Lyster & Cooke

The manufacture of register-stove grates and bronzed-fenders has just been introduced into the colony of Victoria by Messrs. Lyster and Cooke, of 192 Bourke-street.

In the establishment of this branch of industry, although no enormous mechanical or other obstacles have had to be encountered, and no new invention has been given to the world, yet Messrs. Lyster and Cooke are entitled to credit for having overcome some difficulties, and afforded another illustration of the extent to which the colony may rely upon its own resources for the supply of its various requirements.

The firm commenced business in this city about three months ago, as general ironfounders, and directed their attention to the feasibility of making register stove grates and bronzed fenders, for which description of articles the colony has hitherto been dependent upon English manufacturers.


At first their efforts met with little encouragement; they were assured by persons connected with the iron trade that such work could not be executed here, and that no sand existed in the colony possessing the requisite properties for moulding the metal used in the manufacture of the stoves.

Perseverance, however, proved these to be fallacies. Messrs. Lyster and Cooke discovered that an abundant supply of suitable sand could be obtained from the red sandstone deposits in the market reserve at Emerald-hill, and also at North Melbourne, Geelong, and other parts of the colony.

After a few experiments, their attempts to make the grates were entirely successful and during the last few weeks they have turned out a couple of dozen of them, of various, sizes and pat-terns. The process of manufacture is a very simple one.

The raw material—bars of pig-iron, which are imported from England—is melted in a blast furnace, and the molten metal is poured into moulds prepared for its reception. A quarter of an hour suffices for the metal to assume solidity and receive the impression of the mould.

It is then re-moved, and after it has become cool, it is polished and ready for sale. The pattern, or mould, is made in sand, mixed with a certain portion of coal-dust. The sand requires to be of a fine, porous character ; but, as already intimated, there is no difficulty in obtaining this in any quantity. The difference between the climate of this colony and that of England renders the application of a little more water necessary, in order to make the composition of the requisite temper ; but this was a matter easily discovered and provided for by the enterprising managers, and the result of their experiments leaves no doubt that the finest descriptions of cast-iron work can to made in the colony.

The fenders are made in a similar manner to the stove grates, but are afterwards bronzed. Messrs. Lyster and Cooke are able to make both articles at prices which will enable them to compete with the imported ones, and they have already received orders from some of the ironmongers in town.

Their workmanship seems fully equal to that of English stove-grates and fenders of the same class; and unless the too common prejudice of ignoring goods of colonial manufacture is to prevail, there is every probability that the manufacture of these articles will develop itself as an important branch of colonial industry.

Messrs. Lyster and Cooke are also makers of cast-iron colonial ovens, which are stated to have the advantage of being much more durable than the wrought iron ones.

A third new under-taking of magnitude has been entered into at Messrs. Lyster and Cooke’s foundry, Stephen-street north, in addition to their premises. The firm commenced, some seven or eight years ago in Little Bourke-street on a comparatively limited scale, employing only two hands besides themselves.

The improvement in business, from the altered fiscal policy of the country, enabled them to purchase their present site and place premises upon it at a cost of £900. They have now erected, in addition, a fine three-storied building with an octagon shaft 70 feet high, at a cost of £1300.

A corresponding edifice is to be built on the opposite side of the yard, and another fronting the street. The branch of trade in which Messrs. Lyster and Cooke are principally engaged is the manufacture of kitchen ranges, register stoves, fenders, bedsteads, scrapers, balcony railings, ceiling ornaments, and castings generally of the finer kind. The ignorance which prevails as to the extent to which these articles are made in Victoria, and the degree of excellence attained in the manufacture, will afford an excuse for digressing somewhat from a notice merely of the buildings of the firm.

In the matter of stoves, it may be mentioned that a similar article to one which can now be purchased of colonial make for 30s., cost .£2 10s. imported in the year 1863 or 1864, and a colonial-made article was not to be had. Messrs. Lyster and Cooke do a very large business in the manufacture of fenders—an industry which has sprung up entirely within the last three or four years.

