Mobile Unit. Cromwell History
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William Partridge, Mayor of Cromwell, discusses Cromwell's history from his family's arrival in 1865. He speaks about gold mining, dredging, sluicing, Chinese miners, opium, fruit-growing, and irrigation.
William Partridge’s father (born in Geelong, Australia in 1851), arrived in New Zealand with his parents in 1865, drawn to the area by the goldfields. They travelled over on the Aldinger. The family walked from Dunedin to Quartz Reef Point, four miles north of Cromwell. The journey took three and a half days.
He says there were many gold miners in the area in 1865, after Horatio Hartley [of California] and Christopher Reilly [of Dublin] discovered their famous claim [the Dunstan goldfield, in 1862].
Mr Partridge’s grandfather took up a gold mining claim at Quartz Reef Point, where he worked at sluicing, or alluvial mining. The water for this was brought in from mountain streams via water races. He says there were many court cases over water rights brought to the warden’s court.
He speaks about mining methods, including pick and shovel, ‘the common tin dish’, the cradle, sluicing, and dredging. He explains dredges - the ‘spoon dredge’ and the current wheeler dredge, which was worked in the flow of the river current. After that came steam dredges, then electric dredges. At the time of the interview, a large electric dredge is still in operation at Lowburn. He then explains the early process of ground sluicing.
There is then discussion about early Cromwell. The first settlement was at Cornish Point, on the south side of the Kawarau River. Before Cromwell was declared a municipal borough, it was known as The Junction.
Mr Partridge then gives further detail on pressure sluicing, which required a high volume of water at an altitude. He also speaks about the Chinese gold miners in Cromwell, who had their own settlement at the west end of town. The interviewer asks about the use of opium, and Mr Partridge says he saw the smoking paraphernalia.
The early gold mining settlement had tents for housing – Mr Partridge calls it a ‘calico township’. He estimates the population in its heyday at 1,200 people, compared to 800 in 1948. When the gold mining industry began to wane, fruit-growing became popular. Irrigation was important for the development of horticulture in the area. He expresses his hope that the Cold Creek Scheme will help develop irrigation even further in the future.
He speaks about early irrigation for horticulture, which came about when people used water rights acquired for mining for irrigation instead. They also made use of the mining water races.
He briefly mentions subdivision for settlement. Large pastoral runs in the area - Morgan Hills and "Kawarra" [Kawerau?] were subdivided. After that, Mount Pisa was also subdivided for soldiers to settle on after World War I.
The interview concludes with further comments on dredging. He estimates there were thirty to forty dredges on the river at the height of the dredging boom. He lists the names of some of the dredges, including the Lady Ranfurly, The Royal Maori, The Rising Sun and Reilly’s Revival.
Reference number 5617
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Partridge, William, Speaker/Kaikōrero
New Zealand Broadcasting Service. Mobile Recording Unit, Broadcaster