H. French & Son Store, Driving Creek

April 4, 2024

When Henry French established his store ‘Excelsior’ in Driving Creek, Coromandel in 1873 the settlement had grown from a transient population of mainly men making a living through timber milling and boatbuilding to an established township with amenities that supplied hundreds of men who came to the Coromandel in search of gold. Immigrants were lured to the area after Charles Ring discovered gold in the Driving Creek area in 1852.

Driving Creek was also known by locals as Upper Town and Top Town. French changed his store name to Henry French & Son Driving Creek Store and Post Office - the third Post Office to open in the vicinity. It handled mail, sold stamps and possibly postal notes as well as providing for telegrams and telephone calls.

This small settlement was a thriving hub which included a Bridson’s grocery and bakery, Eagan the bootmaker and repairer, barbers, Mills Butchery and the draper and dressmaker Mrs Kneebone. People and supplies were transported by horse-drawn wagons, often uncovered, from Lower Town to Upper Town every half hour where the exchange or purchase of supplies took place at H. French & Son Ltd and other retailers.

Te Whare Pātaka | The Treasury has in its care the original Henry French & Son Store Ledger Book which lists transactions from 1880 to 1885. The names of customers listed in this ledger include residents, tradesmen, hoteliers, miners and gold mine claimants as well as Henry French’s son William Henry French who became the store book-keeper.

View the ledger here.

Subscribe to our news

Support us