Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thames (NZ): Celebration of Marriage 1867-2017 at St James Church

If you are around Thames this week, pop in to the St James Church at the corner of Pollen and Pahau Streets. The church is celebrating 150 years of marriage in the town with an assortment of photographs, clothes and other memorabilia. Entrance is free, while a gold coin donation appreciated.

The church is open from 10am to 2pm each day 18-25 November. Its also a great time to go inside and be in awe of this beautiful church that was built in 1897 at a cost of two thousand pounds.

The model of the old Wesleyan church is also on display. One of the miniature building models constructed by Mr Ted Egan of Thames. (Further buildings on display at the Thames Museum)

This is the church that moved! Originally at the corner of Cochrane and Brown Street, the Church was then moved to the corner of Mary and Pollen Streets. After many decades it was again moved to the corner of Sealey and Mackay Street. Then the building was deconstructed and moved to be a wedding venue at Gails of Tamahere.

For the St James Church, it is the third church building, that the Presbyterian parish built. The first at Rolleston Street, the second on the same site, but that was turned and moved to the east of the present church.

In 1971 the Presbyterian and Methodist groups in Thames formed a joint parish council, which then led in 1973 to the parishes forming a union parish – the Thames Union Parish. “The formal service of uniting took place in St James on Sunday, 25th November 1973.”

[1] St James Church Thames Centennial 1898 1998 Booklet, Barry Brokenshire. 1998.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thames (NZ): WWI November 1917 ROH

One hundred years ago, World War One was dragging on, with casualties and deaths being reported each month. In November 1917, Thames lost six more young men. 
Lest we Forget

15/11/1917 In the Field, Palestine; LOWE Louis Henry12679; Trooper AMR
20/11/1917 In the Field, Belgium; THORN Ben23/301; Private NZMC No 1 NZ Field Ambulance
24/11/1917 In the Field, Belgium; DEMPSEY Earnest Henry38358; L/Cpl  3rd Batt WIR 17th Coy
24/11/1917 In the Field, Belgium; MAXWELL Alexander Harold13604; Private 2nd Batt OIR
25/11/1917 In the Field, Palestine; SIMPSON James Thomas11/1596; Tpr NZMR Brig Machine Gun
25/11/1917 In the Field, France or Belgium; WHITEHOUSE Charles Philip21129; Cpl 4th Batt NZRB

The full Thames WWI Roll of Honour names are listed HERE.

Today, 15 November 2017 a commemorative cross stands in the Thames 'Field of Remembrance' for Trooper Louis Lowe of Thames. Trooper Lowe received gunshot wounds to the legs 14 November 1917 and two days later Died of Wounds at Palestine. (one hundred years ago)

Louis' father Henry Lowe was Mayor of Thames until 1919. (Lowe Avenue at Parawai is named after Henry for his years of service to the town) As a child Louis Lowe had attended Kauaeranga Boy's School, then Thames High School and the Thames School of Mines. On leaving school he worked in his father's butcher shop. He enlisted in January 1916, aged 23 years of age.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thames (NZ): Steam Returns to Thames thanks to HPA

Apart from the activities of Steampunk, at the northern end of town another momentous event took place at the Hauraki Prospectors Association 'Goldmine' site. A renovated steam engine was started to run the stamper battery. The HPA are a unique group who just quietly get on with business and make the impossible happen! We all should be very proud of the years of dedication put in by this group, to keep the mining history alive in the town.
The following is a press release and photographs from the Hauraki Prospectors Association.

Steam returns to Thames

"A whistle blew, and steam billowed around Hauraki Prospectors Association volunteers yesterday for their first fire-up of a renovated stationary steam engine. It is among very few such operating engines in the country and the only one set-up to run a stamper battery.

The “dream of steam” goes back some 50 years and has driven members to collect old engine parts and boilers over the decades, with major components for seven stationary steam engines now on site, although the condition of these varies greatly. Murray Stent of Orongo, Hauraki Plains, who has worked such engines since obtaining a first-class steam qualification in 1956, refurbished the best steam engine to pristine condition in the 1970s and 1980s, with the intention of one day connecting to a steam boiler.

The vision has been revised recently with increasing success of Steampunk The Thames, the annual Thames Steampunk Festival, and the growing number of overseas tourists with a passionate interest in steam visiting the association’s Goldmine-Experience site.

In June this year, the Thames Community Board provided $20,000 in a local economic development grant towards the project, which has been used for parts to set up a steam boiler in operating condition (ex-Adams clothing factory in Thames) to connect to the engine. This required an official survey and certification, lagged piping to connect it to the steam engine plus steam-pipes, bearings, counter-shafts, valves and other fittings.

