Old-time carts carry the weight

Many people think the late-Victorian/Edwardian period romantic. In many ways those times were romantic (as seen now). Thing is though, I knew many folk in my younger days who had trudged through many years of those industrial times which lacked sophisticated technology we have today.

I well recall a very elderly gentleman who had done his carpentry apprenticeship in the 1880s. He was a gentle old chap and it was with great pride one day he opened the tool chest he had made when he was only a teenager. Even the hardened tough guys in that ‘Southern Man’ joinery factory were stunned by the craftsmanship of the chest. Every item fitted snugly into cavities and frames and covers which were all quite individually handmade. That was, I believe, the first job an apprentice in the ‘old days’ had to do.

When you look at these photos, don’t think ‘how romantic’ or ‘how rustic’ or ‘how quaint’, try to think ‘how astonishing.’ How astonishing that these vehicles would run for miles on rough roads with some bearing loads which today would be trucked by factory-made lorries loaded up with the aid of forklifts and cranes and equipped with the latest labour-saving gadgets.

With a few simple hand tools, a great deal of experience and very hard work, men in those far off days put wheels under these chaps. These vehicles would have been manufactured substantially without the aid of automation. There were machines, but I’ll bet not very many blacksmiths or wheelwrights in Hamilton had machines.

Most parts in these vehicles would have been hand-made. Timbers were planed by hand from rough-sawn planks and wheels were made by laminating timber. Spokes were made with a little hand tool called a spoke-shave. Carpenters made much of the wagon but wheelwrights and blacksmiths manufactured the ‘technical bits’ – by hand.

The smartly turned-out cart belonging to Innes’s Brewery was, we believe, making an appearance at an A & P Show. The Auckland Star of November 1908 carried results of horse and cart entries and Innes’s entered the ‘Tradesmen’s Turnout under 15cwt’ – they were placed first ahead of R J Glover and Waikato Farmers Supply Co.

’15cwt’ (hundredweight) is just over 750kgs so that small cart could carry nearly a ton (tonne). It would have been used to deliver beer to hotels all over Hamilton but probably not to outlying towns.

The larger cart carries 26 bales of wool. Looking at the roping they are not packed by wool press unless it was a relatively primitive machine. However, even packed as they are each bale probably weighed at least 150kgs (depending on the wool) making the load on that cart over 4000kg or four tonnes. For the older folk that’s nearly 9000 pounds.

The driver sits atop the bales for the photo but see on the right hand front corner, there is a seat. This records a scene in Harwood’s yard in Rostrevor Street . Harwood was a carter and Harwood Street is named after him. The Auckland Star also reports that Harwood won several prizes for horse teams at the A & P Show. His best was a first place for a ‘Four Horse Team’ – could this be that team?

For further information, email Perry here – and quote HCL_06872 for the Innes cart photo and HCL_02159 for t’other.
Hamilton Central Libraries

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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