Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum Building and Collection (Under consideration) | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum Building and Collection (Under consideration)

Item details

Name of item: Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum Building and Collection (Under consideration)
Other name/s: Thales Lithgow Facility, the Lithgow Armaments Factory, ADI Lithgow, Lithgow SAF
Type of item: Movable / Collection
Group/Collection: Manufacturing and Processing
Category: Munitions/ Explosives Manufacture
Location: Lat: -33.4914 Long: 150.1393
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT21 DP1174289

Boundary:

Approx. one quarter hectare, Methven Street, Lithgow, comprising the museum building and surrounding lanes

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Thales AustraliaPrivate 

Statement of significance:

The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum building and its moveable heritage collection is of state historical significance as a microcosm representing the entire 65 hectare factory site, which was Australia's first and primary munitions factory throughout the twentieth century. The factory was involved in all the phases of small arms manufacture in Australia and was the longest continuously operating ordnance factory in Australia. In 2013 it is still in this use although now privately owned by the multinational company Thales. The factory is also of state historical significance for its early twentieth century use of imported American Pratt & Whitney plant and personnel, and for being the first manufacturing site in Australia to introduce American techniques of high volume, precision manufacturing industry and scientific management.

The moveable heritage collection of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum is of state aesthetic significance for its technological significance as a collection of precision engineered artefacts, both armaments manufactured for the Australian military as well as products designed for the domestic market outside war times. The significance of this collection is enhanced by it being located on site, in one of the buildings of the factory where it was produced, and managed by local volunteers, many of whom are former factory workers. The collection provides evidence of high quality engineering capacity within Australia and the outcome of Australian adaptations of American and British technology throughout the twentieth century.
Date significance updated: 22 Jul 13
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Construction years: 1907-1912
Physical description: The Lithgow Small Arms Factory (also known as the Thales Lithgow Facility, the Lithgow Armaments Factory and ADI Lithgow) is located in Methven Street, Lithgow, New South Wales, 150 kilometres from Sydney in the western foothills of the Blue Mountains.

The entire site, approximately 65 hectares in area, contains a large number of single and multi-storey buildings constructed in a variety of twentieth century building styles, a firing range and water storage areas. Also associated with the site are several early twentieth century managers' houses located nearby in Commonwealth Ave and numerous workers' housing cottages in the nearby suburbs of Littleton and Bowenfels, dating onwards from the 1920s and featuring hundreds of World War II 'duration' cottages. The entire factory site is considered likely to be of state heritage significance and it was nominated for SHR listing by the National Trust. The entire site has also been described as being of 'immense importance' by the authors of the Heritage Branch commissioned study of World War I and II heritage, (Hindmarsh and Robertson, 2006, vol.1, p38).

This SHR listing initially includes only the 1962 factory building known as the 'Lithgow Small Arms Museum', which is sited on Methvan street in a curtilage approximately one quarter hectare in size. The listing also includes the Museum's moveable heritage contents which comprise a highly significant, representative array of high technology munitions artifacts and other products produced by the factory throughout its history.

SHR listing of the entire site is not being attempted in the current situation. The Australian Government sold the Lithgow Small Arms Factory out of public ownership when in 2006 it was purchased by the multinational company Thales. Thales continues to use some of the site to manufacture weapons and has expressed concerns about heritage listing considering the condition of some of the buildings, security and prospects for future economic use. Listing of the entire site is further complicated by Thales' current process of subdividing and selling off buildings from the site.

Description of Museum Building
The Museum building dating from 1962, (known as Building No. 80) was built to be an Administration Building, Gatehouse and Security Office. It has long been in use as a public museum run by volunteers, called the "Lithgow Small Arms Museum".

