Friday, 31 May 2019

The Mission Cemetery

Military Cemetery in Tauranga. Postcard, Tourist Series 254
Image collection and courtesy of Justine Neal
The Mission Cemetery is a peaceful oasis with its beautifully manicured grounds and its ring of pohutukawa trees shielding it from the noise and bustle of the city surrounding it.

Today it is looked after by the Tauranga City Council on behalf of the Otamataha Trust but it wasn’t always so. In the pioneering days of the settlement the cemetery was part of an estate belonging to the C.M.S and had only been required for losses amongst the Maori and a handful of Europeans. The arrival of troops in 1864 at Te Papa caused a problem for Rev. Brown as to who exactly could be buried there. He wrote to Bishop Williams for clarification and Williams off the record reply was “in the event of the death of a Romanist soldier you request the Commanding Officer to direct the priest to bury the corpse in the Romanist burial ground at Otumaetai.”

By 1873 the Bay of Plenty Times reported that the neglected condition of the graveyard is a disgrace to the district … the memorials to the officers remain but traces of the identity of the more humble graves have almost disappeared. At one stage erosion from the sea had caused landslides, exposing coffins which for some time projected over the beach.

In August 1876 it was reported that the gate was broken and horses and cows had been trampling over the unfenced graves and the fence surrounding the military graves was dilapidated.

In April 1878 the officers and men of the H.M.S Wolverene reconditioned the enclosure containing the graves of the Imperial Service men but no further work was done, as in 1882 the suggestion was made that, as the C.M.S claimed the ownership of the cemetery and drew large revenues from its various properties in the town, it might very well undertake the task of restoring the cemetery to a decent condition. Although funds were provided from the Defence Office in September 1882 for immediate work to take place, once again no provision was made for upkeep and by December 1883 there were complaints that the whole place was overgrown with grass and weeds, the railings and headstones of some of the graves and a portion of the fence enclosing the military section, had been broken down.

The cemetery was officially closed for burials in 1884. By October 1885 the state of the breakwater along the eastern side of the cemetery was causing concern but not until May 1888 did the Government promise £50 for repairs, provided an equal sum was obtained from other sources. The Trustees were unable to raise the money, and in September 1888 handed the cemetery back to the C.M.S.

After the 1886 Tarawera eruption a Mr. Brown rented the cemetery for a short time to graze a small flock of sheep there as ash had been deposited on his pasture. Worse was to come, sadly, by July 1889 the cemetery was overrun by cattle and pigs and headstones and memorials destroyed. A public subscription was opened to erect a substantial fence. This was successful and for three and a half years all was peaceful in the cemetery grounds.

By 1893 the protecting wall at the foot of the cemetery cliff was in urgent need of repair. Trustees had been re-appointed by the Government, but once again no funds for maintenance were forthcoming.

In January 1894 the Government granted £50 for the retaining wall to be repaired with boulders obtained from the foreshore at the Mount. However this amount fell far short of the actual amount required, so once again, nothing was done.

While visiting Tauranga on 30th March, Mr. Seddon, the Premier was asked for a grant of £300, which he thought was too much. Subsequently, in May, the Trustees received a letter from the Colonial Secretary asking the probable cost of removing the bodies of those of Her Majesty's Forces buried in the old cemetery, to the new cemetery. The Trustees refused to have anything to do with this proposal.

In July 1905 the Borough Council decided that it was prepared to take charge of the cemetery as a National reserve provided the Government would supply sufficient funds for its maintenance. A grant of £50 towards renewal of headboards and £15 toward upkeep was awarded. In 1909 the Government increased the annual grant to £25, possibly influenced by the publicity given to the spot as an historic heritage site, brought about by the unveiling of a monument to the memory of the soldiers and sailors who fell in the local engagement of the New Zealand Wars.

Finally in 1912 with the help of Mr. Kensington, Under Secretary for Lands the council was awarded £162 enabling it to take down and re- erect the faulty portions of the retaining walls and erect groins. At the same time a plan was put in place to landscape the grounds. It was probably as part of this re-organisation that the fencing round the graves of those who fell at Gate Pa and Te Ranga, creating a cemetery within a cemetery was abandoned.

Early in 1912 a movement started to erect a monument over the grave of Rawiri, who had fought so bravely against the Europeans both at Gate Pa and Te Ranga. As a result a handsome red granite monument was unveiled with imposing military ceremony on June 21, 1914.

By this time the fencing round the cemetery was again in bad condition and in August a contract was let for the necessary repairs. In September the council had a portion of the cemetery dug, graded and laid down in lawn grass. The paths were improved and covered with shell.

