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Newbold, Arthur Roger (1878–1960)

by W. G. McMinn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Arthur Roger Newbold (1878-1960), industrialist, was born on 12 October 1878 at Willenhall, Staffordshire, England, son of Roger Newbould, brickmaker, and his wife Esther, née Broadhurst. Arthur followed his father's trade. After spending some time in South Africa, he was a local brickworks manager when, on 17 December 1907, spelling his surname 'Newbold', he married Annie Richards (d.1958) at the parish church, Skewan, Glamorgan, Wales. One of his brothers married his wife's sister, Wynne. The Newbolds reached Australia in February 1908. They had two sons, and adopted the daughter of Wynne who had died in childbirth.

With assistance from Charles Hoskins, Newbold set up a small works at Lithgow to make refractories (furnace-bricks). It employed only ten people. Newbold later said that it only survived because he 'went to work early instead of 5 a.m.'. By 1912, the year in which Newbold Silica Fire Brick Co. Ltd was registered, he had established a larger plant at nearby Marrangaroo. In 1918 operations were transferred to the Newcastle suburb of Mayfield. Newbold responded to technological developments in industries requiring high-quality refractories by increasing the range of his products. In 1946 the firm's name was changed to Newbold General Refractories Ltd. Plants were established that year at Thirroul and Port Kembla, and soon after at Wollongong. The company also operated its own mines and quarries, and manufactured building-bricks in Sydney and Melbourne. Special requirements were imported from as far away as Madagascar.

Newbold was fond of saying 'never spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of paint'. In that spirit he pursued a programme of research and development: he travelled abroad several times himself and regularly sent senior executives overseas to study new processes. By 1960 the Mayfield plant was producing 18 million refractories per year. Newbold's supplied more than seventy different products—including graphite refractories and crucibles, standard clay and silica firebricks, and adhesives—to a wide range of metal industries and to gas, electricity and cement producers throughout Australia. A considerable export trade had also been established.

In his youth Newbold had been a competitive cyclist; he later took up golf, and in the last ten years of his life regularly played lawn bowls at Newbold's Bowling Club, established beside the firm's head office at Mayfield. The club remains a monument not only to his own interest in the sport, but to the firm's good relations with its staff. Newbold was an enthusiastic gardener. The grounds of his New Lambton home, The Gables, were regularly opened to the public to raise funds for charity and became a Newcastle showpiece. A generation later local residents still referred to The Gables as Newbold's.

Newbold never retired as managing director. Survived by his sons, both of whom held senior positions in the business, and by his adopted daughter, he died on 30 August 1960 at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Waratah, and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at about £108,000. In 1974 the firm was acquired by Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd and renamed B.H.P. Refractories Pty Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1939, 24 Feb 1961
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 26 Sept 1959, 1 Sept 1960, 8 Oct 1983
  • Newbold General Refractories Ltd, Directors' Report, 1940-53 and 1961 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

W. G. McMinn, 'Newbold, Arthur Roger (1878–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/newbold-arthur-roger-11226/text20015, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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