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Eagle Foundry B&B King Street 25

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Fast Facts
Address: 23-25 King Street
Town or Locality: Gawler
Year constructed: c. 1870
Year demolished or re-purposed: c. 1974
Built by: David Thomson
Used for: Foundry and now is a Bed & Breakfast www.eaglefoundry.com.au
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Fast Facts
Type of organisation: Business





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The patterns for the detailed frieze work were made for the foundry by carving the design in lead or plaster of paris. No other mention is made of patternmaking facilities or machinery.

Ruth Thomson, widow of Hugh Gordon Thomson (known as Gordon), has said that as far as she can remember no patterns were made at the foundry. The foundry initially concentrated on the production of castings but machining facilities were added at a later date.

David Thomson died on January 22nd 1903 aged 82 and the business was continued by his sons, Daniel, David, Robert King and James Jack Thomson. David Thomson also had 3 other sons, Andrew, aged 2 when he died, Alexander aged 4 when he died and John, aged 2 when he died. There was also a daughter called Ellen who was born on 12-8-1854 and died on 4-10-1935. Davis Thomson’s wife, Elizabeth Thomson (nee Currie) passed away on May 2nd 1920 aged 92.

James Jack Thomson gradually purchased the shares of the other partners until he became the sole proprietor and remained so until he died in 1944. His son Hugh Gordon, returned in 1945 from war service with the A.I.F. and took over the management of the business.

By this time the amount of work passing through the foundry had reduced and only 2 or 3 moulders were employed. Some of the customers for castings were Kaesler Brothers of Hahndorf, the Woods and Forest Department, Hallett Brick Co and numerous bakeries. The foundry and machine shop catered mainly for spare parts for machinery which had been out of production for some time and replacement parts had to be manufactured. Pig troughs were also a steady product for this foundry.

Ruth Thomson, recalled the activities of the foundry during the years after world war 11 and remembers seeing the ‘four seasons’ seat being cast in the foundry but only a small number of people could afford them because of the increasing cost. When the foundry finally closed Mrs Thomson donated the patterns to the Gawler National Trust who had them put together as a seat.

After 1946 Ruth Thomson did all the office work for the business. This remarkable woman also put on overalls on cast days and assisted in the pouring operations, skimming the slag from the ladles of molten cast iron and shifting the weights used to hold down the moulding boxes while the metal was entering the mould. She delivered castings in the firms truck, often commencing at 5.00am to drive to Hahndorf, then on to the gasworks at Brompton to pick up a load of coke.

In 1952 Frank Burnett commenced his apprenticeship as a moulder at Eagle Foundry and was the last apprentice to serve his time there, finishing in 1956.

In 1955 Gordon Thomson was badly burned in a foundry accident and on returning to the works some months later, looked after the machine shop and ran the Shearer agency.

The foundry ceased operating in 1964 and the property was sold in November 1972.

The Eagle Foundry is mentioned on document pages 97-102 in "Gawler’s Industrial Buildings 1839 – 1939” by Susan Phillips and Michael Pilkington

Please click here for photos of Eagle Foundry.


D. Thomson Eagle Foundry – Bunyip 17May 1878 JOTTINGS IN AND AROUND GAWLER. (BY ROUNDABOUT.) 'A chiel's among ye takin' notes, An faith he'll prent 'em.' — BURNS


“Again back from the realms of reverie and imagination I resume my 'Jottings,' feeling assured that the interesting works now about to be described will merit public attention. Colonial manufactures are still in their infancy, but they are rapidly extending, and must eventually be widely known and appreciated. My first enquiry is, whenever, I see an engine or machine of any kind. 'Is it colonial made ?' and there is a sort of satisfaction to learn that it is not only colonial made, but of local work manship.

Some splendid work has been turned out at the EAGLE FOUNDRY, which, under the supervision of its spirited poprietor, Mr D. Thomson, and his enetrprising sons, reflects the highest credit on their skill and ingenuity. A description of the work which I have this week visited may not be out of place. The Foundry is situated in King-street, within sight of the Park Lands, of which it commands an extensive view. The work performed here comprises casting of various kinds, principally for building, balus trading, balcony pannels, garden seats, wheels, saw plates, ploughshares, pig and horse troughs, and other articles of a like kind.

Entering the premises we were shown several of these of the most elegant description. The visitor is particularly struck with the novelties presented to him, and it is hard to understand how such beautiful and recherche designs can be brought out so perfectly in iron. The art and mystery of the whole was, however, explained, and I must confess its simplicity and the ease with which it was performed quite astonished me. At the time of my visit a blast was about to be put in and a casting to take place. Of this, as I was eye-witness, a description is given at the end of this paper.

The first object to which attention is directed is the raw iron, which is in pigs weighing 1 cwt. each. These are imported from England, and are considered of excellent quality, and of which, when broken, their appearance afforded ample testimony. I learn there is plenty of iron ore in South Australia, and that experiments made in relation to it prove its utility and adaptability for manufactures. The cost of bringing it to perfection from its crude state is however too expensive, and from the absence of coal here a sufficient deterrent to prevent its being used for some time to come. When South Australian coalfields are an established fact we shall be able to bring our manufactures more prominently forward than at present. After being broken into small pieces the iron is taken to the furnace, cast in, and speedily under the severe heat to which it is subjected reduced to a molten state.

