Friday, 31 July 2020

Memories of Tauranga in the 1940s

From a contributer who wishes to remain anonymous.
Authors older sister feeing the lambs and calves
Image used by permission, Private collection
I moved here from Taranaki as an 11 year old with my parents, a house cow named Susan who had to be “finger milked” due to her tiny teats, my pony Rajah and a ginger cat that stowed away under the cover of our trailer during a stop at Awakino. My older siblings were working away from home by this time.

Author and her pony on the front lawn of their home
Image used by permission, Private collection
We had inherited a family home and its contents and consequently most of our china and linen etc was to be stored upstairs for the next 50 years. My parents slept in the high four-poster bed and I had an equally high single bed in another room. The third bedroom was full of paperwork stashed there by Father’s aunt. For a long time we were ‘called upon’ at home by her various very elderly friends.

Corner of Spring and Willow Streets, 1940s
Tauranga City Libraries, Ref 99-807
I’m sure Mother’s heart sank when she saw the primitive plumbing. The inside bathroom had a old toilet with the high cistern from which hung the ‘chain’ that was used for flushing, and a tin bath with one cold tap only. The outside bathroom was  better, with hot water installed, but getting back into the house on a dark night, with no outside lights, I found very scary. There was a double concrete tub and a copper in the wash house but no washing machine.The kitchen had a very ancient looking electric stove on thin legs and the old solid elements. Father did get that upgraded and installed a new HWC in there too.

View of bakery outlet (below the Regent neon sign) South side of Spring Street, 1963
Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. 99-1199
The garden was rather overgrown with many archways, pergolas and wooden gates but it was paradise as far as I was concerned. Some small areas were able to be fenced off and provided grazing for our many pet lambs. In the nearby streets there were many empty sections where animals could eat down the long grass My pony was kept on what is now the cricket ground and we kept a pig, milked several Jersey cows and there were the usual chooks and ducks. Cameron Road was a narrow roadway with wide verges and a lovely track along the western side, a rider’s dream.

Charle Haua the blacksmith
Tauranga City Libraries, Ref 02-096
The town blacksmith was Charlie Haua and his smithy was in Grey Street beside what is now the National Bank. My father at times had things made or mended by him and of course I rode my pony there to be shod also. Sometimes Mother would give me a shilling and ask me to call at Parnwell’s Bakery outlet on the south side of Spring Street for half a dozen fruit buns. Before going into the shop I would tie my pony to a verandah post and once I had the buns ride home up Willow Street. Occasionally I would see Constable Lochie on his bicycle, his daughter Claire was one of my riding buddies.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Brought to Life

Miss Alice Maxwell walks quickly across the front lawn and confidently looks towards the camera. Although she is in her eighties there is no sign of a walking stick or any need of assistance. The ‘Old Mission House’ is seen behind her, past several large trees. In these opening frames of Norman Blackie’s 1940s film we are given a new and unique glimpse of Miss Maxwell (9 October 1860 – 24 July 1949), the woman who played such a pivotal role in the preservation of The Elms for over 60 years.

Alice Maxwell at “The Old Mission House”. A screen shot from Norman Blackie’s 8mm film
Courtesy of The Elms Foundation
A note found with the recently rediscovered and digitised 8mm film, records that it was taken on Alice’s eightieth birthday. If correct, this dates the film to October 1940. However, according to the Tauranga City Libraries Tauranga Memories page, amateur film maker Norman Blackie arrived in Tauranga in 1942, nearly two years after the date suggested by the note. The film also appears to show Alice on three separate occasions, with the final two and half minutes focusing on a large gathering at The Elms - perhaps this is her birthday celebration?

A search of Papers Past reveals that only Alice’s eighty-seventh birthday in 1947 receives any publicity in the Bay of Plenty Times. The article outlines the history of The Elms and Alice’s association with it. While the paper asserted that Miss Maxwell and The Elms ‘are part of Tauranga’s historical tradition’, no birthday party is mentioned.

A commemoration did take place at The Elms in November 1947 in the form of a church service to mark the hundred and eighteenth anniversary of Archdeacon Brown’s arrival at Paihia. 

Bay of Plenty Times, 25 November 1947
Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand
The well-attended service included the ringing of the mission bell and several hymns. In the film the bell is featured, as are choir members heading down the path towards the bell. A church minister briefly appears in frame. Perhaps this is the occasion captured by Blackie?

