Friday, 23 August 2019

Mayor Lundon, auctioneer, and the Judea Sale Yards

The buying and selling of stock has been a significant enterprise in Tauranga well into the twentieth century.  The writer clearly remembers the excitement of sale day at the Judea stockyards, and is now grateful for the commuters’ corridor (Route J) created, in part, from stock paddocks where weary herds browsed overnight before the short push up and over the hill to be sorted and penned in wooden stockades at the corner of Waihi and Robins Road. Buyers and auctioneers had perches – narrow walkways, really – built as part of the fences so they could view the stock safely from above.  An elaborate system of gates and races, including sloped access ways (“loading races”) funnelled the sold yearlings, steers, heifers, milch cows and sheep into backed-up stock trucks. Unsold stock was the last to leave.

One of the last sales was caught on camera in 1982 [1] by my mother, Shirley Sparks. There was still keen interest in assessing quality, in noting prices, and in talking it over at the tea-table provided by the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers. The nearest pub was miles away, right in town, on the corner of Devonport Road and Spring Street.

A hundred years or so earlier, the Judea Sale Yards were new. Built about 1878 by the enterprising Jordan brothers, this important part of settler infrastructure went through a number of owners, including Messrs Paget and Hulme (1883) and W T Raymond (1899).  In 1889 they were being described proprietorially – “The undersigned will hold his next cattle sale at the Judea Sale Yards....” [2] - by Mr David Lundon, Auctioneer.

David Lundon (and here I am indebted to Debbie McCauley’s account of his life and multifarious activities [3]) had established himself as an auctioneer in 1888. Crucially to our story, he had been elected for the first time as Mayor of Tauranga in 1887, an office he held across three further elections, the last-occurring in 1892. In 1893 he successfully stood as County Chairman [4].

Not only were the Judea Sale Yards still quite new at the time of Mayor Lundon’s assumptions of high office. They were also outside the borough. He himself had business interests within the town as well as beyond it.  In the court case shortly to be described, the hapless County Clerk attested  that letters to the County Chairman were addressed, simply, “D. Lundon, Tauranga” and that Mr Lundon lived about  one and a half miles from the post office, in the County of Tauranga.

In the same case, the Tauranga Town Clerk deposed that, to his knowledge, Mr Lundon had a place of business in the borough, in a place then called the Haymarket, in Devonport Road. Since December 1892, Mr Lundon’s status as a licensed auctioneer [5] had been granted by the Borough Council. This happy arrangement had continued until 1894. But, in 1895, Mr Lundon – now Mayor of the County - sought to renew his auctioneer’s licence with the County Council. The fee for the licence, naturally, would therefore be lost to the Borough and payable to the County. The Borough sued.

The claim was substantial: £40; and was heard on 3 March 1896 before Lieutenant-Colonel Roberts, S.M. The question, which turned on where the would-be auctioneer had his place of business, was complicated not only by the fact that he ran sales at both the Haymarket, at Judea, and elsewhere in the Bay of Plenty; also, the Borough and County Council Chambers were at that time situated under the same roof. The Bay of Plenty Times reported at one stage that “Counsel [Mr Cotter, for the defendant County] and witness [J H McCaw, Town Clerk of Tauranga Borough] here had a long wrangle on the meaning of various words.”  [6]

There were other fine wrangles. Witnesses described more frequent sales at the Haymarket than at other places (Judea, occasionally Katikati and Te Puke), but larger monetary settlements at the Judea sales. Mr J Maxwell, storekeeper, also attested that if he wanted to do business with Mr Lundon he “generally found” him at the Haymarket. Wily Mr Cotter then elicited the information that Mr Maxwell “knew nothing of Mr Lundon’s business in the country as an auctioneer”.

This closed the case for the Borough. Mr Cotter, for the defendant County, took one last throw of the dice. He called Mr Lundon himself to the stand. David Lundon, practised as an auctioneer and politician, gave a dazzling display of portable efficiency: “always carried with him [his] auction book, cheque books, account forms and stamps for the purpose of carrying out the conditions of sale... always cleared up on the day of the sale”; a grasp of figures and percentages; and some special pleading: “[My] residence is in the County of Tauranga... [My] time when not employed as an auctioneer was devoted to other business at the Haymarket.” [Emphasis mine.]

Under cross-examination by the Borough’s counsel Mr Moss, he started well. “Considered Judea his principal place of business for four years and the business had grown enormously.  Took out his licence in 1892-3 and 4 in the Borough because he had not given it sufficient thought, had done wrong in that.”

But Mr Moss pursued the matter. Lundon’s story expanded. “Until [I] left the Mayoralty [of Tauranga Borough] never gave it sufficient thought, took the licence in the Borough as a matter of course.”  (We imagine Mr Cotter’s face falling.)  “In 1895 had no office in Judea, used the hedge as an office, at the other place[s] had an office in the hotels. Took [my] books always to Te Puke or Katikati for sales and afterwards took them back to the Haymarket. At a sale in Judea ... it is quite possible that a dozen [of about 50 purchasers] settled up on the ground but most of the purchasers would send their money by post to the Haymarket... ordinary billheads were marked Devonport Road and Grey Street.” (We imagine Mr Cotter’s face dropping into his hands.)

In a reserved decision, delivered at 10.30 am the following day, the Stipendiary Magistrate found that the usual place of business of the licensee David Lundon was at his auction mart in Devonport Road, Tauranga, and that the Borough Council was the proper authority to receive the license fee.  The County, in addition, had to pay costs of £7 19s 6d.

All photographs by and courtesy of Shirley Sparks.


[1]  Friday, 22 January 1982
[4]  For an example of the Chairman’s vigourous promotional gestures, see Stokes, A History of  Tauranga County, Dunmore Press 1980, p. 216
[5] The Auctioneers Act 1891 introduced the licensing system
[6]  All following quotes are from the same source.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Tauranga Firemen

Postcard by unknown photographer, November 1916
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0308/10

In November 1916 a devastating fire swept The Strand destroying eleven shops and the Commercial Hotel (today St. Amand and Cobb & Co are on the site). This photograph taken at the time of the fire and was turned into a postcard. It includes men from Tauranga’s Fire Brigade who battled the blaze. Names associated with the Brigade at this time included, F. Stewart, C. Guinness, J. E. Kelly, C. P. Hine, H. Wright, A. Stewart, J. Murphy and C. F. Washer.

