Volume 7

Part II: A Photographer Visits the Waihi Gold Mining Company in 1897-1898

Kae Lewis and Eric Lens

With special thanks to Dean and Anne Middlebrook for allowing us access to this amazing collection of early photographs of Waihi and the Coromandel, and to Doreen (Penne) Pennell for helping to arrange it.

Thanks also to Eric Coppard, Dave Wilton and Doreen McLeod for invaluable assistance in identifying and dating the photographs.


The photographs are in pairs and were designed to be viewed in a stereoscope, giving the viewer a 3D effect. To produce the images, the stereoscopic camera has two lenses. They were first used in the 1860s, and by the 1890s were being manufactured for use by both professionals and amateurs. Although the exact type of camera used to take these photographs is unknown, this is an example of a portable stereoscopic camera from the late 1890s. It should be noted that it had two lenses in front, which took the pair of photographs simultaneously, in much the same way as the viewer sees a different view with each eye. This is how we are able to judge distances and see in 3D.

Given the excellent quality of most the photographs, it seems likely that our tourist also carried a tripod.


Once stereoscopic photographs had been developed and each matching pair mounted in a frame, they were placed in a stereoscope to allow the viewer to see the pair of photographs each with a different eye. This tricks the brain into interpreting the view in 3D, just as it normally does with the the different view seen with each eye. From the 1870s to about the 1950s, the stereoscope formed an important part of family leisure activities. The sets of stereoscopic photos widely available to purchase commercially gave people in the pre-television days their only 3D view of the wider world.


The Middlebrook family from Australia have a collection of old stereoscopic photographs that came originally from Dean Middlebrook's now-deceased step-father who lived in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Since Dean had always shown an interest in the photographs as a child, his step-father bequeathed them to him. It is thought that the photographs originally belonged to the step-father's first wife, whose name has now been forgotten. The photographer may even have been from a generation prior to this unknown wife.

Unfortunately he did not sign his name on any of the photographs and consequently, his name has been lost over the years.

All we do know for certain is that between 1897 and the end of 1901, a photographer toured New Zealand with a stereographic camera and took a collection of photographs. Once they were developed, he mounted them into frames suitable for viewing with a stereoscope and wrote labels for most of them, either on the frames or on the reverse side. There are 84 photographs in the entire collection which have been taken all over New Zealand. This included photographs taken in the immediate aftermath of a severe earthquake and aftershocks in Cheviot, North Canterbury. An article in the Otago Daily Times of 19 November 1901 indicates that the earthquakes had occurred in the previous few days. This helps us date some of the photographs as being towards the end of 1901.

Since the photos were found in Australia, it is possible that the photographer was associated with one of the many Australian companies supplying equipment or contracting services to Mining Companies. He could have been a sales representative or a technical expert from one of the Australian Companies. For instance, in the book 'Gold Mining at Waihi' by J.B. McAra on p121, when describing the activity of the Waihi Company during the year of 1901, it is stated:

'After a small Dehne filter-press had been obtained from the Sulphide Corporation of New South Wales, four more (36 ins by 36 ins with fifty three inch-thick frames) were obtained from Martin & Co of South Australia and proved satisfactory.'

If the photographer was a travelling salesman for the mining industry, this may explain why he appears to have made multiple trips to New Zealand during the period from about 1897 to 1901. His photos show that he was in both the North and South Islands where mining activities were underway during this period.


There follows a selection of the Middlebrook collection of stereoscopic photos with the emphasis on Waihi. Note that all the sepia photos below are from this Middlebrook collection of stereoscopic photos while the black and white photos have been taken from other collections, as specified.


The Waihi Gold Mining Company had two main battery sites in the years 1896 - 1901: The Waihi Mill at Union Hill, and the Victoria Battery 6 miles down the river at Waikino, on a flat near the Junction of the Waitekauri and Ohinemuri Rivers.


It is thought that these photographs were taken about 1897 showing of the construction of the first set of stampers at Victoria Battery at Waikino.

Quote from 'Gold Mining at Waihi (1878 - 1952)' by J.B. McAra.

'1896: Continued Expansion':
As the growth of the Martha Mine continued so did the value and extent of its visible ore reserves and also the equipment for ore treatment. This was evident at the Waihi Battery by the erection of additional drying kilns, cyanide leaching vats, precipitators and other ancillary plant, but undoubtedly the great happening of the year was the pushing ahead with the construction of the first stage of the two-hundred-head Victoria battery at Waikino.'


