John Hugh Gracie

(1855-1927)

John Hugh Gracie, lived in East Fremantle for 32 years. He was born in Tasmania, where his father was manager of the Cascade Brewery. At the age of 30 Gracie took over his father’s position where he remained for five years. He then moved to Melbourne where he was engaged in various brewing businesses, and then Bathurst, where he was brewer at the Crown Brewery.

1897: On his arrival in Fremantle he founded the Castlemaine Brewery in partnership with Mr Howard Norman Sleigh.

1897 “Application for Gallon License for Sleigh's Castlemaine Brewery, Plympton, situated facing the Swan River, and on the Canning-road, being a brewery built of wood, three storeys high, and containing three rooms, and which building is not now licensed’’. (reference)

Later Walter Frederick Walkley purchased Mr. Sleigh's interest in the business and Messrs. Gracie and Walkley then absorbed the Phoenix Brewery.

On 4th January 1892 Lots 10, 11 and 12 of Swan Location 62 were transferred to Gracie and Walkley. In December 1894 the same pair obtained Lot 9 to facilitate an expansion of their brewing business  located on Lots 1 and 2. This was formerly the Fremantle Brewing & Ice Co. (reference). See map of Lots along Riverside Road in the gallery section.

In 1900 the business became the Castlemaine Brewery Ltd., and Mr. Gracie was appointed managing director, retaining this position until his retirement in 1912.

(See photo- Smoke comes from the Phoenix Brewery (operated 1902-1904), published in Old Fremantle by J. Dowson, p.57 with caption: Castlemaine Brewery Ltd, Riverside Road, then Richmond, now East Fremantle, c.1900). (reference)

1906: “It is only about five years since those enterprising business men (Messrs. J. H. Gracie and W. F. Walkley) purchased from Messrs. Sleigh and Co. the business and premises of the Castlemaine Brewery. Twice since starting the new venture, Messrs. Gracie and Walkley have found it necessary to make considerable additions to the premises. Recently they purchased the Phoenix Brewery, which is within a block or two of the old premises. Consequently the firm has built at the new premises, now known as the Castlemaine Brewery, a fine up-to-date cellar capable of holding some 700 to 800 hogsheads. The old premises of the firm are being used exclusively as a bottling department, and the proprietors have lately installed "West's Patent Chilling Process," the latest and most up-to date system of beer-bottling known to the trade. Here, again, their push and enterprise has been rewarded, as since the installation the output has been increased at least 100 percent, and the hands are working at high pressure to meet the demands for Penguin ale and stout’’ (reference)

1912: On retiring Gracie was presented with an illuminated address as a mark of esteem by the employees of the company. He was a keen horticulturist, and was considered to have at his residence, one of the finest collections of ferns, palms, and shrubs in the Commonwealth. (reference)

Gracie had a contentious married life. He was charged with persistent cruelty to his first wife. He admitted to these allegations in a court case in 1899 and an order was made for separation. Gracie was ordered to pay maintenance, and his ex wife was given custody of her children. (reference)

Gracie married his second wife Eliza Gertrude in March 1904 and divorced her in 1909, on the grounds of misconduct, complaining that when they came to Fremantle trouble commenced and he found his wife ‘hot tempered’. This led to quarrels. Gracie described how he and a man named Mooney surprised Eliza in bed with Lloyd, who was said to be a pig feeder. The witness, after accusing his wife of infidelity, searched for the man, and when he found him, gave him a thrashing and kicked him out into the street without his clothes. Gracie maintained that he had never laid hands on his wife except to smack her on two occasions for cutting him whilst she was under the influence of drink. He said they had been happy, whilst his wife was sober. (reference)

1912: Gracie married his third wife- Christina (Ethel) Durkin. Gracie resided at 3 Riverside Road, close to Castlemaine Brewery, until 1915. From 1915 until 1927 he lived at a magnificent property at 214 Canning Highway, East Fremantle known as ‘Kensington’. In Sept 1927 this was auctioned into six separate blocks. A description of the site is found here: (reference). This site is now occupied by Braemar House, an aged care facility. The current street address of Braemar House is 10 Windsor Road and there are a number of buildings sitting between it and Canning Highway.

1920: Mr. Morris Breheny, head brewer of Castlemaine Brewery, retired and was honoured by the Irish National Association for his contributions to the community. (reference)

Castlemaine Brewery expanded, buying the Commercial Hotel in 1920, (now Sunshine Backpackers Hostel), the Oddfellows Hotel in 1922, (now Norfolk Hotel- ownership of the hotel was transferred to Swan Brewery in 1927 and lasted until 1952) and in 1925- the Richmond Hotel, later renamed to the Bridge Hotel. (reference)

Gracie died in 1927 and was buried in the Fremantle Cemetery.

“1927: Brewery Merger- Swan and Castlemaine Unite- Negotiations were in progress for the Swan Brewery Co., Ltd., to take over the business of the Castlemaine Brewery Co.” (reference)

1941: There was a fire at the old Castlemaine Brewery in 1941. (reference)

1963: Demolition of the Brewery buildings began in 1963 when the Stirling Bridge was built. A bottle found in the remains of the the Castlemaine Brewery and uncovered by workers on the site of the Stirling Bridge is held in the WA Museum. (reference)

Obituary for Walter Frederick Walkley: .https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48173852