This is a photograph of a seed and fertiliser drill made by the large Australian firm, Clyde Engineering Co. Ltd at Granville, a Sydney suburb, which made agricultural machinery, engineering equipment and railway rolling stock during the first half of the twentieth century.
Seed and fertiliser drills combined the two farming activities of planting the seed and fertilising it. By doing these jobs simultaneously, time and effort was saved by the farmer.
Seed-drills were a mechanized way to uniformly sow a field. Previously, the common method of seeding was broadcasting. Broadcasting involved throwing, by hand or machine, seed in the air and having them fall onto the fields. The disadvantages for this process were that the seed fell unevenly and on top of the soil (open to birds and the elements). Seed drills allowed uniformity in depth and distribution of the seeds. Predecessors to the modern seed drill were first patented in 1701 in England and 1799 in America but the seed drill was not heavily used in Australia until the 1890s with widespread acceptance waiting until 1910. Australian farmers considered drilling to be slower than broadcasting and using horses required more work.
In this machine, the fertiliser is distributed (or spread) at the same time the seeds are dropped onto the fields. This process was used particularly with corn (maize) since the result was more likely to be an excellent crop. When being used with a seed drill, care needed to be taken in the type of fertiliser used since some were too strong for the fragile seeds and young roots. In most of Australia, superphosphate was applied since most Australian soils are deficient in sulphur and phosphorus.
This photograph of a seed and fertiliser drill was printed from a large series of Works photographs in the collection, “The Clyde Photograph Collection.”
Sidney Wilkinson-Flicker, Curatorial Intern (Supervisor: Margaret Simpson), November 2010
Almost all of the glass plate negatives in the Clyde photograph collection were taken at the Clyde works in Granville, and depict both the workers and the machinery they manufactured. Subjects covered include: railway locomotives and rolling stock; agricultural equipment; large engineering projects funded by Australian State and Federal governments; airplane maintenance and construction and Clyde's contribution to the first and second World Wars. Some photographs date back to the 1880s but most were taken between 1898 and 1945.
The origins of the collection can be dated back to 1855 when William Henry Hudson set up the firm of Hudson Brothers in a small shop in Redfern, Sydney. Initially the company specialised in woodworking and the first major contracts undertaken by the Hudson Brothers included woodwork for the 'Great Hall' at Sydney University and building the Sydney 'Garden Palace' in 1879.
In 1876 Hudson Brothers won a lucrative contract to build rolling stock for the New South Wales government and as a result the business began to move toward metal-work rather than wood-work. The business was a success and twenty five years later had expanded to such a degree that a new work shop was needed to accommodate staff and equipment. In 1881 Hudson Brothers moved onto two hundred acres of land at Granville in the Western suburbs of Sydney and the new factory opened two years later in July 1883.
Unfortunately the recession of the 1890s hit Hudson Brothers hard and by 1898 it was forced into receivership. It was then that the newly formed Clyde Engineering Company took over the Hudson Brothers, although William Hudson continued to remain a board member and motivating force behind Clyde Engineering. Given the new company arose out of the old Hudson Brothers it is not surprising to find Clyde Engineering adopted a phoenix as its logo. The choice was apt for the new company did rise out of the ashes of the old and by 1950 Clyde Engineering had become the largest engineering enterprise in New South Wales.
In 1901, soon after it had become Clyde Engineering Ltd., the company began making carriages for the Federal Government and in 1903 began making them for the West Australian Government as well. In 1905 Clyde won a major contract with the New South Wales State Government to make railway locomotives.
Clyde Engineering was a large operation and took on contract work for major state government projects, mainly in New South Wales. These included prefabricated steel work for the Hawkesbury Bridge and the northern approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In 1932 the company also built and supplied steel work for the Clarence River Bridge at Grafton and the Manning River Bridge at Taree.
Clyde Engineering made agricultural equipment for many parts of New South Wales, continuing the work of Hudson Brothers who began to manufacture windmills and ploughs made to their own unique designs in 1884.
During the Second World War it was an integral part of 'Workshop Australia'. In this period Clyde Engineering took on a new field, the repair of Hudson and Wirraway aircraft. In addition it provided munitions; 25-pounder field gun parts; locomotives and rolling stock to the war effort.
This collection of photographs is an archive of national significance due to its unique relationship to the industrial technology, engineering and commerce of New South Wales. In Australia few collections of this nature have survived to the present day especially ones which cover one company's activities from the 1880s through to the 1950s in such depth.
The photographs are also significant in their illustration of the important contribution made by Clyde Engineering to the social fabric of New South Wales. By 1923 Clyde had 2,200 employees working round the clock on eight hour shifts. Some of these lived in houses specially built by the company in Granville and the works had its own fire brigade, ambulance service, gun club and was home to Australia's first soccer club.
Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator, Total Asset Management Project, February, 2008
Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, Steam Locomotives Built by the Clyde Engineering Co. Pty. Ltd., Granville, Australia, Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales, date unknown
Culpin, C., “Farm Machinery”, Crosby Lockwood & Son, London, 1947, p. 185-201.
Murray, J., Phoenix to the World; the Story of Clyde Industries and Sir Raymond Purves, CBE, Playright Publishing Pty Ltd., 1992
Simpson, Margaret and Phillip, “Old Farm Machinery in Australia: A Fieldguide & Sourcebook”, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1991, p. 42-47, 49-51
The Clyde Engineering Company Limited, Visit to Clyde Works of the delegates of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire, 21 September 1909, Cumberland Argus Printing Works, 1909?