The Waihi Company Battery

H.H. Adams completed the Waihi Company battery 23 June 1882 . Contract price £2,740.

The machinery and building are really a credit to the contractor, Mr H.H. Adams, who may well be proud of the splendid job he has made of it. The tramway and water race are grand pieces of work of their kind, the former over one mile long, and the latter two miles, and on trestle work up to 50 feet high, no timber being used but the best heart of kauri.... Everything in connection with the battery worked as smoothly as if going for years, there not being the slightest vibration, which is not to be wondered at, when one knows that the foundation for the bed log was blasted out of solid blue-rock. Mr Adams put the battery through its paces up to 100 blows per minute to make sure that there was no scarcity of water. In fact, there was a large overflow there, plenty, I believe, to drive another 20 stampers.... Leaving the battery going steadily at 70, all hands adjourned to the Waihi Hotel.

This battery of 20 stamps for the Waihi Company was built beside a small hill and stony outcrop on the banks of the Ohinemuri River, immediately upstream of the confluence with the Mangatoetoe Stream (this stream was moved later to join the Ohinemuri much further downstream). Why here?

The ideal battery site requires a slope to build into (allowing gravity to assist moving ore through the various processes), proximity or easy access to the mine, and convenient access to a suitable water supply for powering the battery. Ease of access for bringing in heavy machinery, and simple tailings discharge would be bonuses. Subsequent versions of this battery would remain on this site.

The water supply chosen was not the Ohinemuri (that would come much later), but from Cabbage Tree Stream or Creek (now known as the Waimata Stream), just above the cascade downstream from modern Ford Road. Sufficient water could be relatively easily obtained here, and apparently more reliably than the Martha’s Walmsley race (the Waimata is a larger catchment?). Part of this water race was a ground channel, but as the ground fell away approaching the Ohinemuri, a raised timber flume was required to bring the water to the battery, crossing the Ohinemuri at the same time. This race was 1.16km (0.72 mile) long, half of it timber flume. Yes, this is at odds with the "two miles" in the press report; the reporter may have confused his notes with the Martha race of two miles. A Bay of Plenty Times reporter said "The battery is supplied with water by means of a water-race about three-quarters of a mile in length about six chains of which is a fluming of elevated tresselling. The race carries about eight sluice heads of water". The head of water (pressure over the turbine) was 28ft, or 8.5m.

This race remained in use until the battery site was closed in 1911-14.

The wooden ore tramway was 1.33km (0.83 mile) long, on a gentle downhill slope, and roughly straight line, from the southwestern end of Martha Hill to the battery. Another press report gave its length as "half a mile" (0.8km). A Bay of Plenty Times Special Reporter, making his way north from Katikati observed: "the Waihi tramway stretches in a long straight line from the mine to the battery" This tramway route lasted until the closing of the Martha mine in 1952. "A tramway, part of which is still in use, constructed from the west side of the Martha Hill to the battery." Moresby Avenue and Silverton Road both make use of part of the tramway route.

The small hill already mentioned provided at least some gravitational forces for the battery processes. This was the best "hill" down-slope from Martha Hill that they could find.

A little upstream from the battery, the Ohinemuri is shallow, with a hard bed allowing for a natural fording place. This is where travellers crossed the Ohinemuri until the first Waihi (Tauranga) bridge was built (December 1882), and then again for many years after it washed away (February 1883). The first "road" to this ford from the top of the Hikurangi Gorge (Athenree Gorge) was completed mid 1882. The alternative was the "Ohinemuri Bridge" on what we now call the Old Tauranga Road. It is this ford, the only way of crossing the Ohinemuri in Waihi, that may have contributed to the Ohinemuri water supply dam for this battery not being constructed until after the second Tauranga bridge was completed. The dam would have obliterated the ford.

Only a brief description of the battery has been found.

A New Zealand Herald correspondent provides this description (22 February 1882):

The shell of the building is almost completed. It is a fine substantial structure, built of heart of kauri, and capable of containing 40 head of stamps, although only 20 are to be placed in position at present. The whole of the inside work has yet to be done, but as most of the machinery is on the ground, this will not take long to get through.

The construction of the water race has just been commenced, and judging by the few timbers which are in position, it will be a most substantial one. To connect the battery with the mine, an excellent tramway with an easy grade is being laid down. In the construction of the tramway, the best timber obtainable is being used. The sleepers and rails are all heart of kauri, cut by the contractor, Mr. H. H. Adams, in the bush at the back of Savage's lease.

Beyond this we can speculate.

The first two batteries at Te Aroha may help us.

