The history of Metters Ltd
METTERS, FREDERICK (1858-1937), and SPRING, HENRY LANGDON (1864-1937),
stove manufacturers, were business partners. Metters was born on 14 May
1858 in Melbourne, eighth child of James Metters, a Cornish-born bricklayer,
and his wife Susan, née Flux, from the Isle of Wight. Fred probably
worked for his father, who by 1869 was employed as a stove setter.
After moving to Adelaide, on 8 October 1883 Fred married Frances Fisher
at Clayton Congregational Church, Kensington. The family lived in Melbourne
for some years in the 1880s. Back in Adelaide from 1890, next year he
founded his stove-making company. Holding patents for cooking ovens, a
firebox for ovens and a cooking apparatus—which won a prize at the
Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society's Show in 1899—he advertised
himself as a 'Maker of Kitchen Ranges and Patent Improved Ovens' and a
'Coppersmith and Galvaniser'. To promote sales of his 'top-fire' fuel
stove, he toured South Australia, demonstrating it at country shows. In
1894 he opened a branch in Perth where, at 68 Hay Street, he obtained
premises being leased to Henry Spring.
Henry had been born on 25 September 1864 at Hackney, London, son of Henry
Spring, merchant's clerk, later insurance broker, and his wife Marion,
née Ballment. After working for ten years in a stockbroker's office
in London, Spring sailed for South Africa and at the age of 25 joined
the British South African Police. His health affected by malaria, about
1892 he migrated to Victoria, where he ran a country store and a travelling
caravan. He then moved to Western Australia and operated a carrying business
between Perth and Fremantle. On 6 November 1895 in St George's Cathedral,
Perth, he married with Anglican rites Ellen Orianna Daw, from Adelaide.
The previous year Spring had started as a clerk in Metters & Co. He
quickly became its driving force and in 1898 was made a partner. After
Metters sold his interest to Spring in 1907, Metters Ltd was formed in
Adelaide with Spring as managing director. The nominal capital of the
company in 1911 was £200,000.
Spring's younger brother Robert Alexander (1873-1971), born at Woodford,
Essex, had reached Perth in 1897 and was assistant to the manager of the
factory there. In 1902 he established a Metters foundry in Sydney, and
was its first manager. On 29 August next year, at St Philip's Church of
England, he married Ellen's sister Josephine Constance Daw.
The firm advertised (1909) as 'stove and range makers, ironfounders, engineers,
coppersmiths, sheetmetal workers' and undertook to provide windmills,
pumps, troughing and irrigation requirements. A new, illustrated catalogue
(c.1910) showed ornamental castings, ventilating friezes, crestings, finials,
verandah drops and memorial tablets. In 1911 new or rebuilt factories
on larger blocks of land appeared in Adelaide and at Subiaco, Perth, and
in 1913 new premises were erected in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Henry Spring
oversaw an expansion as the company produced gas and fuel stoves, other
domestic appliances and agricultural machinery, including water tanks.
During World War I large quantities of cooking equipment were provided
for the armed services. In 1918 Metters Ltd bought the business of R.
Foreman & Sons, Hobart, makers of porcelain-enamelled baths, the manufacture
of which was brought to Sydney. Capital in the company increased again
in 1924 to £1,000,000. When a controlling interest was acquired
in Porcelain Enamellers, New Zealand, Metters (N.Z.) Ltd was formed in
Three former employees of Metters Ltd had begun the K.F.B. Foundry in
Sydney in 1916; competition became keen and in 1927 the two businesses
amalgamated, each keeping its old trade identity while a holding company,
General Industries Ltd, was formed. Henry Spring became the chairman of
directors of the holding company, while retaining control of Metters Ltd.
Soon a factory was built at Footscray, Melbourne.
Henry was a councillor for many years of the Metal Trades Employers' Association
and had pastoral interests in Western Australia; he was said to have been
among the first to introduce motor transport of cattle and sheep. Living
at Mosman, Sydney, he was interested in motorcars and motorboats and was
a founder of Mosman Golf Club. He died on 21 April 1937 in St Luke's Hospital,
Elizabeth Bay, and was cremated, survived by his wife, three sons and
one daughter. His estate was sworn for probate at £17,698.
Metters lived comfortably in a grand house at Rose Park, South Australia,
from 1911 to 1922; thereafter he lived with his sons at Waikerie and Gumeracha.
He was a tall, solid, full-faced man, broad-minded and determined, who
neither smoked nor played any sport and did not attend church. Predeceased
by his wife, he died intestate on 25 September 1937 in Ru Rua private
hospital, North Adelaide, and was buried in West Terrace cemetery. His
three sons and three daughters survived him. He had already divided his
assets among his sons, none of whom entered the business.
Robert Spring, a plump, cheerful man with a jocund smile, became managing
director of Metters Ltd after his brother's death. In World War II the
firm produced land mines and pontoon bridges. Plagued by strikes, in 1952
Spring announced a pact with 1300 workers at the big factory at Alexandria,
Sydney, which he hoped would end labour disputes. He retired from the
company in 1956. Robert was a life member of the Royal Zoological Society
and a member of the Metal Trades Employers' Federation. Predeceased by
his wife, he died in his home at Clifton Gardens, on 15 April 1971 and
was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery. Two sons and a daughter survived
In 1974 Email Ltd purchased the company. Perhaps the best remembered of
all Metters products was the two-coloured (cream and green), enamel 'Early
Kooka' stove—featuring a kookaburra with a captured worm—which
was first made in 1937, the year in which both Fred Metters and Henry
Spring had died.
The Story of Metters (1965); Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 25 Sept 1922, p
3; Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 1927, p 17, 22 Apr 1937, p 17, 2 Mar
1952, p 2, 20 Apr 1971, p 14; National Times, 24-30 Oct 1982, p 15; private
Author: Joyce Gibberd
Print Publication Details: Joyce Gibberd, 'Metters, Frederick (Fred) (1858
- 1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, Melbourne
University Press, 2005, pp 277-278. .
Spanners marked "METTERS" are the only ones found to date -
quite uncommon, simple flat plate spanners.
If anyone can supply more info and or spanner pictures please make contact
on the link below