Phoenix Foundry

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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).

Phoenix Foundry Machine Shop. Federation University Australia Historical Collection [Cat. No. 6599.2].



In 1852, at the age of thirty-three and after a year of operating his own engineering business at Williamstown[1], 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

In January 1858 George Threlfall left the partnership.[6]

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.[7]

Incorporation to 1889

Unknown, The Australian Sketcher
Phoenix Company's foundry, Ballarat, 1882
handcoloured wood engraving on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat,
Purchased with funds from the L.J. Wilson Bequest, 1995

The image depicts: the steam hammer; pouring molten metal; punching rivet holes; the grindstones; fitting up an engine steam, and lorry, taking engine to the station

Phoenix Foundry machine shop. Federation University Australia Historical Collection [Cat. No. 6599].

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.


Phoenix Foundry Land Sale' 1947.' Federation University Australia Historical Collection (image gift of Ron Woods) [Cat. No. 6599.2].


Community Involvement

Ballarat Agricultural Society

Ballarat Benevolent Asylum

Ballarat Hospital

Ballarat Orphan Asylum

Ballarat School of Mines


Phoenix Foundry Brass Band

Phoenix Foundry Cricket Club

Phoenix Foundry Dramatic Club

Phoenix Foundry Football Club

Phoenix Foundry Glee Club

Phoenix Foundry School of Artisans

Phoenix Foundry Quadrille Club

Smeaton, Spring Hill and Bullarook Agricultural Association

Works Produced

Invoice. Courtesy Federation University Australia Historical Collection [Cat. No. 4826].

See also: Locomotives produced by the Phoenix Foundry

See also: Civil engineering works by the Phoenix Foundry

See also: Works produced by the Phoenix Foundry for the mining industry

See also: Miscellaneous works produced by the Phoenix Foundry

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.

Phoenix Foundry Model Locomotive Engine, Ballarat Historical Society Collection, held at the Gold Museum. Image Copyright: Sovereign Hill Museums Association

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).

