Monday, March 21, 2011


"Gold shining like the stars of Orion on a dark, frosty night." Those were the words of Gabriel Read as he struck gold on the 20th May 1861, close to the banks of the Tuapeka River, near the small township of Lawrence.

In a continuance of the events I described in my last post Dunedin - A City Built On Gold, I travelled, yesterday, to Lawrence. Hubby and the two youngest joined me for the day and what a treat it turned out to be.

First stop was Hart's Black Horse Brewery at Wetherstons - just a couple of kilometres out of Lawrence. Once the 'Fun Capital of the Gold Fields' it now lies in ruins, although moves are afoot to turn it into a tourist site.

The area is well known for its wonderful show of daffodils in spring and many people make a special drive to Wetherstons to view them. I was intrigued to learn how the brewery helped to plant 10 to 15 acres of daffodil bulbs in 1895. They were imported from the Netherlands at great cost: some bulbs costing as much as 100 pounds. A staggering sum when you consider the average weekly wage at that time was a mere 5 pound. 

After a cup of billy tea and freshly made girdle scones we took a wander up the main street of Lawrence. There were stalls of handmade crafts, historical displays and a festive atmosphere. For a small town there are many eateries, some with wonderful names: The Lemon Tree Cafe, The Wild Walnut Cafe, and others. I found myself wanting to spend a week and sample them all. 

While we were there I spotted a truly awesome sight. A stage coach pulled by five beautiful Morgan horses. The part of me that loves history, both Central Otago's and the Wild West of America, was sent into raptures. 

After eating our packed lunches we visited the site of a Chinese settlement, established in 1867 because of intolerance that banned them from living and doing business in Lawrence. 

The Chinese gold miners arrived in 1866 and formed part of the second wave of miners. They found enough gold to live on and to send money back home. In 1869 1200 Chinese were living in Otago - only two of them were women! 

The settlement had stores, a hotel - still standing - boarding houses, physicians, a butchery, gambling facilities and opium dens. The last resident of the camp died in 1945.

Apart from the hotel and stables, the camp is a field of grass. Archeologists have been working for several years and have  found the remains of many buildings. Until they decide what is to be done with the site it has been covered with polyurethane and turf to keep it safe. For the special weekend they uncovered two sites. It was exciting to see a real archeological dig.


This is the site of a cabin. The lady is sitting on what was the veranda and the road crosses in front where the big rock sits.

Before we left the Chinese Camp there was an ear-splitting display of fire crackers, then a traditional Dragon Dance. Unfortunately I have no photo to share of this, but it was colourful and very enjoyable.

Heading back into Lawrence we discovered where the stagecoach was leaving from. And the absolute highlight of my day (and my year!) was taking a ride.  As we bounced and jostled along the road I was back in time, wearing a long gown, and stuffed into a corset. It was so easy to imagine what a dirt road and greater speed would do for the ride: the smallest bump would be magnified and I'd be rattled to an inch of my life. The coaches are much narrower than you think and it felt quite cramped with four passengers, yet I know that six was the more common amount. The windows were paneless, but there were canvas blinds rolled up ready for use. So a wet or windy day would see you cut off from all views. The noise of the brake was much louder than I expected. A graunching, grating sound that at first had me wondering if the wheels were about to fall off. Now I am itching to write a scene where the heroine makes a journey on a stagecoach. 

Couldn't resist another photo!

Still smiling from the ride of a life time, we headed for Gabriel's Gully itself. There was a huge tent with many historic displays. There were book sales of historic books, which I had to be dragged from and genealogical displays for the different families in the area. 

From Oamaru were a contingent of penny farthing riders all decked out in Victorian apparel.  My parting photo is of one of their displays. A circular tent decked out in true Victorian style. A chamber pot discreetly (not) sat by the entrance and inside were two cots. Not in the photo is a little table by the centre pole, covered in white lace and holding camping essentials such as white gloves.  The epitome of Victoriana!

Note the white cloth under the candlesticks and shaving gear.
   We finished the day by eating a huge ice cream from the Lawrence corner dairy, while watching the final outing of the stagecoach. A truly awesome day.  

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome day you had Sue! I laughed when you had to be dragged away from the book sales. Hehe. A great post! I felt like I was there too. :)