Albany Woollen Mills

Author

City of Albany

Place Number

15512

Location

11-13 Mill St Albany

Location Details

Other Name(s)

WA Worsted & Woollen Mills

Local Government

Albany

Region

Great Southern

Construction Date

Demolition Year

N/A

Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management
Category
Municipal Inventory Adopted 30 Jun 2001 Category C

Physical Description

Large industrial site with many different styled buildings Number of buildings constructed from a variety of building fabric including brick, fibre board, corrugated iron, metal deck.

History

Reports on the first proposed Woollen Mills for Western Australia appeared in the Albany Advertiser in 1920. Albany was a strong contender for the location of the mill owing to local climate conditions and a good supply of pure fresh water. In February 1921 John Scadden (State parliamentary representative of Albany and Minister of Industries) announced that Albany had been chosen as the site for the Woollen Mills after being considered alongside Perth, Bunbury, Geraldton and Collie. Further to the water supply and climate that had attracted people to consider Albany in the first place, were the availability of labour, a good position close to the railway and a stable electricity supply. The prospectus for the WA Worsted and Woollen Mills Ltd was released in 1922. An abridged version was reported in the Albany Advertiser releasing 200,000 shares for public subscription at £1 per share. Though the full quota of shares sold never reached the optimum, the Woollen Mills project continued. The Premier of WA, Sir James Mitchell laid the foundation stone of the mills on 7 March 1924. In memory of the event the Chairman of the Woollen Mills Company, Ernest Lee Steere, presented the Premier with an engraved silver trowel. A local contractor, Mr W Johns, undertook the installation of light and power in the mill. This was particularly notable as he won the contract over competitive tenders from both Sydney and Perth firms. At the end of March 1925 the initial product of the Mills, the first of its type produced in WA, reached the market. A detailed description of the building program was reported in the Albany Advertiser 8 March 1924. The building is being erected and will be equipped with machinery by Australian National Products Limited; designing and supervising engineers are represented on the job by Mr Harry Jefferis (Architect). It was to this firm the WA Worsted and Woollen Mills let a contract, at a sum of £85,500 for the provision of the works, not including the powerhouse or levelling of the site. Of the amount mentioned the machinery represents a sum of between £40,000 and £50,000. A sub-contract for the erection of the building and plant was let to L Hinks & Co. Ltd of Sydney. The Mill building with a frontage of 352 feet (c118m) faces Gardiner St (Mill St) and overlooks the recreation ground... The roof is to be of a corrugated asbestos sheeting made in the State. The roof is what is known as the saw tooth pattern and glass will be used in those sections facing south... The main entrance will be opposite the centre of the building on the East. At the entrance, provision is made for the manager's office and warehouse. Alongside the office is a lobby which leads into the Mill building. It is here the foundation stone laid yesterday is situated. The walls are of reinforced concrete and stand 16 feet (c5m) in height. The Albany Woollen Mills were officially opened on 5 February 1925. Central figures in the opening ceremony were: the WA Governor Sir William Campion (accompanied by his wife); Mr J. Williams, the acting Premier and the Chairman of the WA Worsted and Woollen Mills, Mr Ernest Lee Steere. Following the opening formalities the summoning whistle was blown and the mill was set in motion. Visitors were then invited to inspect the working operations. By 1930 the Mill was employing over one hundred people and had produced many thousands of metres of worsted cloth and flannel as well as rugs and blankets. However, the Great Depression, which had started with the Wall Street Crash in 1929, began to take its toll. At the beginning of 1931 the Management Board concluded in their financial report that declining demand was creating difficulties for the Mill. At first the board had attempted to limit production days but by January 1931 the poor state of affairs led to the decision to dismiss the employees and close the Mill down. The State Government of the day, led by James Mitchell, reacted strongly to the news that the Mill had closed down and promptly sought an alternative to this action. By promising financial support the government guaranteed the re-opening of the Mill that occurred on 17 March 1931. By 1934 the Mill was running to full capacity and business was described as brisk. A considerable trade had been developed in making yarns for knitting factories that had developed in Perth. Various plans over the years were made to increase efficiency in the Mill by purchasing new machinery. This was achieved in 1936 when improvements included a new brick chimney stack (to replace one that had burnt down) and an annexe to the main building to house the warping machinery. Despite the expenditure of over £15,000 and an increase in production of over 20%, demand did not live up to expectations and the Mill continued to struggle financially. This precarious situation prevailed until 1939. This financial year (1939) will be forever memorable owing to the outbreak of World War II on 3 September and its consequent effect on all phase of the Mill's activities... Activity was greatly increased by the outbreak of the war. Increased orders were received from the Defence Department (for Navy, Army and Air Force) at very much better prices. Trade and Western Australian Government orders were also very substantial. By the end of the financial year overtime was being worked in the factory to the full extent permitted by the law. Sales for the year were the highest recorded since the Mill commenced running. In the post war period the Albany Woollen Mills began to suffer from the distance from markets, costly power supplies and freight costs on raw materials and then on the finished goods after. One solution was to establish a branch factory at Fremantle to take over certain aspects of production. This eventuated in 1949. After this investment both production and sales increased, a profit was made and a share dividend was paid to shareholders for the first time in the 24 year history of the company. The Albany Woollen Mills remained financially stable throughout the 1960's. In 1970 an unprecedented number of workers applied for jobs at the Albany Woollen Mills. The positions were advertised as a result of increased demand received by Albany Woollen Mills sales office, which were now open throughout Australia. Further expansion was proposed after Mr. Robert Holmes A Court became director of the company. It was during this period that nearly all the plant was replaced so that in 2001 no pre 1975 machinery remains in operation at the Mill. The last two decades of the Twentieth Century have seen a number of changes at the Mill. During the 1990s the Mill struggled financially; it was placed in the hands of the receiver and closed down in February 1996. Government incentives were offered to any company wishing to take on the Mills. This led to the reopening of the Albany Woollen Spinning Mills in August of the same year. In 2001 the Mills continue to operate making yarn which is predominantly used in the production of carpet (15% goes to WestWools the only WA carpet manufacturer). The raw wool for this product however is not produced locally. Needing coarse wool grown in a colder climate, the wool is imported from New Zealand and the UK. The Mills which employ 85-95 people produce 90-100 tonnes of yarn per month.

