Volume 12

Eureka Gold Mining Settlement, Kuranui Valley, Thames Special Area

David Wilton


This article describes the search for, and recording, of a gold mining settlement in the foothills approx one km east of Thames. The settlement had a population of about 100 people during the period 1868 - 1969, and was named after a mining claim of the same name; i.e. Eureka.

The project started with a search for the residence of mine owner and manager Richard Ross, which was occupied by his son Joseph (Joe) up until his death in 1969. The site of this cottage was recorded by Dr Neville Ritchie circa 1989 (T12/698), in conjunction with local historian Alistair Isdale. The author visited the site in October 2016, following correspondence between Richard (Dick) Wilkins of Dunedin (great grandson of original Eureka claim co-owner Richard Ross) and Morrie Dunwoodie of the Coromandel Heritage Trust. The original task was to locate the site of the Ross residence, near the top of the Kuranui valley. The Ross section, which was originally occupied under a residential site licence (RSL - a permitted activity under the Goldfields Act pertaining at the time), is still owned by the family. However, modern cadastral maps erroneously show the section as being several hundred metres to the west, towards the Pukehinau (Shellback) valley. The grid reference specified in the archaeological site record (recorded pre-GPS) was also several hundred metres astray - in the opposite direction to the cadastral record - although the site record itself was otherwise factual and informative.

The site was very difficult to find, due to extensive re-growth; particularly of wild jasmine, which has presumably spread from the garden of the dwelling. The remains of the house were located with assistance from the description in SRF T12/698 and a sketch map in T12/699. The 'walking tracks' to Moanataiari and Pukehinau (Shellback) valleys mentioned in the sketch map are now a well-developed mountain bike (MTB) trail, and a couple of riders were encountered near the Kuranui junction. There is now an extensive network of well-constructed and maintained MTB tracks originating from a car park and boom gate at the upper end of Moanataiari Creek Rd.

Figure 1 Ross residence c.1970 and equivalent view in 2017. The water tank and collapsed roof are the main elements of the house still visible above re-vegetation cover. Further historical and contemporary photos of the residence are in later sections.

Ross residence
Figure 1: Ross residence c.1970 and equivalent view in 2017. The water tank and collapsed roof are the main elements of the house still visible above re-vegetation cover.

An update to T12/698 was submitted in 2016, with a GPS waypoint for the residence site. Then, over about 18 months, the author conducted a series of above-ground searches in the Moanataiari - Kuranui area, and it soon became apparent that this was the location of the mining settlement known as Eureka (named after the Eureka claim) and that it was a significant archaeological landscape. For example, at least 12 probable building sites were located and recorded, including the residence of another early Thames goldfield family - that of miner William Lang. Significant mining features, and the possible site of the Eureka School (c.1870 - 1880) were located. A separate site record for the whole Eureka mining settlement has now been submitted (T12/1441). Dick Wilkins, with inputs from Ross family descendants, has extensively researched the Ross family and has written an article in two parts for The Treasury Journal Richard Ross Part I and Richard Ross Part II

Historical Background

The Eureka story commences with the opening of the Thames goldfield on 1st August 1867. Within a month, Hunt's party had discovered the now-famous gold-bearing waterfall in the Kuranui stream and registered the Shotover claim - regarded as the first major 'bonanza' of the Thames field. According to Weston:

Claims adjacent to the Shotover, and pegged out immediately the news of the Hunt find was circulated, included the Long Drive, Barry's (which became the Kuranui), Inverness, and All Nations. In fact, the whole hill between the Kuranui and Moanataiari Creeks was quickly taken up. It included a number of rich claims ... [list provided but doesnt include the Eureka, which was presumably not rated as 'rich']. With the exception of the Caledonian hill, it proved the richest bluff on the goldfield. In respect of its general diffusion of richness, as distinct from the patchiness further south, it was the most remarkable area of all.