The Old Mission House, Tauranga, a film by Norman Blackie, c.1940
Courtesy of The Elms Foundation Collection: 2009.0126

One last curious aspect of the film are titles that read ‘Miss Maxwell’ and ‘A Head Sea.’ A head sea is a formation of waves running against the course of a ship. The selection of this phrase suggests that Blackie may have viewed Alice as someone whose ‘course’ was running against the direction of time or perhaps he simply saw her as a force of nature?

Keystone Model A-7 16mm camera used by Norman Blackie. Thanks to Hugh Whitehead, who met Blackie in the 1970s, the camera is now part of the Tauranga Heritage Collection.
Image: Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0007/19
Margaret McClymont, Norman Blackie’s daughter, has confirmed that the second half of the film was recorded in the later part of the 1940s. Margaret remembers meeting Miss Alice Maxwell at that time and has a vivid memory of the white parasol which features in the film.

Friday, 17 July 2020

The Bond Store

Tauranga. Postcard by Mary Humphries, 86 x 136mm, c.1900-1910
Courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0146/09
Known as No.1 The Strand, or Guinness’s, the substantial building originally the Tauranga Bond Store was built for James Alexander Mann in 1883 as a warehouse and bond store for storing imported goods. The Bond Store was situated on the waterfront not far from the two wharves which were the main entry place for goods arriving at Tauranga by sea. Mann & Co. developed as a retail store for general hardware, furniture, agricultural machinery, gardening tools and grocery items as well as liquor and tobacco. James Mann sold the business in 1908 to Guinness Bros., a local firm of general merchants who used it for storage and administration of their business, which included wholesale wines and spirits. As importers, producers and stockists of agricultural equipment, Guinness Bros. played an essential role in the development of the Bay of Plenty's agricultural industry. The shop was later greatly enlarged and served as the main retail area of their business for many decades.

In 1986 Hughes & Cossar, also wine and spirits dealers, took over the property; later it was leased and occupied by Saunderson Packaging, Tulloch Photography, Creative Tauranga and more recently the Weekend Sun. In late 1997 the ground floor of the building was refurbished as a restaurant and bar.  For several years the Tauranga Historical Society held their Christmas lunch at the restaurant where our members enjoyed the historical ambience of the building.

Tauranga men. Back row from left - F Stewart, E Pemberton, P Hines, C Guinness. Front row, third from left J Kelly
Postcard, 86 x 136mm, c. 1914-1918
Courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0483/10
The Bond Store is the oldest remaining commercial building in Tauranga and a reminder of the period when Tauranga was heavily dependent on sea freight. The building functioned as a storage place for imported goods that required the payment of import duties; these were collected on behalf of the customs department by the bond-holder. The Tauranga bond store is one of only a few remaining in New Zealand.  As a bonded warehouse the building played an important role in enabling access to restricted goods such as alcohol, tobacco and other goods subject to import duties.

The site of the Bond Store has proven human habitation pre-1900 and is therefore an archaeological site under the provisions of the Historic Places Act. Its footprint and curtilage is significant as it abuts the lower flanks of Monmouth Redoubt (formerly Taumatakahawai Pa). The Tauranga Bond Store is the only remaining example of the utilitarian and traditional style of buildings associated with the early years of Tauranga's history as a port and the former status of The Strand as the main commercial street.

Guinness Bros. tent stand at the Tauranga A&P Show with agricultural machinery on display
Unmounted Ilford vernacular print, 60 x 87mm
Courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0414/08
It is a good example of a simple, well-built, traditional brick and timber structure. As the oldest commercial/retail building in Tauranga it is therefore a rare type of historic place in this area. It sits in the context of the wharf and port area of Tauranga's commercial district, at the end of one of the earliest streets and close to the original shoreline.

If you are interested in the connection between the famous Guinness Brewery in Dublin and the retailers of that name in Tauranga history read “Guinness Down Under: the famous brew and the family come to Australia and NZ” by Rod Smith a member of the Tauranga Historical Society. The book is available at the Tauranga Library.

Source: Heritage New Zealand

Friday, 10 July 2020

Mick McMahon and the Talma Studio - Part 1

The Elite Hairdressing Saloon, Tauranga, c. 1913
(Michael McMahon second from right, with moustache)
Copy photograph courtesy and collection of Jacquelyn McMahon
When Michael Patrick McMahon arrived in Tauranga in early 1913 he opened The Elite Hairdressing Saloon. Although he advertised a scissor-sharpening service, there was no mention in the fanfare in the Bay of Plenty Times of any photographic expertise.

