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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, October 1980

Some Golden Bay Industries (Continued)

Some Golden Bay Industries (Continued)

page 30

Cement Industry

The manufacture of cement is now one of the big industries of our country and as the demand has increased the New Zealand producers have expanded their operations. The purposes for which it can be used have increased a great deal as time has gone along. With so much being used it seems difficult to realise that just a century ago concrete was not widely used. At that time Portland Cement was imported from England in wooden barrels.

Portland cement was originally developed in England in 1826 by a bricklayer, Joseph Aspdin. Because of its likeness, when set, to the Portland stone of England, it was referred to as Portland cement. (Portland stone was used in the building of St Paul's Cathedral, London.)

In the early days of settlement in this country very little cement was used but with the building of railways in the 1870s the demand increased. As its use became more general it was appreciated that, with the large supply of suitable raw materials readily available, it could be produced here. Shipping was then the main means of transport and with lime and coal adjacent to the sea coast there appeared to be no difficulty in developing the industry and distributing the cement around the country.

An Auckland correspondent assured the writer that the first commercial manufacture of Portland cement in the Southern Hemisphere was commenced at Mahurangi, north of Auckland, in 1884 or 1885, and that the original plant there to manufacture hydraulic lime concrete was established as early as 1878. This was the start of the Wilson's Portland Cement Company which operated there until operations were transferred to Portland, on the Whangarei Harbour, in 1924. (I have visited the old Mahurangi works near Warkworth where derelict concrete buildings and tall chimneys still give some indication of the extensive operations. The tallest concrete chimney was blown down by the Home Guard during the Second World War as a training exercise).

One of the early undertakings in this industry was at Ferntown, across the Aorere River from Collingwood. T. J. A. Metcalfe stated in 1882 in his book A Ramble Through the Inangahua, Lyell and Collingwood Reefs,"… the well known firm of Brogden and Son, having purchased the coal mine at Ferntown, near Collingwood, have recently erected the necessary appliances for the making of hydraulic cement, an industry employing fifty hands alone."

Concerning this the Handbook of N.Z. Mines, 1887, stated, "Four years ago a gentleman was so well satisfied that cement could be profitably manufactured that he put the whole of his capital into the venture. After thoroughly satisfying himself that all the necessary materials for the producing of an article equal to the imported cement could be readily obtained, he erected, at considerable outlay, compact buildings, containing all page 31the necessary appliances, improved machinery, crushers, hoppers, distributors, bins, etc., which are still in position, and ready for use at any moment. As the necessary coal, clay, and limestone lie within a radius of half a mile from the works, it is anticipated that an enterprising company will be found to take them over. Tests made on brickets manufactured from a small quantity of the cement turned out gave results equal to those obtained from brickets made from Portland cement, it is thought that judicious expenditure of about £2000 ($4000) would put the works in motion and place a supply of cement on the market."

Optimism about this industry brought more people to the district and William Grant moved his portable 12-horsepower steam engine from his sawmill at Marahau to drive the works. His son, the late C. L. Grant told the writer that he could remember the old cement works and that the buildings covered about a quarter of an acre. He could not remember that any cement for selling purposes was ever turned out.

A news item in the Golden Bay Argus of August 27, 1886, said "Ferntown Portland cement works are to be sold at auction next week. We had hoped that the Collingwood Coal Company could have purchased this valuable plant so as to work the two industries conjointly but we presume that the want of capital has prevented them from doing this." In a general statement it was said that the plant was quite capable of turning out 50 tons weekly. It further said "Government statistics show that about 15,000 tons of Portland cement was the average annual importation in the last six years." Apparently the plant did not sell and one can only conclude that the works continued to remain idle as, on April 2, 1896, they were offered for sale. The goods and effects included 6 cottages. During the course of the next few years news reports recorded the shipping of the plant from Ferntown to Taranaki.

