Following the first major discovery of gold in the Thames area in August 1867, William Wilkinson and Claude Corlett decided to try their luck as newspaper proprietors in the embryonic Thames settlement.
Born in Derbyshire, England, Wilkinson arrived in Auckland on the Nimroud in 1863. He joined the Southern Cross newspaper, acting as a ‘war correspondent’ during the New Zealand Wars, notably at the battle of Gate Pa, Tauranga, in late April 1864. Corlett, from Manchester in England, a compositor by training, also worked at the Southern Cross. The first issue of the tri-weekly Thames Advertiser and Miners’ News appeared in April 1868.
With the large influx of miners anxious for the latest goldfields news and gossip, the tri-weekly was an immediate success. Within the first year it became a daily and was the major newspaper in the Thames district during the main gold rush era. The bonanza years for the region were from 1868-1871, with impressive gold yields recorded. Gold production topped one million pounds sterling at its peak. The population of Thames built rapidly to 18,000 and it was, at the time, one of the largest towns in New Zealand. Commercial activity mushroomed and there were over 100 hotels vying for business. The Thames Advertiser thrived in terms of circulation, and advertising was particularly buoyant with hundreds of new businesses needing to promote their presence. There was also a similarly high demand for job printing. As in other gold-mining towns there was a demand for printing ‘scrip’ for mining companies.
Corlett withdrew from the partnership after a couple of years, briefly running a competing, short-lived daily, the Thames Guardian and Mining Record (1871-1872), before spending many years as manager of the Christchurch Press.
In 1872, Wilkinson was joined by Alfred Horton who had previously begun the Timaru Herald. Horton, who was to become the principal owner of Auckland’s New Zealand Herald, was a very experienced newspaper man and evidence of this was soon seen in the Thames Advertiser. However, Horton moved to Auckland in 1876 following a clash of editorial views. There was a succession of owners after Wilkinson sold the newspaper in the mid-1880s. William McCullough, who was associated with the rival newspaper, the Thames Evening Star (formerly Evening Mail) , purchased the Thames Advertiser in 1912 – and absorbed it into the Evening Star which, in due course, became the Thames Star.