The Quartz Battery. Waihi Gold Reduction Works,
Ohinemuri Gold Fields.
Ex. T. F. M. W. W.
(Photo #134)

Quartz Mill. Waihi Gold Reduction Works.
(Photo #133)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Quartz Battery, Waihi
T. E. F. M. W .W.
(Photo #123)

Quote from the Superintendent's Report of the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd, London to The Chairman and Directors on 11 Feb 1898:

All these works at the close of the year 1897 were in a very forward state, very good progress having been made in all branches of the works. As in the preceding year, wherever possible and advantageous, all these works have been done on contract, 47 contracts having been let, of which at the close of the year 41 had been completed.
The erection of this building has been begun and completed during the year. It is covered throughout of iron, and is a well lighted, roomy, and conveniently arranged building nearly 300 feet in length. The whole of the foundations are of a most solid and substantial nature, a large amount of stone work and concreting having been put in.
The whole 100 head of stamps (in one line) have been erected and all the conveyors, feeders, shafting pulleys and belts have been fixed in position, as also have two exhaust fans with their connections, and two elevators. The fixing of the trough conveyor between the elevators and the lining of ore bins was in hand at the end of the year, as was also the second turbine, the first having been completed as well as one of the two Pelton wheels which are required. Work in connection with the pipe conveyor to the tank shed was also in hand, but had been somewhat delayed owing to the Contractors being behindhand with the delivery of the pipes. The erection of the turbine and dynamo for electric lighting will be finished shortly.

New Zealand Herald 18 March 1898:

One of the events of the month has been the commencement of permanent crushing operations at the Waihi Company's new 100-stamper battery at Waikino. On the 24th ult. 50 stampers were started, and at the beginning of the present month the remaining 50 stampers were put into motion. The machinery and plant, which is thoroughly up-to-date, and possesses valuable contrivances for the automatic handling of the ore, has given satisfaction, and has been visited by a large number of gentlemen interested in mining. With the 100 stamps at the Victoria (Waikino) battery and the old mill of 90 stamps still running at Waihi, next month's return from this famous bullion producer should be the largest yet obtained during a similar period from any mine in the country.


Building Construction.
T. E. F. M. W. W.
(Photo #146)
Building Construction
(Photo #120)

The Vat House. Waihi Gold Reduction Works,
Ohinemuri Gold Fields.
114 feet long
(Photo #135)

The Cyanide Vat House of the Waihi Gold
Reduction Works, Ohinemuri Gold Fields.
Expressly taken for Mr Walter Ware.
(Photo #143)

Quote from the Superintendent's Report of the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd, London to The Chairman and Directors on 11 Feb 1898:

The erection of this building, over 270 feet long by 114 feet broad, which, with the precipitating room attached, is of iron throughout, has been begun and completed during the present year. It is a very substantial and convenient structure with a double span roof.
The vats, of which there are ten, were in a very forward state at the close of the year, seven having been finished and filled with water, the remaining three being very near completion. These vats, as before stated, are 50 feet by 40 feet with a height of 4½ feet, inside measurements, all built in a most solid manner for permanent work, having a capacity of 150 tons each, so that 1,500 tons can be under treatment at one time. The filter bottoms of the first three had been finished by the end of the year and a start made with the filter cloths, after which the vats are all ready for use. All the necessary pipe connections had been made with the first five vats.
The Precipitating Room was also well in hand and three precipitators put in, as also the two vacuum cylinders, vacuum pump and two solution pumps.
Waikino Battery Under Construction
Source:Staple Collection per courtesy of Eric Lens.
The Cyanide Vat House of the Waihi Gold
Reduction Works, Ohinemuri Gold Fields.
Expressly taken for Mr Walter Ware.
(Photo #143)

The photograph on the left was labelled as being taken during construction at Victoria Battery at Waikino (E. Lens, personal communication). Since that Battery was complete by 1898, the photo is dated approximately 1897 or 1898. The stereoscopic photo (#143) on the right has been taken from the same spot at almost the same time (compare the ridge in the background, and the bracing timber leaning on all three walls, all of which are identical in both photos.) It must have been taken at a slightly different time though as the horse and cart seen in the photo on the left has disappeared in Photo #143 otherwise the two photos are almost identical. They have come from two different sources, the one on the left from Waihi records and that on the right from the Australian stereoscopic collection.

This one photograph (#143) that we know was taken in about 1897 at the new Victoria Battery at Waikino helps us to date the whole set of photos of this building (#146, #120, #135 as well as #143) as being taken in 1897 or early 1898, during the construction of the Victoria Battery at Waikino.

