For more than a century, the Hutton's Factory in Frankton has stood on the corner of Massey and Lincoln Sts, and for the past 18 months, Hamilton man Peter Lane has made it his mission to discover its history.

Factory staff were laid off early last year and the site shut down after Goodman Fielder sold its meat business to Hellers.

Peter is now looking for someone to turn his countless hours of research into a book.

He said research began after he went into the local library and found only three pictures and one newspaper interview.


Having worked at Hutton's factories himself for 20 years and recently retired, Peter decided it would make for an interesting project.

He soon discovered the history of the factory stretched back to 1880, when the first slaughterhouses were built and Frankton was little more than a swamp.

The factory itself was built in 1901 and specialised in producing small goods, including brawn, fresh sausages and polonies.

Permission to slaughter pigs on premises did not come until 1911. There were concerns at the time of how long this would be allowed to continue, in view of the encroaching housing. It was a practice which would, nevertheless, continue all the way up to 1999.

By 1912, the factory had its own private railway siding, which operated for 80 years, and in 1916 the factory went into liquidation and was purchased by W.Dimock and Co Ltd, which had already procured the Auckland Bacon Company.

With a number of farming co-ops going into liquidation at the time, Peter said there was only one reason.

"Everyone was chasing the same pigs," he said.

It became the Hutton's factory in 1926, when J.C.Hutton Australia purchased the business.

In 1986, Hutton's merged with Kiwi Bacon Co to become Hutton's Kiwi.

As part of his research, Peter started phoning people he had worked with, and before long he was interviewing people who worked at the factory during World War II.

"In the war you worked where you were told. There was a tribunal if you disagreed but they basically told you to get on with it."

The primary function of the factory at that time was producing meat to be sent to American troops fighting in the Pacific.

One New Zealand Herald report from November 1941 quotes the manager as saying Frankton was producing 1.5 tons of sausages a day, and canning 67,000 pounds of sausages for New Zealand Prisoners of War overseas.

"It was news to me. I had never heard of sausage being sent overseas for POWs before," he said.

Peter said during interviews, one factory foreman stood out as a particularly conscientious worker.

Alec Wigzell, who received two gold watches for services to the factory, once woke on a particularly hot night and knew immediately what needed to be done.

"He came back to work with his coat over his pyjamas to push the pigs into the chiller that had been left out to cool overnight. He just had the lot in the chiller when the staff came in to start work, so they began to pull them out again to begin cutting them up."

For Peter, Mr Wigzell personified the virtues that held the factory together for more than 100 years.

"In the 1970s, at over 80 years old, Alec was still bicycling in to work three days a week to bone and roll sides of bacon for the vans. Alec had a lucrative sideline. He reckoned that when he was foreman, he made more money from running Saturday night dances at the Frankton Town Hall than he was paid by Hutton's."

The actions of a number of employees revealed their devotion to the factory.

"The head motor mechanic in the early 70s, Tom Harrington had been known to leave at 8pm with the carpenter as his assistant to change a cylinder head overnight up to 200km away because the local garage would not start work till 8am, and the truck was needed on the road by then."

But of course, as with any institution, there were those who were not so conscientious. Peter refuses to tell some of the shenanigans the men in his day got up to.

"A lot of the guys were pretty rough freezing worker types," he said.

During the 1960s, one general manager stumbled upon an unusual find in the roof spaces of the factory.

"He found a half-built trailer. He went back a week later and found a little more had been done to it. He waited until it was finished and then he took it - no one ever complained."

"Company time and money had been spent on it, but they just used it for private use or for company business when needed," he said.

The factory did not always have a night watchman, until the general manager noticed the suspicious activity of one flatbed truck over weekends.

"He noticed the vehicle wasn't there. He soon found out it was spending every Saturday and Sunday working its heart out on a farm in Huntly," Peter said.

It was no surprise to Peter the factory survived so long, as it was always an advanced site, particularly during the 60s, 70s and 80s when it prided itself on having the latest technology.

"The company didn't encourage cameras on site because we didn't want our competition seeing what we were doing."

At one point, a visiting Australian general manager who supplied the factory with machinery was allowed to enter, but his Kiwi counterpart was not.

"We knew he couldn't be trusted not to tell the competition."

All the research is now housed at the Alexander Turnbull Library, and Peter is calling on anyone willing to take on the challenge to step forward and write the book.

Peter said he was still interested in hearing from anyone with stories or information on the history.

The factory closed on March 31 last year, leaving 140 employees out of work.

"Thus ended the history of a proud and technologically advanced company," said Peter.