Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Thames (NZ): Dr Catherine Bishop's book launch at the Thames

Above left: The Thames book launch poster. Right: Dr Bishop holding her new book

I was lucky enough to go to Dr Catherine Bishop's book launch at Carsons Bookshop, in Thames yesterday, Tuesday 12 November 2019.

The title of the book is Women Mean Business Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand, and retails at $45.

"From Kaitaia in Northland to Oban on Stewart Island, New Zealands nineteenth-century towns were full of entrepreneurial women.
Contrary to what we might expect, colonial women were not only wives and mothers or domestic servants. A surprising number ran their own businesses, supporting themselves and their families, sometimes in productive partnership with husbands, but in other cases compensating for a spouses incompetence, intemperance, absence or all three.
The pages of this book overflow with the stories of hard-working milliners and dressmakers, teachers, boarding-house keepers and laundresses, colourful publicans, brothelkeepers and travelling performers, along with the odd taxidermist, bootmaker and butcher and Australasias first woman chemist. Then, as now, there was no typical businesswoman. They were middle and working class; young and old; Māori and Pākehā; single, married, widowed and sometimes bigamists. Their businesses could be wild successes or dismal failures, lasting just a few months or a lifetime.
In this fascinating and entertaining book, award-winning historian Dr Catherine Bishop showcases many of the individual businesswomen whose efforts, collectively, contributed so much to the making of urban life in New Zealand." Source: Carsons Bookshop

 Dr Catherine Bishop delivers a presentation on New Zealand Businesswomen.

Why have a book launch stop in Thames?
Dr Bishop is at present travelling around New Zealand promoting the book and the need to recognise, remember and acknowledge the business women of the pre 1880s in New Zealand.

There are several Thames women featured in the book. Women such as Harriet Corston (Miss Reed) who had Newington House in Brown Street. Mrs Simpson aka Mrs Ah Mow who ran several shops at The Thames.

While there were many women who were primarily based at home carrying out domestic duties, there were many who were businesswomen on the Thames Goldfield. By choice or by default when their husbands died, many of these women ran successful businesses.

Whether it was running a hotel, a private school, a millinery or dressmaking service. The list went on.
A general business list can be found in some early blogs on this site - see if you can spot some women in business.
Businesses: A-B, C-E, F-HI-L, M-O, P-R, S-T, U-Z.

This list was done nearly ten years ago, before many newspapers were available online - so please note it probably has missed as many as it found! The list above also does not include SCHOOLS or HOTELS, both areas that women featured on at the Thames Goldfield.

A very good point that Dr Bishop stressed was that you can't rely on the wording Miss or Mrs in the business title or proprietor. Bishop gave several examples where only initials were given in the business name and it turned out the owners were women!

Grab a book from the library or purchase one to read. Maybe you will find a relative among the women discussed in the book Women Mean Business Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand.

Above: Caledonian House in Albert Street. There is one 'Woman' shop assistant. While not all women owned businesses, lets not forget those who were employed - dispelling the myth that all women were at home carrying out domestic chores.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Thames (NZ): Armistice Day at The Thames 11 November 2019

Well its hard to know what to say on 11th November - in any year!

At 11am on 11 November 1918, the Great War officially ended. From that time on, it became an annual event to encourage everyone to stop and remember. Remembrance Day is a term used in many countries, where communities stop to remember those who fought and died in all wars,

Armistice Day at The Thames.
Over the decades at Thames, the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month has faithfully been marked by the local RSA / services. In 2018, it fell during the Steampunk weekend, and the remembrance ceremony was held at the Peace Memorial. The attendance was large.

Over the years, it has always been the practice to have the fire siren sound to mark the period of silence, as the siren has become automated, it appears that this is no longer possible. So for the majority in Thames, the significance of the 11th hour possibly went without notice.

So today, a very, very small gathering assembled outside the Thames War Memorial civic Hall. Those who spoke, stressed that regardless of how many turn up, while they have one person to attend, the Armistice remembrance will continue!






Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thames (NZ): Thames Museum & Reserve Garden 7 November 2019


While some towns are renown for their public gardens, it has been many years since Thames boasted anything along those lines.

This is not to say there aren't some lovely flower beds and displays around the town. For instance the plants along Queen Street from the wharf to Richmond Street are usually a 'picture', as is the Rotary Park area at the Thames Library,  and the roundabout at Mary Street also well planted. These days the varieties used range from flowers to edible herbs depending on the season.

In the early days of the Thames Goldfield, there were spectacular gardens at Tararu, first planted by property developer Robert Graham. Spencer's also had a popular garden area at Parawai, that locals visited regularly. The Parawai Gardens also provided sporting grounds that were popular for the many athletic and sporting events held by the down.

In more modern times, without doubt the most prized garden was at the Moanataiari, known as Meonstoke, and the hard work of the late Pam Gwynne.

Thames Museum & Reserve Garden:

At the end of 1983, plans were approved to build a new museum on part of the old Central School site. The rest is history!!!

Thirty-five years later,  the gardens that surround the Thames Museum, at the corner of Cochrane & Pollen Streets are maintained by the dedicated gardeners from the local council. The plantings vary, if you are coming to town in the near future check out this seasons 'beauties'. Sadly the cycle continues and within weeks they will be replaced by a new rotation of plants.

Cochrane Street flower border and the Pollen Street flower bed on the right.

Then & Now: Left, West's Blacksmith Shop, now the site of the entrance to Museum and the Central School WWI Cenotaph.  (right)

Then & Now: The courtyard garden at the north end of the Thames Museum, now known as the Women's Suffragette Garden 1893-1993.

Front of the Thames Museum, entrance on the right.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Thames (NZ): Edith May's 1920s postcard

Another special postcard on trade me auction site, with a letter note included.

Written by?

Edith May of Thames, wrote a letter to her friend Annie.

"Dear Annie,
Just a card to wish you & Edwin the compliments of the season.  I should have written long ago to you.  

How are you all?

We all well. We expect Stanley home next week. He only gets a week.

We often think of the good jolly times we had with you all.

This view of Thames showing the water.  Well ta ta with best wishes to you & Edwin.

From your old friend
Edith May."

Who was Edith May?

Rose Edith Cook was born in 1876 at Waimate North, and married William John May in 1904. Edith died at Thames in 1947, and is interred at Shortland Cemetery Thames. The Stanley mentioned in the letter is Edith and William's son, who was born 9 April 1906. In February 1920, Stanley started at Thames High School, having previously been at Waimate North School. Stanley left school in the middle of 1924, having passed the Public Service Entrance examination.

In the 1928 Thames Electoral Roll, the May family were living at Parawai in Bowen Street - now known as Rolleston Street

What photo was on the Postcard?

On the other side of the note was a postcard of the Queen Street area c1920s.

What buildings can you spot?

1. Thames.Public Swimming Baths. 2. Tennis Courts & Victoria Parks. 3, School of Mines. 4. Queen and Cochrane Street intersect. 5. Thames Public library. 6. E F Adams Offices. 7. Miners' Union Hall. 8. Queen's Hotel (corner Albert & Queen Streets). 9. Thames Police Station. 10. Thames Courthouse. 11. Post & Telegraph Offices and other Government Departments. 12 Kirkwood Street.

Who may have lived in the houses in the Queen Street block?

In the 1923 Queen Street Right side from Abraham St.

Albert St Intersect (looking a postcard from Right to Left - Top centre on water side)

