A look around the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, Molton Street, c1905-6

In the last instalment, we looked - through the eyes of our skilful photographer - at the interior of the old Lewis workshop in McHenry Street. There we saw all parts of the Lewis business in full flight - cycle, motorcycle and motor car. Shortly after those photos were taken, we find a new space created to focus on the motor business only.

When I started this project, unsure of the location of the workshop I began calling it simply "the white garage". It's a name that's stuck, even though I can now place the workshop behind the Motor House in Victoria Square. It would be a fair guess that the shift from McHenry Street coincided with the opening of the Motor House late in 1904.

Once more I have most of a floor plan, but until I draw it up neatly you'll have to imagine it. Let's begin our look around the white garage with photograph 04, which is taken looking east. We see workers doing all things motorcycle down the north wall of the workshop, which is of solid brick or stone in the foreground of the photograph but becomes a cross-braced iron-clad structure to the rear. The widows look out onto Victoria Place.

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Across the eastern end of the workshop there is a long work bench, and in front of it a collection of machine tools: not just any machines but those we have encountered before in the old workshop. The vertical mill, the horizontal mill, the two more modern lathes and two metal finishing stations seem to have made the transition from the old workshop to the new. Note that the town gas engine was left behind, with the overhead shafting now driven by a large electric motor in the left rear of the space where it is surrounded by a rather elementary safety rail.

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There are quite a number of shots of the machinists at work: no doubt the ability to manufacture and repair items of interest to the motor trade was one of the main attractions of the motor works.

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I'm not sure of what position Bill Courtney held at the time the photos were taken, but given that the photographer troubled to use a drop cloth to show him at work on his lathe (below) suggests he might have been a leading hand. The Adelaide newspaper The Mail of 6 August 1921 tells us that Mr. W. Courtney was by that time the manager of the motorcycle department at Lewis. He was also working at the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works at the birth of the first Lewis car in November 1900 (he is pictured with it at the top left of the group in the photo on page 66 of George Brooks book South Australian Motor Cars 1881 - 1942), so he was obviously an employee of some standing at the firm.

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By the time out next photo was taken, things seem a little more cluttered in the white garage. We now see very clearly the roof arrangement, and the characteristic 4-pane windows that run across the rear and right walls. Note also the swinging corrugated iron doors for entry at the rear right, opening onto a narrow laneway that separated the garage from the Torrens Building (still standing) along the south side. To take this photograph, our photographer would have positioned himself in or near the (presumed) double doors at the eastern end of the workshop. From this position, had he swung through 180 degrees he might have had a view of the Motor House across the lane much as seen on photograph 07.

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In the photo above the car on the right with its bonnet raised is backed into one of the car bays along the south wall. In the photo below, the photographer has moved down towards the back of the garage - say under the rearmost "Cars Stored at Owners' Risk" sign in the photos above - to show us work in progress on an interesting array of vehicles parked in the bays. The small room in the front right corner of the garage is where mystical chemical and electrical arts were applied to applied to car and motorcycle accumulators (storage batteries). On the far right of the photo we see what could be the hinges of another set of entrance doors at the front of the garage, presumably leading across the lane into the Motor House.

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Inside the accumulator house we find a rather modern-looking electrical installation for charging batteries, as well as the stone and glass jars that held battery acid. I wonder what venting arrangement - if any - was in place for the hydrogen gas produced by the charging process?

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Unfortunately our tour has to end there, without getting much more than a glimpse of the front wall of the garage, and no view at all of the front left corner.

The white garage would have been the centre for motor engineering at Lewis between late 1904 and early 1910, when all motor operations were moved to the new, larger Motor House on Gawler Place South.

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