By 1917 the grounds were once again overgrown, as Mayor, J.C.Adams rectified this, as well as renewing all the headstones which could still be traced. At this time the Council delegated the detailed work of improvement and upkeep to a small committee. It is thanks to this small group, especially the Ward family, that the brave men who fell at Gate Pa and Te Ranga can rest in peace in the surroundings they deserve.

Papers Past: Bay of Plenty Times
A Centennial History of Tauranga, by Gifford and Williams.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Alice Heron Maxwell

Alice Maxwell, c.early to mid-1890s
Image courtesy of The Elms Collection Ref. 2006.0643
Born in Australia, Alice arrived in New Zealand in 1865 with her widowed mother and three siblings, when she was four. Her formative years were spent in Wadestown, Wellington.

When she was 21, Alice came north and stayed at The Elms (formerly Te Papa Mission Station) in Tauranga for eight months, with her aunt and uncle, Christina and Alfred Brown. She became passionate about its history and eventually, in 1887, it became her permanent home for the next 62 years. Her mother and older sister also lived here but passed away in 1919 and 1930 respectively.

Alice Maxwell, undated
The Maxwell women were great supporters of Barnado’s Homes for Orphans, soldiers wounded in WWI and Girl Guides. Sewing bees and garden fetes were held and home-grown flowers were sold over the seasons to raise funds. It cannot have been easy to manage all their extra tasks as money was tight and help scarce.

Alice Maxwell, undated
Image Courtesy of The Elms Collection, Ref. 2009.0302
In 1920, once they had recovered from nursing their elderly mother, the sisters opened the place to visitors. Many people were able to enjoy the tranquility of the garden and receive a guided historical tour.  Alice ensured that The Elms was preserved as a memorial to the early missionaries who dedicated themselves to spreading the Christian Gospel in this area. She was therefore one of the earliest promoters of tourism but did not make any charge.

Alice Maxwell, c. 1940
Image couresty of Tauranga Library, Ref. 98-39
Alice lived alone, with some household and garden help, from the age of 70 until her death in her 89th year. She continued to tend the garden and show around any visitors who came unless they were, in her opinion, unsuitably dressed. That included any woman in slacks.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Early settlers in Welcome Bay: Jonathan Brown

Jonathan Brown's homestead
One of the earliest settlers in Welcome Bay was Jonathan Brown. Born in Northumberland, in the United Kingdom in 1832 he came to New Zealand via Tasmania where he managed sheep stations. He took up similar work in Otago and moved to Tauranga in 1867. After prolonged negotiations he bought several thousand acres of land from the Maori.  He felled trees, divided land into paddocks and planted English grasses. A Bay of Plenty Times article in 1882 tells us that the stock on the farm consisted of 400 head of cattle, 1200 sheep, 20 horses, a dozen bacon pigs and a large flock of poultry.

In the same article we are told that “the [Browns’] new dwelling house was built in 1878;  it contains five rooms downstairs and four upstairs, and is beautifully situated on an eminence in a central position on the station and commands an exceptionally charming view of the bay, islands, town and surrounding country – all visible from the front of the house. [It] presents a magnificent panorama, the beauties of which more than equalled my expectations.”  The article went on to describe the garden with contained a mixture of native and exotic trees as well as a kitchen garden.

Jonathan Brown's homestead
Image courtesy of Tauranga Library Ref. 03-303
It is interesting to note that the upstairs part of the house we accessed by two staircases, leading to two rooms on each side. Guests were given instructions that the men were to use the left-hand staircase and the women the right. Needless to say, between the rooms on either side there were no doors. It is also interesting to note that the house was in a twin gable design with a roof of wooden shingles. The twin gable design can be seen in buildings in Welcome Bay village.
For a while, the Brown farm produced excellent results but problems began to show in young stock when 80% of the lambs died. The answer to this problem was to take stock over the Kaimai range to the Waikato. “Bush sickness” was the culprit in this case. It was caused by a lack of cobalt and this was not discovered until well into the 20th century. 

Mr Brown was active in the community. He was involved in flax-milling for a time as well as in organisations such as the County Council, the Waimapu Road Board, the Waimapu Licensing Committee, the School Committee and the Cemetery Board. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and along with his wife entertained many visitors.

By September 1891, the Bay of Plenty Times advertised the sale of large numbers of cattle and sheep as well as many items of farm machinery and vehicles. This was followed by an auction sale. However, Mr Brown was still farming four years later when he was badly injured by a mowing machine. In spite of the best efforts of a doctor he died shortly afterwards at the age of 63. 