In 2011 Helen Borrell, nee Hardy, shared her copy of this postcard with me. I was excited to see it had the following names recorded on the back:
Back Row: J. Padlie, C. Adams, Foster, A. Sorenson, V. Clark, Molly Hardy, Harnett, L. Norris, Rebecca Crabbe, Teasey, Teasey, Len Anquitil.
Front Row: A. Stewart, G. Faulkner, Eric Hammond, Unknown, Fred Stewart, P. Carter, Les Hamilton, Kitty Hardy, Laddie Hardy, Charles Clarence, Charles Hardy, Unknown, Dog

Friday, 16 August 2019

Robert (Bob) Arthur Owens

R.A. (Bob) Owens, Mayor of Tauranga 1968-71 and Mayor of both Tauranga and Mount Maunganui 1971-77
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 99-710
For those who have resided in Tauranga over the past 50 years or so, the name of this man is synonymous with business success, public service and the phenomenal development of this city in these past few decades. Robert Arthur Owens (1921-1999) was born and educated in Manchester, United Kingdom, served in the Merchant Navy from 1937-1946, and in the Royal Navy from 1942-1944.

Historic Village locomotive on Owens Transport vehicle c late-1990s
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 14-0118

He emigrated to New Zealand and in 1953 came to Tauranga with his wife and young family. They lived in Parkvale (Merivale, to the locals) and had the “flashest car in the area. In '58 or '59 they moved closer to town.”* He began a shipping and stevedoring business which eventually grew to become the Owens Group involving over 30 companies. These included not only shipping and stevedoring but also road transport, travel and insurance. Late in the 1990s this was taken over by Mainfreight.

Tauranga mayor Bob Owens and Auckland mayor "Robbie" (Dove-Myer Robinson) racing tricycles at the Tauranga Orange Festival, 27 August 1977
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 03-061
In 1962 he was elected to the BOP Harbour Board, and was still Chairman in the 1980s. Elected as Mayor of Tauranga in 1968 he served 3 terms, and from 1971-1974 was also Mayor of Mount Maunganui, the first dual mayor in New Zealand. For 20 years he dreamed of, and campaigned for, our harbour bridge to connect those two communities. In 1981 he was chairman of Air New Zealand, helping to pull it out of financial difficulty, and he was knighted in 1997, two years prior to his death.  The large Ryman Healthcare Facility in Bethlehem has been named in his memory.


Biographical Sketches of The Centennial Mural, editor Ernest E. Bush
* Personal account by writer’s husband John Green

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Blog News

Tauranga Waterfront from Victoria Wharf
Panorama carbon print by Charles Spencer, c. 1884-1887
Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0609/08
It is now six years since the first article on the Society's blog was published, and now is probably an opportune moment to thank the many contributors who have helped in no small way to preserve Tauranga's historical record. In June 2013, we wrote:
"Our new Blog has been created to provide news and articles relating to Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty's history, which we hope will encourage a returning readership of both members and non-members alike.  In the coming weeks and months, you can look forward to contributions on a wide variety of historical topics written by society members, each of whom have their own varied interests and strengths."
Although we did experience a hiatus in 2016-2018, the resumption of a steady flow of articles over the last twelve months has demonstrated that we still have a wealth of stories to share. Over the next year the following contributers will include:

Shirley Arabin - tales and history of old Tauranga buildings
Trevor Bentley - Early Maori-Pakeha Relations
Beth Bowden - a variety of topics relating to early Tauranga
Julie Green – People who Shaped Tauranga
Lois Hembrow - talks about items in the Brain Watkins House Collection
Fiona Kean - notes of recent events of historical interest
Anne Marquand - items of interest from the garden at Brain Watkins House
Justine Neal - continues to share her collection of Tauranga postcards
Brett Payne - profiles of Tauranga photographers and examples of their work
Tauranga Heritage Collection - brief notes about items in the collection
Jane Waldegrave - stories from the Art and Culture scene in Tauranga

There’s an simple way to keep up to date - to receive notifications when something new is published on the blog, simply insert your email address in the “Follow by Email” box on the right of the blog page, and click “Submit.” Each article will be sent to you by email as soon as it is published.

Many people have contributed items for the blog since 2013 and these remain archived on the web site for your perusal. They can be browsed using the “Blog Archive” drop-down menu by date (Year and Month), or the “Labels” list, on the right of the main blog page. A list of past contributors is also available on the right of the page – click on the name for further information.

Further articles, some of which are expected to have a more topical bias, will be published from time to time on an ad hoc basis. We also intend to publish notifications of Society events, such as the Monthly Meetings/Talks, Garden Party, AGM, etc. An online version of the latest Society Newsletter will also be provided on the web site.

Considerable time and effort have been put into writing the articles and sourcing images, and both the writers and the Society would welcome your feedback, either through the Comments section on the blog or via email. It’s always nice to know that your articles are being read and appreciated, so please do leave us a quick note to let us know you’ve dropped by. We’ve introduced a security step in the Commenting procedure to alleviate problems with inappropriate spam – it may be a little tedious to have to go through this step, but please bear with us.

The Society welcomes further contributions to the blog in the form of short articles from members
and non-members. If you hear of a forthcoming historically related event that you think might
interest members, please feel free to let us know and we’ll do our best to find out more and
publicize it on the blog. Or alternatively, if you’ve been to such a place or event and would like to
send us a brief report on it, with at least one photograph, we’d be happy to publish it on your behalf.
Contact Julie Green by email ( with such material or to request our
Blog Article Submission Guidelines.

Brett Payne
Web Editor

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Submission on the Gifting of 11 Mission St to the Otamataha Trust

View of Mauao, the Tauranga Harbour and part of Otamataha Pa from the C.M.S. Mission Station
Pen-and-ink sketch by John Kinder, Christmas 1857
Glass plate copy negative by J.D. Richardson, c.1910s-1920s
Courtesy of Auckland Libraries, Sir George Grey Collection, Ref. 4-1218
The following submission was made by Beth Bowden on behalf of the Society during the Tauranga City Council's hearing on 1 August 2019. Thank you, Beth.

It is a rare thing, in history, to find an opportunity to put matters right. Most of the work of historians involves working out what changed – at worst, what went wrong - in the past, and how, and why; most of us try to do so with an honest appreciation of the biases of hindsight. The burden of the present - contemporary prejudices and preferences - is inescapable.

The Tauranga Historical Society, which exists, among other things, to “foster and maintain a public appreciation of places and things of historic interest.... in the Bay of Plenty area” therefore has some sympathy with the various points of view being put forward concerning the process of making the property at 11 Mission Street available for use by The Elms Foundation. Everyone concerned is wrestling with the past – of just over a decade on the one hand; and nearly two centuries, on the other.

History teaches us that ‘public appreciation’ shifts and changes. In our submission, the story of 11 Mission Street aptly illustrates that lesson. And, in our submission, the right thing to do, given the history of the site, is to return it to the Otamataha Trust. We therefore stand alongside those who take the longer view, rather than those who base their arguments on expectations and intentions framed during the last thirteen years.

A straightforward gift to the Elms Foundation does seem to have been the eventual intention when the TCC purchased the property in 2006.

Alongside that, the Society balances the even clearer intention of the Church Missionary Society, expressed in 1855:
“Land... was acquired... solely for the purposes of the Mission, and the possession of it intended to promote through the Mission, the spiritual welfare... and permanent benefit to the Natives...”
Thanks to the careful research of Dr Evelyn Stokes and  Dr Alistair Reese, who has traced [Naboth’s Vineyard] the eventual and total alienation of CMS lands to the Crown, we know exactly how Te Papa became “no place for native settlements.”

Similarly, the Society takes note of the force of the 2004 finding of the Waitangi Tribunal that the award of the Te Papa block to the CMS in 1852 was in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.  History, especially modern history and international relations practice, is full of ways and means to remedy treaty breaches. We are not surprised to see that the Council’s efforts to meet the spirit of the Tribunal’s decision have been complex and involve compromise.  We commend the sense of mutual respect and dignity accorded to the parties concerned in this restitution process.  Not all such efforts have gone so well.

It is a well-worn truism that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Since opportunities to break the repetitive pattern of pakeha occupation and control of land in Te Papa are rare, the Society encourages Council to depart from the worthy but narrow intentions that lay behind the purchase decision of 2006. We promote a wider, more inclusive view of the history of this peninsula. We see strong symbolic and, eventually, historic value in making 11 Mission Street over to the Otamataha Trust so that they may, in conjunction with the Elms Foundation, give expression to some of the hopes and ideals expressed at the time of the original missionary occupation.

Nothing, now, will restore to the descendants of Ngati Tapu, Ngai Tamarawaho, and Ngai Tukairangi the 240 hectares of the Te Papa peninsula that Deacon Brown traded for goods worth ‘near L200’ in 1839. His recorded motives expressed an intention to prevent settlement, sly-grogging and trading, which only goes to show how original intentions suffer alteration. The intentions of the tangata whenua are best described by reference to the Waitangi Tribunal [WAI 215, Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana, 2004]: original permission to occupy nineteenth-century Te Papa, by anyone, Maori or pakeha, was of a shared and conditional nature.

It is not unusual for historians to propose, from studying an area’s past, that uses and boundaries have been fluid rather than mutually exclusive.  And historians also find that private, exclusive, use can change. It is as well to acknowledge here that the family home bequeathed to the Tauranga Historical Society, Brain Watkins House, was built on confiscated land and is now open to the public as a House Museum.

The Society has therefore formed the considered view that the best way to deal with the current question of who is best placed to own and control the land at 11 Mission Street is
  • to take the steps outlined in Council’s proposal to transfer 11 Mission Street to the Otamataha Trust and
  • for that Trust, in conjunction with the Elms Foundation, to use the property for further development of the Mission House as a place of historical experience and understanding of the past.
Far from over-complicating the matter, such a process upholds and exemplifies the history and function of the original Mission Station as a negotiated space, in place as well as time.

Further drawing from the Waitangi Tribunal report: the Council does not have to behave in typically pakeha terms: over-simplifying motives and consequences and ignoring inconvenient truths. The current position, as we understand it, is that neither the Otamataha Trust nor The Elms Foundation has any objections to the course Council now proposes to follow. We also cannot see anything but good coming from a long-term, considered and deliberate development of 11 Mission Street under the care of the two institutions.

At the very least, the transfer to the Otamataha Trust and subsequent perpetual lease at a peppercorn rental to The Elms Foundation allows a semblance of the original relationship between the tangata whenua and the Church Mission Society to be represented in modern terms. We endorse the proposal.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Early European Vessels and Visitors to Tauranga

The New Zealander, Captain Clarke and Captain Rapsey, 1829, 1832

Based at Port Jackson (Sydney), the schooner New Zealander (Captain Clarke), regularly whaled and traded with Maori around the New Zealand coast during the late 1820s and 1830s. The New Zealander was trading with Ngai Te Rangi hapu in Tauranga Harbour in March 1829, when Captain James and eight sailors drew alongside in a ship’s boat. They reported that their trading vessel Haweis had been attacked and seized by the chief Te Ngarara and the Ngati Awa people at Whakatane. Equipped with eight cannon and two swivel guns - the standard armament carried by vessels in the New Zealand trade – Captain Clarke immediately sailed the New Zealander to Whakatane, where his crew retook the Haweis and towed it back to Tauranga for repair.[1]

The Sydney schooner New Zealander
Frontspiece, A.H. Messenger, A Trader in Cannibal Land by James Cowan, Reed, Dunedin, 1935
When Captain Clarke returned to the Bay of Plenty later that year, the New Zealander carried the Ngapuhi rangatira and assassain Te Hana. At the Bay of Islands, some resident traders and Ngapuhi rangatira decided that Te Ngarara had to be punished for attacking the Haweis and jeopardizing trade along the New Zealand coast. At Whakatane, Te Ngarara was lured aboard the New Zealander and when he entered his canoe later that day, was shot dead by Te Hana.[2]

