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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 5

I 1788 - State Of The Art In Textile Technology

II Australian Textiles - The Early Days
i Wool Fabric Manufacture
ii Cotton and Flax
iii The 19th Century - Automation Accelerated in Textile Technology

III Australian Textiles - The 20th Century

IV Australian Textiles - To Date

V Acknowledgements



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Australian Textiles - The Early Days

Wool Fabric Manufacture

By 1800, John Macarthur had established his sheep flock, and Governor King, impressed by the quality of some of the fleeces, directed the attention of the British Government to the merits of the local product. As we have stated briefly, the Government at that time was very much preoccupied with the initial problems caused by automation and development of the factory system. The thinking also was that it was impossible to expand wool production in Europe. It was not surprising, then, that its response to Governor King's praise of Australian wool, while welcoming the fact that there was potential now to expand wool production, was firm in its instruction that the best was to be sent to England, unprocessed, and the manufactories of the colony were to be confined to the coarser kind of cloth.

This was to set the tone of intercourse in commerce and industry for a long time to come; but to understand the rationale behind the English attitude, it should be remembered that the Government had its hands full trying to quell the on-going Luddite riots and was therefore eager to grasp any opportunity that promised to generate employment for the bellicose spinners.

The year 1801 saw the introduction of female convicts to the manufacture of rough woollen blankets at the Parramatta gaol. This establishment, which became known as 'The Factory', was founded to defray the cost of clothing the convicts in New South Wales and in Van Diemen's Land. Although able-bodied convicts were in great demand as labourers by the free settlers, the Government felt that some contribution had to be made by the convicts towards their own upkeep.

The Factory at Parramatta was under the official management of the Reverend Samuel Marsden, as Chaplain and as Magistrate. It was designed to accommodate female convicts who had misconducted themselves in the colony. They were employed in sorting, spinning and carding the wool for the male workers who manned the looms.

In 1803, George Mealmaker entered into a contract with the Government as a master weaver for four years. He had a total of three manual looms in production originally, and he actively pursued the installation of an additional three looms with the intention of employing four looms for flax and two for wool. In 1804, another manufacturer set up looms at Parramatta but no permanent industry came from either of these early private ventures. At the same time, Governor Macquarie urged that a new factory, which would accommodate 100 female prisoners, should be sent from England, together with implements and machinery for dyeing and milling.

Textile manufacture throughout the world is an industry that has attracted countless entrepreneurs, both in Australia and overseas, and it is not surprising then that one who features prominently in the early history of the colony, Simeon Lord, was involved in textiles as well as other manufacturing enterprises. In 1815 he established a mill at Botany Bay, and in 1816 he entered into an agreement with Macquarie to burl, mill, dye and dress cloth from the Factory.

The fleece used by the Parramatta mill came from local growers. It was the custom, around this time, to receive five pounds of wool from the settlers, who received in exchange one yard of cloth, as it was calculated that four pounds of wool would, when manufactured, give that quantity of cloth. The surplus of one pound of wool was considered a remuneration to the Government for the expense of manufacture,
and, when made into cloth, was sent to the commissariat stores to be issued as required.

People in Bright Sparcs - Lord, Simeon; Marsden, Rev. Samuel; Mealmaker, George

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 262 - 264, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher