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Timaru Woollen Factory - Bank St. 1886-2009

Through the mill

The factory was built in 1886, liquidated three months later, idle for a year, leased for three then in 1892 remodelled by practical men and from 1894 ran day and night for more than a century. Synthetic fabrics become available in the 1950s provided competition for woven woollen fabrics causing many woollen mills to merge in the 1960s. The Timaru and Oamaru mills formed Alliance Textiles, which then took over the Bruce Woollen Manufacturing Company. Alliance purchased Swanndri in 1991 and continued production in Timaru. In 1994, Swanndri New Zealand Ltd purchased the brand from Alliance Textiles. Swanndri made weatherproof long green bush shirts and plaid jackets from pre-shrunken closely-woven woollen cloth. In 1994 Chargeurs, a French company, became a part owner of the 40-year-old of Alliance Textile Top Making and NZ Tops before becoming the outright owner in 2000.  November 7. 2008 the mill closed leaving 34 employees redundant. It was New Zealand's last medium grade wool mill. South Canterbury Textiles operating from the Bank St. plant under a lease agreement emerged at the beginning of 2006 when the Swanndri maker Alliance moved its manufacturing offshore to China and the historic Alliance Textiles closed down its Timaru facility. The Swanndri outlet shop on Church St. closed at the end of June 2008. Du Velle Properties Ltd bought the Alliance building for $1.5m in 2008 from Swanndri. The company's name, although spelt differently, recognises the former mill's original architect Maurice De Haven Duval. The plant re-opened as South Canterbury Textiles under the management of two former staff, they leased the space. In 2008 the wool was cleaned in South Canterbury, sent to Milton to be made into yarn, and then is woven into fabric at South Canterbury Textiles. In September 2009 South Canterbury Textiles, was one of the largest mills in the country that wove wool, had to relocate its equipment to the mill that had been used by Chargeurs in Redruth and finally went into receivership in 2011. A Mitre 10 Mega store was built on the site and opened in December 2010.  

Made in Timaru.
Worldwide demand for the wool has been falling.

Woollen Operatives

Five Yorkshire families
The men, with their families, engaged by the Timaru Woollen Factory Company, who are coming out to put the mill in working order, arrived at Lyttelton in the Pleiades, 22 Sept. 1885.

Timaru Herald, 23 September 1885, Page 2
New Arrivals. The ship Pleiades, 997 tons, Capt. Setton, which arrived at Lyttelton from London on Monday, brought several Yorkshire families who have been engaged by the Timaru Woollen Factory Company, and they arrived in Timaru by the evening train yesterday. Their names are:
David Murgatroy (sic: Murgatroyd),
       wife Hannah (nee Mortimer) b.1858 and three children:
       Florence Murgatroyd b. 1878
         William Henry Murgatroyd b.1881
         John Bert Murgatroyd b.1883

       and David's brother Benjamin Murgatroyd b.1863 Rawdon.
Norman Avison and wife (Sarah Ann) and Andrew
George Haig
Arthur Wildsmith, wife (Abi Avison) and two daughter's (Dora and Hillaria)
Edwin Bold and wife (Minnie Avison) 

then there was:
        Frank Budd
        Sid Taylor
        two other men
        an old Irish woman

in the Saloon there was"
        The Captain and his wife
        Mr Upright (who was going out for his health)

EDWIN BOLD (1862-1940),
Edwin Bold, b. at Batley Carr, Yorkshire, immigrated to NZ on the `Pleiades' in 1885 for health reasons. He was skilled in the woollen mill trade and worked as a wool classer on sheep stations near Timaru. Later he moved to Wellington, joined the Public Works Department and was appointed Land Purchase Officer some years later. He held that position for 23 years. He was musical, playing church organs and the piano, a keen horticulturist and photographer. Edwin married married Minnie Avison of Batley, Yorkshire just prior to immigrating. Had six children. Edwin's shipboard letter is held by Canterbury Museum Archives and Sept. 1885 letter. Photograph of `Pleiades', Bold family, Edwin Bold, house at Berhamphore. Ref. Essay on the family at The Alexander Turnbull Library.

A Batley Carr lad, Edwin Bold by Joyce Ennor - 1990  ATL
Collection Record : New Zealand Society of Genealogists : 1990 Sesquicentennial Family
The essay includes information on their 6 children.
Includes extracts from Edwin's shipboard diary (held by Canterbury Museum Archives in the Edwin Bold papers)
Illustrations : Includes photograph of `Pleiades', Bold family, Edwin Bold, house at Berhamphore.

Evening Post, 8 August 1940, Page 13 MR.  P.S.
The death occurred at his residence, 37 Herald Street, Wellington, today of Mr Edwin Bold, aged 77. Born at Batley Carr, Yorkshire, in 1862, Mr. Bold followed his father's occupation of wool merchant until 1885, when he came to New Zealand on the ship Pleiades as one of the staff selected to start the Timaru woollen mill. After twelve years in Timaru he came to Wellington and joined the Public Works Department. In 1906 he was appointed Land Purchase Officer and held that position until his retirement in 1929. For many years his responsibilities as Land Purchase Officer embraced the whole Dominion, and it is notable that throughout all the controversies arising out of the manifold activities of the work only 30 claims required to be taken to court for settlement.  After his retirement Mr. Bold's services were frequently used as assessor in land compensation claims and as a commissioner for allocating costs of large bridge and road construction works. For some years Mr. Bold was organist and choirmaster at Congregational churches in Timaru and Wellington. For many years he was secretary of the Yorkshire Society of New Zealand and the Pacific Lodge of the United Ancient Order of Druids. Mrs. Bold died many years ago. There are four daughters and two sons. The funeral will take place on Saturday after a service, commencing at the residence at 11 a.m. Crematorium at Karori. E. Morris, Jun., Ltd., Funeral Directors, 25 Kent Terrace, Wellington

Auckland Star, 14 August 1935, Page 1
MURGATROYD. On August 12, at Wellington, David, loved and only brother of Benjamin Murgatroyd, 71, Owens Road, Epsom, Auckland.

