Monday, January 12, 2015

Thames (NZ): The Grahamstown photo revisited

Now to look more in-depth at the Grahamstown photo. From the location of the Wesleyan Church we know it is definitely pre-1885. The historical notes believe it to be around 1884, but the preceding decade is a more real possibility.

SUMMARY FULL PHOTO Description: Grahamstown.
Historical notes given:
Note on back of file print reads: "Grahamstown, Thames. Pollen Street in bottom-left corner. Large building was erected about 1880 and used from 1903 to present (1977) as Allan Adams Ltd Clothing factory. On right are post office and courthouse, Queen Street. Top-right is Wesleyan Church (now site of School of Mines Museum) with Holdship's Wharf. Chimney of Holdship's Timber mill to left of church. On extreme mid-left, building may be Cornwall Arms Hotel, with church-like building behind it the Masonic Lodge (and library). On left is Karaka Creek. As Wesleyan Church was shifted in 1885, and Clothing Factory was built in 1880, photograph was evidently taken between those dates, possibly 1884."
Ellings, E E (Mr), fl 1976 :Photographs of Thames. Ref: 1/2-065412-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Take a look at the houses - look at the different styles. Many are just the typical Thames miner's cottage. Two windows and front door; as money allowed you will see little extensions on the back. Scattered in the Davy/Queen Streets area are more substantial villa structures - the bones of many still exist today. The washing is drying nicely! While the fire is going - wonder what's for tea?  
Above: Houses in the Davy Street area of Grahamstown

Below: The Queen, Davy and Amy Streets area of Grahamstown
 Above: Karaka Creek, Shortland.
Take a look at the meandering creek enlarged above and then refer to the larger photo at the beginning for the exact location. Can you guess what it is? A stream south of Amy Street? Yes that's the Karaka Creek...not the straight culvert as we know it today. Of course flood protection work over the years has realigned the stream and basically made it a large concrete drain in most parts.
The Karaka Creek area caused havoc in those early days and meant that a large area of land was left vacant because of the on-going risk of flooding.

 Above: Queen Street running along the front of the Government Buildings (this is the rear view of the building)
Below: Pollen Street running past the St George's Hall, with wide open drain and stagnant water

While the streets of Thames looked perfect on a map, laid out in Shortland in a perfect grid pattern - the reality was something different. Streets were on the ground often little more than marked tracks.  Queen Street in this photo, one of the main access ways to Grahamstown is merely more than a dirt track. Sometimes it is only possible to tell there is a road, because of the fact that houses are facing towards something!
As soon as it rained these tracks turned to mud and bog. Reports from the time continually say how difficult it could be to get around the townships that made up The Thames. In areas where there were shops, wooden boardwalks were sometimes laid down. Or as in the photo above, wooden ramps placed across drains to aid access. The large drains vital to try and accommodate the normal volumes of rain, while proving hopelessly inadequate in times of floods. It was improvements to these basics that would take many years, for Thames the town to begin to have basic roading, footpaths and drainage attended to.

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