Entering the Dressing Shop, the engine, which is a compact 6-horse power machine, having all the latest improvements, and with a large boiler by Hooper, of Adelaide, meets, the view. Its uses are manifold, but the principal is the driving of a fan to send the wind into the furnaces. A blacking mill is also another very noticeable object here. Charcoal finely powderel is shaken on it, and this gives the castings a fine polish. A black smith's forge with all necessary appliances for working is noticeable, as also are some ballusters and ornamental railings made by the firm and set up in this compartment.

The Lathe Room was the next place visited. As implied by its name it contains the lathe which is driven by the engine. Its chief uses are the screwing of bolts, and both screwing and drilling are combined by its means. Most of the fancy work turned out here goes to Adelaide, and the hands are kept constantly busy in executing orders for that locality alone. Ascending a flight of steps on the outside we reached the furnaces, the charging holes of which are placed on the top of the establish ment. The furnaces are said to be 2 feet 6 inches in diameter, and about 12 feet deep from the charging holes. The force and power of the fire would perhaps be hard to estimate, but the sight of this fierce body of seething incandescent flames thrusting out their forked tongues as if in search of prey is a sight not easily forgotten by the beholder. A charge for casting comprises 2 cwt. of iron to 1 cwt. of coke, and five tons of casting can be manufactured at one time from one furnace, and three tons from another. The coke used comes from Queensland, and is considered an excellent article, superior even to that obtained from Newcastle and other notable coal-bearing centres. Gawler coke is also used, but as it possesses less heat-giving qualities is not in request. The rapidity with which the iron melts is astonishing, a few minutes usually sufficing to render it malleable, and one man is kept pretty busy in supplying the furnaces with this sort of fuel.

Descending the staircase we were conducted to the mouth of the furnaces, from which the molten iron of bright red color, and fluid as water was being taken in small iron buckets fixed to long-handled poles. Fancy castings were about to be made, and the pro cess which would take too long to depict was satisfactorily explained. Ploughshares and scarifiers were also being manufactured, and the celerity wiih which a few dozen of them was turned out was surprising. These are in demand by the farmers, and it is estimated that not less than 1,700 dozen are made during the season. The moulds for the castings are of various shapes and forms, and no matter how intricate the design it can be formed here; in fact some of the fancy work executed at this establishment has never been surpassed. Some very pretty garden seats, representing the four Seasons, similar to those exhibited by Messrs Thomson & Sons at the Agricultural Society's Show at Gawler during the present year were shown me, and clearly evidenced the perfection to which the working of iron has been brought in the present century.

The operation of casting is calculated to interest, and impress the visitor. The moulds are of castiron, well plugged with clay, two holes being left by the cores in each, and into these the molten metal is poured. A dense smoke arises as this is performed, and one can easily picture what effects might be produce if the boiling iron were capsized on the human subject, or accidentally spilled on some combustible surface. All here is however safe, and invulnerable to its effects, the workmen pursue their somewhat phoenix-like occupation with alacrity, and all goes on satisfactorily. The cores with which the holes in the castings are made are constructed by boys from sand, and are hardened ready for use in a small stove. Thongh there is plenty of fire used almost daily in the establishment, there is little danger of any conflagration taking place, and although, as has been shown, iron will burn, it must indeed be a super-strong heat to cause it to do so. There is no lack of water here, a well 75 feet deep supplies the engine by a force-pump, and there are also tanks on the premises capable of holding altogether about 1,600 gallons.

Among noticeable objects in this part of the works is a rope column design in iron; it is useful either for verandah posts or balconies, brackets of various kinds, castings for seed sowers, (of which tbe firm have just executed an order for Adelaide), and a large crane, the lifting capacities of which are estimated at between 4 and 5 tons, and which raises heavy moulds which cannot be easily lifted by hand were shewn, and their several uses explained. It may be here mentioned that the design from which the work is modelled are first cut in plaistex of Paris or lead, which may thus be termed preliminaries to casting. The brass furnace was the last object visited, it is in appearance no speciality, but is nevertheless very useful to such an establish ment. By its aid the machine brasses, mill and pump brasses are turned out, together with numberles other articles of a like kind.

About fourteen hands, including boys, are employed, the working hours being 8 hours per diem, or 48 hours per week, unless when work is pressing, and then overtime is paid for. As employees, Mr. Thomson bear an excellent name for their upright and straightforward character, and the most perfect harmony exists between them and their workmen. Farming implements and fancy palisading, whether for fences or graves, would appear their speciality, and they have, since commencing business, executed many larger orders of this kind in a satisfactory manner. As a rule, machinery and manufactories do not possess that amount of interest which other subjects not so important may do, but I must say that my visit to the Eagle Foundry was attended with pleasure and profit, since thereby I learnt many things of which I was hitherto ignorant. Though I was hardly prepared to go so far as the Cockney who imagined that 'loaves of bread grew on trees,' I was nevertheless quite in the dark as to the manner in which many beautiful articles in iron work were made. Some of our Gawler residents are possibly unaware of the wonders of casting, and they will therefore do well to act as I have done, go some day when there is a 'blast' on and see Messrs. Thomson and Sons at work. They will then be able to judge as to the correctness of the foregoing statements, and be thoroughly enlightened as to much which at present is to them an unfathomable mystery.”

Bob Evers Great great grandson of David Thomson the elder

The Video "Mr Thomson remembers", produced by John Morley, and Directed and filmed by John and Pat Toplis, is available for viewing on the right of this screen.

Click here to read "A Tale of Two Lathes - By Peter Hoye

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We welcome further information on this photograph.
We welcome further information on this photograph.
Eagle Foundry floor plan, 1980
Eagle Foundry floor plan, 1980

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