Lana Pennington (in Wellington, NZ) wrote to NZ Bound in Sept. 1999
Notice Lyttelton Times 22 Sep 1885 re the
Pleiades arriving in Lyttelton with 12 passengers. Dora Emma WILDSMITH and her sister Hillaria WILDSMITH were supposedly onboard, and quite possibly there were other Wildsmith's or even relations on their mother's side by the surname of AVISON. Also, my gggrandfather John Arthur PENNINGTON was onboard as a crewman (John must have had a shipboard romance with Dora as they later married!).
    Arthur John Pennington born in 1864 in Hackney, England to wealthy parents (ostrich feather merchants) ran away to sea in 1881. Being the youngest son he wasn't going to inherit the business and he seemed the type who craved adventure. As a midshipman on a merchant vessel in 1885 he found the love of his life, Dora Emma Wildsmith, who was immigrating to New Zealand with her parents and other family members from Yorkshire. There is a wonderful long letter written on the voyage to NZ from Dora's relative who wrote his mother telling about voyage - full of gossip - all about the romance between Arthur and Dora and how Arthur got into trouble with the captain for spending too much time with her! Needless to say they married 18 Aug. 1886 at the Baptist Manse in Timaru in 1886 by Rev. C.C. Brown, and he never returned to England. Later they moved to Goulburn, NSW, Australia where Arthur John Franklin Pennington was born 28 April 1899. Then a couple of years later they moved back to New Zealand. Arthur John Franklyn Pennington was sent at the age of five to live and be educated in England in 1894, married 22 Nov. 1911 at age 22 at Saint Faith, Stoke Newington, England to Maud Mellor Alice Comley and did not return to NZ until 1922. He lived with his father's sister Clara Dale in Highbury, London. He died 25 April 1943 in Wellington.

Press, 19 April 1893, Page 1 Marriage
Kingston - Wildsmith — On April 4th, at at street Baptist Church, Wellington, by the Rev. C. Dallaston, Thomas, Geraldine, late of Ashburton to Hillaria (Hillie), youngest daughter of Mr Arthur Wildsmith, Petone, formerly resident in Ashburton.

Ashburton Guardian, 30 June 1892, Page 2
A social gathering was held in the Baptist Church on Tuesday evening, the choir having invited the members and friends to be present at the dual presentation of a purse of sovereigns each to the pastor, Mr Sawle, and to Mr Arthur Wildsmith, hon. organist and choir master. Mr Thomas Kingston took the chair, and after an anthem had been given by the choir, he, in well chosen words, referred to the ladies who had initiated the bazaar—namely, Misses Wildsmith, Steel, and Raymond, and Mrs Pennington, and who, with the assistance of members and friends, had carried the work to a successful conclusion, and enabled him, on behalf of all who had taken part, to present Mr Sawle with a written testimonial and a purse of sovereigns. We beg to subscribe ourselves, your affectionate friends— Grace Steel, Mary Raymond, Hillaria Wildsmith, Dora E. Pennington, Thomas Kingston, Arthur Dixon." Mr Sawle then took the chair and presented Mrs Wildsmith (on behalf of Mr Wildsmith who was in Wellington) with a testimonial and purse of sovereigns.

The Practical Men - Scottish

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District] pg1013
South Canterbury Woollen Manufacturing Company (James Lillico, James Crosbie, and John Macrae, proprietors were all born in Scotland.), Arthur and Bank Streets, Timaru. The business was originally established in 1885 by a local Limited Company, who built the commodious mill and commenced manufacturing work. Unfortunately, after a few months, probably in consequence of want of experience, the company went into liquidation, and the mortgagee entered into possession of the mill and plant. For some time the capitalist, into whose hands the mill had fallen, had the mill on his hands; but finally he leased the works to Messrs Atkinson Brothers, who worked the mill for about three years. The property was then idle for about a twelve month, and in 1892 it was purchased by the present proprietors in conjunction with three others. The purchasers were all practical men, who thoroughly understood every department of their business. They were brought up to the business of woollen manufacture, and had large experience in Scottish mills before coming to New Zealand. They put the mill into working order, and bent their united energies towards making their work a success. The result has been that, since 1894, the mill has been fully employed night and day. The land upon which it stands comprises three quarters of an acre of freehold, and the three-storey brick building which contains the main portion of the machinery, occupies the whole frontage of Arthur Street, the entrance being from the corner of Bank Street. There are iron and wood annexes to the building, where the various preliminary processes in connection with woollen manufacture are conducted. The old machinery, which was in the mill when taken over by the proprietors, has all been removed, and the latest and most improved appliances have been imported to take its place. The entire produce of the works is sold to warehouses in New Zealand, and the goods are well known to be of a superior quality. Bannockburn and saddle tweeds, in all varieties, are among the products of the mill, and the proprietors also produce rugs, blankets, shirtings, flannels and hosiery yarns for knitting manufactures. About one hundred hands find regular employment, and the company pays away on an average about £8000 a year in wages. There can be little doubt that the company's success is due to the practical knowledge and economical management of the proprietors, who all take an active part in the management of the business.  

Auckland Star, 23 August 1921, Page 7
Mr. James Lillico, for many years one of the proprietors of the Timaru Woollen Mills and subsequently manager for Macky, Logan. Caldwell, Ltd, who purchased the mill, died suddenly at Geraldine on Saturday. The deceased had gone out in his car. and was talking to a man on the road, when, without warning, he fell forward on the road and never moved again. He leaves a widow, a grown-up son and two young children. [James was manager of  the Roslyn Mills from 1886 -1893]

Otago Daily Times 21 October 1892, Page 2
On Friday evening last a very pleasing ceremony took place at the Roslyn mills, when Mr Lillico, who has just relinquished the management, was presented by the workers with a handsome silver tea service, as a token of their esteem and respect. Mr Lillico, with several friends, have purchased the woollen mills at Timaru, at which place they intend to start business for themselves about the beginning of December next. Mr Lillico, who will be the managing partner, starts for Melbourne by the s.s. Wairarapa to-day, and carries with him the good wishes of his late fellow employes.