Downey discusses the Eureka claim as follows:

This claim adjoined the Kuranui to the eastward. Not much information is at hand regarding its early history, but it was worked by individual owners, or a small company from 1868 to 1875, during which time 1,653 tons of quartz were mined from it, for a yield of 5,750 oz bullion, valued at £13,798. This output clearly came from small leaders or veins near the surface, and close to the Moanataiari slide. The leaders evidently did not live, or carry their values, to any depth, for no active underground mining was done on the claim after 1875. Between 1888 and 1895, however, the Moanataiari Co., which had taken the ground over, mined a very considerable tonnage of stockwork from the surface of it, making the total output from the claim 39,942 tons, which yielded 7,577 oz bullion, valued at £18,641.

More detailed information on the Eureka claim is provided by Kae Lewis, particularly regarding the origin of the claim, and news reports of progress over the first two years of its existence:

On the 9th of November 1867, a miner named John Goldsworthy arrived in Auckland with 80 oz of gold from the Eureka claim, the Thames. He had crushed one cwt of quartz using a small berdan machine at the nearby Barry's claim. This was considered a yield of unequalled richness, and it was hoped it would continue the length of the newly found reef. The claim was owned by Grattan and party ... John and William Goldsworthy, Andrew Grattan, Richard J. Ross and John George.

Mrs Goldsworthy '... was the first white woman resident of Eureka Hill' (NZ Herald 14 November 1918). By June 1868, the claim had become 'seven men's ground' (one man's ground being 1/3 of an acre) which presumably indicates another two persons had become co-owners.

The Eureka claim straddled part of the ridge between the Moanataiari and Kuranui valleys, and extended northwards almost towards the Kuranui creek, as shown in Figs 2 and 3 below. The Moanataiari (geological) fault ran through the middle of the claim, and major bridle trails up the Pukehinau (Shellback), Kuranui and Moanataiari valleys intersected at Eureka. Parts of the old, well rutted-out, bridle trail are still visible in the area around the Ross residence site.

Map of Eureka
Figure 2: Extract from NZ Map 4531 (Wayte 1868), showing area of the Eureka claim and settlement.

Moanataiari-Kuranui area
Figure 3: Google Earth view of Moanataiari - Kuranui area with claim boundaries superimposed (Eureka claim boundary indicated).

Although the Eureka claim was not regarded as one of the richest in the area, the ridge between the Moanataiari and Kuranui valleys became known as Eureka Hill and a small mining settlement formed there. This is possibly due to the mystique associated with the name. A partial view of Eureka Hill and the settlement is in Fig 4 below.

Photo of Eureka Hill
Figure 4: Photo of Eureka Hill taken by James D. Richardson, c. 1870.
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC138.

Eureka Hill
Figure 5: Zoomed extract of Fig 4, showing buildings and tents around the top of the ridge (Eureka Hill)

This photo (Fig 4) appeared in the 50th goldfield anniversary edition of the Thames Star (1st August 1917) with the following caption: THE EARLY DAYS AT THAMES. View showing lower portion of Moanataiari Valley, Eureka Hill on left foreground. On the other side of the spur, on left, was where the famous Shotover Claim was located.

Another historical view of the Eureka Hill area, taken looking south from the ridge between the Kuranui and Shellback (Pukehinau) valleys, appears in NZ Geological Survey Bulletin No. 10:

Ross residence
Figure 6: View of Eureka Hill area looking south taken from ridge between Kuranui and Pukehinau valleys. (Key historical features are marked; explanations in following sections).

In terms of when the settlement commenced, the 1913 Thames Star 46th goldfield anniversary edition (1st August 1913) lists early residents of the town and where they were then (in 1913). A number of people are listed as living at Eureka, from 1867 and 1868, indicating the settlement formed in the first 12-18 months following the opening of the goldfield.

The population of the settlement is uncertain; but there are indications that, at peak, it would have been 100 or more. This estimate was mainly obtained from school records: Eureka School (c.1870 - c. 1880 - details below) had a peak enrollment of 66 pupils, in 1873. This figure is derived from newspaper articles relating to the school. Only a few Eureka School enrolment records have been obtained to date, from National Archives, and only relate to years 1874 and 1878. However, there are about 30 discrete surnames of families which gave their place of residence as Eureka, on enrollment records of other schools, (after the Eureka school had closed). These figures are thought to be consistent with an estimated population of 100+.

Of interest is that the enrolment records call the school 'Eureka Hill', which may help identify its location - 'Eureka Hill' was the name for the ridge immediately north of the Moanataiari valley, and is where possible school sites were identified in field surveys (see below).

