The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]
The Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company, Limited
The Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company, Limited. Directors: Mr. G. H. Blackwell, J.P., chairman; the Hon. J. T. Peacock, M.L.C., Messrs J. Connal, J.P., W. Harris, W. R. Mitchell, E. Parnham, and W. Sansom; secretary, Mr. Henry A'Court; warehouse manager, Mr. Peter Hercus; mill manager, Mr T. R. Leithead. Warehouse and offices, 125 Cashel Street East; mills, Kaiapoi. Without a doubt this large company may be considered as one of the most important industrial concerns in the colony. Its manufactures are well and favourably known not only throughout New Zealand but all over the Australasian colonies. The Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company dates from the year 1878, when with a capital of £15,000 a very small beginning was made. The growth and expansion of the works have progressed with successive years, until the nominal capital of the company has been increased to £200,000, £100,000 of which has been fully paid up. The splendid mills, which occupy a section of ten acres in extent, are situated on the Cam river, a confluent of the Waimakariri, within the borough of Kaiapoi. The older part of the building now occupied was erected in 1866 for the purpose of a flax mill, but before it was fitted up for that purpose, the intention of the promoters was altered, and it was decided to establish a woollen mill. The original company, however, had to go into liquidation, and but for the pluck and enterprise of the Hon. J. T. Peacock one of the present directors, there is every probability that the machinery gathered together at that time would have been sent out of the colony.
In 1881, the capital of the Kaiapoi Woollen Company was enlarged from £15,000 to £100,000, and four years later it was doubled. Since then, the history of the company has been one of steady development, and immense sums of money have been expended from time to time in the importation of the latest and most up-to-date machinery for every department of the works. The whole of the buildings have brick walls with iron and glass roofing and concrete floors, and the carding, spinning, and weaving rooms are considered second to none in the southern hemisphere. The machinery at the mills is driven by steam, produced by three large boilers manufactured by Messrs John Anderson and Sons two measuring 25 feet in length by 6 feet in diameter, and the other one 28 feet by 7 feet 6 inches, and all fitted with Adamson's patent flues and McNeill's patent manholes. These boilers work up to a pressure of 110 pounds per square inch. The first engine used at the works was of twenty horse-power; this was replaced three years later by an eighty horse-power engine, manufactured by Messrs Scott Bros., of Christchurch; and the engine now employed, which was made by the same firm, is a magnificent compound condensing engine fitted with Corliss valve gear of 600 indicated horse-power. The mills are lighted by electricity, which is produced by a new Crompton's dynamo supplying 630 lamps. The various operations in the mills, including sorting, scouring, drying, dyeing, and teasing, are carried on in separate departments, each of which is equipped with every modern labour-saving appliance. Newest machinery of the latest type has been introduced from time to time, rendering the carding, spinning, warping, weaving, burling, and finishing rooms among the finest and best equipped in the colonies. A very important branch of the Kaiapoi factory is the hosiery department, which is a very interesting sight. The marvellous ingenuity of the inventors and the beautiful machines that are at work on every side interest and bewilder the spectator. About sixty hands are employed in this department. The machinery includes Cotton's and Rothwell's power machines, and a large number of Harrison's, Griswold's, and other machines are in use. Among the produce of this department may be mentioned ladies' vests, divided skirts, combinations and hose; men's shirts, pants, football jerseys, cycling knickers, sweaters, and cycling and hockey hose. In the delivery department there are also endless varieties of tweeds, coatings, serges, rugs, blankets, shirtings, flannels, and dress tweeds. Besides the main buildings at Kaiapoi there are rooms for the designer, in which there are special looms for the making of patterns. There is a yarn store, which contains large quantities of yarns in every conceivable colour. The wool-sorters' shed has lately been considerably enlarged.
There is a large dining-room where every provision is made for the convenience of the work people, who desire to shelter in wet weather or who live too far away to go home to meals. In a portion of this building there is a reading-room, with illustrated papers and magazines for the use of the employees. The greater portion of the area of land owned by the company is occupied by the mill buildings, and the various wool-scouring, drying, and sorting departments. The mills are situated amidst picturesque surroundings; on the south side flows the river Cam, which is fringed with willows and teems with trout, while in the distance the snow-clad ranges with rolling downs and forest-covered hills steeped in almost perpetual sunshine, charm the eye of every visitor.
The warehouse and offices of the Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company are situated in Cashe. Street, Christchurch. The building, which is a three-storey brick structure with basement, contains immense floor space, and each flat is stored with large quantities of the company's manufactured goods ready for sale and distribution. The offices are on the ground floor fronting Cashel Street. On the basement is a large packing-room, from which lorries are loaded with goods to be conveyed by road, rail, or steamer to all parts of the colonies. The large building in Cashel Street, lately known as the Metropolitan Temperance Hotel, has been purchased by the directors for the purpose of a clothing factory, where men's and boys' clothing is made up from the company's tweeds and serges. The making-up of shirts and mackintosh coats is another important part of the company's operations, and this is carried on in a separate factory. Branch warehouses are established in Auckland and Wellington, from which the more immediate wants of the trade in those centres are supplied, and there are permanent sample-rooms in Dunedin, Napier, and Sydney. The company has customers not only in New Zealand, but in New South Wales and Queensland, and eight travellers are constantly effecting the sale of the company's goods direct to the shops and stores of every town. Some idea of the immense business conducted by the Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company, Limited, may be gleaned from the consideration of a few figures. The weekly wages sheet exceeds £1000, which is distributed among the page 328 company's hands, who number over 600 persons in the manufacturing departments in town, and over 400 at the mills. These, it may be remarked, are the breadwinners for about 4000 persons. Ten years ago the total number employed was but 300, and ten years earlier there were but twenty-seven persons employed. The large sum of £6820,000 has been distributed by the company in wages and salaries since its formation. One million pounds weight of wool is manufactured every year at Kaiapoi, and over £550,000 has been expended in this direction since its inception. The total amount spent in other lines may also be noted, namely, £32,000 for soap and oil; a similar amount for repairs; £58,000 has been written off for depreciation and wear and tear; £17,000 has been paid for insurance; and £48,000 has been spent on coal. The most interesting item, probably, from a shareholder's standpoint, is the fact that £150,000 has been divided amongst the shareholders in dividends.