Carding and spinning Dept. South Canterbury Woollen Manufacturing Company

Timaru Herald, 7 December 1892, Page 2
Mr James Crosbie, a member of the firm who have taken the Timaru Woollen Factory was given a complimentary dinner at Mosgiel a week ago. Mr Crosbie in reply gratefully thanked the company for the kindly spirit which had prompted their gathering. In, the course of his remarks he said that the new firm who were going to take up the Timaru woollen mill was composed of six Scotchmen, who, he knew, would do their very best to supply the public with a good article and make the undertaking a commercial success. A few days before this dinner Mr Crosbie was presented with handsome souvenirs by the employees of the Mosgiel factory, where he had been engaged since the factory was opened (with only one-sixth of its present weaving power). Mr Crosbie has been in charge of the finishing department at Mosgiel.

The Building 

 In 1884 Johann Heinrich BARGFREDE sold his half acre section (adjoining the gas works, which he owned with Mr Rhodes) for £480 to the Timaru Woollen Factory. He took out £150 of the price in shares in their company.

Timaru Herald 17/04/2009
The sale of an inner-city council-owned site will see a Mitre 10 Mega store open in Timaru by late next year. Rangiora-based Du Velle Properties has bought the former gas works site in Perth St from the district council. Timaru Mitre 10 and Ashburton Mitre 10 Mega managing director confirmed yesterday that his company will open a mega store on the site and the adjacent Alliance Textiles site, both of which are now owned by Du Velle Properties. Du Velle Properties began buying properties in the area more than two years ago when it paid $1.5m for the Alliance Textiles Mill on Bank St and Arthur St. Pedestrian access from Perth St will establish a clear link to the central business district. With this week's sale of the 0.46-hectare Perth St site, Du Velle now owns 1.6 hectares of land in the two blocks. The combined capital value of the land is $3.6m.

Timaru Herald, 12 October 1885, Page 2
Woollen Factory. The contractor for the Timaru Woollen Factory Company Buildings is making capital progress with his work. The bricklayers work is now complete with the exception of gables and chimney, and all the roof principals are in position. The roof will be put on in the course of a few days, and in a week or two everything will be in readiness for the machinery. The machinery is on board the barque Lochnagar, now daily expected from London. It is satisfactory to learn that the Company anticipate the works will be in full operation before the close of the year. [She has on board about 300 tons of machinery for the Timaru Woollen Factory, including a l3 tons(sic) boiler]

Timaru Herald, 11 November 1885, Page 2
The barque Lochnagar was engaged yesterday in getting the boiler for the Timaru Woollen-Factory out of her hold ready to put shore. The job proved an exceedingly difficult one, two beams and stanchions having to be taken out of the vessel's hold before the boiler could be shifted, it being some 21ft 6in long and weighing about six tons. She will come to the wharf again this morning, and with the aid of the crane Hercules (sic) the boiler will be taken ashore.

Star 13 November 1885, Page 3
The Timaru Woollen Factory building is now completed, and the machinery, ex Lochnagar from London, has just been landed. The balance of the machinery is expected to arrive in the course of a week or so. The erection of it will probably take two months.

5000 sq m Alliance site on Bank St. Timaru photo June 2009 by M.T. Fontana Wool faded out under the eave of the building.

Star 9 December 1885, Page 3
The Timaru Woollen Factory machinery is nearly all erected, and the engine, which arrived in Lyttelton by the barque Hudson, is expected in Timaru daily. [The Hudson when ashore twelve miles north of Timaru. She was at least forty miles off course. She was heading to Lyttelton not Timaru]

Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 1 December 1885, Page 2 STRANDING OF THE HUDSON.
The Titan, in charge of Capt. Webster, went out to the stranded barque about five o'clock on Thursday morning, to render what assistance it could in helping to launch the vessel. On arrival there found that the p.s. Lyttelton, with Mr Watson, Lloyds' surveyor, had arrived on the scene about four o'clock in the morning. Capt. Hird, of the ship Marlborough, now at Oamaru, was on board the Hudson, where, with Capt. Thomas and crew, he had remained all night. At an early hour Mr Hart, of H.M. Customs, also proceeded to the scene. The steamer Herald arrived shortly after seven o'clock, and then every effort was made by the three to get the vessel off, but they did not succeed in moving her much. The men on board the vessel were working all night, and had taken out and landed safely a quantity of cargo. Special efforts were made to save the Timaru Woollen Factory's machinery. The Titan returned to port about noon, and at half-past two in the afternoon went out again with three surf-boats in tow. These were to be used to bring off the Timaru Woollen Factory Company's machinery. During the afternoon they were engaged in transhipping a quantity of cargo to the Herald, and in all about 300 tons were taken out of the ship on flood tide. On Friday evening the steamers again got hold of the Hudson, and this time, much to the gratification of everyone, with good results, as she was dragged off the beach at 7 o'clock, and subsequently taken in tow of the Lyttelton for Lyttelton, to which place the Herald also proceeded, while the Titan returned to Timaru. So far as could be ascertained the Hudson had sustained no damage when she left.

Otago Witness 3 May 1900, pg 38
The complete fibre to fabric process, involving scouring, top making, spinning, weaving and potentially knitting, plus the finishing of fine woollen fabrics. Tops are needed before you can spin the yarn required for either weaving or knitting the saleable product.

