Crown Battery Ruins
107 Crown Hill Road, Karangahake
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Able to Visit
15th February 1990
Sec 112 Blk I Aroha SD (Pt Karangahake Scenic Reserve-NZ Gazette 1981, p.3006), South Auckland Land District
The Crown Goldmining Company which first worked this site was registered in 1883. By 1891 it was owned by the New Zealand Crown Mines Company. The mining was not fully developed until after 1889, when the first field trials in the world were carried out at this mine to prove the cyanide method of extracting gold from low quality quartz ores. In 1897 the New Zealand Government acquired the patent rights for the process. The small royalty charged for the use of the process meant that the government outlay was fully recovered by 1905. The process was soon employed widely on this and other goldfields throughout New Zealand and overseas. It achieved an extraction rate of up to 90% of the gold contained in the rock, so making economic the processing of low content ores. The Crown Company also processed ore from other nearby mines, and the site became the focus of a network of tramways and water-races. By 1896 the plant had expanded to 60 stampers but by 1908 difficulties, particularly surplus water, were encountered in the mining operation and by 1916 most of the workers had been laid off. In 1920 the battery was dismantled and in 1928 the company was finally wound up.
Historical Significance or Value
The Crown mine and battery are of great significance because of their role in the field testing and full scale development of the cyanide process for the extraction of gold from low-grade quartz ores. This process made possible the economic exploitation of the Coromandel-Thames-Ohinemuri goldfields, some of the mines of which were among the highest producing mines in the world.
The stone retaining walls, concrete foundations and walls of the former battery site provide a graphic reminder of the size of the installations and plant of a major quartz gold mining enterprise. From these ruins it is possible to gain an appreciation of processes involved in extracting the gold from its ores, and to understand the well-designed layout of such plant.
The ruins are a major feature on the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway.
Price, Alfred & George
Brothers Alfred (1835-1907) and George (1843-1917) Price were born in Stroud, England, and served apprenticeships as patternmakers at the Dudbridge Works in Rodborough. Alfred emigrated to Auckland in 1863, and George in 1867. Early in 1868 they set up business as engineers at Onehunga. Their first well-known design was for a machine to strip fibre from flax leaves. This machine was employed in most parts of the country. Increased demand for the Prices' products resulted in the establishment of a large new foundry, erected under their personal direction by their own carpenters, on an acre of land near the wharf at the port of Queen Street, Onehunga, in 1870. In 1872 they secured a contract from the Public Works Department to build rolling stock for the North Island Railway. In later years the company became well-known as the producers of locomotive engines for New Zealand Railways and other industries.
Realising the potential of the Thames goldfield where crushers, boilers and other machinery were in demand, the firm moved to Grahamstown (Thames) in 1871. It is likely that the Thames foundry was erected once again by the firm's carpenters under the personal direction of the Price brothers. In Thames the firm was also well placed to serve the local sawmilling industry. Prices' achievements as engineers were diverse. In 1884 they acquired the New Zealand manufacturing rights to the Pelton wheel, and built the first triple expansion engine in New Zealand from their own design and specifications. They also built engines and boilers for several coastal steamers and even ventured into shipbuilding themselves.
In 1883 A. & G. Price bought the Prince Imperial Mine. However, the company's biggest contribution to gold mining was the building of stamper batteries, pumps and mining machinery for various goldmining companies. The 100 head battery erected for the Waihi Goldmining Company at Waikino in 1896 was probably the largest. Prices also manufactured 10 Lancashire boilers for the Big Pump at the Queen of Beauty Shaft (Thames-Hauraki Goldfields Company) in 1897, considered at that time to be the largest pump in the southern hemisphere.
Both Alfred and George Price were active in local body and community affairs, being members of the Harbour Board and the Thames Scottish Volunteers. Both men served as Thames Borough Councillors and were respectively, fire inspector and superintendent of the Thames Fire Brigade.
The major installations of the Crown Mine operation are today represented by the retaining walls, foundations and walls of the former buildings, particularly of the large stamper battery and gold extraction tanks. These descend the steep slope of the valley side in a way which provided for the most efficient use of energy to move the large quantities of raw and crushed rock through the various stages of the extraction process.
All machinery and superstructure has been removed, or has decayed.
The clear demonstration of the use of gravity for processing large quantities of crushed rock.
Stone retaining walls and concrete foundations.
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
Land Information New Zealand
W Swarbrick, History of the Karangahake Gorge, nd
J B McAra, Gold Mining at Waihi 1878-1952, Waihi, 1988
Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island, Auckland, 1979
J H M Salmon, J.H.M. 'A History of Goldmining in New Zealand', Wellington, 1963
L Barber, 1985, No Easy Riches : a History of Ohinemuri County, Paeroa and Waihi 1855-1935, Ohinemuri County Council and Richards Publishers
C Gwilliam, Goldmining in Karangahake, Ohinemuri Regional History Journal Vol. 3 No 2, 1966.
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal
C W Malcolm, The Contributions of A & G Price to Ohinemuri, November 1982
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.