Maid Me Look

In Biscuits, Buttermaid, Cakes, confectionery, Dustins Ltd, Frozen Foods, Ice Cream, Pastry, Southern Cross Biscuits on October 9, 2011 at 10.46

I have to admit that I at first dismissed the Buttermaid Cake ads I found as likely being irrelevant to the story I posted on previously in March 2011:


I immediately decided that it was unlikely a bakery from the 1920s had any relation. It wasn’t until I really examined all of them I found that the company, Dustins Ltd., was also manufacturing “Famos Pies”, almond icing, and puff pastry, ready to bake – surely what must be one of the earlier non-canned New Zealand convenience products (although since writing this weeks ago, I have found an advertisement for chilled readymade pastry for sale in the 1890s).

Buttermaid Cakes, Evening Post , November 1928 

So this is effectively part two of the Buttermaid pastry story.

Paraphrasing the Wanganui Herald’s article “Banquet in New Rooms” of 13 May 1909 : “In 1896 Mr Dustin started biscuit baking, and that business grew so much that he had to turn it into a company. Then Mr Dustin entered the catering business, and progressed so rapidly that he had to extend his buildings”.

Buttermaid Cake coupon, Evening Post, October 1927 

Indeed he did – opening quite glamorous tearooms painted with murals selling their cakes, pies and confections in 1909 (a newspaper feature goes into great detail about the stencilling and harmonic shades of sage, salmon and de nil). Two large floors offered  morning and afternoon teas, and dinners –  four courses for a shilling.

Advertisement for the newly opened restaurant and tearooms, demonstrating the fare on offer, Wanganui Herald, July 1909

Interior of  William S Dustins tearooms, Wanganui, 1909. Photograph taken by Frank J Denton, National Library of NZ Collection 

As well as a second bakery he owned named “Devon” at the same time, from 1903 Dustins American Saloon in Victoria Street offered milkshakes, ices, cream drinks and sodas. By 1914 their mini-empire also included “their Regent Rooms higher up The Avenue, where wines may be purchased in draught, in single bottles, or in case lots”.

“Employees outside the confectionery shop of W. S. Dustin Wanganui 1909”.  F. J. Denton Collection , Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and pictorial.

“Interior of the confectionery shop of W. S. Dustin Wanganui 1909”I got out my magnifying glass and was able to spot the following products for sale: Cadbury Chocolate, Kirkpatrick’s “K ” canned plum pudding, Aulsebrook’s chocolates, Huntley & Palmer biscuits, KOPS ale & stout, Tucker’s chocolate and toffee, Fry’s Chocolate,  American Baloon (sic) soda drinks. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and pictorial collection.

As well as a confectioner, bread maker , biscuit baker and agent for various products from malt to honey, W.S. Dustin also catered for races,  A&P shows, as well as hosting concerts, wedding parties and balls in the tearooms. In 1899 he was referring to himself as “premier caterer” (eventually he catered for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927, who were later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth  but by 1909, the year his restaurant and tearooms enterprise opened, Dustin’s Ltd were already appointed as bakers to His Excellency the Governor).

Dustins“American Saloon” ,Wanganui Herald,November 1903

He may have started baking biscuits per se in 1896, but when he arrived in Wanganui in 1879, straight off the “Geraldine Paget” -on which the skills he learned in Plymouth and Devon were put to use as ship pastry cook – he first opened business in Guyton street with an output of just 25 loaves of bread a day, distributing by hand basket delivery. From there he gradually developed his trade until  he removed to Wicksteed Street, and his tally recorded a daily delivery of 1500 loaves In 1896. By the late 1890s he was the largest bread and confectionery business for many miles around.

Southern Cross Biscuit Company sack – besides biscuits, confectionery, pastry, pies and breads the factory also produced flour.

The biscuit baking branch launched with immediate success and resulted in the formation of the Southern Cross Biscuit Factory in 1902. It went from strength to strength and within two years was baking ten types of bread, 3500 plus units a day, as well as sweets, and of course cookies. By 1907 they had purchased machinery and had branched out into manufacturing their own iced confections for sale – however I found reference to W.S. Dustin in Wanganui offering ice cream in an ad as early as 1891.

Chocolates and Petit Fours at Dustins, by Berry and Co, circa 1920. Glass plate negative, courtesy of Te Papa Collection.

