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.

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