The main families (in terms of school enrollments and longevity at the settlement) appear to be the Rosses, Langs and Moyles. The Moyle family has not been investigated in detail; however, Moyle children are listed in newspaper reports as winning prizes at Eureka School from 1873, and a Mr Moyle (first name not recorded) was working as a tributer on the Kuranui and Moanataiari claims through until at least 1889. The Ross and Lang families are covered in more detail below.

Two Thames Street Directories which included Eureka as a discrete settlement, list the following names:

DENYER Henry, Miner, Eureka Hill
LANG William, Miner, Eureka Hill
ROSS Richard, Miner, Eureka Hill
STEVENSON Robert, Miner, Eureka Hill
WAITE Mrs, Eureka Hill
LANG John, Junior, Miner, Eureka Hill

DENYER Henry, Miner, Eureka Hill
LANG William, Miner, Eureka Hill
ROSS Richard, Miner, Eureka Hill
CLARKE Henry, Driver, Eureka Hill
LANG H, Miner, Eureka Hill
THOMAS J, Miner, Eureka Hill

(Note that these directories weren't comprehensive, in terms of population coverage.)

Combining this data with school enrollment records (for Eureka, and other schools which children attended after Eureka was closed) and PapersPast articles, a list of families residing at Eureka, over the period c.1870-1890, is as follows:

Alexander, Allen, Bennett, Burns, Carter, Casely (also spelt Casley), Christie, Clark, Constable, Denyer, Dixon (also spelt Dickson), Dunn, Gill, Gilmore (also spelt Gilmour), Goldsworthy, Gribble, Hancock, Hansen, Hennessey, Hick (also spelt Hicks), Hill, Jennings, Jones, Lang, Lawford, McManus, May, Moss, Moyle, O'Halloren, Paul, Peterson, Radford, Ross, Shepherd, Stevenson, Sutcliffe, Thomas, Truscott, Waite, White.
Total: 41. The list is unlikely to be comprehensive, and obviously, not all of these families were necessarily living at Eureka at the same time.

Two of these families have been investigated in some detail, as the family residential sites are identifiable through historical records, and there is occupational evidence of the sites on the ground.

Ross Family

Dick Wilkins and his family have carried out extensive research into Richard Ross, his family, and his mining activities at Eureka and other near-by claims. The research is extensively documented in Dick Wilkins' separate articles in the Treasury Journal. Richard Ross Part I and Richard Ross Part II

Kae Lewis' Goldminers Database lists the following miners rights and claims registered in Thames by Richard Ross. He was evidently a person of considerable energy and optimism, as noted by Dick Wilkins.

MR 132 Richard J. ROSS 3 Sept 1867 Karaka
MR 4131 Richard J. ROSS 3 March 1868 Karaka
CL 268 R. J. ROSS 18 June 1868 Kuranui
CL 305 R. J. ROSS 19 June 1868 Kuranui
CL 413 Richard John ROSS 20 June 1868 Puriri
CL 481 Richard John ROSS 30 June 1868 Tararu
MR 9079 Richard J. ROSS 5 Aug 1868 Karaka
MR 9080 Richard J. ROSS 5 Aug 1868 Puriri
CL 1401 Richard John ROSS 11 February 1869 Karaka Creek
CL 1451 R. ROSS 16 March 1869 Hape Creek
CL 1578 R. ROSS 8 June 1869 Tararu
MR 3108 Richard J. ROSS 24 Jun 1869 Karaka
MR 5577 Richard J. ROSS 17 Aug 1869 Karaka

Note: MR = Miners Right - a licence to prospect in a particular area
CL = Claim - a registered parcel of ground that the claimholder(s) are permitted to mine
Richard Ross
Figure 7: Richard Ross, Eureka, circa 1927
Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS-19270728-47-6, Auckland Libraries

Sarah Ross
Figure 8: Sarah Ross, first wife of Richard Ross
(date unknown but probably c.1868).

