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This work by Caroline McQuarrie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Coal was discovered north of Westport on Mt Rochfort in 1859, but it wasn’t until 1878 that a company raised enough money to begin to extract it. The town of Denniston was established at the top of the famous ‘incline’, a steeply graded incline railway which carried the coal down the hill. In the early years it carried people and supplies as well, as it was the only way up and down the steep mountain the mine was perched on top of. The communities of Denniston, Burnett's Face and Coalbrookdale were established over a few years, Denniston's population peaked in 1926 at 910. The town had many facilities including a bowling green, swimming pool, a hospital and two schools. Denniston however never had its own cemetery as the town was built on solid rock - bodies were taken down the hill to be buried at Waimangaroa. As transport down the hill became easier and eventually the incline closed in 1967, the town dwindled, now a only handful of people live in Denniston. For further reading see the Friends of the Hill website.