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A history of Fish Lane, part 2: The Eodone Aerated Water Company

By JOL Admin | 10 October 2016

During the 1880s South Brisbane was thriving.  A busy hub developed around 'the bridgelands' near the entrance to the Victoria Bridge.  When the parishioners of St. Thomas' Church left their modest building for the newly built St. Andrews', up on higher ground, the Church of England leased the old church out for commercial use.

A number of companies occupied the old church, the most notable of which was the Eodone Aerated Water Company. The soft drink business began operations in the early 1880s and by 1884 was reported as a fine example of how quickly South Brisbane was going ahead.  That year the company installed new state of the art machinery enabling them to increase capacity to 3000 dozen bottles a day.

Prospectus of the Eodone Aerated Water Company. From The Telegraph, 3 July 1885.

The 1880s saw the building almost completely surrounded by new development with the Church of England issuing construction leases for the rest of the block including the strip of land between the old church and Melbourne Street. Shops were soon built along this stretch facing Melbourne Street. The Eodone Aerated Water Company was therefore only accessible via the small back alley that ran alongside it - the lane that would eventually become Fish Lane.

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Excerpt from the map Brisbane, 1888 (Supplement to the Illustrated Sydney News, August 30th, 1888) (New buildings on the corner of Grey and Melbourne streets can be seen bottom centre. The old church buildings occupied by Eodone can be seen behind them. Soda Water Lane is evident running off Stanley Street through the gap between buildings). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

With this prominent business in residence came recognition for the laneway running along past it.  The lane gets its first listing in the Queensland Postal Directory in the 1885 edition, under the name of Soda Water Lane.  The sole listed occupant on the east side of the lane is the Eodone Aerated Water Company, housed in the old St. Thomas’ Church building, and managed by a Thomas Maugham.  A manufacturer and strangely enough a lemonade factory are listed on the west side.  In subsequent Postal Directories, other occupants share Soda Water Lane with Eodone, none however last much more than a year.

Excerpt from Queensland Post Office Directory, 1885 (showing the occupants of Soda Water Lane). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The mid 1880s were boom years for the drinks company.  Their towering displays of aerated beverages and cordials at the Queensland Exhibition were applauded by Brisbane newspapers each year from 1884 to 1887. The Queenslander described their 1885 effort as "a tremendous palm-surmounted pyramid... with tier after tier of bottles of liquid that neither cheers nor inebriates..." Their products were also highly regarded, the 1886 Exhibition seeing them take home five first order merits. The lively Exhibition correspondents from The Week newspaper seemed to enjoy themselves immensely that year:

Excerpt from a review of the Exhibition food and beverage displays, The Week 21 Aug 1886.

However, things were soon to all go horribly wrong at Eodone.  In 1888 a scandal broke, centering around allegations that manager and director Thomas Maugham had been embezzling money from the company.  He faced the South Brisbane Police Court in October 1888 and was charged before being released on bail. Maugham then faced the Supreme Court on charges of ‘larceny as a director’ in November 1888. He was acquitted but the business didn’t survive this turmoil.

Excerpt from The Telegraph, 31 Oct 1888.

By the following year the assets of the company were being auctioned off in a liquidation sale. Finally, in August 1892 another auction on site sold off the entire plant including machinery, vans and horses. Later in the year, the old St. Thomas’ Church building was advertised to let.

Auction listing for the assets of the Eodone Aerated Water Company. From The Telegraph, 27 Mar 1889.

During the 1890s Soda Water Lane disappeared from the Queensland Postal Directory.  Without its resident namesake, the Eodone Aerated Water Company, the laneway seemed to drop out of the public record.  In 1904 the old church building was eventually demolished with some of its bricks used in a nearby retaining wall.

Scene of South Brisbane during the 1890 flood. (Viewed from the intersection of Melbourne and Stanley Streets. The shops on the right of the photograph are built along the front of the old St. Thomas' Church). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 91396

View of South Brisbane during the 1893 flood. (The shops on Melbourne Street in front of the old church building can be seen in the centre of the picture). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 119200

In 2015, almost 120 years after the Eodone Aerated Water Company and Soda Water Lane were relegated to history, a 20 story commercial and residential development in South Brisbane named 'Soda' came onto the market.  On the corner of Cordelia and Melbourne Streets and backing on to Fish Lane, the developers responsible chose to memorialise Soda Water Lane (even though it never really stretched quite that far).

Further reading:


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