Timaru Herald, 21 May 1886, Page 3 TIMARU WOOLLEN FACTORY

Yesterday will long be remembered by all well-wishers— and they are legion— of local industries in Timaru as the day on which the Timaru Woollen Factory Company's new buildings were formally opened, and their industry recognised as one of the principal in South Canterbury. It is now about two and a half years since the company was first formed, and there is no denying that the shareholders of it have met with signal success so far. From the very first movements in the direction of starting a woollen factory in Timaru to, the present time the progress of the undertaking through its different stage has been watched by all Timaruites and residents in South Canterbury with the keenest interest, and that interest will further increase when it becomes thoroughly known what excellent articles can be turned out of our local factory. The public generally have come forward willingly to support the promoters in their efforts to bring the undertaking to a successful issue, and they can now look with pride on a mill that is fitted up with the best and latest improved machinery. When it became known, that the directors of the Company proposed formally opening the mill and throwing it open for public inspection, the proposition was hailed with great satisfaction, and yesterday morning a very large concourse of people assembled at the mill to witness the opening ceremony. The opening of the Timaru Woollen Factory certainly marks a new era in the history of Timaru.

Mr John Jackson, Major of Timaru, had kindly consented to perform the opening ceremony, and on stopping on to the platform on the northern side of the lower floor, he was greeted with loud applause. He said they had met there that day by the kind invitation of the Directors of the Timaru Woollen Factory to celebrate the opening of the new mills, and it was a day they would long remember. All knew the history of the factory from its commencement so he would say but a very few words about it. When the subject of a woollen factory was first mooted in Timaru several gentlemen met to try and form a company, but through lack of brains or money, or possibly both, the affair unfortunately fell through. Sometime afterwards, however, it was again taken up, and this time by abler hands, and it had turned out a success, as all were able to see. Shares in the new company were rapidly taken up by the public, and in a very short time the directors were in a position to send Home for the latest improved machinery, and also to purchase a site for the factory which he thought was in every way well suited for the purpose, and in a central position. The building was in due time erected, and the machinery arrived about the time of its completion, and was now nearly all fitted up, and the greater part of it in full working, and [turning out some excellent material. The cost of the machinery and plant was £9500, and the section and building £3500. Every one, he said, could now see for themselves that the Timaru Woollen Factory was an established fact, and it now, rested with the directors whether it was to be a success or a failure. He invited all to encourage local industry, and buy everything they wanted in the way of clothes or blankets from the factory. Speaking of blankets he said he had been told by one gentleman that the blankets manufactured at the Timaru Woollen Factory were the best he had seen in the colony. The factory was proving of the greatest benefit to the town, and it ought most certainly to be encouraged. About fifty hands were now employed on the premises, their earnings amounting to about £70 per week. This money which was formerly going out of the place was now being spent in it to the benefit of all concerned. The success or failure of a factory depended very largely on the employees, and it behaved them for their own sakes, and also for the welfare of the factory, to do their work diligently and well, and with ah interest to the success of the factory. He could not say much more about the factory, but said it was his firm impression that within a very few years the section on which the mill had been erected, would be found not to be large enough for its requirements. He then declared the factory opened. On stepping down Mr Jackson was greeted with loud and prolonged applause. A move was then made for the sample-room on the second floor, where the success of the Timaru Woollen Factory Company was drunk right royally. The visitors then dispersed themselves over the building, and were shown the working of the different machines by Mr Clapham, the energetic Manager, and the Chairman and Directors of the Company and the various employees. All expressed themselves well pleased with what they sow, and everything was examined most critically. All the machinery was in full operation, and so the visitors had an excellent opportunity of seeing everything in full working order, and of seeing the cloth, blankets, worsted, etc., passing through the different machines. The afternoon being a half-holiday hundreds of people flocked to the factory. The following particulars of the factory will no doubt be read with interest:

At the time plans for the buildings were completed we were able through the courtesy of Mr M. de H. Duval, the architect, to give our readers a full description of them, but as it appeared many months ago, it may not be out of place to here describe, shortly, the size of the buildings and give the names of the different rooms. The buildings stand on a section situated at the corner of Arthur and Bank streets, the principal facade looking on to the first named street. The section lies in a gully, and as a site for a woollen mill cannot be surpassed by any other in the colony. The main building is 90ft. long and 40ft. wide, and since the first plans were drawn an addition has been made to it, 72ft. long by 40ft. wide. On the ground floor is the engine and boiler houses, the dyeing, wool-scouring and finishing rooms, and the large room in which are the looms. On the first floor are the carding machines and twisting frames, the wool sorting, drying and willey rooms, the manager's office and the warehouse for storing cloth, blankets, etc. in. The second floor is entirely at the service of the spinning jennies. On going completely over the building it is at once seen that the several departments are most excellently arranged, lifts; trap doors, etc., making communication from room to room most direct and thus tending to minimise labour, and directly lead to work going on without interruption. The buildings are rather plain, but are exceedingly substantial looking and appear to be well put together. The foundations are of concrete and the walls of brick, while the roof is of the very best galvanised iron. The main entrance is from Arthur street, the door into the factory being reached after turning the corner of the main building, the internal fittings are neat and strong, the immense beams which carry the shafting and support the machinery doing their work without a tremor. The rooms are all well lit and admirably ventilated, and all the surroundings are made as pleasant as possible for the many employees.

On taking a quiet stroll over the factory the visitor becomes quite bewildered with the sight of so many pieces of machinery flying round, bobbing up and down, and slinging wool about as if it were stuff of no account, that unless he has a fair technical knowledge of the different processes through which wool has to go before it becomes a blanket, a piece of dress material or a length of fancy coating, he stands a good chance of getting his ideas on woollen manufactures most terribly mixed. However, yesterday, thanks to the courteous Manager (Mr Clapham) and his staff to Mr Courtis (the chairman of Directors) and the different directors of the Co., all visitors so far as we could learn got a clear insight into the working of the intricate machinery, and of the various processes of manufacture. As we were among those who were fortunate enough to get initiated, it will be our endeavour in the following lines to give our readers a concise reflex of this ceremony. We will therefore begin with the wool in its raw state and describe first of all the

