Friday, May 27, 2016

Ngatimoti butter factory (1895-1899) and creamery (1902-1908)

The first butter factory established in Motueka in 1891 by Frederick William Thorp (Mayor of Motueka 1904-11) is believed to have also been the first complete butter factory to operate in New Zealand and one of the first to use the patented De Laval steam-powered continuous discharge centrifugal cream separator. Known as the Burton Butter Factory (the name being taken from the "Burton Farm" established by F.W. Thorp's father, Charles, on Thorp Street, Motueka, in the 1840s), it was leased from Mr Thorp by Rankin & Sons of Motueka. It’s worth noting that its wooden butter churns were made by the Strachan brothers of "Manawatane", Orinoco, who had learned the cooper’s craft from their father Benjamin. They also made many of the kegs used for transporting harvested raspberries to the jam factory at the Motueka Wharf.

The Burton Butter Factory, Motueka (later leased to Rankin & Sons).
Giving a detailed explanation of its operation.
Colonist, 28 May, 1891

Pre-1902 all milking was done by hand – no milking machines were available in New Zealand before that time. The first L & K milking machine arrived in New Zealand in 1902 and between that date and 1909, 1500 milking machines were brought into the country. Hand-operated separators made their appearance a bit earlier, with Wilkins & Field advertising public trials in 1890 of the “Victoria” hand-operated separator, able to treat 20 gallons of milk an hour, and Buxtons advertising “Perfect” cream separators and “Daisy“ churns in 1904. However, many Ngatimoti farmers were still hand-milking into the 1930s.

Nelson Evening Mail, 24 April, 1890. Wilkins & Field advertisement: Public trial of the  “Victoria” cream separator.

1895-1899 Ngatimoti Butter Factory, run by James and John Delaney

At Ngatimoti James Delaney was operating a butter factory established on his farm, known as "Meadowbank”. This factory's exact location is unknown, but it seems feasible that it might have been at or near the site of the later creamery, which was conveniently placed on the flat, with access to both the road and a source of water. Also, it would have made sense for the creamery to have been established at a spot already familiar to local farmers. 

There seems to be some confusion over whether this butter factory was already running when James Delaney bought the land (see Cyclopedia article which says he bought the butter factory in 1878), but this seems unlikely to have been the case. Delaney is quoted in the newspaper article below as saying that 1895 was the first season he had had the factory in operation. If it was a new business, this would also tie in with having the advertorial below published to make the operation better known. The Delaneys made butter from milk obtained from their own herd of 26 dairy cows, but were happy to provide a service separating milk for other farmers on request.

James Delaney was born in 1842 at Port Underwood (now Picton), at that time a wild and lawless whaling station, and was the son of Esther nee Moss formerly Hall and her second husband John Delany. His father John was a whaler who worked as a crew member for John (Jacky) Guard and was drowned on 29 June 1845 when the cutter "Pickwick" was wrecked off Cape Palliser during a storm. His mother married a third time to Benjamin Marshall and by 1849 the family had settled in Motueka. Before taking up land at Ngatimoti James Delaney had a butchery in Motueka and in 1876 had a stint as  proprietor of the Swan Inn on the corner of High & Whakarewa Streets. He  married Martha Haycock at the "Blairich" sheep station in the Awatere in 1862 and they had 9 children.

1878 is much more likely to have been the date James Delaney bought his first land at Ngatimoti – Section 66, Square 3 (Pangatotara) but the site of the later creamery and the Delaney family homestead are identified as "Meadowbank", making it the Crown Grant Section 25 originally owned by George Remnant but recorded as owned by Delaney in 1896. It seems that Delaney probably bought this land after George died on 10 November 1892, cutting out a section of about 33 acres for George Remnant's step-son, James Williams Wills III, which included the old Remnant house.

Ngatimoti Butter Factory
(Details the operating system)
Colonist, 11 February, 1895

James Delaney’s oldest son John, was his partner in the butter factory operation, but died young, at the age of 28, on October 6, 1899. It seems that James Delaney may have transferred ownership of the butter factory to his son as the plant appears in John Delaney’s estate sale held November 1899 (see below). John's will had left all his assets to his wife.

