Shire of Boddington

Tannin Extracts Factory

TruckThe Tannin Extracts Factory, situated at Ranford, was officially opened on the 21st April 1937, by the Lieutenant Governor Sir James Mitchell. The factory processed White Gum timber, extracting the tannin.

The process of extraction used was said to be second only to that from chestnut trees in the Adriatic region for tanning leather. Logs up to ten feet in girth and eleven feet six inches long were taken and fed end-wise into a machine called a 'hogger' which clipped it. Within the revolving drum, alternately smooth and serrated blades took chips off the log in a transverse section, thus opening up the cells of the wood to allow it to be leached. One resident likened it to a giant pencil sharpener. In the still of the night noise of the hogger could be heard even in the town of Boddington about two miles away.

The chips were treated with water & steam and then leached for 24 hours. Liquor from this operation was pumped to copper tanks for a separation process, which evaporated off the water and dried the residue. The finishing pot held 4 tons of extract. This was raked off, bagged and transported from town by train.

Operation of the works brought an influx of people to the district and created opportunities for many locals whose prospects otherwise were meagre in the post-depression era.

By 1939 the company decided that demand for its product was such that a second factory of equal size with the first should be built. During the war years workmen in Boddington operated a round-the-clock shift, seven-days-a-week schedule, including quick shifts and double shifts to cover the shortage of labour and to meet the demand for tannin extract.

In 1957 after 20 years of service the first plant was closed down. Twenty years of intense operation, at three-shifts per day, had worn it out. The last whistle blew at the 'No 2 Factory' on the 20th March 1964. The plant was worn and the timber supply near exhausted.

Both of the mills were removed and the only original building left is the Offices, which is now a private dwelling.

Ref: Becoming Boddington, John Ferrell.

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