They undertake all but the very highest class of work in this line ; but when they are enabled to procure three or four men of superior skill from England, they will compete with the most finished home work. As it is, they produce a fine article, even for the drawing-room, and one which is equal in every respect to the best imported fenders of the came kind. Several months ago, the firm sent home passage warrants for four skilled workmen, but the men bridged, and although others of like ability were procurable, the agent of the firm was informed that the warrants could not be transferred.

This hitch will, no doubt, he speedily got over, and with the new workmen they will be able to turn out every class of article. Suitable grinding stones, and all the appliances required for working up the most stylish fenders, are already on the premises. The manufacture of iron bedsteads is another very recently developed industry, now in full activity. Messrs. Lyster and Cooke have, since they commenced this line of business, pa-tented a very neat arrangement for making the joints, which enables them to cheapen the whole article.

Every stage of the bed-stead making is conducted in the establishment, and they are turned out completely finished and painted. In the work of painting the bedsteads, three women find constant employment, and it may be said here that the firm regularly employs thirty men also.

This number will of course be largely increased with the next extension of the premises, which is to be commenced at once, and the new English workmen will also require several fresh hands to be put on for their assistance. The castings produced by Messrs. Lyster and Cooke in the way of balustrading, ceiling ornaments, and delicate work of the kind, are very fine, and quite indistinguishable from the best foreign productions.

John Lyster and Charles Cooke registered the overlapping circles baluster panel and an asymmetric frieze pattern VIC8 on the 4th May 1870.

The original 1870 illustrations are marked ‘a’ apparently of a frieze on account of the design not incorporating a frame — and ‘b’, a baluster panel.

However, the only sightings of panel ‘a’ is as the upper border of the baluster panel. Therefore, it appears that the notations ‘a’ and ‘b’ to refer to alternative versions of the baluster panel.

Baluster panels incorporating version ‘a’ as the upper border are to be found at 49 Hawke Street, 74 Hawke Street as well as at 80 & 82 Roden Street, West Melbourne, 12 & 14 Simpson Street, East Melbourne, and 73 Royal Parade, Parkville.

The other version ‘b’ is the more common style. On 3 May 1872, they registered the complementary paired balusters, frieze, bracket, and roundel VIC66.

Uncommonly, the frieze and the roundel do not have a rectangular iron frame, for they were intended to be mounted in a timber panel (as is it case with 58 & 60 Morrah Street, Parkville).

Mounting lugs permitted attachment by means of wood screws.

On the same day, Lyster and Cooke registered a matched set of geometric baluster, bracket, frieze, roundel, and fringe VIC67. The baluster panel, frieze, bracket and fringe design VIC112 were registered on 31st December 1873.

A matching narrow baluster panel is used on their residence and is shown in the illustration for VIC112 (a). This narrow baluster was never registered.



The premises of Messrs. Lyster and Cooke are well worthy of a visit. The manufactures carried on there include the coarse and the fine, from the first crude operation (the melting of iron) to the completion, of highly-finished and ornamental goods. The principal work carried on is the manufacture of kitchen ranges, register grates, fenders, iron bedsteads, ornamental work for builders — such as foliages for balconies, friezes, etc.

Messrs. Lyster and Cooke commenced business in 1862 with the assistance of a man and a boy, thus illustrating the whimsical definition given somewhere of the British public —” three men and a boy.” Their first endeavours were confined to the manufacture of fenders. Such was the competition to which they were subjected at that time, however, that for a period of five months they did not succeed in selling any of their produce ; but they afterwards gradually gained a footing, and through the contractors for the time being, the colonial-made fenders of Messrs. Lyster and Cooke were supplied to all the Government offices.

At this time their work was carried on in an iron shanty, 40ft. in length by 15ft. in breadth, rented by them for 18s. weekly ; and the further advancement of these premises was made by the erection of a foundry from old packing boxes. At this time, also, when melting was to be done, the company, not having an engine, hired a horse, and with horse labour produced the necessary blast.