“Ngatimoti Butter Factory plant complete” included in estate sale following John Delaney’s death .
Nelson Evening Mail, 8 November, 1899.

“Meadowbank” was then sold to the Strachan brothers (ultimately owned by John Campbell (Jack) Strachan and his wife Kathleen nee Robinson), and James Delaney retired for his final years to Wakapuaka , where he died in 1903. Also advertised in the sale were Sections 4,5 & 6, Block X, on Waiwhero Road (these last near “Paratiho Lodge”)  which were sold to James Williams Wills III at the time of the John Delaney estate sale. James Delaney had bought these sections in 1898, possibly as a wedding gift for his son John, who was married that same year to Claris Snowden - an unfortunately short marriage as John died the following year. Claris remarried in 1904 to Thomas Martin.

1903-1908 Ngatimoti Creamery run by Rankin & Sons. of Motueka (Grocers and general store, seed and feed suppliers)

October 1902 Rankin & Sons of Motueka put forward a proposal to set up a butter factory in Ngatimoti, with the building to commence immediately so as to ready for the coming season. The site was to be close to the Black Bridge, a central point making the factory accessible to Dovedale and Orinoco dairy farmers as well as those at Ngatimoti.

Notes from Motueka
Announcement that Rankins are to build a butter factory at Ngatimoti
Colonist 30 October, 1902

Mention of Butter factory to be set up at Ngatimoti on the same site as the original one.
Messrs Rankins & Son of Motueka, are about to erect a butter factory at Ngatimoti
Summary notes, Colonist, November 7, 1902

31 October, 1902 “The largest meeting ever held in Ngatimoti” took place at the Ngatimoti Schoolroom (at that time near the site of Bob Vincent's home today) on Waiwhero Road, opposite John Guy’s home on the hill, the object being to discuss Rankins’ offer to build a proprietary factory paying suppliers a cash price per pound of butter fat, the price at the time being about 9 pence per lb. John Guy, who chaired the meeting, enthusiastically described  it as “the commencement of a new era in the history of Ngatimoti”. Three sites were suggested, the main requirements being that it should be in the proximity of Black Bridge and have an adequate water supply. All voted in favour of the proposal apart from Mr R. White (Alexander White’s nephew Robert White, perhaps?) who thought it should be a co-operative venture, but he couldn’t find a seconder and was promptly squashed by all the others. Milk from nearly 200 cows was promised with the prospect of a good increase.

Colonist, 3 November, 1902: Ngatimoti meeting

In the event Rankins bought ½ acre of land from John (Jack) Strachan (originally part of James Delaney’s property) and decided to put up a creamery rather than a butter factory, i.e. the cream was separated out from milk brought in by local farmers and taken into Rankins’ Butter Factory in Motueka two or three times a week to be processed into butter there, rather than being made into butter on the spot.  It appears to have been operating more as what was known as a “skimming station” -  these were simple buildings with scales, measuring and storage tanks, and mechanical separators powered by steam engines or water turbines. The resulting skim milk went back with the farmer to be used for feeding stock at home. Despite this, Rankin's creamery does appear to have been known locally as both the Ngatimoti creamery and the Ngatimoti butter factory.

Site: Google map reference 929 Waiwhero Road, Ngatimoti, Tasman.

Andrew Miller, builder and contractor of Motueka (and later a Motueka Borough Councillor), was contracted in November, 1902, to build it. Jeanie Strachan, (widow of Benjamin Strachan of Orinoco) wrote in a letter dated 2 January, 1903, “A factory is getting built at Jack Strachan’s gate”. This was nearly opposite the apple packing shed built later on the other side of Waiwhero Road, both being at the foot of Church Hill.

When the creamery was built, the nearby stream was diverted and the water piped in from James (Jim) Will’s paddock, "where the cattle grazed".  This paddock was part of the farm on Section 25, which belonged originally to George Remnant and was sold to James Delaney minus a small block subdivided out for Jim Wills. Jim Wills also bought Sections 4, 5, and 6 Blk X (Waiwhero Road near “Paratiho”) after they were put up for sale in 1899 as part of the John Delaney estate sale.

