Friday, 24 April 2015

Tauranga Domain Memorial Gates

Gates undergoing conservation treatment, June-August 2014
Image © copyright and courtesy of Fiona Kean

Over the past year the Tauranga Domain Memorial Gates have undergone extensive conservation work. The project, managed by Allan Sizemore of the Tauranga City Council, was guided by Salmond Reed Architects, who completed a Conservation Plan prior to the work commencing. In their report they stated that the “Tauranga War Memorial Gates are a rare example of brick and early concrete memorial entrance gates surviving in New Zealand dating from the First World War. They have high historical and social significance for Tauranga and they provide an important landmark to a domain that has been an historic recreation area since 1881.”

Domain gates at night
Image © copyright and courtesy of Fiona Kean
The Gates have never looked better and the recent work not only ensures that they will be here in another 100 years, it also acknowledges their importance to our community.  To borrow from Michael King, without question the Tauranga Domain Memorial Gates are a physical reminder of who we are and where we come from. They link us to an event that shaped our culture and our communities and they are imbued with our precious stories that need to be retained and retold.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Sanitation: The Sewers

Front cover of “Register Drainage Systems”, Tauranga, book kept by drainage foreman,
with entries in different hands, c early to mid-20th century
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
Recently a very battered book was brought into Tauranga City Libraries’ archives by a Council staff member. It is labelled “Register Drainage System” and dates from the late 19th or early 20th century, with entries made until about the 1950s indicating where maps of the drains could be found. Originally it appears to have been kept by the drainage foreman. The information in it is not easy to decipher, and even John Cuthbert Adams when he was Mayor from 1917 to 1919 had difficulty with it. His 1918 comments are glued into the book, and they show his exasperation with the system.

Workmen laying drains in Wharf Street, Tauranga c 1911-1912
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-746
It’s no wonder, as drains and sewers were a vexed question in Tauranga for many years. “Bye-Law No. 1”, promulgated in 1883, specified that anyone allowing “the contents of any watercloset privy or cesspool to overflow or to soak therefrom so as to be offensive” could be fined five pounds. It is doubtful if there were any water closets (flushing lavatories) in Tauranga in 1883, as there was no municipal water supply until 1912. The Star Hotel had a water closet before that date, but the Star had its own well and pump. The more usual arrangement was the night cart, which would collect and dump the contents of household privies during the hours of darkness. Operators, according to the bye-law, had to be registered and have “Night Cart” painted on their carts.

In 1883 a loan of a thousand pounds was proposed to construct a main sewer along the Strand. By 1887 there was a sewer in Spring Street, though it was not very satisfactory: the Borough Engineer had the delightful task of sorting out the “vile and intolerable smell” caused by its outflow taking place at the embankment rather than at low water mark. Things did not quickly improve. In 1892 a letter to the editor of the Bay of Plenty Times complained about the smelly drain on the beach next to the Victoria Wharf being the first thing to greet passengers coming in on the steamer from Auckland. In fact sewer problems persisted into the 20th century, though in 1912, as now, there were those who felt there was no need for the council to spend ratepayers’ money: the night cart would do for many years to come, insisted “Moderation” in a letter to the editor on 8 May. In 1928 the council took out loans to the value of nearly fourteen thousand pounds for sewerage and drainage purposes.

Putting the sewer line through at the bottom of the beach paddock on Mathesons’ farm “Fairview”,
Otumoetai, September 1982
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 05-262
Dealing with human waste is one of the first duties of any community, as the public health issues resulting from failure in this area are potentially catastrophic. According to the 2014 centennial history of the Tauranga Hospital Board there was a typhoid outbreak at Matapihi as late as 1930. It was not until nearly forty years after this that the first stage of a full reticulation and sewage scheme for Tauranga was delivered, with the treatment plant on reclaimed land at Chapel Street being commissioned in 1969 at a cost of $1.6 million. It was expanded and developed in 1978 with a second stage. Effluent is now treated by sophisticated methods including ultra-violet disinfection at the end of the process – an advance which would have been inconceivable in the days of the night-cart man.

Double-page spread from “Register Drainage Systems”, showing J. C. Adams’ comments from 1918
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
"This book was kept by the drainage foreman the records being probably copied into a more comple[te] register which so far I have been unable to find.
"The records of measurements are in links and decimals. They read from man-hole to man-hole, starting at the lower and progressing to the higher level. The arrows  ͢͢    indicate the flow of sewerage.
"There are 619 records, presumably of 4” Y junctions into the various sewers many of which are extended to the boundry [sic] line of the adjacent properties – at right angles – But information is lacking as to which of these records refer to Y junctions and which to the connection to the boundry or allotment.
"There are 198 √ ticks to the records which I thought might be a solution and strongly supports the theory of a more complete record but on applying this theory to completely reliable data I find it is incorrect     for proof see Page 88 Devonport Road between the 2nd & 3rd manholes left hand side of road. There are 6 records in the book 4 of these records are correct as to linkage and are complete to the boundry but only two are ticked."
                   "J. C. Adams
                    April 17th 1918"

Papers Past for newspaper items
History of Chapel Street sewage plant and details of current waste water treatment
Celebrating 100 years of innovation and excellence: Tauranga Hospital 1914-2014.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Family Connections: Fernhill, Crofton and The Elms, by Julie Green

In April 2014 a special trip was made to Wellington to see two old family homes at the invitation of their present owners.  They were 'Fernhill' in Wadestown belonging to the Matthews family for 58 years and 'Crofton' of Ngaio owned by George and Margaret Domett since 1979.  Both are sited on high ground, the Kaiwharawhara Stream and the adjacent Trelissick Park in the Ngaio Gorge between them.

There is a strong family link between these two homes and 'The Elms' in Tauranga where my grandparents Duff and Gertrude Maxwell were the last occupants in the 1990s.

Grandad's grandmother Euphemia Maxwell was widowed in Australia at the age of 36.  She and her four surviving children, Andrew, Edith, Alice and Ebenezer came to New Zealand and stayed with her brother, Alexander Johnston, his wife Amelia and their only child, Fletcher, in Grant Road, Wellington.

A few months later 'Fernhill' was purchased, a cottage and five acre bush clearing at Wadestown.
A private boys grammar school had recently been established at 'Crofton,' a large homestead across the gorge and both Andrew and Ebenezer attended there.  It closed in 1875 with the opening of Wellington College and the advent of free education.

A couple of years later the Berry family, recently arrived from England and consisting of 13 persons, took the house.  Therein lies the second connection with the Maxwell family.

My grandfather's parents Ebenezer and Pattie Berry met there when she was 17 and he 15.  They eventually married in their mid 30s (in Australia) and spent their lives farming in Taranaki, New Zealand.

In the 1880s, Euphemia's sister Christina was living at 'The Elms' in Tauranga.  As the widow of Archdeacon Brown and without children of her own, she left the property to her niece Alice Maxwell in 1887, on the condition that she, her sister Edith and their mother took up residence.  You may read on Page 18 what Euphemia thought of that plan.  Common sense prevailed and it became the family home for the next 100 years.

This is the story of several families linked together by their association with these three homes.

Julie Green (née Maxwell) is the great great grand daughter of Euphemia Maxwell.  In 1965 she went to live at 'The Elms' with her maternal grandparents Duff and Gertrude.  She later trained as a nurse and married John Green in The Elms chapel in 1979.  They have five grown children and live in Bethlehem, Tauranga.  Julie really enjoys writing and has learnt a lot from this first attempt at publishing some of her family history.

Contact Julie Green (Email:, Phone 07-5767150) for copies of the book, which cost $25.00 (+ $5 p&p).

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Te Puke Flax Mills, a talk by Richard Hart (5 April 2015)

Aerial view of Paroa Flax Mill, Kaituna, c.1930s
Working as a landscape architect piqued my interest in the flax milling history of the lower Kaituna River, and this interest then spread to the associated flax mills of Te Puke.

The scow Victory and a flax launch at Paroa
This presentation covers four main areas; the reasons for writing about flax mills, the research journey based largely on the letters Alister and Ian Matheson, the process of flax milling from growing and harvest to flax stripping and scutching including human stories, and finally explores the Paroa flax mill in greater depth.

Remains of the Paroa Flax Mill today
Remnants of the Paroa Mill remain today with two rusty iron buildings on private land west of the river, and a flax tramway alignment across the river in the Kaituna wetlands.

Te Kopua Flax Mill

Richard is preparing a book based on Alister Mathesons work on the Te Puke Flax Mills.  It will be richly illustrated with historic photographs.

Mr Jim Paterson after a fire at the Paroa Flax Mill, c.1912
His presentation to the Tauranga Historic Society was to share his story so far, and to seek leads to fill in the gaps about where the machinery went and to uncover local stories.  Please email Richard ( if you have any information or photographs to share.

Block M2 after side leafing, 27/1/30, Te Puke

Friday, 10 April 2015

Girl Peace Scouts in Oropi

Girl Peace Scouts, Oropi 1923
Image courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection
While cataloguing photographs recently at the Tauranga Heritage Collection as part of my volunteer duties, I came across this intriguing snapshot of a group of Girl Peace Scouts in Oropi, dated 1923.

Reverse of vernacular photograph, 80 x 55mm
Image courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection
The reverse of the photograph has all of the individuals identified:
Back row: Daisy Dunn, Mrs Rogers, Eileen Wilson, Esther Parkinson, Mrs MacPhail, Liny Fugill, Mrs Hodges, Miss Woods
Front: Gwyn Aldiss, Gwen Heap, Doreen MacPhail, Clarice Hodges, Lorna Heap ... Dick Aldiss
As a local resident, several of these names are still familiar to me.

