a mining company. having objected to the sale of the land. It is expected that 25 tons of soap and about two tons of candles can be turned out from the manufactury every week. The tallow for the candles is remelted in two small boilers fixed in the lower floor, and there moulded. The bleaching apparatus had not arrived when we visited the works, The assemblage, on Thursday afternoon, was to witness the formal opening of the works. Steam was got up and Mrs Kelsall christened the manufactory "The Atlas Soapery,” by breaking a bottle of wine against the large soap-pan. Three hearty cheers were given for Mrs Kelsall after which those.present, to the number of about, .twenty including most of those employed on the premises sat down to a repast provided on the lower floor Mr Kelsall presided, and all the loyal toasts were drunk. Mr Caselli proposed success to "The Atlas Soapery," and made a long speech, giving an account of Mr Kelsall's establishment of a new industry in this district. Mr. Kelsall responded, and after the healths of the architect and contractors and various other toasts had been proposed and responded to the company dispersed.[3]


In 1888 Kelsall's Warehouse was located on the corner of Lydiard Street and Mair Street.


On 6 January 1888 John Kelsall, soap manufacturer of Lydiard Street Ballarat applied to register as proprietor of a trade-mark.

Community Involvement

Works Produced

Workplace Relations

The People

John Pittard Price died in an accidental fall at Kelsall’s Soap Works in 1873.


See also

Soap Makers

Henry R. Caselli

Recommended Reading


  1. Rogers, J. W. F. (ed.). (c. 1887). The Australasian Federal Directory of Commerce, Trades & Professions. Melbourne: J. W. F. Rogers.
  3. Ballarat Star, 9 June, 1871

Further Reading

External Links

--H. Scarpe 22:59, 8 September 2012 (EST)

--Beth Kicinski 12:22, 4 September 2013 (EST)

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