The Te Aroha Battery of 10 stamps and 5 berdans opened April 1881. It was built by H.H. Adams and cost £1,150, using a 20 horsepower steam engine.

At the other end of the grandeur spectrum was the Firth and Clark Battery at Waiorongomai opened in early 1883. It boasted 40 stamps in a building of "85ft by 82ft, and the walls 18ft high" , 12 berdans, water races constructed by H.H. Adams. "No expense had been spared ‘to make it as complete as possible’" . The total spent by 1884 was £22,000. See the Appendices (page 93) for an interesting description of this battery.

So a battery and water race costing £2,740 would be a modest affair at best.

A wooden building, weatherboard, on the downstream side of the small hill. Maybe corrugated iron was used? Adequate to house four stamper mortars (20 stamps, wet crushing; though the building was designed to accommodate 40 stamps) and amalgamated plates. The Martha Battery building to house 15 stamps was 52 by 46 feet (16 x 14m) so the Waihi Battery must have been bigger. Tramway supplying ore to the hopper at the top of the building via the top of the hill. Probably no stone breaker to start with. Substantial trestled water race, culminating in a vertical pipe, turbine at bottom. Various driving shafts and belts. Retort, assorted sheds, perhaps one or more dwellings. There may have been berdans; there were four by early 1884. Tailings discharged into the Mangatoetoe Stream, or directly into the Ohinemuri River (later some were saved).

Timber from the kauri forests north and west of Waihi, all other materials transported from Paeroa (Hart on Nicholl) by horse and cart via very basic roads; Mackaytown, Rahu, Owharoa.

The Young Colonial claim/company shared the use of the mill and a tramway connection was completed by February 1883.

Battery Blues

Despite the initial optimism, matters quickly turned to custard. The Thames Star reported on 24 August 1882:


The Martha battery stopped working yesterday, the cause arising from insufficiency of water through the race having sunk in several places across the swamps. It will be two or three days before they commence crushing again, as it will take that time to put the race in repair.

The Waihi battery also stopped crushing on account of the race having sunk in several place, and something being wrong with the turbine. I believe the turbine is to be sent to the Thames to be repaired, so it will be a long time before the battery will start work again.

All hands, both at the battery and mine, have been discharged, and are all leaving for the Thames to-morrow. This will be a great drawback to Waihi, as about twenty men are thrown out of employment.

Thames Star, 31 August 1882

Yesterday. Waihi Gold Mining Company.

According to the most recent reports from the manager, the water-race and battery are in a disgraceful state, the former having settled down considerably. Only about 30 strokes per minute can be obtained from the battery instead of 70, as was expected. We understand it to be the intention of the directors to hold some one responsible for the state of affairs [O-Oh!]. It has been suggested to send to America for a new turbine, and this will probably be done. In the meantime, all expenses will be curtailed.

Thames Advertiser, 25 December 1882

Martha Extended.—Contracts have been let by the directors of the Martha Extended Gold Mining Company for the fixing of the newly-imported turbine, the strengthening of the battery, and the raising of the water race, also for the completion of the tramway from the Young Colonial to the Waihi section. The total cost of these works will exceed £300. They are to be completed at the end of February.

The New Zealand Herald waded in with this:

1 February 1883

To reflect upon the disastrous 'mess' made of battery arrangements at Waihi is not a pleasant occupation, revealing as it does an absence of skill and management by no means creditable to the fifteen years experience this goldfields has passed through. Someone has blundered, and the shareholders have suffered. Three or four weeks ago a bran new turbine was imported all the way from America, but little is heard of its erection, those responsible possibly being of opinion that having waited so long they may as well wait a little longer. Rumour, a month or two ago, had it that as soon as the turbine arrived Mr. E. M. Corbett was to set about rectifying other people's mistakes straight away, and that soon the sound of fifty stamps crushing right merrily would enliven Waihi once more.

A mistake occasionally made in new fields is overestimating the water available. One or two good streams are conjured by the imagination into "sufficient for any quantity of stamps, Sir." But the practical test of compressing the supply into a race for battery use dispels this pleasant vision of the mind, for the amount available proves something exceedingly moderate, to grow beautifully less as the forest of the district becomes thinner. It is just possible that the Waihi miners had a somewhat exaggerated idea of the quantity of water available. Still, I am fortified by the opinion of practical and experienced men, who ought to be able to form a correct judgment, that there is ample water at Waihi, if skilfully utilised, to drive a large number of stampers, and that is what is wanted, for mining in that district will resolve itself into quarrying out immense quantities of low-grade quartz.

