J Kitchen & Sons Pty Ltd

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

J Kitchen & Sons Pty Ltd

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence

1856 - 1962


In 1856 John Kitchen and his sons, John Ambrose, Phillip and Theophilus, began making tallow candles from butchers' scraps in the backyard of their home at Emerald Hill (South Melbourne). Ordered out as an offensive trade, the business removed to Sandridge (Port Melbourne) in 1858. Fire destroyed the company's premises in 1860, but they were quickly rebuilt and a Melbourne office was opened. In 1870 the Kitchens bought Gossage Brothers' soap and candle factory at Footscray to which they transferred their boiling-down operations. Manufacture of stearine candles commenced there in 1871. The driving force in the subsequent expansion of J Kitchen & Sons was John Ambrose, who established a factory in Wellington, New Zealand (1876), and bought out competitors at Sandhurst/Bendigo (1878), Echuca (1887) and Wangaratta (1887). Incorporated in 1883, J Kitchen & Sons, now employed some 300 workers at their factory in Melbourne. Apart from making candles and soap, and rendering tallow, they were also manufacturing glycerine, washing blue, soda crystals and baking powder. Following a merger with Apollo Company Limited in 1885 J Kitchen & Sons became the pre-eminent soap and candle manufacturer in the eastern mainland colonies, with a factory in Brisbane and a half-interest in the Sydney Soap & Candle Company Limited. A boiling-down factory was opened in Alexandria, a suburb of Sydney, in 1886 and, by 1895 J Kitchen & Sons had successfully introduced machine milling to Australia - instead of being mixed with the melted soap, perfumes were milled and pressed in by machine. J Kitchen & Sons moved into the southern and western parts of Australia by 1902 and, in 1907, began producing copra oil from a plantation at Milne Bay, Papua. Velvet soap was introduced as a brand name in 1906 and Solvol in 1915. In February 1915 the Company became a proprietary one and the name altered to J Kitchen & Sons Pty Ltd. By 1924 all Kitchen interests throughout Australia had been absorbed, by purchase, into J Kitchen & Sons Pty Ltd. The main premises, located at Port Melbourne, covered one hundred and seventeen acres and employed about 1,400 people. J Kitchen and Sons merged with WH Burford & Sons of Adelaide and Lever Brothers of Sydney in 1924 to form Australian Producers Co-Partnership Ltd (renamed Associated Enterprises Pty Ltd in 1932). The activities of the individual companies were coordinated by a General (Central) Management Board, comprising representatives of Lever Brothers in Balmain, the Kitchen interests and Levers Pacific Plantations. Unilever developed in Australia from this basis. In 1944 Associated Enterprises Pty Ltd was renamed Lever Associated Enterprises Pty Ltd (LAEP). The central executive of LAEP took over the duties of the Chairman and the directors of each of the subordinate companies, together with the technical direction that determined the character and composition of the products each company made. In 1945 Unilever began a period of rationalisation, diversification and integration in Australia. From 1948 production at the Kitchen factory in Brisbane was wound down and, in 1956 Unilever (Australia) Pty Ltd (UAPL) became the holding company for all Unilever’s Australian interests. Further rationalisation was conceived and in 1962 Unilever’s two major Australian soap marketing companies, J Kitchen & Sons Pty Ltd of Melbourne and Lever Brothers Pty Ltd of Sydney amalgamated to form Lever & Kitchen Pty Ltd.


Melbourne, Victoria; Sydney, New South Wales; Brisbane, Queensland; Fremantle, Western Australia; Wellington, New Zealand

Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

oil and fat manufacturing; soap and detergent manufacturing

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

Kitchen, John (1799-1890); Kitchen, Phillip (1832-1898); Kitchen, John Ambrose (1835-1922); Kitchen, Theolophilus (1841-1909); Kitchen, John Hambleton (Jack) (1862-1925); Kitchen, Frederick William (1879-1940)

General context

Relationships area

Access points area


Control area

Authority record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Prepared by Margaret Avard, August 2012




Riches, Arnold (1944): History of J Kitchen & Sons; Jobson’s Year Book of Public Companies Australia and New Zealand

Maintenance notes

  • Clipboard

  • Export

  • EAC