Friday, 4 January 2019

Photographing the Military Presence in Tauranga, 1864-1866

In a previous article on this blog and in a presentation to the Society at The Elms in August, I’ve discussed John Kinder’s photographs of the Te Papa peninsula from 1863 to 1866, which fortuitously document the changes taking place during the military occupation. He wasn’t the only photographer to visit Tauranga during this period.

Caption: “Group of 68th Durham L.I. Regt., Tauranga, 1864.”
Albumen print mounted on card, attributed to Hartley Webster
probably taken c. Feb 1865-Jan 1866 at Tauranga
Image courtesy of Te Papa Tongarewa, W.F. Gordon Collection, Ref. O.011916
There are two group photographs of officers and NCOs of the 68th (Durham Light Infantry) Regiment, including Colonel Henry Harpur Greer seated at centre, purportedly taken in Tauranga. The version above is a print held by Te Papa Tongarewa – the handwritten caption identifies all of the individuals and states that it was taken at Tauranga in 1864.

Also handwritten at bottom left is, “Webster photo,” suggesting that it was taken by Auckland photographer Hartley Webster. However this mounted print formed part of a collection amassed around the turn of the century by William Francis Robert Gordon, and the lettering of the caption, pasted onto the original mount, is in his distinctive style (see examples held at Puke Ariki). W.S. Greene (seated far right) is ascribed the rank of Ensign in the caption of another version of this image, and probably wasn’t promoted to Lieutenant until after 1864. Likewise J.P. Cox (standing third from right) shown as a Captain was only promoted from Lieutenant in January 1868.

The caption was clearly compiled well after the event and, while the identifications of officers appear to tally well with other sources, it might be best treated with some caution since Gordon certainly wasn’t present when the photograph was taken, and must have deduced much of the information at the very least second-hand.

Caption: “Officer’s Mess Hut, Tauranga”
Albumen print (152 x 215mm) mounted on detached album leaf, attributed to Hartley Webster,
probably taken c. 1865 at Tauranga
Image courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Greer Family Album, Ref. PAColl-7806-2-2
A second version of the group photo is very similar. Although an additional unidentified officer is present (standing fourth from right) and several of the others have moved positions, it was clearly taken on the same occasion, and therefore probably also by Hartley Webster. A number of prints exist: this full-plate albumen print held by the Alexander Turnbull Library originally came from the album of Colonel Greer, and other captions in the album suggest they were made by Greer himself (pers. comm. Mike Dottridge). This is important because it lends some authenticity to the caption, since we know he was there when it was taken.

In his history of the regiment Bilcliffe convincingly demonstrates that these two group portraits couldn’t actually have been taken in 1864, since Lieutenant Caldecott only arrived in New Zealand on 21 January 1865, and didn’t make it to Tauranga until 12 February. The bulk of the 68th Regiment remained at Tauranga until January-February 1866, when they returned to England. There were several periods during those twelve months when either or both Greer or Shuttleworth were in Auckland, but it has been difficult to pinpoint the date of the photo any further.

“Hospital, Tauranga” (former Native Institute), c.1864-1866
Albumen print mounted on card (carte de visite format)
by Hartley Webster, Auckland
Collection courtesy of Tauranga City Library. Ref. 03-0309
Was the photograph actually taken by Webster, as claimed by Gordon? Although I have been unable to find any direct evidence that Hartley Webster travelled to Tauranga during this period, a carte de visite format photograph depicting men (possibly soldiers) seated in front of the “Hospital” building in Tauranga (formerly the Native Institute) has his backstamp on the the card mount, and therefore makes it very likely.

"Photographed by H. Webster, Auckjland"
Reverse of carte de visite
Webster had begun his career as a photographer in Auckland (1852-1858, 1860), New Plymouth (1858-1859) and Napier (1860) before sailing back to England with his wife in late 1860. He returned to Auckland in early 1862, and probably set up as a photographer again soon after. Certainly by October 1863 he appears to have been taking advantage of the nascent fad for carte de visite portraits and the presence of increased customers in the form of Her Majesty’s soldiers.

An advertisement in January 1866 for Webster’s Photographic Studio and Emporium for Photographic Requisites, located on Queen Street, Auckland offered for sale:
“… likenesses of Officers of the Staff, 65th and other Regiments, Portraits of Distinguished Persons; also, Views, in the best style of Photographic Art, of some of the most picturesque Sites in the Colony, including views of the … Tauranga Harbour and Cemetery, showing the Obelisk erected to the Memory of the Officers of the 43rd Regiment, also of the Gate Pa …”
Webster was making the most of the imminent departure of many of the troops who had served in Tauranga by selling prints of the photographs which had most likely been taken there at some time between February and December 1865.


I’m grateful to have received valued assistance and direction from staff at the Tauranga City Library (including Stephanie Smith, Debbie McCauley, Harley Couper and Elisha Rolleston) and Tauranga Heritage Collection (Fiona Kean). Without the generous sharing of their knowledge of both history and the institutional collections, my research would be far more difficult. Keith Giles (Auckland Library’s Photographic Collection Librarian) shared his research on Hartley Webster. Colonel Greer’s great-great grandson Mike Dottridge has also kindly provided family information and photos and, as usual, I appreciate the various institutions and their funders for making their collections available online for research.


Blicliffe, J. (1995) Well Done the 68th: The Durhams in the Crimea and New Zealand 1854-1866, Picton Publishing, 347p.
Giles, Keith (2008) Hartley Webster, Auckland’s first residential professional photographer, New Zealand Legacy, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2008: 5-10.
Giles, Keith (2011) Cartes-de-visite in New Zealand, in Negative kept: Maori and the carte de visite, by Michael Graham-Stewart & John Gow, John Leech Gallery, p.7-15.
Papers Past Newspapers, National Library of New Zealand

No comments:

Post a comment