Copper Smelter, Waratah

The Hunter Living Histories site has just published an article on Robert Perrott, including some sketches he did of various places around Newcastle in the late 1800s. Of particular interest is a sketch of the copper smelting works near Waratah.

Copper smelting near Waratah, at Newcastle. (Sketch by Robert Perrott, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW)

This was the works of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which commenced operation in 1872. The Maitland Mercury reported on 18 June 1872

On Tuesday last a very interesting ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Waratah in the presence of the local manager of the establishment and a few gentlemen from Newcastle, namely, that of lighting the first fires in two of the copper smelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company’s works near Waratah.

The smelter operated for about 47 years, and the land was sold off in 1918 and 1919, as reported by the Maitland Mercury on 6 Nov 1919.

A 1910 map by A. Barrett shows that the smelter was situated in modern day Broadmeadow, where UGL Limited (formerly Goninans) is now located.

1910 Barrett map overlaid on Google Earth, showing the location of the copper smelter near Waratah.

The smelter had two large brick smokestacks, that were highly visible points in the landscape, and often appeared in the background of photographs of the time.

View from New Lambton towards Broadmeadow, with copper smelting stacks in the background. circa 1887. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Stormwater drain construction at Hamilton North., April 1900, looking towards New Lambton. The Waratah copper smelter stack is visible in the background. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

View of Waratah copper smelter from Glebe Rd Hamilton South in 1897. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

An interesting aspect of the Perrott sketch of the smelter, is how some details are quite accurate, but other details not so accurate, probably for aesthetic reasons. When we compare the sketch with a 1906 Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah taken from somewhere near the present day Mater hospital, we see that Perrott has reproduced the smelter building and stacks reasonably accurately. However in the sketch the smelter appears to be at the base of a hill, but the smelter was actually located on the flat plain of Broadmeadow, and that hill is Merewether Heights some 4km in the distance.

Sketch of Waratah copper smelter by Robert Perrott.

Photograph of Waratah copper smelter by Ralph Snowball, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Nov 1869"The English and Australian Copper Company, who carry on extensive smelting works in South Australia, are about to establish similar works within a mile of New Lambton.
12 Feb 1870Construction of the English and Australian copper smelting works at Broadmeadow has been in progress for three months, and smelting "will be commenced in about two months." (This was a wildly optimistic estimate, as smelting eventually commenced in June 1872, more than two years later.)
The manager is "Mr. Christoe, a gentleman of great experience in copper-smelting."
15 Sep 1870The weather has significantly delayed the opening of the smelter.
"For upwards of two months there was such an accumulation of water at the establishment as to defy the possibility of the works being proceeded with, and thus the company were unexpectedly debarred from carrying out their design in the contemplated time as regards the inauguration of the process of smelting."

The manager of the smelter is Mr. Christoe.
15 Jul 1871Advertisement for a General Manager for the New Lambton Smelting works.
9 Sep 1871250 tons of copper ore have arrived in Newcastle Harbour destined for the New Lambton Copper-smelting Works so "now there is a reasonable hope that this fine and valuable property created here at a great expense, will very shortly become utilised."
6 Feb 1872Mr Christoe supervising operations at the Burwood Copper Smelter, Glenrock lagoon.
18 May 1872Copper ore has been received, but smelting has not yet begun.
18 Jun 1872Lighting the first fires in two of the coppersmelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company's works near Waratah.
19 Oct 1872"There appears to be an anomaly existing between our copper- smelting establishments, which time only can set at rest ; for while at this establishment five furnaces are idle for want of ore, at the Hunter River Works, five furnaces are idle here from the want of men acquainted with smelting operations to work them."
2 Oct 1917Smelting of ore has ceased.
"The business of the company during the past year had to be conducted under conditions of great risk and anxiety, which finally forced the board reluctantly to instruct the manager in Australia to cease making purchases of ore, to smelt out all copper available, and to close the smelting works, a process that has been carried through."
6 Nov 1919"The long connection of the English and Australian Copper Company, Limited, with the Newcastle district has been finally severed through its having recently sold the land that was the site of the works, known as the Waratah works."
8 May 1920"The chimney stack of the old copper works, which was felled some time ago, gave about 150,000 bricks."

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