The Phoenix Foundry (1857 - 1906) fabricated iron and brass products - including engines and pumping gear for the mining industry, locomotives, steam rollers, water pipes, water gauges and diverse smaller items. Throughout its operation the business was located at premises on Armstrong Street (where Central Square now stands).
In 1852, at the age of thirty-three and after a year of operating his own engineering business at Williamstown, Lancashire-born blacksmith and engineer George Threlfall (1819-1897) arrived on the Sebastopol gold plain and immediately undertook blacksmith work repairing picks and tools for the miners. Little did he know that this fledgling business would be the genesis of the most iconic industry of nineteenth-century Ballarat.
At approximately thirty-nine years of age, English mechanical engineer Richard Carter (c1814-1883) came to Australia on board the Arrogant - arriving in Melbourne on 19 April 1853. He soon travelled to the Ballarat goldfields.
Born in the year 1830 in Belfast (Ireland), mechanical engineer William Henry Shaw (1830-1896) arrived in Australia in October 1853. He worked briefly with George Threlfall at Sebastopol, then moved to Geelong to manage the small foundry of Frederick Moore. In early 1856 he returned to Ballarat to work again with George Threlfall in an expanded engineering business.
Twenty-four year old English-born iron moulder Robert Holden (c1831-?) left his home in Belfast (Ireland) in late 1854 and travelled from Liverpool to Melbourne on board the James Baines - arriving in February 1855. Afterwards he joined his brother-in-law William Henry Shaw in Ballarat.
Foundation to Incorporation
In March 1857 George Threlfall joined in business with Richard Carter, William Henry Shaw and Robert Holden. They relocated Threlfall's successful engineering enterprise from Sebastopol to new premises in Armstrong Street, Ballarat. This business was then known variously as the Phoenix Iron Works Company, Phoenix Foundry or Messrs Carter and Co. By 15 April 1857 they were advertising that they were open for business as engineers, millwrights, boiler makers, smiths, iron founders and brass founders.
In January 1858 George Threlfall left the partnership.
Over the span of a year, including the second-half of 1863 and the first-half of 1864, the Phoenix Foundry became embroiled in a public scandal concerning the Soho Foundry and land rights. This scandal was heavily covered by the local newspaper, The Star. The trade of ironfounding requires access to a certain kind of sand for castings. Such sand was found in an excellent deposit at Mount Pleasant - to which the Crown had granted licenses for its use to the Victoria Foundry. In September 1863 the proprietors of the Soho Foundry applied for possession of some of this land, on the grounds that the Victoria Foundry was not fulfilling its obligation to utilise all of the land for the removal of sand or loam - instead, it was monopolising the supply at great cost to other ironfounders in the area. On 2 June 1864 Mr Thomas, one of the proprietors of the Soho Foundry, was forced to complain to the Ballarat Mining Board that this land had since been wrongfully taken from him through the underhand dealings of the other ironfounders - resulting in William Shaw, of the Phoenix Foundry, purchasing the land for the paltry sum of 8 pounds.
Incorporation to 1889
On 13 April 1883 a public holiday was celebrated in Ballarat to mark the completion of the hundredth locomotive for the Victorian Government. A special railway line was laid between the foundry and the Ballarat West Railway Station from where the new engine steamed along Armstrong Street to the Railway Station.
1890 to Closing
In 1905 the directors entered voluntary liquidation.
The Phoenix Foundry always kept in contact with the mining industry, manufacturing large pumps, winding and crushing plants and boilers - with many being sent to the Western Australian gold fields.
For the Ballarat-hosted Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition of 1878 a Model Locomotive Engine was made by Phoenix Foundry apprentices, including: James Campbell Brown (1857-1936), Francis H. Davis, Louis Ludwig Ballhausen (1857-1912), Samuel John Morgan (1856-1939) and Herman Recard Warlond (1857-1948).
See also: People of Phoenix Foundry by Category