Vulcan Hotel History

In Roman mythology, Vulcan was the god of volcanoes and fire, especially of the forge. The naming of the Vulcan Hotel makes sense as its original owner was a blacksmith.

Samuel Hanger, originally from Tasmania, travelled to Otago on the ship Aldinga in November 1862. He left behind his pregnant wife Mary and their two children, his family later joined him in 1864.

Samuel worked as a blacksmith supplying the miners with sluice pipes and began serving thirsty miners in a calico tent in 1864, a year after gold was first discovered.

In 1869 with thirteen hotels in opposition, Samuel opened the Vulcan Hotel in a corrugated iron building with two doors and and two windows. Five years later in 1874 he built an annex on the opposite side of the road to operate as a billiards room and an extension of the Vulcan.

Samuel Hanger died in 1879, leaving Mary to run the hotel with four children in tow. He is buried in the St Bathans public cemetery. Mary sold the Vulcan to her son Davids’ father in law, John Thurlow, and his brother William in 1888.

The Vulcan was damaged by fire in 1889. The Thurlow brothers built stables to extend the billiard room annex in 1899.

With the death of William Thurlow in 1902 the Vulcans licence was transferred to Patrick Sexton, then to Gilbert O’Hara in 1907. From 1912 to 1922 the McDevitts held the licence.

In 1914 fire destroyed the Vulcan Hotel and it was rebuilt in red brick. Fire again destroyed the Vulcan in 1931 and the licence was transferred to the empty Ballarat Hotel building (the current Vulcan Hotel premises).

In 1974 the Billiards room and stables were sold for use as a holiday home, and in 1982 the titles of hotel and the billiards rooms were separated.

In 1987 a number of locals formed a company to buy the Hotel to keep it in local hands, until the new owners Gerry and Denise Shaw purchased the Hotel in June 2021.

Post Office

Designed by Public Works architect, John Campbell, in 1909 it was the third
post office operated in St Bathans. The first Dunstan Creek Post Office
opened in 1864 and was operated from a local store. In 1874 a purpose built
Post and Telegraph office was built on the site of the present post office. Mail
was carried to St Bathans on horseback until 1874 when coaches began
services to the town.
The Post Office operated public functions on the lower floor, and had a two
bedroom Post Masters residence on the top floor. It operated as a post office
from 1909 until 1937. The Post Office closed for business on February 5,
1937 and postal services were transferred to the local store owned by John
At one point the building was used as a school, but from 1937 until 1981 it
was a private residence. Since 1981 it has been an historic reserve, and is
now managed by DOC.
In 1995 a small business, selling antiques and memorabilia, opened in the
building and provided postal services until it closed in 2008.

Bank of New South Wales Gold Office

The Bank of New South Wales opened a branch in Dunstan Creek in 1864,
the branch was moved to Naseby in 1903, but the office remained to operate
as an agency until 1946. The building was then relocated to Oturehua and
continued to be used as an agency until its final closure in 1973.
This building was originally located opposite the Public Hall. The original
building had a six room dwelling attached that was sold for removal in 1925.
The building was used as a museum in Oturehua until it was returned to St
Bathans in 1989. While in Oturehua the building interior was relined following
a small fire in 1958 and the original wire gauze on the windows was replaced
by white frosting. It also underwent renovations which altered the roof line
which previously had a sawn off appearance from the removal of the dwelling.

It is now managed by DOC.

The Blacksmiths

This stone cottage was originally occupied by Samuel Hanger, the original owner of the Vulcan Hotel, and his sons. It had many uses over the years and is thought to have been used as a blacksmiths shop at one time. It was restored by DOC in 1990.

Rowan Cottage

Rowan Cottage was owned by a local builder and timber merchant, Thomas Wilkinson. He and his brother John were originially shipbuilders from Newcastle UK, and constructed many of the buildings in St.Bathans and nearby Naseby, Oturehua and Ophir

Constables Cottage

In 1864 a Police Camp was established in calico tents in Dunstan Creek. It
was replaced by the current wooden building in 1883. Behind this wooden
building is the old St Bathans gaol.

The gaol was relocated to Oturehua in the early 1900’s to be used as a gaol
and later for the storage of weapons and poisons. It was moved back to its
original site in 1991.
Both buildings have been restored and are currently available as holiday

Catholic Church

There was a Catholic Church in Dunstan Creek from as early as 1864.

In 1866 a corrugated iron building was built for use as a church. In 1870 a

building, built using weatherboard with a corrugated iron roof, was intended to

be a more permanent structure. But this building was blown down in a storm

in 1877, all that remained was the vestry.

The ruin was dismantled and re-errected at the bottom end of town for

temporary use as a church. This was also used as a school and a public hall.

The present St Patricks Catholic Church was completed in 1892, built from

mud brick with a corrugated iron roof.

Church of St Alban the Martyr

St Bathans has had a protestant church since the early 1860’s.

The first church, funded by voluntary subscription, blew down in a violent gale

the day after it opened. This building was quickly replaced, but sadly the

second building had its roof blown off in another storm. Services were then

conducted in the public school on the main street.

Some years later the absentee run holder of Hawkdun Station, Captain F G

Dalgety, arranged for a prefabricated church to be shipped out from the United

Kingdom. This is the corrugated iron building that stands on the site today.

The first sermon was delivered in the present interdenominational Church of

St Alban the Martyr in 1883.

Gold Mining in St Bathans

Gold at St Bathans is contained in alluvial gravels (gravels deposited by the

action of water or ice).

Water was a critical part of the mining process, needed not only to separate the

gold from the dirt but to carry away the dirt (tailings) once the gold has been


Initially the best paying claims were higher on the spurs with nearby water in

short supply, so the gravels either had to be carried to the water or the water

conveyed to the site.

Large companies were formed to enable the cutting of lengthy water races.

The cutting of a race was usually more expensive than most miners could

afford so they purchased water from the large companies.

The water races carried water to St Bathans from the Manuherikia River, and

by 1865-66 the miners were dependant on the water companies for water.

Sludge channels, or tail races, were dug to carry away the tailings. As the

miners worked deeper into the ground deeper tail races had to be dug to carry

away the waste gravel. The tailings had a profound effect on the rivers into

which they flowed, raising the beds many feet.

The mining methods at St Bathans included ground sluicing, hydraulic sluicing

and hydraulic elevating.

St Bathans originally lay in a gully at the foot of Kildare Hill, in a gully known as

Peymans Gully. Following the discovery of gold, the 120m high hill was flattened

after only ten years of mining using water jets to remove the gold bearing gravels.

Mining continued below the level of the town and the gravels were then lifted to

the surface by Hydraulic Elevating, and by around 1873 the area was being

referred to as Kildare Basin.

Mining ceased in 1934 after it was feared that the main street and buildings

were in danger of falling into the hole.

The 60m deep hole, known as ‘The Glory Hole’, eventually filled naturally with

mineral charged waters to form The Blue Lake.