Fletcher Jones – More than just an abandoned factory

Fletcher Jones Globe

Every time I drive into Warrnambool I see the odd structure sitting over the skylike, and because is to so noticeable I instantly want to find out what it is. Okay, you can also see the steeples and towers of the various churches as well, but you can generally tell that they belong to the churches (which is quite helpful when you are looking for a church, because you can see the steeples and towers, but unfortunately they generally don’t tell you what that church actually is – though I’ve never accidentally wandered into a room full of cultists).

Anyway, that tower belongs to the Fletcher Jones factory, or I should say what once was the Fletcher Jones factory (it’s now closed, and pretty much abandoned). If you have lived in Australia for a while you probably have seen the odd Fletcher Jones clothing outlets around the place – there used to be a lot more before the business went bust, though they have since managed to rebrand themselves, and are still an Australian owned and operated company (with an online presence).

Fletcher Jones Factory
If I was a kid, I would have tried getting in here
While I could say a few things about the company and it’s fate, I think I will just leave it up to the article in The Age. However it was interesting reading how this privately owned company pretty much built modern Warrnambool and that the company operated on an employee owned basis, meaning that as well as their wages the employees would also own shares in the company – in effect it was a worker’s co-opertive. However, due to external factors (such as the removal of tariffs, and a few bad business decisions) the company ended up going into administrations (which means that while it is on the verge of bankruptcy, the creditors believe that it can still be salvaged).
Anyway, while the factory still stands and is little more than an empty husk, the legacy of Sir David Fletcher Jones still lives on, not just in his clothing brands, or on the company website (which really tells you very little about the company but instead tries selling you clothes), but also in the factory itself. The thing about this factory is that out the front there are some elaborate gardens which almost rival the botanic gardens themselves.

Fletcher Jones Gardens
And that is only a really small section
The gardens were originally established by Sir David when the factory was first built and pretty quickly became a tourist attraction. Mind you, I never realised that these gardens existed, or if I did, I had pretty much forgotten about them. That is until I was driving back into Warrnambool and saw that tower and decided to try and find out what it was all about. However, while I didn’t stop off at the gardens then, I decided to I would make the effort of visiting them on the way home (particularly since my friend quite likes gardens, though he may have been a little tired after a very full weekend).
This might turn into a bunch of photos
Okay, unlike the botanic gardens there aren’t any signs about with scientific names on them, but then again this isn’t a botanical garden, this is pretty much a work of art. No doubt, like many of the other famous gardens around the world, this was created not just be somebody who loved his gardens, but by someone who loved his gardens so much that he wanted everybody else to enjoy his creation as well. I guess you have to give this guy a lot of credit because there are a lot of people out their who lovingly craft their garden, and then lock it behind brick walls and iron gates so that nobody else is able to appreciate them.

Fletcher Jones Sign
Actually, there is a sign, but it’s not in Latin

So, I guess the question that arises is what is there to do in these gardens? Well, there is something, but I will get to that in a bit because what is one actually supposed to do in a garden? Well, Voltaire suggests that one can find peace in a garden, especially when one is tending it. The thing that I would suggest is what does one do with a work of art – admire its beauty of course, that is why art exists. An artist is somebody who can turn something ordinary into something beautiful (even a urinal – though some may argue that that is not exactly art, but then again they probably don’t see anything beautiful about that). So, what does one do in a garden? One wanders around it admiring its beauty and experiencing the peace that seems to emanate from its existence.

Garden Basket 01Garden Basket 02
Garden Basket 03Garden Basket 04

 There were a number of these baskets around

As well as the peaceful beauty of the place there were a number of things that caught my eye, such as those baskets above, as well as a few other oddities as well, including a well, an old cart, and a couple of odd sculptures:


 That well looks a bit different to the normal garden

Well, actually there are two wells, the one above, and another, more traditional well, upon which hangs the bell from one of the many shipwrecks off the coast of Warrnambool.

A Ship's Bell
Unfortunately it doesn’t work

The other thing that I wonder about is: who does the gardening? Since Fletcher Jones no longer exists, and the gardens are kept in such a pristine (or almost pristine) condition, them somebody has to come out here and pull out the weeds, prune the trees, and make sure that the place doesn’t become a jungle. Also, there are even a couple of patches containing vegetables, which means that somebody has to come a plant them, and then pick them when they are ripe. Well, there is probably an answer (and I suspect that answer is either the council, or work for the dole), but I’m not going to go out of my way to try and discover it.

Vege Patch 01Vege Patch 01
Actually, they probably need a but more work

Anyway, you are probably thinking that this place is basically an abandoned factory with some gardens that still draw in the tourists and that is basically it. Well, once again you would be wrong because there is actually more to this place than simply the gardens. In fact, in a part of the factory there is what could be considered a second-hand, antique supermarket.

Secondhand Supermarket
I could have blown my life savings in here

When I first looked over the place I noticed that there was a sign advertising the markets, and I suspected that it was going to be little more than your average farmer’s market with a number of stalls selling fruit and veg, some butchers, and a number of other stalls selling odds and ends that probably have little to no use except look pretty. Well, other than the nursery outside, I couldn’t find any stalls selling any form of produce that you would expect to come from a farm, but what I did find was two levels chock full of second hand goods and antiques. In fact there was so much in this area that it literally took me the good part of an hour to make my way through here, and even then I couldn’t see everything that was on offer since my friend sent me a text suggesting that I should hurry up.

Stuff 1Stuff 2
That is quite a few garages full of stuff

In one way you could consider that this is one massive garage sale, however there seemed to be more stuff in here than you would expect to be able to full every single garage in Warrnambool, and that is counting the newer developments. Sure, most of this stuff was probably handed down from the older generations, and there certainly was quite a few items that you would have found in the average household from the 60s and 70s. I even noticed some things that I remember seeing in my great-auntie’s house, as well as items that my Mum may have had when I was a kid.

Mind you, when I mentioned stuff from the 60s and 70s, that included crates full of vinyl records as well as numerous shelves crammed with books. Most of those books were pretty ordinary, however there were some that simply by glancing at them I could see that they were worth a packet. In fact there was an edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost going for over a hundred dollars.

Old Books
That would have been half my pay packet

From what I gathered the entire place was set up into a number of rooms where the room would be rented out by somebody who would then fill it full of stuff. In a way it simply looked like a massive garage sale, however as I have suggested, there was more stuff in here than I would have expected to fit in all of the garages in Warrnambool. Maybe these markets are tourist attractions in themselves, though it did have more than just oddities that you find sitting on mantle pieces. For instance there was quite a lot of furniture, and even the shelves upon which the stuff would rest were also for sale (though I wonder what would have happened it all of the shelves were sold).

I’ll take the lot, thanks

Well, as mentioned, there is an awful lot of stuff here, both second-hand and antiques, and I simply managed to resist the temptation to load up with antiques to take back home. However something does draw me back to this place, even if it is simply to get my hands on Paradise Lost (though there is a nice edition at Readings Books for $30.00).

Crammed Space 01Crammed Space
They used up every last inch
Creative Commons License
Fletcher Jones – More than just an abandoned factory by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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