Heritage in the South
Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail
HIGHWAYS THROUGH HISTORY
Take a journey back through time and follow the trail the miners took in their quest for gold. Forty years of goldmining transformed Otago, with most present day towns owing their origins to the goldrushes.
The dry climate, local pride and the work of Department of Conservation staff, has preserved the miners legacy - mud and stone buildings, intriguing machinery, golden sluiced cliffs, deep mine shafts and underground passages. Look for the sign of the panning miner, which identifies some of these historic sites along the trail. Wild flowers and herbs grow in abundance along these trails.
The main highways are sealed, but some old mining sites are on gravelled side roads. Most of the towns, except the very small townships, offer a choice of accommodation and eating places.
Allow a day to travel from Dunedin to Queenstown to enable you to visit places en-route.
Top up with petrol if heading to St. Bathans.
DUNEDIN (Edinburgh of the South)
Discovery of gold in Otago in 1861 brought wealth and prosperity to Dunedin, elevating it to the commercial centre of New Zealand. Discover this rich past in the Early Settlers Museum, 220 Cumberland Street.
Where Gabriel Read discovered gold. Over 10,000 miners rushed to the Tuapeka goldfield, as the museum details. Follow the signs to Gabriels Gully, the Pick and Shovel Monument and Blue Spur, origin of the gully of gold.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GOLDFIELDS
Gold was discovered in May 1861 by Gabriel Read, close to where the Pick and Shovel monument now stands. The 'goldrush' began almost immediately. In 1861 gold was valued at £3-10 shillings per ounce. Miners made anything from £9 to £90 per day. At that time, a shepherd earned £40-£50 per year! By the end of 1861 there were 11,500 miners living in the 'Gully' and almost as many again, scattered around Blue Spur, Munroe's Gully, Wetherstones, and Waitahuna. They mostly lived in canvas tents and endured harsh and primitive conditions. The registered claims were 24ft x 24ft.
The gold lay 1.5 metres down on a pan of blue slate rock The only equipment needed was a pick and a shovel, and a gold pan or cradle with a plentiful supply of water to separate the gold from the wash dirt. It wasn't long before the surface diggings were worked out and by 1863 more sophisticated methods were employed to extract the gold from greater depths from the hills. Other methods required vast amounts of water, so with only picks and shovels, water races were constructed to carry water from the head-waters of the Beaumont and Waipori Rivers and later Reedy Creek. Water was brought from the Tokomairiro head-waters to the Waitahuna goldfields. In total there were 376 kilometres of water races constructed to Gabriels Gulp, 295 kilometres to Waitahuna and 180 kilometres constructed to Waipori. The water races were gravity fed and to provide a continuous flow of water over these distances, demanded skill and precision in their construction. The races fed overnight into a series of holding dams dotted around the area, from where the water was drawn off throughout the day for high pressure sluicing and excavating operations. Pollards Pond on the Goldfields loop track and Cornishman's Dam on the Munroe's Gully track are two examples. Many of these dams, which still hold water today, are good local fishing spots and the water supply in Lawrence is fed by some of those original races. The water races had to be constantly checked and kept free of any debris. This was the job of the 'raceman'. The raceman usually lived an isolated life, far up in the hills.
From 1865, blasting powder was used to break down the soft rock in an open-cast method. It was tossed into a sluicing channel and the gold was separated and trapped on 'riffles' in sluice boxes. This method was found to be too slow and uneconomic, which led to the introduction of stamping batteries in 1872 when a quartz reef was discovered on the southwest side of Gabriels Gully. Many tunnels were driven into the reef and the remains of both the tunnels, and stamping equipment can be seen while walking along the Goldfields loop track. At one time there were seven stamping batteries operating around Gabriels Gully and Blue Spur. They could crush up to 10 tonnes of 'cement' per day. Some of them had up to 20 stamping heads. Try to imagine the noise echoing around the 'Gully'.
The creek-bed in Gabriels Gully was raised 60cms a week with all the tailings and is now 50 metres above its original level. Before all the excavating began, what we know as Blue Spur and neighbouring Pollards Hill, were both part of the same hill. The central part of it was blasted and sluiced away.