Many in Tauranga mourned his passing. He had spent 45 years in Australasia. He left a wife, four sons and three daughters. Mrs Brown spent most of the rest of her life in Tauranga. She had belonged to the Wesleyan Church all her life. Her obituary noted that her maiden name had been Brown and this was the case for both her mother and her grandmother.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Charles Spencer, Photographer (Part I)

Charles Spencer, probably taken c.1873-1876 by himself
Glass quarter-plate negative
Image courtesy of Auckland Library Sir George Grey Collection Ref. 1365-0368
When Charles Spencer set up his makeshift photographic studio in a tent adjacent to Thomas Wrigley’s Springwell Brewery at the corner of Spring and Willow Streets in April 1879, he had already made a name for himself as an adventurous explorer and skilled photographer of landscapes. Originally from Leicestershire, England, he emigrated to New Zealand with his family in 1861 and grew up in Thames, where his father Thomas Spencer and chemist John Hall owned a chemist and assay business. It is likely that he learnt something of the chemist’s trade at the firm of Spencer & Hall in his teens, but by early 1876 he was in Dunedin where, with a reputed stake of £1000, he became a partner in the already successful photographic studio of Clifford & Morris.

View along The Strand, Tauranga, probably taken Sep-Oct 1878 by Charles Spencer
Mounted albumen print credited to Series No 932, Burton Brothers, Dunedin
Collection of Te Papa Tongarewa Ref. O.034032
A year later, in July 1877, he and his younger brother George moved on to work for the even more well known firm of Burton Bros, and spent many months taking landscape views across the Southern Alps and up the West Coast. After this successful adventure resulted in the addition of a large number of photographs to the Burton Bros. portfolio, they were sent to the North Island to take further scenic views in the country between the Lake country and Tongariro. It is likely that Spencer’s first photographs of Tauranga was taken in September or October 1879 while employed by Burton Bros, and when he was en route to or from the Lakes district. The above view northwards along the Strand towards the Monmouth Redoubt, complete with characteristic “Burton Brothers” reference number and byline at bottom left, is one likely candidate.

Wedding party of Emily Stewart and Richard Surtees, Mount Stewart, Katikati
Photograph attributed to Charles Spencer, 12 Jun 1879
Image courtesy of the Stewart Family and Tauranga Library’s Tauranga Memories Kete
The decision to leave the employ of Burton Bros. and try his luck at portraiture and outdoor photographic work in Tauranga may have been made during a summer holiday spent back at his parents’ home at Parawai in Thames. His stay in Tauranga did not have an auspicious start. In late May, by which time he had installed a stove, no doubt due to the onset of winter, the tent burnt down, although he managed to save all his equipment and chemicals. He was back at work within three weeks, and managed to score a commission to photograph the wedding of prominent Bay of Plenty resident George Vesey Stewart’s eldest daughter Emily to Richard Surtees at Mount Stewart, Katikati, that same month.

Charles Spencer, c. 1879-1881
Carte de visite, probably taken in Spencer’s Tauranga studio
Courtesy of Elms Collection Ref. 2002.0170
In early September, Spencer took over the Hoyte’s chemist and druggist business on the Strand. By employing Henry Clayton, a pharmaceutical chemist, as manager he was able to use a room behind the shop, originally designed as a consulting room for visiting medical practitioners, as a temporary photographic studio, opened in early January 1880. A month earlier he had married Isabella Sellars, daughter of local resident and ship owner Captain Daniel Sellars, which presumably contributed to his decision to put down more substantial roots in Tauranga. The market for portrait sittings was clearly insufficient to occupy him full time, because by early March he was offering “all kinds of portraiture” and “views and residences to order” from a tent in Hamilton, and later in Cambridge. He returned to Thames in August, erecting his “monster tent” studio and offering his usual fare for some weeks.

Charles Spencer & his wife Isabella née Sellars, c. Summer 1882/83
Glass quarter-plate negative, probably taken by Spencer
Image courtesy of Auckland Library Sir George Grey Collection Ref. 1365-0344
In September 1880 took on the agency for the Universal Copying Company of San Francisco, which undertook “Painting Portraits from all kinds of Family Photos,” and promised that either he or his agent would “visit every town in the North Island.” The following month he retuned to Tauranga and, stating that he intends to settle there permanently, dissolved the partnership with Henry Clayton, intending to operate both the chemist’s business and his photographic studio himself. Clayton, in turn, was appointed general agent for the Colony and took over the touring. Spencer lost no time get involved with local affairs, becoming a member of the Templar’s local Lodge, and took on the additional agencies for Singer’s Sewing Machines and Hopkins’ Bee Hives. In addition to “portraits from 15s per dozen,” he offered “all kinds of outdoor photos as per agreement” and “views of the Hot Lakes,” via advertisements which appeared almost continuously in the Bay of Plenty Times until July 1882.

Ivy Kate Spencer, aged about 12 months, c. Summer 1882/83
Glass quarter-plate negative, probably taken by Spencer
Image courtesy of Auckland Library Sir George Grey Collection Ref. 1365-0349
On 9th October 1881 Isabella Spencer gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Ivy Kate. The portrait above was taken when she was about a year old. Sadly she died only 20 months later, on 12th June 1883, and was buried in Tauranga’s Mission Cemetery, where she is memorialized on her grandparents gravestone.
[… to be continued]

Friday, 3 May 2019

The Yorkshire Grey Hotel

The Yorkshire Grey Hotel, Cameron Road (looking south), Tauranga
Auckland Library Sir George Grey Collection Ref. 3-Album-45-27
The recent discovery of a photograph in the Auckland Libraries collection by Steve Vergeest and Fiona Kean is a windfall for local Tauranga history. Local historians had been under the impression that there were no photographs of the hotel that stood on the west side of Cameron road on the corner of 6th Avenue. In fact A C Bellamy, editor of "Tauranga 1882-1982: The Centennial of Gazetting Tauranga as a Borough," wrote that in the book as did the late Jinty Rorke, an authority on Tauranga history. B S Corlett designed the hotel and David Lundon built it. The original building that had additions made within a few years was two storied with bar facilities and parlour on the ground floor, and bedrooms and bath upstairs. The Cameron Road frontage measured 55 feet, and 66 feet on 6th Avenue. It was connected to Piercy’s house that had several more rooms and there was a brick cellar on 6th Avenue side where the land sloped away. The stables stood back at the rear.

The owner Mr Hartis Piercy and licensee John Daniel Faulkner, Piercy’s son-in-law, saw the hotel opened on 1 January 1882. The name of the hotel remembered the home county of Hartis Piercy.

A financially secure position for the Yorkshire Grey was never reached and the ownership of the building and the licences frequently changed. Familiar names in early Tauranga followed Piercy and Faulkner: Menzies, Peter Grant, Timothy Kenealy, Thomas Tanner, James Taylor, AB and W Griffiths, John Johnson, and Hancock & Co.  It was Johnson who took the licence to Rotorua to the existing Palace Hotel, and the Yorkshire Grey, Cameron Road, Tauranga ceased to function as a hotel in 1895.

However, during its day the hotel saw a variety of events from accident victims brought in to await the doctor’s visit, attempted suicide, theft of guests’ property and a small fire, perhaps a warning of things to come. Another function of the hotel, this time the stables, was the presentation of stallions for stud purposes. These horses visited all the local towns and stables and the Bay of Plenty Times advertised their presence at the stables of the Yorkshire Grey.

Cameron Road (corner 6th Avenue, looking south), April 2019
Photograph courtesy of Fiona Kean
A race, described as a “match” in the Bay of Plenty Times between Alfred Clayton, a surveyor and Billy Duncan was to be run between Ohinemutu to the Yorkshire Grey “go-as-you-please-“for £50. The betting favoured Duncan and he won half an hour ahead of Clayton. Duncan covered 42 miles in 6 hours 23 minutes. A horse race took place between Mr Harley’s mare ‘Winnie” and Mr John Kennedy’s “Prince” for £20. The horses would leave the Waihi Hotel at 7 a.m. and the winning post was the Yorkshire Grey. It was to be held on the day before the Tauranga races and several coaches were to follow.

The Hospital and Charitable Aid Board proposed to buy the premises to become the Victoria Hospital in 1898, it having stood empty for some years except for its use as venues for various community meetings. However, opposition came from Whakatane and Opotiki who believed that Tauranga would use more than their share of the Board’s funds. There was also talk of removing the building to the hospital reserve. It was, however, only used briefly as a “fever hospital”.

A small private school, Queen’s College, moved into the building in 1898, with the headmaster Mr Jeremiah Murphy and among his pupils Elva Phoebe Brain, who later become a generous benefactor to the Tauranga Historical Society. Mr Murphy died following a fall from the balcony of the building where he resided, most likely the Yorkshire Grey, in 1903. Arthur M Coles succeeded Murphy but he too suffered a sudden death.  While successfully rescuing nine year old Arthur David Padlie from the Waikareao Estuary Coles died in the water. The end came for the Yorkshire Grey when a member of the Fire Brigade set fire to the building. Eighteen year old Arthur David Padlie pleaded guilty setting fire to the Yorkshire Grey in January 1918.