Ross residence
Figure 9: Richard and and his second wife, Frances Ross,
1916 (photos supplied by Dick Wilkins)

The house was then occupied by son Joe Ross, up until his death [28th February 1969]. Joe Ross was an engineer at A & G Price's Foundry, and he walked to work, initially across to and down the Moanataiari Valley, but later down the Kuranui. Joe served in WW1; being called up for service in September 1916, and deployed overseas (to France via England) with the 22nd reinforcements, arriving in theatre in May 1917. He was wounded in action but returned to NZ on completion of hostilities.

Joe Ross WWI
Figure 10: Joe Ross in WW1 uniform.

Joe Ross
Figure 11: Joe Ross being presented with a commemorative
clock at Price's Foundry, c.1950s
Photos supplied by Dick Wilkins.

With such a large family as that of Richard Ross, there is a large number of descendants. A talk and public field trip to Eureka in October 2017 conducted by Dick Wilkins and the author attracted three generations of Ross descendants. Following the publicity surrounding the field trip and publication of Dick's articles in the Treasury Journal, several other descendants have made contact with the author, mainly seeking information on Eureka.

Dick Wilkins recorded the following comments re the Ross residence:

... [the Ross residence at Eureka] is probably is one of the few 'original' [Thames mining] residences that you can still find evidence of - being maintained in essentially its original state (along with gardens etc) until the 1960s - most of the others would have been deserted and gone into decay before 1900. Besides, as far as we can tell, Richard Ross had occupied the site since about 1870.
There were extensive orchards - and they used the whole area (many acres) as a small holding - water for the garden was obtained by damming a drive above the house and along towards the Moanataiari and piping it to the gardens. I have my Great grandfather Richard Ross's gardening diaries from 1900s to about 1930 in which he describes what was planted, when and where. Extremes of gardening weather conditions are also noted. Also there are egg counts for some years - believe it or not, up to 3000!
The shortest and flattest route to town was along the base of the Moanataiari fault over to the Moanataiari Creek Rd, but in later years (1940s onwards) they used the steeper route down to the Tararu Rd - about 100m up this track they had a corrugated iron storage shed where they kept supplies and stored bikes etc. It must have been a different era, as the key to the shed was kept under a stone, in a well worn 2m path in the grass outside the door, but no one ever broke in to the shed! One Ross daughter, Sarah Howe lived in a house ~100m up a track to the left of this shed on the north side of the Kuranui immediately opposite Hunts claim. She left in ~1960 and I think that residential site has also been freeholded.

Lang Family

The information in this section was provided by Karen Stewart, great-great granddaughter of William and Susannah Lang, and granddaughter of Harry and Vera (nee Wilton) Lang, and from the Births, Deaths and Marriages on-line website.

William Lang was born in 1834 in Liskeard, Cornwall. He was baptised 15 June 1834 in St Cleer, Cornwall. This is close to the copper mining areas of Caradon Hill and Bodmin Moor, and he was probably a miner who left Cornwall for mining ventures overseas when the bottom fell out of the Cornish copper mining industry in the mid-1800s (see, for example From Cornwall To The Coromandel by Beryl & David Verran and John Moore Wilton by Tony & David Wilton.

Many miners left Cornwall for a variety of overseas locations, and ended up in Thames after the goldfield opened in 1867, as it was a hard rock goldfield (i.e. the gold was found deep underground, tightly bound up with quartz, and required sophisticated extraction processes). The skills of the Cornish miners were in great demand for this type of mining.

William Lang and Susannah Bassett were married 11 November 1862 in Devonport, Devon. They arrived in Auckland on the ship 'Ardbeg' on 16 December 1864 listed as LONG. Susannah Lang died at Eureka in 1899. William died at Eureka in 1910 and was buried in the Tararu cemetery, north of Thames.

At the time of William's death, William and Susannah had eight living children; three sons and five daughters. Another son, William Henry, was accidentally drowned at Waiau, near Coromandel, in 1868, aged 18 months (Daily Southern Cross, 18th December 1868).

