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

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion
i General Conditions
ii Early Iron Production
iii The Effects of the Gold Rush - Ballarat in Particular
iv Gawler - A South Australian Industrial Town
v Railways - A Major Employer
vi Brewing and Soft Drinks
vii Drink Containers
viii Food Containers

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



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Gawler - A South Australian Industrial Town

Gawler is a town 50 km north of Adelaide. It was first surveyed in 1839, three years after the establishment of Adelaide. It was formed initially on a site with a good water supply and a confluence of roads, particularly those to the copper mines. It later became an important railway town and eventually developed several eminent engineering works. It was always the key town of a prosperous agricultural area, and during the second half of the nineteenth century it participated in the agricultural revolution in changing farming methods from the Ridley Stripper in 1843, through the Stump-jump Plough to finally the combine-harvester. Many important developments in agricultural equipment originated in Gawler.

The town was influenced by mining activity, copper, iron ore and later coal from Leigh Creek, all passed through the town and much equipment for the mines and transport was made locally. Mr. James Martin came to Gawler in 1848 and founded the business that bears his name. At the beginning, he made carts and drays for ore cartage and farming but four years later, he began the manufacture of reaping machines, some 250 were produced in 1863 costing 65 each. The firm carried out much construction work, particularly bridges and in 1871 began an unsuccessful iron smelting operation. Railway wagons were made in 1882 and, by 1888, the manufacture of locomotives had begun while still continuing to produce all forms of farm equipment; they produced 48,000 plough shares annually.

Frederick May, who had earlier been associated with James Martin, opened his own foundry and engineering business in 1885. The foundry made a number of units for both the Broken Hill mines and the silver-lead-zinc smelters at Port Pirie including, in 1901, two large winding engines developing over 1000 HP and for use to a depth of 150 metres.

Brickmaking was established in 1856 and, by the end of the century, some 75,000 bricks per month were being produced from two or three plants. Lime burning was established in 1858 and again by Federation 15,000 bushels per week were being produced. The first cement made in South Australia was produced at Gawler but production did not continue for long. It did, however, provide important experience that helped the founding of a company that eventually became The South Australian Cement Co.

Manufacturing activity declined sharply in the second decade of the twentieth century. The foundries lost orders for locomotives, firstly to Walkers in Maryborough, Queensland and finally to the South Australian Railways own workshops, a history of development and then decay of industries that had similarities to Ballarat's.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - John Walker & Co. Ltd, Maryborough; South Australian Railways

People in Bright Sparcs - Martin, James; May, Frederick

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 856 - 857, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher