Friday, 8 March 2019

High Trees and the Te Papa Peninsula, 1860-1910

The Native Institution, Te Papa, Tauranga, January 1865
High Trees, the former home of Rev. E.B. Clarke can be seen in the background

Albumen print by John Kinder,The Elms Collection, Ref. 1972.0129
In early 1860 the Church Missionary Society (CMS) decided that Tauranga needed a more substantial school at Tauranga than the rudimentary tuition facilities that Archdeacon Brown had been able to provide at the Te Papa Mission Station since his first wife had died in 1855. The CMS appointed Reverends Charles Baker and Edward Blomfield Clarke to “manage an Industrial Institution about to be established at Tauranga.” Clarke arrived in early June that year, Baker in August, and they commenced building and recruiting pupils straight away, the first lessons being held in the Mission Chapel. Clarke’s residence was finished by the end of the year, named High Trees for obvious reasons, Baker’s house was completed shortly afterwards, and they moved in with their families. The building for the Native Institution, as it came to be called, was erected in 1861.

Sketch Map of Te Papa Peninsula, drawn by Major H. Morant in 1864
showing, from left to right (in pink), Rev Clarke’s House, the Institute and Rev Baker’s house

Adapted from Bilcliffe (1995)

Samuel Ludbrooke Clarke, Edward’s elder brother, also arrived in Tauranga in 1860. He farmed on land leased from the CMS, and built a homestead to the south of his brothers. Another brother, Henry Tacy Clarke, was appointed Resident Magistrate at Tauranga in 1860, but he may not have moved his family permanently from Prospect (Waimate, Bay of Islands) to Tauranga until 1868. Stokes (1980) suggests that in 1864 he was occupying a house to the south-east of the Durham Redoubt.

Watercolour of Te Papa Peninsula by an unidentified soldier, c.1864
showing (L to R) Col. Greer's house, Hospital and Col. Harington's house

Art Works Box 2, Ngā Wāhi Rangahau Research Collections, Tauranga City Library
Around 1863, as a consequence of the unrest in Taranaki, Captain Daniel Sellars moved from his original home which he had built on Rangiwaea Island to the peninsula to a new house constructed at the southern end of what is now The Strand. By early 1864 these were the principal residences on the Te Papa peninsula, but after the arrival of Imperial Troops, the landscape was swiftly altered with the building of the Durham and Monmouth Redoubts and the erection of numerous soldiers’ tents.

After the outbreak of hostilities in the Waikato the Institute was disbanded in July 1863, and Charles Baker took his family to the relative safety of Auckland by April 1864. After the arrival of the military in Tauranga on 22 January 1864, the commander of the troops, Colonel George Carey, 18th Royal Irish, occupied High Trees while the Durham Redoubt was being erected immediately to the west, and until his departure in early March. Colonel Greer (68th Regiment) assumed command on his arrival later that month, and shortly after his family joined him at High Trees. Colonel Harington of the 1st Waikato Militia took over Baker’s residence some time after August 1864. The Institute was used initially as the Commissariat, a centre for the administration of troops and stores, and after the Battle of Gate Pa in April 1864, as a hospital for wounded and sick troops. Presumably the occupation of these buildings was included in the lease of land at Te Papa to the Crown for £200 per year, arranged by Rev Burrows without the consent of the other members of the CMS Land Committee.

The family of Colonel Greer on the lawn in front of High Trees, Te Papa, c. 1865
Mounted albumen print, photograph attributed to Hartley Webster

Collection and courtesy of Tony Rackstraw
The group standing, seated and mounted on horses on the lawn in front of High Trees in the above photograph has been identified with a fair degree of certainty as that of Colonel Henry Harpur Greer. It comprises Greer himself, his wife and three children, a lady visitor (possibly Miss Sidney Goring), a soldier and a groom, and must have been taken prior to the 68th Regiment’s departure for Auckland (and England) in early 1866.

Surrender of Maori at Te Papa, 25 July 1864
showing High Trees (left), the Native Institute (centre) and the gable of Baker’s house (right)
Engraving from the Illustrated London News, 29 Oct 1864, after a watercolour by H.G. Robley

Image courtesy of University of Waikato
In July 1864 the ceremony for the “surrender” of Tauranga Maori took place on the front lawn of High Trees, the front façade and veranda of which can be seen in Robley’s watercolour painting of the event and the Illustrated London News engraving which was derived from it.

Captain Ebenezer Norris, a cousin to the Clarkes, was the next to occupy High Trees with his wife Amelia after their marriage in 1868, having arrived in Tauranga in 1866 when he opened a store on the waterfront and took command of the Volunteer Rifle Militia. Amelia is reputed to have been the first to release English sparrows from the gable windows of High Trees, sent by the Auckland Acclimatization Society. Norris built a second house, Barbreck, on Second Avenue and the family moved there in 1874 or 1875.

An advertisement for a general servant suggests that a Mrs Crump was living at High Trees in June 1889, but the Norris family moved back to High Trees not long after Ebenezer’s death in August 1890. Certainly by March 1897 Mrs Norris, now widowed, was in residence there again and appears to have operated a boarding house from the premises until at least February 1902. By December 1907 Mrs Norris had moved to Selwyn House, probably the property in Devonport Road where she was again running a boarding house in October 1910.

By 1933, when Mrs Norris’ was interviewed on the occasion of her 87th birthday, High Trees had been demolished, making way for the residence of Mr. E.T. Baker. Mr. E.T. Baker’s “flats” were still in existence in 1972, when they were referred to by Captain Norris’s granddaughter in an address to the Historical Society. These buildings were, in turn, replaced by the Commercial Travellers’ Club car park, where the Kingsview apartment complex was built.

Grateful acknowledgements to the staff at Tauranga City Library Ngā Wāhi Rangahau and the Tauranga Heritage Collection for assistance over numerous visits in researching the material for this article.


Anon (1864) A Cruise to Tauranga, New Zealand Herald, Vol 1, Issue 7, 5 Mar 1864, Papers Past.
Bilcliffe, John (1995) Well Done the 68th: the Durhams in the Crimea and New Zealand 1854-1866, Picton Publishing
Ellott, Gerald (2017) The 68th Durham Light Infantry (The Faithful Durhams), October 2017, Accessed 25 Feb 2019
McCauley, Debbie (2017) High Trees: Tauranga Residence of Henry Harpur Greer, Tauranga Memories: Historical Buildings & Places, Tauranga City Library Kete, Accessed 25 Feb 2019
McKenzie, Mrs. A.A. (1972) The Life and Times of Captain Ebenezer Norris, Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society, No. 45, June 1972, p.12-16.
Matheson, Alister (1991) Captain Fred Norris and the Bay of Plenty Coastal Trade, 1907-1924, Historical review: Bay of Plenty Journal of History, Vol. 39, No. 1, p.1-21.
Rorke, Jinty (1990) Brown, Alfred Nesbit and Brown, Charlotte, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,  Accessed 22 February 2019
Stokes, Evelyn (1980) A History of Tauranga County, Dunmore Press.
Willan, Rachael (1997) Otamataha (Wai 580), Report commissioned by the Waitangi tribunal for Wai 580.
Letters of Rev. E.B. Clarke from  the Waimate and Tauranga 1856-68, MS 22, Ngā Wāhi Rangahau Research Collections, Tauranga City Library
Clarke Family of Te Waimate, Accessed 22 February 2019
Sadness in Home’s Passing (1974), Newspaper cutting in Vertical Files, Ngā Wāhi Rangahau Research Collections, Tauranga City Library
The War in New Zealand, Illustrated London News, Vol XLV, page 429, University of Waikato Digital Collections
Archives New Zealand, Archway Record AD1 CD1864/3007
A Visit to the Cemetery at Te Papa, The New Zealander, Vol XX, Issue 2132, 4 Jun 1864, Papers Past
Old Memories: Mrs A.H. Norris’s Birthday Celebration, Bay of Plenty Times, Vol LX, Issue 11118, 19 May 1933, Papers Past
Various other newspaper extracts from the Bay of Plenty Times, Papers Past

No comments:

Post a comment