Building 80 is a double-storey steel-framed structure. It has brick cladding to the east and west elevations and precast pebble spandrel panels on the north and south elevations. There are steel-framed fixed and casement windows. The central foyer contains an open timber stair with square section steel balusters and a timber handrail. The building contains original light fittings. (Allom Lovell Conservation Analysis, 1999, p84)

Description of Museum Collection:

Brief outline of Lithgow SAF Museum collection as described by Kerry Guerin, secretary (by email, April 2013) and supllemented by submission by Engineers Australia Heritage Engineers' Committree, May 2013:
Weapons (registered with NSW Firearms Registry) - 2368;
Other objects, weapon related, approx 500.;
Objects, commercial production etc, approx 1000;
Original machinery [from Pratt & Whitney, c.1912) , approx 20 - a significant sample of the technology employed for high volume, precision manufacturing at the beginning of the twentieth century;
Archives, approx 200 archive boxes of documents;
Photos & negatives, approx 4000 8mm & 35mm films [eg, documenting ceremonial events] - approx 50. Illustrating changing manufacturing technologies and working conditions over 80 years;.
Blueprints [eg, industrial design] - approx. 300;
Library, approx 700 books plus a large quantity of magazine, described by the Heritage Engineers as a "comprehensive library containing technical journals and reference books relating to manufacturing, many dating from the early 20th century".

The Lithgow Small Arms Factory 'reference library' collection of small arms was the original basis for the museum collection and contains prototypes, samples and production examples of almost every weapon made at the Lithgow Factory. Also included are examples of rifles, sub-machine guns and machine guns manufactured over the same period by other nations (used by the factory for appraisal purposes), and many historical and experimental weapons not seen outside of Lithgow. (LIthgow Small Arms Factory Museum, 2013)

The original gift from the SAF numbered some 800 military rifles and machine guns and around 50 commercial rifles. The collection grew by a further 1200 handguns and around 80 long arms donated by a private collector from Queensland. Various other donations and acquisitions have brought the number of weapons to 2368. (LIthgow Small Arms Factory Museum, 2013)

There are also non-firearm artefacts that the museum inherited from the SAF - the commercial items made there that ensured the economic survival of the factory between the periods of major conflict. This diverse collection of items made at the factory ranges from spanners and other hand tools through to state-of-the-art componentry used in the assembly of surface to air missiles. It includes examples of sewing machines, hand cuffs, medical tools and prostheses, Mixmasters, movie projector parts, combs and cutters for sheep shearing handsets, golf club heads and many other commercial orders. The collection also contains diverse examples of machinery, production techniques and tooling. (LIthgow Small Arms Factory Museum, 2013)

The archives offer an almost complete record of the Lithgow SAF from its inception, tracing the rich history of industrial manufacturing and working conditions throughout the twentieth century. Included are documentation and data on their extensive weapons collection, documentation on the manufacturing processes and general history of the factory. (LIthgow Small Arms Factory Museum, 2013)

The large photographic collection includes both internal and external views of the factory dating from 1905, personnel previously employed by the factory, weapons and other material manufactured by the factory and photos depicting the general history of the local Lithgow area. The book, pamphlet and periodical collection may be roughly divided into two sections, general manufacturing including machine tools and firearms. (LIthgow Small Arms Factory Museum, 2013)

Description of the entire site
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory site is laid out on an internal system of roads, kerbs and pathways, including native and exotic tree specimens and grassed nature strips. Also located on the site is a cooling pond or reservoir, and further away is a proving range beside which is an off-form concrete air-raid shelter. The production buildings are typically one, two or three storeys high with production or administration facilities on each floor. The majority of the buildings on the site date from before 1950. (Freeman, 2012)

Many of the production and support buildings are now unused and devoid of their equipment. Unlike the buildings designed for the specific production of explosives, none of the buildings exhibit features exclusive to the production of weapons, i.e. they are generally large shelters which can, and have, accommodated a variety of engineering and manufacturing processes, demonstrated by the range of items produced over the production years at the factory. (Freeman, 2012)

The machinery at Lithgow includes items which are typically used for heat treatment of metals and precision engineering. Several of the original Pratt & Whitney and other original or early machines still survive although they are no longer used for production. In addition, a number of machines which are still located on the shop floor, but which are not in regular use, are those which were used during World War II. Some which bore the signs 'War Finish' were still there in 1992 but appear to have since been disposed of. (Freeman, 2012)

Description of managers' cottages on Commonwealth Avenue
Located outside the present Thales Lithgow property boundary on the hillside overlooking the works, are at three houses in the early twentieth century built for senior staff. These Federatoin-styled residences are historically associated with the complex. (Freeman, 2012)

Description of workers housing in the Lithgow locality
The construction of the factory was attended by the construction of workers housing to accommodate factory workers. 1162 new house-blocks were created between the initial planning of the factory in 1909 and its first year of full production in 1913. This housing was located in: the "Extension Estate" between Hassans Walls Road and Calero Street, in Factory Street and Ordnance Street, in the Cooerwull estate comprising Enfield Street, Bayonet Street, Rifle Parade and Martini Parade.

