Huntly is known for many things; one of New Zealands largest power stations, it’s rich mining history, it’s beautiful lakes and scenic walks, and the last remaining D*E*K*A sign. 
Situated on both sides of the Waikato River, approximately 93 km south of Auckland and 32 km north of Hamilton, the town is linked by the Tainui and Rail bridges.

There is a lot to do in Huntly. If you’re spoiled for time, Huntly offers scenic walks that range in length, each one providing unique views of the town.
If you are a speed junky Huntly is the home of the Huntly Speedway, with Hampton Downs race track and the Meremere dragstrip further north.
For the people with a sweet tooth and love a good coffee you can take your pick from any of the cafes and bakery’s down Main Street.

In the early 1840’s Reverend Ashwell established a Missionary Station, Kaitotehe, across the river from Taupiri Mountain. While Ashwell was there, the local Maori pointed out a coal seam further to the north. This coal was later tested and proved to be useable coal.
A small mine, Kupa Kupa, was developed on the west side of the river, south of Huntly. The coal from this mine was used during the Waikato Wars to fire the ships used by the British.
During this same war Rahui Pokeka, as Huntly was then known, a stockade had been built on the riverbank, not for soldiers, but for animals and stores. This was sited in the middle of today’s Main Street.

After the war, some of the soldiers were granted land in our area. Most of the grants were 50 acres/20.2 hectares and were on the east side of the river. This was the beginning of the European settlement of Huntly.

In 1870, a settler, James Henry arrived to take up the position of Postmaster. He named the town “Huntley Lodge” after his home in Scotland. Eventually, the “Lodge” was dropped and then the “e”…. Huntly.

The Ralph family were also one of our early families and began working the first mine on the east side of the river. While mining this site, on the hill behind today’s brickworks, fire-clay was discovered. A brickworks was then established.

More coal mines were opened in Huntly and the surrounding towns, hence Huntly became synonymous for both coal and bricks.

At 7:20am on Saturday 12th September 1914 a devastating explosion rocked the Ralph Mine, with forty-three men losing their lives; the second highest death toll in New Zealand’s mining history.

The explosion made the ground shake and quivered and the roar was heard from miles away. A huge volume of smoke rose from the mine’s main shaft, (located where the model poppet head now sits on Main Street, Huntly) followed by an immense tongue of flame that rose 100 feet above the pithead. There was a hissing noise like an engine letting off steam. This was the explosion forcing air out of the mine. A cage weighing about one ton shot up from the shaft like a bullet from a gun and became lodged in the poppet head 70 feet above the ground.

Tragic as the disaster was, it could have been far worse. It was pay Saturday and only officials and maintenance men and gone below ground, with a party of 62 men going onto the mine instead of the usual shift of some 160 miners.

Men were trapped below and rescue work was hurriedly arranged. The first rescue party was ready to descend within half an hour of the disaster but was forced back by dense smoke and overpowering fumes with the second rescue party facing a similar problem. Finally, rescue work began and continued throughout Sunday and later that day eighteen bodies had been recovered.

By nightfall another eight bodies had been recovered, but these were not brought up the shaft until the number of wives and mothers, who had waited for hours hoping that their loved ones were found alive, had departed. Two weeks passed before the forty-third and final body had been found.

A Royal Commission was set up to investigate the disaster, which found the cause to be an explosion of accumulated firedamp (flammable gases found in coal mines) which ignited on contact with the naked flame of a miner’s lamp. The inquiry proved willful neglect by directors of the Ralph Mine and much tighter safety regulations were put in place.

Victims of the Ralph Mine Disaster

William Allen [18]
Thomas Baker [37]
Thomas Berry [29]
William Blenkinsopp [37]
John Bowler [29]
William Brocklebank Senior [52]
Hutchinson Burt [19]
William Burt [26]
William Burton [27]
Thomas Casson [21]
James Darby [59]
John Dixon [?]
William Gowans [42]
John Greener [48]
William Hincho [37]
James Holden [58]
Fawcett Seymour Hopper [31]
Alexander Izatt [17]
Henry Jackson [24]
John Jackson [32]
Samuel Jackson [54]
John W. Jones [49]
William Kelly [36]
Daniel Lyons [62]
Charles Maloney [21]
John Martin [29]
William Mayland Junior [18]
Theophilus Molesworth [29]
Robert Munsey [63]
William Patterson [44]
David Paterson [36]
Henry (Harry) Peckham Senior [47]
Hugh Ransome [39]
John (Jack) Robinson [37]
William Roper [36]
Arthur Ruston [28]
John (Jack) Skellern [36]
William Slavin [18]
William Smith [62]
John Steele [40]
Fred Taylor [29]
Jacob Thompson [18]
John Whorskey [36]