The wool sorting room is in charge of Mr Bold, and he receives the wool in its raw state, sorts it out and places it in bins. This done the wool is let down into the scouring room, these rooms being so arranged one above the other that the wool drops right into the scouring apparatus, the wool after being thoroughly scoured and rolled in a vat 17ft long by 3ft broad and 3ft deep is pitched forked into a hydra-extractor, commonly called a wringer, which revolves very fast indeed, and by so doing drives all the water the wool contains through an inner wire cage. The material is next sent aloft again to the wool drying room, which is situate immediately above the boiler, the heat this throws off thus being used to good advantage and the cost of a special drying room saved. The wool after this goes to the willeying room, which is presided over by Mr Westerman, who speaks proudly of the two machines under his charge and totally objects to any person calling one by its common name of the devil." Its proper name is the shake, willey." It is fed from the front and when the receiver is full of wool it is closed up and the machine at once set in motion. Boilers studded with long spikes revolve one opposite the other, and the wool is broken up and the dust knocked out of it. As, the wool comes from the willey it is spread out in layers on the floor and cloth-oiled, and after this is fed into the tenter-hook willey. This machine is also studded with formidable teeth which give the wool a further shaking and tearing up. As it comes from the machine it is packed in huge bales which are taken into the

CARDING ROOM. Here we find Mr Haigh "running the show" and attending to the carders, etc. In the factory are two complete sets of carders, one set with what is known as a Scotch feed, and another with Blamer's feed. The carder with the Scotch feed, is a very long one— Mr Clapham believes it is the longest in the colony and runs almost the entire width of the room. The bits of wool are fed on to a travelling platform, and feed on to the doffer roller, over the swifts, from them it is thrown on to the end doffer, and from this roller it is brushed off on to the doffing plate. It is impossible to exactly describe the motions of the different rollers, as the driving belts and wheels are so arranged as to give some a slow motion and others a very quick motion. The operation, however, may shortly be compared to the combing and brushing of one's hair, the card combining the properties of the comb and brush, being a brush with wire teeth instead of hairs. These teeth are inserted in strips of leather, which are fixed upon the surface of a cylinder or roller. Several of these little and big— are so arranged that the wire teeth almost touch each other. The wool as it is fed in is caught up by the dotting rollers and passed through and combed out as the cylinders revolve into fleecy strips which gradually feed off on to the doffing knife. At this stage the stuff is called silver "or card ends," and it passes along an endless belt, to another carder which is fitted with two swifts, a breast, two fancies, and lastly, comes politely to write a word used in explanation by the manager— off from the ring doffer on to a condenser. The motion of the latter is sideways and is truly wonderful, the sliver getting slightly rolled as it is guided off on to the bobbins. The other pair of carders are used principally for coloured materials, but their motions and genoral work are the same as the pair we have described. The bobbins take off 45 good threads and two bad ones, and wind the wool off beautifully and evenly. The wool is now ready for spinning, and the next room to be entered is the

Here lie three self-acting mules, one made by Thornton Bros. and two by Tatham of England. The one made by Thornton Bros., has 408 spindles, and the two by Tatham 385 and 280 respectively. These mules are quite a triumph of mechanical skill, the head stocks of them being beautifully put together and work the spinning jennies. The wool is taken off the bobbins and as it passes over the spinning frames is also drawn out and fed on to spindles and the material is then called warp. The mules work backwards and forwards and the attention they receive is very little, a couple of boys and girls being all that is required to look after the threads when they get broken. From this room the warp is removed on reels and wound on a frame until the desired thickness of cloth or flannel is gained and is next sent down to the room in which are the looms. Close to the frame named is an emery grinding machine, the rollers of which are used to face up the wire cards, and adjoining the grinder is a twisting machine. It is one of Syke's best and will twist two or more white, black or coloured threads for use in making up tweeds, or will twist the best fingering wool. A large reeler is also used for shaping the wool into "hanks," the shape of which is familiar to all who have had the pleasure of seeing and helping the ladies to wind wool. We now come to the

In which are fourteen looms made by Thornton and Whitely, which are in sole charge of Mr Murgitroyd (sic. Murgatroyd). From the winding frame the warp comes down and is wound on a beam which is really a very large roller and when filled with wool is dropped into its place on the looms. As many people know there are few arts which require more patience or skill than wearing. As many as from one to two thousand threads often constitute the warp, and these threads may be so varied in quality as to produce many varieties of fabric. At the factory three blanket looms and six cloth looms are to be been in full operation and visitors had a chance of seeing the web, and watching the shuttles with their extraordinary motion doing their part of the weaving. In this room are to be seen blankets and cloth before the scouring process is gone through, and the materials at this stage are certainly not prepossessing. Before being scoured operatives have to go over the cloth or blanket and pick out all the small lumps of wool that show on the surface, which operation is one of the most tedious and hum drum in the whole factory. The blankets, or cloth, or dress stuff, as the case may be, is next taken to the

In which is an immense machine which has fitted inside it a pair of large rollers or wringers. After the material has been well soused it is put into the milling machine, where it is thickened by continual squeezing through a tube und by passing over and under a pair of rollers. Alter the material comes from the milling machine, it is again scoured, and dried, and then put on the gig or nap raising machine. This consists of a very large roller, faced with teasles, which as the cloth passes over them raise the nap. From this the cloth goes to the

Here the presiding genius is Mr Wildsmith, who also by-the-bye, exercises supervision over the scouring and dyeing rooms. In the latter is a vat in which pieces are dyed two small vats for yarn dyeing, and a wool dyeing tank. Close to these vats is the dye store room, which is closely packed with dyes of various kinds, a very large stock of which has to be kept ready for use. To hark back to the finishing room, we there find a cutting, brushing, and Whitney machine. These so plainly indicate their use, that it is needless for us to describe them at length suffice it to say, that the machines are all of the very latest pattern, and do the work that is required of them in a faultless style. After the cloth has passed through these machines, it is placed in folds over glazed cardboard put on a hydraulic press, and subjected to a pressure of over 8 tons to the square inch. This process puts the face on the cloth, which is now finished, is taken out of the press, made up into marketable boles, and stored in the warehouse.