Another expansion of housing for workers took place during World War II when several hundred fibro cottages were constructed. Although a large proportion were built as "duration" housing and designed to be dismantled or demolished at the end of the war, many of these workers' cottages are still standing and intact. [expand]
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The Museum building is in good condition.

The factory site buildings overall are in fair good condition.
Date condition updated:15 Jul 13
Modifications and dates: There were four mainperiods of building construction:
Building Period: 1912-1920
The oldest buildings on the site are three brick buildings, which remain from the original 1912 complex. These are Buildings 42, 44 and 60, as well as the remains of the bridge adjacent to Building 42. The second storey addition to building 44 dates from c1914. (Freeman, 2012)

Building Period: 1921-1938
There are two other buildings on the site, which date from the inter-War period. These buildings are the former General Machine Shop (Building 72), a single height brick building with a double height central section, which dates from 1924. Building 52, known as the ‘Vickers’ Building, is a long, three storey, steel-framed brick clad buildings with steel-framed windows, corrugated iron roofs and timber floors, built in two stages (1924 and 1933). (Freeman, 2012)

Building Period: 1939-1945
The most substantial buildings on the site are those which date from the World War 2 period, 1939-1945. The Rifle Production Building (Building No. 65) is designed in the ‘Moderne’ architectural style. Located near the factory entrance and across the main access road, it is a local landmark and the effective public face of the factory. Located behind is the Administration Building (Building No. 62), a simple three storey ‘Moderne’ brick building with a central projecting bay containing the entrance. The Production General Building, originally known as the ‘Bren’ Building (Building No. 71) is a single storey brick building, with double-storey pavilions at either end, also located near the factory entrance. Contemporary with these buildings are a number of smaller support buildings including the brick Die Shop (Building 57), the brick Indoor Range & Assembly Building (Building 26) and the brick Casualty Building (Building No. 58). Also dating from this period are several corrugated iron buildings; the Boiler House (Building 48), the Forge (Building 56), two stores (Buildings 22 and 23) and the Garage (Building 30). (Freeman, 2012)

Building Period: Post World War 2
Post World War 2 buildings include the Laundry and Oil Store (Building No. 42), the Air-Conditioning plant (Building No. 67), a corrugated iron Bulk Store (Building No. 27) and a corrugated iron and brick Bulk Store (Building No. 75), Cut Off Shop and Laboratory (Building No. 35-36), Heat Treatment Building (Building No. 49), Metal Finishing Shop (Building no. 50), the front Administration Building (now the Museum and Gatehouse; Building No. 80) and the Canteen (Building No. 74). (Freeman, 2012)
Current use: Museum
Former use: Munitions factory administration building and gatehouse

History

Historical notes: Aboriginal land
The Lithgow City Council local government area lies almost wholly within the Wiradjuri Aboriginal nation, with the Gundungurra nation situated to the south and the Darug nation to the east (Lithgow Council webpage, 2013). Aboriginal occupation of the Blue Mountains area dates back at least 12,000 years and appears to have intensified some 3000-4000 years ago. European settlement in this region after the first documented white expedition west of the Blue Mountains in 1813 was tentative, largely because of concerns about resistance from Aboriginal people. There was contact, evidenced by sporadic hostility and by the quantity of surviving artefacts manufactured by the Aborigines from European glass. By 1840 there was widespread dislocation of Aboriginal culture, aggravated after 1850 by the goldrush to the region (HO and DUAP, 1996, 88).