Another factor in the strategic expansion of the firm was the increase of Dustin’s family – eventually to number eight children – which had compelled him to plan for the future and “give them an interest in the business, and the result was Dustins, Ltd., of Wanganui and Palmerston North.” (apart from his eldest, it seems most of them turned out to be far more interested in playing sports, as numerous photos in archives attest).

WWI  soldiers  outside Dustin’s home cookery shop, Main Street West. Courtesy of Manuwatu Memory online, Palmerston North City Library.

Such was the popularity of their product that by the 1920s Buttermaid products had spread from Wanganui throughout the lower half of the North Island under expansion of eldest son David Ernest Dustin, with many agent stores carrying their line – and several stand-alone stores (I can count at least ten) including two in Cuba Street and another in Lambton Quay. Throughout the late 1920s Dustins advertised Buttermaid stores heavily as well as seeking agents to spread their goods far and wide.

Another branch of the Dustin Bakery: Mrs Claude Dustin and Betty Fryer in doorway, 1930s. Claude must have been a grandson of W.S., since Claude his son was killed in action in 1915. Courtesy of the Foxton Historical Society Collection.

By the time he died in 1927, “W.S.”, as he was affectionately known, had become a prominent and respected member of the community associated with bringing progress and prosperity to the general area. As such he had clout in several organisations; he sat on public boards, judged competitions, and became renowned -not only as a keen and talented sportsman himself -for his philanthropic endeavours in that area.  He sponsored the Dustin Shield (rugby), Dustin Fours (rowing) and the Dustin Cup (softball, shooting). He also  accompanied the All Blacks on their first tour – as well as one in 1924 not long before his demise.

Part of a  panorama showing the corner where Broadway meets The Square in central Palmerston North, 1923. Dustins can be see to the right of the chemist store. Courtesy of Manuwatu Memory Online, Palmerston North City Library.

One of the two Cuba Street, Wellington Dustins stores can be seen with the sign showing above the group of people in the centre of the road. Courtesy of  Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R2267.

In July 1930 Dustins Ltd. publicly announced that one of the Cuba Street shops (it denotes singular in the article, mentioning 181 on that street in particular) and the Buttermaid brand had been sold and was henceforth to be known as White’s. What happened between the early 1930s and the early 1950s, by which time General Foods had acquired and trademarked the brand and made Buttermaid frozen pastry one of the more popular purchases in frozen foods for some time- I don’t yet know. Although there’s an absolute wealth of information on Dustins over time (which is rare for the type of subjects I cover), White’s seems to disappear from the records as soon as they took over.

Hopefully that piece of the Buttermaid story will be uncovered in due course. As for the Southern Cross Biscuit Company, which is a saga worthy of its own post – it lived on until the Dustin Family offloaded it to Griffin’s in 1959 where it was “disappeared” by effective corporate osmosis. After all as one of the eight largest New Zealand concerns of the time, it was not viewed as a brand, so much as just a share of the market.

  1. Enjoyed your article – being a great grandaughter of W.S. Dustin and part of the Foxton Bakery Dustins.

  2. Thanks for your comment Dale. I would love to talk to you some time about anything you can add to the future part three of the Dustin story. Do you know anything about what happened with White’s after they acquired the brand in 1930?

  3. Loved this article also. I am a Great Great Granddaughter of W.S.Dustin. My Great Grandfather was Albert Dustin, his son, John Dustin, resided in Wellington.

    I am only just starting to dive into this side of my family history and I have yet to visit Whanganui.

    @Dale I would love to know if there is a family reunion of sorts in the not too distant future? As far as I’m aware, in my lifetime there have been two.

    • I don’tk now about any reunions Kim but I live in Perth Western Australia – my father was Herbert Dustin, son of Sydney Seymour Dustin – they were Wanganui Dustins but my father and his brother started the Foxton section in the photo in the article. That is my Aunt Muriel.
      I have been researching the Dustins quite widely.

      • Thanks for you note Dale. Yes, Sydney is Albert’s brother. My mother (Janne) was raised in her grandparents house (Naughton Tce, Killbirnie). I believe Albert was relocated from Wanganui to Wellington for the Dustins Trading Company. My mother tells me he did have a restaurant, perhaps a latter version of the Cuba St (pictured first). My Grandfather John Wilson Dustin (your father Herbert’s cousin) also worked in the bakeries in Wellington. There was a Dustin’s Ltd building in Wellington near the Mt Victoria Tunnel and it was demolished just before Christmas. I intend to go to the National Archives and see if I can find some photos. Sadly my grandfather died in 1984 (when I was very young) and had been separated from my grandmother for sometime (since the late 60s).