The build-up of tailings reduced the fall of water required for the sluices. Around 1878, hydraulic elevating was introduced to solve this problem. These huge constructions involved breaking the gravel banks down under high water pressure, then using a vacuum, created by the design of the apparatus, to suck gravel boulders and water, up to a higher level for processing. There were three elevators working, the biggest of which raised material a little over 20 metres. From the three elevators, gold saving sluices ran out for distances of 247, 263 and 234 metres.
Blue Spur and Munroe's Gully both became settlements with populations around 500. The schools in both areas closed around 1925. Wetherstones over the hill had a similar sized population of mostly single men. Wetherstones was noted not only for its several 'houses of ill repute' but also for the well known Harts Brewery which closed down in 1923. A hillside of daffodils planted behind the old brewery site is a local attraction each spring.
A steady now of Chinese came after the main goldrush. They worked long, hard hours on tailings that had already been well worked over, and lived in primitive and frugal conditions. They were prohibited by a local body by-law from settling in the existing town and as a result several Chinese camps sprang up on the outskirts of the town boundaries. Many eventually returned to China, although a few Chinese graves can be seen in one corner of the Lawrence Cemetery. Two well known Chinese who remained working in the area were the hotel keeper Sam Chew Lin in Lawrence, and 'Cranky Joe' the old hermit miner in Waitahuna.
Although many miners made fortunes, many others returned to their homelands disappointed. A few of the established farmers became wealthy supplying the goldfields with produce and had ready money to import the best of equipment to set up model farms. They built large homesteads, and employed architects to build schools and churches. They drained and cleared the land and created new farms on highly productive land.
The peak of the gold boom was reached in 1862, about the time the town of Lawrence was established. It grew rapidly in the next 10 years. Many of the buildings constructed then, are still in use today. In 1862, (just one year) 200,000oz of gold was taken out of Gabriels Gully. In 1985, when gold prices were at an all time high, this amount would have been worth $160 million!!! Gold production ceased around 1930. Its discovery had established Lawrence, Dunedin, Otago and indirectly the whole of New Zealand.
During the gold rush era Roxburgh had 20 gold dredges working the Clutha river nearby. When the river is low one of the sunken dredges can be seen from the north end of town. 23kms north of Roxburgh is Gorge Creek, where a monument commemorates miners who perished in the 1863 snows on the Old Man Range.
The roadside Fruitlands Gallery offers food and crafts from a lovingly restored stone building. Nearby Symes Road leads 1km to restored stone Mitchells Cottage, which boasts a sun dial chipped from solid schist stone.
The museum has a comprehensive mining relic collection. In the town centre is the 1876 courthouse, of upright and solid character. The Alexandra Visitor Centre has brochures on two Walking & Viewing Tours that include a map and detailed information on historic sites in the area. Appropriate plaques are situated on some of these sites.
Glenorchy is steeped in history. Visit the Glenorchy Jetty Wharf shed for the early interpretation stories that make up Glenorchy's history.
An Historic Town set in the heart of Central Otago's Goldfields Park, New Zealand
Nestled in the heart of Central Otago and the Goldfields Park, the Historic town has superb examples of colonial architecture built with schist stone from the surrounding hills and valleys. Little changed from the 1860's when gold was first discovered in the mighty Molyneux river (now named Clutha), this caused 10,000 miners to pour into this wild unknown country. When the gold was gone many of these miners turned back to their trades leaving us a legacy that no amount of re-construction or re-creation can replace.
Today a walk through Clyde takes you past timeless cottages, hotels, churches and the post office from an era when as the gold town, Dunstan, Clyde dominated the district. A visit to the Vincent county and Dunstan Goldfields Museum and the Museum extension will satisfy all those in search of the History of the area and its buildings with the fascinating stories of the goldfield pioneers.
Let us begin our walk at the entrance to the Gorge. Here sheltered from the severe winds by the Clyde Moraine the first settlers pitched their tents.
DUNSTAN NEWS - TIMES
A short distance along Sunderland Street on the right was the Dunstan News Office, the birthplace of the Goldfields Press. The first paper by the Dunstan News was printed and distributed on December 30, 1862. Quite a sizeable paper, it was printed by Messrs Higgins and Co. for Mr George Brodie, owner. A copy is to be found with the McNab collection at the Dunedin Public Library.
A permanent building of iron with wooden façade was built in 1864. The name of the paper altered to 'Dunstan Times'.