The records show the New Zealander at again at Tauranga under Captain Rapsey in February 1832, when a grand Ngapuhi amphibious artillery taua (expedition) under Titore Takiri and allied chiefs, entered the harbour. Having sailed in stages from the Bay of Islands, the taua comprised 70 waka and whaleboats, which transported 800 warriors and a siege train of ten purepo (ships’ cannon and carronades). The invaders were seeking utu (redress,) as Ngai Te Rangi had attacked and annihilated a combined Ngati Kuri and Ngapuhi predatory expedition on Motiti Island the previous year.[3]

At Tauranga, the invaders commenced a two week siege of Otumoetai Pa which, according the missionary Henry Williams, commenced with a remarkable daylong artillery bombardment. During the siege, the Maketu based trader Phillip Tapsell, whose wife Karuhi was Ngapuhi, entered the harbour on his cutter Fairy to supply the beseigers with six additional cannon, shot and powder. On Otumoetai Pa, the Tamarawaho hapu, who possessed at least two cannon of their own, bombarded Tapsell’s cutter, but were unable to strike it.[4]

On 31st March, Captain Rapsey who had continued trading with Ngai Te Rangi, sailed the New Zealander through the Mt. Maunganui entrance at first light and bombarded the Ngapuhi encampment located near modern day Fergusson Park. The Ngapuhi musketeers returned fire but without effect. As the schooner left the harbour, a  fleet of six waka, each with one of Phillip Tapsell’s cannon mounted in the bows, pursued and exchanged fire with the New Zealander in this country’s only Anglo-Maori naval battle.[5] After unsuccessful sieges at both Otumoetai and Maungatapu Pa, in mid April, the Ngapuhi expedition exited the harbour and returned home.

In 1834, the New Zealander’s new skipper Captain Cole, transported missionaries from the Bay of Islands to Tonga and continued trading and whaling on the New Zealand coast for the remainder of that decade.[6]

The Hokianga brigantine New Zealander
Vintage Transport – Sailing Ships, New Zealand Post, 1975
Captain Clarke and Captain Rapsey’s Sydney-based New Zealander is easily confused with the  locally built New Zealander skippered by a Captain David Clark, both vessels being active in New Zealand waters in the same period. The Sydney-based New Zealander was a large, schooner rigged trader-whaler. The Hokianga-built and based New Zealander, was a smaller, faster, 150 tonne, square rigged brigantine. Designed mainly for the trans-Tasman trade and described by the trader Joel Polack as ‘beautifully modelled for sailing’,[7] it made one crossing in a record six days, and another in nine days. Not surprisingly, some  residents of New South Wales were soon describing the brig as one of theirs.[8]

End Notes

[1] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 28 March, 1829: 3.
[2] Wilson, J. A. The Story of Te Waharoa: A Chapter in Early New Zealand History Together With Sketches of Ancient Maori Life and History, Wellington, Whitcombe and Tombs, 1909: 32.
[3] Bentley, Trevor, Tribal Guns and Tribal Gunners, Wilsonscott, Dunedin, 2013. 69-85.
[4] Williams, Henry, The Early Journals of Henry Williams, 1826 1840, L. M. Rogers (ed.), Pegasus Press, Christchurch, 1961: 235.
[5] Ibid: 238.
[6] Early New Zealand Shipping Index,
[7] Polack, Joel, New Zealand: Being a Narrative of Travels and Adventures, Vol II, 1838, Capper Press, Christchurch, 1974: 196.
[8] Ibid.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Pre-European Mauao

The Mount, Tauranga
Postcard published by A. McGlashan, postmarked 1915
Collection of Justine Neal
From time immemorial, rising 232m above sea level, Mauao, a conical extinct volcano has guarded the entrance to Tauranga Harbour. Mauao is a remnant of a large lava dome formed by the upwelling of rhyolite lava about 2-3 million years ago. In tradition Mauao was once a nameless peak in the Hautere forest. Spurned by the beautiful mountain Puwhenua, he asked the forest fairies to drag him into the ocean to dull his pain. But at sunrise they fled, leaving him forever at the shore. Hence his name Mauao – caught in the light of the day.

In pre-European days the vegetation cover of Mauao would have been minimal. There were at least three defended pa sites and numerous terraces, pits and middens have been recorded by present day archaeological exploration. Ranginui and Kinonui of the Takitimu waka established a pa on Mauao, as did the Waitaha people. They occupied Mauao for centuries, later Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Pukenga  settled in the area, forming strong marital relationships.

Pilot Bay (Waikorire), Mount Maunganui, probably photographed by John Welsh, c.1920-1925
Postcard published by A.J. Mirrielees (No 45)
Collection of Justine Neal

The southern side of Mauao was the favoured area of occupation. The gentle slopes offered suitable soil for cultivation as well as free draining areas, easily terraced for occupation and crop storage. Fresh water was obtainable from several springs and the beaches of Waikorire offered launching and beaching areas for waka as well as ready access to the large shellfish beds in the harbour. Taro still grows in a spring gully (Te Puna Waitapu) immediately above the southern end of the motor camp and may represent a remnant pre-European Maori crop. On the eastern slopes one possible reason for the lack of occupation features is the high concentration of boulders and cobbles that litter the slopes. In addition the unstable nature of the rocky bluffs above this area may have presented a dangerous environmemt for permanent occupation.

Mauao, undated
by unidentified photographer and publisher
Collection of Justine Neal
The hazards of living below rock outcrops on Mauao are told in a story about Tamapahore following the battle of Kokowai. He is said to have selected a place to settle within Maunganui Pa, however, the other Ngai Te Rangi rolled great stones down the hill to his location; he took the hint and made a pa elsewhere at Maungatapu.

The summit pa of Mauao was one of the most strategically important locations in the Tauranga district with commanding views along much of the Bay of Plenty coast and inland to the volcanic plateau. An early description states ... "the pa of Maunganui covered about 100 acres. The fortifications crossed the top of the hill and ran down each side, then, circling round the base to the south, they met. The fortifications were so strong and the garrison so numerous that the pa seemed impregnable to Maori weapons."

