Friday, 25 December 2015

The Spring Street Ladies’ Rest Room

Corner of Willow and Spring Streets, c.1940s
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-807
The Women’s Representative Committee had agitated for a rest room for a number of years without success: there was difficulty in agreeing on a site. It was not until 1936 that the committee obtained a loan of £593 from the Borough Council so that building could commence. Work began on the rest room in Spring Street on 1 June 1937, the Foresters’ Hall having been shifted to allow for construction.

Post Office, corner of Grey and Spring Streets, c.1940
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-1287
Harry Leslie Daniel West (c.1887-1937) was the Borough Architect at the time. He started in partnership with his father in Timaru, but moved to Opotiki in about 1914, to Whakatane in 1921, and finally to Tauranga in about 1934, just three years before his death. Many of his buildings in the Bay of Plenty still stand; sadly the Ladies’ Rest Room is not among the survivors.

The rest room kept a visitors’ book, now in the archives of Tauranga Library. If this book is to be believed, the Rest Room had some famous visitors. Miss G. Garbo, of Hollywood, pronounced it “stunning”, and Miss D. Durbin was similarly impressed.

Note: Stephanie Smith has been unable to locate a photograph of the Ladies' Rest Room itself and would be delighted to hear from any readers who know of one.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Mount Surf Club

The first Mount Surf Club, c. late 1930s
This is a really interesting photograph of the main Mount Beach. It was taken in the late 1930s and I found it in an old copy of the Auckland Weekly News. Lots of people will recognise the Oceanside Hotel. I did a story about it a while ago. The little building on the sand in front of the hotel is also really interesting. It is the first Mount Surf Club. The Club started in the 1920s. All they had was this building and a rescue reel!

Mount Surf Club, 22 June 2013
This is what the Mount Surf Clubrooms looks like now.  They really have got a lot bigger. I imagine the Mount beach is much busier than used to be and there are a lot of people who need watching!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Woodhill, Grange Road

Woodhill, Postcard, undated postcard
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
Woodhill in Grange Road, Tauranga is the second house built on his farm for Henry Stainforth Brabant, the first being Maungawhare. Fitzgibbon Louch, an Irish architect and Katikati settler designed the ‘domestic Gothic’ style house and David Lundon built it in 1885. Kauri logs from the Coromandel were milled on the site. The house had an imposing position on a ridge looking across the Waikareao estuary to what was then the small town of Tauranga. The whole building is cladded with timber weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof. The original block of land is much reduced and there is just a few metres to the boundary hedge on the east side.

Woodhill from the East, 23 July 2002
Photo by Shirley Arabin, Courtesy of Heritage New Zealand
The house is large with a frontage of over twenty four metres. Originally there stood a three storey tower at the south end with a copper roof but an owner removed the top storey some years ago. The present function of the house is as a venue for funerals and rooms at the north end have been modified to provide a large room for services.  Otherwise much is original like the timber panelled wainscoting in the hall and the door and window joinery. The first front door is on the east wall that is now the back wall of the house. The ceilings are made of panelled kauri. Fire surrounds are original although repairs have been made at times to the brick fireplaces.

Woodhill, view of front, August 2002
Photo by Shirley Arabin, Courtesy of Heritage New Zealand
The elaborate barge boards on each gable are crowned by a finial which is itself braced by a scroll. The Italianate splayed bay window by the original front door is surmounted with embrasures and cappings. The label mould above the windows diverts water away from the windows while the verandah posts and barge boards demonstrate the elaborate styles popular in their day.

There were several owners between the Brabants and Legacy Funerals who have owned the house since the founder Greg Brownless bought it in 1993. During this time the grounds have reduced to half an acre and the driveway brings visitors to the west side that has become the main entrance to the house.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Commercial Hotel, The Strand

Strand, Tauranga, c.1910
Image courtesy of Justine Neal
Building of the Commercial Hotel began July 1876 on the site previously occupied as a timber yard. The hotel was built for Mr. Joseph Ellis, the first proprietor. On 24 July 1900 the Commercial Hotel was lit up in front with hydron carbon gas, being reported as the first installation of gas in Tauranga. At one stage it seemed to fashionable for policemen to resign from the force and take over as licensees of hotels. 1911 saw Constable Quirk resign to take over the Commercial. In November 1916 the hotel, along with several other buildings on The Strand, was destroyed by fire. A new hotel built on the site opened 2 September 1918.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Sir Bob Owens and the Statue of Tangaroa

Small casting of Tangaroa statue
Tauranga Heritage Collection 1805/85
Many Tauranga residents will have heard the name Sir Robert Owens. As Mayor of Tauranga from 1968 to 1977 and Mayor of Mount Maunganui from 1971 to 1974 he made a significant contribution to the development of our city.