The Small Arms Factory
The quest for a site for a national capital city in the early 1900s was initially linked with finding a site for the national armaments factory. That Sydney or Melbourne could be invaded during a war was a remote but not inconceivable possibility. A capital west of the Blue Mountains would be less vulnerable. A strong claim to be the site of both the capital and the national armaments plant was made by Bathurst and Lithgow through the Western Federal Capital League. When Canberra was chosen as the site for the new capital, locating the central arsenal there was discussed but not enacted (Freeman, 2012).

Meanwhile William Sandford, the owner of the Eskbank Ironworks in Lithgow, made an offer to the federal government to provide land for lease, cheap coal, a railway siding and steel suitable for the manufacture of rifles. After considerable investigation by the Department of Defence, in 1908 Lithgow was chosen as the site to manufacture small arms in NSW. Already an industrial hub, the availability of coal and steel, an existing rail link to Sydney, the protection afforded by its location in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, and active lobbying by the Lithgow Progress Association all contributed to the final decision (SAF Museum, 2012)

Commonwealth Defense staff and Lord Kitchener visited Lithgow in January 1908 and in February 1908 the present site was chosen and 48 hectares of land were purchased from J.L. Brown. The buildings were expected to cover nearly 4 hectares when completed. Site planning and construction took place from September 1909, when Joseph Cook, the local member, became Federal Minister for Defense. The Small Arms Factory at Lithgow was given high priority for rapid completion. The contract with Jones and Allman to build the plant was approved on 20 January 1910 and the first main building (Building 60) was completed in 1911 (Freeman, 2012).

At the same tenders were called world-wide for the supply of a complete plant to manufacture the .303-inch Rifle SMLE No.1 Mk.III at the rate of 250 per week. Four serious tenders were received: three by British companies Birmingham Small Arms Coy, Archdale & Company and Greenwood & Bately, and one from American firm Pratt & Whitney. The British engineering industry was shocked when the Australian Government announced its decision to accept the tender from Pratt & Whitney Co., of Hartford, Connecticut, USA (SAF Museum, 2012).

This company undertook to provide plant to manufacture 15,000 rifles per annum at low production costs, provide all equipment including tools, gauges, jigs and fixtures and guarantee “repetition manufacture” far in advance of the British system. The contract included 325 machines and three full sets of gauges – 6,370 gauges altogether (SAF Museum, 2012).

In December 1909 F.R. Ratcliffe of Pratt and Whitney from Hertford, Connecticut, arrived in Australia to assist in the planning of the factory. Also in 1909 six Australians were sent to Pratt & Whitney's works in Connecticut to train in gun-shop methods and practices. The Pratt and Whitney machinery for the factory imported from America was installed in 1911. The first manager of the Small Arms Factory, A.C. Wright, was an American sent out by Pratt and Whitney (Freeman, 2012).

The completion of the Maribyrnong Cordite Factory1907-1912 paralleled the completion of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow 1908-1912. These two Commonwealth-owned factories, in conjunction with the Colonial Ammunition Company's factory at Footscray, would ensure an independent national supply of arms and ammunition for Australian defense forces throughout the twentieth century (Freeman, 2012).

The Small Arms Factory was officially opened on 8 June, 1912. At that time it took 72 man-hours at Enfield and 46 man-hours at Birmingham to build a rifle, Pratt & Whitney had contracted to do it in 28 hours but the time taken under actual demonstration was 22½ hours. The No.1 Mk.III SMLE rifle comprised 148 parts, with 1,845 operations on the rifle, 146 on the bayonet and 81 on the scabbard. A total of 113 operations were required on the barrel with a production time of 450 minutes (SAF Museum, 2012). ‘Lithgow was one of the most technically advanced workplaces in Australia when it opened’ (Robertson & Hindmarsh, Vol.1, p119 and Vol.2, p96).

The factory had hardly commenced production before it became apparent that a war with Germany was imminent. A number of sections were re-arranged and production was increased (SAF Museum, 2012). The number of workers employed in the Lithgow factory grew rapidly, from 25 in March 1912 to 300 in August 1913. The factory produced its first rifle in January 1912, made its first sale in October 1912 and completed its first batch of 40 rifles in May 1913. By December 1913, 1,500 rifles with bayonets had been manufactured. The factory soon became a tourist attraction in the Blue Mountains (Freeman, 2012). Close to a hundred thousand rifles were produced between 1913 and 1918 (SAF Museum, 2012).

