Wednesday 8 August 2018

25 December to 31 December, 1867

In every shaded nook.

The view from Auckland Domain overlooking Parnell and Auckland harbour.
John Barr Clarke Hoyte.

Wednesday, 25 December
Christmas Day is  the quietest time at the Thames since the first landing.  A great number have gone down to Tapu Creek.  The weather is glorious, the cool sea breeze offsetting any inconvenience that might otherwise be felt from the heat.

NZH 25 December, 1867

Thursday, 26 December
Boxing day festivities and amusements which crown the work of the old year find eager participants by flood and field, by steamer and yacht, by shade and sunshine.

At an early hour Auckland streets are full of people, many from the Thames,  bent on pleasure seeking.  They head for Greenwich Park at  Lake Takapuna on the North Shore,  the popular Cremorne gardens or the Domain.  

Everyone is in the highest spirits and the weather is magnificent.  Auckland harbour is festive with flags of all nations, comprising almost every shade of colour.  Many carriages are laden, carrying picnic parties further into the country – Panmure, Howick, Papakura, the Ranges or Onehunga.

Steam boats ply between Queen Street wharf and the North Shore taking many hundreds of people to the Flagstaff on Mount Victoria at Devonport where adventurous mountaineers ascend the Signal Hill or enjoy themselves with games. Mount Victoria, the north shore's highest volcano,  was once a Maori pa and its upper slopes are marked with signs of terraces and pits.  A signal station  to assist shipping was established on the summit in 1842 and the mountain was originally named Flagstaff Hill. Extensive views of the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf made it an ideal location - early ships taking as long as three days to tack into Auckland.   Mount Victoria is now a popular place for excursionists. 

The Domain is crowded with families and those who prefer the delights of a rural picnic without crossing the water,  as it is within easy distance of the town and there is no difficulty in getting there. Swings are in great demand and in every shaded nook there are picturesque groups.   An itinerant dealer in gingerbreads and ginger beer plies a brisk trade while youths fatigue themselves playing cricket.  Good humour, laughter and jocularity prevail.  During the afternoon the splendid band of the 18th Regiment enlivens the scene. 

Greenwich Park at Lake Takapuna is a favourite place of resort  and is the great centre of attraction for outdoor excursionists.  The grounds, which have undergone many improvements since last year,  are visited by over 2,000 people.  At 10am the Enterprise leaves with the first batch of passengers closely followed by the Midge and Gemini.  All three are crowded.  After landing their passengers the steamers return and convey the remainder to the lake,  the last boat arriving about 2.30.

Passengers immediately distribute themselves over the attractive and charming grounds, many seeking a quiet spot under the trees,  while others saunter along the sea beach and crowd the borders of the lake admiring the enchanting scenery.  Several swings are attached to the trees which young folk and those more mature enjoy,  among them an aged ‘spinster’ entering into the spirit  of the amusement with a  heartiness which is scarcely expected of one on the shady side of 50.

Various sports - quoits, cricket, skittles and football -  are held  in the paddock and on the beach. James Grattan's refreshment booth offers fine fare.  At 1pm horse racing starts on the beach.

Sheltered nooks in a garden at Lake Takapuna 
Sir George Grey Special Collections NZG19000505-845-1

Cremorne Gardens, at Herne Bay, are a favourite place of recreation and amusement thrown open to the public at holidays for sports, fun and frolics.   Cremorne, lately known as Kemps, acquired a new proprietor in 1866 who has made vast improvements, rendering a really pretty retreat most inviting.  The grounds are attractively laid out and command a beautiful view of the river.  A spacious pavilion, in the centre of the grounds, is fitted up in a superb style, somewhat resembling the marquee at the celebrated Cremorne of London.  These extensive pleasure grounds, on the banks of the river, are shaded by overhanging trees making them especially appealing to picnic parties.  

An efficient band is playing in the  pavilion where throughout the day dancing is energetically enjoyed. Those preferring quieter pleasures occupy their attention on the fine view – looking across the broad expanse of water of the beach below to the distant shore opposite.  Many unobtrusive little picnic parties shelter under shady trees, discussing the contents of various hampers amidst the popping and fizzing of ginger beer bottles.  Happy coupes sit oblivious to  their surroundings and rollicking youngsters give full play to their youthful spirits.  There is tremendous demand for ginger beer and other not so mild refreshments.  

At Howick, owing to the absence of many of their inhabitants now resident at the Thames,  it was uncertain whether  the usual annual sports would be held or not.   However some spontaneous sports are got up and entered into with zest.  Many of the diggers belonging to Howick have returned to enjoy their Christmas and see their families.