The Girl Peace Scouts were formed in New Zealand as a separate organisation to the Boy Scouts.  The Tauranga company's first camp in a paddock in 1925 is recorded as proceeding well, although the latrine pit was dug 2 feet deep and 4 feet wide instead of vice versa.  They traded in their khaki uniforms for Girl Guides Association blues in the mid- to late 1920s.
- extracted from ‘Making happy, healthy, helpful citizens’: The New Zealand Scouting and Guiding Movements as Promulgators of Active Citizenship, c.1908-1980, a 2012 Ph.D. thesis by Helen Alison Dollery

Monday, 6 April 2015

The History of Welcome Bay, by Peg Cummins

Five years ago, just after I had finished my sixth book of local history, I decided to do something I’d not done before.  I would write a history of the place I am living in.  I began by consulting Papers Past which yielded a rich seam of information about the late 19th  and early 20th centuries.  The Bay of Plenty Times was my main source although other publications featured as well.

I then decided to interview people who had lived in Welcome Bay all their lives. This proved to be a valuable source as well especially with the likes of Jim Keam and Roger Lauder whose families had  settled here a long time ago.  Many names were given to me but I was unable to contact all of them.  However, I tried to ensure that the whole history was covered by the people whose stories I included.  Many of them provided photos to complement what was written.

Staff & pupils on opening day, Welcome Bay School, 1979
Several aerial photos are included in the book and these show that until the second half of the 20th century Welcome Bay was mainly a farming area.  When farms began to be sold to developers things moved fairly rapidly until now Welcome Bay is a sizeable suburb and is still growing rapidly.

I have included the rural area of Welcome Bay as well because these farming people contributed much to the life of the area and their stories contribute a valuable part of the history of the place.

I have always tried to include Maori history in my books and in this I was helped greatly by two men, Awanui Black and Colin Reeder.  They have provided an excellent overview of what happened here before pakeha settlement occurred.

Copies of the book are available at the Welcome Bay Community Centre during the day.  Otherwise people are welcome to phone me in order to set up a time to receive a copy.  The book costs $30. for which cash or a cheque are acceptable.  (Sorry, I don’t have EFTPOS.)  Copies of the book can also be posted for an added $6 to cover packing and postage. My address is 48 Corinna Street, Welcome Bay Tauranga 3112, my phone is 07 544 9700 and my email address is

Peg Cummins is an amateur historian who took up writing local history after she retired from teaching.  Her first book, based on her grandfather's diaries, was called Happy in his Work.  Then followed A History of Kawhia, Memories of Tirau, Learn Teach, Serve -  A History of Ardmore Teachers' College, 100 Years of the Catholic Church in Matamata and No. 2 Road Hall and District - Te Puke.  Copies of these are also available from Peg.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Elva Brain's Doll

Elva Brain's Doll, Brain Watkins House
Image courtesy of Brett Payne
This doll forms part of the Brain Watkins House Collection, and is displayed in one of the bedrooms of the house.

Cabinet Portrait of Elva Brain with her doll
Taken at Tauranga by T.E. Price, c. 1898-1900
Image courtesy of Brain Watkins House Collection

It is presumed to be the same doll that is displayed being possessively held by Joseph and Kate Brain's youngest daughter Elva Phoebe (1891-1979) in this cabinet portrait, taken around 1898-1900 at T.E. Price's corner studio on The Strand.

Elva Brain's Doll, Brain Watkins House
Image courtesy of Brain Watkins House Collection
Unsurprisingly for a doll well over a century old, she is not in pristine condition.  A close-up photo demonstrates that, although repaired moderately successfully at some stage during her life, the head has been damaged substantially.  Society member Justine Neal has kindly provided the following description:
Her face is wax over composition, with composition arms and legs, the legs ending in painted socks and shoes. She is unmarked. Her body is cloth , straw stuffed and well made. She has her original underwear. Her hair is mohair but that puzzles me a bit because if she is the same doll as in the photo, and she looks like it, then it must be a replacement wig. The cracks on her face are common damage to these types of doll.

The loss of eyelashes perhaps explains why the doll's eyes look somewhat larger in the original cabinet portrait.  It's not clear whether she still has her original head of hair, although if so, then it is clear that she was subjected to at least one rather radical haircut.  Justine thinks the curls of the current doll are too tight and close to the head to be trimmed from the original, and is of the opinion that, since the head is of a shoulder-plate type which can be removed, this one is probably a replacement.

The Brain Watkins House museum, situated on the corner of Cameron Road and Elizabeth Street, Tauranga, is open to visitors every Sunday from 2.00 to 4.00 pm.  Private group tours may be arranged on request.