Remembering the Past Australia

Samuel Ramsden's Paper Mill, Yarra Bank

Melbourne 1868

As published in the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers, 25 April 1868.


(April 1868.)

Within a few weeks a great and important manufactory will be added to the numerous list of colonial industries that have lately sprung into existence. The successful erection of the first paper mill in the colony is due to Mr Ramsden, but with it will always be associated the name of the late Alderman Kenny, who first proposed to manufacture paper, and at a great outlay imported the necessary machinery for that purpose. Dight’s mill, above the Yarra Falls, was selected by Mr Kenny as the site for his manufactory, but the erection of the necessary machinery had only been commenced a few weeks when the death of that gentleman put a stop to the enterprise. For months the machinery lay idle. Proposals were made to continue the work, but no one was found possessed of the requisite capital, and spirited enough to undertake the affair. At length Mr Ramsden came forward, and having secured the machinery, set about erecting it in earnest.

Mr Samuel Ramsden Paper Mill Yarra Bank Coloured

Mr Samuel Ramsden’s Paper Mill, Yarra Bank.

Mr Kenny originally intended to work the machinery by a water-mill, the fall of water at Dight’s mill enabling him to do so with advantage. Mr Ramsden, however, found that the pollution of the Yarra with the refuse from the works would prevent him carrying out the work as originally intended, and he thereupon obtained a grant from the Government of two acres situated on the south side of the Yarra, a short distance below Prince’s-bridge. Four months since the necessary buildings were commenced, and have since been continued with such vigor [sic] that within a very short time paper-making will have soon commenced. At present all the buildings, with the exception of the boiler house, are completed; and most of the machinery put together. 

A recent visit to the mill showed the admirable state of state of forwardness to which everything has been brought, and the thoroughly practical manner in which Mr Ramsden has gone about his work, leaving nothing neglected that foresight could provide for or capital obtain. The mill is entered from the Sandridge-road by a street hereafter to be formed to the banks of the Yarra, and opposite the goods sheds of the Hobson’s Bay Railway Company. To the right of the entrance gates will be the residence of the general manager, Mr Kerr, a good substantial brick and bluestone house being in course of erection for his especial use. After passing the gates, the visitor is at once in the yards, in the very centre of the work. Here are the sorting rooms, the cutting and dusting room, the boiling room, the engine-house, the bleaching room, and the machine room. Mr Ramsden will give permanent employment to about sixty men, boys and girls, the number being increased when fine paper is being made, as more hands are required to sort the rags, &c. 

As it is well-known that a great quantity of paper is made in England from straw and grass, it was resolved at the outset by Mr Ramsden to use grass in addition to rags if possible. Numerous samples of grass have been sent to Mr Ramsden from various parts of the colony, some of which, from their fibrous character, are admirably suited for the purpose of paper-making, and others are perfectly useless. On a recent occasion during a trip up the country with Mr Steele, who has superintended the entire erection of the works, Mr Ramsden discovered a grass that has been pronounced superior to any yet obtained in England. A number of experiments were made with it which fully bore out the expectations of Mr Steele, and Mr Ramsden has obtained two tons of it for using upon the first opportunity. Rags are, however, the principal material that Mr Ramsden relies upon for the manufacture of his paper. 

As already mentioned, Mr Steele, who was engaged, by Mr Kenny superintend the erection of the machinery, has been engaged by Mr Ramsden, and the manner in which he has carried out the entire work has given great satisfaction to his employer. Mr Kerr, who has had a large experience in paper-making, has been engaged by Mr Ramsden as foreman of the works. The machinery, all of which is highly finished and furnishes with the latest improvements, was manufactured by Messrs James Bertram and Sons, of the Leith Walk Foundry, Edinburgh, who are the largest makers of paper machinery in the world, a sufficient guarantee that Mr Ramsden has a first-class article for his money. The entire outlay, when all is finished, will not fall far short of £20,000. To avoid any danger that might be apprehended to the mill from the rise of the flood-waters, Mr Ramsden has had the whole of the land upon which it is built raised above the highest flood level. The soil from the town hall excavations is now being used to fill up the remaining portion of the ground.

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