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George Sargent (1859–1921)

by Jennifer MacCulloch

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Charlotte Sargent

George Sargent (1859-1921) and Charlotte Sargent (1856-1924), pastry-cooks and caterers, were husband and wife. George was born on 22 March 1859 at Foleshill, Warwickshire, England, son of James Sargeant, grocer, and his wife Ann, née Coates. After training as a baker, he migrated to Sydney and worked in a George Street bakery, becoming foreman. Charlotte was born on 28 May 1856 in Sydney, seventh child of English parents Thomas Foster, coachman, and his wife Sarah, née Thornber. After schooling she managed a confectionery shop, where she rapidly increased sales and reputedly received an offer to go on the stage. Her son Henry Hartley, later known as Foster Henry Hartley Sargent (1878-1924), was born on 31 January 1878 at Woolloomooloo.

George and Charlotte were married on 5 September 1883 at St Peter's Anglican Church. They ran a bakery at Glebe before a win in George Adams's Tattersall's sweep enabled them to buy a small shop in Surry Street about 1889. They baked 700 loaves daily but, when George became ill next year, were forced to sell. Six months later they opened a confectionery shop in Oxford Street, Paddington, and began making small meat-pies which, selling for a penny, were an immediate success. Popular with customers, Charlotte became known as the 'Princess' and George, sporting a handlebar moustache, as the 'Colonel'.

The Sargents moved to Hunter Street in 1895 where business continued to boom. However, about 1900 they sold out to W. E. Dance and travelled overseas. That year Hartley, who had also learned the trade, bought a bakery at Manly. On 14 March 1900 he married Elaine Violet Starkey (d.1914). In 1901 he opened two bakeries in Pitt Street and refreshment rooms in George Street. Meanwhile, when his parents tried to restart their business they were sued by Dance. Regaining their right to trade in the city, they joined Hartley in partnership. In December 1906 a private company, Sargent's Ltd, was formed and when, in February 1909, it was re-registered as a public company the three were general managers and George and Hartley directors.

George later became chairman. He was an astute buyer and Charlotte, in charge of the female staff, gave meticulous attention to detail. By 1915 the company's financial position was strong, with an established reputation for quality food, scrupulous cleanliness and good service from attractive waitresses. It had extended to Melbourne and controlled thirty-six refreshment rooms and shops, a manufacturing depot, a catering section and ballrooms. Wages and staff conditions were good.

The Sargents were generous supporters of charity. They raised over £4000 for the war effort when Hartley, who had enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 June 1915, was wounded and taken prisoner in July 1917, while serving with the 54th Battalion. Charlotte organized functions for soldiers' wives, widows and children, and assisted returned soldiers.

After George's death at his Vaucluse home on 13 August 1921, Charlotte took his place on the board. When the company faced its first loss in February 1924 amid allegations of mismanagement, she made a spirited response. She died at her home on 15 May 1924. Her estate, sworn for probate at £38,669, included a bequest to her adopted daughter.

Hartley, in poor health since the war, was chairman (1919-24). On 25 September 1924 he died after falling from a cliff near his mountain home at Medlow Bath. He was buried beside his parents in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. He was survived by two daughters and three sons of his first marriage and by his wife May Evelyn, née Proud, whom he had married on 9 October 1920. He was a member of Vaucluse Municipal Council (1920-24), treasurer of the Master Pastrycooks' Association of New South Wales, and in his youth had been a keen cyclist.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Baker, 31 July, 31 Aug, 30 Sept 1915, 31 May, 31 Dec 1917, 30 Nov 1918, 28 Feb, 31 Mar 1919, 31 Aug 1921, 29 Feb, 31 May, 30 Sept 1924
  • Sydney Tatler, 1 Feb 1923
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Aug 1921, 17 May, 26, 29 Sept 1924
  • Bulletin, 18 Aug 1921, 6 Mar 1924
  • Evening News (Sydney), 15 Aug 1921.

Citation details

Jennifer MacCulloch, 'Sargent, George (1859–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 March, 1859
Foleshill, Warwickshire, England


13 August, 1921 (aged 62)
Vaucluse, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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