The steam engine started yesterday originally drove a sawmill in the King Country area of Taringamotu and was saved from scrap-yards by Driving Creek Railway founder Barry Brickell, a supporter of the Thames group. About 30 years ago, members visited a similar engine that an Albert Baker discovered in an abandoned battery at the top of Rangihau Road, Coroglen. It was used to drive a five-stamp stamper battery, leading the Thames group to believe it could replicate this. Calculations also supported the belief.
ABOVE: Murray Stent (left) and Eric Mountford with the new steam engine in Thames.
It is thought there are only a handful of operating stationary steam engines in New Zealand today. Since 1995, the British-based International Stationary Steam Engine Society has tried to estimate the number of steam engines of all kinds in New Zealand and by 2013 recorded there were some 300 traction engines, portable steam engines, road rollers, steam wagons plus 16 operating steam railways.

However, in comparison to these “mobile engines”, stationary steam engines were rare, with the main collection (35) on display at the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum in the lower North Island. One was set up to run and could provide power for the site. The British society found another operating steam engine at the Kauri Milling and Transport Museum at Kerikeri running a recreated sawmill.  At Gore one that had been using for animal-feed milling was in good working condition, oiled and tuned monthly but not generally available for public viewing.

Since these studies, the Kerikeri steam sawmill has shut down and the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum has been closed to the public also, except for group visits by arrangement, and the site is up for sale.

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand portable steam engines were imported for farming in the 1860s and in a census in 1919 New Zealand had 728 stationary engines used for agriculture (eg threshing mills and winnowing machines). Hundreds of other such engines were used in flax mills, sawmills and mines, including some on the Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains but actual numbers are unknown.
The histories of a few of the engine components at the Goldmine-Experience site are known and as well as restoring at least two engines volunteers hope to record as much as they can of the histories of all of them. One engine comes from Roberts’ Mine, which was up Waiotahi Creek, and it has been converted quite ingeniously by former engineers into an air compressor. This is “second-on-the-list” for in the group’s steam restoration plan.

ABOVE: Murray Stent with refurbished steam boiler.
Another is an A&G Price “winding engine” dated 1877. It is thought the engine/winch was used to raise mine cages on a mine shaft in the Thames goldfield and was then taken back to Prices to assemble the boilers for the May Queen Pump house. When at the foundry it was positioned to the side of the tower structure (winding head frame) that remains there today. Ropes from the winch drum of the engine passed over pulleys at the top of the tower to lift boiler plate through a press in which the seams were riveted. The engine was removed from Prices to the Goldmine-Experience site in the 1970s.

Mr Stent, 81, who has run the steam refurbishment project this year in conjunction with the association’s chief engineer Nelson Valiant, operated steam engines throughout the district last century, starting off at a casein factory at Turua, then in various sawmills and running a large marine-type engine at Paerata that drove NZ Dairy’s butter churns."

For further information Contact: Paul Bensemann, HPA, 021 2142665
Special thanks to the Hauraki Prospectors Association for permission to publish story & photographs
ABOVE: Murray Stent operating the steam engine.
BELOWMurray Stent starting up the steam engine.
 For further information on the Hauraki Prospectors Association and visiting details go to

Related Information on HPA:
Opening of the Stamper Battery 6 August 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thames (NZ): New 'Sun Dial' Direction Finder at the Peace Memorial

Awhile back we wrote about the sun dial that once stood proudly in front of the WWI Peace Memorial on the Waiotahi Spur - accessed via Waiotahi Creek Road - Monument Road.
1972 View of the Sun Dial/Direction Finder at the WWI Peace Memorial
Due to vandalism, the 'object' was removed a few years back and the base has been standing incomplete for sometime. There was talk at last years Armistice Day, that a replacement top plaque may be imminent.
2016 view of the base where once the Sun Dial stood.
 Well, this Armistice Day (2017), a new dial is in place, and looks magnificent. I would say more correctly these days we would have to label it a 'Direction finder'. While the photograph was being taken, there were several family groups at the memorial and all were fascinated with the direction finder. Interesting to hear everyone checking locations and distances and other facts that are recorded on the 'plaque'.

Special thanks to everyone who was involved in getting this project from planning to completion :)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thames (NZ): Armistice Day, Steam Punk and much more

Well the town continues to rock, and with the influx of 'Victorian Dressed' people of all ages, you could easily imagine you had stepped back in time.

There was however one sad moment today...the Armistice Commemorations had been moved to the WWI Peace Memorial because of the Steam Punk activities. Which was fine in theory, but tinged with sadness when not even the usual 11am sounding of the town's fire siren took place...a small reminder to the town that yes it was indeed ARMISTICE DAY!

This was the 99th year since Armistice Day, next year will commemorate the 100th year since the ending of World War One in 1918. "Armistice Day acknowledges the World War I ceasefire at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that ended four years of fighting." (NZ Herald)
 ABOVE: Thames War Memorial Civic Centre
BELOW: The WWI Peace Memorial on the Waiotahi Spur

Now to the other event in the town. the following are photographs of the Steam Punk Parade.







Friday, November 10, 2017

Thames (NZ): 1930s Thames - a new book

Yet another booklet!!! This time the focus is on the Depression years of the 1930s at Thames.