Both the Martha and the Waihi batteries had difficulties with their (Adams) turbines, and new "Yankee" turbines were ordered from America. Until they arrived in late January 1883, little ore was crushed. It is not clear whether both batteries installed the new turbines; Martha was considering reverting to the older style of breast wheel .

However, changes were afoot.

At the beginning of December, it was announced that ‘the three principal companies owning ground at Waihi’, the Martha, Waihi and Young Colonial, had ‘agreed upon amalgamation’ .

The Martha, Waihi and Young Colonial Gold Mining companies, running out of money, faced liquidation , and turned to amalgamation. Nicholl "thought it was a mad business, as the other claims were worthless to us, but in the end I chucked in the sponge, seeing the amount of money that had been spent by the shareholders and no return coming in."

The New Zealand Herald reported a meeting held in Auckland on November 24, 1882:

Martha, Waihi, and Young Colonial.— A public meeting was held yesterday in the offices of Mr. F. A. White, Shortland-street, for the purpose of forming the above three mines into a company. Mr. J. L. Wilson in the chair.

It was resolved to form the above mines into a company of 50,000 shares, to be allotted as follows :—Martha. 15,000; Waihi, 12,000 ; and Young Colonial, 10,000—13,000 shares to be reserved for future operations.—It was agreed to wind-up the three companies; Mr. F. A. White to be liquidator. The title of the new company is to be "The Waihi Extended Gold -mining Company." The following gentlemen were elected directors :—Messrs. J. L. Wilson, C. J. Stone, E. Wayte, M. Vaughan, C. Alexander, H. R. Jones, J. Smythe, W. Hollis, and A. Porter.

On February 9 advertisements appear in the New Zealand Herald:

MARTHA GOLD MINING COMPANY (LIMITED). IN LIQUIDATION. All Accounts against the above Company must be rendered (in duplicate) to the undersigned, not later than 17th inst., or they will not be recognised. F. A. WHITE, Liquidator.

Similarly for Waihi Gold Mining Company (Limited), and Young Colonial Gold Mining Company (Limited).

By May 31, a final notice was published:


Final Notice.

SHAREHOLDERS are hereby notified that LEGAL PROCEEDINGS will be taken against all persons who have not paid their Calls due, on or before 1st June next.

F. A. White, Liquidator. 1602

In the meantime, on February 14 the New Zealand Herald published the application to register the "Martha Extended Gold Mining Company" as a Limited Company.

Mining Notices. I the undersigned, hereby make application to register the "MARTHA EXTENDED GOLD MINING COMPANY" as a Limited Company, under the provisions of "The Mining Companies Act, 1872."

1. The name of the Company is to be "The Martha Extended Gold Mining Company (Limited)".

2. The place of intended operations is at Waihi, Ohinemuri Gold Mining District.

3. The registered Office of the Company will be situate at Shortland-street, Auckland.

4. The nominal capital of the Company is Fifty Thousand (£50,000) Pounds in Fifty Thousand (50,000) Shares of one pound (£1) each.

5. The number of shares subscribed for is thirtyseven thousand (37,000) being not less than two-thirds of the entire number of shares in the Company.

6. The number of paid up shares is nil.

7. The amount already paid-up is nil.

8. The name of the Manager is Francis Angus White.

9. The names and addresses and occupations of the Shareholders, and the number of Shares held by each at this date, are as follow:-

Name and Address   No. of. Shares
Captain James Stone All of Auckland. In trust for Shareholders in the late Martha Gold Mining Company (Limited) 13,000
Joseph Liston Wilson
Edward Wayte
Charles Alexander, Auckland In trust for Shareholders in the late Waihi Gold Mining Company (Limited) 12,000
Mathew Vaughan, Thames
Hugh Robert Jones, Auckland
Adam Porter Auckland In trust for Shareholders in the late Young Colonial Gold Mining Company (Limited) 10,000
James Smyth, Waihi
William Hollis, jun., Waihi
Francis Angus White, Auckland In trust for the Martha Extended Gold Mining Company (Limited) 13,000
Total    50,000


Dated this 12th day of February. 1883. F. A. WHITE, Manager.

Witness to signature: A. L. White.

I, Francis Angus White, do solemnly and sincerely declare that—

1. I am the manager of the said intended company.

2. The above statement is, to the best of my belief and knowledge, true in every particular, and I make this solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of an Act of the General Assembly of New Zealand, intituled "The Justices of the Peace Act, 1866"


Taken before me, Joseph Newman, J.P.

It is not clear how the financial issues/legal proceedings were resolved.

The Dulcibel shareholders were not included in the amalgamation to start with.