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  • 27 July 1867: The signing of a lease agreement for Maori Land. A Lease Agreement for the Thames Special Area for goldmining as well as the townsite for Shortland was signed at Kauaeranga by four consenting Maori Chiefs Te Hoterene Taipari, Wirope Hoterene Taipari, Te Raika Whakarongotai, Rapana Maunganoa, with Daniel Pollen for the General Government of New Zealand. Witnesses were James Mackay Junior, Civil Commissioner and John Williams, an early prospector.

  • 30 July 1867: The Proclamation of The Thames Goldfield. Daniel Pollen issued a Proclamation declaring the lands from Kauaranga to Kuranui to be a goldfield, to be open for goldmining on or after 1 August 1867.

  • 1 August 1867: James MacKay Junr, accompanied by fifty goldminers, arrives at The Thames. James MacKay, Gold Commissioner and Resident Magistrate arrived at The Landing Place at The Thames on the p.s. Enterprise. Other cutters followed, and within 24 hours, there were 250 gold prospectors at work on The Thames. Most of them swarmed up the Karaka Creek, then gradually some prospected further north to the Waiotahi, Moanataiari and Kuranui Creeks.

  • 10 August 1867: Finding the Shotover. Four prospectors named Clarkson, Hunt, White and Cobley find gold and stake out the Shotover Claim at Kuranui. Gold was found in quantity at The Thames within 10 days of the arrival of the miners. This caused a rush to the Kuranui, with all neighbouring claims soon staked out.

  • 29 August 1867: Rich gold is found by Daniel Tookey on his claim at the head of the Moanataiari Creek. Daniel Tookey had been trading and prospecting in The Thames area since at least 1856.

  • 29 August 1867: Captain John Butt opens the Shortland Hotel and American Theatre. This was one the first and most popular of the hotels on The Thames Goldfield. It was soon followed by many more. With most of the miners living in tents in the rain and cold, they relished their time in the warm dry pubs talking to other miners about mining their claims.

  • 6 September 1867: Allan Baillie appointed Gold Warden for The Thames. Miner’s Rights were issued at a rapid rate, with the first 100 issued by 26 August 1867, and 1135 issued in the first month.

  • 20 October 1867: The first church service was conducted at The Thames by the Reverend George Harper, a Methodist Minister. He stood on an empty cask in the street outside a popular hotel in Shortland to make himself heard.

  • 9 November 1867: The opening of the Tapu Creek goldfield. This goldfield was never as rich as The Thames but was especially popular amongst the miners who were accompanied by their wives and children.

  • 23 December 1867: William Hunt of the Shotover Claim brings 80 oz of gold to Auckland. More gold from the Shotover claim followed in rapid succession, more with each week’s shipment. Unlike all the other gold quartz at The Thames, the reef at the Shotover claim was mostly above ground and required very little digging to extract it.

  • 2 April 1868: The Golden Crown Mine strikes it rich. After an extraordinary yield of 3,093 oz of gold for the month of February, The Golden Crown is declared to be the greatest mine ever found in Australasia so far.Then the rich lead that they were following crossed into the Caledonian Mine next door. The three mines, the Manukau, the Golden Crown and the Caledonia were all found to be on the same rich lead.

  • 18 April 1868: Roads are neglected. To access their claims and cart out the ore to be crushed, the roads up all the creeks were being built and maintained by the miners themselves. There was never any help forthcoming from the General Government in Wellington to build roads, bridges, wharves or footpaths on the Thames Goldfield during the first few years. Although the Government continued to charge a duty on all gold found at The Thames, and charge for Miner’s Rights and other licences, all revenues were shipped to Wellington while very little ever returned.

  • 18 May 1868: The Lucky Hit claim in the upper Karaka Creek is starting to show great promise, as did many other claims up and down the Karaka Creek. The miners all over The Thames were hampered because of a lack of the means to crush their quartz. In the meantime, they had no means of income and many simply gave up.

  • 2 July 1868: The mighty Manukau Lead yields 1260 oz of gold from one and a half tons of ore. This high yield continued as the company tracked the lead all the way across their claim. The amazing find made a great deal of money for their shareholders.

  • 22 July 1868: An Auckland businessman, Robert Graham establishes the town of Grahamstown on half a mile of foreshore, just north of Shortland. He was a very efficient businessman where everything was 'no sooner said than done' and who took care of everyone’s needs as best he could.

  • 22 July 1868: The 'Goldfinder' 4-stamper Battery at the Shotover Mine begins crushing their quartz.The first day’s crushing yielded 1,500 oz of gold. The shareholders had waited a year to be able to crush their own quartz.

  • 24 July 1868: The Du Moulin 8-stamper battery is working high up the Waiotahi Creek to service the large number of nearby profitable claims. The building of stamper batteries such as the Du Moulin and Day Spring were key to allowing the small claim-holders to have their quartz affordably crushed to release the gold and maintain their incomes. In most cases, if they could not get their quartz crushed, the claimholders could not eat.

  • 29 July 1868: The Long Drive Company is formed to work their successful Kuranui property. One of the shareholders of The Long Drive Company was Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, younger son of Queen Victoria. He received a £200 dividend before the month was out.

  • 31 July 1868: First gold is struck at Tararu Creek. A rush ensued, and by October 1868, there were claims pegged out all over the hills along the Tararu Creek.

  • 5 August 1868: The start of the rush to Punga Flat. This was the beginnings of the isolated township of Punga Flat, high on the range above the Waiotahi Creek where miners were still working in the 1920s.

  • 8 August 1868: Amalgamation of several smaller claims at the mouth of the Waiotihi Creek to form the United Gold Mining Company which soon had a large crushing plant operating.By pooling their resources, small claimholders were able to afford the crushing machinery they so desperately needed.

  • 18 August 1868: The Alburnia Gold Mining Company whose claim was located high on the range above the Moanataiari extracted 54oz of gold from 70lb of quartz. The Alburnia was one of the most productive of the 'back-country' mines on the goldfield, often using tributors (contractors). In 1877, the company yielded 75,000 oz of gold and paid the shareholders £19,000 in dividends.

  • 24 August 1868:The new Township at Tararu was named New London by Robert Graham. With about 30,000 inhabitants at The Thames by now, there were high hopes for the whole district.

  • 1 September 1868: The Golden Crown Company follows the quartz lead from the Manukau across their claim with the same very rich yield.Soon they were able to build a great new stamper battery on the flat right below their claim (where the Goldmine Experience is today).

  • 14 September 1868: Gibbon’s Stamping Battery on the Karaka begins servicing the large number of claims along the length of the Karaka Creek, the Collarbone Range (north) and Murphy’s Hill (south).Most of the early claims were too small to have their own stamping batteries, and they had to rely on carting their ore to public crushing mills such as Gibbon’s Mill and Bull’s Battery on the Karaka Creek goldfield.

  • 15 October 1868: The Moanataiari Gold Mining Company strikes rich gold. This company expanded and was still on to a rich bonanza on the Moanataiari fault in 1877 – 1881. Using a tunnel from sea level, they were able to access the lower levels of the reefs the earlier miners had not been able to reach.

  • 2 November 1868: The opening of the Diggers’ Hospital at Thames. The money to build this hospital was raised entirely by the miners and the people of Thames themselves.

  • 5 November 1868: Completion of the Grahamstown Wharf. The steamer 'Tauranga' disembarked passengers on the newly completed Grahamstown Wharf for the first time. Before this, passengers and freight were offloaded and taken ashore by small boats, in all weathers and even at night if the tide was wrong. This is the wharf in the photo below so we know this undated panorama was taken after this date.

  • 10 December 1868: The official opening of the Kuranui Company’s 10-stamper Battery. This important Battery was also used by the several surrounding mines including the Golden Crown and the All Nation’s Claim.