Title: 1930s THAMES: The Goldfield town revisited

By Althea Barker

An A4 booklet, black and white print, 68 pages, ISBN 978-0-473-41067-4, published Nov 2017.
An overview of the town during the 1930s. Contents include: Businesses, Churches, Depression, Directories (street and telephone), Floods, Hospitals, Hotels, Lost Pioneers, Mining National and world news, occupations, parades, schools, shipping, sports, Trains and transport, and special visits. Plus a section on 'Then and Now' photographs around the town.

BELOW: Book cover front & back for 1930s Thames: The Goldfield town revisited
Thames was used to economic hard times, more so than many other towns around the country. The gold mining booms that mostly never eventuated - to the optimism that the next big 'find' was just around the corner. The town itself was deeply in debt, but businesses and residents alike worked tirelessly to ride out the storm and prepare for better times. Sound embellished? Not at all! Thamesites, as can be seen in the book were well used to supporting one another and meeting the challenges head on. Parades and fundraisers never stopped, despite the usual major flood or two.

Many will have grown up hearing of the hardships of the depression, this booklet looks at Thames during those years.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thames (NZ): New book released at Catholic Church 150th

 A new booklet was published and released at the 150th celebration of the Catholic Faith in Thames, that was held 3-5 November 2017 (last weekend).

A carefully assembled A4 booklet, 44 pages on glossy paper in full colour. Co-ordinated by the Reunion Committee led by Mike Lander (Chairperson).

The sections covered include: The early years (Father Nivard Jourdain), parishes in the wider area, the early school years, Development of school buildings, Church building changes, the Convent, Parish Events, Passionists Family Groups, Catholic Mission Shop, School Memories, Sisters of St Joseph, List of Priests, and much more...

A comprehensive read. Contact St Francis School if you want a copy before they sell-out!

Thames (NZ): Sunshine 9 November 2017

Yes its actually a beautiful sunny day (for the moment) on the old Thames Goldfield.

A time to reflect how Thames Hospital went from a two roomed cottage,  to a multiple building campus. Below left is the view in 1869, and right November 2017.
 In the next view looking south from the WWI Peace Memorial, Mackay Street stretches to the Kauaeranga River. Named after James Mackay the first Warden on the Thames Goldfield and the chief negotiator who met with local iwi, to secure a deal to open the land for mining in July 1867.
 Next we turn slightly west to take in the main street of Pollen named after Dr Daniel Pollen.
St James Church can be spotted lower centre - both the second and third church buildings remain  on the site. (Now connected by a central span of offices and meeting rooms)
 Finally to the Firth of Thames and the Kauaeranga River mouth entrance. The Hauraki Plains in the distance, with lots of mangroves dotted along the way!
 Lastly, a reminder of the view in late 1868, with the Thames Goldfield Hospital circled on the left.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thames (NZ): Thames Goldfield Residences December 1868

What were the houses like on the Thames Goldfield? Have you stopped and considered where and how your ancestors were living in the towns of Shortland or Grahamstown? Yes we know initially that many called a tent or raupo hut their 'home' but within a year residences were established in many parts of the town.

Think about what the houses may have been like, not just from the outside, but inside as well. An excellent book by Jeremy Salmon, "Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940" provides an insight into the living conditions.

As soon as money and time permitted, men and their families built simple hut like structures - to more elaborate cottages. The richer even built villa type houses of a grander style, all within the first year of settlement.

On the right are floor plans from cottages, that match many of the Thames' first residences. From one room huts that served all purposes, to the two roomed hut with separate sleeping and kitchen/living area. With a door front and back. The really fancy style having four rooms. Of course, many were built in stages, and as money, timber were available, extra rooms and lean-tos were added.

The view below is of the flat area to the north of the Karaka Creek. All types of residence are represented. Spot the raupo huts, tents, one and two roomed cottages. A few even have a chimney and an out-house.

In the photo below (Block 27 from Rolleston Street on the right); there is a settlement of tents interspersed with small huts come cottages. The large building lower right is the first Anglican Church near the corner of Sealey Street. In the foreground in front of the church is a classic cottage, with windows either side of the front door. Well established it has an outhouse, another shed and is fenced! Look in the distance (top left) and you can see a much grander house in Hape Road. It appears to have four rooms, a lean-to and a verandah!!! The building to the right of it is the first St James Church, which was also used as a private school during the day.

The goldfield appears to have always been a case of vast contrasts, the rich and the poor, successful to not successful. Compare the above scenes with the next where the heart of early Shortland Town is centred around Grey - Pollen and Richmond Streets. The buildings are grander, two-storey shops and hotels line the streets. While residences can be spotted of a generally grander nature. Is it any wonder that there were so many carpenters in the town!
Above: Thames Hospital which opened 2 November 1868.
Shortland Town and the Kauaeranga River in the distance.

Below: The full view from Bird-in-Hand Hill
Source:  Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-3681-84