It is of interest that this was not the only attempt made to get a works in the area. In October 1906 it was stated that 100 acres (40.5 ha.) at Pakawau had been acquired for the purpose. Meanwhile other developments had been taking place in the Motupipi district. In the Handbook of N.Z. Mines, 1906, it is stated that "At the present time Mr French is working cement machinery at Motupipi in Takaka. The machinery started in April 1906. Mr French is well satisfied that cement can be profitably manufactured from the materials at Motupipi, and has put a large amount of capital into the venture." Also the report of Dr J. Macintosh Bell in the Geological Report: Parapara Subdivision, 1907, stated: "For some years until quite recently, work was prosecuted on the more southerly of the Tata Islands, and on the mainland adjoining, by the Marlborough Lime and Cement Company, about 7,000 tons of stone in all having been shipped to Picton for manufacturing into cement. For the past year or so lime and cement have been manufactured in a small way near the mouth of the Motupipi River." (Concerning the operations at the Tata Islands it is interesting to note that the authorities became apprehensive about the islands being removed as this would lead to the page 32eventual destruction of the only harbour of refuge in Golden Bay. The islands were taken over under the Public Works Act. Some of the concrete foundations of the old cement works at Picton can still be seen beside the highway leading over the hill from the town.–J.N.).

In March 1909 the cement works at Motupipi were advertised for sale by auction the following month and, when the detailed list was advertised, it was stated that the plant had only been closed two years.

In the prospectus for the Golden Bay Cement Company dated February 20, 1908, a number of Nelson men were listed among the directors but the second prospectus dated January 8, 1909 showed most of the directors as being Wellington men. Also the second prospectus showed that the capital, originally £25,000 ($50,000), was being increased to £60,000 ($120,000).

For the purposes of the article it is not necessary to trace the story of the present company but it is interesting to note that while the works had a capacity of 20,000 tons per annum in 1909 it now has a capacity of 400,000 tons per annum.

Parapara Gold

Following the early goldfield activity in the Collingwood district from say 1857 to 1860 various attempts were made to mine on a more extensive scale.

In his ReminscencesA. D. Dobson tells of his experiences at Collingwood in the 1860's when he undertook work on a scheme to mine for gold at Appo's Flat. Two men, employed by W. T. L. Travers, had already sunk a shaft 80 feet (24m) deep and had washed out about half-an-ounce of coarse gold at the bottom of the shaft. A report in the Nelson Evening Mail in October 1867 stated that at Appo's Gully Mr Nicholls and his mates went down to a depth of about 60 feet (18m) without bottoming but had come upon pipe clay and gravel which was regarded as a favourable sign. (Was this the party employed by Travers?–J.N.).

Dobson's scheme turned out a failure as, when they drove a tunnel to within a few feet of the shaft which Travers' prospectors had sunk, they got into old workings. Apparently the ground had been worked before by sinking and driving from the bottom of numerous shafts, there having been a number of parties all working at once, and so keeping the water down by pumping. Travers men had simply struck one of the pillars between shafts which had not been worked.

Sluicing claims were worked in the Parapara area where conditions were favourable. There were many claims but in 1892 the Parapara Hydraulic Sluicing Company, floated with a capital of forty thousand pounds ($80,000), bought a number of independent claims and work commenced on a much broader basis than had been possible by the smaller concerns. Among the claims amalgamated were the "Glen Mutchin," "Glen Gyle," and the "Hit and Miss." Glen Mutchin was first worked in the 1870's by William Caldwell who brought water from the Parapara River. Glen Gyle had been worked almost continuously by the "Glen Gyle party" from the early days of the page 33goldfield. The members were N. Hamblett, Patterson, Jinks, and Joe Newlove. (In his old age Newlove lived in a hut near the Collingwood Recreation Ground and tended a splendid vegetable garden.) The Hit and Miss claim was at a saddle at the head of Glen Gyle gully between there and Appo's Creek. The "Red Hill" mining property was also taken over.

One of the first activities of the new company was to undertake boring operations on the Parapara mudflat to ascertain the possibilities there. Work proceeded on the various claims. Glen Gyle was worked and eventually abandoned as the hillsides were steep and operations were hampered by landslides which made operations dangerous. At the Hit and Miss claim the work continued until the dividing ridge was completely washed away. Operations on the Parapara flats followed a different pattern as the sluicing work was accompanied by pumping and elevation procedures which allowed work to proceed to a depth of 15 feet (4.5m) below high water level.