Many of the materials required by the factory were supplied from other industries in Lithgow. Steel required for the production of guns, for example, was in part supplied by the Hoskins Brothers. Electrical power was initially generated on the site but was later obtained from the NSW Railways' Power Plant (Lithgow Council webpage history, 2013).

Housing to accommodate the workers employed at the factory was needed and it was critically needed in wartime when production output expanded dramatically. After J L Brown sold his land for the factory site in 1909, he proceeded to subdivide some adjacent land he owned. His ‘Extension Estate’ was advertised in two stages. In 1908 163 lots out of 237 were sold between Hassans Walls Road and Calero Street. In 1910 a further 431 building lots were offered, extending as far as Factory Street and creating Ordnance Street. The final stage of Small Arms Factory-related subdivision before World War I came in 1913 when the Cooerwull estate was offered for sale, adjacent to the 1910 area - another 494 lots. This last sale created Enfield Street, Bayonet Street, Rifle Parade and Martini Parade. In the vicinity of the Small Arms Factory, at least 1,162 new house-blocks were created between the initial planning of the factory in 1909 and its first year of full production in 1913 (Freeman, 2012).

Accountant and chief clerk John Jensen from the Department of Defense was responsible for organising the factories and from 1914 he pioneered the introduction of scientific management manufacturing techniques or ‘Taylorism’. In 1913 a residence for John Jensen was constructed nearby in Commonwealth Avenue, the first of several homes for factory managers to be built there. In 1918 Jensen visited Britain to learn about the ways in which munitions had been mobilised for World War I (Freeman, 2012).

When peace returned after World War I the demand for munitions naturally declined. This led to serious concerns regarding the factory’s future. Despite complaints from the private sector the factory undertook commercial work including combs and cutters for sheep shearing handpieces, movie projector parts, hand-cuffs, and a wide variety of machine parts and machine tools.
Production of the Mk.1 Vickers Machine Gun commenced in the late 1920s with the first deliveries of spare parts in 1929/30. The Mk V Vickers Aircraft gun in both left and right hand feed (from 1932), and the Mk XXI Vickers Tank gun (from 1940) were built at Lithgow during World War II (SAF Museum, 2012).

During 1937, personnel were sent to England to study the methods employed for the manufacture of the .303-inch Bren Gun. Production on these commenced at SAF in 1939 at the rate of 500 units per annum. This was increased to 2,000 upon the urgency that developed in England with the outbreak of war against Germany. Production was ultimately increased to 150 guns per week during 1942. In producing a Bren 3341 operations were required, the body alone needing 280 starting from a 50 lb forging that was reduced to 5 lb when completed (SAF Museum, 2012).

At the outbreak of World War II all manufacture of small arms was concentrated at Lithgow but this was to change dramatically. Following the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 the United Kingdom requested that Australia urgently supply as many .303 inch SMLE rifles as could be spared. Some 30,000 weapons were sent, severely reducing the capacity of our own Army.
Rifle production was expanded by erecting additional factories. Ten “feeder factories”, all within 150 miles radius of Lithgow, were built between 1941 and 1943 at Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Mudgee, Young, Wellington, Dubbo, Parkes, Forbes and Portland. The Wood Room was relocated to Slazenger (Aust) Pty. Ltd in Sydney and all rifle furniture was supplied from there.
During 1943, at the peak period of production there were almost 6,000 people employed at the Lithgow factory, including 2000 women, and a further 6,000 at the feeder factories, with a weekly production of 4,000 rifles, 150 Bren guns and 70 Vickers guns, plus spare parts (SAF Museum, 2012).

