Monday, February 25, 2019

Thames (NZ): Transportation - Getting around the Thames from 1867

Daily Southern Cross 6 August 1867.
Living on the Firth of Thames, with the sea along the western shore, it is hard to imagine the number of settlers who arrived once the Thames Goldfield opened in August 1867.

Sea Transport: While a few may have tramped and found their way through the bush and across the swampy Hauraki Plains, the majority came on ships down the gulf from Auckland and further afield.

A growing number of vessels were soon available to take eager gold hunters and entrepreneurs to the Thames Goldfield.

The most well known being the ship that carried the first arrivals when the goldfield officially opened - the Enterprise No 2.

Daily Southern Cross 3 August 1867.
The history of the Enterprise No 2:
Holmes Bros, North Shore, Auckland
Official Number:52423
Tonnage:22 gross as built. 82 gross from 1875
Type:Paddle steamer
Entered Fleet:1890
Left Fleet:1898
Career:1865 built as WAITEMATA for Waitemata Steam Ferry Co. Auckland
1866 sold to D.D. Fremantle of Auckland
1866 sold to John & James Holmes, Auckland. Rebuilt and renamed No.2 ENTERPRISE. Usually known as ENTERPRISE No.2
1871 sold to Jas. Morton, Auckland
1872 sold to G. Fraser, J. Waymouth, J. Batger, Auckland
1873 sold to John & James Holmes, Auckland
1875 extensively altered, gross tonnage became 82. Re-registered as ENTERPRISE
1877 sold to John Hay, Auckland
1878 sold to Auckland & North Shore Steam Ferry Co. Ltd., Auckland
1882 sold to Geo. Fraser, Auckland
1890 sold to A. McGregor, Auckland
1890 sold to D. Ross, H. Worsop, F. Jagger
1890 sold to Northern Steam Ship Company Used on Thames run and on Whangarei Harbour
1898 hulked and sold to Auckland Regatta Committee
1899 January blown up with gun cotton

Enterprise No 2
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-2925
Where did the first boats land?
The Kauaeranga Landing was in the area where the Shortland Wharf is today, but the ships came up the river - the land having silted and been reclaimed over the years.

There was already a general store by the landing that had been used for years, so this became the hub for the first arrivals. The view below taken from the landing area, Captain Butt's hotel in the centre at the corner of Pollen and Grey Streets.

As an aside the king tide of 4.3m high on Friday 22 February 2019, provided an insight of how far the water could have reached. The photos below look south from the lower point of the old view above.
 ABOVE: The eastern end of the Shortland Wharf and Thames Marina - the king tide crosses the road. Friday 22 February 2019.

In A Digger's Diary at The Thames 1867, is an account of a 'traveller' who came to the goldfield 11 October 1867. The person known as 'the Traveller' couldn't resist finding transport to the Thames to see for himself what was really happening. The journey was on the steamer Tauranga. It was noted that three ships were leaving within an hour of each other, so the passage was not too crowded.

"We cast off from the wharf about 6 o'clock, and scudded down the harbour with a fair wind to the tune of something over eleven knots an hour. The distance from Auckland to Shortland town which is estimated at fifty miles, in favourable weather, is but a pleasant cruise of some five or six hours duration." A gale picked up and the captain took anchor till the morning.  Finally underway again the boat arrived and the first views of the Thames. "At intervals along the whole view, the ranges were dotted with white tents of the miners, showing forth very conspicuously against the dark back ground. In due time we arrived at the landing place in the river, and jumped ashore." pages 26-27
The Traveller's method of transport repeated thousands of times by those getting to and from the Thames Goldfield during the gold rush years - aboard the many boats that travelled up and down the Firth of Thames.


Once Grahamstown was established further north (see photos above), then ships would frequently anchor out at sea or become beached as the tide flowed out - the hazards of a tidal estuary! A good Captain knew the hard spots or best places to let passengers off. The area where Pak'n Save is today at the end of Mary Street was said to be a hard beach, where even cattle could be easily unloaded. While at other places many a miner reported wading ashore in the mud!

Where were the first Wharves?
NZH 30 June 1868
It didn't take long before those arriving on the goldfield started to demand a better way of getting ashore - a meeting held 8 Jan 1868 led to the decision to erect a wharf at Shortland, near the Kauaeranga Landing. "Passengers will now be able to land without getting wet." It took until September 1868 for the wharf at Shortland to start construction. NZH 19 September 1868.

Mr Robert Graham was much more proactive and got a wharf built at the end of Albert Street. Interesting to note the wharf had handrails in parts, as several Thamesites drowned while getting on and off ships! This Grahamstown Wharf was later commonly known as Curtis' Wharf, named after the publican of the adjacent Pacific Hotel.

The third wharf was built at the end of Burke Street. The piles were in place 2 May 1872, this wharf continued to be used for decades.

There was also a wharf at the end of Cochrane Street known as Holdship's primarily for timber.

The fifth wharf was at Tararu at the end of Wilson Street. A very favourable structure given it was in deeper water, a bonus compared with the others that were severely limited due to their tidal nature and muddy sea floor. It was built by Robert Graham in September 1869. All did not end well with this structure and it was irreparably damaged in storms in 1874-75.

In summary there were wharves at the mouth of the Kauaeranga River, end of Cochrane Street, end of Albert Street, end of Burke Street and at Tararu.

Were there roads and footpaths?
Shortland Streets. The flat area of Thames was described as swampy but planted with groves of Peach trees. When all the new settlers arrived, the trees were cut down and dikes made, before the streets and new houses could be built. Shortland was laid out as a standard grid by the colonial state. Mackay laid out the lines of Shortland one week after the goldfield opened, Named after Willoughby Shortland, also the name taken by W H Taipari, transliterated as Wirope Hotereni. Streets were often merely markings in the early goldfield years.