Owners and Editors changed frequently over the years. In 1900 Mr H E Stevens, son of the local schoolmaster, with J Hill, took possession. Hill pulled out within a short time in favour of Mr S A Stevens. Stevens Brothers carried on with the sons of H E Stevens until 1948, when amalgamation of local papers took place, closing the Clyde office.
The building, now a holiday house, stands as a monument to some fine journalism of over 85 years.
(Taken from early Cyclopedia of New Zealand).
Mr. Albert Ernest Gye, formerly Secretary of the Clyde Sports Club, and Deputy-Captain of the Vincent County Cycling Club, was born in 1872, in Melbourne, where he received his earlier education. He arrived in Otago with his parents, who settled in Clyde, in 1880, served an apprenticeship of five years at the "Dunstan Times" office, and afterwards worked as a journeyman for eighteen months. After being for four months in the Government Printing Office, at Wellington, and for a similar period with Megan Whitcombe and Tombs, Mr. Gye returned to Clyde to take charge of the "Dunstan Times" as printer and publisher. He was one of the founders of the sports and cycling clubs, but afterwards left the district.
"Dunstan Times" (Stevens Brothers, proprietors), Sunderland Street, Clyde. This journal was founded in 1862 by Mr G Fasche, who conducted it until 1895. The premises are on freehold land, and consist of a wooden building, which contains a Wharfedale printing press and a complete jobbing plant. The paper is a weekly publication of eight pages of seven columns, and has a wide circulation throughout Central Otago.
The little stone cottage, on the street next on the right, was built in the early 1860's. It was the home of Mr Rae, known locally as Tinker Rae. Here he set up in business displaying his wares, when not on the road.
Some years later a midwife had the cottage, living in the rear room and taking in single confinements in the front room.
At this time there were no maternity hospitals. With ample midwives in the town, confinements were in the home. Some women, however, did avail themselves of this service.
DR. MORICE'S HOME AND HOSPITAL (TENT) COMPLEX
Next in a large section, in which the Tinkers cottage is situated, is the stone and part concrete home built by Dr. Morice in the early 1860's. The stone house first built is now covered by corrugated iron.
Dr. Morice came to Dunstan, now Clyde, in 1863. He had no commitments, however he was so appalled seeing men suffering with frostbite, malnutrition and associated sicknesses that he set up a tent hospital complex around his dwelling. Here he tended to men he found on the mining claims, in tents or out on the streets, and took them in for treatment.
Dr. Morice was offered, and he accepted, the superintendency of the Grey Hospital in 1866 at a salary of 250.00 pounds ($500.00) per annum.
Mr Hazlett was from the Bendigo (Australia) mining area, where he was deeply interested in mining. An early arrival on the mining scene, he decided to be a provider. He set up a butchers shop in a front room of his home, and later a small store in the corner of his section.
He was an excellent citizen, always to the fore for the betterment of the town. A keen Church man, Hospital Board member, and sports advocate, besides being elected Mayor of the town four times.
A great lover of horses, he had a very fine stable housed in stone buildings along the rear of his section, with a coach house across Miners Land on the river bank.
There is no doubt Mr. Hazlett was the instigator of the first race meeting in Central Otago, at Dunstan on December 31, 1862, and January 1, 1863.
Horses were drawn from Moutere, Galloway and Earnscleugh Stations. Venue was the South bank of Muttontown Gully.
Continuing, and on the right, is a neat white roughcast building belonging to the early history of Clyde.
HARTLEY ARMS HOTEL
Possibly the first single storied stone hotel. Built in 1869, it has a very fine example of masonry under the rough cast. The interior, very badly planned, led to it being condemned as a public house.
James Parks, the Irish owner and host, was the housekeeper, cook, barman, etc. He wasn't praised as a cook, nor for his menu. He specialised in egg dishes; eggs boiled, baked or scrambled for breakfast, dinner and tea, to use up the literally hundreds of eggs from his literally hundreds of hens running about the river bank. Sometimes a chicken or fowl.
However, he was a popular host. The Hotel was a popular drinking house, and catered for many boarders.
Later in the 1890's, the place was taken over by another licensee, who made his ablutions in the stone horse trough, on the street in front, each morning.
