Saturday, January 10, 2015

Thames (NZ): St George's Hall & Hotel Grahamstown

This post was to be a closer look at all this photo looking from Upper Albert Street over Grahamstown and Shortland, but...all that changed when some new information came to hand. The lesson is to take the time to download the highest resolution photo that you can. Then zoom in and see what you can find. Yes new finds still are possible! The large building on the left will be remembered by many as a clothing factory, but what is it's history?
Description: Grahamstown.
Ellings, E E (Mr), fl 1976 :Photographs of Thames. Ref: 1/2-065412-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Originally the building was bought to New Zealand from Australia - reportedly to be used as a waxworks and museum around 1870. The upstairs was a ballroom complete with dancing floor. From 1870, the buildings is known as St George's Hall in Street Directories. The St George's Hall was used by a wide variety of groups in the early years after the goldfield was opened. In the 1870 Thames Directory there are two businesses operating out of the St George's Hall. James Walker at the Thames Gymnasium & Dancing Academy and Cruikshank, Smart & Co General Merchants. The latter company placed an advertisement on the Mining Illustrated Map.

I have to confess I hadn't associated the building with the old Hauraki Clothing Factory, but the windows and structure certainly appear near identical. Only the wording on the building is different. In the old photo below, the wording definitely appears to be "St George's Hall."

In the 1900s the building was better known as a clothing factory. Firstly named the Hauraki Clothing Factory owned by the Claxton family, and in the 1960s as Allan Adams Ltd which continued until the 1970s. Old Thamesites report that it did indeed have an upstairs dancing floor, that was as perfect as one could get!

Checking against for sale notices in the newspaper, they confirm the lot numbers around the 140s are adjacent to the St George's Hall. The Grahamstown lot map of 1869 also collaborates the location is correct. (copy on the right)
Some early reports of people using the hall were:
Oddfellows Lodge (New Zealand Herald 18/11/1871); Hauraki Ladies' Benevolent Society (Daily Southern Cross 24/11/1871); Banquets were held in the hall, such as one in 1871 for Mr W Rowe (Auckland Star 18/12/1871); and even an Auction in 1888 (Thames Advertiser 29/09/1888).

The building is now gone, having been demolished.
Opposite the St George's Hall is a building with what appears to be a hotel light. Could this be the St George's Hotel?  Yet another new possibility to explore.
Top building is a hotel, possible the St George Hotel
East side of Pollen Street, Thames.

The old St George's Hall aka Allan Adams Clothing Factory is still on site 1972. View from rear, lower left of the Central school which is top centre.
Today no traces of the grand old building remain.

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