The Mount, Tauranga, N.Z., photograph probably by Stevens Bros. (No 5), undated
Postcard published Frank Duncan & Co., Auckland
Collection of Justine Neal
1820 saw the end of Mauao as a stronghold. In that year Ngapuhi under the leadership of Te Morenga attacked the Ngai Te Rangi pa as revenge for the killing of Te Morenga’s niece, Tawaputa, in 1806. Te Morenga is reported to have had a total of between 600–800 men and just 35 muskets. But 35 muskets constituted an unstoppable force when those attacked had none, or very few. Over 400 men were killed in this battle and a further 260 taken north as prisoners.

In 1838 when William Colenso with Reverend William Williams climbed to the top of Mauao gathering geological specimens he recorded his impressions: This hill has been strongly fortified. The labour bestowed on it has been immense and yet it was taken and the slaughter was very great. It appears to have been inhabited to the very top. The sites of houses, the fireplaces and ancient excavations for stones and skulls still remaining. In 1865, following the battle of Te Ranga, Mauao was included in the lands confiscated by the Crown from Ngai Te Rangi. Today the Mauao Historic Reserve is private land, owned by the three iwi of Tauranga Moana under the formation of the Mauao Trust that is available, used and enjoyed by all as a public space.


Musket Wars. A History of Inter-Iwi Conflict, 1806-1845, by Ron D. Crosby, publ. 2017 by Oratia Media
A History of Mount Maunganui, by Bruce Cunningham & Ken Musgrave, publ. 1989 by Mount maunganui Borough Council
Mauao Historic Reserve Management Plan, Tauranga City Council, 2018

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Remembering Alice Maxwell

Alice Maxwell in 1938 with visitors Mr G. C. Williams and Mr C. R. Kemp,
standing in the doorway of the library at The Elms.
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0372/08
Upon the death of Alice Maxwell, The Bay of Plenty Times wrote:
‘…Tauranga has lost a unique and well loved figure. Tauranga’s loss is New Zealand’s loss, for there is scarcely a corner of the Dominion from which someone has not come to view the treasures which The Elms contains and to hear from Miss Maxwell’s own lips vivid accounts of Tauranga’s early history. To pass through the doors of The Elms during Miss Maxwell’s long association with it was to enter another world.’ 26 July 1949.

The ‘Alice Maxwell Memorial Kauri’ interpretation panel
Image courtesy of Fiona Kean, Private Collection
Jump forward seventy years and Alice’s contribution to The Elms and the city continues to be recognised. This time in the form of a gathering to witness the unveiling of an interpretation panel, which highlights the importance of two beautiful kauri trees planted to remember Alice.

Peri Kohu (speaking), Andrew Gregg, Elms Manager, and Board of Trustees Chairperson Ian Thomas, at the unveiling,
24 July 2019
Image courtesy of Fiona Kean, Private Collection
The panel reads:
‘Alice Maxwell who passed away on the 24th of July 1949, lived at The Elms for 62 years. She, along with her widowed mother Euphemia and older sister Edith, dedicated most of her life and resources to preserving the house and grounds as a memorial to Christian work done among Māori in the 19th Century. Following her funeral and burial in the Mission Cemetery, her nephews Grant and Duff Maxwell planted these two kauri trees (one each side of the gate) in her memory. This plaque was unveiled on 24 July 2019, the 70th anniversary of Alice’s death.’
Julie Green, who spoke on behalf of the Maxwell family at the unveiling, 24 July 2019
Image courtesy of Fiona Kean, Private Collection

Members of the Maxwell family with a framed photograph of Alice Maxwell. One of the kauri trees is visible far right. Image courtesy of Fiona Kean, Private Collection

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Brian Davies

Stephanie Smith with Jinty Rorke, Brian Davies and Dave Page at the Society's Garden Party
Photograph courtesy of Fiona Kean
It was with great sadness that members of the Tauranga Historical Society learnt of the sudden death of our friend and member Brian Davies. Brian was born in Wellington and attended Scots College and Victoria University there. He met his late wife Mary when they were both taking the post graduate qualifications to become secondary school teachers. Brian concluded his career as Deputy Principal of Fielding Agricultural High School before he and Mary retired to Tauranga.

Brian taught History and he continued his interest through local history and genealogy.  He joined the Tauranga Genealogy branch not long after moving here and his history of the Davies family gained third prize in the New Zealand Society of Genealogists’ annual award for published family histories. Brian served a term as Convenor of the Tauranga branch.

It was with The Elms that he took a very active role in training guides, producing a guides’ training video, and acting as a guide himself. Brian enjoyed the opportunities to dress up as the Reverend Brown, top hat and all.

His active contribution to the Tauranga Historical Society was as a committee member in charge of publicity, a position he did well. As a couple Brian and Mary had wide interests and he kept up these interests after her death. Brian is survived by his two daughters and their families.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Decorative Finishes at Brain Watkins House

There are two types of decorative finishes in the Brain Watkins House in Tauranga that were particularly popular in Victorian time, from which the house dates. They are graining and marbling. According to Practical Graining & Marbling by Paul M Hasluck, a book for tradesmen published in 1902 “the imitation of the grain of expensive and high class woods is a favourite method of embellishing woodwork that is subject to hard wear ... no kind of plain painting wears so well or lasts so long.”

The tools used included steel combs, leather combs, overgrainers, mottlers and overcombing rollers. Decorative finishes in this style used to be part of the apprenticeship training of a painter and decorator. Until recent years painters would grind their own colours using varying amounts of white lead paint and stainers with the old names of burnt sienna, Prussian blue, yellow umber etc. The steel combs used at Brain Watkins are displayed in one of the wooden chests in the History Room of the house.

The art of graining consists of applying a second coat of a different shade on a prepared ground of the basic colour of the wood. It is this second coat that provides the imitation of the desired grain. At Brain Watkins House the intention was to grain some of the kauri doors, architraves and the kitchen sarking to look like oak. A coat of varnish completes the job. On the south wall of the kitchen the name Elva and 1900 have been finger drawn in the paint. Elva Brain would have been nine years old when this occurred and this date is regarded as about the time the rear additions to the house were made.

The object of marbling, like graining, is to faithfully imitate a natural product. While the grainer had the use of tools the marbler depended on his skill in manipulating paint brushes. The marbler’s tools included camel hair brushes, hog hair fitches, goose wing feathers, sponges and a stippling brush. Like varieties of timber grains there are different types of marble with different colours, and a different depth of colour and marks.  It was the practise to copy actual marble. The two examples of marbling at Brain Watkins appear to be of a poorer quality than the graining of the timber in the house. The fireplace in the parlour is good enough to deceive some visitors until the cartoon faces which detract from the whole effect are recognised, but the example in the lounge is very amateurish. There are only two shades used, a grey/black for the lines on a white background.  Once again the final coat should be a clear varnish.

Reference: Hasluck, Paul M, Practical Graining & Marbling, Cassell & Co London, 1902

Friday, 19 July 2019

Changing Tauranga CBD

It is difficult to keep up with the number of older city centre buildings that have disappeared in the last year. While each building has a story which warrants being told, this post will simply acknowledge their departure from the city landscape by sharing photographs of their demolition.

73 Devonport Road (Taken from opposite side of Devonport Road), 8 June 2018
Kean Private Collection
This building was part of the Devonport Road building boom in the mid-1930s. Many complaints about congestion and parking were made to the Borough Council and reported in The Bay of Plenty Times. ‘With the completion of the new building adjoining us we anticipate a further congestion of motor traffic and feel justified in asking that your Council take steps immediately to remedy same.’ – 15 November 1934.

117-119 Devonport Road, October 2019 (taken from corner of First Avenue and Devonport Road), 11 October 1918
Kean Private Collection
Before Farmers occupied the entire site, older residents may remember the Devon Mall which had eighteen speciality shops and a central atrium that included a fountain.

136 Willow Street Tauranga (taken from corner of Spring and Willow Streets), 30 March 2019
Kean Private Collection
Originally known as the Dominion Building it was constructed in 1925 by Carl Johansen for the draper Mr A. Dagley.

55 The Strand, March 2019 (taken from Harrington House, corner Willow and Harington Streets), 12 March 2019
Kean Private Collection
On the corner of Hamilton Street and The Strand, this ‘ferro-concrete’ building was constructed in 1936 for Mrs Lamport of Hartley’s fame.

45 The Strand (taken from Harrington House, corner Willow and Harington Streets), 20 June 2019
Kean Private Collection
Designed by Harry Leslie Daniel West in 1936 this building appears to have been finished just prior to his death in May 1937. West was the Borough’s architect at the time.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Charles Spencer, photographer – Part II, The Rotorua Connection

Sunset from White Terrace, Rotomahana, N.Z. (32)
Albumen print (161 x 209mm) by Charles Spencer, c.Mar-Apr 1881
Frances Fenwick’s Album of New Zealand Views, Te Papa Tongarewa, Ref. O.027200

From November 1880 Charles Spencer operated a small but neat photographic studio from a light wooden building behind his chemist’s shop on the Strand. Over the preceding year he had found it necessary to offer his services widely throughout the Bay of Plenty and Waikato. This included photographic excursions to the Rotorua and the thermal attractions of the Pink and White Terraces at Rotomahana, which he had first visited in the summer of 1873-1874, when still in his teens. A very successful trip in March-April 1881 met with cooperative weather and resulted in several dozen “remarkably clear and well-defined plates.” Prints soon appeared for sale in his chemist’s shop, in C.G. Carter’s stationer’s on Wharf Street, and further afield.

Lake House Hotel, Ohinemutu, Rotorua
Albumen print (160 x 210mm) by Charles Spencer, c.Mar-Apr 1881
Frances Fenwick’s Album of New Zealand Views, Te Papa Tongarewa, Ref. O.027123

During the same trip he was engaged to take views of the well frequented Lake House Hotel at Ohinemutu by the then proprietor, Robert Graham.

Bellevue House, Tauranga (J. Bodell, Proprietor)
Albumen print by Charles Spencer, c. January 1881
Tauranga City Library, Ref. 05-443

Likewise, he no doubt received a commission to photograph James Bodell’s newly opened temperance hotel, Bellevue House, Tauranga, in January 1881. Since Tauranga was then, as now, a major port of entry for tourists intending to visit the Lakes, he had a ready market for his prints, which subsequently found their way into albums around the world.

Tauranga Waterfront from Victoria Wharf
Panorama carbon print by Charles Spencer, c. 1884-1887
Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0609/08

Spencer was always quick to try out fresh ideas and adopt new technologies. After a two-and-a-half month-long break in the summer of 1881-1882, Spencer hired an apprentice and reopened his studio, offering “portraits by the new instantaneous process,” presumably a reference to the then relatively new dry-plate techniques, by which glass plates could be prepared in advance, and offered substantially reduced exposure times. He was among the first in New Zealand to employ carbon print technology, which was developed in the late 1870s and reduced the fading which was so characteristic of albumen prints.

The Bay of Plenty Times [Vol XI, Issue 1311, 1 Jul 1882, p2] published the following account, which may relate to the above view:
We have been shown a very excellent view of the town of Tauranga, photographed by Mr Charles Spencer from the end of the Town Wharf. Photographs may be obtained from Mr Spencer’s studio, mounted and unmounted at a very reasonable figure.
It seems likely that Spencer had carried his bulky camera equipment into the rigging of a ship tied up at the wharf.

Tauranga, N.Z., s.s. “Wellington” at wharf
Albumen print (161 x 210mm) by Charles Spencer, c. 1885-1886
Frances Fenwick’s Album of New Zealand Views, Te Papa Tongarewa, Ref. O.027182

Like many other photographers, both before and after him, he also used the excellent southerly-looking vantage point offered by the Monmouth Redoubt for several views. This particular example, from the album of Frances Fenwick, shows the S.S. Wellington at the end of the wharf. It was likely purchased by her after their trip to view the Pink and White Terraces, and shortly before 30 March 1886, when she and her husband boarded that vessel for Auckland (Bay of Plenty Times, 1 Apr 1886).

