The founding partnership of Paynter and Dixon

A restless businessman from England. An artisan carpenter from the bush. The founders of ‘Paynter & Dixon’ steered the fledgling company through the First World War, the Great Depression, and a devastating factory fire…

A quiet suburban street in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Haberfield holds special significance for Paynter Dixon.

The townhouses of 37 Hawthorne Parade occupy a site once home to a bustling joinery factory. Established in 1914, this business would eventually out-grow the factory on its journey to becoming an icon of Australian design and construction.


Now celebrating 110 years of continuous operation, Paynter Dixon is pausing to reflect on its heritage. The company name still pays homage to the founders and their formative partnership: George Paynter and George Dixon.

Who were these men, and how did they shape the early years?

The businessman: George Dixon

A restless and enterprising individual from childhood, George Huntley Dixon was born in the north of England in 1863. Encouraged by his father – himself a master shoemaker – to undertake a trade, young George became an apprentice joiner and cartwright with his master builder uncle. He excelled at making wagons and carts.

It was not long before the 23-year-old looked to distant shores, paying the princely sum of four pounds for the four-month voyage to Sydney. On arrival he responded to a newspaper job advertisement placed by H.G Butterworth; a builder from the south-west town of Hay.


Within two years, the two men went into business partnership as Dixon & Butterworth (pictured with their first company car). Now married and growing a large family, George branched out into other business ventures including the first steam engine driven sawmills in the region and a brick kiln.

George amicably parted ways with Butterworth in 1913 and went into business with his son, J. H. Dixon. He traded the horse and sulky for one of the first motorcycles in the district, which he rode to building sites to the amusement of bystanders.

George also endured personal loss. His first wife, Mary (pictured), died after the birth of their seventh child, and the Great War claimed two of his three serving sons. In later years he visited the battlefields of Europe hoping to find their graves.

Pondering retirement, George and his second wife, Jessie, relocated to Haberfield at the end of the war in 1918. However, a window of opportunity soon presented itself…

The artisan: George Paynter  

George Paynter was a skilled carpenter with an eye for innovation. Born and bred in Hay, less is known of his background prior to employment with Dixon & Butterworth.

He worked as a foreman carpenter in the business until the partnership dissolved in 1913. Ambition must have surfaced, because the carpenter took the bold step of relocating his family to Sydney. Once there, he established a building firm in partnership with John Tropman, a fellow worker from Hay.

The business made solid progress until John died unexpectedly from a fever. As fate would have it, the Tropman family were neighbours of the Dixon family in Haberfield. The semi-retired master builder could not resist the opportunity. With agreement from all binding parties, George Dixon bought the Tropman’s share of the business.

The Dunn Gazette records the registration of ‘Paynter & Dixon Limited’ as company no 75639, with capital of 20,000 pounds in 1-pound shares, and both men as Directors.

The joinery factory in Hawthorne Parade was the first of its kind to have an in-house team of artisans, masons and joiners. When Sydney experienced a building boom from 1922, the company rode a wave of work, including new hotels, public halls, Masonic temples, banking premises and commercial head offices.

There was even time for pomp and ceremony, with the then Governor of NSW, Sir Dudley Chair, laying the foundation stone of the Boys Brigade on the corner of Fig Street and Bulwarra Road at Pyrmont.

The new QANTAS workshop building at Mascot, NRMA House on the corner of Spring and Gresham Streets (pictured), and Great Northern Hotel in Newcastle were among the standout projects of this era.

Taking a step back, George Dixon exited the company during the 1930s amid the Great Depression. Always the entrepreneur, he maintained investments in James Hardie, Standard Portland Cement and East Sydney Theatres.


By now, George Paynter had introduced two sons into the business: Cecil (pictured front row, third from left) and Ronald. Their legacy assured, both founders passed away from natural causes in the early years of World War II.

The Hawthorne Parade Factory was long forgotten as the company relocated to the CBD and entered a new era of expansion.


Next article: ‘Paynter & Dixon’ powers into the 1950s, revolutionising the building industry with the introduction of ‘Total Project Management’.