TOWN HALL - MASONIC LODGE
Opposite the Hartley Arms. An impressive building of local stone, built in 1868-69. Very elegant with its Corinthian pillars supporting the portico, and windows of unusual design, it stands as a tribute for design and workmanship. Messrs Mason and Clayton, of Dunedin, designed it and it was built by J. Over at a cost of $800.00 pounds ($1,600.00).
Originally designed as a Masonic Hall and Temple, building began as such, under the eye of Vincent Pyke, who was Provincial Grand Master.
Money ran out for the Masons, who were concerned. However, the townspeople came to the aid on the condition that the Hall would be regarded as a Town Hall.
In laying the foundation stone, Vincent Pyke did so with Masonic honours. In a cavity below the stone (foundation) was placed a bottle containing scrolls and copies of the day's "Otago Daily Times" and "Dunstan Times", and also coins of the realm.
The bottle was sealed with the Grant Master's ring and seal. The mortar was laid with a handsome silver trowel made by a local Silversmith (Barlow) and inscribed (see Museum). A ball was held in the evening to open the hall. Masons took it over in 1954. The Atheneaum was added in 1874.
DUNSTAN HOTEL - HOUSE - 1900
On the right we have a very fine double storied building, the first of its kind in Central. Built in 1900 for Mr Harry Hast (of Brewery and Lawrence) and Mrs Alderdice (host) of Dunedin. It was constructed by Thos. Wilkinson, builder of St. Bathans; John Holloway, mason of Clyde; Albert Otago Fountain, professional staircase builder; and Hugh Naylor, apprentice carpenter.
Cobb and Co. coaches pulled in at the Dunstan either way from Cromwell to Dunedin each day. In cold weather, with frosty below zero temperatures, mine host would offer a Scotch for the men and hot tea for the ladies.
Near the middle of the century, the licence to the Hotel was lost. It was closed for a time, became a private house, then later a bed and breakfast accommodation house, Dunstan House.
DUNSTAN HOTEL - 1903
Another double storied building of local stone and built by the very same craftsmen as the previous hotel, three years later in 1903.
A Mr Pitches had this one built to replace a wooden one burned down in 1903; the Port Phillip, built in 1868.
This site is a place of note. The famous Buckingham family had their scantling and Calico Hotel, or Saloon, on it in December 1862 to early 1863, where they were joined by the infamous Captain Bully Hayes. Here he fell in love with Rosa Buckingham, reputed fine singer and entertainer. He married her in Arrow.
Buckinghams moved to Arrow when the gold strike was on there. Hayes went with them and the rest is Arrow's story.
The stone building became the Commercial hotel. It remained the same in layout until 1957 when major improvements were done. Later again, in 1970, a large bar lounge was added.
In 1987 for the movie "Illustrious Energy" the lounge bar and bottle store were clad with stone from the Hotel Cromwell and mud blocks, made at Earnscleugh.
OLIVERS COURTYARD, RESTAURANT AND LODGE ACCOMMODATION (Opposite Dunstan Hotel)
From a Calico general store serving the miners of 1863, time has evolved this historic estate steeped in a century of local colour.
Originally the home of Mr Benjamin Naylor, JP who was born at Worksop, Nottinghamshire in 1830. He was brought up as a Blacksmith and worked at his trade until coming to the colonies in 1851. After ten years on the Victorian goldfields he came to Otago, in 1861, at the time of the Gabriels Gully 'rush. He was one of the first to arrive, in 1862, at the Dunstan, to which he brought goods and soon afterwards opened a general store with living accommodation attached. Eventually the land from the store to the corner (Naylor Street) was purchased and stables, coach sheds, a smoke house and a large timber and iron store was built, along with a gracious home, all built from stone. The home, complete with conservatory, servant's room and a large underground food cellar, is apart from the alterations to the front of the house (in 1929), still maintained in original condition as a lodge for guests.
The walls surrounding the property were built from stones salvaged from the hotels demolished as the property was acquired. Mr Naylor was also interested in farming and became owner of " Chester Mains" and "Matakanui" in 1875. While Clyde was a borough he was Mayor for four years.
Premier and Mrs Richard Seddon (King Dick) were often guests of the Naylor family.
In December 1977 the general store was re-opened as Olivers Restaurant. John Braine and Fleur Sullivan spent several months refurbishing the interior. In late 1981 the old timber and iron store found a new lease of life as a Banquet Hall. Throughout the restoration work many old treasures were found including the day books dating back to 1864.
