Blast Furnace Site | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Blast Furnace Site

Item details

Name of item: Blast Furnace Site
Other name/s: Lithgow Blast Furnace, Blast Furnace Coke Ovens
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Manufacturing and Processing
Category: Blast Furnace/Steel/ Iron works
Primary address: Inch Street, Lithgow, NSW 2790
Local govt. area: Lithgow
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Inch StreetLithgowLithgow  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The site of the Lithgow Blast Furnace displays high significance in each of the four criteria as follows:
Historical Significance: As the birthplace of the modern Australian iron srneiting industry, its national fame is secure. The ruins are uniquely well documented and can be presented as a fully legible heritage of an industry which played a dominating role in the development both of lithgow and of Australia. The highly visible ruins symbolise the zenith of Lithgow's association as a classical industrial revolution town. Aesthetic significance: The Romanesque engine house of the Blast Furnace now dominates the industrial landscape of Lithgow. Technological Research Significance: It is a rare example in international terms of a complete blast furnace interpretive site of its period and is unique in Australia. It demonstrates clearly the organic growth and technical change in ironmaking during a period of major industrial development and achievement. Social Significance: The Blast Furnace had a profound impact on the social structure and the contemporary community of lithgow. It was a major employer, it spawned the growth of other industries and supported the mining industry. The Hoskins family left a legacy of social institutions in the town.
Date significance updated: 13 Aug 01
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1905-1913
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Above & Below Ground


Historical notes: The main railway line from Sydney to the west reached Lithgow in 1869, when the Great Zig Zag was completed and Bowenfels station opened. Four years later in 1873, the first industrial siding on what became the Blast Furnace site was constructed, running north-east from the main line to Thomas Mort's meatworks just south of Bells Road. This siding was extended in 1883 across Bells Road (on the level) to the Zig Zag colliery. The first siding associated with the iron industry was built by James Rutherford in 1878 to his blast furnace and rolling mills on the Ironworks site. This siding did not cross the later Sandford/Hoskins Blast Furnace site: it ran from south of Inch Street just east of Union Street north-west to the ironworks. In 1888 the government built a coal stage on the main line just to the east of the later Blast Furnace. This major coaling facility for the western trains created its own siding, the Dump Road to the north of the main line. When Sandford was building his Blast Furnace in 1906, he constructed private rail lines from the Dump Road area north-west into the Blast Furnace site initially to bring in building materials. This siding was extended in 1907-8 to provide facilities for bringing iron-ores, lime and coke inwards and taking pig-iron outwards. One line lead round the east of the single blast furnace on the south side of the pig-beds: this was basically to transport the pig-iron to market or to the Ironworks. A separate complex of lines ran to the west of the engine houses and furnaces to bring in the raw materials for smelting. When Hoskins built the second blast furnace in 1913 the sidings were further extended around the perimeter of the site. A new track, with two lines, led up to blast furnace no. 2 and 30-tonne ladies on wheels were filled there with molten iron for transfer to the Ironworks. Since molten metal was prohibited from the government railway, Hoskins then built a private line linking the Blast Furnace site to the old Ironworks siding of 1878: to cross Inch Street the surviving bridge was built in 1914. Coke ovens were built near the main line in 1913, adjacent to the seven government shunting lines opposite the locomotive yard. Hoskins at once built his own rail link to the coke ovens, initially from the Coal Stage connection with the main line. An internal link with the Blast Furnace sidings was, however, essential, and this was achieved in 1918, crossing the Zig Zag mine siding. When in October 1920 the official branch line to the Department Coal Mine (later known as the State Mine) was opened, this crossed both the Zig Zag and the Coke Ovens sidings and complicated arrangements were installed to minimise the possibility of collisions. The extremely complex arrangement of railway lines within the Blast Furnace site was fully developed by 1920 and remained largely unchanged until the closure of the plant in 1928. The Hoskins sidings were then largely dismantled and the rails reused. There was, however, one important exception. After the Hoskins firm had closed both the Blast Furnace and the Ironworks, it retained the Steelworks Colliery. This had been serviced by a siding built in 1926 from near the Ironworks. With the closure of the Ironworks, a link to the old Blast Furnace line was necessary to use government locomotives to bring out the coal. This kept part of the Blast Furnace siding system in operation for coal movements until 1958 and from 1958 to 1974 the siding continued to be used for the Nepean Milk Depot, reached by a short spur line beyond Eskbank House. The two lines which cut across the Blast Furnace site also survived 1928. The Zig Zag siding closed in 1933, while the State Mine line served the mine until its closure in 1963 and is now happily in process of resuscitation.

Historical Period Built Pre 1901 - 1925, Used 1901 - 1925, Used 1926 - 1950

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 (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Lithgow Blast Furnace is a place of State significance. It is the birthplace of the modern iron and steel industry and is able to demonstrate industrial processes now lost due to the extent of remaining fabric and documents. It is rare as a survivor of Lithgow's early industrial heritage in its completeness and as an example of early iron smelting works. The rarity of this place is in the fact of its survival as the fast significant industrial site in the town. Other industries left little visible heritage: the steelworks site is entirely barren; the power houses have gone; the copper srneiters, woollen mills, and potteries have left no traces; the coal industry which made the other industries possible is now represented only by the State Mine and the Oakey Park Mine, both on the periphery of the valley.

