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.