A great deal of development work was done to bring water from the upper part of the Parapara stream to carry out operations at Hit and Miss Saddle and later at Appo's Flat. A contract was let for tunnelling Richmond Hill. Big preparations were made. In December 1893, 70,000 feet of timber was being cut at Baigent's mill in Takaka and this was carted by Henry Hawkins from Riley's wharf at Collingwood. Contracts for a road from Collingwood to Appo's Flat were let in July 1894 and in that month tenders were invited for stripping a dam site and cutting a sluice channel at Richmond Flat in Parapara Gorge. The S.S. Manaia arrived from Wellington with 80 tons of cement and the S.S. Kennedy made several trips into port with pipes. J. Richards and H. Strange carted the pipes to the site while the Pages carted the cement. The line for the pipes had been graded but when the pipeline was tried out under pressure, leaks occurred and pipes broke. One part suspended over the Parapara River collapsed.

The writer was able to gain some first hand information about the Parapara company as several people knew something of the venture. Richards and Strange, as already stated, had the contract for wagoning the 300 tons of pipes from Collingwood wharf to where they were required at Appo's Flat and elsewhere. These came from Sparrow's foundry in Dunedin and a man named Anderson was sent with a gang to erect them. The whole of the pipes were carted by the two wagons. The pipes were possibly 24 feet (7m) long and the 30 inch (0.7m) diameter ones weighed half a ton each. Then there were the 24 inch (61cm), 18 inch (45cm), and 9 inch (23cm) pipes. The smaller sizes were used near the claim where a 4 inch (10cm) nozzle was used for sluicing. The timber, which was brought from Takaka and the West Coast was mainly heavy 9 inch by 6 inch (23cm x 15cm) planks which were used to timber the tunnel at Richmond Hill. Timber for other purposes was supplied by Grants from their Kaituna mill and this was carted by J. Richards. The track led up the hill from near the Devil's Boots at Rockville and across the pakihi terraces.

page 34

By 1895 the company was in financial difficulties and there were legal proceedings for the settlement of accounts for the supply of pipes and equipment, supply of timber, cartage, and the driving of the tunnel and grading of the pipe track. This appeared to be a dying phase of the company's operations at Appo's Flat.

However work was proceeding at "Washbourn's Face" and it was reported that 28 ounces of gold had been secured for only three weeks work. Also in 1895 Messrs West and Adams applied for a sluicing claim at Appo's Flat and one can only conclude that the Parapara company had ceased operations there. Frederick West bought the nine acres (3.6 ha) of land concerned and this became known as West's Freehold Flat and has continued as freehold land.

The odd reports of the Parapara company during the next few years did not give a very clear picture about operations.

In 1902 the Parapara Hydraulic Sluicing and Mining Coy. was registered and immediately commenced work on an area of 173 acres (70 ha) on the Parapara River. Thirteen men were employed on three shifts. Prospects were apparently encouraging and a stable community life established while a new public hall was built at Parapara.

At Appo's Flat attention was drawn to the possibility of working to a greater depth. A drainage tunnel to act as a tail-race was driven for 620 feet (190m) through a rock spur to work the surface of Appo's Flat down to 25 feet (7.6m). After that elevating was undertaken and by working two lifts the ground was worked down to 90 feet (27.4m). The elevating was done by means of a venturi pump creating a suction which drew the material from the excavation. Men worked at the bottom of the hole breaking boulders to be sucked into the pipes. They had to leave slopes on the side walls as a safety measure and eventually the men were pinched out with insufficient room to work in the bottom.

About an acre in the upper end of this flat had been worked in the early goldfield days by the primitive methods then in use, and it yielded good returns. Reports of workings during the next few years indicated that operations were followed at both Appo's Flat and West's Freehold Flat which must have been adjoining areas. West's house was to the westward of Appo's Flat. One report in 1911 stated that work was down to 70 feet (21.3m) and that the elevating plant was being extended. A sketch of the jet pump and principles used in its operation was made by J. Bassett, mine manager, who stated that the pump lifted water from a depth of 44 feet (13.4m) vertical lift.

