Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

George and Charlotte Sargent

George Sargent, born in Birmingham, England, in 1856, was a baker by trade before emigrating to Australia. In 1883 in Sydney he married Australian-born Charlotte Foster, aged 27, daughter of Thomas Foster, a coachman, and his wife Sarah. Charlotte had a son born out of wedlock whom she named Henry Hartley and who was five years old when she married George Sargent. There were no children of George and Charlotte’s marriage and Henry was brought up as their own son. They later adopted a daughter.

Before her marriage Charlotte had worked as manager of a confectionery shop and with George’s experience as foreman of a city bakery they began a shared lifelong work in the bakery and catering trade. With winnings from a Tattersall’s sweep they purchased their first bakery shop about 1889, but had to sell it when George became ill. In a second shop in Paddington, George began making small meat pies as well as pasties. According to local legend, George was at this time (early 1890s) pushing a hand pie cart around the city streets and was persuaded by his friend Samuel Oxley of Pennant Hills to try the latter’s newly developed egg powder made from imported broken eggs from China. Sargent tried this less costly egg ingredient and found that the taste of his baking improved and his expenses decreased.[1]

Sargent’s penny pies and later their coffee houses became famous in Sydney and Melbourne and the Sargent family became wealthy. Charlotte’s son, who had taken the name Foster Henry Hartley Sargent, also trained as a baker and went into the business as co-director with George.

He married Elaine Violet Starkey in 1900 and they had five children. Their son Ivor George, who was born in 1904, was baptised in St John’s Church, Beecroft. Elaine Sargent died in 1914.[2]

From 1895 to 1906 George and Henry (and their wives) purchased a considerable area of Beecroft land, eight adjoining portions of over two acres each on the northern side of Copeland Road East and about one acre on the corner of Railway Crescent and Hannah Street. On this corner block the younger Sargents built a two-storeyed brick home and furnished it expensively.

During his time in Beecroft Foster Henry was on the committee of the Beecroft Progress Association and the Parents’ and Residents’ Association. They left Beecroft in 1909 for Melbourne when Foster became manager of the Sargent’s business there. In 1915 he enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force, was wounded in France and taken prisoner to Germany. The Hannah Street house was leased until 1912 when it was sold, later becoming the well-known home and dental surgery of Os Seale.[3]

On the first block of land purchased in Copeland Road East in 1895, George and Charlotte put up a weatherboard cottage, ‘Waratah’, as a holiday home. They soon built a much more handsome brick bungalow, ‘Uralla’, in a style combining both late Victorian and early Federation features. At the rear was a wide timber veranda with a turret room at one end and a four-roomed coach house was built in the extensive garden. In 1902 George put up two brick bungalows on one side of ‘Uralla’ and in 1905 five more close by, these latter designed by architect William Nixon. These nine houses in a row were remarkable for their quality brick and timber work and for the homogenous appearance of the street with each house sitting squarely in the centre of a wide block and well back from the road alignment.[4]

In 1903 the local newspaper reported a party at ‘Uralla’: ‘dancing commenced about eight o'clock and closed at midnight to excellent music, provided by De Groen’s band (piano, violin and cornet). The spacious veranda had been converted into a ballroom and served the purpose admirably.’ City visitors and local friends were invited, including Mrs Barnby, the Skelletts, the Meadmores and Miss Chorley.[5]

The Sargents had a great concern for the welfare of their staff, many of whom worked all their lives in the firm and it was local repute that some of the Copeland Road East bungalows were for the use of staff for holidays. Charlotte Sargent entertained one Easter Saturday evening ‘all the young ladies employed in their various tea rooms at a plain and fancy dress ball. About three 300 young ladies ... and a number of guests enjoyed themselves. On the following Monday Mrs Sargent ‘gave a picnic at her residence ‘Uralla’ to the younger girls in the firm’s employ and they spent a most enjoyable time.’[6]

It was possible that the Beecroft home was not used all the time by George and Charlotte Sargent as the long hours of business would have kept them in the city much of the week. George was, however, interested in the Beecroft Public School and in 1903 he gave a gold medal to the best writer in the school to be awarded annually. His firm catered for the school picnic held in Chorley’s grounds in 1904, and for the golf club luncheon and presentation of trophies in 1907.[7]

In about 1912 George and Charlotte leased ‘Uralla’ and went to live in Vaucluse where a large residence was built for them named ‘Hartley Hope’. They were always generous to charities and during the war Mrs Sargent worked hard raising money to help families of Australian soldiers who were wounded or in prisoner-of-war camps.

In 1921 George Sargent died at the age of 64 in his Vaucluse home, much respected as both man and businessman. The Bulletin spoke of his astute and honest dealings:

‘Until a few months prior to his death practically every pound of foodstuffs which went into the Sargent factories was ordered by and passed under the eyes of George Sargent, and the trade new better than to attempt to sell him inferior grades or charge a farthing more than the contract prices.’[8]

Charlotte carried on as Managing Director and died three years later at her home in Vaucluse. Within four months of her death Hartley died after falling over a cliff in Medlow Bath near his holiday home. He was aged 46 years and had suffered poor health since the war.[9]




[1] Information from Miss Alice Oxley of Pennant Hills.

[2] Land Titles Office (Copeland Road East) 1029/143, 1137/192, 1163/247, 1143/4, 1329/160,
1139/216, 1139/246; (Hannah Street) 845/193, 853/61.

[3] Cumberland Argus, 17 April 1909, 5 February 1905, 22 December 1906.

[4] Hornsby Shire Council Rates Book, 1921-1924; Cumberland
, 18 October 1902, 13 August 1910, 3 September 1910, 7 January 1911. These houses are now Nos. 149-163 Copeland Road East.

[5] Cumberland Argus, 6 June 1903.

[6] Cumberland Argus, 9 April 1904.               

[7] Cumberland Argus, 26 December 1903, 2 April 1904, 16 November 1907.

[8] The Bulletin, 6 March 1924.

[9] J. McCulloch, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 11, p. 522.

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