Volume 2

Thames Streets: Old and New

Althea Barker


This is to be read in conjunction with the information in the STREETS INDEX table. The aim has been to identify and record information on the streets of Thames, particularly to give us an understanding and appreciation for THE THAMES where our ancestors lived. This is just the start of a journey, contributions of any information on the streets are welcome.
NB. Remember Google maps allow you to “walk” the streets of Thames.


What were the first streets to exist? “Prior to 1867 the area was Maori owned country covered in the most part with bush and scrub.”(Grainger 1951) There was a missionary station in the Parawai area, who along with the Ngatimaru tribe inhabited the area.

The Goldfields Era

From zero settlers to 20,000 in one year, that was the effect of the opening of the goldfields. On July 27 1867 James Mackay (Civil Commissioner for the Hauraki) made an agreement with local Maori to allow mining and Dr Pollen (Deputy-superintendent Auckland Province) immediately issued a proclamation declared the area to be a goldfield (30 July 1867). August 1 1867 James Mackay issued the first Miners right at Shortland leading to the development of Thames. (Grainger 1951) Miners initially lived in tents and makeshift huts, then wooden houses, early photos give little evidence of roads/streets, just dirt tracks that were notoriously difficult to negotiate during wet weather.

Grey Street, Shortland (Thames), showing the First Post Office 1868.
D M Beere Collection Reference No: G-96130-1/2 Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Borough of Thames

There were various towns and settlements, such as Grahamstown and Shortland; in 1874 these were united to form the town of Thames, to residents of the time called “The Thames”. (Isdale 1967) There was debate over the boundaries for the town, which took several years to resolve. “The boundaries left out inland populated sections of the Moanatairi, Waiotahi and Karaka Valleys, much of Block 27 and all the hilly parts east of Rolleston Street and all Parawai flat or hilly.” (O'Neill 1973) This may well explain the problem with locating streets for several areas, on the old maps of Thames.

  • Grahamstown. Shortly after the Goldfields proclamation Grahamstown was leased by Robert Graham, details arranged with Mr Mackay; the proviso being that the Government reserved the right to lay out the streets and approve plans. (Granger 1951) The Crown also reserved the mining rights to the land. (Cruikshank 1940). It was soon a thriving town that was connected to Shortland by Pollen Street. On the 17th September 1869, the sale of Graham's allotments successfully sold; (NZ Map 4498.10), the land of Grahamstown lay between the Karaka and Waiotahi Creeks. (Cyclopedia Vol 2)

  • Kauaeranga & Parawai. The Maori residents had been living at the Kauaeranga and had extensive orchards and gardens on the flat area of the new towns of Shortland and Grahamstown. (Eldred-Grigg 2008) None of the pre 1900 maps I have looked at to date, have included street names for The Kauaeranga and Parawai areas. An 1884 survey map of Block VII, Thames SD; has a few unnamed streets going off what is today Parawai Road. Pre 1900 Street Directories do however indicate the addresses: Mount Sea Road, Parawai and Kauaeranga.

  • Pollen Street looking north from Pahau Street intersect; Grahamstown

  • Shortland. The flat area of Thames was described as swampy but planted with groves of Peach trees. When all the new settlers arrived, the trees were cut down and dikes built; before the streets and new houses could be built. “Shortland was laid out as a standard grid by the colonial state.” (Eldred-Grigg 2008) Mackay laid out the lines of Shortland one week after the goldfield opened, “Named after Willoughby Shortland, also the name taken by W H Taipari, transliterated as Wirope Hotereni” (Monin 2001)
  • Tararu. Robert Graham, the developer of Grahamstown also owned Tararu and drew up plans for the township. (NZ Map 4498.11) Many of the streets were never developed; details of these are in the Streets Index. Many were named after members of Graham's family, there were several small streets with names of trees, to which were planted the appropriate tree. When the first Thames race meeting was held on the flat August 1868, there were only two buildings in the area; the Royal Oak and Graham's Hotel, (around old District Homes area). (Williams 1987) Graham worked hard to develop Tararu; building a Hotel, Wharf and public gardens on the hill (which were a popular Thames resort). Graham was devastated when a great storm destroyed much of the area, “He abandoned Tararu, and moved the new but battered hotel to Waiwera.” (Cruikshank 1940)

  • Tookeys Flat or Town. Some early maps do not appear to note this area, which was established prior to Grahamstown, while others clearly state Tookey's Town. It was located “at the mouth of the Kuranui had already established itself as a mining area with its own housing.” (Monin 2001) The Streets/tracks here were no better than other parts of Thames as told by Reverend Lush in his early years at Thames, “I went up Tookey's Hill and the mud was so deep and my leg went in so far that it was impossible for me to get out,” he had to wait patiently till a miner came to help him. (Drummond 1975)

  • Part of the Thames Illustrated mining map from the 1860's showing Robert Graham's plan for Tararu
    Auckland City Library collection: NZ Map 4531.

    Showing Cochrane street running past Waiokaraka School and the intersect with Campbell Street which then runs past Broad Street to the right (up the hill).

    Street Names & Addresses

    When looking at the pre 1900 Street Directories there are many addresses given that do not feature on the maps of the time. Many of these were just outside the township boundaries as we know them today; while others were associated with the mine or stream that they were nearest to. Some examples are: Alabama Creek, Bulls Lane, Collarbone Creek, Waterfall Creek, Bird-in-hand Hill, Eureka Hill, Golden Age Hill, Hand & Band Hill, Tookeys Hill, Madmans Gully and Punga Flat. The 1875 Directory has many of these examples, the location of which can be readily be found on the goldmine location maps of the Thames area; a few such as Youngs Alley have yet to have their location confirmed.

