Wolfenden Bros began in 1918 when Ernest Wolfenden found himself out of work due to an engineers' strike. He began working as a motor and general engineer, reboring cylinders for cars and motorbikes and manufacturing and fitting pistons. Ernest's brothers, Charlie, Bill and Frank, soon came to join him and by 1919 the company was advertising as Wolfenden Bros, Motor & General Engineers Lynch Street, Footscray.
About 1921 the company moved to Hopkins Street, Footscray and began manufacturing woodworking machinery advertising 'we Manufacture All Classes High-grade Tools, Thicknesses, Band-saws, Buzzers, Saw Benches &c. Machines fitted with ball-bearings; any design built to order. Accuracy and finish guaranteed' (Woodworking Machinery, 1921, p.16).
By 1925 they were advertising as 'the largest Manufacturer of high speed ball bearing Woodworking Machinery in the Commonwealth' (Important Notice, Woodworking Machinery, 1925, p.19) and had opened a branch in George Street, Sydney owing to increased business in NSW.
They moved to Brooklyn, Victoria around 1926 and continued to expand, advertising over 100 different varieties of machines including Double-ended Tenoners, Straight-line Edging and Ripping Saws, Belt and Drum Sanders, Electric Moulders, Single and Double Planers, Veneer Presses and Hand or Power Furniture and Door Cramps. In 1930 the Ford Motor Co. purchased a complete body building plant of Wolfenden Bros woodworking machines. By 1934 they were employing over 60 people and selling over 600 types of new and used woodworking machines.
They also began building caravans around this period after the brothers built themselves a caravan in the factory yard. The vans were sold as Wolfenden Highway Homes and ranged in size from 10ft to 16ft although the 12ft-14ft versions were the most popular. Constructed around a steel frame with marine ply or bondwood, each van could be customized with various features including a warm shower, provided via a flat water tank on the roof which warmed the water as you drove along each day. With the cost of the most basic van being close to £200 the brothers also created a fleet of vans for hire for those who couldn't afford to buy one.
Production of the vans ceased with WWII as supplies were not available and the company was required to contribute to the war effort. Most of the hire van fleet was purchased by the RAAF to house airmen at Sale. During the war Wolfenden Bros manufactured gun parts, aircraft cylinders and woodworking machinery.
By 1985 the company had moved to Airport West and become Allen Wolfenden Machinery. They remained manufacturers up until the mid 1990's when they just operated as agents and made repairs. The company closed in 2007.
Haslar, Gwen 2003, 'A Caravanning Life', Caravan World March, pp. 55-57
'Woodworking Machinery' 1921, The Argus, Sunday 21 May, p.16
'Important Notice, Woodworking Machinery' 1925, The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 15 August, p.19
'Woodworking Machinery' 1926, The Argus, Saturday 18 September, p.1
'Woodworking Machinery' 1930, The Argus, Saturday 24 May, p.1