Where Hamilton began

This is Hamilton in 1898. In the foreground, on the eastern bank of the Waikato River, is Isaac Coates’ flax mill.

To the extreme right is an18-year-old Mr Spilman, who gave us some details on the photo in 1970. At the time he was 90 years of age –  born in 1880! He could recall quite some detail though, regrettably, not all he may have recalled is recorded. The man on the extreme left was the foreman, Ben Gothorp.

On the left of the shed are the sheaves of flax (can you have ‘sheaves of flax’?) awaiting processing. A machine in the shed ripped and crushed the flax leaving the fibres stripped of the fleshy material. The fibres were then hung to dry and later laid out to bleach. See on the fence in the foreground the hanging fibre and to the far right behind the horse, fibre is drying.

These were the days of slow development in Hamilton. The population in 1896 was 1248 – only five more than 1878 though now was the time the town began to grow in earnest. Over the next 18 years Hamilton’s population would grow to 5677.

The investment in business and infrastructure made by these early entrepreneurs was thoroughly vindicated. At this time the commercial centre of the town had moved away from Grantham St and the river to Victoria St, between Knox and Collingwood Streets.

Moves are afoot to conserve the river banks – see on the west river bank the plantings of willows. St Peter’s Church and the church hall are clearly visible on the left of the hill whilst on the right and partly obscured by trees, is the Bank of New Zealand (‘The Bank’).  About midway up the photo on the left Grantham St rises to Tisdall St – it was renamed Victoria St after WWI from Knox St to Bridge St. Above Grantham St you see a cutting to the left of the church – that is the early track which became Tisdall St.

To gain an appreciation of the rate of change in Hamilton I have included this second photo of the late-1860s to early-1870s. See that the buildings, shops and houses, built at the punt landing, have all gone by 1898 – they were all in the flood zone so the centre of commerce moved up the hill. Today (2012), the city has forgotten it moved up the hill, so inexorable is its move northwards.

By Perry Rice, of Hamilton Central Libraries.

For further information, email Perry  – and quote HCL_08258 for the first pic, and HCL_08259 for the t’other.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

2 thoughts on “Where Hamilton began

    • August 22, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Quite agree with you Megan – and the excellent Mr Rice has just sent in a gem for next week as well!


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