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Thames Iron Works (Judd Engineering)


1900 East Cape

1903 Kahurangi Point     

1910 Cape Brett

1905 Cape Campbell



JUDD ENGINEERING: In 1869 Charlie Judd opened an engineering business in Thames. It was first known as

Thames Iron Works then in 1908, became Judd Engineering. With the retirement of Mr Bruce Judd at the end

of 1998, the business closed after being in the family for 130 years.

Mr Judd started at Judd Engineering after completing his apprenticeship in Auckland and was at the workshop

for over 40 years. He says that when the workshop first opened the main line of work was building and

repairing heavy machinery required for the gold mines. Around 1900 Judd Engineering got into the business of

building cast iron lighthouses. They were also a leader in innovation; it was the first business in New Zealand

to produce domestic rotary mowers commercially and the first to assemble cars in Thames - assembling drag

cars in the early 1920s.


The Thames Iron Works was established by Charles Judd in 1869. Judd’s sawmilling

machinery was used throughout New Zealand and exported to Australia and the Pacific. In

1900 the business was contracted by the Public Works Department to make cast iron

lighthouses. Over the next nine years it built four lighthouses: East Cape (1900), Kahurangi

Point (1903), Cape Campbell (1908), and Cape Brett (1909). The company was renamed

Charles Judd Engineering Works when Judd brought his five sons into the business in 1908.

During the twentieth century the firm diversified into smaller items such as lawnmowers and

tubular steel office chairs.86 The firm continued to operate until the retirement of Bruce Judd, a

great-grandson of the founder Charles Judd, in 1998.87

Fig. 17: Thames Iron Works showing the East Cape Lighthouse

Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Auckland Provincial District) 1902 available at

Boat building on the Coromandel Peninsula dates from at least the 1840s, fostered by the

availability of suitable timber and the dependence on coastal shipping for travel around the

Coromandel and the wider Hauraki Gulf. A schooner, the Dolphin, was built at Coromandel as

early as 1839. In 1858 Coromandel Post Master JS Anderson informed Governor Gore

Browne that there were eight vessels being built in the town, ranging from 10 to 50 tons, as

well as a number of vessels under repair.88 This tradition continued into the twentieth century,

led by boat-builders such as Samuel Strongman.89

At Whitianga boat building and repair also dates back to the beginning of European

settlement. The shipwright James Purcell plied his trade there during the late 1830s. In 1870

William White arrived in Mercury Bay and began building boats at Ferry Landing.90 There was

also a boat building industry at Cabbage Bay (later Colville).91

86 A.M. Isdale (ed.) Thames goldfields centennial 1867-1967 (Manurewa : Motel Magazine Co., 1967).

87 ‘Notes: Judd Engineering’, Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 43 (September 1999),

88 Arn Piesse ‘Ship Building’ in In Search of the Rainbow, pp.18-21.

89 Ibid, pp. 21-22.

90 Riddle, pp.117-118.

91 Simons, p. 43.

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