Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood
Bowron Brothers' Works
Bowron Brothers' Works.
These works are situated in three places in the Woolston District, near each other, and on both sides of the Ferry-road. In all, they cover about four acres. In them the manufacture of sheepskins into skivers, moroccos, roans, chamois leathers, &c., for hatters, boot and shoe makers, bookbinders, furniture makers, &c., is carried on by skilled workmen specially imported from London. The visitor to these works will be highly interested at the various processes through which the sheepskins pass till they are finished with beautiful surfaces and delicate colours, ready for the hatter, bookbinder, or upholsterer. Most of the sheepskins, after having been stripped of the wool, are split into two, the inner—the flesh side—being made into chamois leathers, and the outer, or grained side, into "skivers." But skins intended to be made into furniture leathers are not split. This splitting is done by machines composed of rollers, round which the skins are tightly carried, and close to which a number of knife-blades work at about 2600 revolutions a minute. This work can be regulated to a nicety, and performed with a speed and perfection which to the uninitiated seems little short of marvellous. The other machinery in use for driving oil into the chamois; the stamping machine, for breaking down or softening the skins; the hydrostatic extractors, for drying wool, &c.; and the hydraulic presses, are all interesting as regards the work they perform, and the way in which it is performed. The motive power for these is obtained from an 18-h.p. horizontal engine, with multitubular boiler. The dyeing and finishing portion of the works, are also worth inspection. After the skins have been dyed they are each separately nailed on a frame, and either left in a large drying loft, 80 feet square, to dry, or dried in a room heated up to 180 degrees, according to the kind of leathers to which they are intended to be finished. In the "finishing room," 40 feet by 25 feet, the finishing touches to page 225the skins are given, and the "grain" put on. Thus, for furniture leathers there are two ways of finishing, viz., the hard grained moroccos, and the straight grained; while for bookbinders' leathers there are the fast grained, glaziers' straight grained, dice grains, and hard grains.
At the three works a considerable number of hands are employed, and a valuable local industry is carried on. It may give our readers some idea of the importance of these and similar works in the colony when we say that the opening of Messrs. Bowron's works made so much difference to wool works that one, at least, at Belfast, was able to declare a profit, owing to being able to sell its sheepskins which previously it had to incur expense to bury or destroy.