Picton Cement Works
There was a time when Picton was a busy industrial town, with the fishing industry, sardine cannery, freezing works, railway workshops and whaling station within reach, wharves serving overseas shipping, and a cement works on the Elevation. Pugh Brothers of Picton built the works for the Wellington and Marlborough Cement Coal and Lime Company Ltd. in 1904. The corrugated iron building (450 by 90 feet) contained kilns, mills, a 225 horsepower Haslam engine, and two large boilers.
The site was chosen due to a quarry a few hundred yards away, where suitable marl (a type of rich clay soil) could easily be obtained. The Company’s water supply came from a reservoir constructed in a watershed on Mount Freeth. The supply of limestone came from the Tata Islands in Golden Bay, and was shipped to Picton using two scows, the nucleus of a private fleet. One of these scows was the Magic. The limestone was then trucked direct to the private siding at the Elevation Works. It is not known where the coal supply came from, but as there was a seam of coal at the Elevation as well as in Shakespeare Bay, it was probably local.
Over fifty men were employed at the islands and the Elevation, forty of whom were engaged at the plant in three shifts to keep the machinery constantly going, and many of the hands lived in the Company’s Elevation boarding House. Twice there was a fire in this residence, but only bedding and some papers were destroyed thanks to the efforts of the men fighting the flames. For a few years there was a Company brass band which gave local performances. The Manager of the plant was John Alexander Hart Kelly, from Lancashire, who lived with his family in a house in Wairau Road between the Crow Hotel and the Service Station; this house was later bought by the Crow Hotel. There was one fatal accident at the Works, when 23-year-old Albert Kilpatrick from Dunedin fell off a wooden ladder and never regained consciousness. At the inquest it was recommended that a fixed iron ladder be installed for future use.
In November 1906, the Company was granted permission to lay down a light tramway across the main road at the Elevation from Mr R. Cragg’s property to the kilns on the works site, probably to transport the marl.
The works cost £15,000 to build, and the first shipment of cement to Wellington was made in the year of construction. The output from these works reached in excess of 300 tons a week. This venture failed after a few years and the Company went into liquidation. As limestone forms about two-thirds of the ingredients in the manufacture of cement, it would have been a better proposition to take the marl to the limestone. As usual in small towns there were months of speculation before the final closure in January 1907. The Government had taken ownership of the Tata Islands so there was no further limestone supply. Two years later, after a Court hearing, the Crown was obliged to pay compensation of £1400 but by then the Company had been liquidated.
2012 (updated 2022)
Sources used in this story
- This story was originally written for the Picton Seaport News: Seaport Scene issue 318, Sept 21 2012.
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Further sources - Picton Cement Works
- Kelly, H. D (1976) As high as the hills: the centennial history of Picton, Marlborough sounds New Zealand: Cape Catley.
- Godsiff, H (2006) Tales from Kenepuru; fragments of history, Picton, N.Z.: Waitara Bay School.
- Kennedy, J for Picton Historical Society (2009) Chronology of Picton and Queen Charlotte Sound, Pict Historical Society.
- Langdon, D (2009) A history of New Zealand Scows and their trades: the evolution, builders, owners, crews and development, including the individual histories, of 140 New Zealand scows, survivors, remains and restorations,Auckland, N.Z.: Captain Teach Press.
- Wellington & Marlborough Cement Lime and Coal Company (1903) Memorandum and articles of association of the Wellington & Marlborough Cement Lime and Coal Company, Wellington, N.Z.: Blundell Bros.
- Wellington & Marlborough Cement Lime and Coal Company (1904) Prospectus of the Wellington & Marlborough Cement Lime and Coal Company, Wellington: Evening Post Print.
- Newport, J. N. W (1980, October) Some Golden Bay Industries. Nelson Historical Society Journal, 3 ( 6) 30-32. Retrieved August 2015 from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.
- Andrews, J. (1985, October) Wellington and Marlborough Cement Works. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, 1 (5) 55-56. Retrieved August 2015 from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.
- Picton Cement. A Flourishing Colonial Industry (1906, March 3) The Press, p. 3. Retrieved August 2015 from Paperspast.
- Entangled in machinery. A fatal Accident (1905, August 12) New Zealand Herald, p. 5. Retrieved August 2015 from Paperspast.
- Fire at the Cement Works (1906, November 12) Marlborough Express, p. 3.
- Items of Interest. (1905 October 31) Marlborough Express, p. 1.