According to Kae Lewis' Goldminers Database, a William Lang obtained miners' rights in Arrowtown, Central Otago in March and December 1864. It is not likely that this was the William Lang who eventually settled in Thames, as March 1864 wouldn't be consistent with a December 1864 arrival in NZ. We know from the inquest into son William Henry Lang's death that his family were in Coromandel in 1868. A William Lang also obtained miners' rights in Thames: Karaka and Puriri in 1868 , Karaka in 1869 and Karaka North in 1870. A Daniel Lang obtained miners' rights at Karaka in 1868 and in 1869, but it is not certain whether William and Daniel were related. No evidence has been found of a Daniel Lang in Thames after the 1870s.

William Lang
Figure 12: William Lang (senior).
Date unknown but likely to be c.1900

Henry Lang
Figure 13: Henry Lang, son of William, c.1890s
All Lang family photos were provided by Karen Stewart.

One of William and Susannah's sons, Henry Lang, was born in 1872. He married Edith Caroline Dare in 1893. Henry died in 1954 and Edith in 1962. Their eldest son was Henry Gordon (Harry) Lang who was born in 1895; the same year as his 'neighbour' (albeit from a house about 100 metres away) Joe Ross. Harry grew up at Eureka, attending Waiotahi Creek and Waiokaraka (later named Thames Central) schools. He was apprenticed to a saddler when he left school but attended the school of mines and got his maritime master's license. Then, like Joe Ross, he worked at the A & G Price's foundry in Thames. Joe and Harry were both called up for WW1 military service in September 1916, and deployed with the 22nd Reinforcements, arriving in theatre in May 1917. Like Joe, Harry was wounded during his service, but returned to NZ after the war.

Harry Lang WWI
Figure 14: Henry Gordon (Harry) Lang in WW1 uniform

Joe Ross WWI
Figure 15: A group of 22nd Reinforcements men, probably taken at Trentham, 1917. Joe Ross is front right; on the opposite end of the row is probably Harry Lang.
Photo provided by Dick Wilkins.

It is likely Joe Ross and Harry Lang were good mates, having grown up as neighbours at Eureka, and worked at the same firm ( A & G Price's foundry of Thames).

In 1921, Harry Lang married Vera Wilton (niece of the author's grandfather, Edward John Wilton) and shortly after that, they moved to a house in Upper Albert St, Thames. The Lang property at Eureka was probably abandoned at that time. They had two children: Patti Joy Lang (b. 1922) and Gordon Keith Lang (b.1925). Harry became the first engineering master at Thames High School in 1939, and his daughter Patti was dux of the school the same year. Harry died in 1954 and Vera in 1986.

Lang Family
Figure 16: Harry, Patti, Vera and Gordon Lang (from left)

Harry and Vera Lang
Figure 17: Harry and Vera (nee Wilton) Lang at their home in Upper Albert St, Thames c. 1940s

Patty Anderson nee Lang
Figure 18: Patti Anderson (nee Lang) revisited Thames High School in 2009, 70 years after she was Dux of the school.
Hauraki Herald, 2nd October 2009.

As with the Ross family, there are numerous descendants of William and Susannah Lang, and the author has met or been contacted by several, including those who attended a Wilton family reunion in 2013.

Eureka School

After the Thames goldfield was proclaimed open in 1867, a number of small schools were established in the town, mostly private, to serve a population that grew to about 15,000 by about 1870. The town was reputed to be as large as Auckland in those days. A major educational reform occurred in 1877, following on from the abolition of the provincial level of government in 1875:


On the passing of the Abolition of the Provinces Act of 1875, public education, until then the responsibility of the Provincial Councils, became the direct concern of the Central Government. The outcome was the Education Act of 1877 which established a national system of public primary education with a three-tiered administrative structure. Control of the system was to be divided between:
  1. A Department of Education, under a Minister of Education, which was to be responsible for distributing grants to education boards (including a general purposes capitation grant) and which would regulate by Order in Council the standards of education to be maintained by boards.
  2. Twelve education boards which were to define school districts within their areas and to establish and maintain public schools in those districts, including district high schools in rural areas in which secondary instruction could be given. Each board was to consist of nine members elected by the school committees of its district
  3. School committees elected by a ballot of local householders which were to have the general management of educational matters in their school district.

