Also referred to as Cullinan Bricks.
The high quality clay field found at Olifantsfontein while prospecting the Johannesburg-Pretoria leg of the NZASM line in the 1890s gave rise to the formation by Sir Thomas Cullinan of The Consolidated Rand Brick, Pottery and Lime Company which later became the Conrand Company, its Prospectus being published in 1902. At its inception it had two operating plants, a brick and pipe manufacturing plant in Boksburg and a limeworks in Olifantsfontein. In 1903 Philip Edward TREEBY was appointed director at Olifantsfontein.
Because of the high quality of the clay it was decided to produce fine china, and to this end skilled potters from England (mainly Staffordshire), led by a Mr Harold Emery, were brought to produce many fine articles, which were much admired throughout the country. A complete dinner service for example, made at the works, was presented to General Louis Botha in 1908. Creamy white in colour, with gilt edging and his 'LB' monogram, it was too thick to be classified as a first-class piece of chinaware, but was nevertheless a very creditable effort. The business was known as the "Transvaal Potteries".
Competing against overseas firms from Germany, Japan, and England without adequate tariff protection, however, was unprofitable.
Added to this the high railway rates all made the pottery works uneconomic. After persistent efforts in Parliament to increase import duties and reduce railway rates Sir Thomas Cullinan closed the works in May, 1914. Some satisfaction must have been derived from the fact that he was the first industrialist in the Transvaal to produce on a large scale some fine pottery articles.
From 1909 to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the Conrand Company continued to struggle slowly and painfully towards profitability.
Rowland Cullinan, second son of Sir Thomas, joined the enterprise in 1910 and 1916, at its lowest ebb, became works director, and in the following year a profit was made. In 1926 the Ceramic Studio was founded.
[Précised from Helme, Nigel.1974. Thomas Major Cullinan a biography. Johannesburg: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 9 'Magnificent Clay'.]
All the bricks photographed on the right are used in the paving at House R Cullinan: Sunlawns.
See also Art Ceramics
Below is an advertisement which appeared in the Souvenir of the Golden City's Golden Jubilee Johannesburg 1886 to 1936. published by The Rhodeman Publicity Syndicate, Johannesburg: pg 118. For the photograph that accompanied the advertisement please see the entry for Consolidated Rand Brick Pottery and Lime works.
The Consolidated Rand Brick Pottery & Lime Co., Ltd., has been operating in South Africa for a period of over 30 years. The Works are situated at Olifantsfontein, on the Germiston-Pretoria road, covering an area of 46 acres (18.62 hectare), and in direct communication with the Main Line between Johannesburg and Pretoria by a short branch line to Olifantsfontein Station.
There is here an almost inexhaustible supply of the finest fireclay in South Africa, which occurs as a regular stratified deposit of considerable depth. The scale of our operations is varied and extensive, and we can use practically all this clay for our different processes, the best quality only being utilised in our first grade and super refractories.
During recent years the works have been greatly enlarged, and we are now the largest manufacturers of clay deposits in the Southern Hemisphere, and among the largest producers in the world.
The following is a list of the products manufactured by us :—
REFRACTORIES. Low Temperature.
VITRIFIED GLAZED STONEWARE PIPES.
The plant of the various processes is absolutely up to date, and only the most modern methods are employed, the power for which is supplied by the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company, Ltd.
Our Tunnel Kiln is one of the largest of its kind (being 350 feet in length (106.68m)), and has an output of 600,000 standard Bricks per month. It is used for all types of refractories, and facilitates the production of high quality, evenly-burned material.
The Works employs its own Chemist, and the analyses necessary at various stages of manufacture are efficiently carried out. The laboratory is equipped to make all standard tests for chemical composition of the raw clays and the finished product. In addition, there is a physical laboratory containing high-temperature furnace, a load furnace, and an oil-fired muffle, which are used regularly to check the quality of the products, that they may conform with the standard British and American specifications.
One of the most important activities of the technical department is to collect and record data of the conditions of service in the various refractories in use. With this object it is usual to visit the customer's plant, make observations of all factors affecting the life of the refractories in service, and, in general, to endeavour to recommend the best material for any given set of conditions.
The development of new products in co-operation with the sales section is also an important feature of the technical duties of this department. We might mention that our Directors are members of the British and American Ceramic Societies, and are in constant touch with the latest developments overseas. Therefore, any improvements suggested in the industry are immediately introduced in our Works.
Article published in THE AFRICAN MONTHLY Vol. V. Dec., 1908 - May, 1909. (see scan right)
Transvaal Pottery Works. — Just now one may see in one of the large shop windows of Mr. John Forrest's hardware store in Johannesburg a great variety of excellent South African pottery, consisting of jugs and basins, cups and saucers, vases and a host of other small articles, painted and plain ; also plain and coloured glazed tiles, earthenware pipes and suchlike. All these articles are samples the Oliphantsfontein Pottery Works, of which Mr. T. M. Cullinan, M.L.A., is the founder and moving spirit.
These works are situated some ten or twelve miles from Pretoria and a little over thirty miles from Johannesburg and close to Oliphantsfontein railway station. The kilns and plant are of most recent design and best workmanship, and the deposit of clay is in every way suitable. Bricks are also made in large quantities at these works, and the fire-brick they produce is rapidly displacing the imported article.
At present there are some thirty skilled persons employed in the works, most of whom have come from Staffordshire. Mr. Cullinan is, however, determined to make his pottery works (apparently they are his hobby) something more than a commercial venture. He aims at establishing an enterprise of national importance, and with this object in view he proposes taking on some two hundred [people] as apprentices for a course of three years to learn the art of making and finishing pottery. Suitable quarters for these apprentices are now being erected on the property. In addition to being well housed the learners will be well fed during their period of apprenticeship; every care will be taken of them and they will receive a small wage. The [people] will be drawn from the people of the country.
This industry is deserving of every support; it will prove of considerable benefit to the people of the Transvaal ; and we do not hesitate to say that Mr. Cullinan merits the gratitude of his fellow-countrymen for the good work he is doing. South Africa to-day presents the anomaly of a country crying out for industrial energy and yet supporting relief works for the unemployed. The pottery factory at Oliphantsfontein is an excellent illustration of least one effectual means of meeting the labour difficulty and at the same time of permanently benefiting the country.
(Submitted by William MARTINSON)