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