    Streets that no longer exist are: Abraham, Anne, Amy (Tararu), Audley, Barbara, Bowen, Collins, Duke, Eliza, Elm, Eyre, De Hirsch (Grahamstown), Ford, Fir, Golden Crown, Graham (Tararu), High, Ivy, Keddell, Oak, Short, Smart, Sophy, Stirling and Union Street's; Bulls, McLaren, Murphys, Sperry and Tommys Lane's. A few of these have been renamed during the early years: Tommys Lane is Edward Street, Murphys Lane is Franklyn Street; Bulls Lane appears now to be part of Redwood Lane, Golden Crown Street appears to have joined onto Owen Street and Eyre Street is Queen Street. Several streets although straight were divided into two sections and later renamed as one of the streets. Present day streets listed first: Mackay Street was Mackay & Alfred Street, Pollen Street was Pollen & Bowen Street, Some streets such as Baillie Street have been reduced considerably, with a portion is now known as Court Street. Augustus Street is another that has been reduced and cut in two as Augustus Street North and South. For more examples, see the STREETS INDEX.

    A study of the maps over the years suggests that many of the street changes may have taken place as plans were turned into reality. For instance it looked good on paper to have Augustus Street running from the North at St Patricks Row right to Parawai, but the reality of the terrain shows this was less than likely. Many of the long hill streets can now be seen today connected by the many “pedestrian steps” that are in existence around the hill streets of central Thames. As dirt tracks were replaced by formed streets, one could speculate that this is when changes to Street Plans occurred.

    Postcard showing Karaka Road on Left, Baillies Street running past the hospital, and to the left is Rolleston Street.

    Looking across from Bird-in-hand Hill. Karaka Road above Karaka Creek along the bottom of the photo. Sandes Street running down to meet Karaka Road. Edward Street winding round to meet Sandes Street. In the far distance is the Hill Street area, under Una Hill.

    New Streets & Subdivisions

    Thames has gone through renewed periods of growth over the years and often struggled to find areas for developments and new streets; which led to many of the bigger sections in town being subdivided. The Parawai area has expanded several times, with new sections developed where farmland once stood in the Grafton Road area and south to the Kauaeranga. Later The BOOMS subdivision completed its first stage in 1992, and at Totara, the Totara Palms first stage was completed in 2000 on what was Crawford's farm. Recent years has seen the opening of sections above the William Hall Reserve, off a new street called Korokoro Crescent.

    Land was also reclaimed over the years along the foreshore; the streets of Moanatairi (1960-70's) and the newer Richmond Park (staged development started 1995) housing areas are in place as a result of these initiatives. The Moanataiari reclamation initially started “by dumping mine tailings and mullock over intertidal flats. Dumping dredgings from the port further reclaimed the area, which was then capped with a raft of weathered rock and clay from the hills under more controlled conditions in the mid to late 1960s. Housing construction was generally underway in the 1970s. The end result was a 'Little Holland' extending 500 m from the line of the coast into the sea” (TCDC)

    Tararu Road looking back to Thames from just before Thames North School.

    Looking South along Parawai Road, Kauaeranga river is at the bottom of the photo and intersects with Fenton Street. Bank Street is half way along to right.

    Where Next

    Today we can refer to old Street Directories, Electoral Rolls or Telephone Books, to find the street where our ancestors lived and in many cases the houses may still exist or photos be available. (see: Auckland Libraries, Alexander Turnbull Library, Timeframes, Thames Library, Thames Historical Museum and Thames Street Photos. Has Thames reached the limits of expansion in terms of streets? Only time will tell, but lets hope that the history surrounding them is recorded for future generations who ask; Where did my ancestors live?


    • 1873 - 1973 Thames Borough Centenary” Edited by L P O'Neill. 1973 Thames Star Offices.
    • Auckland Libraries Online Heritage Photo Collection.
    • “Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Auckland Vol 2”
    • Diggers Hatters & Whores. The Story of the New Zealand Gold Rushes” by Stevan Eldred-Grigg. 2008 Random House New Zealand.
    • Hauraki Contested 1769 - 1875” by Paul Monin, Bridget Williams Books 2001.
    • History of The River Thames NZ” by A M Isdale. 1967 A M Isdale Publishing.
    • National Library, Timeframes Photo Online Collection.
    • “NZ MAP 4498.10 Plan of Grahamstown, The Property of R Graham Esq” 1869.
      “NZ MAP 4498.11 Plan of Township of Tararu, The Property of R Graham Esq” ?1869.
      Maps available from Auckland Libraries: Map collection (enter map number, view thumbnail, then click on large view for full detail).
    • Racing for Gold.” by Johnny Williams. 1987 Williams Publishers.
    • Robert Graham 1820 - 1885 An Auckland Pioneer.” by George Cruikshank, Reed Publishers 1940.
    • Thames Coromandel District Council., Christine Harrison, Land Information Officer.
    • The Amazing Thames. The story of the town and the famous Goldfield from which it grew.” by J Grainger, 1951 Reed Publishing.
    • The Thames Journals of Vicesimus Lush 1868-82.” Edited by Alison Drummond, 1975 Pegasus Publishing.
    • Thames Genealogical Resources compiled by the author.


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