Menzies' Hotel, Tauranga
Albumen print (99 x 150mm) by Charles Spencer, c. 1879-1886
Frances Fenwick’s Album of New Zealand Views, Te Papa Tongarewa, Ref. O.027399

Mrs Fenwick included this Spencer print of John Menzies’ Tauranga Hotel, and presumably it was purchased as a memento of where they stayed or perhaps dined en route to Rotorua. It is quite possible that she also purchased a copy of Spencer’s Illustrated Guide to the Hot Springs, published in early 1885 after he had a made a series of trips to Rotorua and White Island.

The Rift, extending from the foot of Mt Tarawera to Rotomahana
Albumen print (137 x 204mm) mounted on card (174 x 238mm) by Charles Spencer, July 1886
Te Papa Tongarewa, Ref. O.002111

When Tarawera erupted only a few weeks later, Geological Survey director James Hector and assistant geologist James Park disembarked at Tauranga on 12 June, en route to the Rotorua lakes district to report on the disturbance. He immediately engaged Spencer to accompany the party and record the effects of the eruption. By the time Spencer returned to Tauranga a week later he had accumulated an initial set of plates which he developed and printed. He then returned to Te Wairoa on 8 July and took several more views during a brief spell of decent weather. At the end of the month he made a third visit, accompanying Percy Smith’s surveying party for almost a week, and taking a number of views between the Ruawahia Dome on Tarawera and the craters to the south-west near Rotomahana.

Although no definitive lists exist, it is likely that Spencer produced several dozen views of the Rotorua hot lakes district before and after the eruption, and as a result his are some of the better known images, in collections throughout the world.
(To be continued)


Bay of Plenty Times, on Papers Past
Tarawera: The Volcanic Eruption of 10 June 1886, by R.F. Keam, 1988.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Powhiri at Te Ranga, by Win Lunt

Powhiri at Te Ranga, by Win Lunt
On 1 November 2018 one hundred and twenty of the descendants of Patrick Freeburn Keenan gathered to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of his arrival in Tauranga. Patrick, with his wife and four children, had come from the West Coast of New Zealand to take up the life of a farmer on Pyes Pa Road. His father had left the troubled Ireland of the 1850s and had come first to Australia and later to the West Coast of New Zealand where Patrick and his eight siblings were born. A legacy from an uncle in Australia enabled Patrick and his wife to purchase the Pyes Pa farm.

That farm on Pyes Pa Road was situated about half a kilometre down the road from the battle site of Te Ranga. Patrick's children and grandchildren growing up there were barely aware of the significance of the site where the last major battle of the Land Wars was fought with the loss of over one hundred Maori lives.

As part of the family reunion celebrations Councillor Terry Molloy, a grandson of Patrick Keenan, organized, in conjunction with some of the descendants of those Maori who fought and died at Te Ranga, a powhiri. The powhiri was held as a gesture of healing and reconciliation. It was attended by many of Patrick Keenans descendants and by representatives of the Kennedy family whose family farm was directly opposite the battle site.  Mayor  of the Western Bay of Plenty Gary Webber, and Father Mark Fields were there. Representing the Maori tribes on whose land the battle had been fought were  among others, Tamiti Tata, Puhiraka Ihaka and Peri Kohu. After the ceremony there was an informal gathering and a morning tea at the home of Norman and Patricia Brooks.  Patricia is a grand daughter of Patrick Keenan and their home is situated on the farm that Patrick Keenan had farmed.

Terry Molloy with the recently planted Puriri tree at Te Ranga
Subsequently a puriri tree has been planted on the site of the battle ground  and it is intended that a memorial plaque will be placed near the tree some time in August  this year.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Old Tea Towel in Brain Watkins House

Lying on the  kitchen bench at Brain Watkins House is an old tea towel which seldom receives attention. Yet on closer examination, this item is very interesting. It is an ecru colour, and printed on it are a list of Maori proverbs, surrounded by a border of Maori-related pictures.

There are no distinguishing marks on this article to give a clue as to its age or place of manufacture, except that the cloth is made of natural flax linen.

It would be interesting to learn of any other similar article, and any other identifying features that would give a clue as to the towel's place of manufacture, and approximate era in which it was on sale.

Were the proverbs well known to the Maori? Several of my Maori octogenarian friends who have inspected it, can cast no light on the sayings. For those who find the wording on the article difficult to read, I have printed out the sayings.
Youth talks, age teaches
Little dogs make the most noise
Wishing never filled the game bag
A fine food house doesn’t fill itself
An idle young man - an unhappy old man
A bad thing usually costs a lot
A pigeon won’t fly into an open mouth
Great griefs are silent
The widest mouth has the widest grave
Time to dream when you are dead
Chase two Moas, catch none
Never be late for a battle to win it
An obedient wife commands her warrior
Beauty won’t fill the puku (stomach)
A wise man knows pain
One rotten fish, one fresh fish - two rotten fish
The god of evil and the god of fear are good friends
A warrior without courage has a blunt taiga (spear)
The brighter the clearing the darker the shadows
Todays meal is better than tomorrow’s tangi (feast)
No twigs on the fire - no flame

Friday, 21 June 2019

Kaimai Road (Part 3)

Pile for new Hairini bridge, 80 feet long, weighed 13 tons,
fallen off its trailer on the Kaimai road, c 1950s
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 08-018
When the Minister of Public Works in the first Labour Government, Robert Semple, addressed the Kaimai road labourers in March 1937, he was greeted with enthusiastic applause. And no wonder: he had just told his audience that one navvy was worth ten bankers. (Exceptions to this praise were those the Minister called ‘dissipators’, i.e. drinkers and gamblers, who would be an unwelcome influence in the work camps.) Rather than struggling as relief workers on a stingy dole, the navvies – 40 of them, with the likelihood of an increase to 100 – were being paid a decent wage, and were acknowledged to be doing essential work. Perhaps as a result, progress on the road was described by the Bay of Plenty Times on 19 March 1937 as ‘excellent’ and ‘wonderful’. In December of the same year, the paper stated that the estimated cost of the Kaimai Road would be £63,000, £5,500 of which was to come from Tauranga County Council, and that the works would take about two years to complete.

