Thirty Shops and Buildings to Explore.
With two village streets filled with shops and buildings to explore, you’ll find fascinating stories of life in the early years of colonisation both on the West Coast and New Zealand.
The Mayor of Shantytown. This shop was made in honour one of the founders of Shantytown, Barney Sutherland.
Usually the skills of a watchmaker and jeweller were combined in smaller towns to make the businesses viable. Clocks and watches were expensive items (costing at least two weeks wages) they would always be repaired rather than thrown away. Along with jewellery, clocks and watches shops like this would sell ornaments, giftware and presentation cups.
Built to original railway plans.
A close to exact 3/4 replica of a railway station. Here you’ll board the train for your journey through native rain-forest to the Gold Claim and Sluice Area.
Infants Creek railway line follows an old bush tramline that was used to get logs to a timber mill. The line travels through native rain-forest and old gold workings. Shantytown has several steam trains which are housed in the massive workshop previously used at the now defunct Blackball Coal Mine. Two engines are used on the Infants Creek line.
1866 Church from No Town in the Grey Valley.
Now an inter-denominational church, this church was originally St. Patrick’s Church built in the gold mining town of No Town. It is built of Kauri, which grows in the upper North Island, and was sent from Auckland in kitset form. After its arrival in Greymouth it was barged up the Grey River and then horse-sleighed the final five miles (8.4 kilometres) to No Town. By 1922 No Town had become a ghost town and the church was shifted down the road to Ngahere. When a new church was built there in 1958 the old church was purchased by Ted Matthews who later donated it to Shantytown.
This pretty little church is ideal for Weddings.
Grey River Postal Agency.
Opened on 1 August 1864 and was run by Reuben Waite (see Reuben Waite’s General Store). Before the main gold-rush was carried overland to and from Canterbury by local Maori. Once the rush began mail arrived in Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport by sea and was then carried overland to the mining towns by a mailman who traveled on horseback. Such was the importance of the mail that there was great consternation when, in October 1865, the Hokitika Post Office ran out of stamps for more than a week.
Post your postcards from Shantytown and they will be stamped with our very own postmark.
Photographers arrived in the West Coast soon after the discovery of Gold.
Business boomed as successful miners were keen to send photos of themselves to their relatives at ‘home’. Most of the photographs taken were studio portraits because of the large amount of chemicals and equipment that were needed to take a photograph with the wet-plate cameras that were available at the time. Dry plate cameras became common during the late 1880’s their invention meant that it was no longer necessary to carry out chemical processing in the field. During the 1890’s hand cameras began to come onto the market and photography started to become practical as a hobby.
Bank of New Zealand.
The BNZ building in Shantytown depicts the more permanent structures that were built in the small towns on the West Coast. The pioneer bank agents were not so lucky. George Preshaw, agent for the Bank of New South Wales , was here during the first days of the rush and had only a pair of saddle bags to base his banking operation in. In November 1864 he sent out a shipment of 350 ounces of gold (about 9 kilograms) which he purchased from miners at the Greenstone diggings – the first place to rush to on the West Coast. Today the gold would be worth $NZD654,500
The West Coast Was Famous For Its Hotels. During the gold-rush there were hundreds of hastily built hotels and shanties whose proprietors were eager to cater to the miner’s legendary thirst. They usually had an imposing frontage and tried to employ handsome barmaids in order to convince miners that it was a convivial place to spend thier gold.
The veranda posts on the Golden Nugget Hotel are from the Dominion Hotel, Greymouth. and the batwing doors are from the long gone New River Hotel at Dunganville
The Golden Nugget is also the place at Shantytown where the Old Time Photos are taken
At least one shoe shop for every town.
Even quite small towns would have at least one shoe shop. The rugged country meant that boots constantly needed repair and making a new pair of boots or shoes (which were made to measure) was a lour intensive process.
Robert Hannah, who went on to become one of New Zealands largest manufacturer and retailer os shoes, opened his first shoes shop at (Charleston near Westport) in 1868.
The Barber – a versatile businessman.
He not only cut scraggly hair and matted beards but shaved with a cut throat razor, pulled teeth, read and wrote letters for people who couldn’t do it themselves, sold tobacco and kept a newspaper library for his clients. The barber shop was a hotbed of gossip amongst the customers, many of whom would spend hours in the secluded male world of the barber shop.
Carpenters Were In High Demand
During the gold-rush buildings were erected ‘any old how’ but once a town began to settle down carpenters were in demand to build more ‘substantial’ shops , hotels and houses suitable for raising families. Unless people brought furniture with them they relied on local cabinetmakers to provide beds, chairs, tables and dressers for their homes.
Our carpenters shop features a cabinetmakers bench, tools, lathe from the early 1900s along with examples of the kind of furniture that was for sale at the turn of the century.
Blacksmiths and Tinsmiths in Demand. Tinsmiths provided general iron and plumbing materials along with such things as lamps, chandeliers and kerosene burners. On the West Coast a large part of thier business was manufacturing pipes and fluming for mining companies.
Blacksmiths did all types if ironwork and were in demand because of the importance of horses, which needed to be shod regularly, for transport. Blacksmiths heated iron in a fire (maintained by large bellows) until it was white hot and then shaped it on a large anvil.
Important Stables and Feed for horses.
From the late 1860s Cameron and Co. in Hokitika provided both passenger and freight transport between the main towns and also distant mining camps. It was a large operation and Cameron’s kept 100 horses in Hokitika along with further horses at change stations along main routes.
The term ‘livery’ meant that horses and horse-drawn vehicles were available for hire while ‘bait’ signified that traveller’s own horses could be stabled, fed and looked after.
The front of the building at Shantytown is from Camerons’ Hokitika stable.
While the gold-rush population was generally law-abiding there were definitley some dastardly characters around. The Burgess-Kelly gang were active on the West Coast for a few months and boasted that they had ‘put away’ 30 isolated miners whose disappearance wasn’t noticed. The gang was eventually hanged in Nelson, with the exception of Sullivan who turned Kings evidence and disappeared.
Two men were hanged on the West Coast, Anthony Noble for the murder of an 8 year old girl in 1871 and John Donoghue for the murder of his neighbour, James Gifford, at Dunganville in 1884.
Most imprisonments were for drunkenness, assault, debt or having no means of visible support. Small gaols like the one at Shantytown were found in ‘up country’ gold towns and were used for prisoners on their way to the main gaol at Hokitika or for those given short sentences by the local magistrate.
The heavy doors at the Shantytown Jail (gaol) with the peephole are from the jail (gaol) in Blackball.
You can view the jail (gaol) and even place yourself, or ‘friends’ in the stocks with a ball and chain for an amusing photo oppourtunity.