At the Gymnasium  the Auckland Gymnastics club give a most excellent performance and  impress with a series of feats on a slack rope as well as the double trapeze, vaulting, jumping,  somersaults, horizontal bar and other athletic exercises.  Success attends this,  their first public appearance.

Shortly after 4pm the excursionists at Lake Takapuna begin to move homewards and by dark all is quiet while the amusements at Cremorne  gardens keep up with unabated spirits until a late hour.  From the energy displayed by all the youngsters today they will doubtless sleep without rocking tonight.

At 8pm at the Devonport Assembly Room (public hall),  a new substantial and centrally situated building facing the broad waters of the Waitemata, a ball takes place.  At Hoffman’s Assembly Rooms in Shortland Street, Auckland, another ball is also held.  These rooms are a private undertaking of Mr Hoffman - a comfortably seated hall, brilliantly lit with gas, for the purpose of people's concerts and balls. 
The Prince of Wales Theatre resounds with  an attractive programme of songs and glees which are very creditably sung and heartily encored.  The piece de resistance is the negro farce 'Black Statue' which causes  uncontrollable merriment in the audience.

At the Thames this evening the Tauranga lies quietly  up the Kauaeranga creek with all her Christmas bunting displayed. 

Queen Street early 1860s.  The Daily Southern Cross Office is in the left bottom picture, the building to the far right.  Beck's the jeweller is in the right bottom picture, fifth building along. 
Sir George Grey Special Collections 4-3147

Glittering cakes of gold. 

Friday, 27 December
A small parcel of gold from Tapu Creek is tested by Mr Beck, jeweller, Queen Street, Auckland, and calculated to be 18 carat fine and worth £3 5 s per oz.  The sample is flowery reef gold mixed with alluvial.  

Shortly after 1pm, at the Queen Street wharf, the Tauranga arrives in harbour from the Thames, coming alongside the Midge, which is lying inside the ship Ida Ziegler.  Almost before the steamer is properly secured, a number of passengers rush from the Tauranga to the Midge, and without first seeing that the gangway is safe, walk on the wharf.  About half a dozen people manage to reach the wharf in safety, but unfortunately the gangway slips and a young man named Culpan falls a distance of about 20ft, his head hitting one of the piles. Captain Marks succeeds, with difficulty, in rescuing him.  Culpan is severely bruised about the head. 

It is a matter of astonishment that more casualties have not occurred around the Thames steamers. They arrive at all hours of the night and there is a general rush of passengers from the boats.  Sometimes passengers are scarcely in any condition to walk the plank safely, and yet they have to do it.  The gangways used are little wider than a broad plank, and when the tide is low, present a steep incline.

There is a call for authorities to appoint a certain portion of the wharf as a berth for the Thames steamers.  The existing first inner T of the wharf would be suitable – the owners of the steamers could provide broad stages, protected by hand rails for the landing of their passengers. At the moment there is no appointed berth and the passengers are landed on parts of the wharf where space can be found.

DSC 27 December, 1867

DSC 27 December, 1867

Saturday, 28 December

Wahapu for the Thames with 15 tons coals.
  Avon  for the Thames with seven tons flour, ½ ton bran, ½ ton maize, 10 bags chaff, two bags harness, two hhds beers, three head cattle, 17 sheep, six passengers.

DSC 28 December, 1867

Monday, 30 December
The weather for the last few days has been most oppressively hot, the thermometer some days standing at 115 in the sun.  A good many diggers are coming and going from  Tapu Creek.  A great many parties have been back in the ranges having a look at the country rather than prospecting during the holidays. 

There is a  very narrow escape of a burnout at Barry’s claim.  The Shotover are clearing and firing some scrub when the fire runs towards Barry’s.  Prompt action sees the tents and fixings saved.

The Tauranga and Enterprise leave Auckland for the Thames diggings with a considerable number of passengers. Great preparations are going on for the New Years sports at the Thames. 

A man named Andrews, working at one of the machines now being built on the Karaka, cuts his foot right through to the bone while using an adze.   Dr Hooper arranges to send him to his family in Auckland by tomorrow’s steamer.

Swarms of mosquitoes and legions of blowflies now rush to the Thames.  The mosquitoes murder sleep up in the ranges and gullies and many diggers abandon their claims during the night so as to try and get a little rest.

Charles Blomfield, a young lad of 19 with little to do, has come to the Thames with two friends.  They know nothing about mining but have pitched a tent on a vacant spot between the Hape and Karaka.  The exquisite beauty of the native bush almost overwhelms them with its wealth of luxurious and varied growth.  There are tall kauris and cedars and tawas, great tree ferns and graceful nikaus.  Every stump is decorated with moss and creeper, every vacant inch of ground carpeted with crepe and kidney ferns.  They are charmed by the song of the tuis and bellbirds, the flutter of friendly fantails and the call of the morepork.  But mosquitoes simply swarm everywhere, day and night, giving no rest.  The lads try every remedy and sometimes in despair carry their blankets to the top of the ridge but the mosquitoes follow them up in a cloud.

Bella  for the Thames with  7 ½ tons flour, one ton potatoes, one ton salt, five tons flour, five cases biscuit. 

 Rob Roy and Three Brothers for the Thames with full cargoes. 

  Henry  for Tapu Creek with a cargo of sheep and general stores.

DSC 30 December, 1867

Tuesday, 31 December
The  government steamer Sturt steams again for the Thames early this morning but this time it is in order to place a buoy off Sandspit passage for the convenience of vessels proceeding to the goldfield.

At the Thames all work is now at a standstill.  The miners and townspeople are walking about, talking of the sports that are to take place tomorrow, after which they say work will be resumed with vigour and determination.

Captain Butt will open the American Theatre in about 10 days.  The building is capable of holding 600 persons comfortably.  Mr Dean is the architect who merits much credit for the style of architecture, and the scenery painted by Thomas Stewart Monkhouse is of a very artistic character.

Rangitoto circa 1865 by Thomas Stewart Monkhouse

The first gold assay of any importance to Auckland is made by F C Smith, assayer to the Bank of New Zealand.  The metals tested comprise both quartz and alluvial gold from the Thames goldfield. A sample is taken from each of several ingots purchased by the bank,  eight of which are tested in the bank’s smelting department.

A NZ Herald correspondent is invited to witness the process and is astounded at the difficulty and tediousness involved in a gold assay, the number and variety of processes employed, the delicate and minute character of the machinery and utensils used, and the amount of patience, care and experience required in order to prevent mistakes, accidents, failure and disappointment.

The gold to be assayed consists of several glittering cakes of various weights, the largest from the Shotover. There is an ingot from Tapu Creek and others from the No 2 Eureka, Long Drive and Homeward Bound claims, as well as the claims of Henry Norton, J Petrie and R Carter.  In the smelting and assaying department there are two large smelting furnaces, by which as much as 7,000 ozs may be run down per day.  There is also a retorting furnace and an assaying furnace.

A political meeting is held at the Criterion Hotel, Otahuhu, where it is stated that the Government, from dire necessity, has been compelled to give notice to nearly all officials in their employ that their services would not be required at the end of the year.  It is a  very fortunate and providential thing that they have gold diggings at the Thames  to enable those people to go there, where they will at least benefit their health, if they do not improve their pockets.  These public officials and their families have no employment to look forward to and, for the first time, perhaps, in their lives, are thrown on their own resources. 

Rob Roy for the Thames with  three cows, 1,000 ft timber, two bales, three cases drapery, 5,000 shingles, six cases whisky, five cases wine, four cases gin, six cases bitters. 

The assaying of Thames gold concludes.  Of the eight,  the Eureka, Long Drive and R Carter’s samples are unsuccessful.  The process  has taken  over four hours and leaves the NZ Herald reporter with a pile of notes and new words to decipher -  cupelling, annealing, beating, rolling, numbering and parting being just some of them.

There has been a steady increase in the monthly export of gold from the Thames during December.  The Bank of Australasia and the Union Bank of Australia have sent away by the ss Auckland to Sydney 298 and 1415 ozs respectively.  The Bank of New Zealand sends by the Taranaki, for transhipment at Wellington, for England 1480 ozs. In all the banks alone send this month 3113 oz – at the beginning of last month it was 1200 oz.  This only represents the amounts forwarded by the banks and does not include private parcels sent from  elsewhere. Considering how very little increased crushing accommodation has been provided to the miners during the past month the increased quantity of gold is very satisfactory.  It is still nearly all the produce of Berdan crushing.  There is an enormous demand for machinery at the Thames.

Despite these successes there is an underbelly of suffering amongst the diggers.   Many have worked for months penniless but as numbers leave the diggings disgusted still others come from all quarters to try their luck.   By now 2,940 miners rights have been issued at the Thames.

The New Year is ushered in on the Thames goldfield by upwards of 500 men drinking at the bars of the hotels.  It is a peaceful but rowdy night. 

DSC 31 December, 1867

NZH 31 December, 1867


The Lake at Takapuna  is now known as  Lake Pupuke.   It is separated from the sea by less than 200 m at one point.


A very Merry Christmas to all my subscribers and blog readers.
Thank you for persisting with some fairly lengthy reads!

Christmas circa 1867 


Papers Past,_New_Zealand

© Meghan Hawkes / First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017
Please credit Meghan Hawkes/ First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017 when re-using information from this blog.

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