Much of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory’s plant and equipment was renewed in the early years of World War II. In April 1940, John Grant & Sons Pty Ltd was awarded a contract to extend the tool rooms and machine shop for £51,861. (Robertson & Hindmarsh, 2006, Vol.1, p121). There was also the construction of Building 7 for Bren Gun production, and a new Tool Room (Building 65), Boiler House (Building 48) and new Heat Treatment building (Building 45). The new forge and die sinking shop was reputedly the largest in the southern hemisphere (Lithgow Council webpage history, 2013). New shooting ranges were established. By 1942 a manager’s house and a third staff house had been erected adjacent to the accountant's residence in Commonwealth Avenue. (Freeman, 2012)

A parallel expansion of housing for workers took place during World War II when several hundred fibro cottages were constructed. Although a large proportion were built as ‘duration’ housing and designed to be dismantled or demolished at the end of the war, many of these workers’ cottages are still standing and intact. Largely constructed by the NSW Housing Commission as the constructing authority for the Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust, the temporary homes consisted of two or three bedroom units with a standard layout, elevations and construction, where standardisation worked to conserve labour and materials. Rafters, collar ties and supports were replaced by pre-fabricated lightly framed roof trusses using 4’ x 1’ and 3’ x 1’ timbers. All walls, inside and out, were of fibro cement. (Robertson & Hindmarsh, 2006, Vol.1, p118)

Also during World War II, anti-aircraft guns and personnel were placed at Lithgow to protect the Small Arms Factory, and thus Australia's munitions industry, from attack by air or by land. In 1941 the Lewis machine guns were placed on the flat concrete roof of the main Small Arms Factory building (still surviving but with the addition of a pitched roof) while the anti-aircraft guns were sited at Bowenfels in the grounds of the old Presbyterian manse in Kirkley Street. This defensive activity continued around the Small Arms Factory and its ammunition stores until January 1944. (Freeman, 2012)

World War II ended in 1945, and by 1946 all of the “feeder factories” were closed and all machinery and equipment returned to Lithgow (SAF Museum, 2012).

Total production of .303-inch SMLE rifles from 1913 to 1945 was around 640,000 of which 415,000 were manufactured after 1939. A further 1,000 rifles were manufactured in 1956 as samples for an unsuccessful export drive. The total production was small compared to Britain and America but it was a mammoth task for a country with a population of only 6 million.
At the conclusion of World War II, the Factory tooled up to manufacture a range of bolt action .22-inch calibre single shot and repeater sporting rifles for Slazenger. Slazenger was already a major customer with the Factory supplying golf club heads to them since the 1930s (SAF Museum, 2012).

In 1954 the Australian, British and Canadian Governments adopted the Belgian 7.62mm FN-FAL after the introduction of the 7.62 x 51mm NATO cartridge. The Factory entered into a manufacturing agreement with the Fabrique Nationale d’ Armes de Guerre of Belgium to produce the rifle at Lithgow (SAF Museum, 2012).

The factory was completely re-organised, new buildings erected, new machine tools procured, and new working methods introduced for the production of the L1A1 (Australia’s version of the FAL rifle). The first rifles were delivered to the Armed Services in 1959. The Lithgow L1A1 was also sold to various other countries. When production ceased in the mid 1980s, 230,000 units had been issued (SAF Museum, 2012).

After the Korean War the Australian Army began looking for a replacement for the ageing Owen Gun. Experimentation through various models led to the the F1 Sub-machine Carbine. Full scale production began at Lithgow in 1962, and by 1973 approximately 25,000 had been manufactured (SAF Museum, 2012).

Following extensive trials during the mid 1980s, the Defence Department adopted the Austrian designed 5.56mm Steyr AUG Infantry Weapon and the Belgian designed 5.56mm Minimi Light Support Weapon. These were produced in Australia from 1987 as the 5.56mm Austeyr F88 and 5.56mm Minimi F89. Both weapons are still manufactured at the Lithgow factory incorporating Australian modifications (SAF Museum, 2012).

Due to the boom or bust nature of a weapons manufacturing facility the factory’s hundred year history has been unsettled. It has gone from being fully government owned, to being corporatised in 1989 under the control of Australian Defence Industries Pty Ltd, to now being fully owned by the Australian subsidiary of the French- based multinational Thales Group.

