Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hoffman kilns -- the first 20 years in NZ

There's a wonderful website showing not only the exterior but interiors of a Hoffman kiln -- Robert Crompton Pottery, showing a Palmerston North kiln.

According to various websites, Friedrich Hoffman of Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland) patented his design for a brick kiln which used a continuous production process in 1858, but little is known about Hoffman himself. The designs landed here in New Zealand in the early 1870s, with the first kilns in the the South Island, before the North eventually caught on. The need for bricks in huge numbers and in an economical amount of time for the great Vogel projects such as the North Island Main Trunk railway probably helped popularise them here.

The following snippets are all from Papers Past.

Otago Witness, Issue 1145, 8 November 1873, Page 19
In the course of about two months, operations will be commenced towards the erection of an extensive brick manufactory in Dunedin. The site secured is a paddock close to Hillside, on the Kensington road, and here will be built a large kiln on the Hoffman principle of continuous burning, capable of turning out 70,000 bricks per week; and with a view to supply this quantity, machinery on the compressed plan has been sent for from England, and, it is expected, will arrive here so as to be ready for work by about the middle of February. Kilns of the above description are now generally in use all over Europe, and the proprietors of the patent right for New Zealand have had one in operation in Canterbury for the last two years.
Otago Witness, Issue 1163, 14 March 1874, Page 19
In reference to an article which appeared a few day's ago in this journal on the advantages of Hoffman's patent brick kilns, Mr. Alfred Lee Smith informs us that he is now erecting a kiln for burning bricks on the same principle at Hillside. "I may state," he adds, "that I bought of Messrs Hoffman the exclusive patent right for New Zealand, and have had a kiln in operation in Canterbury for the last two years.”
Otago Witness, Issue 1221, 24 April 1875, Page 17
A large brick manufactory has been started at Auckland. It is fitted with Hoffman's patent kiln, which is capable of turning out eighty thousand bricks per week.
Evening Post, Volume XXV, Issue 16, 19 January 1883, Page 2
Here [at the Central Prison, Wellington] are to be found another batch of convicts busily engaged in converting the clay into shapely bricks. The rough material is first passed through a pug-mill worked by an unfortunate horse, who plods his weary round with evident disgust. We were unable to learn for what offence the unhappy steed is doomed to this monotonous toil. Possibly he may be one of those incorrigible strays of which one so often reads and hears. However this may be, he seems to be well treated and a general pet.

When he has finished with the clay, it is taken in hand by the brick-makers, who handle it with remarkable smartness, and speedily turn it out as neat bricks. They average 1000 bricks daily per man, and one of them, we are told, has finished as many as 2400 in the day. Many thousands of bricks are to be seen stacked in those peculiar long open-sided sheds always associated with brick-works, drying in preparation for the kilns. Those latter stand a short distance off, and are kept pretty constantly supplied with food. They are of the old-fashioned wood-burning type, but are about to be replaced by a very imposing and scientific structure of the class known as the Hoffman Kiln. The massive foundations for this curious-looking erection have been laid, and the side walls are slowly rising. It is not strange that progress should be slow, for the immense thickness of the walls ---fully six feet at the surface of the ground—swallows up bricks by tens of thousands. The kiln, when finished, will be in the form of a dome, divided internally into several compartments, so that bricks can be always in successive stages of burning, and one compartment cleared when ready without disturbing the others. Another advantage possessed by the Hoffman kiln is that it burns coal, and is exceedingly economical as to fuel. The designs were prepared by Mr. Burrowes, of the Colonial Architect's Office. At present the conveyance by hand of the clay to the brick works, and the raw bricks to the kiln, and the burnt bricks to the place where they are to be utilised is a rather tedious process but a light tramway is about to be laid down, on which it will be very easy to carry the materials on hand trollies.
Evening Post, Volume XLV, Issue 106, 6 May 1893, Page 2
Fifty-thousand bricks a week seems a rather large order to turn out, yet this is what Mr. Enoch Tonks claims he will be able to do, if trade demands it, when his new kiln, now in course of erection at the Webb-street Brickyards, is completed, The kiln, which is known as a " Hoffman," has a holding capacity of over 90,000. and is the largest and the only one of its kind in Wellington. It is oval in shape, the circumference of the chambers (interior measurement) being 100 ft from point to point, endways, it measures 64ft, it is 38ft across, and the height from the floor to the top of the dome is 8ft. It contains 12 chambers, and when lighted the fires will be kept going constantly, as while bricks are being baked in one part of the kiln the marketable article can be withdrawn from another part, and the empty chambers refilled. The machinery connected with the works is receiving a thorough overhaul and various improvements have been necessarily made to keep pace with the new works and meet the exigencies of the trade. The improvements were wholly designed by Mr. E. Tonks, under whose supervision they are being carried out, and he is to be commended for his enterprise. The brickwork is being carefully done by Messrs. Oughton & Chote, the foundry work by Messrs. C. Luke & Sons, and the carpentering by Mr. Crump, builder. The furnaces are expected to be lit in about three weeks' time.

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