Grahamstown Streets. Shortly after the Goldfield Proclamation, Grahamstown was leased by Auckland property developer Robert Graham; the proviso being that the Government reserved the right to lay out the streets and approve plans. It was soon a thriving town that was connected to Shortland by Pollen Street. Graham also developed Tararu and named the streets after predominantly family members - many of these were on paper only and never actually marked out/used.

Problems with roads and footpaths. The flat area of Thames was prone to flooding, plus the fact the roads were merely tracks, they soon turned to mud when it rained. This was challenging even on the flat, but imagine negotiating the streets around the small hills of Thames.

One solution employed was wooden boardwalks, to help pedestrians walk the busiest streets. (see photo right, north end of Pollen Street)

The photograph below was taken from the corner of Pollen and Grey Streets, and shows the challenges of transport at the Thames. Streets were wide, but negotiating them would not have been an easy task!

What were the the transport options on land?
While we have mentioned that the waterways were extremely busy, thousands of residents were also moving around the town and hills above the townships on the Thames Goldfield.

Passenger Tramways:
Steam Train, Grahamstown - Tararu Tramway
The Tararu Wharf was a busy place in the early years of the goldfield; being a deeper water channel it allowed ships an easier port of call for Thames cargo and passengers. To solve the problem of getting people and goods to Grahamstown and Shortland a tramway was built. The Grahamstown and Tararu Tramway Company built a track above the high-water line, the first sod turned May 1869; it was formally opened 2nd December 1871. The tramway ran from “Curtis’ Wharf at the foot of Albert Street in Grahamstown, the line ran north-west to the deep sea wharf at Tararu Point.” It was constructed from iron rails and with a 3ft 6in gauge.

1871 Tararu Foreshore, showing the tramway line from Grahamstown to Tararu.
Carriages could be pulled by steam engine or by horses. Hundreds of people could be transported in any one day. For instance when the large school picnics were held at the Tararu Gardens, up to one thousand would attend, many of whom would travel aboard the tramway and other means of transport on offer.

Horse Transport:
While not many residents were able to own their own horse, there were private companies offering transport via gig and larger carriages. Later stage coaches were used, before the arrival of the first cars in the early 1900s.  In the Thames Star, 13 May 1875 you could even have a private carriage for 6 pence and go from Shortland to Parawai (or reverse) and from Grahamstown to Tararu.


First hand Accounts of Travel at the Thames:

Mrs Macdonald in her booklet Thames Reminiscences shared some memories of getting around Thames in 1867-68. Something we take forgranted today is street lighting, but that was not the case in 1867. Mrs Macdonald wrote "There were no lamps in the streets and everyone carried a lantern at night." She went on to explain what travel was like. "Visiting during those early days was a very difficult matter.  There were no omnibuses or conveyances until later. The houses were scattered, and many of them situated on a high hill. To reach them we had either to go a long way around or up Jacob's ladder, a steep structure of very many steps."

Rev Lush.
The first Anglican Minister at the Thames was Reverend Vicesimus Lush, he knew well the challenges of getting around the goldfield. Getting home from the church to his home above the Hape Creek was hard if it had been raining, let alone the nightmare of getting up to the Shortland Cemetery even further up the hill. In The Thames Journals of Vicesimus Lush, Lush explain that one rainy night down in Rolleston Street he literally had to save a young lady who was stuck in the mud. He dragged the woman to safety but during the rescue procedure "It suddenly flashed across my my mind that I was gradually leaving all the poor wretch's clothes behind in the mud!"    On another occasion, Lush was late catching the steamer to Tapu (also known as Hastings) up the Thames Coast. Lush wrote in his journal "There was now no alternative but to walk - a distance of 15 miles and a very hilly rough road. I was in good walking trim so I tramped on - most of the way slowly in consequence of the steepness of the hills.  It was a lonely walk." Lush went on to recall that he was to share a row boat home, but thankfully got a lift in another boat - no rowing required!

Ellen Fox, wife of Dr Fox, wrote in a letter November 1869 of the challenges travelling around the town of Shortland. Ellen wrote: "There has been plenty of rain and mud...In the street leading to Mrs Mackay's there were cart ruts 3 feet deep - But this is only what one can expect in an unmade street with a very list soil." Mrs Fox went onto write about the trip to Tararu. " The longest ride in a buggy to be got here is to Tararu and back for 2/- about 4 miles - I have been once and intend to go again as it is very pleasant though very rough - one has to hold on tight as the buggy first goes tumbling into the sea and then out again onto great stones." Ellen went onto explain the challenges of the coast road, "they are blasting the rock [from the hill] and throwing it into the sea so that in time they will have a good road." The following year, Dr Fox  bought his wife a small horse to get about on.
Ellen & Dr Alexander Fox
Closing Remarks:
Following the opening of the goldfield in August 1867, Thamesites and visitors to the town found ways to get around the area and travel further afield as required. Nothing was too much of a challenge for these pioneers. For a day out in Auckland they boarded the next available boat. When they wanted a day out to Tararu, they caught the tram or travelled by coach. If all else failed, the majority walked, taking shortcuts as possible, along the beach, up the rivers or up steps such as Jacob's Ladder (that joined lower and upper levels of Grey Street). 
The following decades would see further advancements in travel around the district.

Then & Now - Jacob's Ladder c 1868 & 2015.

Further articles on Transportation: