Friday, January 9, 2009

W. Montgomery & Co
offices and warehouse with timber yard pictured beyond
corner of Colombo and Tuam Streets
about 1876

Samuel Charles Farr
Nelson, Moate and Co.'s
Tea Warehouse

City Improvements - A building, which may justly be termed a very desirable addition to the business premises in Christchurch, is about to be erected for Messrs Montgomery and Co., at the corner of Colombo and Tuam streets. Not only is it to be large and substantial, but judging by the plans prepared by Mr S. C. Farr, it will take a prominent place among the most ornamental structures of the City. The frontage on Colombo street is 50ft, and on Tuam street, 48ft. The total height to the top of the parapet being 45ft. There are three floors above extensive cellarage, and the building is to be erected of brick, on cement concrete foundations. The style of the front is that of modern street architecture, carefully and judiciously worked out. The projections are unusually bold, giving great relief, and as the whole of the exterior is to be stuccoed, many pleasing features have been introduced, notably at the main entrance, on either side of which there is a column supporting a pediment, in the panels of which there will be a large fan-shell ornament. The capitals of the columns are also of a new style, and no doubt will be much appreciated by those who take an interest in such matters. The upper cornice is supported on handsome brackets, and the parapet being perforated gives a much lighter appearance to the building. The internal arrangements for office and warehouse accommodation are very good. Each floor is approached by broad flights of stairs, and goods will be taken into the warehouses, at the back, by means of a patent hoist. - The Star, Issue 2496, 23 March 1876, Page 2

below: W. Montgomery & Co's building as seen from Hereford Street

Nelson, Moate and Co.'s Tea Warehouse.
Some six or seven years ago, the firm of Nelson, Moate, and Co., tea merchants and blenders, sprang into existence, in a little wooden box of a building in High street, Christchurch.

Since those days, by careful attention and judicious outlay of capital, their trade in the teas of China, India, and other lands now flourishes in each of the principal centres of New Zealand. Finding their store in Bedford row by no means large enough for their rapidly growing business, Messrs Nelson, Moate, and Co. have taken a five years lease of the premises known as Montgomery buildings, at the corner of Colombo and Tuam streets. This building is three storeys high, and in many respects is admirably suited for the purpose. Entering the building Mr Horatio Nelson, under whose charge the practical portion of the business is carried on, takes your reporter into the liquoring room, 36ft long by 8ft in width. There on a table running the length of the room, are a whole company of little tea pots, each with an attendant cup and saucer. In reply to a question Mr Nelson informs us that these are part of the tools o£ the trade, and are used in the most important part of the business, the blending.

Every one knows that a tea taster's palate, like a tenor requires careful training, and still greater care bestowed on it, else it becomes useless, and our guide informs us that he acquired practical, as well as theoretical, knowledge of the trade under five of the leading tea merchants in the northern districts of England.

On the other aide of the room are shelves containing an array of about 46 small boxes holding about a pound weight each of teas, to the practised eye as various in shade and appearance as the different species of the human race. From Northern China, Canton, Southern China, India, Formosa, and the sunny island of Ceylon. And lastly we are introduced to a "promising young Colonial," an "Orange Pekoe" from Fiji. This tea was ground on the Hon — Mason's estate, a plantation situated in Fiji itself, that has been for the last three years under Messrs Nelson, Moate and Co.'s superintendence. Mr Nelson remarks that it is a very nice young tea, flavoury and with a red liquor, and resembles generally a Ceylon tea of good grade. Of the first consignment of 60 packages of this tea little is now left. Then we examine a sample from the Moning district, Northern China, and also from Oolong in the Island of Formosa, the latter a very large grained tea — a flavoury aromatic tea of strong characteristic — the most expensive tea kept by the firm. Passing out from the liquoring-room into the package-room we see arranged a number of long tables, at which are working some 15 men and boys engaged in packing the tea in parcels for either wholesale or retail purposes.

First came the bags made square at the bottom, the old fashioned method of blocking the bags being found too slow. "We use 15 to 18 tons of bags alone," says Mr Nelson; bags up to 5lb, then tins of 5, 10, 20, 40lb capacity, and then the 56lb wooden packing cases.
The mixing-room is on the second floor, a large store-like room in which are two strange looking machines partaking of the appearance of the hay cutter or some sausage machine type of mechanics. These are mixing machines. Many peoople, we are told, imagine that mixing and blending teas are one and the same process. The "blending" comes first and is done with the hot water. When the desired flavour is caught the proportions are carefully noted and the teas weighed out in accordance with these tests. "One pound wrong either way spoils your blend" we are told. The larger machine cleans, mixes, besides reducing the leaf to a proper size, about one ton per hour when worked by three men; there is another machine of half a ton per hour, and a third as a stand-by of a 6cwt capacity.

The cutting portion of the machine is of steel blades, regulated up to any size. From these machines come a snuff-like brown dust which enters the eyes and lungs of the mixers with distressing results. Round the room are ranged twelve large wooden bins, holding from 12 to 14cwt each; into those the mixed tea is put until required for packing. These bins hold about seven tons. Above the mixing-room again is the bonded store, barred of windows and fitted with a locker's room. This has been passed by the authorities as a bonded warehouse, and will hold about 500 tons of tea. At the present moment this is used as a free store, as, owing to various causes, the firm's stock has worked so low that it is all duty paid. Even this store is not large enough for the firm's growing business, and when stocks arrive a further storeage of 300 tons must be sought elsewhere.

From the top to the bottom runs one of Messrs Danks' patent lifts, while the store fittings were creditably executed by Messrs Williams and Stevens. "We receive part of our China teas by two steamers, yearly despatched from China direct to these ports, and our Indian and Ceylon tea comes partly from Calcutta by sailing vessels, but some of it, as is a portion of our China tea, is transhipped from Melbourne here by steamer." "Yes, we do by far the largest portion of the New Zealand tea trade by any single firm," replies Mr Nelson, as with a wish for the success of the trade we part at the street door
Star, Issue 5963, 25 June 1887, Page 3

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