The boiler is one of Horsfields very best tubular steel ones, is firmly bedded and bricked about, and is limited to a working pressure of 80 lbs. An immense chimney stack which is known as the Woollen Factory's needle, towers well over the tops of the adjacent houses, and carries oil the smoke, which by-the-bye is very little owing to the special way the boiler is set, most effectually. The engine is a horizontal high pressure one of 20 h. p. nominal, and works up to 45 h. p. quite easily. Its immense fly wheel and crank work with almost as little noise as does the mechanism of a lady's watch, and drives the vast quantity of machinery with very little trouble. When the engine was laid down many recognised local authorities on engineering expressed the decided opinion that it was much too small for so large a mill. Those who purchased it, however, knew better, and the way it has done its duty to date plainly shows that they were right, as it is found that if anything the engine is too large for the mill. Our old friend Mr T. Mc Rae, for many years engineer at the Government Landing Service, is in charge of the engineering department of the Factory and is very proud of his domain.

Before concluding our description of the machinery we must mention that it has been entirely put in position under the superintendence of Mr H. Clapham, the present manager of the Factory. The length of shafting, belting, and number of pulleys is very great indeed and the position some of the belts have to work in in order to economise space, is truly unique. In the carding room the clever way the, belts are led up to the large pulleys is especially noticeable, and Mr Clapham is to be complimented on the successful way in which ho has arranged all the machinery.

Three months later liquidated

Timaru Herald, 25 June 1886, Page 3
The half-yearly meeting of the Timaru Woollen Factory Company (Limited) was held in the Oddfellows' Hall, Sophia street, last evening. There was a good attendance of shareholders, and Mr H. B. Courtis, Chairman of Directors, presided. An inspection of the goods now turned but will show them to be very satisfactory in quality and finish. During the past half-year two vacancies have occurred in the directorate, caused by the retirement of Messrs Thomas Amos and W. J. Tennent. Messrs J. D. Kett and Jas. McCahon were elected to supply the vacancy. In accordance with the articles, the following directors retire by rotation, but are eligible, and offer themselves, for re-election, viz., Messrs H. B. Courtis, W. O'Bryan, Jacob Hill, and E. Cornish.

Star 2 February 1887, Page 4
An adjourned special general meeting of the Timaru Woollen Factory Company shareholders, to confirm a resolution to wind up the Company, was held last night. Mr Turnbull, M.H.R., was in the chair. Surprise and indignation were expressed at the absence of the Chairman and Managing Director, and the collapse of so promising an enterprise was deeply regretted by all the speakers. The resolution was confirmed, and Messrs C. S. Fraser and J. Jackson were appointed liquidators.

Evening Post, 8 February 1887, Page 2
The premises and plant of the Timaru Woollen Factory Company (Limited), now in liquidation, have been taken over from the mortgagee by Mr. Lodge, the late manager, assisted by other expert workmen imported by the late company, who will open the place as a private mill. Their prospects are excellent, Mr. Thomas Lodge being an exceedingly competent man. He was formerly in the Geelong factory.  

Timaru Herald, 19 July 1892, Page 3
To the editor of the Timaru Herald. Sir, I am giving up the Timaru Woollen Mill, which I leased from the proprietors for the purpose of making yarns for my Dunedin business, but finding I cannot make it pay to run spinning machinery only, and not having sufficient capital and knowledge to run the whole machinery, I am reluctantly compelled to give it up. At the same time I feel it a duty to bring before the public of Timaru, through your columns, the great loss the community will sustain, as I understand the proprietor intends to dismantle the mill and sell the machinery. I would suggest that some of the leading men in town form a company to work the mill. A capital of £10,000 would be ample. Some of the machinery is not good, but a sum of £1500 spent in new machinery would make as complete a mill as there is in the colony. The amount of money spent in wages alone runs into nearly £5000 a year, and this would be a great boon to tradesmen. I hope the mill will not be broken up, and any information in my power I shall be glad to give. I am, &c, R. Laidlaw.

Timaru Herald, 17 October 1892, Page 2
We learn from Dunedin papers that the Timaru woollen mill has been leased to a co-operative company formed at Dunedin. The local parties to the bargain were pledged to secrecy, but those at the other end have not been careful to keep it quiet. Nothing is to be dons for some months yet. We shall all be glad to see the mill running again even those who used to growl at its early morning speech will probably be glad to hear it again.

I count 68 employees and one dog. One man with a tie. Five women with smocks.
weavers and finishers of 100% wool cloth.

Spinning Yarns - A centennial History of Alliance Textiles Limited and its Predecessors 1881-1981 written by G. J. McLean. Hbk + dj, 221 pages, 1st ed., Alliance Textiles Ltd 1981. On page 62 there is a rare photo of the Timaru Mill at the bottom of Bank St., at the corner with Arthur Street. Photo taken in 1903.  The book looks at the history of three companies - Oamaru, Timaru and Milton mills which combined formed Alliance Textiles in 1960. The book also covers the early years of Alliance and the move to specialization at each of the sites. Alliance Textiles decided to mark the centenary of its Oamaru mill with the publication of a different type of company history. Rejecting the idea of a simple public relations exercise, the Company commissioned historian Gavin McLean to write an independent history. Spinning Yarns is the result of his researches-concise, candid and controversial in places. Contents:

The Early Years 1981-92
The Road to Prosperity 1892-1930
Oamaru Worsted and Woollen Mills Ltd 1933-60

There's Trouble at Mill 1883-1930
The Rise and Fall of the Timaru Woollen Co. Ltd 1933-36
The Timaru Worsted and Woollen Co. Ltd 1936-60

False Starts and a Successful Beginning 1868-1901
"Noo's the Nicht, and Noo's the Hour, Plump for Mill wi' a' Your Power!" 1901-02
Success at Last 1902-30
From the Depression to the Sixties 1930-62

Looking Back
Capitalism and Labour - People in the Mills 1881-1960
Alliance Textiles
Bridging the Waitaki 1960-62
Rationalisation and Expansion 1962-66
Stormy Seas 1967-71
Mixed fortunes 1971-79

   Royal Wool blanket made in Timaru by Alliance.   