Workplace Relations

The Iron Workers' Strike at Ballarat in 1889

Phoenix Foundry Employés Accident Association

The People

See also: People of Phoenix Foundry by Category

T. Bacon - S. T. Bailey - Samuel L. Bailey - UNKNOWN Bailey - Louis Ludwig Ballhausen (1857-1912) - P. Banks - UNKNOWN Banks - Felix Edward Barbat (1858-1928) - T. Barlow - G. Barnet - J. Barnett - James Barr - J. Barrett - J. Bartes - G. Bartlett - James W. Batie (1823-1907) - William Batie (1821-?) - J. Baxindale - J. Bayard - Walter Reed Bechervaise (1861-1927) - G. Belcher - Alexander Bell (c1851-1931) - W. Bell - John Bennett - R. Bennett - Harold John Thomas Berryman (1884-1951) - Robert Jeffrey Binder (1831-1906) - James Binnie (1854-1898) - UNKNOWN Birch - P. Black - William Blair (c1834-1876) - G. L. Blight - George Blomeley (1851-1898) - Albert William Bodycomb (1863-1945) - Bedlington Bodycomb (1855-1919) - J. H. Bodycomb - John Rhys Bodycomb (1861-1897) - Robert Bodycomb (1857-?) - Thomas C. Bodycomb (1829-1919) - J. Bohan - W. Bonitt - John Robert Borch (c1835-1900) - J. Bounett - W. Bowen - UNKNOWN Bowen - J. Boyan - Henry Bradbury (c1842-1917) - W. Bray - William Bray - J. Breen - P. Brewer - J. Brien - J. Brindle - G. Bromley - J. Brooks - UNKNOWN Brooks - Daniel Brophy (1832-1895) - James Campbell Brown (1857-1936) - W. Brown - Wilfred Lionel Reed Brown (1889-1917) - William Alfred Brown (1860-1931) - UNKNOWN Brown - Francis Bulch (c1861-1886) - Thomas Edward Bulch (1863-1930) - A. Bull - J. Bull - William Campbell Burbidge (c1832-1908) - T. Burnes - J. Burnett - A. Burns - H. Burns - J. Burns - T. Burns - Thomas Burns (c1839-1917) - W. Burns - UNKNOWN Burton
George Macara (c1863-1936) - William Macara (1828-1909) - D. Macaw - W. Mackay - Alexander Mackie (c1830-1918) - Thomas James Maddaford (1868-1949) - William Snell Tandy Magee (1859-1889) - D. Main - B. Malinson - B. Mallison - William George Manners (1863-1924) - Charles James Marquand (1872-1943) - W. Marsh - C. J. Marshman - D. Marshman - A. Martin - F. Martin - James Martin - T. Martin - I. Mason - J. Mason - W. Mayall - W. McCara - UNKNOWN McCarra - UNKNOWN McCaw - J. McCulloch - John Young McDonald (1837-1917) - D. McDermott - UNKNOWN McDonnell - E. P. McElroy - C. McGill - A. McGregor - Donald McGregor - D. McIntosh - J. McIntosh - L. McIntosh - J. McKay - UNKNOWN McKay - R. McKenzie - C. McLean - J. McLean - Lachlan McLean - UNKNOWN McLean - J. McManamny - P. McManamy - A. McNair - R. McNair - A. McNaughton - James Blackmore McQuie (1830-1916) - Thomas Blair Meekison (1866-1942) - D. Meldrum - Francis Menzies (1864-1943) - James Menzies (1862-1945) - M. Mewley - W. Mewley - Ernest Henry Middleditch (1865-1948) - C. Middleton - Richard Greenwood Middleton (1851-1905) - W. Miles - G. Miller - J. Miller - J. Miller, Junior - R. Miller - W. Miller - William John Millett (?-1946) - Solomon Mirls (1843-1889) - John Mitchell - John Mobbe - J. C. Mobberly - Josh Moberley - M. Modgin - UNKNOWN Moet - UNKNOWN Moorhouse - Edward Morey (1832-1907) - David James Morgan - J. S. Morgan - Robert Yolland Morgan (1868-1946) - Samuel John Morgan (1828-1909) - Samuel John Morgan (1856-1939) - Edward Morris - J. Morris - John Patrick Morris (1839-1898) - P. Morris - William Morris (1869-1922) - W. Morrison - W. G. Morrison - William Morrison - Hugh Wilson Morrow (1840-1911) - T. Morse - F. Mossom - UNKNOWN Mossom - UNKNOWN Mosson - G. Moxham - J. Moxham - James William Moxham (c1844-1938) - J. Muir - UNKNOWN Muir - C. Mullard - W. Mumbray - D. Munro - F. Murphy - Patrick Murphy (1863-1917) - William Francis Murphy (1875-1936) - John Murray


See also

Australian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition


Gong Gong Reservoir

Strike in the Shipping Trade in 1890

Recommended Reading

Resource list for Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat


J. G. Burnell wrote that the Phoenix Foundry was founded in 1856 by Carter, Bodycomb and Shaw (the manager at that time). In ‘Industrial Development.’ One Hundred Years of Engineering in Victoria, page 407. Yet William Bramwell Withers (a contemporary of the managers of the Phoenix Foundry) recorded in 1887 that the company was started by Messrs Carter, Oldham and Shaw - with Mr. W. H. Shaw as manager. In William Bramwell Withers. The History of Ballarat from the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present Time. Ballarat: F. W. Niven and Co., 1887, page 292. [Federation University Australia, Mt Helen Library].


  1. The Victorian Centenary Book, page 291.
  2. Index to Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria 1852-1923
  3. Graeme Cope, “Shaw, William Henry (1830—1896),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, accessed August 21, 2015.
  4. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Thursday 5 March 1857, page 2. Digital copy accessed via Trove.
  5. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Wednesday 15 April 1857, page 3. Digital copy accessed via Trove.
  6. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Monday 4 January 1858, page 3; The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Tuesday 5 January 1858, page 1; The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Wednesday 6 January 1858, page 1.
  7. The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), Friday 3 June 1864, page 2. Digital copy accessed via Trove.

One Hundred Years: Official Programme and History of Ballarat Centenary Celebrations, 1938.

External Links

Location Map: Google Maps

Peter Butters, 'Ballarat’s Phoenix Foundry built a great reputation'. The Courier. June 15, 2003.

--C.K.Gervasoni 14:29, 21 February 2011 (EST); --Beth Kicinski 13:44, 5 January 2012, 21 May 2012, 6 March 2013 (EST)
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