Sunday, February 12, 2012

An aside: Robur tea

Along with the ARP books, I also took home a bunch of documents from the Lewis & Skinner signwriting company, including a big pile of job sheets from 1950-51, many of which involved painting 'Cadbury's' or 'Robur Tea' or 'Mobil' on service stations, milk bars and cafes.

I sorted through them on Thursday, throwing dozens out, giving them a dignified burial by poring over them before chucking them in the recycling, and keeping ones that looked interesting or related to places I know (mainly in the northern suburbs, Footscray or the city). History keeping is a chancy and arbitrary business sometimes.

One job was to paint 'Cadbury's' on the front of a milk bar in Regent. That milk bar is now the office of the real estate agents from whom we bought our house:

So yesterday I took the yellowed job sheet, folded it in two, and slipped it under their door, with no explanation. I think I might do this for the rest: stick them in envelopes and leave them there, an anonymous present from the past. There could well be an art project in it, I'm thinking.

And tonight, riding home from the bookshop with the West bio in my hand, I encountered another Regent milk bar, this one still a milk bar, with a once-bold  'Robur Tea' taking up most of its side wall. Would have probably been a Lewis & Skinner job, given they had the contract for years:


  1. Hi Stef,

    I just recently moved into a home which used to be a General Store many years ago. I have completely fallen in love with it and one of the things I love is the fading Robur Tea sign that is still visible (only just) and has lead to the affectionate nickname for my home of 'the Robur Tea House'. The previous owners have been unable to tell me much about the property, but I thought that given the property is Kendsington, Lewis & Skinner may have been commissioned to do the work and therefore you may have documents relating to the work done?

    I'd really love to know more about the history of the place and whether you can help me uncover a little of its past.


  2. Hi Catherine.

    Thanks for getting in touch - I'm also fascinated by the traces of Robur around Melbourne.

    A few things to consider here. Firstly, the Robur folks were incredibly active advertisers, and a number of different companies were employed to do their signwriting over the decades. I've seen some Robur signs with signatures by other companies (one example here if you scroll down:

    Also, I only managed to pick up around 20% of all the documents on the demolition site - so possibly there were many other job sheets I didn't manage to get.

    As for the Lewis & Skinner records I do have, you might want to start by looking here in these L&S books listing the Robur jobs:

    There are a few other jobs listed for Kensington, but none that look like your place. ( I'd love to see the Robur sign outside your place. If you don't mind, could you email me privately - stefan.schutt (at) - and let me know where it is?