The venture ceased during the First World War.

There is still plenty of evidence to indicate where these gold winning operations were carried on. The two large crater-like holes at Appo's Flat, now half filled with water, give mute proof to the size of the enterprise. At Richmond Flat in the gorge of the Parapara River one can still see the page 35concrete and stone dam used to impound the water while part of the equipment which controlled the flow of water to the workings is gradually rusting away.

Later Developments: Gold Winning in the 1930's

During the serious trade depression in the early 1930's a system of subsidised gold winning was undertaken in all known gold bearing areas. Various projects were undertaken and one group, known as the Mildenhall Party, worked an area at Parapara Inlet. The group launched out on an extensive scale erecting huts and plant. They made homes by building timber frameworks which were covered by flour sacks bought from the local bakery in Collingwood. These were water-proofed and made serviceable huts. The names of the party were given as R. N. Mildenhall. O. C. Miller, L. B. Deavoll, and A. H. Mildenhall – all coming from the Wellington and Lower Hutt areas. A. H. Mildenhall had been a builder at Plimmerton. Deavoll had engineering experience and knowledge which he was able to put to good use. With financial advances from the local Mining Executive they procured a pump and various equipment from the defunct North Cape coal mine at Puponga and in due course the old water race at Washbourns' paint works was opened up to provide water for this and other undertakings.

Mr D. H. McNabb told the writer that his company trucked the machinery from Puponga for Mildenhall's project. The large boiler used for providing steam for the engine which drove the pump was in the charge of O. C. Miller. There was no heavy firewood in the vicinity so manuka brush wood, which was plentiful, was used to stoke the fire. This produced sufficient heat to keep the engine operating as ten pounds of steam pressure in the large boiler provided sufficient power to operate the pump.

Quite recently the enthusiasts at the Wakefield Steam Museum recovered the massive pump to add to their extensive collection of heavy machinery. The steam boiler had not been left on the mining site to rust out as it was taken to Tarakohe for use at the cement works.

Some sources of information used in this series of articles:

  • Handbook of New Zealand Mines, 1906.
  • Geological Report: Parapara Subdivision, 1907.
  • Golden Bay Argus (newspaper).
  • Collingwood County Council Minute Books and Records.
  • The late John Richards.
  • The late C. L. Grant.
  • Mr P. R. Skilton.
  • Mr D. H. McNabb.
page 36

Key to Map:

3.No. 1 Sluicing Claim.
4.No. 2 Sluicing Claim.
5.Glen Mutchin.
6.Glen Gyle.
7.Appo's Flat, West's Freehold Flat, Elevator Holes.
8.Dam in Parapara River.
9.Tunnel for pipeline.
10.Johnston's United Battery.
11.Slate River Sluicing Claim.
12.Slate River Company's Dam and Water Race.
Location map of Parapara and other goldfield areas based on a map which accompanied Bulletin No. 3, Parapara Subdivision, 1906.– (Courtesy Mr S. Bagley, Director, Nelson Provincial Museum.)

Location map of Parapara and other goldfield areas based on a map which accompanied Bulletin No. 3, Parapara Subdivision, 1906.
– (Courtesy Mr S. Bagley, Director, Nelson Provincial Museum.)

page 37

Clay From Golden Bay

As a postscript to the earlier article about Golden Bay Clays one can add that it is an interesting fact that New Zealand tourists in the Pacific sometimes bring home souvenir pottery articles which have actually been manufactured from local clay which has been processed here and exported. This is one of the smaller industries of the area but "potters" near and far recognise the high quality of this raw material from which they can produce a wide variety of superior articles.

An Historical Link

Recently we were reminded of our historical link with the British Navy of Lord Nelson's day when a descendant of Admiral Lord Collingwood visited the district. This young man and his wife did not realise that there was a town of Collingwood when they came to a position in Wellington. Having seen the name on a map, they visited the area and were anxious to see a map of the planned town and to learn something of its history. They also were keen to see a map of Nelson City and be able to claim that they had driven along Collingwood Street! Their visit was a reminder of just how closely we are associated with our British history.