Charlotte Sargent

Daisy Charlotte Sargent (1859-1924), caterer, was born in Sydney, one of nine children of Sarah and Thomas Foster, livery stable proprietor. She worked as a manageress of a confectionary shop in George St, Sydney before her marriage in 1883 to George Sargent, a baker, then employed as a foreman in a George St bakery. Charlotte's only child, Foster Henry Hartley (known as Hartley), was born in 1878. The Sargents opened a bakery in Glebe, moving later to Leichhardt. A lottery win enabled them to purchase a bakery in Surry St which they lost when George became ill. In 1890 they opened a pastrycook shop at 390 Oxford St, Paddington, and established a good business, with George doing the baking and Charlotte running the shop. As far as the public was concerned Charlotte was Sargents. They moved in 1895 to Hunter St in the city, where George's continuing ill-health forced the sale of the business and a year's overseas travel. Hartley, who had learnt the trade from his father, now opened a bakery, and following his parents' return the three entered a very successful partnership.

By 1915 the company operated in Sydney and Melbourne with 36 outlets; it ran luncheon and tea rooms, pastry shops and a ballroom and catering section. Sargents had a reputation for inexpensive quality food, scrupulous cleanliness and service. Meat pies were their speciality - they fostered the Australian partiality for the ubiquitous meat pie and prospered. By 1915 Charlotte and George had acquired 'Hartley Hope' at Rose Bay and 'Garthowan', a country house at Castle Hill. Hartley also owned property and was an officeholder in the Master Pastrycooks' Association and an alderman of Vaucluse Municipal Council. Hartley enlisted and became a prisoner of war in Germany. As a member of the Joan of Arc committee, Charlotte organised the catering at functions for soldiers' wives and children; together she and George raised over 4000 pounds for the war effort.

When they closed on the Wednesday following armistice day, the press termed it 'the day Sydney went starving'. The company then had 60 branches but in 1924 it suffered a trading loss. George died on 13 August 1923 and Charlotte on 29 May 1924. She left an estate valued at 38,000 pounds to be divided among her son and five grandchildren. Her house at Beecroft she left to her adopted daughter Annie Roffie.

Jennifer MacCulloch