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Gawler History Team Inc.

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National Trust of South Australia

In Gawler now



James Martin Phoenix Foundry

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Fast Facts
Type of organisation: Business
Street number: 1
Street name: Calton
Street suffix: Road
Town or locality: Gawler East
Date established: 1848
Ceased operation: 1907
Established by: James Martin
Business or purpose: Heavy Engineering
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The Phoenix Foundry, part of James Martin and Company, was established by James Martin, MLC, often referred to as the “Father of Gawler”.

The Phoenix Foundry was significant, historically, because it formed part of the leading engineering works in the state in the late nineteenth century when Gawler was one of Australia's most important industrial centres.

The remaining building facade is important as an example of Colonial industrial architecture and Gawler's industrial area. The section remaining has a half elliptical arch and circular brick edged roundel. The wall is constructed from random course of slate, topped with a triangular parapet.

The “Bunyip” of 9th November 1872, reported that the Phoenix Foundry had experimented successfully with smelting local ore from the Barossa using Barossa charcoal. They had been able to produce many different items from their moulds. However the cost of shipping the large quantities of coal from remote locations meant that local smelting was not profitable. Some of the iron produced was made into a fence at the front of the Institute, 91 Murray Street, Gawler. It bears the following inscription: “Cast from the first iron smelted in the colony at the Phoenix Foundry from ore raised in the district of Barossa. Presented by James Martin, Esq., J.P., Gawler, 1879.”

On October 17 1874 there was a boiler explosion, and a section of it was blown across Calton Road into the garden of Mr. James Harris. Luckily there were no serious injuries.

A fire in the coppersmiths’ shop at 3am on 30th November 1893 caused damage estimated at 200 pounds. The prompt action of the local fire brigade contained the fire and prevented it from reaching the paint shop, which could have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

In 1897 Tasmania became the fourth colony to be supplied locomotives by James Martin. They were sent to the Emu Bay Railway Company in Tasmania.

The statue of James Martin on the corner of Murray Street and Calton Road was unveiled on 15th August 1903. On the 2nd June 1969 it was relocated to its current site opposite the new Post Office.

On Wednesday 28th April 1937, Barossa Engineering Company agreed to reopen the works immediately, following the successful purchase of the property from the Perry Engineering Company.

In early 1932 the final demolitions of Perry Engineering buildings took place. The last load of machinery was taken away in June. James Martin’s empire had gone.

References are made to James Martin's Foundry from pages 73-90 in “Gawler’s Industrial Buildings 1839 – 1939” by Susan Phillips and Michael Pilkington

Please click here to read “Economic Time, Technological Space: A spatial analysis of capitalism at the Phoenix Foundry 1847 - 1928 -- Alan Hay Bachelor of Archaeology (Honours) Thesis - October 2009

While this publication comprises of 182 pages, the Birth of the Foundry and its subsequent usage commences from page 43.

There are many photos of the Foundry and its workers here

Related Articles

External Links


  • The Gawler Handbook. by George Loyau. various pages. ISBN 0 85872 272 0
  • Gawler. Colonel Light's Country Town. by Derek Whitelock. various pages. ISBN 0 7316 7822 2
  • The Advertiser. Adelaide. Friday 1st December 1893. page 5
  • Barrier Miner. Broken Hill. Tuesday 23rd November 1897. page 3
  • Register of the National Estate. ID 6119
  • National Trust Museum Gawler has boiler section on display
Company Trademark
Company Trademark
Company Advertising
Company Advertising
Samples of their work.
Samples of their work.
Company workforce
Company workforce
Machining a Propeller
Machining a Propeller
Assembly line
Assembly line
Gawler Institute Fence
Gawler Institute Fence
Section of Boiler after the accident
Section of Boiler after the accident
James Martin Phoenix Foundry
James Martin Phoenix Foundry

Memories of James Martin Phoenix Foundry

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