The creamery itself was a two-storeyed building with a concrete vat adjacent, and the manager lived in rooms upstairs.

1903 (January) Rankins announce production now underway at Ngatimoti butter factory
Condensed Telegrams
Colonist, 7 January, 1903.

According to a local, Ken Strachan, the creamery was well patronised by farmers from Ngatimoti and surrounding areas, with individual farmers bringing in their milk to be processed on a regular basis, however Rankin & Sons’ Motueka Butter Factory was destroyed by fire on 4 January, 1905, along with Thorp’s canning works which was in the same building.  

5 January 1905  Rankins’ Butter Factory Burned
The Burton Butter Factory in Motueka (leased by Rankin & Son from F.W. Thorp) burned down, Rankins were not insured.
NZ Herald, 6 January, 1905

Rankins seem to have been particularly unlucky in this regard – in June 1905 their general store in Motueka also burned down, along with several other buildings

Destructive Fire at Motueka
NZ Herald, 12 June, 1905
Destructive Fire at Motueka

and yet again in 1910 (with the same accompanying headline) they suffered another serious loss due to fire when J.H. Rankin & Co’s Motueka grain and produce storage facility went up in  flames.

Destructive Fire at Motueka
Nelson Evening Mail, 7 November, 1910.

It’s not clear whether the Ngatimoti creamery ceased to operate after the loss of Rankins’ butter factory in town or not but the creamery itself is mentioned in a couple of newspaper reports in 1906. 

Poll for Motueka Harbour Board members
Votes can be made at Rankin & Sons' butter factory at Ngatimoti
Colonist, 31 January, 1906

Old footbridge renewed near the creamery at Ngatimoti, patching and repairs done.
Waimea County Council.
Colonist, 7 December, 1906

1908  Ngatimoti creamery plant sold
Rankins sold the plant belonging to the Ngatimoti creamery to the Golden Bay Dairy Company, to replace the plant lost after their Long Plain creamery burned down on 27 January, 1908. 

A Creamery Destroyed, Takaka.
Colonist, 28 January, 1908.

The ½ acre Ngatimoti creamery site site was put up for sale by Rankins around October that year.

October 1908 Land at site of former Ngatimoti Butter Factory for sale by J.W. Rankin & Co. (Plant had already been on-sold to the Golden Bay Dairy Company.)

Alternative tenders for Ngatimoti Creamery  - buildings and ½ acre of freehold land
Nelson Evening Mail, 20 October, 1908

It appears that Rankins had trouble selling the property. After William Ham Snr started work for Rankins delivering goods by van around the Ngatimoti district, this house and ½ acre section were either leased to the Ham family, or they were given use of the property, perhaps partly in lieu of wages.

The Hams achieved fame locally for the unfortunate reason that their oldest son, William Arthur Ham, was the first soldier serving with the NZ Expeditionary Force to be killed in combat during WWI. He died on 5 February 1915 after being wounded in action during the Battle of the Suez Canal, and is commemorated at the nearby Ngatimoti War Memorial.

Around 1926 the top storey of the house was removed and it was converted to single storey home and the house developed by Edward James (Ted) Haycock (m. Ivy Pearl Burrow, sister of Ted Burrow who died 1918, WWI) for his son Howard (Bill) and wife Muriel. The Haycocks had the farm next door to “Meadowbank” on the western side and it seems that they bought this ½ acre block and house for their son after his marriage.  Jack Harris, Ngatimoti's postmaster, lived there through the 1950s and '60s and significantly extended the building. He was followed by Peter and Gwen Dodgshun, then the Glaser family from Germany (flooded during this time when the Orinoco River rose), before being sold to Rex and Margie Biggs who have since (2016) moved to Dunedin. Sadly, the old house was destroyed when tropical cyclone Gita struck the Motueka Valley in February 2018.


Cyclopedia New Zealand (1906) Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts: Ngatimoti

Whelan, Helen. Ngatimoti is in the News: Dairying. (Unpublished ms.)

History of Dairying and Dairy products in NZ : The creamery system

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