Percy Spencer and mining

The following is an extract from THE BENDIGO BATTERY: THE LAST WAIORONGOMAI
BATTERY by Philip Hart :


On 28 February 1914, for £250 Percy Spencer purchased the Cadman
and Sceptre, the water race, and the battery. The contents of both mine and
battery were listed in exhaustive detail, down to the number of bolts. The
contents of the battery were given above. The mine included the usual
equipment, including that required for a small smithy, and ‘Men’s huts’.
Spencer also bought the ‘aerial tramway and Tramway known as
“Cadman’s Extension” with all appliances for conveying quartz’.

Before becoming an Auckland solicitor, Spencer had worked in a bank
and then been a stationer and printer.  During the mining boom of the
1890s, he invested in companies throughout the Hauraki Peninsula,195 and
was a director of three.  In the early twentieth century, he invested in one
company at Thames before turning his attention to Waiorongomai.  In
1913 he had been fined for acting as a sharebroker for a short period, ‘not
being licensed to do so’.  A member of the Remuera Road Board, in that
year he unsuccessfully sought election to the Auckland City Council.  His
financial position was strong.

Spencer had been involved in Waiorongomai mining from April 1910
onwards, when he applied for the Great Western Special Quartz Claim, 99
acres high in the valley, which was granted two months later.  In
November, when protection was granted, a local miner John Tallentire,
who had pegged out the claim, told the warden that, with another man, he
had prospected this ‘very rough Country’ above the Stoney Creek valley.

‘The old workings are still in existence but not available at present’. In
May 1912, Spencer surrendered this ground.

In April 1915 he sought a reduction in rents on the Sceptre and
Cadman, and the following month for both battery and water race. The
former was granted, but because the Thames High School objected the
latter request was withdrawn.  The labour conditions, meaning the
number of miners required, were suspended.  In July 1916, he sought six
months’ protection for the claims because the war meant ‘no men – no
capital’, but then withdrew his application.  Two months later, on behalf
of the syndicate he represented, he surrendered the Sceptre.

It had not been a profitable investment. In January 1915, when
seeking a reduction in rent, Spencer complained that ‘stringency’ in the
money market before 1914 had prevented him raising capital and the war
had made matters worse. He would be unable to raise capital until money
became ‘easier’ after the war. Waiorongomai was ‘a failure and the most
disappointing of all the Auckland Gold Mining Districts’, and no mining was
taking place. ‘The experience of two Companies during the past three years
was of such a disappointing and utterly depressing nature that the wonder
is that any man or body of men should have the courage to put their money
into this unfortunate field’. As the Bendigo mine and battery remained in
Spencer’s name even after he ceased to have an active role in their working,
he must have been a member of the syndicate that owned it until 1922.

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