Chester Mains Farm, Matakanui. This freehold is the property of Mr B Naylor, JP, of Clyde, and is 1,072 acres in extent. It is a dairy and agricultural farm, and has been occupied by the proprietor since 1874. During some seasons, a considerable area is devoted to crops, which yield very satisfactory returns. The owner is a large breeder of Clydesdale horses, and has spent considerable sums of money in the purchase of stud animals from the best bred stock. There is a registered dairy factory on the estate.
Around the corner we glimpse the Clutha River, known to the miners who respected and feared it, as "The Mighty Molyneux".
To the Maoris it was the Matau. Very powerful and treacherous yet beautiful, it claimed many lives and did untold damage while sculpturing the land. However, Otago can be very thankful for the great wealth it brought to the province.
In the 10km of river between Alexandra and Clyde, over 30 dredges once worked the Clutha with 20 more in the 6km between Roxburgh and Coal Creek. The four or five tonnes of lignite those dredges consumed daily came from mines just north of the town. This travelled down the river by boat, a voyage so dangerous that the crews wore lifejackets.
At Brewery Creek, 1.2km below Cromwell, Hartley and Reilly won 871h of gold and got a 2000 pound reward which the Otago Provincial Government offered for the discovery of a new goldfield. Dredges later did most of the mining here. All built locally, the dredges later switched from coal to electricity for power. They had names as strange as some of the gold claims: Monte Cristo, Riley's Revival, Chicago and Royal Maori.
Next on the left is a stone cottage used as a bank and residence as a schoolteacher's home and was later bought as accommodation for Cobb and Co. drivers. In 1987 it was converted to a gambling and opium den for the movie "Illustrious Energy".
ST MICHAEL'S ANGLICAN CHURCH
Next we come to St Michael's Anglican Church built of local stone in 1877. Vicar - Rev. Reeve.
Traditionally English in design, its interior woodwork was wrought by Charles Huston, grandfather of the Waldron family.
The ceiling is arch braced dark wood, the large East and West windows have tracery tops and the small windows, early English lancet.
The stone wall fronting the Church is older still, having surrounded an earlier wooden Church. The remaining three walls were of cob, which were absorbed by the earth.
POST OFFICE (Matau Street)
A very fine example of masonry. Who would know that it was built in two parts more than 10 years apart?
The extension was necessary when Post Office mail boxes and a telephone exchange were installed. Seven telephones were installed in 1909. Mr Gair of Cromwell was the Mason and had help from a Shetland Islander, name unknown.
The first Post Office was situated on the corner of the street. It was firstly of Calico then of corrugated iron and wood.
A fine stone house, compliments of the Post Office, is the Postmaster's residence.
Vincent County Council chambers, seat of the Vincent County Council 1877 to 1989. With the new Government amalgamation of local bodies this building now stands empty. An interesting book to read - One Hundred Years of the Vincent County, 1877-1977, by John H Angus.
This area was the hub of the town from the 1860's to the end of the century and was known as "The Camp".
Next door is the old Magistrates and Wardens Court House, now the Vincent County and Dunstan Goldfields Historical Museum.
It is stone, built in 1864 after the disastrous wind storm of 1863, which blew down the original Court House of Calico and scantling lined with paper. Besides a Court House it was the administration Headquarters of the Dunstan gold rush. Here Vincent Pyke as Commissioner of the Goldfields and Mayor Keddell had their offices.
The building became a Museum after some years of closure, 1966, four years after the Centennial of the Dunstan, September 1962, when the Museum was established. A fine collection of exhibits from within the Vincent County is housed and cared for by voluntary workers. The Museum is open 2pm - 4pm Tuesday to Sunday.
POLICE SERGEANT'S HOUSE
A fine stone house stands next door to the Museum. It was built in the late 1860's for the Sergeant of Police.
At the time there was a stone gaol in front to the left of this building and an office beside the residence.
From this point to within a playing field distance of the school was housed up to fifteen more mounted troopers who policed the goldfields, acted as escorts for the goldcoach en-route to Dunedin and escort to many VIP visitors.
ROMAN CATHOLIC - ST DUNSTANS CHURCH
St. Dunstan's Catholic Church built in 1903 by a local builder and mason (Thos. Wilkinson and John Holloway and associates) was to replace an earlier church, St Mary's built in 1869. A devastating wind storm having destroyed the church, mass was heard in the old school (stone) in the main street until St Dunstan's was built.
