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

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