Cosmopolitan Chain Works

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One of the foundries recorded as operating in 1861, William Skelding Round's Cosmopolitan Chain Works focused on producing specialised flat, short-linked chains of great strength.[1]




Having completed our notices of the iron foundries of Ballarat, and pointed out the very important position that manufacturing interest has attained in consequence of the immense local demand for mining machinery, it seems not inappropriate to follow up the series by some reference to the local and patented production of an important adjunct to mining operations – the improvements introduced into the construction and manufacture of the flat chains by Mr William Skelding Round, who obtained a patent from the Victorian Government on the 12th of November, 1859. Since this period, so well have Mr Round’s chains been found to work, and so well to last, that their use has become very general, as may well be conceived when we bear in mind the fact that, since the date of the patent, a sum of £10,000 would not cover the value of the chains issued to various mining companies. Mr Round, who is a practical mechanic, and learned his handicraft from the days of apprenticeship upwards from Mr Baugh, chainmaker, of Dudley in the county of Worcester, eminently well deserves the material prosperity which his ingenuity and industry have brought him. He refers with pride to his achievements even when in England, for he it was who had the superintendence of the manufacture of the chains used in Lord Ward's collieries, and in sundry chain bridges in Worcestershire. Here he directs attention to the unsought testimonials and compliments received from the Cosmopolitan Company, who have bad two flat chains of three strands each, in continual use night and day since July, 1850, without the slightest replacement, and with no breakage except through unavoidable accident, and in that case, not through any fault of the chain. As this company was the first to afford Mr Round employment, he has designated his premises the Cosmopolitan Chain Works. These are situate at the corner of Lyons and Urquhart streets, and occupy a very favorable position among the numerous mining companies on the plateau of the Western Township. Besides the Cosmopolitan Company, Mr Round has supplied his chains four strands broad to the Great Extended, the Great Republic, and the Hand in Hand companies; to the Brown's Vale Gold Mining Company and the Buninyong Company; to the North American and British companies, Lucky Woman's; to the Grand Junction and Robin Hood companies, Springdallah, and many a hempen rope, and in consequence more completely bends itself to accommodate small sized drums, with a greatly diminished chance of fracture. Every link is cut down on a “hardy” out of the best rod iron, to a certain gauge, by which means the quality of the iron is easily discerned. Each link is then shaped upon the anvil, and further consolidated by means of the powerful blows of heavy forge hammers, each worked by a treadle, and collectively designated as “Oliver.” In chains constructed on the old principle, the links were invariably some inches longer than those made according to Mr Round’s patent, and he has known in English work so much breakage and bending to take place that, within twelve months, some six gross of new links have had to be renewed in one chain. When the links have been all tested as to length, and properly welded together, so as to avoid one ling or one strand having more stress put upon it than another, the chain is stretched tight on a crab, for the double purpose of testing the power of resistance, and enabling the workmen further to strengthen the chain and prevent friction, by driving through the strands from side to side, certain blocks of stringy bark (preferred to English oak) previously saturated with boiling tar, in which preservative material they have been plunged for at least two hours. The chain being stretched tight upon edge, is then ready for the reception of the blocks. By means of a tramway beneath the chain, a girder 16 feet in length is passed from end to end, and serves the purpose of an anvil. Three men then fill each link with its block of wood, which is driven tightly home with chains, from the peculiarity of their construction and the care taken in their manufacture, may safely serve night and day for three years, though at the expiry of half that time the wood introduced between the strands ought to be renewed, and at the full period of duration in safe working order, should either be cast aside or re-annealed; because it is capable of ready proof that when iron, however-well tempered, is in constant use it is liable to become brittle and consequently to give way at an unexpected and critical moment. The chief advantages of Mr Round's chains consist, first in the quality of the iron used in their manufacture (for this is tested with the utmost care not only before it is placed in the smiths' hands, but after its several strands have been formed into a chain), and. secondly, the shortness of the links, whereby leverage is lessened, assumes more of the character of forge hammers. When all is finished, the work is examined by candle light for the better detection of flaws and if any are found, the defect is at once remedied. The chain is also tested with at least three times the amount of tension to which it is ever likely to be subjected. Mr Round engages that if his chains will not sustain this trial, “purchasers are not required to pay for them.” These chains, if constructed on a large enough scale, seem eminently well adapted to form cheap and effectual suspension bridges for the passage of ordinary traffic.
The smiths’ shop, which has the advantage of being wholly constructed of brick and 104 feet in length by 20 feet in width will when completed contain nine forges, five being already in action. These serve to occupy ten men. At each of these there is an anvil, and at two of the number an “Oliver” a-piece. The proprietor is gradually improving the condition of the whole of his premises and intends bringing forward towards Lyons street, a brick front and tower. He is at present adding, at the rear, a large wooden shop, 73 feet in length by 16 feet [illegible] inches in width. This is intended to be devoted to the wheelwright business, as also the manufacture of agricultural implements. In furtherance of this purpose he is shortly to be joined by his nephew, who has served his apprenticeship with Mr Grigg, of King street, Dudley, a well-known Worcestershire wheelwright and plough maker. We need scarcely say that besides Mr Round’s staple manufacture, he also devotes his attention to the production of every kind of smith work as required in the formation of mining plant; or for saddlers’ iron-mongery, as curb chains, bits, and the like. The yards adjoining contain various outbuildings devoted to sundry purposes in connection with the business, as well as the private residence of Mr Round and his family. Having thus pointed out some of the most noteworthy features of the Cosmopolitan Chain Works, probably the sole manufactory of the precise kind in the colony, we shall, in our next article, touch upon the subject of agricultural machinery and implements, as being another instance of local requirements bringing into play local enterprise and capital.[2]

In 1864 W. S. Round distinguished his foundry in the highly competitive market by offering a full twelve month guarantee and three years for a "nominal rate".[3]

W. S. ROUND invites the attention of Mining Companies to his PATENT FLAT CHAINS, which have been in use from TWO to THREE YEARS; which are spoken of in testimonials by all companies which have had them any length of time, as being SAFER, MORE DURABLE, AND CHEAPER than any other kind of winding material in use. Testimonials can be seen at the works from companion within a circuit of ninety miles.
Companies before purchasing flat winding material are respectfully requested to go and examine the chains now in use for themselves; a list of the companies using them can be had from the works, as they are too numerous to advertise.
P. S. – They are kept in GOOD REPAIR FOR THREE YEARS at a nominal sum, or twelve months for nothing.
Lyons street, Ballarat.
13th February, 1862.[4]

WANTED four Chainmakers.
Apply to W. S. Round, Patent Chain Works, Lyons street.[5]



Community Involvement

Works Produced

Workplace Relations

The People

William Skelding Round


See also

Further Notes


  1. Bate, Weston. (1978). Lucky City: The First Generation at Ballarat 1851-1901. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
  2. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Wednesday 1 January 1862, page 2. Digital copy accessed via Trove.
  3. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Wednesday 7 May 1862, page 4.
  4. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Wednesday 7 May 1862, page 4. Digital copy accessed via Trove.
  5. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Wednesday 10 August 1864, page 3. Digital copy accessed via Trove.

Further Reading

External Links

--Beth Kicinski 11:29, 9 December 2011 (EST)

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