Under the Southern Cross

This week’s story came about because of a question from a patron. I thought it would be pretty dry subject (well as dry as a story including water pumps can be) but I did find one bizarre bit of knowledge that I just had to include. Read on and enjoy!

Image: Toowoomba Foundry Source: Toowoomba Region Libraries Local Studies Collection

Image: Toowoomba Foundry
Source: Toowoomba Region Libraries Local Studies Collection

The Toowoomba Foundry, originally called Griffiths Brothers and Company, was started in 1876 by George Washington Griffiths. The business stayed within the family until 1988. George moved to Australia in 1870 and started an ironmongery in 1871. In 1874 he sold the business to Holberton & Co. and bought land on the corner of Campbell and Ruthven Streets. Griffiths Brothers & Company opened in 1876 and consisted of an office, a storeroom and four workshops.

In 1884 the business became a Limited Company trading under the name of the Toowoomba Foundry and Railway Rolling Stock Manufacturing Company Limited with Griffiths family as the major shareholder. As the business grew, Porritt & Company (Reliance Foundry) was purchased in 1891 and by 1893 the range of windmills being produced included:

  • “The Economy”
  • “The Simplex”
  • “The Little Wonder”
  • “The Reliance”

Bert Griffiths, Atherton Griffiths brother, designed the now iconic Southern Cross windmill in 1902. The name was coined by Bert due to the configurations of the arms holding the wind vanes which resembled the Southern Cross. Southern Cross later became the brand name used for the agricultural machinery manufactured by the foundry and grew to encompass domestic, agriculture, mining and heavy industry. During the two world wars Southern Cross produced quantities of munitions and appliances including engines, pumps, air compressors, diesel marine engines and machine tools, for the British Forces and the Australian Army and Navy.

When Atherton died in 1984 his younger brother gave permission to put his ashes in the foundation for the new press being made in the foundry.

In 1988 48% of the business was sold to Natcorp which was later subsumed by National Consolidated Limited (NCL). The remaining 52% was acquired by NCL in 1990 and later became Toowoomba Metal Technologies (TMT).

By 1993 the Southern Cross product brand rights, distribution and some manufacturing activities were sold to Swiss interests, and in 1999 Southern Cross was acquired by Tyco Flow Control Pacific. Tyco Southern Cross built a new manufacturing plant and relocated to Withcott in 2002.

Due to the collapse of the TMT parent company, CMI Industrial, the foundry closed June 2012. In 2014 the Bunnings Group purchased the site for redevelopment.

That’s all for this week join me again next time to see what I can ferret out of the collection.

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