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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Mr. T. Crompton's Ironworks

Mr. T. Crompton's Ironworks.

It has not yet been ascertained whether the average Canterbury householder regards his cooking range with that veneration which the American is said to feel for his stove, and the force of which Oscar Wilde discovered when he ventured to find fault with that hallowed article. It is, however, tolerably certain that in whatever light he may regard the Kitchener, the inhabitant of the Canterbury Plains deems that his home is incomplete without one. Therefore it is not to be wondered at that the manufacture of these appliances already occupies a prominent position among our local industries, and that the makers thereof have attained a very creditable degree of skill in their work. At the New Zealand International Exhibition of 1882 the ranges shown by Christchurch exhibitors bore off the highest honours, though they were in competition with those made by the best known manufacturers of the Old Country. For adaptability to their purposes, utility, workmanship, and finish, the colonial productions were unsurpassed. These qualities were well illustrated by the Kitchener made by Mr T. Crompton, of the Crown Ironworks, Armagh-street, who makes these useful articles a specialty. The growth of this branch of local industry is exemplified by the progress made by Mr Crompton's business since its commencement, some fourteen years ago. That commencement was a small one. In a little cottage, opposite the residence of Dr Deamer, Mr Crompton began to manufacture the then popular colonial ovens, His "staff" consisted of one boy. He prospered, and in about a couple of years' time removed to a larger building, opposite his present establishment, and still used by him for storage purposes. The continued increase of his business necessitated the erection of the premises he now occupies, which have been from time to time enlarged and added to, in order to keep pace with the growth of the trade. The latest additions have only recently been finished, and the page 173proprietor now boasts that he has got an establishment and appliances second to none in the colonies for turning out the particular class of work in which he excels.

The main building of the Crown Iron Works—for so has Mr Crompton named his place of business—is constructed of corrugated iron, and is about 165 feet in length by 45 feet wide. Several outbuildings for various purposes are erected at the sides and rear. In this line of industry employment is found for some sixty hands, a large proportion being lads. Their principal occupation, is, of course, the making of cooking ranges, but other branches of the ironworker's trade are also followed. The Kitcheners, however, form the staple product of the establishment, and it is to these that we shall chiefly direct our readers' attention. The first step in their manufacture is, of course, the casting of the various parts of which they are composed. This is performed in a building, 45 feet by 40 feet, situated at the rear of the main workshops. Here the moulds for the doors, lids, top-plates, and other portions requiring to be cast, are made, and the shop is furnished with all the necessary patterns and other appliances required for the work. Among these are the comparatively new mould-plates, by the use of which better castings can be obtained than can be got by using the old description of patterns, and with less trouble. The turnace, with a blast created by one of Shields' 3 feet fans, stands on the north side of the moulding shop. Beside the furnace is a 400 gallon tank, kept constantly full of water, the utility of which was proved a day or two ago, when a fire in the moulding shop, which might have destroyed the whole establishment, was quickly got under by its means. About a dozen men and boys are constauly employed in the moulding shop. When the rough castings leave their hands, they are taken to the main shop to be "dressed." The principal part of this operation is performed by means of emery wheels, driven at a high speed by steam power, which remove the jagged edges and roughness with wonderful rapidity and ease. Those portions which the emery wheels cannot get at, like the interior of rings, are polished in the ordinary manner by hand. A large grindstone, also driven by steam is used to prepare those parts of the range which are to be polished, and the polishing itself is accomplished by what are styled "buffed" wheels—that is, wheels covered with leather dressed with emery powder. The doors, lids, &c., are now ready for the fitting shop, situated in the front portion of the premises, where the ranges are put together. It may be noted that every part of Mr Crompton's ranges is made in his establishment, excepting only the brass taps of the boilers, and the steel knobs used for handles. After being fitted together, the Kitcheners are painted with Brunswick black, finally "touched up," and are ready for sale.

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To even mention the numerous appliances Mr Crompton possesses for assisting in carrying out the various details of his trade would require more space than is available for this work. Attention may be called, however, to one or two of the principal features of the main workshop. At the lower end are situated no less than six forges, where such articles as hinges, hoops, and horseshoes are made. The fires in these forges are blown by means of a Shields' fan, of course of smaller dimensions than that used for the large blast furnace. Another feature decidedly worthy of notice is the hydraulic stamper, which, by means of dies of different patterns, turns out bottoms for boilers and cisterns, as well as other articles. The pressure exerted by this powerful machine is about 25 tons. Hard by are the unpretending appliances used in a not unimportant branch of Mr Compton's business, the manufacture of leaden "washers" for use in nailing corrugated iron. These washers are made of the lead employed in the lining of tea chests, which is melted in a large "pot," run into sheets, about nine inches long and six wide, and rolled to the required thickness. The washers are stamped by a small machine, which cuts out eight at each blow.

One of the most important objects in the workshop is a machine employed for bending the strips of iron required for the manufacture of roof ridging. It can also be used for corrugating sheet iron, and large quantities of iron so prepared, and coated with hematite paint, are turned out of the establishment to be used for roofing purposes, for which it is well adapted, being cheaper than the galvanised corrugated iron, and nearly as durable. Other mechanical appliances there are, "too numerous to mention"—punches, cutters, drills, and everything needed to accelerate and assist the labour of the human workers. The whole of the machinery in the shop is driven by a horizontal engine of six horse-power, with eight inch cylinder. This is supplied with steam from a ten horse-power tubular boiler.

In the showroom, which occupies part of the front portion of the building, are numerous specimens of the work produced in the establishment. The ranges form the principal part of the display, of course; and perhaps the most noteworthy object in the collection is a large Kitchener of admirable workmanship and finish, and with the back and mantel covered with white printed tiles. Besides the ranges, there are garden seats with ornamental iron arms and feet, light and handy iron wheelbarrows, chimney cowls, and piping of galvanised iron, and, lastly, some well made and neatly bronzed ornamental castings.

In order to give some idea of the progress made by Mr Crornpton since his commencement in business fourteen years page 175ago, it may be mentioned that he estimates that he has turned out several thousand colonial ovens—his original manufacture— for which there is still a considerable demand in some of the country districts. Ranges, however, are coming more into favour, and upwards of 600 of these have left the Crown Iron Works. During one year there were used in the workshops upwards of 100 tons of sheet and plate iron, another 100 tons of galvanised iron, and a similar quantity of pig iron. The proprietor is continually adding to the extent of the works, and enlarging the scope of his operations; and altogether the establishment affords a very good illustration of the local industries of Canterbury—a small beginning, succeeded by progress at first gradual, then rapid, and which has not by any means reached its limit yet.