Dispatch Foundry

36 Lord Street, Greymouth

  • Dispatch Foundry.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie McLovell-Smith.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1695 Date Entered 28th June 1990


City/District Council

Grey District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Lots 5-7 DP 22 ,Pt Sec 203A Secs 203B-E Lot 1 DP 488


The Dispatch Foundry in Greymouth consists of a collection of buildings, the earliest of which dates from 1907. The company for which they were built, the Dispatch Foundry & Co. Ltd, was established in 1873 by John Sewell and A.B. Hughes. Sewell, a Scottish engineer, arrived in Greymouth in 1869, when he delivered the tug 'Dispatch' from Britain for a local company. He established a small engineering business in his backyard and in 1873 was joined by Hughes, a pattern maker and friend from Scotland. The two established an iron and brass foundry in Greymouth, on land provided by William Rae, a local timber merchant. They advertised themselves as 'Engineers, Mill Wrights, Iron and Brass Founders' who could do 'Smiths' Work and Castings of all descriptions, Horse Powers, Chaff Cutters, Steam Engines, Turbines, Water-power Engines, Quartz-crushers, Crab-winches made and repaired. Turbine and Fluming Piping in wrought or cast iron of any size'. Hughes withdrew from the firm shortly after its establishment and Sewell and Rae became partners. The Reefton boom in quartz mining meant the foundry prospered, and in order to gain the capital needed to expand its operations the partners offered shares in the company in 1875.

The foundry was first housed in three small wooden buildings. By 1923 the works covered over an acre (approximately 0.4 hectares) of land and the works had their own railway siding from 1900. Of the buildings included in this registration the oldest still standing is the pattern store, built in 1907. This two-storey building is constructed in brick and was physically separated from the other foundry buildings in order to protect the wooden patterns stored there from the threat of fire. In recent years the exterior of this building has been roughcast, to protect the bricks. The main building was built in two stages, the first in 1910-1911, and the second, which houses the boiler shop, during 1936. Percy Hambleton, who designed the first stage of the main building in 1910, was the general manager of the Dispatch Foundry from 1906 until his death in 1953 and others of his family worked at and managed the company from 1889 until 1989.

A brick motor-shop (90 ft by 57 ft or 27m by 17m) was added to the complex in 1915 to cater for the growing car business. The paint store attached to the motor shop was replaced by a steel storeroom in 1927. Later alterations and additions to the complex include a concrete block office building, erected in 1974, which stands between the main building and the motor-shop. A reinforcing steel store was erected in 1970 and this was extended in 1984.

The Dispatch Foundry has been intimately involved with the history of the major West Coast industries since its foundation. It manufactured girders for bridges, stamper batteries, pipes and nozzles for ground sluicing, gold dredges, sawmills, log haulers, small bush locomotives, and manufactured parts for the Midland Railway Line. The firm's complex of buildings has expanded and changed with the growth of the company and now includes an entire workshop devoted to the manufacture of rotary milking platforms, reflecting the recent growth in the New Zealand dairy industry. The Dispatch Foundry has been, over the years, one of the largest private employers in Greymouth and thus played a major role in the history of the town. Its establishment freed the West Coast from having to import goods from overseas and therefore the foundry was significant for its role in the development of the mining and timber industries of the West Coast. Now known as Dispatch & Garlick Ltd, the firm is one of the oldest on the West Coast and its group of buildings is a distinctive landmark in Greymouth.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

One of the oldest firms on the West Coast, Dispatch Engineering Ltd has made a major contribution to the development of the region's gold and timber industries for over one hundred years.


The Dispatch Foundry buildings are a diverse group of functional structures which nevertheless achieve a degree of cohesion because of their consistent, straightforward lines, decoration and sympathetic proportions. The main works building in particular is an impressive structure because of its size and the boldness of its details.


Standing at the intersection of Lord and Herbert Streets opposite the Hokitika-Greymouth railway line, the Dispatch Foundry is a prominent landmark within the townscape of Greymouth.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Hambleton, W. Percy

Percy Hambleton was the general manager of the Dispatch Foundry when he designed the first stage of the main works building in 1910. Having served an apprenticeship with his father and subsequently studying in England and Scotland, Hambleton planned and supervised the construction of this building without employing the services of an architect. This building was completed with the erection of a second, very similar, bay in the mid-1930s. During his long career as general manager Hambleton was also responsible for the construction of the pattern store (1907), garage (1919) and steel store (1927) which are still extant.

The Hambleton family began their association with the Dispatch Foundry Company in 1889 when Joseph Hambleton (1844-1906), Percy's father, was appointed to manage the foundry. After working as a marine engineer Hambleton Snr settled in Greymouth with his family in 1885 and he remained with the Dispatch Company until his death in 1906 when he was succeeded by his son. Joseph's other sons, Hugh and John, also worked at the foundry and following Percy's death in 1953 the latter became General Manager. Percy's son Pat succeeded his uncle in 1957 and his retirement in 1989 brought to an end a one hundred year family association with the company.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

William Rae was born in Haddington, Scotland and served his time in Glasgow as an accountant in a merchant's office. He immigrated to Melbourne in 1852 and worked there as an accountant for four years before shifting to the Bendigo goldfields. He started a sawmilling partnership in Bendigo which proved extremely popular and when gold was discovered in Gabriel's Gully, Otago, he shifted to Dunedin and then established a timber merchant business there. Rae followed the goldrush to Hokitika and later shifted his timber business up the coast to Greymouth.


