Engineer George Morris arrived in Australia in the 1890s. He settled in Sydney, marrying Priscilla Walker in 1903. The couple then moved to Lithgow, in the Blue Mountains, where George was initially employed at the town’s blast furnace.
In 1910 he left, to open a foundry in Gasworks Lane. A son was born in 1905, but sadly, Priscilla died from gastroenteritis in 1912.
The widowed George then married local girl Ivy Lamb. As their family grew, the foundry went on to become a well established business. It is interesting to note that the man-hole covers for the sewerage systems of both Lithgow and Bathurst were cast at what became known as The Great Western Foundry. Some may still be in place.
It was not only industrial products that were produced. In 1914 the Lithgow Mercury reported that the inventive Mr Morris had ventured into the domestic market;
Mr.G. C. Morris, of the Great Western Foundry, Lithgow, is manufacturing a neat stove which he has named “The Lithgow”. It is in all senses a local production, besides deriving its name from the township. It is manufactured throughout from local pig-iron and is turned out entirely by local men. The oven door bears a representation of the blast furnace. The fireplace is large and is fitted with solid iron dogs and thick oven cheeks. An air chamber exists between the oven and the fire which will prevent burning on the oven side. This is a decided improvement on most stoves……
I was delighted to find one of the stoves in an outbuilding at Lithgow’s Eskbank Museum. This one doesn’t have the blast furnace on the door. I wonder if it was a very early model?
Blue Mountains resident Mr Peter Paton is lucky enough to have a working model. And look…there is that unique badge of pride, the furnace!
Advertisements for the stove included testimonials from satisfied customers.
Morris then branched out into making ornamental, ‘portable’ fireplaces, which could be moved from home to home. I would love to know whether there are buildings in which these fireplace are still in place. Iron grates in several different sizes were also manufactured.
Foundries are by their nature dangerous workplaces. In June 1914 there was an accident in which the Morris’ foreman Mr Johnson was burned. 15cwt of molten metal spilled during a casting and flowed across the floor. Other men escaped, but Johnson had been standing in an awkward position and was too slow. When his left foot was caught his boot provided scant protection and he suffered deep burns.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE LITHGOW STOVE
In 1931 there was a fire at the foundry, which destroyed many of the moulds. The damage, estimated at £1,850 was not fully insured. It was the beginning of the end, as by now the Great Depression was also making a big impact.
After struggling along for several more years, George Morris admitted defeat. There were simply not enough orders. In July 1936 he closed the foundry and the plant and stock in hand were sold off. No more ‘local hero’ stoves would be made. Five more Lithgow men joined a growing dole queue, and the town lost an important industry. The Morris family moved to Sydney. Despite his entrepreneurial spirit, George had not accumulated any great wealth. He too was often unemployed during those final, hard years prior to WWII. The family was sorely missed in Lithgow, where he and Ivy been had contributed a great deal to the community.
George Morris, something of a local hero himself, died in 1962.
For the story of the blast furnace represented on the door of the Lithgow stove, click HERE.
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