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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Thames (NZ): Then & Now Pollen Street (Mary to Walter St) c1960 - 2019

Then & Now view looking south along Pollen Street - the Walter Street intersect is on the right.

The cars in the postcard on the left, whats your estimate as to age of the cars? Early 1960s?

Whats differences can you spot?

     1. Concrete strip up the centre of Pollen Street. In the 1910s there were several concrete crossings at intersections along the street. This was considered a great advancement at the time. In 1924 the concrete strip tender process was underway.

     2. Chestnut tree at the corner of Pollen and Mary Street - North West intersect. Look at the photo below and you can see the tree standing tall, where the courtyard by the ANZ (old National) Bank is today. This tree was the focus of attention at Christmas, when it was decorated with lights. It was also a gathering place with several seats under the shade of the tree.

     3. From Walter Street intersect south there were several residential houses. In the 1955 Street Directory the properties from Walter St to Mary St intersect were: J LEWIS, Mrs May HANSEN, L A MOULDER, Chas DYER, R T CLARKE (publisher), Thames Trotting Club, A J RYAN (or BRYAN), T J COLWILL, and R OLIVER (dentist).  In the 1950s Directory my Grandfather Fred CORNES was living in one of these houses.

     4. Parking, while the angle and parallel parking is the same as today - from memory the parallel side was not divided into car parks as it is today. I can't make out the dividing lines in the postcard, but it could be that they just haven't shown up in the photo.

    5. The Trotting Club building, is the one with the verandah over the footpath, on the right (west side) of the postcard. The old Trotting Club building and adjacent house were demolished and a new building completed in 1969. The estimated cost at tender was $26,000.

Before & After: The Trotting Club building 1967 (prior to demolition). On the right the new Trotting Arcade 1969, made up of several offices and shops. 
ABOVE: Full view of the Pollen Street Postcard.

While looking for further photographs for this article, I went to "Google maps", next minute I know I am getting aerial views that I can rotate  and change the angles. Not your usual satellite views, or maybe I haven't be using the site properly. So in case you are like me, it may pay to have a play! You use Ctrl + Mouse to rotate for 3D Views. Google maps link to Thames, click HERE.

Here are some examples below.
View from behind the Una (Karaka) Hill towards the town.
Below, looking east towards the hills.

Don't the hills look beautiful, its so easy to forget the beautiful country behind our town!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Thames (NZ): Victoria Gold Mining Company Drilling on the Foreshore 1903

The previous post was on the Kuranui-Caledonian Drilling 1903; there is another 'drilling' photograph in the Auckland Libraries Sir George Grey Collection.

The Description given for the photo is: 
Source: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19031210-2-5

So what was happening? Here are some items from the newspapers about the drilling.

New Zealand Herald 28 October 1903: The Victoria Gold Mining Company was given permission to work the Favourite Special foreshore quartz claim. As a result the company had made a contract with the Goldfields Diamond Drilling Company for boring upon the claim to a depth of 3000 feet (with option of stopping at 1000 feet). The drilling was due to start at the beginning of November.

New Zealand Herald 6 November 1903: The derrick to be used for the drilling process had been moved into place. The structure was fifty foot high.

New Zealand Herald 9 November 1903: The drilling machine was due to arrive, the largest machine in the Australian colonies - capable of reaching a depth of 3000 feet.

New Zealand Herald 19 November 1903: Typical Thames weather, there had been a significant squall and the derrick structure over the bore hole was blown over! The damage was minimal and it was quickly re-erected.

New Zealand Herald 24 November 1903: A start was made with the borehole "by means of a calyx bit, and a depth  of 30ft was attained. In this instance the size of the casing used at the start is 7in in diameter, leaving the inside diameter of the hole at 6 1/2in."

By the 26th the depth was 50 feet, the 27th 80 feet - they had passed through clay and gravel.

New Zealand Herald 30 November 1903: Well the challenges were great, a log was encountered, they then started a new hole and another log was met preventing drilling. The use of gelignite shattered the log and drilling proceeded, reaching 87 feet in total. The following days more logs were hit!

New Zealand Herald 7 December 1903: The borehole was 165 feet deep. The decision was made to change to a diamond bit.

New Zealand Herald 17 December 1903: The depth was now 303 feet. The had now reached rubbly quartz, small boulders and clay.

A new year and the report from the New Zealand Herald 22 January 1904, a large boulder was now the problem. The expense of the operation was mounting! Nothing was easy on the Thames Goldfield.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thames (NZ): Kuranui - Caledonian Gold Mining Company Boring Operations

Boring Operations at The Thames 1903:

The Auckland Weekly News 17 September 1903, published photographs of the new boring / drilling operations being carried out for the Kuranui - Caledonian Goldmining Company.

The Thames Goldfields Improvement Committee (photo below) made the announcement early September that two drilling sites had been chosen. One near the entrance of the Albert low level near the Moanataiari Creek; and the second along the Tararu Road, near the entrance to the Moanataiari Main Tunnel.

The Kuranui - Caledonian Goldmining Company were working with the Committee and engaged an Australian company to carry out the drilling - the Goldfields Diamond Drilling Company of Kalgoorlie. The photograph below shows a crowd gathered around the drilling plant, installed ready for use. The boiler used to operate the drill was made by A & G Price of Thames. The drill was to be used to assess the worth of the second auriferous floor of Thames. The first official bore took place 12 September 1903. The photograph below is likely the official opening and start of the drilling.

Kuranui-Caledonian Goldmining Company's Drilling operation.
Source: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19030917-12-2 (3) and (4)
Above Left: Some of the Drilling experts, and assembled crowd.
Above Right: The Thames Goldfield Improvement Committee. Back Row: Messrs A Bruce (Hon Sec), T H Crawford, H Green, J McEnteer, J Stevenson, Wm Scott, and M Paul. Seated: Messrs F Trembath (Mayor), J M Lennox, T A Dunlop (Chair), E F Adams (Donor of the Hidden Treasure ground), Thos Radford.
Drilling Progress:
By the 18th September 1903, the drilling depth had reached 187 feet. The drill had passed to date through hard sandstone.On this day, the first ever 10 foot core in New Zealand had been lifted. The cores had broken, but it was envisaged that in the future the cores would be whole.

By the 5th October 1903, the bore had reached a depth of 614 feet on the Kuranui - Caledonian ground. By the 16th of the same month the depth reached was 785 feet, no further details were supplied.

Location of the Drill:
Thanks to Tom for indicating the exact location of the drilling operation in 1903.

Source: Figure 1: From Fraser C. 1910. Bulletin 10: The geology of the Thames Subdivision, Hauraki Auckland.

Background Reading:
New Zealand Herald 9 September 1903
Thames Star 11 September 1903