  • 25 December 1868: The amalgamation of most of the Punga Flat claims to fund the building of a stamper battery. By now, the formation of Goldmining Companies and the amalgamation of claims and companies was happening apace all over the Thames Goldfield. To aid in the raising of investment funds, most companies sold shares (called Scrip) which was being furiously bought and sold at Scrip Corner in Grahamstown and at the Share Market in Auckland.

  • 6 January 1869: The 8-stamper Victoria Battery is hard at work at the Moanataiari, working on quartz from the Moanataiari Gold Mining Company and the many other smaller claims in the area. 12 more stampers were added to the Victoria Battery by July 1869.

  • 14 January 1869: The Duke of Edinburgh Battery at Punga Flat starts its vital work to crush the quartz of all the neighbouring claims.These claims were so remote, they had to have a stamper battery of their own.

  • 3 July 1869: The United Company at the mouth of the Waiotahi had a crushing that yielded 43 oz of gold, worth £109. This mine worked on steadily over the next decade, gradually acquiring nearby claims.

  • 12 July 1869: The first portion of the Government tramway line going up the Moanataiari Creek is finally operating. For the first two winters at The Thames, all transport and subsequently all gold mining had ground to a halt in the face of the knee-deep mud throughout the goldfield. After much procrastination, the Government finally started to build the tramways along the foreshore and up the main creeks. On the whole, it was 'too little, too late'.
  • 30 July 1869:The opening of the 12-stamper Prince Battery owned by John Goodall, a major shareholder of the Golden Crown Company. It serves the many claims from Kuranui and the Moanataiari, as well as the Golden Crown.

  • 1871-1872: The Caledonian Mine: located just above Grahamstown continues to work their rich reef. The Caledonian proves to be by far the richest mine in Thames, yielding 9.25 tons of gold in just one year during its peak years of 1871-72.

  • 1885-1888: The Cambria Mine located in the upper Moanataiari area produced 37,695 oz of gold during these 3 years. This gold was extracted from a rich quartz reef that bulged outwards to about 4 – 10 feet wide, with some specimens having 2 oz of gold for each pound of quartz.

  • 1896 - 1908: The Kuranui-Caledonian Claim: formed by the amalgamation of the Caledonian Mine, part of the old Golden Crown with many other smaller claims in the area, a total of 29 acres. The company yielded 9.5 tons of gold in their first year, with a share going to the original owners of the claims. They worked the lower levels with access tunnels and large steam pumps to drain the water that poured into the lower levels of the mine.

Panorama of Thames
A Panoramic view of the Thames Goldfield taken in about 1868-69.
Source: NZ Geological Survey Bulletin 10 by Colin Fraser 1910.
Click to enlarge the photo.
  1. Goldrush To The Thames, New Zealand 1867 - 1869 by Kae Lewis. Parawai Press 2017.
  2. The Goldminer's Database. A free online database of the gold miners in New Zealand, including all those who were at Thames 1867 - 1872.
  3. History of the River Thames, NZ. by A.M. Isdale 1967.
  4. Thames and the Coromandel Peninsula: 2000 Years. By Zelma and John Williams 1994.
  5. Thames Gold Fields Miners’ Guide. Auckland 1868. Reprinted by Caxton Press 1975.
  6. The History of Goldmining in the Thames. By A.M. Isdale. Ohinemuri Regional History Journal Volume 1. June 1964.
  7. Thames The First 100 Years. By William A. Kelly. Published by The Thames Star 1968.
  8. The Amazing Thames by John Grainger A.H. and A. Reed 1951.
  9. The Geology of the Thames Subdivision, Hauraki, Auckland. by Colin Fraser. New Zealand Geological Survey, Bulletin No 10, Wellington 1910.
  10. A History of Gold-Mining in New Zealand. by J.H.M. Salmon. Govt Printer Wellington. 1963.
  11. Thames Goldfields Diamond Jubilee 1867 - 1927. By Fred W. Weston. Originally published by The Thames Star 1927. Cadsonbury Publications 2015.
  12. Thames Reminiscences by Mrs J.E. Macdonald. Observer Print Works, Auckland 1926.

Contact: Kae Lewis