FIBROUS PLASTER TIMELINE
One of the first Fibrous Plaster jobs to be undertaken in the city of Auckland, was His Majesty’s Theatre and the firm responsible, was Scurrie & Co from Australia
The Carrara Ceiling Co of Wellington opened a branch in Auckland and carried on business at the bottom of Parnell rise opposite Stanley Street. Their first main job being – the new City Town Hall contract. The business was managed by W Rogers who was an Australian. This branch of Carrara closed down about 1920.
W Batts who carried on business in Albert Street as a woodcarver and turned started business in the Fibrous Plaster industry by bringing out from Germany a Mr Mantell to teach him the finer points of moulding and casting. Later he shifted his business to Vincent Street, then built a new factory at Rendall Place off Eden Terrace and carried on business at this address until 1934. His last job in Auckland being 1YA Broadcasting Studios in Shortland Street.
The Auckland Plaster Co started business in Wakefield Street. The proprietors were Mr Cleghorn and Mr Wallace and after 2 years the company closed down.
HV Wallace commenced business on his own at Princess Street near the Grand Hotel. He was an Australian from Adelaide having worked at the pottery trade.
Wardrops in Dunedin, then went to Carrara in Wellington for a period. After this he came to Auckland. In 1918 he shifted to Aitken Terrace, Glenmore (now Kingsland), where the firm of HV Wallace Co Ltd operated as Fibrous Plaster sub contractors. HV Wallace owing to ill health, retired in 1937.
After the Carrara Ceiling Co closed its branch, a new company the Carrara Plaster Co was formed to carry on its business at Crummer Road, Grey Lynn. The manager was another Australian Mr E Boyle. This company ceased trading in 1927.
The firm of Hosken Bros started business at Sherwood Avenue, Grey Lynn. The three brothers were nephews of Mr W Batts and both Ivan and William served an apprenticeship to W Batts. Later they shifted to larger premises at Wilton Street, Grey Lynn and carried on until 1936 at which time the business was closed down after William Hosken’s retirement. It is worthy to note that the 3 Hoskin brothers were New Zealanders.
Comments at this stage of the industry were that most of the tradesmen employed up to this time were of the old school, many of them having learned their skills in Australia before migrating to New Zealand. This era of modellers, moulders and shop hands was soon to end and the numbers diminish.
I Curd & Sons started business in Burnley Terrace, Edendale. In 1928 this company built a new factory next to the Edendale School in which they tried to manufacture Fibrous Plaster sheets under a continuous method. They ran into many problems and were not successful in this venture. One of their last jobs being the St James Theatre in the City.
The first paper faced wallboard machine was constructed and started operation at Balmoral Road, Mt Eden. This company in the early stages ran into many difficulties and was taken over by Winstone Ltd about 1928-29 and named the New Zealand Wallboards Ltd and there product named Gibraltar Board.
About this time our Fibrous Plaster industry underwent a complete change of activities. The change in design of houses from the Villa type of high studs and heavily enriched ceilings. The wall linings generally being rough timber lining with scrim and wallpaper. This Villa type gave way to the new Bungalow style with lowered stud heights, lower pitched roof and exposed beams.
These so called beams were no less than joists which could be 4”x3” dressed and because of their being exposed could be called beams which were spaced up to 4’ 0” centres each way. On top of these beams Fibrous Plaster sheets of plain or patterned surfaced were placed and left in many cases unpainted and without any support in the centres. The old scrim and paper and rough lining gave way to imported wallboard, and Fibrous Plaster.
The manufacture of these Fibrous Plaster products was fairly simple and brought a rapid increase in the number of firms operating in the industry with subsequent problems. Some of the firms to start in this period would be:
• Holmes Bros (Epsom)
• A Weggington (Onehunga)
• Penrose Plaster Co (Penrose)
• T Hunter (Harp of Erin)
• Blairney (Balmoral Road)
• Leman Bros (Balmoral Road)
• C Leman (Edendale Road)
• Berry & Son (Eden Crescent)
• Hall & Stanborough (Mt Eden
• Carlton (Pt Chevalier)
Also firms commenced in many of the provincial areas.
Plaster of Paris was imported right up until 1939-40. In the earlier period most of the plaster was imported from America, the best known being Hammer Brand and was packed in wooden barrels weighing approx. 3cwt. Large quantities were imported from England and Australia in later years. About 1936 Victor Plasters and Winstone Ltd built a plaster mill at Brigham Place on the Auckland waterfront. The manager of this mill was Mt T Speed who had been with Victor Plasters and Mr W Innes senior for many years.
In later years the capacity of this mill was increased considerably to serve the North Island. The reinforcement used in the earlier period of manufacture was New Zealand flax or tow. This fibre was an excellent material, its greatest drawback was the reddish stain which came through to finished faces of the products being dried out.
This staining was often a problem with the sheets which were used in the exposed beam type of ceilings. Eventually sisal fibre was imported from Indonesia, costing twice as much as the local flax.
About this period the development of flush-jointed ceilings saw our industry reach its peak in production and labour force – with the introduction of the Labour Government’s State Housing scheme, Fibrous Plaster enjoyed the majority of the wall and ceiling linings of these homes.
At this time Gibraltar Board was given a share of the wall linings as an alternative to Fibrous Plaster.