Integrity/Authenticity

Integrity: Low

Condition

Very Good

References

Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
L Johnson; "Town of Albany Heritage Survey". 1994
"Western Australia's- A gem in a granite setting 1929-1930". City of Albany Local Studies Collection
Heritage TODAY and David Heaver Architects; "Albany Woollen Mills Assessment". Heritage TODAY and David Heaver Architects 2001
"Albany Advertiser". 26/1/1921
"Albany Advertiser". 19/1/1970
"Albany Advertiser". 7/2/1925
C Day; "Oral history interview with Alan leeming (Director of Mill)"." 2000
"Wool in the West : A History of the Rise and Progress of Woollen Manufacturing in Western Australia".
Heritage TODAY Site visit and Assessment 1999
C Day; "Oral history interview with Burt Oreo (Long time employee of the Milll)"
"Albany Advertiser". 4/11/1922
"Albany Advertiser". 8/3/1924

Other Keywords

Part of Original factory built in 1924
Management Category: B
Requires a high level of protection: provide maximum encouragement to the owner under the City of Albany Town
Planning Scheme to conserve the significance of the place. A more detailed Heritage Assessment/Impact Statement to
be undertaken before approval given for any development. Incentives to promote conservation should be considered.
Remainder of the industrial complex
Management Category: D
Significant but not essential to an understanding of the history of the district. Photographically record the place prior to
any major redevelopment or demolition.

Place Type

Individual Building or Group

Uses

Epoch General Specific
Present Use INDUSTRIAL\MANUFACTURING Other
Original Use INDUSTRIAL\MANUFACTURING Other

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Wall BRICK Common Brick
Roof METAL Corrugated Iron

Historic Themes

General Specific
OCCUPATIONS Rural industry & market gardening

Creation Date

17 Mar 2000

Publish place record online (inHerit):

Approved

Last Update

31 Oct 2018

Disclaimer

This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.