Many people feel the factory’s story ended when it passed from Government hands, however, the fact remains that despite the massive changes, Australian soldier’s weapons are still being made on the same site one hundred years on (SAF Museum, 2012).

A museum showcasing the manufactured output of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory has been run by volunteers since 1996 (officially opened 1998) in the Administration / Gatehouse building facing onto Methven Street (Building 80, constructed 1962). Based on the factory’s own historic ‘reference library’ of items collected throughout its history its collection is focused on small arms and other objects manufactured by the factory on-site, but also includes international examples of small arms collected by factory management throughout the twentieth century for reference purposes. (Freeman, 2012)

Comparisons
Maribyrnong Small Arms & Ammunition Factory was a site comparable to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. However Maribyrnong was redeveloped in the late 1990s, being replaced by the Edgewater housing estate in 2001. Lithgow is the only remaining small arms factory in Australia. The Lithgow Small Arms Factory site in general makes extensive use of brickwork construction in response to the local cold climate conditions, which is unusual in comparison with other munitions sites in Australia. These factors combine to give the factory complex as a whole a more substantial appearance than elsewhere, and a number of the buildings are local Lithgow landmarks.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Manufacturing defence materials-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies of industrial manufacturing-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Housing industrial workers-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in factories-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Making and supplying ordinance-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in factory accommodation-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum building and its moveable heritage collection is of state historical significance as a microcosm representing the entire 65 hectare factory site, which was Australia's first and primary munitions factory throughout the twentieth century. It was involved in all the phases of small arms manufacture in Australia and was the longest continuously operating ordnance factory in Australia (and in 2013 is still in this use although now privately owned).
The factory is also of state historical significance for its early twentieth century use of imported American Pratt & Whitney plant and personnel, and for being the first manufacturing site in Australia to introducing American techniques of high volume, precision manufacturing industry and scientific management.
At a local level, the factory has been a major influence in the development of Lithgow, and was at the forefront of the promotion of Lithgow as a major regional industrial centre of New South Wales. The buildings provide a visual link to the past when Lithgow was a booming industrial centre and the Small Arms Factory employed in excess of 6,000 workers.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory is of state significance for its association with the American firm Pratt & Whitney, which supplied the original manufacturing equipment and know-how for the plant from 1910, thus introducing American techniques of high volume, precision manufacturing industry and scientific management to Australia. It is also significant for its association with Sir John Jensen, Chief Clerk in the Department of Defence from 1914, under whom Australia's Defence industries were administered in varying capacities until 1948.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The former Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum collection is of state significance for its record of high achievement in precision engineering and technological excellence. The factory's output in armaments throughout the twentieth century included .303' rifle, the Vickers and Bren Guns, and, in the post-World War II period, the 7.62mm L1A1 rifle and more recently the F-88 Steyr and F-89 Minimi machine guns. The factory equipment is also technologically significant at least because the original plant was imported from the United States in 1910 but was reconfigured to manufacture to Australian conditions. This original plant equipment is largely intact, although stored elsewhere on the factory site, outside the museum building. This original plant equipment is owned by the museum and included in the SHR listing.
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum building is also of state aesthetic significance as a microcosm of the broader industrial landscape of the factory comprising the grid of roads, industrial buildings, related machinery, administration and storage buildings, cooling reservoir and firing range. Although many of these structures are utilitarian and vernacular with slight architectural distinction in their own right, they collectively present an important twentieth century industrial landscape, which is further enhanced by the surviving evidence nearby of several manager's homes and many hundreds of worker's homes constructed throughout the twentieth century to house factory employees. Some structures at the facility, notably buildings 52 and 65, are local landmarks and are readily visible around the city of Lithgow.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory and its Museum are of local significance to the people of Lithgow, since the site was a dominant feature in the lives of many people who lived in Lithgow because of the number of people it has employed over the years and the position it occupies in Lithgow’s industrial culture. The Small Arms Factory contributes to the identity of the Lithgow community and was closely associated with local festivals, as well as being integral to the promotion of Lithgow as a major industrial centre. The museum and its collection are run and largely curated by local volunteers, some of whom are former factory workers with a strong attachment to the site and collection.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum collection is of state significance for its research potential in conserving and displaying a broad variety of the artefacts, both armaments and industrial objects designed for the domestic market (such as sheep shears, aeroplane airframes, golfing irons and movie projectors), which were produced on-site by the factory throughout the twentieth century. The collection provides evidence of a high precision engineering capacity within Australia and the outcome of Australian adaptations of American and British technology.
The comprehensive library held by the museum—with its technical journals and reference books relating to manufacturing, many dating from the early 20th century, its archives and photographic collection which illustrates changing manufacturing technologies and working conditions over 80 years—has research potential to show changes in manufacturing industry throughout the twentieth century including aspects of working methods, labour organisation, health and safety, management techniques and skills training. The archival material is accessible to researchers.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum and collection is of state significance for its rarity as a collection of high precision armaments, both Australian-manufactured on site and examples collected from overseas. The rarity significance of the locally manufactured items is enhanced by their being conserved and displayed on the site where they are produced. The original plant equipment imported from America in 1909 is unique in Australia. The records of the materials handling system and the very early application of computers to manufacturing are uncommon. With the recent demolition of the Maribyrnong Small Arms Factory, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory is rare as the only surviving armaments industrial site in Australia.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum building is of state significance as an industrial building and moveable heritage collection which represents the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, Australia's first and primary munitions factory. The spatial arrangement of the central buildings of the factory is typical of many industrial sites of the early twentieth century. Expansion of the site is also clearly visible in this arrangement through changes in architecture and building use over time. The core buildings, specifically those lying within the rectangular area formed by Building 41, 42, 44, 45, 52 and 65, contribute to an understanding of the facility over its working life.
The Lithgow facility is also of state significance as the primary hub for the various “annex” armaments factories established throughout regional NSW (in Cowra, Dubbo, Parkes, Portland, Bathurst and Orange at least) during World War II as part of the unprecedented wartime industrial effort.
The moveable heritage collection of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum is of state significance as a representative array of the high technology armaments manufactured for the Australian military as well as other products produced for the domestic market by the factory throughout its history. The significance of this collection is enhanced by it being located on site, in one of the buildings of the factory where it was produced, and run and largely curated by local volunteers, many of whom are former factory workers.
Integrity/Intactness: Very good
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementADI Lithgow, Conservation Management Plan (Peter Freeman Pty Ltd Conservation Architects & Planners, August 2001) Jun 5 2002