Conservation Plan: Lithgow's place in the Australian Iron and Steel industry is secure. The Blast Furnace was the first to successfully produce commercial quantities of iron using up to date technology. The Hoskins firm realised Sandford's aspiration not only to supply his own well established iron and steelworks in lithgow, but also to send pig iron by rail to Sydney and other coastal markets. The plant was the sole producer of pig iron in Australia for 8 years from 1907 to 191 5. impact of competition: BHP established its own blast furnace in Newcastle in 1915 which immediately intensified the competitive environment for production from Lithgow. Coastal shipping provided cheap transport for raw materials and iron product at Newcastle wheras Lithgow was heavily dependent on subsidised rail freight. The Newcastle example persuaded Hoskins to relocate the Lithgow operation to Port Kembla in 1928, thirteen years after BHP started production in Newcastle. Relocation to Port Kembia The Lithgow operation was the direct predecessor of the Port Kembla Steelworks, and it was Hoskins who recognised the advantages in this site and relocated to the coast. Much of the plant and mechanical equipment from lithgow was successfully incorporated into the new steelworks.

Roles and Associations:
William Sandford
Sandford established his credentials in the British iron industry, Lysaght in Australia and then as manager of Fitzroy ironworks at Mittagong and Eskbank ironworks at lithgow, where he built the first steeimaking plant in Australia in 1900. He was inspired with visionary schemes to make Lithgow the Pittburgh of the colonies. The opening of the Blast Furnace in 1907 was the culmination of his career and although he was bitter at being obliged to transfer ownership to Hoskins, he had the satisfaction of seeing his decisions over equipment and general management strategies for the site fully endorsed by Hoskins for the twenty years following.

William Mylecharane
Monuments to William Mylecharane are all around in lithgow. A professional surveyor, he was responsible for the entire lay-out of the site of the Blast Furnace; seventeen years earlier in 1 889 he had laid out lithgow as a municipality. The Mylecharane family had come to Australia in 1832 from the Isle of Man. In 1839 Phillip and his wife established themselves at the Eagle and Child inn on the Forty Bends stretch of the western road under Hassans Walls. The family of Phillip and Esther Mylecharane spread in the Lithgow area, marrying into prominent grazing families such as the Grants of Moyne. Hassan became a schoolteacher, James a publican and William a surveyor.

Charles Hoskins
Hoskins was responsible for making Sandford's Blast Furnace a highly successful operation, doubling production in 1913 with a second Blast Furnace and monopolising the Australian iron and steel industry from l9O8 to 1915. Although he died before the closure of the Lithgow works and the move to Port Kembla, he was personally responsible for these policy decisions and for the initial investment in the lllawarra early in the 1920s. Charles Hoskins presided over Lithgow's success and also settled its subsequent fate.

William Mortlock
William Mortlock is the only individual to play a conspicuous role on the Blast Furnace site from its conception to its demise. He was a thorough professional. Born in 1887, he studied metallurgical engineering at Lithgow Technical College and as a student in 1900 worked for Sandford while the first steel-furnace was installed. By 1906 he was clerk of works for the Blast Furnace and supervised every stage from the clearing of the site to the first tapping of iron. Charles Hoskins valued Mortiock's abilities and made him manager of the Blast Furnace department in 1916; Mortlock became a director of Hoskins Iron and Steel four years later. His role in the transfer to Port Kembla in 1928 was critical and he was the first general manager of the great new plant. He continued in various senior capacities after BHP merged with the Hoskins' company in 1935 and retired only in 1951. During his years occupying Eskbank house in Lithgow, he built up a famous herd of Jersey cows, his principal relaxation from a half-century of responsibility in a highly competitive industry.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The ruins of the Blast Furnace dominate the centre of the Lithgow Valley in a landmark position on an elevated site. The site is visible from all directions and provides a focal point in the Valley. There is a sharp contrast between the wetlands of Lake Pillans and the stark ruins of the Engine house.

Significant vistas are experienced from the following locations external to the works
Eastern approach: Distant views from the eastern entry point into the town, from the elevated Scenic Hill and the Bell Road approaching the built up area.

Lake Pillans: The engine house dominates the skyline across the ridge wnen viewed from lake Pillans. Reflections of the ruins in the Lake are a dramatic image from this view point.

Coal Stage Hill: A significant panorama of the entire Blast Furnace complex is possible from the crest of the Hill.

Driveway from Inch Street: The upward view from the driveway approach is a powerful image of the ruins which dominate the skyline of Coal Stage Hill. Within the Blast Furnace works, dramatic images are experienced which include 4 The Davy engine house, impressive brick structure, substantially intact. Powerfully evocative interior. Bosh iron skull, huge object of waste metal and slag, strong feature of interest and mystery. Brick bases of stove chimneys and revelment wall, powerful structure in state of decay; evocative of medieval fortifications. Walk down axis of boiler house towards lifts dominated by brick piers of materials stores and approach to stoves revelment wall.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site has considerable technological significance because it is able to demonstrate the organic growth and technical change in ironrnaking. It is a rare example in international terms of a complete blast furnace interpretive site of its period and unique in Australia. Comparable sites exist in the USA (Sloss), the UK (Glasgow) and in Europe. The site has a high level of archaeological and interpretive significance, and also reveals features of geological significance Blast Furnaces The Blast Furnace was of conventional design at the time of building, of the type then in use in Middlesborough where in fact it was constructed. The second blast furnace installed by Hoskins in 1913 was of identical design to the first dating from 1907 demonstrating the success of the design, but it was in the area of ancillary plant such as blowing engines, generators, and the pig breaker that innovation was significant. Blowing Engines Technological development is demonstrated through the several generations of blowing engines. The original Davy vertical blowing engine was impressive for the time and the largest engine of its type in the country. The three Parsons turbine engines installed to supplement the Davy engine were the latest in steam technology, and Parsons No 3 had the distinction of being the largest turbine ever built in the country. The design principles of the turbines were later developed in jet engine technology.
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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan  09 Dec 94   
Heritage study  01 Jan 97   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Greater Lithgow Heritage Study 1997-19981998A125Ian Jack in conjuction with Graham Edds & Assoc, J Colleran & E Higginbotham.  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1960020

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