  4. Great! Glad people are enjoying it. In future I will check in with you and see if you find any information that adds to the story and can be shared here. Interestingly, I was rummaging through a box last night and found and old ad I’ve had for 25 years that I ripped out kept from an old magazine or book that I bought in a garage sale…for “Dustin’s Broadway Lounge” in Palmerston North, I think it’s an incarnation of the store pictured above in “The Square”. It looks to date from the 1920s and I will post it when I do a follow-up story in the future. I was kind of gob-smacked since as far as I knew, I had never heard of Dustin’s before I started researching and wrote this article. Well, apparently I had – as this ad was pinned to my wall for a couple of years. Interesting how it all connects.

  5. Love this article, thanks heaps for posting. I am a Whanganui-ite and history geek so found it fascinating, don’t suppose you know any street numbers for the Victoria Avenue pics above? Unfortunately many early newspaper ads don’t list the street address. Would be great to figure out if any of the Dustin’s buildings are still standing. I might chat to a couple of local historians I know and see if they are aware.

    • Elise – I am pretty sure it was 59 Victoria Avenue – I have been there many years ago now of course when I was a child and teenager visiting the Dustin clan
      Dale (Dustin)

  6. Glad you enjoyed it Elise. Now you’ve sent me off on a tangent before my first coffee.
    I’ve counted up fifteen outlets and factory premises whilst researching, these are the ones that were in Wanganui and some of them were the same places renamed:

    American Saloon, 37 The Avenue (Victoria Avenue), Wanganui
    Central Catering and Refreshment Rooms, 37 The Avenue (Victoria Avenue), Wanganui
    Regent Rooms, The Avenue (Victoria Avenue), Wanganui
    Trocadero, Ridgway Street, Wanganui
    Devon Bakery, Wicksteed Place (Drews Avenue), Taupo Quay, Wanganui
    Southern Cross Biscuit and Confectionery Co, Wicksteed Place (Drews Avenue), Taupo Quay, Wanganui.

    The Devon Bakery was in Wicksteed place “opposite the Empire Hotel” in the mid 1880s and remained well into the 1890s. Wicksteed Place was renamed Drews Ave. There is mention of it being a two story iron and wood building. The Empire is over on the opposite side of Queens Park near the corner of Church Street. That would make the site along what is now Queens Park – this section of Drews Ave which is now free of buildings so it was probably demolished to create the public space and/or for the museums. It looks like Wicksteed Place transversed the park past the two galleries and that part no longer exists; Watt Street skirts around where Drew Ave now ends and it’s probably a newer road when they put those buildings in.

    The Southern Cross Biscuit Factory was also there in what is now Drews Ave somewhere. Since it was eventually one of the largest eight biscuit manufacturers in the country – it must have been a pretty big building, sitting on a 1.25 acre block. That’s not to say it hasn’t been demolished also. Looking around I can’t see which one it would have been. There really aren’t more than twenty buildings left on Drews Ave, especially from that era when the factory was built (1902) – there’s only a couple that would fit in with the specs. It’s obviously not the Savage Club Buildings which was originally built in 1893 to house the extensive collections of Samuel Drew, founder of Wanganui’s first public museum. There is one enormous building on the corner of Drews Ave and Taupo Quay and that could possibly be it. It’s possible that The Devon Bakery was in one of the couple of buildings surviving from that era – but which I don’t know’ as so far I have no come across an exact address or any photos for the bakery or the factory. I’m placing bets they were on the pther side of the street from the Savage Club Buildings and have been demolished to create Queen’s Park and gallery/museum grounds.

    “Central Catering and Refreshment Rooms”, at 37 The Avenue, Wanganui probably means Victoria Avenue. It’s hard to say when they may have changed street numbers and names what exactly what one is looking at even when armed with several clues, but they did mention in an ad it was “3 doors up from the post office” which is obviously still there and a well-known landmark. Howevert which way is “up” is not specified – north-west; or south-east towards Taupo Quay. If it’s north-west from the PO it is now a Jean Jones shop at 59. This building actually looks like the photo above even though the building has been remodelled in a high art deco style on the upper level and had other modern retouches – on the street level you can see old wood poles to hold up a portico. I’m gunning for this one but it depends on when it was built. To the south-east of the PO, numbers 31-35 has a furniture business established 1916 (it probably hasn’t been there since that date) and 39 is a Bank of NSW. If it was here it was probably part of 35 which has three shops.

