In its heyday, Baker's wagon and foundry works reflected the prosperity of a booming wheat economy. But so much in farming is dependent upon the weather.  A failed harvest affects a whole community, incomes diminish and business slows. The first setback for Baker's Factory came in October 1910, when a late frost killed a bumper wheat crop overnight. Lean seasons followed in 1911 and 1912, while 1914 was a complete failure. No less than 16 orders for Baker’s wheat and wool wagons were cancelled, but undaunted, Mr. Baker diverted his attention to other avenues of business.

H. Baker's Coach & Waggon Factory c.1904

The development of the motor car and truck was already threatening the coach-building trade. With this in mind, Baker procured the Ford agency and set out to replace horse-drawn vehicles with motor driven ones. Servicing and refuelling of vehicles became the daily routine. Trucks were imported in pieces and assembled in Australian workshops and local manufacture of the truck tray would supersede wagon production. He also wisely acquired the International farm machinery company agency. In 1921, after 19 years in the job, Henry Baker retired, the business being taken over by Thomas Moffat and A. C. Blanch. 7 years later, the foundry building would be offered for sale.


In 1930, Henry Baker Snr. briefly returned to the firm in company with his sons before his death the following year. By this time cars and trucks had come into general usage. Major renovation of the old workshop was undertaken and in October 1934 'H. Baker & Co., Motor Body Builders and General Engineers' was registered under the proprietorship of Henry P. and John K. Baker.

H. Baker & Co Ad 1934
Foundry Service Station ad. 1934
Foundry Service Station 1934 Renovation
The Foundry Service Station c.1934

The Veness Brothers purchased the premises in 1939 and operated a petrol station for a short time until Austin Veness enlisted for wartime service. 

In September of 1942, Manilla Municipal Council purchased both land and building, the latter having been recently sold. In June 1943, the building was demolished, providing materials for many a farm shed. The factory site is now one of Manilla's several parks, the productive clanging and banging of Henry Baker's vast enterprise, quietly marked these days by a historical mural and an information panel.



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Images: Manilla Community Archive unless otherwise stated.
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