Kaimai Road, taken by the Richardson family, 17 Nov 1947
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 02-022
This sounds like a happy ending to the story of the Kaimai Road. However, its steep and winding sections, its elevation, and its gravel surface continued to challenge motorists right through the 1960s and 1970s. Even in the 21st century it can be daunting to the timid driver. State Highway 29 now carries heavy freight to and from the Port of Tauranga, and traffic volumes that Bob Semple and his contemporaries could not even have imagined. Closures and delays due to adverse weather, rock falls, or serious crashes still happen. Travellers, take note:

While a novice was driving a car
Down the Kaimais, his son said, “Papa!
If you drive at this rate
We’re bound to be late.
Drive faster!” He did – and they are.
(Please contact us if you know who is responsible for this verse, as we would love to make proper acknowledgement.)

New cutting at the top of the Kaimai road, 1963
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 04-037

Friday, 14 June 2019

The Te Puna Patriotic League stands up for itself – Mary Munro and Florence Lochhead

Plummers Point. Image courtesy of WBOPDC
Uncertainty, fear and controversy characterised not only military issues during World War I.  They were at work on the Home Front as well.

Men of the Farmers’ Union, galvanised by Te Puna settler Tom Lochhead, were not slow to review their stocks of “waggons, horses, and forage” [1] in August 1914. The townspeople of Tauranga, however, seemed reluctant and slow [2] to commit to putting civilian society on a war footing. Ad hoc activities – local committees [3], private donations [4] - got under way, but it was not long before these voluntary efforts came under scrutiny from central authority. Against a background of increasing pressure to recruit volunteer soldiers, and then conscripted ones, the powers that be also bent their attention to the proper regulation, control and “unification” [5] of volunteers running patriotic funds. The War Funds Act 1915 constituted the National War Funds Council to supervise the process.

While the realities of war became starker [6], so the practical energies of the community gained focus. As another Te Puna settler, Mary Munro, was later to say in public, the work of the patriots at home came to be a curious mixture of jollity overlaying more sober emotions, including the constant threat of bad news. In July 1916, the same month that Mary’s son Niol was wounded and her second son Robert went to camp, the Te Puna Patriotic League announced its intention to have regular socials, “as near as possible to the full moon each month”.

Mary became President of the League. The socials took place in the Te Puna Schoolroom, by permission of the School Committee (Tom was its Chairman). Tom’s daughter Florence, known to her family as Flo, became League Secretary. Two of her brothers were now at the Front. And due to the status of the Lochhead home as Te Puna’s Post and Telegraph Office, Florence and her mother Elizabeth were always the first to know of telegrams. The solid community network that existed in Te Puna was put to work, not only on the emotional drain of sustaining morale among its families, but also on maintaining the League’s independent existence.

For the forces of centralised bureaucracy were gathering. In November 1916 a charm attack from a pair of Auckland ladies - Mrs Gunson, Mayoress of Auckland and President of that city’s Patriotic League, and Secretary Miss Spedding - had their invitation to ‘affiliate’ the Tauranga League as a branch of a larger, Auckland, whole accepted after some misgivings [7]. But the Te Puna League was less easy to convince. They were in any event deeply involved in organising their first, very successful, Monster Picnic and Sale of Work on Mr Plummer’s paddock at Te Puna Point (now known as Plummer’s Point). It will have done their cause no harm to show that they were capable of a feat of organisation on a scale that involved stalls, games, raffles, competitions, refreshments, at least one bag-piper, and a launch service from and back to Tauranga [8].

Pressure to ‘affiliate’ continued through 1917. Poor Florence battled gamely on, sometimes calling Te Puna a branch league in advertising its meetings and fundraisers, other times not; a third brother, Tom Junior, went to war in April. By August she had had enough. Te Puna farmer A D Bear took over as secretary of the League.  But by then the implications of s. 40 of the War Legislation Amendment Act had filtered out to Te Puna. This allowed the Minister of Internal Affairs to approve separate, stand-alone funds rather than compelling them to be part of a larger whole.

No doubt impressed by the joint efforts of Mary, Florence, and possibly Mr Bear, the Minister issued the Te Puna Patriotic League with just such approval in October 1917. This was in good time for the organisation of a second Monster Picnic six months later, along similar lines to the first, but bigger and brighter than ever.

Image courtesy of Papers Past
At some point during the tumult and the shouting, Mary Munro was invited to speak. With still a trace of a Tyneside accent [9], she thanked “those present both for their attendance and for the manner in which they had contributed to the sale. All had hoped last year that it would not be necessary to hold another sale, but unfortunately it was still necessary, and maybe again next year. They had to blend pleasure with duty and she felt sure all would help to make the effort a pronounced success.”

Mary’s point was entirely lost on the editor of the Bay of Plenty Times. Without apparent irony, he congratulated her League on exceeding the total raised at the previous event, abjuring them: “Keep at it Te Puna! Next year we shall not let you off with less than £150, so save up your pennies.

It proved, after all, to be unnecessary to hold another sad gala. About June 1919 the Te Puna Patriotic League wound up, as all the other Patriotic Leagues were doing. Work on hand went to local hospitals and homes for the returning servicemen. Niol Munro’s wounds never healed, and both William and Tom Lochhead died in France.  Both Niol and Norman Lochhead died young. Robert Munro was not demobilised until 1920, and he stayed on the farm at Te Puna for the rest of his life.

Florence married George Chapman at the Te Puna Memorial Hall in 1931. Mary Munro was a wedding guest; A D Bear played the music for the ceremony.


[1] Meeting at the Farmers’ Trading Agency,
[2] Letter to the Editor,
[3] Tauranga Ladies Hospital Ship Committee,
[4] Close Bros of Te Puna’s donation of horses,
[5] Speech by J H Gunson, Mayor of Auckland,
[6] Letter from hospital ship “Lan Franc”,
[8] Advertisement,
[9]  Mary was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne on 26 June 1865.  She died in Tauranga in 1951.