The present premises of the firm, in Stephen street, are a great contrast to those formerly occupied by them, and include everything necessary for carrying on their large and important business, from the casting rooms to the warerooms for showing finished goods. The stoves, etc., are cast in the usual manner as in other foundries, and go, after casting, to the fettler, who takes the rough off, and thence to toe fitter, who puts them together.

After leaving the fitter, the finer class of goods are ground and polished where necessary. This grinding and polishing of fine goods, which has been introduced for the first time into the colony by Messrs. Lyster and Cooke, is a complicated affair. The grindstones are of immense proportions, and of different materials for the various degrees of polishing.

After the grindstones have done their work, glazers come into requisition to smooth, and improve what little inequalities of surface may be left ; and still more to give finish, they go from the glazers to polishing brushes, where the finishing touch is given. No matter how elaborate this kind of work may he required, it can be done at this establishment equal to any that is imported.

When the grates, fenders, stove, etc., are finished they are carried to the showroom, where they remain in stock until wanted. Messrs. Lyster and Cooke are also very extensive manufacturers of iron bedsteads. The manufacture of these has, by the introduction of special machinery, been made very simple. The beautiful scroll and foliage work which decorate these bedsteads, and which to the eye of the uninitiated onlooker seem so elaborate and difficult of construction, are in reality easy of production, in consequence of the completeness and ingenious-ness of the machinery used.

The volutes and scrolls are all already formed in bars or wires of the requisite thickness, and toe foliated ornaments, which look as if they were attached to them are, in reality, what bind them together. A frame is prepared on which is fixed moulds according to toe design wanted ; the interior surfaces of these moulds are the ornamental leaves, etc. In the sides are – placed – toe ends of toe wires, and when all in ready a boy , advances the pan of molten iron, pours it into the moulds, and so the scroll work is fastened together.

Another boy immediately takes the complete design from the frame, and throws it out a finished top or bottom of a bedstead, as the case may be. These castings have .been brought . to such perfection as to ensure perfect fitting in every part ; and the housewife when fitting up her bed-steads is saved the worry so frequent with imported bedsteads, where every part can only meet its neighbour.

In the wareroom are to be found fenders and grates of all kinds, some in bronze, and some in glittering steel ; stoves of every kind and size, from the homely kitchen affair to the complicated monster looking like a steam engine, and suggestive of blown up kitchen maids who have neglected to shut off some valve, or otherwise misunderstood some part of the complex arrangements ; ornamental building-work for verandahs, etc., in scrolls and traceries as beautiful as any which ever sprang from the skilful hand of a mediæval Matsys ; bedsteads, and swing cots for children, bronzed, gilded, and illuminated in many bright colours; garden-seats and chairs, etc, etc., etc.

The process of illuminating the bed-steads is a secret one, jealously guarded by the young lady who carries it out. The process works like those of Messrs. Lyster and Cooke is always to be hailed as a great step towards civilisation.

Wherever the beautiful can be combined with the useful, without detracting from the latter, it would be unfair to give to the manufacturer merely the cold praise of ingenuity. It must, on the contrary, be accepted and acknowledged as a progressive step towards something higher, helping to lift from us for a time the heavy weight of the too practical.

The polished steel bars of a grate will not in any shape take away the heat of the burning coal, but will rather fling around and reproduce the ruddy glow or the leaping flame in many different aspects.

And the illuminated ornamental work on the bottom of a bedstead, when it meets the gaze of a patient, weak in body and mind through long physical prostration, plays a part in the patient’s history which only he him-self can fully realise.




Edwin Jenkins fell into insolvency in February 1889, fell out with his business partner Alexander Law later in December of that same year and later commenced business on his own, probably after 1889 and after the dissolution of the partnership of Jenkins & Law operating under the name Birmingham Works.
Edwin Jenkins as a firm retained this name to about 1919 when it became Edwin Jenkins Pty Ltd, bedstead, range, grate, fender, one-fire stove, cafe table, and hall furniture manufacturer, general ironfounder located at 265-273 Exhibition Street, Melbourne.