Arthur Honeyfield and Robert Owens with a small casting of Tangaroa. This casting would later be given to the Tauranga District Museum and remains in the Tauranga Heritage Collection.
Image: Private Collection
Sir Owens was a generous person giving to many people and organisations in need. While those gifts will be remembered by individuals, Sir Owens also made a number of public donations. These include the SS Taioma to the Tauranga Historic Village, and the nine-foot Tangaroa statue at the entrance of the Tauranga harbour. At the time of the statue’s unveiling in April 1976 the Bay of Plenty Times wrote:
“Thanks Bob, it was a fine gesture. The people of Tauranga should be grateful for the time, effort and talent you have given in being Mayor of this city. This gift will be appreciated by all who live here and will certainly be remembered by all who visit this city. There can be no question that you have been an outstanding mayor and the donation of this statue is only further proof of your generosity.”

Friday, 30 October 2015

Rendell’s Tauranga: Historic Tauranga from Above

Cover of Rendell’s Tauranga: Historic Tauranga from Above
Over the last few months Alf Rendell and I have been compiling a book which features many of his aerial photographs taken from 1946 to 1956. Published by the Legacy Trust it will be available from late November.  Money raised from sales of the book will go towards a local photography scholarship.

Queen Elizabeth and Sir Robert Owens at Memorial Park, March 1970
Image: Gale518, Tauranga Heritage Collection
The book will also feature quotes from well-known Tauranga residents taken from recordings made in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of an oral history project undertaken by the Tauranga District Museum. Those quoted include: Noel Pope, Peter Densem, Joan Mirrielees and Doris Nell.
One of my favourite quotes comes from Sir Robert Owens:
“It’s a relay race this life of ours and when you finish you don’t expect it to come to a dead stop. There’s got to be somebody out there to pick up the baton and carry on.”

Friday, 23 October 2015

Tauranga Streets: Wharf Street

Wharf Street, showing Bank Chambers, Town Hall and Bank of Australasia, undated
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 03-523
Wharf Street is the logical name for a street which led down to the now demolished town wharf. It was probably referred to as Wharf Street as soon as the wharf was built in 1871, though the name does not appear on maps until 1875. In 2015 it resembles its neighbour The Strand in that the majority of its businesses provide food and beverages of one kind or another, and so it has been reinvented as ‘Eat Street’, with themed street furniture and planned entertainment.

Wharf Street, from intersection with Willow Street, c.1914
(Steamer from Auckland tied up at the town wharf)
Photograph by R.W. Meers, Tauranga
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 00-353
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wharf Street offered much more variety in the way of goods and services than it does now. By 1916 you could even go to the silent movies at the Town Hall. But the centre of Tauranga business life was still The Strand, and the town was just beginning to creep up the slope towards Cameron Road, and so Wharf Street remained a blend of town and country.

Bank of New Zealand, Wharf Street, c.1900
Photograph by Mary Humphries, Tauranga
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-356

It featured some imposing bank buildings, such as the Bank of New Zealand, built in 1876 in the ‘Italian’ style, and the 1914 Bank of Australasia. Munro’s shops were also a cut above the usual, faced with granite imported from Australia and Sweden. The ‘Renaissance’-style Town Hall, built 1914-1916, had a major frontage on Wharf Street. The building did not meet with everyone’s approval, however: it was criticised for lurking in its ‘Gallipoli bunker’, excavations having been necessary to allow for the slope of the street. Solicitors, architects, and dentists had their rooms on the street, and there were residential properties also. But the professionals had to rub shoulders with a shooting gallery, a livery stable business, and an electricity substation, and there remained, especially at the western end, open paddocks with overgrown macrocarpa hedges and gorse.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Tauranga Photographers: Charles Henry Harris (1862-1907)

Unidentified young men, c.1894
Cabinet card portrait by C.H. Harris of Tauranga (formerly of Gisborne)
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
This cabinet card is one of many unidentified shots in the Bran Watkins House Collection. When these fine young Scots lads posed in all their band uniforms and instruments (pipes, horn and drum) in a makeshift studio, Tauranga's new photographer Charles Henry Harris was probably not long arrived in the town. The slapdash manner in which the painted backdrop, a dark, floral-patterned bolt of fabric and three small carpets have been thrown together is more characteristic of a travelling photographer's temporary studio than of permanent premises.

Reverse of cabinet card mount, Marion Imp. Paris, Regd no. 41 057, c.1892-1893
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
The card mount is of a European design by Marion, Imp. Paris that is described by Roger Vaughan on Victorian Photograph Printers as "Reclining lady," registered as number 41,057, probably in 1892-1893.  It shows the photographer as C.H. Morris of Gisborne, N.Z. and it seems very likely that he used up old stock for the first few weeks of his stay in Tauranga before ordering more cards with his new address.

Advertisement, The Bay of Plenty Times, 20 April 1894
Image courtesy of Papers Past
Charles Harris arrived in Tauranga in early 1894, his first advertisement appearing in The Bay of Plenty Times newspaper on 20 April 1894, and an associated article describing him as "re-opening" the Strand gallery adjacent to Mr Allely's, Chemist, hoping that "he will no doubt secure plenty of patronage."  It is likely that this studio was in premises originally set up and operated by Charles Spencer (from 1879-1890) and then briefly occupied by F..E. Stewart (from 1890-1892) and the Kirton Brothers (1893).

Unidentified wedding couple, c.1896-1902
Cabinet card portrait by C.H. Harris of Tauranga & Opotiki
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
Harris had commenced working in Gisborne two years earlier (Poverty Bay Herald, 11 March 1892), but he was already thirty years old by then, and it seems likely that he had served an apprenticeship with another photographer prior to that date.  By the late 1890s, when this wedding portrait was taken, he was already fairly accomplished, coping well with the harsh reflections of sunlight from the white wedding dress.  With a regular supply of customers from the stable, if not expanding, population of Tauranga his studio looked a lot more polished too, with the addition of some fine tasselled and fringed posing chairs and even a pot plant or two.

Unidentified couple, c.1894-1898
Cabinet card portrait by C.H. Harris of Tauranga & Opotiki
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
By this time Harris had also ventured further afield, and was taking portraits in Paeroa (1896), Opotiki (1897-1898) and Waipukurau (1898, 1902) (Auckland City Library Photographers Database), although it seems unlikely that he established anything more than a visiting presence in those tiny settlements.  Competition arrived in early 1897, in the form of experienced Masterton photographer T.E. Price, and it is possible that Harris' studio work in Tauranga declined, or even ceased altogether, after this date.

Headstone of "Charles the beloved husband of Annie Harris," died 28th Sept. 1907, aged 45 years
Anglican Cemetery, Grace Road/17th Avenue, Tauranga
Photograph © 2015 Brett Payne

Tauranga photographer Charles Henry Harris died in 1907, aged only 45, and lies buried in the Anglican Cemetery on the corner of Grace Road/17th Avenue.  It is unknown, at least by the author, whether he and his wife Annie had any children, but it is presumed that he left a lasting presence in the form of many fine portraits carrying his stamp in family photo albums throughout the Bay of Plenty.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Tuhua, the rock and the island

Obsidian from Mayor Island
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Ref. 0028
A small piece of obsidian in the Western Bay Museum collection is accompanied by a label identifying it as "obsidian rock from Mayor Island."  It is unclear whether the specimen was collected there or elsewhere.  Obsidian is a hard black volcanic glass formed by the rapid cooling of silica-rich lava. Tūhua, commonly referred to as Mayor Island, is an active shield volcano and one of the few places in New Zealand where obsidian occurs naturally. At least 52 volcanic eruptions have been documented by geologists as having occurred there in the last 130,000 years, although the last took place 6000 years ago. It is unusual for the diversity of eruption types, virtually every known style having been recorded, from Hawaiian fire-fountaining, to viscous lava domes, Plinian falls and ignimbrite ash flows.

The obsidian was highly prized by Maori for tool and weapon making in pre-colonial times, prior to the introduction of iron by pakeha in the early 1800s.  The valuable resources were fought over between various tribes on many occasions. As a result of the export trade, fragments of obsidian, also known as tūhua, may be found scattered along coastlines and sites of habitation throughout the country, and have been excavated from archaeological sites as far afield as Tiwai Point, near Bluff, and the Kermadec Islands.

Pumice, provenance unknown
Courtesy of Western Bay Museum, Ref. 0029

Pumice also occurs at Tūhua, for example forming a steep-sided cone at Tutaretare peak, although the provenance of this particular specimen from the museum is unrecorded.

Tūhua from the north-west, Unknown photographer and date
Collection of Flora Smith, Courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection

Dubbed "The Mayor" by Captain James Cook who anchored in its lee of its bush-clad hills on the night of 3rd November 1769, it is thought by some to have received its original name of Tūhua from an island of a similar shape in the ancestral homeland of Hawaiiki, now known as Me'etia and situated south-east of Tahiti.  It should be pointed out, however, that there is some disagreement about its origin, and several competing legends exist.

Tuhua (Mayor Island), Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
NZ Topographical Map 1:63,360 (1 inch to 1 mile) Mayor Island (Tuhua), 1977 edition
Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved, Courtesy of National Library of New Zealand
The island of Tūhua is the ancestral home of Te Whānau A Tauwhao ki Tūhua and is administered by the Tūhua Trust Board. Permits and bookings must be obtained from the kaitiaki before landing on the island, and unauthorised removal of obsidian is prohibited.


Adams, E.L. (1969) Tuhua (Mayor Island), Ohinemuri Regional History Journal, Vol. 11, May 1969

Houghton, B.F.; Wilson, C.J.N.; Weaver, S.D.; Lanphere, M.A.; Barclay, J. 1995 Volcanic hazards at Mayor Island. [Palmerston North, NZ]: Ministry of Civil Defence. Volcanic hazards information series 6. 23 p.

Leask, A. (2009) Now add Tuhua Island rock to list of bad luck items, New Zealand Herald, 16 August 2009

Pos, H.G. (1961) Tuhua or Mayor Island, Its Importance to Maori History, New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter, Vol, 4 (2), March 1961, p. 79-81.

Tuhua (Mayor Island), Department of Conservation guide, brochure and map.

Mayor Island / Tuhua, Wikipedia

Traditional Story: The Struggle Between Tuhua and Pounamu, Tauranga Memories Kete

Traditional Story: Nga Patupaiarehe o Tūhua, Tauranga Memories Kete

NZ Topographical Map 1:63,360 (1 inch to 1 mile) Mayor Island (Tuhua), 1977 edition. Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved

Friday, 2 October 2015

Tropical Display House, Robbins Park

Tropical Display House, Robbins Park, 1962
Gale Collection, Ref. 1005
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection
This is the Tropical Display House on Cliff Road. I wanted to visit it and take some pictures before it is gone. I read in the paper that it might be going.

Tropical Display House, Robbins Park, 2015
Photo by Charlie Colquhoun
I think it is a shame that it is going. The flowers are interesting and it is a nice place to visit. I looked at the visitor book and people have said good things about it so I think other people will miss it too.

Tropical Display House, Robbins Park, 2015
Photo by Charlie Colquhoun

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Lounge Ceiling at Brain Watkins House

Pressed metal ceiling in the lounge, Brain Watkins House
Image courtesy of Shirley Arabin
Historically, tin ceilings were introduced to North America as an affordable alternative to the plasterwork in European homes. They gained popularity in the late 1800s as Americans sought sophisticated interior design. Durable, lightweight and fireproof, tin ceilings were appealing to home and business owners alike as a functionally attractive design element that was readily available. As the century progressed and settlers in both New Zealand and Australia began to afford to build houses that were not just utilitarian in design the popularity of the tin ceiling grew.

The lounge at Brain Watkins House is part of the rear extensions that is estimated to have been built c1900 and Joseph Brain installed the tin ceiling and the chandelier hanging from the centreflower as it was called.

It was between 1839 and 1901 that thin rolled tin-plate was being mass-produced. Sheets of tin were stamped one at a time using rope drop hammers and cast iron molds. Using this method of production, metal was sandwiched between two interlocking tools. The top tool, or "ram," was lifted up by a rope or chain, then dropped down onto the bottom die, smashing into the metal that was underneath and permanently embedding intricate patterns into the tin. Tin ceilings were traditionally painted white to give the appearance of hand-carved or molded plaster. They were incorporated into residential living rooms and parlors as well as commercial businesses, where painted tin was often used as wainscoting.

Tin ceilings are not actually tin. They are steel coated with tin, much like a tin can. It can look like plaster without the weight. Besides being vermin proof they were also easy to clean when ash and smoke from open fires settled on the ceiling. In some houses the bathroom walls had tin panels.  The ceilings were often painted in distemper or Kalsomine, a brand name. It could be tinted in pastel shades so it was possible to pick out the pattern with paint.


Evans, I. The Federation House Flannel Flower Press. Mullimbimby NSW 1986.

Wikipedia.   [15 Aug  2015]

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Camping Ground, Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui Camping Ground, c. 1960s
Published by Logancard, Image courtesy of Justine Neal
A holiday camp was located on Mauao in the early part of last century.  Waikorire is the original Maori name for the area which extends along the beach front of Pilot Bay and the base of Mauao, where the present camping ground and hot pools are situated.

Mount Maunganui Camping Ground, c. 1960s
Published by Logancard, Image courtesy of Justine Neal
An excerpt from the Western Bay of Plenty Year Book 1950 reads:
"On the Mount and about its approaches lie spacious camping grounds for the tenters and those who bring their own caravanserais. Here hot water may be obtained, together with washing and cooking facilities in communal fashion."
In 2005 30 beachfront sites were lost to the boardwalk and in 2007 a protest meeting was held at the loss of a further 40 sites to the Hot Pool redevelopment.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Survivors of the Marquette

From Tauranga to the Trenches mobile exhibition space.
Image: Tauranga Heritage Collection
Here at the Tauranga Heritage Collection we are continuing to develop World War One exhibitions for our mobile exhibition space. Past displays have featured the story of local soldier Reginald Watkins and also focused on the Gallipoli campaign.  We are currently working on a nursing story that features Nurse Jeanne Sinclair and the sinking of the Marquette.

Survivors of the Marquette
Image: National Army Museum, 1986.1753
The transport ship Marquette was sunk by a German submarine in the Aegean Sea on 23 October 1915. Of the 741 people on board, 167 were lost, including 10 members of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service, 19 male Medical Corps staff and three New Zealand soldiers, making it the blackest day in the history of New Zealand’s military nursing.

Nurse Sinclair
Image: National Army Museum, 1991.587
Nurse Jeanne Sinclair survived the sinking and wrote a remarkable account of what took place. The full account will feature as part of the exhibition which will open in October.
“We walked along the top deck and then stood to look along the forward. We saw a green line coming through the water and remarked about it and Grigor said “I wonder if it is a torpedo” and then “Bang!” It was a torpedo – we raced for our life-belts got in line in our night places – half on each side – no noise – not a single scream and I cannot think how it was that we were so cool and collected.”

Friday, 4 September 2015

Collecting Bricks in New Zealand

Parlour display, in the former Katikati Heritage Museum
One of the many esoteric and quirky groups of objects held by the Western Bay Museum (formerly the Katikati Heritage Museum) is a large stack of almost two hundred bricks. Why bricks, you may well ask.  Well it seems that folk will selectively hoard, occasionally even seek out, pretty much anything old, whether it has an intrinsic value or not, and you don't have to go too far out of your way before you have a collection. Some were on display upstairs in the old museum's "Parlour" section, where they were used to provide a base and backdrop to a small cast iron stove and a miscellany of other household items.  The provenance of the bricks is unknown, but the collection is likely to have been amassed from many different locations.

N.Z. Brick, Tile & Pottery Co.
A few of the bricks are plain, revealing few clues as to their origin. Most have some remnants of a maker's mark on them, usually stamped onto the face of the brick during manufacture with the aid of a bespoke plate bolted into the brickmaking machine.  This is usually referred to as a frog design, the "frog" being the indentation on the face used to better key in the mortar binding the bricks together.  The New Zealand Brick, Tile & Pottery Company (manager, Albert Crum) operated from works in New Lynn between 1905 and 1929.

New Zealand Brick, Tile and Pottery Company Ltd. trademark, 1909
There was another company with the same name in Canterbury between 1886 and 1890, but this brick is unlikely to have emanated from a firm which appears to have specialised in terra cotta and fire clay products.

Russell & Bignell, Wanganui
Little is known about the firm of Russell and Bignell of "Wanganui," except that Arthur and Robert Russell built Wanganui Hospital and the Pukemarama Homestead, the latter now cared for by Heritage New Zealand.

Sankey Aluma
Some of the more specialised bricks were imported, presumably because products of the right quality were unavailable locally.  This Sankey Aluma firebrick probably originated from the brickworks of J H Sankey & Son, Essex Wharf, Canning Town, London, a manufacturer of cement, lime and fire bricks from 1857 until the 1920s.

Koru and Tiki brick design, unidentified manufacturer
In keeping with the flag debate currently sweeping New Zealand, this somewhat battered red clay brick has a rather nice koru and tiki design, but sadly no indication of the firm that made it.  Perhaps a brick afficionado will be able to identify its manufacturer and place of origin?

Buller's Ltd. GPO telephone insulators
I thought I'd include an item which isn't a brick at all, but ceramic insulators were often manufactured by the same companies that made bricks, and seem to attract just as many collectors/enthusiasts.  These telephone insulators were manufactured by the English company, Buller's Ltd. and imported into New Zealand in great numbers from the early 1900s onwards, due to their exceptional quality.  Much of the text of a recently published book, Collecting Insulators in New Zealand: A Guide for Beginners, is available online for those readers who might wish to start their own collections.  Sadly, I couldn't find a similar volume for would-be New Zealand brick hoarders.

Text and images by Brett Payne (who quietly confesses to having a small brick collection of his own - only one brick, mind you.)


Brickmakers in South Canterbury, New Zealand, by South Canterbury GenWeb, n.d.

Bricks with names on Huntly, by KiwiAlan, 20 May 2011

Albert Crum’s New Zealand Brick, Tile & Pottery Company in New Lynn (1905-1929), on Timespanner blog, 19 January 2011

Tasker, J., Wilson, R. & Clark, G. (2015) Collecting Insulators in New Zealand: A Guide for Beginners, Kanuka Press.

Scotland's Brick Industry - Sankey Aluma

Pukemarama, by Heritage New Zealand

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Tauranga Hotel Fire, 1936

These dramatic photographs from the Tauranga Heritage Collection show the fire which destroyed the Tauranga Hotel in February 1936.

The fire, which started in the hotel’s staff quarters, drew large crowds and is remembered by many older residents including Mrs Peg Gresham (nee Murray), owner of Gresham Guarantee Garage which was on the corner of First Avenue and Devonport Road.

“The Tauranga Hotel was at the far end of The Strand. In 1936, in the summer of that year, it went up in flames. I don’t know how it happened but it was a most tremendous blaze. A truck parked outside the Bank of New Zealand in Willow Street had a tarpaulin over it and the tarpaulin caught on fire.”

Images courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Tauranga Streets: “The Song of the Dirt”

The Mission Station c 1900s-1910s
Looking towards the Norfolk pines at The Elms mission station, Tauranga from the beginning of Sulphur Point.
Marsh Street was formed at the foot of the higher land.
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. #99-727
“The Song of the Shirt”, by Thomas Hood, was first published in Punch, or the London Charivari in December 1843. It began:
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread –
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the “Song of the Shirt”.
Hood’s 89-line diatribe against the appalling conditions in which piece-working seamstresses had to labour was one of the best-known poems of the Victorian era and for some decades after. Poems which everyone knows, which have a recognisable metre and chorus and an earnest tone, irresistibly invite parody. The “Song of the Dirt” was published in the Bay of Plenty Times of 18 July 1917:
With fingers clutching the air,
With steps unsteady and slow,
The ladies of Marsh Street day by day
Cautiously come and go.
Splash! Splash! Splash!
Wet feet ‘neath a muddy skirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
They sing the song of the dirt!

The page of cuttings which includes the parody was sent to the Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times at an unknown date, and passed on to the archives at Tauranga Library. The sender was a Mrs G. Medland, of Mount Albert, Auckland. She writes that the poem was written by the author of Great Barrier Calls. Coyly, she doesn’t name the author, who was in fact herself. Grace Miriam Medland (1887-1983) was born on Great Barrier to a pioneering family, and spent most of her life in different parts of Auckland. But she was also the Captain G. Medland of the Salvation Army who lived in Tauranga for two years during World War I. She liked writing verse: Great Barrier Calls is full of rhymes, and she was published in the Salvation Army’s War Cry under the pen-name of “Barrier Lassie”.

In the archives’ letter to the editor she claims that the poem had such an effect on the Borough Council that the drainage of Marsh Street was started on at once – an example of the pen being mightier than the sword?

Medland, Grace (1970) Great Barrier Calls, Auckland: Wilson and Horton.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Tauranga Photographers: James Bodell

James Bodell, Mayor of Tauranga, 1888-1889
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
James Bodell (1831-1892), one time mayor of Tauranga, never had any difficulty in finding a niche for himself.  His memoirs, published in the Bay of Plenty Times newspaper and later as A Soldier's View of Empire (1982, ed. Keith Sinclair, The Bodley Head) describe numerous entrepreneurial exploits during the course of his military service in the 59th Regiment of the Imperial Forces (1848-1854) and later as a volunteer in the Waikato Militia (1863-1866).  After his discharge from the latter he settled in Tauranga where he started a cordial factory, then reformed his ways and opened a Temperance hotel (the Bellevue) on the corner of Cameron Road and Wharf Street.

Bodell took great care to recount his numerous business ventures, including a brief spell as Tauranga's first resident photographer.  During the late 1860s and early 1870s the settlement's small population was unable to provide enough business to support a permanent studio.  Soldiers, settlers, and no doubt the occasional tangata whenua, relied on the services of travelling photographers passing through, such as Charles Moeller (c1826-1923) who advertised his brief presence in the BOPT in September 1872.  Moeller was of Dutch origin, but had also served in the military during the New Zealand Wars, seeing action at Gate Pa, and it is likely he knew Bodell.

Advertisement, The Bay of Plenty Times, 4 December 1872
From the following account in his reminiscences, it seems likely that Bodell purchased Moeller's photographic equipment, as there is no record of Moeller having continued his practice after leaving the Bay of Plenty.
"The next year I turned Photographer having bought from a Photographer all his appliances and he agreed to stop with me 14 days to learn me the Photo Art.  I built a Studio and succeeded very well.  Had several engagements to photo dead Maori Chiefs and Natives in groups.  These jobs always paid me well."
Although he does not provide dates for this period of his career, events described before and after imply that it must have been in the early 1870s.  Correspondingly, the BOPT published the advertisement shown above on 30 November 1872,
"Photography. J. BODELL'S STUDIO IS NOW OPEN. Photographs at Auckland prices."

Carte de visite portrait by R.H. Bartlett Studio, Auckland, c. late 1870s
Images Collection of Brain Watkins House

The reference to Auckland prices was, of course, Bodell's challenge to the Auckland studio photographer R.H. Bartlett, whose advert appeared directly below his.  In other words, there was no longer any need for a local resident to travel by boat to Auckland or wait for the next itinerant photographer to visit to have your portrait taken, as Mr Bodell would be happy to provide the service.

The advert continued to appear twice weekly for six weeks until 8 January 1873 after which, just as suddenly, it ceased.  Bodell's account continues:
"The following year I bought the lease of the whole of the Land my shop stood on and erected a large Store.  The Studio I shifted to the line of Streets next to my new Store and made additions to the Studio as to make it a shop 30 feet x 18.  This I let for 20/- per week and sold my photo apparatus and gave my attention to merchandise."
It appears that Tauranga still had insufficient numbers of potential clients to support a permanent studio.  The town would not have a full-time resident photographer until the Watkins Brothers arrived in April 1876 and formed another short-lived business, The Tauranga and Hot Lake Photographic Company.


Obituary of Charles Moeller in "Personal Items," Hawera & Normanby Star, 14 August 1923, Courtesy of Papers Past

Auckland Libraries Photographers Database: Robert Henry Bartlett, Charles Moeller, Charles Spencer

Giles, Keith (2013) Unpublished notes on Charles Henry Kennett Watkins (1847-1933), By kind courtesy of the author.

Sinclair, Keith (1982) A Soldier's View of Empire: The Reminiscences of James Bodell, 1831-92, London: The Bodley Head, 216p.