    The buildings at The Square in Palmerston North seem to be gone or remodelled. Another building on Main Street west, Palmerston North – which can be seen in Manuwatu Memory online – is also gone.

    • Thanks for all this, have managed to find an image of Dustins Ltd store at 59 Victoria Ave taken in what was probably the late 1930s or early 40s, it has the store in the deco building so they must have demolished what was there before and built a new building in the early 30s which is still there, people in Whanganui always referred to away from the river as up so it is likely the original shop was at what is now 59. Also on Taupo Quay near the old cemetary is what is now a cat food factory but prior to that it was the Griffins factory and prior to that I have been told it was the Southern Cross Biscuit factory by several locals who remember it before Griffins took it over. It remained a biscuit factory until the late 90s and now produces cat biscuits, the smell when you walk past just isn’t the same as when they baked biscuits, it was heavenly 🙂 I can get a photo of that site for you if interested? I will try to upload the other photo for you too but will need to get permission from the Museum.

      • thanks Elise – also not sure where it was but my Uncle Stan Dustin changed direction somewhat and set up a peanut factory and I htink it was somewhere near there. Apart from a few old family photos which I don’t i can only remember going there a few times

  7. According to an image in Wanganui Regional Museum collection, Dustin’s in Victoria Ave, photographed in 1940 – exactly matches the building I pointed out which in now the Jean Jones shop at 59. It was remodelled by Dustin in the Art Deco style with a neon sign. Dale is correct, this was once number 37 the long-standing site of the Dustin’s Central Tearooms and Catering Company as pictured above in the photos I have posted of employees outside as well as interiors of the venue.

  8. “There was a Dustin’s Ltd building in Wellington near the Mt Victoria Tunnel and it was demolished just before Christmas. Kim that no doubt would have been the Moxham Ave shop, do you know what number of the street it was, or what business was there just before they demolished it?

    • I don’t have the exact address, but if you googlemap Basin Reserve Wellington where Kent Tce meets Ellice St you will see the building – “Dusting’s Building” clear on the top. It is something like 87 Kent Tce / 1 Ellice St. As far as I can remember the building has not been occupied. There used to be a pizzeria (Luigi’s) next door on the corner.

  9. Thanks! I found a picture of it. That’s another one to add to the list! The others in the Wellington are were Cuba Street (two stores) , the “Cecil” at Lambton Quay, “The Rintoul”, in Riddiford Street, Newton, as wellas Moxham Ave, Hataitai. I’ve been up and down Moxham Ave and I’m presuming that the Dustin’s that was there may now be the Hataitai Bakery.

  10. There was something at 148 Taupo Quay Road, Elise. I have an ad that states Southern Cross had a factory there by at least 1937. Looking at the map it seems that 146 still exists which is an old New Zealand Express Co building, 150 still exists which looks like some kind of quite old factory, but according to the map 148 is now an empty lot. The Wanganui Council had a proposal for redevelopment of the old “Griffin’s Factory site” as they were calling it, available in the early 1990s. But it looks like it has been demolished if it was exactly on 148, and only on 148. I’m just wondering if the building specified as 150 was part of it, or actually is it, by chance. The satellite imagery on Google maps usually isn’t that up to date, so, if something has been demolished in the last few years chances are it still appears on the imagery. I get a feeling it’s long gone, though.

    TAKES this oportunity of informing the inhabitants of Wanganui that he has commenced business as above in the premises lately occupied by Mr H. Ross, Guyton Street, and hopes by civilty and care to command a share of public patronage.

    Wanganui Chronicle, 30 December 1881, p.3

    The Southern Cross Biscuit Factory was originally in Wicksteed Place, as early as 1902.

  12. Yes, that seems clear. The move may have been signalled by the company going into liquidation in 1925 – at that point the premises were still being leased.

  13. Elise I’ve put in a request to the NZ Pet Food Asssociation to see if I can find out some more about which business was (or is) running out of the building and that should indicate whether the building was in the vacant lot at 148 and has been demolished, or if it’s the factory that the maps are saying is150. In that case it’s still standing.

  14. Kyle, Guyton Place was Dustin’s very first business when he arrived in the country, see mention in article.

  15. Drove past old biscuit factory the other day and either the numbering on the map or the numbering on the factory is wrong because there is a lovely big 148 on the front of the building so it is definitely still there. Would you like me to take a photo of it for your blog on Southern Cross Biscuits?

