In the 1880s a debate took place concerning the quality of the stone which was to be used in Adelaide buildings. At this time stone was purchased from Sydney at great expense. By 1902 small samples of both Murray Bridge and Sydney stones had been tested for strength but a more detailed one was needed.
The Advertiser, 6 August 1902, stated that a number of Adelaide gentlemen keenly interested in the merits of SA and NSW building stone were grouped around an up-to-date “tester” at the Adelaide University.
It was written – “Samples of the rival stones, neatly dressed in uniform sizes, were near at hand. The test was about to begin. Mr R W Chapman, lecturer on engineering, moved a handle; the electric wires in the dynamo sprang into life, and in a fraction of a second the ponderous machine was amassed of whirling wheels and revolving shafts.” “The block of stone under the crusher,’ explained Mr Chapman, “is from Pyrmont.”
The wedge-shaped crusher slowly descended onto the piece of stone, which was supported at each end by an inverted V-shaped piece of metal. The movement of the crusher was almost imperceptible, but at last the weight was resting on a thin layer of wood, which had been placed on the stone to make the process of breaking a more gradual one.
The wood crimped up on both sides as the wedge sank into it, there was a general craning forward on the part of the spectators, the register commenced denoting the amount of pressure, then a black fissure stole across the middle of the stone. The initial test was over, and a piece of Sydney stone had broken under a pressure of 490lb. The interest in the proceedings deepened as a sample from Mr Torode’s Burdett’s Freestone Quarry was brought forward. Again the machine was started; the onlookers crowded around and watched the wedge gradually, accomplishing its journey. The silence as it neared the stone was intense. At last it touched the wood. Second after second sped by, but still the stone resisted. Then the record of the Sydney stone was passed.
A happy smile spread over Mr Torode’s face. Five, six, seven, eight, nine hundreds went up on the register, and the thousand was well within sight when the stone suddenly collapsed. “Nine hundred and seventy-five pounds,” announced Mr Chapman. “Hurrah for South Australian stone”.