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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 5, October 1985

Wellington and Marlborough Cement Works

Wellington and Marlborough Cement Works

page 55

Manager: John A. H. Kelly. Built 1904 all corrugated iron, all under one roof. It was 450ft × 60ft. Kilns were rotating types 60ft long by 6ft in diameter, weighing 80 tons. 3 Krupp ball mills, the same as used for gold quartz; 2 Askam cube mills; 2 boilers, 130hp, 1 Haslam engine 225hp for cool grinding mill. According to 1906 N.Z. Encyclopaedia: Output 22 tons per day. Henry Kelly in H. & Hills says 300 tons per week.

Employing 40 to 50 men but at its peak up to 200 on three 8-hour shifts, travellers on the road or rail witnessed a hive of activity night and day. Many of the workers lived in Koromiko and so influenced Koromiko community life. Under the baton of Mr McVicar a brass band was formed including other Koromiko men, Taylor and Randall being two of them. Later in 1906 a Mr Avery took over as bandmaster. Through the men working here Koromiko was also able to field a good cricket club.

The Papa rock used had been noticed years before the works were established and considered some of the best material in New Zealand for cement manufacture. The rail running through the middle section was also ideal — there was a siding and station on the northern end. A dam was built in a bush gully above the rail and a culvert carried water to the works. The Papa rock was carted by dray to the kiln and thoroughly burned by a hot coal fire. Then it was drawn out and placed in a rotary furnace being burned and crushed.

When the project was first started it was thought cement would be made from 3 parts Papa and 1 part lime. However the correct mix proved to be the reverse — 3 parts lime and 1 part Papa. Transportation costs of lime from Takaka were the cause of the company going into liquidation after only three years.

Limestone was brought from Takaka in the scow Magic which was often delayed by lack of wind in the Sounds and was sometimes towed in by the Gannet (Captain Iain Bowden). On berthing, stone was shovelled into big cane baskets and tipped into rail wagons. Three engines were used to get these loads up the elevation — two at the front and one at the rear. At the siding the two front engines pulled away and the rear engine pushed the train to the cement works landing. Here the cargo was loaded into smaller trucks which were pulled up to the kilns by horses. They were tipped on the ground and broken up by hand operated spawling hammers before being thrown into the kiln to be mixed with the Papa. In its heyday it was about the biggest industry in Marlborough.

Elevation Brick Kiln

This kiln was started in the 1880 by a Mr Entwistle. Unlike the Tua Marina works it had two round kilns joined together by a flue instead of one oblong kiln. The motive power for pugging the clay was supplied by a horse pulling on a long pole attached to a cog wheel. The horse had to be blindfolded otherwise it would stop if anyone approached.

page 56
BrickworksCement works, top of elevation. — (Marlborough Historic Soc.).

Brickworks [sic: Cement works], top of elevation. — (Marlborough Historic Soc.).

W. T. Daikee, who landed in Nelson in 1855 and is a great-grandfather of Bob Thomas [sic: Bob Thoms], bought it from Entwistle. Mr Daikee had started a kiln in Warwick Street, Blenheim near Cresswell's timberyard. Later he was in Grove Road on Jamieson's bakehouse section. The family built two brick houses facing Bomford Street. He took his son Henry George into partnership in 1882 and he took over the business when his father died in 1904. Daikee is responsible for many landmarks around he district. Old man Daikee erected the Wairau Massacre monument in 1866 and also Ships Cove and Motuara monuments. Daikees built His Majesty's Theatre, Express office, Blenheim Town Hall, Picton Terminus Hotel. Daikee's grandson Norm Collins demolished the Blenheim Town Hall.

While at the elevation a light tramway was built across the road to bring out wood, though his kiln was mainly fired with coal brought from Shakespeare Bay. This mine was dsicovered in 1875 although a seam, probably part of the Shakespeare Bay deposit, had been worked on Mt Freeth up a gully past the cement works as early as 1865.

As far as I can ascertain Daikee procured his clay from Tua Marina and Nolans Crossing. In 1899 Daikee received permission from the Picton Road Board for clay from Witts. At this time he started the Tua Marina works. Gibson, who worked for him sat the Tua Marina works in 1903, then A. Bary who worked for Gibson took over in 1907 later taking over the elevation works in 1920. He was last to work it and Jock Thompson bulldozed the remains away.