The first butter factory established in Motueka in 1891 by Frederick William Thorp (Mayor of Motueka 1904-11) is believed to have also been the first complete butter factory to operate in New Zealand and one of the first to use the patented De Laval steam-powered continuous discharge centrifugal cream separator. Known as the Burton Butter Factory (the name being taken from the "Burton Farm" established by F.W. Thorp's father, Charles, on Thorp Street, Motueka, in the 1840s), it was leased from Mr Thorp by Rankin & Sons of Motueka. It’s worth noting that its wooden butter churns were made by the Strachan brothers of "Manawatane", Orinoco, who had learned the cooper’s craft from their father Benjamin. They also made many of the kegs used for transporting harvested raspberries to the jam factory at the Motueka Wharf.
The Burton Butter Factory, Motueka (later leased to Rankin & Sons).
Giving a detailed explanation of its operation.
Colonist, 28 May, 1891
Pre-1902 all milking was done by hand – no milking machines were available in New Zealand before that time. The first L & K milking machine arrived in New Zealand in 1902 and between that date and 1909, 1500 milking machines were brought into the country. Hand-operated separators made their appearance a bit earlier, with Wilkins & Field advertising public trials in 1890 of the “Victoria” hand-operated separator, able to treat 20 gallons of milk an hour, and Buxtons advertising “Perfect” cream separators and “Daisy“ churns in 1904. However, many Ngatimoti farmers were still hand-milking into the 1930s.
Nelson Evening Mail, 24 April, 1890. Wilkins & Field advertisement: Public trial of the “Victoria” cream separator.
1895-1899 Ngatimoti Butter Factory, run by James and John Delaney
At Ngatimoti James Delaney was operating a butter factory established on his farm, known as ‘Meadowbank”. Its exact location is unknown, but it seems feasible that it might have been at or near the site of the later creamery, being conveniently on the flat, with access to both the road and a source of water. Also, the creamery is likely to have been established at a spot already familiar to local farmers.
There seems to be some confusion over whether this butter factory was already running when James Delaney bought the land (see Cyclopedia article which says he bought the butter factory in 1878), but this seems unlikely to have been the case. Delaney is quoted in the newspaper article below as saying that 1895 was the first season he had had the factory in operation. If it was a new business, this would also tie in with having the advertorial below published to make the operation better known. The Delaneys made butter from milk obtained from their own herd of 26 dairy cows, but were happy to provide a service separating milk for other farmers on request.
1878 is much more likely to have been the date James Delaney bought his first land at Ngatimoti – Section 66, Square 3, and Sections 4,5 & 6, Block X, on Waiwhero Road (near “Paratiho”) but the “Meadowbank” site where the butter factory was probably built, appears to be the Crown Grant Section 25 originally owned by George Remnant but recorded as owned by Delaney in 1896. It seems that Delaney probably bought this land after George died on 10 November 1892, cutting out a section of about 33 acres for James Williams Wills III which included the old Remnant house.
Ngatimoti Butter Factory
(Details the operating system)
Colonist, 11 February, 1895
James Delaney’s second son, John, was his partner in the butter factory operation, but died young, at the age of 28, on October 6, 1899. It seems that James Delaney may have transferred ownership of the butter factory to his son (or perhaps just lost heart in the enterprise after his son’s death) as the plant appears in John Delaney’s estate sale held November 1899 (see below).
“Meadowbank” was then sold to the Strachan brothers (ultimately owned by John Campbell (Jack) Strachan), and James Delaney retired for his final years to Wakapuaka , where he died in 1903. Waiwhero Sections 4,5, & 6 ,Blk X, were sold to James Williams Wills III at the time of the John Delaney estate sale.
1903-1908 Ngatimoti Creamery run by Rankin & Sons. of Motueka (Grocers and general store, seed and feed suppliers)
October 1902 Rankin & Sons of Motueka put forward a proposal to set up a butter factory in Ngatimoti, with the building to commence immediately so as to ready for the coming season. The site was to be close to the Black Bridge, a central point making the factory accessible to Dovedale and Orinoco dairy farmers as well as those at Ngatimoti.
Notes from Motueka
Announcement that Rankins are to build a butter factory at Ngatimoti
Colonist 30 October, 1902
Mention of Butter factory to be set up at Ngatimoti on the same site as the original one.
Messrs Rankins & Son of Motueka, are about to erect a butter factory at Ngatimoti
Summary notes, Colonist, November 7, 1902
31 October, 1902 “The largest meeting ever held in Ngatimoti” took place at the Ngatimoti Schoolroom (at that time on Waiwhero Road opposite John Guy’s home on the hill), the object being to discuss Rankins’ offer to build a proprietary factory paying suppliers a cash price per pound of butter fat, the price at the time being about 9 pence per lb. John Guy, who chaired the meeting, enthusiastically described it as “the commencement of a new era in the history of Ngatimoti”. Three sites were suggested, the main requirements being that it should be in the proximity of Black Bridge and have an adequate water supply. All voted in favour of the proposal apart from Mr R. White (Alexander White’s nephew Robert White, perhaps?) who thought it should be a co-operative venture, but he couldn’t find a seconder and was promptly squashed by the others. Milk from nearly 200 cows was promised with the prospect of a good increase.
Colonist, 3 November, 1902: Ngatimoti meeting
Rankins eventually bought ½ acre of land from John (Jack) Strachan (originally part of James Delaney’s property) and decided to put up a creamery rather than a butter factory, i.e. the cream was separated out from milk brought in by local farmers and taken into Rankins’ Butter Factory in Motueka two or three times a week to be processed into butter there, rather than being made into butter on the spot. It appears to have been operating more as what was known as a “skimming station” - these were simple buildings with scales, measuring and storage tanks, and mechanical separators powered by steam engines or water turbines. The resulting skim milk went back with the farmer to be used for feeding stock at home. Despite this, Rankin's creamery does appear to have been known locally as both the Ngatimoti creamery and the Ngatimoti butter factory.
Site: Google map reference 929 Waiwhero Road, Ngatimoti, Tasman.
Andrew Miller, builder and contractor of Motueka (and later a Motueka Borough Councillor), was contracted in November, 1902 to build it. Jeanie Strachan, (widow of Benjamin Strachan of Orinoco) wrote in a letter dated 2 January, 1903, “A factory is getting built at Jack Strachan’s gate”. This was nearly opposite the apple packing shed built later on the other side of Waiwhero Road, both being at the foot of Church Hill.
When the creamery was built, the nearby stream was diverted and the water piped in from James (Jim) Will’s paddock, "where the cattle grazed". This paddock was part of the farm on Section 25, which belonged originally to George Remnant and was sold to James Delaney minus a small block subdivided out for Jim Wills. Jim Wills also bought Sections 4, 5, and 6 Blk X (Waiwhero Road near “Paratiho”) which had been transferred by James Delaney to his son John mid-1898 and were put up for sale in 1899 as part of the John Delaney estate sale.
The creamery itself was a two-storeyed building with a concrete vat adjacent, and the manager lived upstairs.
1903 (January) Rankins announce production now underway at Ngatimoti butter factory
Colonist, 7 January, 1903.
According to local Ken Strachan, the creamery was well patronised by farmers from Ngatimoti and surrounding areas, with individual farmers bringing in their milk to be processed on a regular basis, however Rankin & Sons’ Motueka Butter Factory was destroyed by fire on 4 January, 1905, along with Thorp’s canning works which was in the same building.
5 January 1905 Rankins’ Butter Factory Burned
The Burton Butter Factory in Motueka (leased by Rankin & Son from F.W. Thorp) burned down, Rankins were not insured.
NZ Herald, 6 January, 1905
It’s not clear whether the Ngatimoti creamery ceased to operate after the loss of Rankins’ butter factory in town or not but the creamery itself is mentioned in a couple of newspaper reports in 1906.
Poll for Motueka Harbour Board members
Votes can be made at Rankin & Sons' butter factory at Ngatimoti
Colonist, 31 January, 1906
1908 Ngatimoti creamery plant sold
Rankins sold the plant belonging to the Ngatimoti creamery to the Golden Bay Dairy Company, to replace the plant lost after their Long Plain creamery burned down on 27 January, 1908.
A Creamery Destroyed, Takaka.
Colonist, 28 January, 1908.
The ½ acre Ngatimoti creamery site site was put up for sale by Rankins around October that year.
October 1908 Land at site of former Ngatimoti Butter Factory for sale by J.W. Rankin & Co. (Plant had already been on-sold to the Golden Bay Dairy Company.)
Alternative tenders for Ngatimoti Creamery - buildings and ½ acre of freehold land
Nelson Evening Mail, 20 October, 1908
It appears that Rankins had trouble selling the property and at this point converted the building into a two-storeyed house and leased out the property. (Originally the building comprised the creamery on bottom floor and manager’s quarters above). After William Ham Snr started work for Rankins delivering goods by van around the Ngatimoti district, this house and ½ acre section were either leased to the Ham family, or they were given use of the property, perhaps partly in lieu of wages.
The Hams achieved fame locally for the unfortunate reason that the oldest son, William Arthur Ham, was the first soldier serving with the NZ Expeditionary Force to be killed in combat during WWI. He died on 5 February 1915 after being wounded in action during the Battle of the Suez Canal, and is commemorated at the nearby Ngatimoti War Memorial.
Around 1926 the top storey of the house was removed and converted to single storey home and the house developed by Edward James (Ted) Haycock (m. Ivy Pearl Burrow, sister of Ted Burrow who died 1918, WWI) for his son Howard (Bill) and wife Muriel. The Haycocks had the farm next door to “Meadowbank” on the western side and perhaps bought this ½ acre block and house for their son. Jack Harris the postmaster, lived there for many years, followed by Peter and Gwen Dodgshun, then the Glaser family (flooded during this time when the Orinoco River rose), before being sold to Rex and Margie Biggs who have now (2016) moved to Dunedin.
Cyclopedia New Zealand (1906) Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts: Ngatimoti
Whelan, Helen. Ngatimoti is in the News: Dairying. (Unpublished ms.)
History of Dairying and Dairy products in NZ : The creamery system