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The West Coast of New Zealand was largely settled by miners and eventually their families.

Dennistown, about 20 minutes north of Westport (by car, in 2000) was an isolated coal mining settlement, set high in the hills above the wild west coastline.

Map by Travel

It was the hub of a few mines in the area, where coal was collated before being sent down the hill.

Best known for the "Denniston Incline", a stretch of railway that carried the coal from the top of the hill to the bottom, this stretch has a staggering rise. Before the turn of the century, the incline was the worker's means of getting to work, and when the township was settled, was used to cart the workers possessions and pre-built houses up the steep slope.

One miner, Alexander Nicol, worked in the Coalbrookdale mine near Denniston and died there at the age of 30 in 1898. He was walking to his place of work in the mine when the explosives he was carrying exploded. Alexander left Denniston on board the railway, as it was considered easier to transport the coffins to the bottom of the hill this way. He was buried in the Waimangaroa Cemetery. Apparently the timing of the funeral was important in those days, as if the tide was in, the coffins would float inside their plot!

The Men of Denniston

A bustling mining town at the turn of last century, with three schoools in the mines surrounding the town, the population is now almost none. When we went up therein Easter 2000, we saw that where the township had been was just bush, although the Department of Conservation have done a wonderful job of preserving the history. They have erected signs including a brief history of the town, with photos.

Denniston at Easter 2000

Links to all places featured on this web site
Millerton - once a bustling coal town
Waiuta - An abandoned gold town
My Genealogy Gateway
Maps by Travel