As a result, schools became government-funded, and many of the private schools in Thames became public schools. Eureka is one school which would have spanned the 1877 change. According to research by Althea Barker, it appears Eureka School was opened in or about 1870 and closed in July 1880. As noted previously, details of the school rolls for Eureka have not yet been located and most information is from newspaper reports. The origins of the school were reported as follows:

The Eureka [school] is badly sited at the head of the Kuranui Gully, and has been used for scholastic purposes for between two and three years. It owes its existence to the liberality of the local residents who subscribed funds to purchase the building, once a store ... The daily attendance last quarter averaged 43 boys and 23 girls [total: 66]. Mr Cornes is in charge, with Mrs Cornes as an assistant. (Daily Southern Cross 14 August 1873)

By March 1878, the roll was 33, with an average daily attendance of 21. The teacher at that stage was a Mrs McManus. If the 'average daily attendance' was normally about 2/3 of the total roll, this would mean that the total roll in 1873 could have been as high as 75-80.

In July 1878, Mrs McManus was given a special presentation by pupils to mark her 4th anniversary at the school. A written address was prepared by Mr Ross and was signed by pupils Ellen and Clare Ross, Robert Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Moyle. (Thames Star 13th July 1878).

In July 1880, Mrs McManus was farewelled from the district, after six years. She was given another presentation by current pupils. It appeared that the school closed at this time.

There is no indication in historical records of where the school was actually located, and this will probably require archaeological evidence to determine. In terms of size, we know the building was previously a store, rather than a purpose-designed schoolhouse, but presumably this must have been big enough to accommodate 60+ pupils, or else it wouldn't have been used. A plan for the Waiotahi Creek school building, which dates from the same period and was designed to accommodate 60 pupils, measures roughly 40 ft x 60 ft (i.e. about 12 x 18 metres). This is considerably larger than a normal domestic dwelling of the period, and large building terraces located during the field surveys were regarded as possible school sites. Two were found, as will be discussed below.

Visible Mining Features

The following are considered to be significant visible mining features in the Eureka Hill area. There are also numerous features and sites in the Kuranui valley (e.g. Shotover mine and battery), the Moanataiari valley (e.g. Caledonian mine, Victoria battery) and along SH25 (e.g. Long Drive claim, Moanataiari Tunnel portal, the First Big Pump, Kuranui and Moanataiari batteries) but these will not be discussed in this report. There are numerous references which provide information on these sites (e.g. Downey, Isdale, Ritchie, and Weston).

Golden Era Mine

The Golden Era mine portal is of interest to this report as two lower terraces of it (presumably mostly mine tailings) and a small building are shown in the NZGS Bulletin 10 photo of Eureka Hill (Fig 6), and its portal is only about 70m from the Ross residence site. It is not well documented in the historical literature, despite being marked on at least two maps. According to Downey, it appears to have been on the Eureka claim, and produced fairly minimal returns: 19 tons of quartz for 11 oz of bullion, worth £29.

Golden Era Mine
Figure 19: Extract from Isdale (1952) showing Golden Era mine.

Manuerikia Shaft
Figure 20: Adams (c.1920) map showing 'Manuerikia' (Golden Era)
shaft and tunnels.

Another map drafted by E.F. Adams c.1920 shows the same mine but labels it 'Manuerikia Shaft'. However, it is linked to a tunnel labeled 'Golden Era tunnel' so it is almost certainly the same mine. This latter map shows extensive underground work: a tunnel of about 250m in length towards the Shellback stream, so it was a significant undertaking, and Downey's production figure of £29 is possibly suspect.

Moanataiari Tunnel and Shaft.

The Moanataiari tunnel was initially a drive developed to mine the Moanataiari claim, but was eventually extended to form an underground access route to other claims and mines under Eureka Hill; extending to the Alburnia claim near the head of the Waiotahi valley. According to Ritchie:

The Moanataiari tunnel, the most substantial drive on the Thames field, initially gave access to the shallow workings on the Moanataiari claim. Access to other levels was carried out from winzes and shafts, some of which communicated directly with the main tunnel level. The tunnel was eventually extended 1.5 miles under Kuranui hill. It has an elevation of 26 ft ASL ...
The Moanataiari claim was an important and integral part of the Thames goldfield and a steady producer and employer for over 40 years. It made an important contribution to the overall production of the Thames field ... the tunnel was famous in its day and for a period, acted as the main artery of the goldfield. Different mines could send their quartz into it from various levels, and its interconnecting passages made it possible to enter a mine in one valley and come out on a different property in another.

