Scales witness to gold mining history

01:32, Jan 08 2013
Gold scales
The gold scales donated to the Picton Museum by the Bank of New Zealand. The scales fold into the wooden travel case.

Maike van der Heide looks back at Marlborough's history through the stories of some of the treasures at Picton Museum. Today: Gold rush scales.

These Bank of New Zealand scales, on display at Picton Museum, are a relic from the gold rush days in Marlborough.

Short but intense, the rush saw entire towns spring up suddenly in areas like the Wakamarina and Cullensville.

The first gold in Marlborough was discovered in early April 1864 at Wilson's Beach beside the Wakamarina River by Picton man Hiram W Harris and his brothers-in-law John Wilson and George Rutland.

The province of Marlborough had not long separated from Nelson and the Marlborough Provincial Council was offering bonuses for the discovery of coal and gold. By the end of April, the Wakamarina gold rush was in full swing and Picton's population grew from about 800 to 3000.

Miners poured in, mainly from the Otago goldfields, with small boats carrying miners arriving at Picton wharf daily.


A Registrar of Mines was set up in Picton to register claims.

In 1888 new goldfields were discovered at Mahakipawa and the township of Cullensville complete with pubs, shops and banks, emerged close to the fields.

While the Wakamarina rush died out after only a year or so, the Mahakipawa was worked until the 1930s.

When the gold frenzy had died down, the Bank of New Zealand donated these fine gold-weighing scales with lead weights to Picton Museum. They are cleverly designed to fold into their own box for transport.

The museum also has a gold reckoning book for calculations and a good way of comparing gold prices from then, a time when so much was being sourced, to about $1000 an ounce now.

Picton Museum, on London Quay, is open daily from 10am to 4pm.

The Marlborough Express