Thursday, January 20, 2011

Genesis of Crown Lynn

The following comes from the NZ Herald, 3 September 1941. It's one of those things I picked up a while back, and tucked away -- then wondered where the heck I put it! Well, it's now found, and here it is: part of the genesis of the famous Crown Lynn brand. This report might have been read by those at the time as being just another rah-rah piece on local industry and how wonderful we do things here in Enzed, but, in context, this is a snapshot which led on to so much more.


With the growing scarcity of imported porcelain the provision in Auckland of plant for its manufacture on a considerable scale and using entirely New Zealand materials is of wide interest. As the culmination of four years' research and experiment, the porcelain department of the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company Limited at New Lynn is now manufacturing a limited range of fine earthenware goods and is planning many other lines.

The enterprise can claim to be a local one in every sense of the word. The clays are all of New Zealand origin, obtained after lengthy search from many parts of the Dominion and blended according to the product being made. The stains and glazes have been developed from local materials to suit the clays being used. The designing is all done on the spot. The plant has been built from local designs with local materials.

For about two years the company has been mnanufacturing electric porcelain and many similar products -- switches, insulators, radiator bars, stove plates and the like -- by pressure and kiln treatment with the aid of hardened steel dies manufactured on the premises, but the making of such articles as basins, mixing bowls, egg cups and jugs has only recently started.

For this work the only tunnel kiln in Australia or New Zealand has been built. The shaped clay, which has been blended, mixed, dried, pressed, cut and turned, passes slowly through this kiln in a never-ending stream at a temperature of 1240 degrees centigrade, and after glazing passes again through the kiln to emerge a finished product.

The local staff which has developed the process has aimed throughout at independence from overseas sources. Plant is being extended with all possible speed to keepm pace withn the demand. Experiment and research are bering pushed ahead continuously and facilities are now available for rapid extension in the number of lines manufactured as soon as the pioneering work is completed. It is hoped within six to nine months to be producing hotel and restaurant ware.
What went before

Valerie Ringer Monk, in her book Crown Lynn: A New Zealand Icon (2006) traced the origins back to Rice Owen Clark and the drain pipes he made from local clays to drain a boggy farm he'd bought up at Hobsonville in the 1890s. By 1906 his factory was turning out salt-glazed garden pots and urns, bread pans and storage jars. The Hobsonville works closed in 1925 when the Clark family centralised their operations at New Lynn with the NZ Brick, Tile and Pottery Company, before setting up Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company from 1929.

During the 1930s, in order to diversify from just straight-out brick manufacture (and therefore help insulate the company's fortunes from the winds of worldwide economic gloom), Thomas Edwin Clark snr. began investigating ways to manufacture tiles. From tiles, as electricity supply increased to New Zealand homes and demand for insulated goods grew, the factory constructed at the New Lynn site for tile manufacture began to turn out radiator bars, ceramic stove elements, radio parts, and insulators for power poles and electric fences. By 1940, according to Monk, there were six men employed at the ceramics factory.

The Second World War mean restricted access to imported goods -- and the New Lynn facility was in the prime position of supplying even more of a need to the market.

What came after

In the period after the Herald article, Pearl Harbor meant the stationing of units of the American military forces here -- and they required truck loads of vitrified porcelain, thick and solid and robust enough to do the job. The New Lynn factories went into mass production around 1943, producing tens of thousands of mugs and bowls for the war effort. The the New Zealand Government placed orders for what was to become a Kiwi icon, and much sought after: the NZ Railway cups. By the mid 1940s, the porcelain department of the Amalgamated works was named "Ambrico Ware", from the initials of the parent company. A new tunnel kiln was built in 1946/1947, remaining in use right through to the close of the works four decades later. By the beginning of 1948, Ambrico was the largest pottery in the Southern Hemisphere, with 300 workers producing six million pieces a year. In that year, Ambrico was renamed Crown Lynn by Tom Clark -- "Crown" for quality, and "Lynn" for the suburb where the enterprise had begun and was based.


  1. Ahhhh!
    *she says, gazing at the stamped title on the underside of her plates* "I know where your name cam efrom now!"