A fine example of early English Gothic, roofed with Marseilles tiles, it stands out neatly in well groomed grounds. During 1989 St Dunstan's was completely restored and rededicated on 18 October 1989.
BENJAMIN NAYLOR'S HOUSE
In Upper Fraser Street on the right, a very neat and solid local stone house built by Mr Albert Otago Fountain with J Noone, Mason, in 1881. Mr Naylor, a cousin of Benjamin Naylor of Victoria Store, came from overseas to Clyde to assist his cousin. Later he began business himself at the other end of town. The home has been retained by the family.
ST MUNGO'S PRESBYTERIAN UNION CHURCH
On the corner and opposite St Dunstan's Catholic Church is St Mungo's Union Church of the Clyde/Alexandra Parish.
The church was built in 1894 in wood, being roughcast in the 1950's and redecorated inside.
This church was built by the Presbyterians of Clyde and District. In 1970 the Methodist Church joined the Presbyterian and a Union Church was born.
CHARLES HENRY GYE'S HOME
Along further stands a little white cottage with its iron lace of the Victorian era. In the 1870's this house was the home of Mr Charles Henry Wong Gye, who came to Clyde from the Bendigo goldfields to be the Chinese interpreter in the Dunstan, May 1871. The grounds were very spacious surrounded by a very handsome stone wall.
Opposite is a very old stone house, perhaps the earliest one built in the town. A Mr Tyrell, clerk of the Court, built it for his family in 1860.
It has had no structural alterations inside or out. It has been added to on the left side at the back. The roof and floors are original. It is a very much-photographed cottage. Home of Mr and Mrs W Waldron.
MISS CHRIS McDONALD'S HOME
Next is another stone house of about similar vintage built by Mr Anthony Brough, the first solicitor to practice in Clyde. It was a show place in its early days, set in a very large section amidst trees and garden. Brough's successor, Mr F W Wilson, lived in it, then his successor, Robert Gilkison. It was he who added two rooms built of stone to match, for a nursery. It has always been lived in. Now the grounds are smaller.
Now turn right up Naylor Street past Olivers barn and follow the walkway through the Railway reserve to the museum extension - and Briar Herb Factory - the first herb factory in New Zealand. There is an extensive array housed here. There is also a resident caretaker, ask him about the display of stationary engines housed at the nearby Clyde Railway Station Building.
As Briar Herbs Limited, the factory was registered as a Private Limited Liability Company in 1948, but herbs were processed for many years on the site prior to this date.
In the late 1930's Mr and Mrs Berbery, an English couple, began processing on this site in a small way, along with collecting briar hips which were processed in Dunedin into rose hip syrup.
Mr and Mrs Berbery were joined by another English woman, Miss Annie Radcliffe, who some time later took over the business, expanding it considerably.
Mr Warren Trainor joined Miss Radcliffe. The business grew but had many ups and downs over the years. Processing was dusty work, exacting and did not appeal to people, consequently the turnover of staff was above average.
During this time the company was registered and Messrs Fletcher Humphreys and Co. Ltd. were appointed distributors and soon the Trademark of "Briar" became known throughout New Zealand, the Auckland district being the chief buyer.
In 1964 Mr F H Brown, who was running the factory at that time, switched over to direct sales to wholesalers but, with the lack of adequate staff and small machines, the demand overtook the factory's capacity to supply.
For many years, 40,000lbs of green thyme were handled as well as quantities of sage, mint and other herbs. At the end of each season there was no carry over.
Thyme grew, and still grows wild over the hills and along the river banks round Clyde, Alexandra and Cromwell Gorge. When dried and cleaned it is as good a product as any in the world. Exports were contemplated, after enquiries had been received from the USA, Australia and Germany.
The green thyme was cut and brought to the factory by residents of the districts. Whole groups and families would picnic in the hills, cut thyme and spend a happy and profitable day doing just that.
Sage was grown on a cultivated block nearby, but it was found that water from a nearby hill could not be controlled and many thousands of plants were killed by a virus, which attacked their wet roots. Both sage and thyme are desert plants and die if their roots get too wet and remain so for a long time. The land was sold, supplies got from Algeria, Cyprus and England.
