Where is Coromandel?
Far North Map
If you have any, let us know and we'll display them on the Coromandel Town History Page.
The township of Coromandel is situated on an inlet called McGregor Bay and was
named after the British Navy ship H.M.S. Coromandel which anchored first off
Colville on 13 June 1820. The ship stayed in the Hauraki Gulf for 12 months then went back
to England with a load of timber.
Captain James Cook visited the area in 1769. The first European settler to the Coromandel
was a trader by the name of Bill Webster, a jovial American who was a deserter from an
American whaling ship who set up his trading post on Whanganui Island (which is situated
at the entrance to the Coromandel Harbour) in the 1830s. He was a carpenter by trade and
after learning the Maori language he used Maori labour to build small schooners and
prepare timber cargoes for the Australian market. This island became the proposed site for
the city of Auckland. One guest of Mr Webster was a John Logan Campbell who moved to
Waiomu and then to Auckland and later donated One Tree Hill to the city of Auckland. He
has the Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland as a memorial also.
Another guest was Sir George Grey who carne to Whanganui Island to obtain two signatures
for the Treaty
Coromandel first became known for its kauri trees, which were milled, clearing the
countryside of its natural cover. Thousands of feet of timber was taken from the forests
and the ruination of the great kauri forests began. From 1795 vessels were loaded with
kauri which would be used for the masts and spars of the British Navy. People began to
realise the rape of the forests, but it was too late, as nearly 1/ 4 of the magnificent
forests were felled. When milling finally ended, the forests that were once 200,000
hectares were reduced to 5000 hectares. A billion feet of timber was taken from this area
within 20 years.
The first recorded gold discovery in New Zealand is marked by the naming of Rings Road,
after Charles Ring who discovered gold in 1852. Mining for gold began in the early 1860s
and remains of mines and batteries can be seen along the associated walks but there is
little trace of the outlying settlements which often boasted schools, halls, hotels and
shops. In the peak of the gold rush days during 1880 through to the early 1900s the
population of Coromandel was well over 12,000 and had 19 hotels. Some of the old buildings
are still standing today.
The School of Mines which is a fascinating place to visit, contains many relics of those
early years. It was built in 1898 to teach all aspects of mining and mines engineering.
[Top of page]