Source: Gold Mining at Waihi (1878 - 1952) by J.B. McAra.
The completed Cyanide Vat House (the large building on the left), at Victoria Battery, Waikino, Ohinemuri Goldfield. The stamper house is above that to the right of the Vat House.
Photo courtesy of Eric Lens.

A comparison between Photo #143, the above 'Waikino Battery Under Construction' photo and the 'Beginnings at Waikino, c. 1898' photo show that there are 14 vertical studs across the end of both buildings, as well as 7 rafters (not counting the central beam) on each side of the roof in both buildings. In addition the lowest rafter has a wider gap than the rest in both buildings. Of course it is quite possible that the same carpenters and hence identical building construction was used in the buildings in all the battery sites of the Waihi Gold Mining Company but combined with the identical backgrounds in the above photos, it leads us to believe that Photos #146, #120, #135 and #143 were taken during the construction of the Vat House at the Victoria Battery, Waikino, probably about 1897 or 1898.


According to an article in The Auckland Star 27 October 1897, a vat house at Victoria Battery, Waikino was to be completed in 1898. It was six miles from the mine at Waihi:

This tank shed is a massive structure, 270 feet long and 113 feet wide, and very substantially built. It will contain 10 cyanide vats, each 50 feet long by 40 feet wide and 4ft 6 in deep, and each vat capable of holding 120 tons of ore, or just one day's crushing. These vats are of concrete, with an outer layer of cement, being an innovation from the ordinary steel or wooden vats; and are of the most substantial nature. Neither are they circular as is usual.
Source: NZ's Northern Goldfields Published in Auckland by W. Beatie and Co. Also from Auckland Weekly News 7 July 1904.
Source: Auckland Weekly News 1898.

These huge rectangular vats were used to treat the pulverised ore (sands) as they came from the stampers. Note the triangular struts on the ceiling down the center of the room, above the vats. They also appear in the stereoscopic photos above and were planned from the beginning of construction.


The four photos below illustrate the building of a Boiler House at Waihi. There are four boilers with all their associated machinery seen being installed in these photos. This could be the #2 shaft Pumping Engine constructed at Martha Mine in about 1896:

Quote from 'Gold Mining at Waihi (1878 - 1952)' by J.B. McAra.

'1896: Continued Expansion': As the growth of the Martha Mine continued....
No 2 shaft was making a large volume of water and plans were considered for the installation of an inverted beam pumping engine, with cylinders of 45 inches and 90 inches diameter and an eight-foot stroke, to work the pumps, which were to have had nineteen inch plungers and a draw lift of twenty inches diameter. A fifty foot high poppet headframe was erected and it was proposed to install a Tangye winding-engine. Four multi-tubular boilers (16 x 7 ft) would supply steam to these engines at a hundred pounds per square inch.
Goldmilling machinery, Boiler and Engine.
Waihi, N.Z.
(Photo #119)

Gold Milling Machinery, the boilers.
(Photo #147)

Gold Milling Machinery.
(Photo #150)

Gold Milling Machinery
(Photo #130)

The engine in the foreground of Photo #150 was manufactured by Tangyes Birmingham and was a Tangye single-cylinder horizontal steam engine. It is a winding engine, for lowering and raising cages in the shaft.

Quote from the Superintendent's Report of the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd, London to The Chairman and Directors on 11 Feb 1898:

The mechanical arrangements for permanent pumping and winding at this shaft has been practically completed, and the shaft equipped in a very thorough and substantial manner. The large pumping engine, built by Hathorn, Davey & Co., has been erected and got to work, as have also a Tangye winding engine, a steam winch, air compressor and receiver, plunger pump, and four large multitubular boilers, which should be of ample capacity for our requirements. As our consumption of firewood whilst sinking this shaft will be heavy, satisfactory arrangements for the supply of 25,000 tons of firewood have been made.

The descriptions of the equipment being installed at No 2 Shaft at Waihi between 1896 and 1898 are very similar to that seen in these stereographic photographs but we cannot be sure they were taken there. Waihi Gold Mining Company may have installed similar equipment at another site in subsequent years.

Source: Courtesy E. Lens.

No 2 Shaft, Waihi Gold Mining Company.
Source: Courtesy E. Lens.

THE NEWMONT COMPANY still operates the gold mine at Waihi today, conveying the ore through a tunnel under Union Hill to the Battery. The Victoria Battery at Waikino is no longer used by the company and is a popular tourist site.


Waitekauri is situated about 4 km north of Waikino up the Waitekauri River, which flows into the Ohinemuri River at Waikino.

