Investigation Report: Grand Hotel,
Te Aroha - 3rd August 2012
History and Location
Te Aroha is the smallest centre in the Matamata-Piako District with
only 3,768 people, but it makes up for it with character. A beautiful
historic spa town, Te Aroha is nestled at the base of Mount Te Aroha.
Famous for its natural hot springs, Te Aroha is home to world’s only
hot soda water geyser. Within the beautifully restored Edwardian Domain
are the Te Aroha Mineral Spas, the Te Aroha Leisure Pools, and the 1898
Cadman Bath House, which now houses the Te Aroha and Districts Museum.
The Arawa people, who initially established themselves in the Bay of
Plenty, moved into the Waikato region and settled the area including Te
The naming of Mount Te Aroha is said to have originated from Kahumata
Mamoe, the son of an Arawa Chief, who was lost in the wetlands of the
Waihou Valley. Te Mamoe climbed to the top of the mountain, and from
the summit he was able to identify his home at Maketu. He then declared
that the mountain would be called The Love of Kahumata Mamoe.
Between 1600 and 1650 the Tainui people moved into the Waikato region,
but the Arawa people were allowed to keep their land in Te Aroha under
the protection of the Marutuahu. The Marutuahu people left the area in
1815 as a result of a raid by Ngapuhi, but a remnant of Te Aroha people
remained, taking refuge on the mountain and in the extensive swampland.
Early Maori already knew of the healing properties of the Te Aroha hot
springs. They became an even more vital resource during the Waikato
land wars, when wounded Maori would retreat to the springs.
The Crown was concerned that the Te Aroha lands should be legally
defined, and in 1869 the Te Aroha land went before the Native Land
Court at Thames. In 1871 the court decision awarded the land to the
Marutuahu Confederation, which included Ngati-Tamatera. In 1877 a
letter appeared in the Thames Advertiser stating Ngati Tumutumu of Te
Aroha were the original owners of the land and that the best claims to
the land were those of Ngati Maru and the Ngati Tumutumu. A petition
was presented to Parliament in August 1877 by Reha Aperahama and 47
others to assert those claims.
Land Court negotiations continued and in August 1878 the balance of the
payment due on the Te Aroha block of ₤3,000 was paid to Ngati Tumutumu,
and the land known today as the Te Aroha Hot Springs Reserve was made a
public reserve under the Public Domains Act on December 1882. The
consent of local Maori and in particular the Morgan family to
Government plans for the establishment of such a reserve was of
critical importance and it was through their generosity in giving up
the land that the Domain became what it is today.
The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel, associated with the development of Te Aroha in the
Waikato Region, firstly as a gold rush town, then as a popular
geothermal resort, was comissioned in 1896 after a huge fire destroyed
a number of buildings in January of that year.
It appears to have been constructed as the British Hotel in 1880-1881
soon after the discovery of gold in the Waiorongomai Valley. Initially
providing accommodation for miners and others, the building
was sold to the Auckland firm of Brown and Campbell in 1885 after the
rush proved to be short-lived. Its new owners immediately converted and
enlarged the building, taking advantage of its location next to the
geothermal springs in Te Aroha Domain.
In the early days it provided accommodation for visitors to the
thriving Domain spas. Owing to licensing difficulty it was called the
Family Hotel until 1900
when the name was changed to the Grand Hotel.
The Tavern is of historical and architectural significance for
demonstrating changes in the use of hotels during the late nineteenth
century, from work-related lodgings to genteel places of retreat. It is
a notable example of Victorian hotel design in New Zealand, with
characteristics typical of the building-type such as a sweeping
verandah, hipped roof and street corner location.
It is valuable for its links with the history of gold mining, having
its origins in one of the last gold rushes in the country. The building
illustrates the changing fortunes of Te Aroha township, being the only
surviving hotel to date from the gold rush and foundation of the spa.
Investigation by Barbara and Mark
We knew of the rich history of this beautiful old landmark, but had
only heard very vague rumors of any paranormal activity. Nothing concrete and nothing documented, but seeing as we were in the
town preparing for an overnight investigation of another iconic
building in the area we thought we’d pay a visit and see for ourselves
whether there was any substance to the stories.
We spoke with Graham the owner in the Public bar, who straight away
joked, "You won’t find any ghosts around here. There might be the odd
grey ghost, but that’s it!"
He’s been living above the Grand Tavern for over 11 years and in that
time has had no unusual activity to report.
Barbara had earlier in the day, spoken to a barmaid working at the
tavern in the afternoon who thought that if we did get any evidence
that it would be next door in the restaurant section which
had a "spooky feel to it." However, when we talked to the staff in the bar next door in the
restaurant they were all fascinated in what we do, but didn't have any
stories to tell us.
For this short investigation we carried out a full two bar/restaurant
photographic sweep of the public areas of the building (inside and
outside) , except for the upstairs accommodations level as this was
their private area, so no access was allowed on this occasion.
Two audio recorders were also running in both bars.
No E.V.Ps were captured and no photographic evidence was
found at this session.
While we didn’t capture anything interesting at this session, the grand
tavern is a beautiful old lady, who has an atmosphere that is unusual
and interesting, yet difficult to define.
There was definitely a feeling of something being there.
Perhaps just residual remnants of days gone by or the energies and
memories left behind by the many thousands of cheerful regulars that
would have frequented the pub through many generations.
The restaurant / bar section certainly had a noticeable creepiness to
it. Maybe this was due to it being empty, dark and quiet, we don’t
If you’re ever passing through beautiful Te Aroha, pop in for a
pint and tell them Haunted Auckland sent ya!