Thyme in Central Otago
Thyme, of the common or garden kind, has grown in Central Otago since it was introduced by gold diggers about a century ago.
Since then the plant has spread. A recent informal estimate is that it covers about 2,000 hectares thickly and several times that area at lower densities.
Its distribution is confined to the valleys of the Clutha, Kawarau and Manuherikia rivers.
It is believed that New Zealand may be the only place where common thyme grows wild, beyond the mountains of Spain and other European countries bordering the Mediterranean where it originates.
Once you have experienced a walk over these hills and valleys through the thyme, you will never use or smell thyme again without remembering the wild and rugged beauty of this area.
Jean Desire Feraud commemorative plaque off State Highway 8 at Clyde Lookout.
JEAN DESIRE FERAUD
A native of France, Jean Desire Feraud came to the Dunstan Goldfields early in 1863.
He went mining on the west bank of the Molyneux River (Clutha) a short distance below Alexandra. The spot now known as Frenchman's Point was rich in places.
Mr Feraud was fortunate in striking a rich deposit, becoming comparatively rich in a short time.
Now a modern town, redeveloped because of the Clyde Dam project and Lake Dunstan, which has formed behind it. In the mall the museum displays gold relics, and in an historic precinct parts of old Cromwell Town have been painstakingly re-erected stone by stone.
Across the Bannockburn bridge, 9kms south of Cromwell is a tortured yet beautiful landscape sculpted by miners in their sluicing for gold from 1862-1910. Water races, dams, tunnels, shafts and crumbling cobb and stone buildings are fascinating features found on a walk around these Bannockburn diggings. Vineyards are now a strong feature in this area. Some 18kms from Cromwell, on the Lindis Pass road, the Bendigo Loop Road takes you to Bendigo, Logantown and Welshtown. One of the few successful quartz mining areas in Otago, Bendigo and surrounds were mined for over half a century. Dozens of crumbling stone cottages and huts are dotted amongst the scrub at Logantown and Welshtown - but so too are deep mine shafts. Follow the track and watch your step on your explorations.
Towards Queenstown, just 10km from Cromwell, is the Kawarau Gorge Mining Centre. There are a range of displays and exhibitions here including a working stamper battery, and you can even pan for your own gold.
A town popular with travellers. The Kawarau Gorge and rapids barred the way to the miners until a stone-piered suspension bridge was erected in 1860. This superb structure can be seen alongside today's modern highway, just 18km from Queenstown.
At Arthurs Point near Queenstown, is the Oxenbridge Tunnel, which took four years of digging. The Shotover River was then diverted through it - but only 90 ounces of gold was recovered from the dry riverbed.
In the hills behind Queenstown is another goldtown - Skippers, accessible by a spectacular drive in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Gold was discovered in 1862, and once 1,500 people lived here.
This tourist town was a goldmining town, now faithfully preserved in historic character. The museum shows you the region's rich history. Below the town, on the banks of the Arrow River, is a restored Chinese settlement - mute reminder of a colourful chapter in central Otago history.
A few remains of the Cardrona diggings can be found along the picturesque Cardrona Valley Road from Wanaka over the Crown Range to Queenstown. The Big 1878 Flood destroyed the valley leaving little behind. A few of the miners returned, not to work the valley floor but the higher slopes. The old Cardrona Hotel, restored mid 1980's has on display a few memories from the past.
15km up the Arrow River, is reached by 4 wheel drive or a 5 hour hike. Once a bustling mining town, it is now a ghost town, with only a few buildings remaining, and massive stamping batteries now silent.
A peaceful town today, has a rich history with many original buildings including the restored post and telegraph office of 1886 remaining.
A tiny township, where once 2,000 miners lived. A 120m high hill was dug away by the miners until a hole 69m deep was left. This was the deepest hydraulic mining lift in the world, and is now the Blue Lake. The Vulcan Hotel and Old Post Office are features of St Bathans.
A favoured holiday town, with the sluiced cliffs softened by the spread of forest trees. Enquire at the forest HQ about walks through the goldworkings. Browse in the Early Settlers Museum, and step back in time into the watchmakers shop.
With its hotel, is just 15km on. At the nearby picnic area a grove of trees represents each homeland of the 3,000 miners who prospected here.