Flooding in Te Karaka, photograph by M. McMahon
Published in the Auckland Weekly News Supplement, 23 Feb 1911
Image courtesy of Auckland Libraries Heritage Images, Ref. AWNS-19110223-16-3
He had in fact been an intermittent contributor to the Auckland Weekly News Supplement of photographic views taken in the Te Karaka district of Poverty Bay, where he lived, since at least 1909. The standard of these views show at least a reasonable competence, although it is not clear where he learnt the trade.

T.E. Price's Corner Studio, Harington St/The Strand, Tauranga, c.1905
Unidentified photographer, attributed to Thomas Price
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 04-257
He was probably being cautious. Although he had bought a house on the corner of Cameron Road and Fourth Avenue, and his wife Catherine and six children had come with him from Te Karaka, he would have been aware that Tauranga already had a well-established photographer. Robert Walter Meers, originally from Christchurch, had opened a studio in December 1910 and fitted it up with the latest photographic equipment. Meers had, however, found it difficult to make the business profitable and, between January and March 1913, employed a photographer Alfred Richardson (formerly of Auckland and Wellington) who had proved very unsatisfactory, causing significant disruption to the trade. By July that year Meers had moved his studio from its original location behind Norris & Bell’s buildings (between Spring and Wharf Streets) to Thomas Price’s former studio premises on the corner of Harington Street and the Strand, opposite the Tauranga Hotel.

Opening of the Tauranga Hospital, 5 Mar 1914, Photograph by Meers & McMahon
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. 02-349 (copied from an original held in a private collection)
Then on 17 October 1913 a partnership between Meers and McMahon was announced in the BOP Times, operating from the old studio on Price’s Corner. They advertised for a young lady to “attend studio, assist re-touching, etc.” and offered “all classes of photographic work.” McMahon was out and about with his camera, and was on hand to record the opening of the new hospital on 5 March 1914.

Devonport Road, Tauranga. Postcard by Meers & McMahon, taken between October 1913 and April 1914
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0189-09
Meers & McMahon began to publish scenes of the town as a series of postcards, including this lively view of the lower end of Devonport Road. They also supplied photographs of society events, such as the opening of the Bowling Club in October 1913 and the visit of the premier William Massey to the Tauranga Experimental Farm in February 1914, to the Auckland Weekly News. By the beginning of May 1914 the partnership was dissolved and all of the equipment pertaining to the studio business sold by public auction. Since they both continued to work as photographers in the town, it seems likely that this was a means by which to achieve an equitable distribution of the assets. Meers advertised on 8 May that “his photographic business would now be carried on entirely under his personal supervision” and he continued operating the studio until ill health forced its sale to Robert Rendell in 1926.

(to be continued)

Friday, 3 July 2020

Lawyer Bromfield's Trial by (Rugby) Combat

The Strand, Tauranga, taken from the Monmouth Redoubt, c. 1886
by The National Photographic Company (A.A. Ryan, Manager)
Albumen print (160 x 215mm) mounted on card
Courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0620/08
It’s rare for me to be stuck for a topic for the Historical Society blog. But, as the deadline approached, and perhaps as a consequence of the Covid-19 lockdown, I felt fewer symptoms of oncoming inspiration than usual. My shot in the arm? A look into the Bay of Plenty Times issued Saturday 10 July 1880 – one hundred and forty years, plus one day, before the date of this post. And there, in the middle of page 3 (the Times always offered two pages of advertisements before its readers got to the ‘real’ news), was a story with a tantalising headline: “AN EXCITING FOOTBALL MATCH ON THE TAPIS.” [1]

The article was, it turned out, a jolly colonial jape. The anonymous ‘correspondent’ (my money is on the editor himself) put forward a fake news story: a putative proposal to resolve a conflict as to which local body was responsible for the lamentable state of the street at the north end of the Strand. The outcome was to be determined by whoever won a rugby game. Rain was stipulated over shine; the teams were to come from the staff of the County Council and the Town Board, and to play in uniform. The ground itself was to be the northern-most section of the Strand variously and elsewhere described as a slough, a bog, or a large puddle. Afterward, our correspondent declared, they could clean up in the harbor and go on to a dinner together, “at which the hatchet will be permanently buried”. Admission was to be free. Spectators were to be encouraged by a bell, rung along the rest of the Strand by someone I have identified as Peter Grant [2], the contractor whose deliberate pace of work (he was almost certainly worried about not getting paid for it) had so exasperated local solicitor Archibald William Bromfield that he had issued a legal claim under the Public Works Act 1876 against the Town Board. The BP Times’ ‘correspondent’ nominated Bromfield as the umpire for the match.

Warming to his joke, that correspondent also advised readers that Mr Bromfield had “received instructions to prepare the wills of the combatants” who were, he further asserted, “on application to Mr Sheath ... appalled to find they could not insure their lives ... as the probability is that some of them will get swamped and smothered in the mire.”  The Coroner and an undertaker would be in attendance, and a team of bullocks, our mendacious informant concluded, would be there to pull inextricably stuck players out of the mud.

Northern end of The Strand, Tauranga, June 2020
Photograph by Beth Bowden
Bromfield, I am certain, would have taken the joke in good part, and relished the ridicule being leveled at the two reluctant Councils. His was a short, zestful and intriguing life that ended in the saddest of circumstances in 1889. It is hard to make this blog more about street improvement shenanigans in Tauranga than about him. In July 1880, however, he was fresh off the boat from Gisborne, where he had briefly settled after a voyage out from London in 1876 [3]. In Auckland, early in the following year, he had successfully applied for admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court [4] and was for a short while in partnership with one William Henry Connell [5], who eventually – and successfully - sued Bromfield for debt [6]. While in Gisborne he seems to have been appointed Crown Prosecutor [7], but little in the Court cases reported from there indicate his actually taking on this role.

A.W. Bromfield was around 35 years old when he set up his law practice in Tauranga, which makes the Bay of Plenty’s report of a claim to twenty years’ experience in the law just barely credible [8].  In Gisborne he had acquired his wife, Josephine [9]. I have found no record of their marriage in New Zealand [10], but they set up house (having left their home and all its chattels, including a piano, on sale in Gisborne) on the east side of Cameron Road in the block between Spring and Elizabeth Streets. He was to spend seven years in Tauranga, and it is evident that he was humourous, gallant and, until the very end, undaunted in facing down the vicissitudes of life.

Including a large, deep and muddy expanse outside his 1880 office door. Readers no doubt realise that 140 years ago the Strand was, actually, on the beach; and was, for that reason, highly convenient for boat traffic as well as horse- and bullock–drawn vehicles. The combination of commercial street appeal and very poor, tidally-affected drainage involved a hideous compromise. Bromfield, having suffered the indignity of mud coming over his boot-tops, put up his own (presumably wooden) sidewalk [11]; but the Town Board was not even prepared to accept the Chairman’s suggestion that “a few” cartloads of sand (not without its own problems [12]) be put down on the road itself [13]. In an election year, Bromfield sought £90 in damages from a debt-beset Town Board [14].

Extract from the Bay of Plenty Times, 16 Jan 1883
Image courtesy of Papers Past

Even in an election year, however, the seasons change. It is not clear that the action for damages was ever pursued (or that there would have been much point in pursuing it). It seems, sadly, that the Monty Pythonesque rugby grudge match did not take place. What is clear is that in August 1880 A.W. Bromfield’s professional brother in law, E.G.B. Moss, moved into offices right next door [15], whence the two counsel launched a not-quite-partnership rich in legal adventure and interest.

It’s also apparent that, in spite of my best efforts, this post turns out to be less about Tauranga roading politics than about Tauranga personalities. A biography of Bromfield does not exist: such is not my field, but I recommend him to anyone seeking a subject whose life combines moments of real bravura as well as the sloughs of despond.  And in 1880 he saw no dire symbol, only the joy of the combat, in the object of contention outside his Strand office.


[1] So pleased was the writer with the piece that it was reprinted in the Bay of Plenty Times of 15 July as well.
[2]  Amusingly, Bromfield successfully managed Peter Grant out of a sticky indebtedness situation the following month:
[5] I have been unable to find a connection to the well-known Auckland firm of Meredith Connell, established about 95 years ago:
[7] Even this was not without contention; one C. C. Lucas thought the job should have been his.
[8] Articled clerks were often quite young. It’s possible Bromfield was claiming some early guidance from his father, a JP and Doctor of Law, who died in Bath, 17 April 1887:
[10] I have her name from the birth certificate of their son, James Archibald Bromfield, born 23 May 1887:,