Established in 1863 to service the area’s newly-established goldmines, in the 150 years since, St Bathans has become a special place.
St Bathans originally lay in a small gully. After a decade of mining, Kildare Hill, which enclosed the town on one side, had been flattened and by 1936, as a result of extensive hydraulic mining, there was a lake. The lake bottom was some 40 metres below the town's main street and was filled with mineral enriched water. This is what has given the lake its blue appearance. You can walk a 2km track around Blue Lake.
St Bathans was typical of a gold mining town, in that the first buildings were probably not intended to last very long, due to the fickle nature of gold mining. Some have survived and, as a result, are unique.
Many of St Bathans buildings were mud brick, but most have long since disappeared. The hall has survived and is typical of community halls built during the gold mining and settlement years, though rare in its large size. An original mural on heavy fabric at the back of the stage adds a distinctive air of the past to the interior. The building was founded on indifferent material, including rubble fill, but despite that it has survived the structural problems that resulted.
The St Bathans Post Office is another important landmark in St Bathans. Built in 1909, it was the third post office built on this site.
St Bathans Hall
The St Bathans Hall is the oldest continually used mud brick hall in New Zealand. It was built in 1892/93 by the local publican as a public hall ‘suitable for theatrical and other entertainment’. Later uses included a Masonic Lodge, school room, mining company office, picture theatre and dance hall. It is now classified as a Category II historic place and is one of 21 sites in the Otago Goldfields Park.
It is typical of community halls built during the gold mining years, though rare in its large size. An original mural at the back of the stage adds a distinctive air of the past to the interior.
The hall is held in high regard by the St Bathans community, who have united to ensure its retention and regular use. Many of them have direct links to the miners and settlers who originally used the hall.
The St Bathans Hall is open to the public from Labour Weekend to Easter every year.