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - Nomination DeferredHC directs listing of entire site 21 Sep 06   
Local Environmental PlanSmall arms factory313   
Potential Heritage Item  17 Aug 01   
Royal Australian Institute of Architects register  12 Mar 07   
Register of the National Estate 10056124 Sep 02   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Greater Lithgow Heritage Study1998 Ian Jack in conjunction with Graham Edds & Associates  Yes
National Federation Heritage Project1999 Michael Pearson et al  No
Survey of Historical Sites Lithgow Area1987 University of Sydney  No
Central West Pilot Program SHRP2001 Heritage Office SHRP  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1912'The Federal Capital, the case for the West. Revised Statement of the Western Federal Capital League'
WrittenAllom Lovell & Associates1999ADI Lithgow Facility: Conservation Analysis and Policy
WrittenEngineers Australia - Heritage Engineering Committee2013Submission to proposed SHR listing of Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum, 20 May 2013
WrittenFreeman, Peter2012‘State Heritage Register Nomination for the Lithgow Small Arms Factory’
WrittenFreeman, Peter2001Conservation Management Plan for ADI Lithgow’
WrittenJensen, J. K.1996‘Defence Production in Australia to 1941’
WrittenLithgow Small Arms Factory Museum (Lithgow SAF Museum)2012A History in Photographs
WrittenMcRae, Alan (editor)2016'Government Small Arms Factory Museum - Lithgow'
WrittenPatmore, G.1994'American Hustling Methods: The Lithgow Small Arms Factory 1912- 22.
WrittenTony Griffiths2006Llithgow's Small Arms Factory and its People
WrittenWeetman, S.C.1973‘Australia's Munitions Factories 1901-1958’

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051569
File number: H06/00303,12/05667, EF14/22703


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