Friday, 19 January 2018

Health Benefits of the Spa City, Rotorua

The Hot Springs of the North Island in the 1800's.

The health benefits of the region are well documented in newspaper articles and government reports dating from the late c.1840's onward.  You can read one from the ‘New Zealander’ published 22 August 1846 here on Papers Past.

The early Hotel owners of the day built bath houses exclusively for use by their guests. The following advertisement being for the Rotorua Hotel in 1872.

Latterly they used their location and nearness to the baths to their own advantage as the following advertisement for Stephen Brent’s Temperance Hotel (built in 1884) shows.

With thanks to Papers Past for access to this newspaper.
In the New Zealand Herald of 26th January 1872 an article entitled  “New Zealand Hot Springs” was printed from a ‘correspondent of the ‘Australasian’ (published in Melbourne 30/12/1871)
Excerpt :
“I wish to draw to the attention of those who are afflicted in health to the renovating properties of the mineral springs of the North Island of New Zealand. These springs range from cold to boiling heat (the natives cooking their food in the latter) and are particularly efficacious in cases of rheumatism, cutaneous eruptions, scrofula and indiscretions arising from excess and fast living”
He goes on to write ‘Having derived incalculable benefit from them, I should be ungrateful  were I not to make known their blessings to suffering humanity’

Another writer known as ‘Young Australian’ wrote a series of articles for the The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser  and published on Saturday 27 May 1882 p 836.

The 3rd of which gives the reader an amazing word picture of this region of New Zealand now known as Rotorua.  Part of his description of the area reads:

From Ohinemutu to Sulphur Point is less than a mile, the path leading near the foreshore of Lake Rotorua. The track is sandy, and bordered with tall ti-tree scrub, so that the scenery is not at all enticing; but an examination of the point well repays the task of getting there”.  He goes on to say ‘ We passed through the site chosen for the new Government township of Rotorua;  but unless my judgement is at fault, the Government have been badly advised, as the situation is liable at any time to an outburst from the fiery furnace beneath, whose proximity is only too patent by te heat of the ground’
‘It may be reasonably conjectured that people will have a natural abhorrence to living over a subterranean stew pot’

Prior to European adventures in our steamy region, Maori had already discovered the benefits of living around the hot pools and mud of Ohinemutu and the Kuirau Spring.  Don Stafford writes of the journey of the Arawa tribe to New Zealand and how Ihenga discovered the two lakes which he named Rotoiti and Rotorua, later to be settled by the descendants of Rangitihi.

Maori enjoyed the hot spring they named Manupirua (a famous bath) at the southern end of Lake Rotoiti – as published in the Bay of Plenty Times, 3.6.1876.  Note: This same hot spring can be enjoyed today by all, if you have a boat suitable for taking you across Lake Rotoiti to where a jetty and pools are, for a reasonable price.

By 1873 over at Sulphur Point there were several other ‘pools’ frequented by locals and latterly invalids who came for the benefits of the ‘Priest Bath’, the ‘Coffee-pot’, the ‘Pain-killer’ the ‘Kill or Cure’ the Knock Me Over’ the ‘Laughing Jackass’ the ‘Last Resource’ the ‘Madame Rachel’ the ‘Postmaster’, the ‘Priest’ and others for whom they were named by men who chose to dig themselves their own bath, ‘Cameron’s Bath’, ‘McHugh’s Bath’ and ‘Mackenzie’s Bath’ some of which can be seen in the book by Phil Andrews ‘Government Gardens’.  None of the above are in use today, due in part, to what we now know as hydrogen sulphide gas, which can and has caused death. 

Excerpt from the Hot Lakes Chronicle : "Dr Ginders caused the following notice to be posted:- It is not safe to remain in these baths longer than 15 minute, nor is it safe to move about from bath to bath. The water should be disturbed as little as possible, as movement only tends to disengage a larger quantity of the deleterious gases"

Dr Alfred Ginders claimed that, the “Wikirihou’ or Vaux Spring supplying the new sulphur baths, could be a cure for drunkenness’ the author of this article published in the, Mount Ida Chronicle, Volume 29, Issue 1491, 28 May 1898, was a little skeptical!. 

Public hot baths and bath houses were not in existence until the ‘Pavilion Baths’ and ‘Blue Bath’ were built. During excavation for the Blue Bath “workmen dug into a sulphur cavern coated with yellow sulphur crystals at the foot of which a hot spring emitted sulphur impregnated steam”  from ‘The Government gardens’ by Phil Andrews,  p.33   

The bath house was opened to the public by, celebrity journalist, Mr George Sala in November 1885.

Creator unknown : Photograph of Madame Rachel and Priest's Baths Pavilion, Rotorua.
Ref: PAColl-8389. Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand. /records/22764256
‘The Duchess Bath’, was opened by the then Duchess of York in 1901.

Inside The Duchess baths, Rotorua. Tourist Department album 11. Ref: PA1-o-503-05.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23245611
The Bath House (now the Museum) was built and in operation from 1908.

Photograph by Alison Leigh. December 2017.

With thanks to Don Stafford, Phil Andrews and Papers Past for the information above.

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