About a third of the way from the seaward end of the Moanataiari tunnel was a shaft (Moanataiari shaft), developed adjacent to the tunnel, that opened out to two drives at 80 ft and 150 ft below the tunnel, according to Downey. The tunnel passes under Eureka Hill and at one point, there is a surface tunnel that is almost directly above the Moanataiari shaft, and may be a ventilation shaft.

Moanataiari tunnel
Figure 21: Map showing area of Moanataiari tunnel (from Isdale 1952). Tunnel highlighted in red.

Archaeological Features and GPS Waypoints

An above-ground survey was carried out over the period October 2016 - April 2018. During this time, the author made six field trips to the area, plus extra trips to show visitors around (including the public field trip in October 2017 mentioned previously). A supplementary trip in September 2018 revealed sites of the Victoria battery and government-funded tramway in the Moanataiari valley. (Although the two latter sites are not strictly part of Eureka, the GPS waypoints were included in the Eureka site record, with photos in Appendix 1. They have also been recorded separately on ArchSite.) Individual sites and/or features that were located, with waypoints, are in the archaeological site record. Maps and photos are in Appendix 1.

In summary, at least 12 probable building sites were located: this includes the sites of the Lang and Ross residences (identified from historical sources), a potential school site (WP167) and the probable location of 'Building X' (WP172) marked on Fig 6. Numerous mining features were located, including a possible ventilation portal for the Moanataiari tunnel and shaft (WP166) and Golden Era mine portal (WP179). In addition, evidence of occupation was observed and recorded, including exotic plants, crockery and glass, and residential features such as retaining walls and enclosures.

No underground investigation was carried out; however, this could be contemplated in future. Likely sites would be the possible school site, Lang and Ross residence sites, and the probable location of 'Building X'.

Assessment of Significance and Future Potential of the Site

The Eureka claim and settlement are a significant part of the fabric of the Thames goldfield, and are mostly on Reserve land (the Ross RSL section still being private property). Most of the stream valleys east of the town had mines and mining infrastructure, such as batteries, but few had more than one or two individual residence sites. Punga Flat is another remote mining settlement, at the top of the Waiotahi valley, about 1.5 km from the outskirts of the town - about an hour's walk. Punga Flat was probably larger than Eureka - population estimated to be 200 people at peak. Like Eureka, it had a school, but also had a separate store and two hotels (probably because it was much further from Thames). See also the article about the Taylor family of Punga Flat.

The author has taken at least eight groups on guided walks to Punga Flat, including four family groups who had ancestors living at the settlement. The track passes numerous drives, which are of interest to visitors, but far more interest is shown in an abandoned residence site, about 30 metres off the track. This is believed to have been occupied (sequentially) by the Taylor, then Vedder families, then Charles Boxall. That is, there tends to be stronger interest in people and how they lived, rather than mining infrastructure in its own right. The public field trip to Eureka in 2017 attracted 25 people, about five of which represented three generations of the Ross family. Again, the main interest was in the Ross residence site, and evidence of the family's occupation.

The main disadvantage of Punga Flat is that it is relatively far from town, and unlikely to be visited, except by those passing through en route to Crosbie Settlement, or to link up with another track, e.g. Karaka or Tararu. There is only a single track through the area, which inhibits access to the many building sites (at least as many as Eureka) which would now be reverted to bush. Also, there is no interpretation, and the site would not be obvious to those with no prior knowledge of its existence or location. Eureka is only about 15 minutes walk from town, and has excellent access, thanks to the recent network of MTB tracks.

The Eureka site has potential for incorporation into an advertised, signposted and interpreted heritage walk. Neville Ritchie notes:

The mining sites in the Kuranui valley, notably the Shotover mine site (T12/700), the drives documented here (T12/699) [Upper Kuranui valley] and other features in the vicinity such as the Moanataiari tunnel ... have great potential for incorporation in a short historic walkway. Loop tracks could easily be developed down the adjoining valleys - the Shellback [Pukehinau] to the north, and Moanataiari to the south.

