Whitehall Street

Port Heritage Trail - Site 6

Chemical manufacturing plants occupied this riverfront site at Yarraville between 1870 and 2000. 

In c 1870, Robert Smith and Co established their chemical works here. In 1872, Smith sold his business to James Cuming and his partners. 

The Cuming Smith business

James Cuming Senior was born in Scotland and came to Melbourne via Canada in 1862. Originally a farrier and blacksmith, he became a well known businessman, philanthropist and citizen in Footscray. He was Mayor of Footscray twice in the late 19th century, and kept a strong interest in Cuming Smith until his death in 1911. 

Fire destroyed much of the plant in 1876, but Cuming Smith continued to expand, fuelled by the growth of the agricultural sector and the increasing use of synthetic rather than traditional fertilisers. This included the purchase of MacMeikan Bone Mills, an 1870 bluestone factory on the adjacent site. 

In 1882, James Cuming Junior became Head Chemist and in 1897, General Manager. The same year, Cuming Smith amalgamated with Felton, Grimwade and Co. but kept its original name. 

The company produced a range of acids, sulphates and nitrate of ammonia and James Junior travelled extensively to ensure the company kept abreast of the latest developments.He died in 1920, but the family connection remained, with his son William taking over as General Manager. 

Wongella 9 at Cuming Smith & Co. wharf in 1911.

The Wongella 9 ( (at right) discharging phosphate at the Cuming Smith & Co. wharf, 1911
(Source: National Library of Australia)

Takeovers

Commonwealth Fertilisers acquired Cuming Smith in 1929, and was in turn acquired by ICI in 1936. The Geelong fertiliser company Pivot Industries bought the Cuming Smith component of the business. 

Pivot Industries

Over the following decades Pivot redeveloped most of the site. Massive new storage and processing sheds replaced earlier structures in the centre of the site and along the riverfront. Pivot progressively reclaimed land, too. 

Timber used in the markers

Port Heritage Trail markers are made from timber salvaged from one of the larger Pivot sheds. Sheds 4-6 were built in two stages; the southern 14 bays (Shed 4) were built c 1912 and a further 20 bays (Sheds 5 & 6) and a covered loading station were added in 1922-23.

Dee Cottage

Facing Whitehall Street, Dee Cottage is an example of employee housing built by factory owners in the Yarraville area. It was occupied by company workers and members of the Cuming family including James Junior.

Port Heritage Trail - Site 6

Chemical manufacturing plants occupied this riverfront site at Yarraville between 1870 and 2000. 

In c 1870, Robert Smith and Co established their chemical works here. In 1872, Smith sold his business to James Cuming and his partners. 

The Cuming Smith business

James Cuming Senior was born in Scotland and came to Melbourne via Canada in 1862. Originally a farrier and blacksmith, he became a well known businessman, philanthropist and citizen in Footscray. He was Mayor of Footscray twice in the late 19th century, and kept a strong interest in Cuming Smith until his death in 1911. 

Fire destroyed much of the plant in 1876, but Cuming Smith continued to expand, fuelled by the growth of the agricultural sector and the increasing use of synthetic rather than traditional fertilisers. This included the purchase of MacMeikan Bone Mills, an 1870 bluestone factory on the adjacent site. 

In 1882, James Cuming Junior became Head Chemist and in 1897, General Manager. The same year, Cuming Smith amalgamated with Felton, Grimwade and Co. but kept its original name. 

The company produced a range of acids, sulphates and nitrate of ammonia and James Junior travelled extensively to ensure the company kept abreast of the latest developments.He died in 1920, but the family connection remained, with his son William taking over as General Manager. 

Wongella 9 at Cuming Smith & Co. wharf in 1911.

The Wongella 9 ( (at right) discharging phosphate at the Cuming Smith & Co. wharf, 1911
(Source: National Library of Australia)

Takeovers

Commonwealth Fertilisers acquired Cuming Smith in 1929, and was in turn acquired by ICI in 1936. The Geelong fertiliser company Pivot Industries bought the Cuming Smith component of the business. 

Pivot Industries

Over the following decades Pivot redeveloped most of the site. Massive new storage and processing sheds replaced earlier structures in the centre of the site and along the riverfront. Pivot progressively reclaimed land, too. 

Timber used in the markers

Port Heritage Trail markers are made from timber salvaged from one of the larger Pivot sheds. Sheds 4-6 were built in two stages; the southern 14 bays (Shed 4) were built c 1912 and a further 20 bays (Sheds 5 & 6) and a covered loading station were added in 1922-23.

Dee Cottage

Facing Whitehall Street, Dee Cottage is an example of employee housing built by factory owners in the Yarraville area. It was occupied by company workers and members of the Cuming family including James Junior.