CAMBRIAN, DRYBREAD AND MATAKANUI
Cambrian is an old Welshman's gold and coal mining settlement (1863) off St Bathans Loop Road on the way to St Bathans. Along Cambrian Road, a number of cottages still survive and are used today as holiday cribs, while the rest are just ruins. Cambrian is just one of a number of mining settlements which grew up along the eastern side of the Dunstan Mountains. Matakanui has some fascinating old buildings, and places with intriguing names like Devonshire Diggings, Tinkers Diggings, Drybread Diggings and Vinegar Hill are worth exploring if you have time. Much can be learned from the gravestones in cemeteries such as the one at Drybread.
Near here is the only poppet head still standing in Otago. Above a 46m mine-shaft it supports wheels over which run ropes to hoist gold-bearing ore to the surface. Golden Progress quartz mine poppet head is a short walk from Reefs Road, a loop road north of Oturehua. South of the town is Hayes Engineering Works, established in 1895, featuring fascinating machinery in the water-powered works. Hayes Engineering Works is open weekends over summer, 10am - 4pm.
Once a busy goldtown, the township of Macraes is off State Highway 85. The Golden Point battery is 5km from Macraes. The well known Stanleys Hotel, a popular landmark with its motto "While I live I'll crow" is a focal point of the district. A huge open-cast mine now operates in the hills near Macraes.
At the junction to State Highway 85 and the route to Central Otago, or State Highway 1 to Dunedin, is a model of a working water wheel. If travelling SH85, look at 45km for the Dead Horse pinch where a plaque shows the difficulties of travel in the gold days.
Department of Conservation Offices - Dunedin, Alexandra and Queenstown have further information on the Otago Goldfields Park sites.
For further information about the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust & Annual Goldfields Celebrations in November write to:
Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust
PO Box 91, Cromwell
The Maori explorers began arriving in the bays to the north and south of Dunedin from about 1100 AD. They fished the rich coastal waters and travelled inland in pursuit of the giant flightless moa as well as duck and freshwater fish. These people also initiated trade with Northerners in the precious greenstone or pounamu. The oldest known tribe was the Waitaha.
By the time the Scottish settlers arrived at Otepoti in 1848, they found the site of modern day Dunedin rich in Maori history.
The rough, tough and enterprising whalers added an element of diversity and intermarried with local Otakau Maori from the 1820s. Race relations in the area were thereby shaped before Captain Cargill and the Reverend Thomas Burns arrived to establish a Free Church settlement. This cultural mix of Maori, whaler and Presbyterian Scot gave early Dunedin a character all of its own.
The Scottish influence bequeathed fine churches like First Church and Knox Church, but also contributed much more to the developing city ... including a passionate enthusiasm for education.
The wealth generated by the nearby goldfields was instrumental in establishing Otago Boys' High School, Otago Girls' High School and the University of Otago (the first in New Zealand).
The discovery of gold encouraged many Chinese miners to cross the Tasman from the Victorian goldfields. By 1871 there was in excess of 4,000 Chinese mining in Otago. Many settled permanently in Dunedin, entering into commerce, and today they are a vibrant community within the city.
The Otago Settlers Museum provides a window to the past glory and struggles of Dunedin's early stalwarts. Just a short stroll from the Octagon, the visitor can be transported back in time through the many displays of artifacts, photographs and memorabilia. The age of steam is also recalled in the form of one of New Zealand's earliest locomotives.
In contrast, Dunedin's most famous stately home, Olveston, is a perfect example of the prosperous past. The private home of the Theomin family, it has been beautifully preserved and reflects Dunedin lifestyle in the Edwardian era. Similarly, Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula offers a taste of ostentatious grace amidst a more rugged setting.
The Otago Museum houses a magnificent collection of Polynesian and Maori artifacts. There are also significant displays of native birds and mammals. The Southern Land, Southern People Gallery offers a gateway to the region and an insight into the southern soul.
The Hocken Library boasts a vast collection of books, paintings, written and recorded material covering the whole of European history in New Zealand.
The Dunedin Public Library is also a substantial reference resource with a fine collection of rare books and manuscripts, and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery houses one of the nation's finest collections, including a magnificent Monet and a number of Frances Hodgkins paintings.
Everywhere in Dunedin the rich legacy of times past is remembered and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
...Dunedin captures the hearts of locals and travellers alike. It’s a surprisingly artsy town, and has many great bars and eateries.... Lonely Planet