The Dispatch Iron Works was established on 5 August 1873 by John Sewell, an engineer, and A.B. Hughes, a pattern maker, who were both Scottish immigrants to New Zealand. Sewell had arrived in the country four years earlier, having made the delivery voyage of the tug 'Dispatch' for the Greymouth Harbour Board, and while he worked as the tug's engineer he also started a small engineering business at his Mount Street home which had the first engineering lathe on the West Coast. Hughes came out to New Zealand in 1873 to help put the new business on a more permanent footing and the two men established the iron works with the help of William Rae, a local timber merchant, who provided the land on which the new foundry was to be built.

Hughes withdrew from the firm shortly afterwards, however, and Sewell and Rae then became partners. As their venture prospered, helped to a large extent by the development of the quartz mining operations at Reefton, more money was needed to expand the business. Consequently the Dispatch Foundry Company Limited was formed in 1875 with a capital of ten thousand pounds. In the years that followed the company built quartz mining batteries, log haulers and dredging machinery for local firms and after John Sewell had left Greymouth Messrs James, Keegan and Murray managed the foundry before Joseph Hambleton was employed in 1889. As well as serving the local gold and timber industries the company has undertaken work for engineering projects throughout New Zealand and overseas in recent years. In 1975 it was renamed Dispatch Engineering Ltd and today the firm is Greymouth's largest private employer.

Physical Description


The Dispatch is a complex of buildings, most of which are attached to each other.

The oldest extant building on the foundry site is the fireproof pattern store which was erected in 1907. This two-storeyed building is constructed of brick and stands apart from the other foundry buildings in order to protect the wooden patterns it houses from the threat of fire. The store is four bays long, lit by large rectangular multi-paned windows and has a steep staircase in the centre of the building which provides access to the first floor. In recent years the exterior walls have been clad in roughcast cement plaster to protect the brick from weathering and the corrugated iron roof has been renewed.

The main works building is the largest on the site and was built in two stages. The older of the two bays houses the fitting, casting and moulding divisions of the works, whilst the later section is occupied by the boiler shop. Both bays have brick outer walls, an inner structure of steel and electric travelling cranes hung from tracks beneath the steel truss roofs. There are two low arched ridge ventilators. A railway siding (1900) runs into the foundry yard from Herbert Street and it enters the 1910 bay roughly half way down the building's ninety metre length. Clerestory windows light both sheds which are flanked by lean-tos, the later of which is lit by a row of large arched windows. The frames of these windows were cast at the foundry and they are a prominent feature of the main works building and of the garage. Arched windows alternate with strip pilasters on the exterior wall of the 1936 bay and on the street frontage of the building, creating a decorative effect with the functional use of a few simple elements. The principal facade is rendered with concrete as are the three forward bays of the 1936 lean-to which contain the staff lunch room. Inside the building a steam hammer and a hydraulic press are the oldest machines still in use in the foundry, having been installed in 1900 during Joseph Hambleton's term as manager.

Of the other buildings on the site, the garage has the most decorative street frontage and the most irregular plan as it stands at the intersection of Lord and Herbert Streets and to one side of the yard entrance and railway siding. The garage is built of brick with a pitched roof carried on steel trusses. The ridge has a single long ventilator. The front is plastered, has two large doors for vehicle entry which are flanked by two pairs of arched windows with keystones and, at the front, a single large square window with keystone. The garage is lit by arched windows and adjoins a steel storeroom built in 1927. The two other stores on the property were built in 1970 and 1988, the former from concrete blocks and aluminium and the latter from steel with corrugated iron.

The remaining major structure on the one hectare site is the two-storeyed office building erected in 1974 which stands between the main works building and the garage. This building houses the administrative offices and a draughting room on the first floor and a sales room on the ground floor. Built of concrete blocks to replace a wooden building of approximately the same size, the office's facade maintains the proportions of the other buildings standing on Lord Street.

There is an overall continuity in the decoration of the buildings on the main street frontages, with the use of arched windows with keystones and cast iron frames. This is broken only by the office building between the main foundry building and the garage. The effect is reminiscent of Ecclesiastical architecture as expressed in the arched windows, the clerestory windows and the lean-to effect of the factory.

It is to be noted that only the foundry building (1910 and mid-1930s), the pattern store (1907) and the garage (1919) are to be considered for classification.


1946 - Floor of main works concreted.

1968 - Main works re-roofed. Parapet of garage removed following Inangahua earthquake.

1974 - Early wooden building replaced by office block.

1976 - Electric furnace installed in main works.

1984 - Reinforcing steel store (1970) doubled in length.

1987 - Interior of store between garage and main works (1927) renewed.

1988 - Main works re-roofed.

Notable Features

The older bay of the main building houses the fitting, casting and moulding divisions of the works, while the later (1930s) bay contains the boiler shop.

The frames of the large arched windows on the main building and the garage were cast at the foundry and they are a prominent feature of the foundry's street frontage.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1907 -
Pattern store

1910 - 1911
First stage of main building

1915 -
Motor shop

1936 -
Second stage of main building

1974 -
Office block

2005 -
Roof removed by tornado.

Construction Details

Older buildings variously of brick, concrete, cast iron, steel and corrugated galvanised iron. The 1974 office building of concrete blocks and aluminium.

Completion Date

16th May 2002

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906


Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation

Research file, Hokitika

Dispatch Engineering

Dispatch Engineering Ltd, [pamphlet produced for company's centenary], Greymouth, 1973

Dispatch Foundry, 1923

The Dispatch Foundry Co Ltd, Greymouth, NZ - Its Early History, Advancement and Success During Fifty Years, Christchurch, 1923

Kay, 1960

Rupert A Kay, (ed.). Westland's Golden Century, 1860-1960: an official souvenir of Westland's centenary, Greymouth, Westland Centennial Council, 1960.

Smith, 2001

Nigel Smith, Heritage of Industry: Discovering New Zealand's Industrial History, Auckland, 2001

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.