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History

05 Jun 2018

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The Violet Crumble – born and bred in Southbank

Numerous household items were produced in the factories and workshops in Southbank. But perhaps none achieved the popularity of Hoadley’s Violet Crumble.

Abel Hoadley opened a jam factory in South Melbourne in 1889 and soon after built a five-storey premises in Park St, just off St Kilda Rd. He produced jams, jellies, fruit preserves, candied peels, sauces, and confectionery and employed a workforce as large as 200.

In 1910, the jam business was sold and a new company called Hoadley’s Chocolates Ltd was formed, with production at a factory on the corner of St Kilda Rd and Coventry St in what is now Southbank.

In 1919 a disastrous fire broke out overnight. The construction was flimsy and within a quarter of an hour the brick building was a crumbling ruin. The company re-built on a block bounded by Coventry, Hanna (now Kingsway) and Dorcas streets.

The Violet Crumble emerged almost accidentally. When Hoadley produced his first chocolate assortment in 1913, he included a piece of honeycomb.

It became so popular that Hoadley decided to produce an individual honeycomb bar. But he soon discovered that as pieces of honeycomb cooled, they absorbed moisture and started sticking together. The solution was to dip the honeycomb bars in chocolate, keeping the honeycomb dry and crunchy, and the Violet Crumble was born.

But what would he call the new delight? As the favourite flower of his wife, Susannah, was the violet, he registered the name Violet Crumble, using a purple wrapper with a small flower logo. It was an instant success and by 1925 the company was thriving.

Hoadley’s was regarded by many locals as a good place to work and family connections were strong – sometimes over three generations worked there.

Friendships were formed that have lasted for many years and continue today, as does their love for the Hoadley’s products (which later included Bertie Beetles, and Polly Waffles). Some recall that when they clocked off there were always boxes of chocolate bars and they were allowed to take one each.

The local kids loved hanging around, particularly where they processed the honeycomb for Violet Crumbles and the people working there would give them big pieces of hot honeycomb! Many also loved the smells from the factory, with its huge chimney, particularly when Violet Crumbles were being made.

Local rumour informs us that when the Hoadley factory was demolished around 2000, huge rats were seen running down Kings Way.

Now over 100 years old, the Violet Crumble is still very popular and its origins in Southbank should not be forgotten.

Robin Grow

President - Australian Art Deco & Modernism Society

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