Skip to main content

Local History

Callaway House being restored

Members of Mercury Bay Historical Society recently explored aspects of history in and around Coromandel Town.
 |  Dorothy Preece  | 

Left, Rings Gold – The plaque at Opitonui Stream; above, Callaway House owners Bill and Marija Algie (left and right) with Mercury Bay Historic Society members Ian and Lindsay Robbie (centre).

The day began with a visit to the historic Buffalo Cemetery, where Able Seaman David Wanks, of HMS Buffalo was buried in 1838.  They then went on to inspect the nearby gold stamper battery, which boasts the largest water wheel in New Zealand. The battery is currently closed but soon to be reopened. The group then took a quick look at Opitonui Stream, where in 1842 Charles Ring discovered the first gold in the Coromandel, thus instigating the Coromandel gold rush.

The main event for the Mercury Bay historians was a visit to the historic Callaway House at

Kikowhakarere Bay.  It was built in 1848 by John Callaway, who operated a kauri sawmill close by.

The house remained in the hands of family descendants until 1985.  More recently it was purchased by Bill and Marija Algie.

Bill is an Auckland architect well-known for his love of historic buildings. Mr Algie saw the potential for the house to be restored to its former glory, a big undertaking about which he and Marija are equally enthusiastic.  Their first job was to re-roof the house.

The original builder, John Callaway was the great-great-grandfather of Historic Society Member Lindsay Robbie. She has kept up with the fortunes of Callaway House and was able to arrange the group visit. Bill and Marija conducted the tour through the house with lively commentary, outlining their plans for the restoration. In some rooms there are remnants of the original wallpaper dating back to the 1840’s.  The house is not open to the public, and the special invitation was very much appreciated by the visitors.

The final visit of the day was to the Coromandel School of Mines Museum, where the various collections show many fascinating aspects of early life in the Coromandel.