Friday 18 October 1889
On Wednesday evening the foreman of the Timaru Woollen Mills met at the Criterion Hotel to partake of a farewell dinner given to Mr J.W. Walmsley, of the spinning department, who is leaving Timaru on account of ill-health. Mr C. Atkinson presided. A presentation of a very chaste marble time piece, procurred from Messrs Bower and Ferguson. Songs were given by Atkinson, Ward, Sharp and Burnip, violin solos by Messrs R and C. Wood, and a recitation by Mr Mozley.

Monday 30 December 1889
Mr Crossdale, of the woollen factory, was crossing over the railway metals on the main wharf yesterday, when he tripped and fell heavily. Though no bones were broken he was unable to walk, and he was assisted home by his friends.

Wanganui Chronicle, 25 November 1919, Page 5
The Timaru Woollen Mills have been sold by Lilico and McRae to the Auckland firm of Mackie (Macky), Logan and Caldwell. Ltd., who take over from December 1st. The buyers will form a new company, of which Lilico and McRae, the local directors and their sons, will manage the business. The mills were started in 1885, but successive owners failed to work them successfully until twenty-seven years ago, when the present owners, and others from Dunedin, took over and made a success of the business. They have much enlarged the buildings and installed up-to-date machinery.   

Made in Timaru. 

In the right hands
Timaru Herald, 27 February 1893, Page 3

The Timaru Woollen Factory will soon be in full swing again. The company of practical men who have acquired the premises and plant, have been in occupation some time, but they found so much re-arrangement necessary among the machinery that they have not yet completed all the alterations they deemed necessary. The spinning department has been at work from the first almost, and considerable quantities of various kinds of yarns have been sent away to Dunedin manufacturers. Subsequently some of the looms were set to work and now there are nine at work of the fourteen in the mill. None of the products of the looms however have yet reached the finishing machine, which in its turn is not quite ready for work. Mr Lillico, the managing partner, kindly showed a member of our staff over the mill, and explained the various processed and result, and the alterations made and in hand. A wool store and sorting room have been added to the premises, in wood, and here were opened out a variety of wools, undergoing selection for special purpose. From the sorter the wool goes to the souring room, where a compact and complicated looking scouring machine gives a good account of itself in the white tangle taken from it. A centrifugal drier removes the bulk of the water from the wool, and the drying is completed on clothes out of doors in fine, and on steam-heated trays indoors in damp, weather. If to be dyed the wool is taken to the dying shed, There in large wooden vats, heated by steam pipes, a variety of colours in endless shades can be given it from colouring matters in bags and barrels and drums piled along the floor. High class alizarine dyes are used as well as commoner ones, those being manufactured in Germany, where industrial chemistry is ahead of that in England. Pleasing, quiet, light colours for yarns are being produced however by mixing in various proportions natural white and brown wools. Teasing machines loosen up the knots of washed, and white or dyed wool, and then the wool goes to the "carding" machines, of which there are two sets. Here any tint can be given to yarns, by feeding in proportionate weights of white and dyed wools. These carding machines are among the most wonderful of man's inventions, the wool going in at one end in rough knots, the fibres crossed and mixed up in every direction, and coming out at the other end, wound upon spools in even, unspun, yet coherent thread. Thence to the spinning room on the upper floor, where some hundreds of spindles are whirling to invisibility, and twisting with very little attention as many woollen threads. Another machine on the same floor twists two or more yarns of one or more colours into a single yarn, for any kind of hoisery work. On the lower floor a large room contains 14 looms, and nine of them are at work on flannels, dress pieces and tweeds.... The company who now have the industry in hand are all practical men each department, from the wool store to the outside market is in charge of an expert therefore if the mill does not succeed m its present hands it cannot succeed at all. These gentlemen have all had many years experience both at Home and in the colonies, and have held the most responsible positions m the best mills in the colony. They intend to, turn out goods equal to any produced in the colony, and their experience and recent high appointments guarantee that at any rate they know how to do it. Mr Lillico informs us that they find the locally grown wools are of excellent quality, and they will use little but local grown. When they get into full swing he anticipates they will put through five to six hundred bales a year. They have already spun fifty or sixty bales, some of which has been and is being woven the bulk of it has been converted into hosiery jams and sold in bulk to warehousemen. Everyone admits that it is an excellent thing for the town to have the mill running again, and it is a matter for the greater satisfaction that it is being run by such competent persons. The town might show its satisfaction m a practical manner through its Borough Council. One drawback to the comfortable if not even to the efficient working of the mill is the state of the Bank street frontage, where a rough steep slope is presented to the street. The company have asked the Council to build, or assist in building, a retaining wall on this frontage and so allow a decent appearance, and a reasonably desired privacy, to be obtained. Everyone who sees the place and thinks about it a little, will agree that the retaining wall should be built, and that the Council should ever stretch a point to have it done.

Timaru Herald, 18 October 1893, Page 2
At a meeting of the Hospital Board yesterday samples were shown to the members of the Board of an order of fifty pairs of blankets specially made for the hospital by the local woollen factory. The blankets are a special size, being made according to Mr Jowsey's instructions, to suit the beds, and have the hospital initials "T.H." worked in the centre. It is certainly very encouraging to those who believe in supporting local industry to see such a splendid sample of blankets made from wool grown in the district and, from what we have seen of these and the tweeds that are being turned out, we have no doubt our local mill is in the right hands this time, and that it will soon occupy a forward position amongst the mills in the colony.

Timaru Herald, 6 January 1900, Page 2
At the wool sales yesterday Mr J. Mundell, auctioneer for the Canterbury Farmers, offered the bale presented by Mr A. C. Thompson of Albury, the proceeds of which go to the Patriotic Fund. The price realised was 11¼d per lb, and will result in about £15 being handed over to the Fund. There was a slight patriotic demonstration by those present on the sale being made. The bale was bought by Mr Lane for the S.C. Woollen mill. The other bales of wool classed with it brought 10£ d per lb.