Office Thames Miners’ Union (Wm H Lucas Secretary)
Miners’ Union Hall (Wm H Lucas Caretaker)
Adams, E F(Civil and mining engineer & surveyor)
Verran W & Sons (carrier) Private residence
Pearson, Edward (labourer)
Ingall, Barry Drew (insurance agent)
O’Meara, John Jas (ironmoulder)
Coombe, Arthur Harold (taxi propr)
Public Library (Philip Chas F Gooder, librarian)
McDonald, William B (painter)
Williams, Arthur (foundry hand)
Vedder, Francis Jacob (farmer)
Cochrane St intersect
1923 Queen Street Left side from Abraham St
Albert St Intersect (looking a postcard from Right to Left - lower centre)
Queen’s Hotel (Francis Grubb Publican)
Police Station (Andrew McDonnell, Sgt in charge sub district)
Warden’s and Magistrate Office
Chief Post & Telegraph Office
Thames Harbour Board Office
Cartwright, Frederick (bootmaker)
Thomson, James (general store)
Woods, Alfred (baker & pastry cook)
Smith, Richard (butcher)
Smith, Richard (private residence)
Shand, John G (caretaker)
Masonic Hall
Day, Mrs Amy (draper)
Cochrane Street intersect

Thames Swimming Baths in Brown Street.

The baths can be clearly seen at top centre, of the card, a view that is not often seen.

Keep a look out for postcards, and see what new treasures you can identify.

MAY Family Photo.

Just when I thought this story was told! A photo of Edith and her family was available on Ancestry. Special thanks to the family for being able to share it and put a face to our 'special' letter writer.

Description: 210 Baillie St, Thames

May Family Group. 
Back: Leslie, Stanley, (sons of William John); Rose Edith, (2nd wife of William John, mother of Stanley and Doreen), William John May. 
Front: Muriel, (daughter of Emma and William John), Nellie (wife of Leslie, holding daughter Elsie), Mary Ann, (widow of John Kendall May), Doreen, Gladys (daughter of Emma and William John) .

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Thames (NZ): New art work by Bruce Harper

Thames has another art work thanks to Bruce Harper.

Where: on the verge area adjacent to the Shortland Wharf, east of the drive way.

The details are on the Thames Public Art Facebook site:

"Penny Farthing is made of mostly re-used materials including re-cycled galvinised pipe. Needing a few key items before he could begin the project, creator Bruce Harper, happened to mention to Thames builder, John Liddell, to keep an eye out for a wheelbarrow wheel if he ever saw one.

Just days later, John found an old hand forged goldmining wheelbarrow wheel under a house he was working on. The wheel is over 140 years old and the homeowner kindly donated the wheel to Bruce for the sculpture. This is now the smaller wheel."

Other examples of Harper's work can be seen at: The entrance to the aerodrome by the Thames Icon sign, near the Thames Tennis Courts; at the end of Albert Street, at the Burke Street Wharf, and by the Thames Croquet Club.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Thames (NZ): Labour Day at the Thames


"Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day." Source:

LABOUR DAY at The Thames:

While the 28th October was originally designated as the public holiday, around the country demonstrations were also held to showcase workers' rights. While its not clear that Thames joined in, the newspaper did report fully the demonstrations held in Wellington on Labour Day 1891.

By 1900, Labour Day was the 10th October, a Wednesday. An impact for Thamesites was that there was only one mail delivery by the letter carrier.
THAMES STAR,  9 OCTOBER 1900 at PapersPast

In 1905, Labour Day was the 11th, the papers reminded everyone that Banks and Government Departments would be closed. Celebrations were still low key at Thames, while nearby Auckland had adopted a street procession on Labour Day.

By 1911, came the news that Labour Day had been 'Mondayised' to the 4th Monday in October. Then came the news that Mayor Lowe requested that all observe the Labour Day and Miners' Union Day. Miners' Union Day had typically mean a day of sports and demonstrations at Thames, held on the first Monday of the month - and usually observed as a public holiday.
THAMES STAR, 17 OCTOBER 1911 at PapersPast

Note that the Miners' Union Day had changed back in 1909 when they decided to align it with Labour Day, which was then the second Wednesday of October.


Interesting in these early years, Thamesites usually celebrated these public holidays by taking an excursion to places such as Auckland. In 1911 they went in great numbers to Te Aroha. It was expected that 2-3,000 Thamesites and folk from Waihi would meet at the Te Aroha Domain for a picnic (free hot water provided). The excursionists were to be accompanied by the Thames Band!

During World War One, the town used the day to raise money for injured soldiers, by holding a Labour Day Carnival and procession in 1915. Excursions and Labour Day events continued through the years. Still in the 1920s, the emphasis thought was on Miners' Union Day - no doubt fired by the occupations relevance to the town and how they had to continually fight for better conditions and wages.

Source: Thames Museum Photograph Collection

1915 Procession - Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19151202-44-3

Some things never change! In 1920, came the announcement in the local newspaper that rubbish days in the borough would be one day later than scheduled due to Labour Day.

By the 1930s, it appears that retailers were having a few Labour Day Specials, even New Zealand Railway was tempting the excursionists with cheap fares! In 1930, the town held a procession which started at the Royal Hotel and went to the Thames High School in Sealey Street - where a large carnival and sports day was held.


Throughout the 1930s, the Labour Day Committee organised a celebratory day. In 1937, a children's sports day was held at Victoria Park, and the Kings Theatre had an evening programme of entertainment. There were prizes for decorated bikes - which was won by M Wilton. The most original costume was awarded to D McKee. The best decorated pram / go-cart / trolley went to L McKee. C Barlow won the best children's pet display. Best dressed doll went to Jane Burgess. Awards were also made for runners-up in most categories.

When did Labour Day celebrations cease at The Thames?

A question I am not yet sure of!!! During the 1940s, there were Labour Day Balls held, and a few parades. If you can remember when the last commemoration was held, please let me know.

What is evident is that Thamesites of old, took the opportunity to relax and take time out from their usual routine. They delighted in using the day for a trip by boat or train to Hamilton or Auckland. While commemorating the true meaning of Labour Day!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Thames (NZ): Historic Kopu Bridge Society Members' Day 20 October 2019

Who are the Historic Kopu Bridge Society?

A group of people who have recognised the importance of the 'old' Kopu Bridge and are working to have it open for all to enjoy. Whether you want to wander, admire the view, include the crossing as part of the Hauraki Bike Trail, or maybe hold an event on the site. The options are endless!

"On 18th March 2018, NZTA signed an agreement giving ownership of the Historic Kopu Bridge to the Kopu Bridge and Community Trust. As kaitiaki (guardians), we intend to restore and re-open the bridge as a public walkway and cycleway." Source: Save Kopu Bridge facebook site

The Historic Kopu Bridge Community Trust are the ownership group and the Historic Kopu Bridge Society are responsible for the management (this latter group is the one that people may join for $20 a year).

Sunday 20 October 2019: Members' Day
After the miserable weather of late, it was a delight to wander and sit on the bridge. Enjoy a beautiful afternoon tea with refreshments - courtesy of the hardworking committee.

We took the opportunity to showcase a 'pop-up-poster' display on the 250th Commemorations of Lieutenant James Cook's visit and exploration of the Waihou River. 
(Courtesy of Carolyn & Althea)

View from the bike trail towards the Kopu Bridges.

***** Thanks to the team for the food and refreshments.*****

A highlight, when a family travelled under the bridge on a jet ski...there we had our re-enactment of James Cook and colleagues travelling up the Waihou 20 November 1769!

Are you a member of the Historic Kopu Bridge Society???

For just $20 you can help support the group, even if you can not spare the time to be involved with open days and volunteer rosters...your support would be appreciated.

For details on the Trust and membership details checkout the webpage.

1.  As part of the "Steampunk the Thames" Programme, there is an event on at the bridge

SATURDAY 9 November 2019
4 to 5 pm
"Costume Convergence" on the Historic Kopu Bridge
...Help set a world record....

"Trace the tracks of horse drawn carts, bicycles and early Model-Ts as we gather the largest number of Steampunkers on a single lane bridge. Converge on the concourse at the cul de sac (east side) of the historic Kopu Bridge before promenading on to this quarter of a mile long 90 year old beauty, a relic from the post Victorian era – the age of daring engineering enterprises and stupendous innovation. Official photos of crowd taken at 4.30pm." No Weapons on the bridge.
A fundraiser for the Historic Kopu Bridge Restoration. Koha     
Further details and full programme at the Steampunk The Thames official website.      

2.  AGM. Saturday 2 November at 2pm St George's Church Hall.


Then & Now 1926 & 2019
Left: The Hauraki Bridge under construction, Right the old Kopu (Hauraki) Bridge today.
Source:  Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19261014-45-3

Friday, October 18, 2019

Thames (NZ): Totara Cemetery

View from west end of Totara Memorial Park Cemetery - looking north to the town of Thames.

Glorious nature! While many of those interred in this section may be forgotten by today's generations, the self seeded flowers provide a special colourful bouquet for the graves in this block.

 The cemetery is south of Thames township, large RSA section on the northern side of the cemetery. The site is part of the Totara Pa, site of attacks by other tribal groups including Hongi Hika. Principal battles were the 'Battle of the Dripping Garments' 1819 and the 'Fall of Totara Pa' 1821.

Check out Findagrave and TCDC Burial records.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Thames (NZ): Amazing Trains at The Thames 2019

Trains are in my blood, paintings and sketches reminders of my father's addiction to the steam machine! So I never tire of trying to spread the word on train matters!

Have you visited the Thames Small Gauge Railway?

Trains live on at The Thames, be they somewhat a smaller scale!!!
Trains still run along the foreshore of our town and provide hours of pleasure to young and old!

So next time you are in town, stop for a look and a ride.

In the meantime, take a look at these wonderful videos hot off the press.

Special thanks to Andy / Russell for sharing these 'Videos' taken at the Thames Small Gauge Railway, at Brown Street:  & (this last one allows 360 degree views as you can move the 'view'.

More information at the Thames Small Gauge Railway facebook site.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Thames (NZ): Then & Now views of Jacob's Ladder

View looking west down Jacob's Ladder c1910s.
Where is Jacob's Ladder?
Located between Grey Street and Mount Pleasant Road (previously known as Upper Grey Street). Jacob’s Ladder has been a vital link for Mount Pleasant residents for decades. 

Before the steps
One of the earliest photos of Grey Street was taken c1868, and allows us to view the ‘street’ that is now Jacob’s Ladder. It is evident that people, animals and carts had been negotiating the track, winding back and forth to try and make the journey easier. When the streets of Thames were laid out in 1867, it was envisaged that Grey Street would extend from the flat to the hills in the east. 

The 1868 section of Grey Street that lead to Mount Pleasant on the left. 
On the right, the area where the concrete steps are located, surrounded by trees (aka Jacob's Ladder).

Why was the track /steps called Jacob's Ladder?
Jacob’s Ladder is a term that is often used for steep steps in other parts of New Zealand. Even at Thames another reference is found to steps at Tararu. A report on the Tararu Gardens in 1878 mentions, “The zig-zags, Jacob’s Ladder, the pagoda, and the swings, besides the walks by the fountains, were the favourite resorts of pleasure seekers in this cool retreat.”

When was Jacob's Ladder constructed?
By 1884 the residents of Mount Pleasant had made a series of steps on three sides of the hill. 

In 1907 the County Council ruled that horses and cattle could no longer go up or down “Jacob’s Ladder.” This was due to the state of the road “It is over your boot-tops in mud.” Cattle-stops were installed at the steps around the town to prevent this continuing. Also Jacob’s Ladder was re-pegged and re-gravelled.

Over the years the structure of the steps proved a problem against the elements, with dirt and gravel constantly being washed away. An advancement came when Jacobs Ladder and the Edward Street steps were concreted - along with other steps around the town. More on those in another blog!!

When were they painted?
In 2014-15 the steps were given a new lease of life by the pupils of nearby Thames South School. The school has long used the steps as part of their sports programme and a new initiative saw pupils undertake a project in conjunction with TCDC to paint the steps. Today they stand impressively leading to Mount Pleasant and are safer due to the painting and handrail.

Then & Now: 1868 & 2015 View of Jacob's Ladder, Grey Street, Thames

Background: Streets of Thames by A Barker