  16. Yes please! That would be great when you have time. Thanks Elise.

  17. I’m also interested in the Dustin who branched out into the peanut business, if anyone knows any little scraps about it.

    • it was my uncle Stan Dustin who died in 1987 I think. I don’t have details but I rememer he started up the peanut factory or expanded into peanuts.

      • Have some photos of 148 Taupo Quay for you. Do you have an email address I can email them to?

      • Oh, thanks so much Elise! I’ll contact you via email. I even tried following up with the NZ Pet Food Association regarding the premises and received no reply.

  18. Thanks to Elise’s investigative efforts we can now verify that the factory on Taupo Quay is actually still standing, at number 148.

  19. WOW – So great to read this .

    I am researching W. S. Dustin after finding his obituary notice in a pile of old paper clipping my Grandmother had. I moved to NZ from the UK in 2011 and my mother recalled her Grandmother writing to relatives in NZ. When back in the UK for Christmas we found the paper clipping and here I am now!

    My connection to the family is from Plymouth UK, Family name Thorning.

  20. I would love to make contact with you – WS Dustin was my great grandfather and I am always researching the Dustin family not always with a lot of success.

  21. Thanks for reading Christine. It’s great that so many descendants have enjoyed the post. I’d love to get a look at that obituary. Looking back on this earlier article it’s a bit “history lite” and there’s so much more on Dustin and his business that was left out. If I can help with anything, please let me know. I am working up to part three of this story, I still haven’t found anything on White’s but I now know that Buttermaid went to Irvines in the 1950s.

    • I forgot to post a note here over the Christmas break that I was doing some ancestry research online while the family hovered around me. I also came upon an old school project my brother completed before 1993 about the Dustin family through my grandfather John Wilson Dustin, son of Alfred Francis Dustin. The project includes an original Dustin’s Ltd greeting card – I think (!) that’s what is was… my memory is a blur already sorry. It was a slim design with blue print. AND I forgot to take a photo – I will. Clearly I was in holiday mode a little too much… A little while ago I also happened to discover that William S. Dustin’s (I) daughter, Hazel (to his second wife Hannah) lived in Hastings until her death in 2008. Her son Peter Dustin Bruce still lives there. I’ve been meaning to drop him a line, ask what information he might have about the company etc. and clarify some confusion I have around who married whom based on the birth/deaths/marriages records…

    • I have the Obituary notice scanned in and am happy to send it to whomever would like it. Would also love a copy of anyone’s family tree if they would care to share it. I’m not sure what help I can be but I could offer some help on the Plymouth/English side of things. 🙂

  22. Christine – more than happy to share my Dustin family tree – a work in progress
    email – dale.rollerson@gmail.com
    cheers Dale

  23. Up for sale today on Trade Me: hotelware from Dustin’s tearooms.


  24. Someone named Alwyn or Deane from Napier. Perhaps Alwyn Deane. They seem to be a collector of New Zealand tea-related items. I would guess they are not a member of the Dustin family.

  25. Thanks – I did go almost to the price but missed out – maybe just as well!

  26. It’s the only piece of hotelware from Dustin’s I’ve seen, but there has to be more around. Next time some comes up maybe the price won’t go so crazy.

    • Yes – my sister and I had forgotten about the cups and saucers – I expect there were heaps at our home when we were young as my father ran the Foxton tearooms many years ago

  27. Hi there, Just wondering if these images are copyrighted or whether they can be used for transfers etc. i sell a few things at the Wanganui River Market and thought some of these may be great for trays, but I don’t want to use anything I shouldn’t. No relation at all but I found this a really interesting read.

    • Hi Ruth, thanks for asking first, I appreciate it. The main image at top is my copyrighted artwork. Without re-reading the whole thing – the photos should all be credited underneath in captions. Early days and I did not always do this properly or at all with the correct references/numbers. Generally photos from collections such as Turnbull are not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without permission from the National Library. Any newspaper items from Papers Past will also need permission sought for commercial use from the National Library of New Zealand as they are intellectual property of Fairfax. I have the email for the appropriate person. Generally I don’t think they will allow commercial use. Other images are from the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre and other publications and collections. So none of them as far as I know are free use or out of copyright. Hope that answers your question, if not I can email you about specifics.

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