Timaru Herald, 17 January 1894, Page 2
Timaru Wool Sales. Our local woollen factory was well to the fore and purchased largely.

FONTANA was a trademark by Alliance Textiles (N.Z.) Limited for hand knitting yarn. Photo taken in June 2009 by M.T.
Bank St. - Swanndri
 - Royal Wool - Fontana Knitting Wool - Alliance Textiles (NZ) Ltd

The threat to thread

It was multi-factorial issues that caused mills in New Zealand to close down. Depression, under-capitalisation, financial losses, poor management, staff shortages, high wool prices, fire, pollution concerns, energy costs, ACC costs, free-trade agreement with China - pitting a small "owner-driver" regional business against the big yarn factories of China. The difficulty of competing with China which has low labour costs is that finished yarn is available from China at a lower price than the mills in NZ could buy the raw material to make it. 

Mill to close with loss of 34 jobs
By Emma Bailey- Timaru Herald | Thursday, 09 October 2008
Chargeurs New Zealand general manager Roger O'Brien told staff on Monday that unless a proposal to save the business came forward within seven days, the mill would close on November 7, with the loss of 34 jobs and New Zealand's only wool top mill. "All that will be left is the Christchurch office of a wool buyer, accountant and an office girl, and me left in Timaru for the meantime. Chargeurs is a French company and the Timaru plant the only top-making mill in New Zealand. Worldwide demand for the wool had been falling for the past three years. "We already process a lot of our product in China where they produce the finer wools. "To upgrade the Timaru mill to do the same thing would cost around $20 million and it is just not feasible." The factory processed the scoured wool to a point where a spinner could make a yarn out of it. The wool top is cleaned and processed. Demand is now for the finer wools that the mill is not designed to work with. "Our best year we put through 3100 tonnes. This year we won't even make 1000 tonnes. "There are closures everywhere in the wool business, and customers of ours have just gone out of business" The existing suppliers the company has will remain but the wool will be sent to China, so the closure would not affect the 99 per cent South Island suppliers. The plant will be redistributed overseas among the company's other mills. The building is leased and not owned by the company. Mr O'Brien has been the manager at the company for 20 years. It has existed for over 40 years and was previously known as Alliance Textile Top Making and NZ Tops. In 1994 Chargeurs became a part owner with Alliance before becoming the outright owner in 2000. The latest unemployment figures show Timaru had 154 unemployed people registered at the end of the June quarter, compared to 286 in June 2007 and 1097 in June 2003. However, around South Canterbury in the past five months 104 workers have been made redundant on top of the 34 at Chargeurs. The fate of 38 jobs at Bluebird's Timaru factory is still up in the air.  

The Courier October 23 2014 Invisible menders plan reunion for vanished industry
A reunion being planned for Timaru is guaranteed to have its attendees in stitches. Former Alliance Textiles invisible menders Lynn Bray, Colleen Wooffindin and Christine White are organising the reunion for next March. The trio say it will be full of reminiscing and ‘‘lots of laughs’’. The invisible mending room was a major part of the factory, which manufactured suit material, prison blankets and uniforms, Swandri garments and police, army and airline uniforms. The mending room employed up to 40 women at one time but closed in about 1990 after losing government contracts to factories overseas. It was a huge big room that we worked in. There were four rows of tables — it was a massive industry. The women all said they had made lifelong friends at the factory and had many fond memories. With 40 girls there were always a lot of stories,’’ Ms Bray said. ‘‘There was always a story or a scandal as all the girls were aged from 15 to 30. The number of relationship break›ups were amazing — and people playing around with other people’s people.’’ Mrs White said the mending room had been a great place to work. ‘‘At the time we didn’t appreciate our boss Pat but she installed such a good work ethic in us.’’ Ms Bray said the girls all smoked and would go into the bathroom and light up, blowing smoke out through the windows. Invisible mending is the art of finding a fault in fabric and picking it out and mending it. Sometimes a piece could take a whole week to fix and it was all done by hand,’’ Mrs White said. ‘‘If we broke a needle we would have to take it to Pat and woe betide if we didn’t take both bits to her,’’ Ms Bray said. The women had lifelong reminders of their work in their calloused fingers. Mrs Wooffindin and Mrs White first worked together at Woolworths. In 1969, Mrs White went to Alliance Textiles. Mrs Wooffindin started there in 1971 and left in 1977, coming back for a couple of years in a relieving position until 1988. Mrs White left in 1998. Ms Bray began at Alliance as a 16 year old in the 1970s and worked there until she was made redundant about five years ago. email

Hocken Snapshop (10th Jul 2012). Timaru Mill late 1960s. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 14th Jan 2013 03:09, from
Hocken Snapshop (Timaru Mill late 1960s.) Retrieved from

"Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library" May 1951


Flannel	soft textured, loosely woven wool cloth
Hank  	a coil, esp. a measure of yarn; of worsted = 560 yards
Jenny 	a spinning machine
Nap  	fine hairy surface of cloths
Textile fabric made on a loom
Tops    a semi-processed product from raw wool. The process requires that the wool be scoured  and combed and sorted. 
Tops    the longer fibres resulting from the process are called tops, and are in a form ready for spinning.
Tweed  	woollen twilled fabric esp. for suits
Twill  	to weave with a diagonal ribbing
Warp  	system of spun threads extended length wise in loom on which the weft is woven
Weave  	to cross the warp by the weft on the loom
Weft  	filling thread carried by a shuttle under and over the warp in a weaving loom
Worsted yarn spun from long-fibred wool which are combed, not carded; cloth of this yarn; its fibres are laid out in a parallel fashion

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project   

Timaru Herald, 18 February 1913, Page 3
Mr Farmer:
You grow the wool,
We make the clothing;
You wear our clothes,
We'll buy your wool.