An article in the Auckland Star of 1 Sept 1896 states that Mr Walter T. Ware Esq., of Barrow Castle, Bath, England was a Director of the Waitekauri Consolidated Gold Mines Company located near Waihi. One of the photos states 'Expressly taken for Mr Walter Ware' and others have the letters 'Ex. T. F. M. W. W.' and 'T. E. F. M. W. W.'. We have reached the conclusion that these letters stand for 'Taken Expressly For Mr Warren Ware.' or 'Expressly Taken for Mr Walter Ware.'

Warren Ware, a Director for another Mining Company and resident, as far as we know, in England, must have sent a request to the photographer to take photographs of the Vat House at Waihi and send them to him. This is a different Mining Company to the Waihi Gold Mining Company and indicates that the photographer had more than one contact on the Ohinemuri goldfield. It leads to the conclusion that the photographer has been given privileged access to the battery building site and must have been associated in some way with the project. The photographs are in many instances of a very technical nature, with in one case, the length of the building recorded (although he may have got the length and width of the building confused). This is not the kind of access that would have been given to a casual tourist who in any case would not have been as interested in the details that this photographer appears to have been.

Judging by which photos were taken expressly for Mr Walter Ware, we can assume that he was interested in the building design for both the quartz mill and the Cyanide Vat House.

The final photo in this collection (Photo #128 below) is of a water wheel which looks very similar to the one at Waitekauri at that time. From this, we can assume that our intrepid photographer also travelled the extra 4 km from Waikino up to the mine at Waitekauri.

Mining Machinery.
(Photo #128)
The Waitekauri Battery (undated) showing the water wheel.
Source: Have You Visited Thames And Toured the Goldfields? by Ian Bullock.

The Largest Water-Wheel in the Southern Hemisphere, one of the sights of Waitekauri, Auckland. Photograph taken 1911.
Photographed by E.G. Baskett. From Auckland Weekly News Feb 1911.


In 1901, most of the roads in the district were unsealed cart tracks. The prefered method for travelling between Thames and Waihi was up the Waihou River via River Boat. Our photographer could have used the ferry steamer P.S Wakatere which was running daily between Thames and Auckland from 1896 to 1926. Also the SS Waimarie, a passenger steamer sailed regularly between Auckland and Paeroa in 1901. The following two photographs would indicate that the photographer did take the river boat up to Paeroa via Te Aroha.

Mount Te Aroha and The Thames R. N.Z.
Height 2700 feet
Editor's note: This is actually the Waihou River
which also passes through the Thames township.
(Photo #129)
Creek running into the Thames River, Auckland, NZ.
Editor's note: Most likely this also refers to the Waihou River.
(Photo #132)
Auckland's trade with the Thames Valley: The S.S. Waimarie steaming down the Waihou River, enroute from Paeroa to Auckland. Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19070530-1-1

Between 1897 and 1901, there was a regular coach from Paeroa to Waihi leaving from the Paeroa Hotel. After arriving in Paeroa by river steamer or coach, the photographer could have travelled on to Karangahake, Waitekauri or Waihi. There were a choice of hotels in Paeroa as well as the Waihi Hotel run by Mrs Annie Tanner.

The coach from Paeroa pulls up at Waihi Source: Tourist Booklet: 'Have you visited Thames and Toured the Goldfields?'

See Part I of this article for the photographs taken during the same photographer's visit to the Coromandel.

If you can help to identify any of these photographs or have further information, please contact the author, Kae Lewis


  1. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Waihi. See the section on The Waihi Battery.
  2. Gold Mining at Waihi (1878 - 1952) J.B. McAra. Published by the Waihi Historical Society 1978.
  3. Auckland Star 1 Sept 1896 in Paperspast.
  4. Thames Star 30 March 1900 in Paperspast.
  5. The New Zealand Herald 14 March 1902 in Paperspast.
  6. Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW) 1 June 1901. as seen in the TROVE newspaper index. 'New Zealand and its Resources: The Waihi Gold Field and Mines, Karangahake and Waitekauri.' by 'Nugget.'
  7. Newmont Waihi Gold - Waihi, New Zealand.
  8. Union Hill and Waihi Battery Waihi Heritage Vision.
  9. Victoria Battery Tramway and Museum Society, Waikino, New Zealand.
  10. Tourist Booklet: 'Have you visited Thames and Toured the Goldfields?' by Ian Bullock. Published by Lodestar Press 1978.
  11. New Zealand Mines Dept 1903- Mines and Mineral Resources. (Appendix C-3) as seen on Google Books.


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