Photograph, Templeton and Sons Flaxmill ; Unknown photographer; 1930-1940; RI.P3...


Photograph, Templeton and Sons Flaxmill

About this object

This photo shows dried shanks of flax fibre piled high on a truck, possibly stacked by the two men who pose happily for the camera. This photo was taken near the end of the flax's journey through the Templeton's Flaxmill. The fresh harakeke (flax) was harvested by skilled cutters who knew which leaves and how many to cut from each plant. The raw flax was then conveyed to the factory and fed through the scutcher, a terrifying machine which thrashed the green matter in order to separate it from the tough, fibrous heart of the leaves. The scutched flax was draped and washed thoroughly, before being taken back outside and hung over wires, where it would spend up to six weeks drying.

William and Jessie Templeton were the earliest flaxmillers in the family, at the original location at Otaitai Bush. Their son William later moved the mill to its current site nearer Riverton, before it was later taken over by his children.

William's four eldest sons went to fight in World War One, while the remaining family ran the mill to produce the rope and twine needed for the war effort. Prices had boomed during the war, but slumped in the 1920s. William retired in the 1920s and his son, Andrew, took over the management of the mill. In spite of the Depression he kept running, and made it pay, although he also diversified his property to carry cattle and sheep.

During World War Two, flax milling was again declared an essential industry and prices rose. The fibre was used for wool packs, flax matting, and filling for upholstery, as well as rope and twine. In its heyday the Otaitai Bush mill was turning out over 300 tons of fibre a year which meant some 2,700 tons of flax were being processed.

Reference: Patrick, Elaine. 1998. Southern People; A dictionary of Otago and Southland. Longacre Press: Dunedin City Council. pg. 502. A copy is available to view in the Te Hikoi Museum Research Room, Riverton.

Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand, South Island, Southland, Riverton-Aparima


Unknown photographer

Maker Role


Date Made


Inscription and Marks

Handwritten on the back: 'A.J. Templeton + Sons Flaxmill'
Handwritten on back: 'P39.93.521'
Handwritten on the back: '654'
Stamped on the back: 'Wallace Early Settlers Museum, Riverton'


h 65 mm x w 101 mm



Object Type


Subject and Association Keywords


Medium and Materials

organic, processed material, paper

Object number



Attribution - Non-commercial (cc) Attribution - Non-commercial (cc)

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