A signposted walk originating and finishing at the Goldmine Experience on SH25 could incorporate the Kuranui and Moanataiari valleys; passing through Eureka. To the features of interest mentioned by Ritchie above, can be added the First Big Pump, Tookeys shaft, Long Drive mine, Ross and Lang residences, Eureka Hill mining settlement (including the possible school site if it is positively identified) and the Caledonian mine. There are excellent views overlooking Thames and the Firth of Thames (which would be improved if a few wilding pines were strategically felled) and natural heritage (regenerating native bush).

A round-trip would take about an hour, plus extra time for sightseeing etc. All of the tracks/roads currently exist, including the MTB track network through the Eureka settlement area. The main cost would be for interpretation. The majority of the land is already in public ownership. However, some private property issues (Ross and Howe RSL blocks) and possible visitor impact must also be borne in mind.

The contribution of general, and heritage, tourism to the Hauraki - Coromandel region's economy is well known. The author suggests that a Kuranui - Eureka - Moanataiari loop walk (commencing and ending at the Goldmine Experience) would add to the range of heritage tourism experiences available in Thames, and provide opportunity for moderate-level exercise. It should be investigated, and pursued, if deemed feasible.


In summary, Eureka settlement is a significant heritage site; an important part of the Thames goldfield, and is mostly on Reserve land. The names of over 40 families who lived there during the period c.1870 - c.1960 have been identified, so there is likely to be strong interest in the site - both in terms of gathering information about it and actually visiting it. Selective vegetation clearance and, possibly, below-ground investigation is likely to reveal much more evidence of occupation, which will add to public interest.

The site is only about 15 minutes walk from town, so is easily accessible. The Kuranui - Eureka - Moanataiari area also offers the following general advantages as a heritage tourism destination:

  • Geographic accessibility (regional and national)
  • The existence of other tourist attractions in a close geographic area (i.e. Thames township and the Coromandel Peninsula)
  • Plentiful visitor facilities in the town, and the nearby Coromandel Forest Park (huts, camps, tracks)

The author suggests that an interpreted loop-walk, Kuranui - Eureka - Moanataiari, commencing and ending at the Goldmine Experience, should be considered.

Existing Archaeological Site Records (by Dr Neville Ritchie, 1989):

  • T12/698, Joe Ross' Miners Cottage
  • T12/699, Mining Features in Upper Kuranui Valley
  • T12/701 Moanataiari Tunnel

Newly-created Archaeological Site Records (2018):

  • T12/ 1441 Eureka Mining Settlement
  • T12/ 1443 Moanataiari tramway
  • T12/ 1444 Victoria Battery (Moanataiari)


  1. Barker, A. (2017). Thames Goldldfield Schools: The A to Z of Schools 1867-2017, KMG Print, Thames.
  2. Downey, J. F. (1935). Gold-Mines of the Hauraki District, Cadsonbury Publications (Re-printed 2002), Christchurch.
  3. Fraser, C. (1910). NZ Geological Survey Bulletin No. 10: The Geology of the Thames Subdivision, Hauraki, Auckland, John Mackay, Government Printer, Wellington.
  4. Isdale, A. M. (1952). Sketch Map - Thames Gold Mines, Thames.
  5. Isdale, A. M. (1967). History of "The River Thames", County Chronicle Press, Manurewa.
  6. Lewis, K. (2017). Goldrush to the Thames, New Zealand, 1867 to 1869, Parawai Press, Thames.
  7. Lewis, K. Goldminers Database Online.
  8. Moore, P. and Ritchie, N. (1996). Coromandel Gold: A Guide to the Historic Goldfields of Coromandel Peninsula, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North.
  9. Ritchie, N. (1990). A Survey of Historic Mining Sites in the Thames and Ohinemuri Areas of the Hauraki Goldfield, Dept of Conservation, Hamilton.
  10. Wayte, E. P. (1868) Thames Illustrated Mining Map.
  11. Weston, F. (1927). Thames Diamond Jubilee Souvenir: 1867-1927, Thames Star, Thames.
  12. Wilkins, R. (2017). Richard Ross - The Last of the original Goldminers (Parts I & II) The Treasury Journal (on-line), Vol 10.

Appendix 1. - Additional Maps and photos.


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