Friday, 29 May 2020

Open for Business at Level Two

Museums and Art Galleries around the country are gradually re-opening as New Zealanders become more comfortable with the rules at Covid-19 Alert Level 2. Our local Arts, Culture and Heritage sector is no different and, now more than ever, it needs our support.  

Tauranga Art Gallery

Tiheru (Bailer), 3D printed PLA by Kereama Taepa. Photograph by Anne Shirley. Tauranga Art Gallery
The Tauranga Art Gallery is open with new hours - Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm.  The Gallery is currently showing the Miles Art Awards Exhibition, work by Kelcy Taratoa and Matatoki – Mata a Waka, which features contemporary works by internationally-recognised carvers alongside taonga tuturu (historical objects) from the Tauranga Heritage Collection.

Western Bay Museum

The Western Bay Museum will open on June 2 (10am to 2pm) with free entry for the entire month, although donations will be greatly appreciated. Their wonderful Fashion and Photography Exhibition is well worth a visit and features some very special historical costumes.

Classic Flyers

Classic Flyers is open and has resumed normal hours, 9am to 4pm, with the café open at 7am. The museum is undergoing a refresh so there will be new displays for visitors to enjoy.

The Incubator Creative Hub

This, Too, Will Pass. The Incubator Creative Hub
The Incubator Creative Hub at the Historic Village is ‘back in business’. This includes the Okorore – Nga Toi Maori Gallery & Studios and Satellite Studios. “This, Too, Will Pass”, an exhibition by Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group on at the People’s Gallery, is raising funds for supporting survivors of domestic violence.

The Elms

In consultation with their wonderful team of volunteers, The Elms is looking at how they can reopen their gates very soon.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Early Tauranga Photographers: Charles Moeller, c.1870-1872

“Artillery Detachment of Armed Constabulary. Command of Capt. Crapp. Tauranga 1870”
Glass half-plate negative, 120 x 165mm, A.J. Mirrielees (attribd.), after “Bartlett Photo (from a Copy),” after Charles Moeller (attribd.)
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 01-128
An article about the road-making exploits of the Armed Constabulary by Stephanie Smith published on this blog in December 2018 (Armed Constabulary Roads) was illustrated with a photograph from the Tauranga Library collection. The print (original Ref. 1504) was created from one of a number of glass plate negatives donated to the library by Tauranga chemist Leslie Woods. The negatives were almost certainly originally created by Woods’ predecessor, Alick J. Mirrielees, who operated a chemist shop on the Strand from 1910 to 1929.  This particular negative appears to have been copied photographically from a framed image which, as evidence by the inscription “BARTLETT PHOTO. From a Copy” at lower left, was in turn copied by Auckland photographer Robert Henry Bartlett from an earlier image. Bartlett was based in Queen Street, Auckland from 1865 until 1888, but he did pay a visit to Tauranga to take carte de visite portraits in the autumn of 1876, when it’s possible the copy may have been made.

Plan of attack on the Maori position at Gate Pah … reproduced from an old plan, (author unknown), by Lt. Col. G.A. Ward, 4th (Waikato) Mounted Rifles and Capt. A.J. Mirrielees, 6th (Hauraki) Regt., Tauranga, 1913
Glass half-plate negative, 165 x 120mm, Attributed to A.J. Mirrielees
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
In December 1911, a year after Mirrielees’ arrival in Tauranga, and shortly after he had taken command of the newly formed G Company of the Sixth (Hauraki) Volunteer Infantry Regiment, he mounted a display in the window of his chemist shop in The Strand, as described in the Bay of Plenty Times of 13 December.
“THE PAST REVIVED. PHOTOS OF IMPERIAL TROOPS. There are at present on view in the pharmacy of Mr Mirrielees, Tauranga: a number of photos, which give to the present generation an excellent idea of the dangers and hardships passed through by those who pioneered this territory … The photos above referred to include 'Colonel and officers of the 68th light infantry, 1864,' taken in the Redoubt, 'A group of Imperial and Colonial soldiers awaiting orders to advance,' and 'The Militia at work forming Chadwick's cutting, 1869.' The whole of the features in the photographs are very distinct. Included are those of Captains Crapp Davoren and Kerr, R.N., and many privates, a few of whom are still resident in Tauranga."
The glass plate negatives corresponding to the abovementioned prints “Colonel and officers of the 68th …” and “Awaiting the order to advance …” are also in the group donated by Woods. This suggests that Captain Mirrileees, his involvement with the militia extending to an interest in Tauranga’s military heritage, made the copies from prints which were probably owned by local residents, such as Captain Crapp. Likewise in 1913 he collaborated in the copying and reproduction of an old plan of the attack at Gate Pa, shown above.

Armed Constabulary Parade in front of redoubt, Tauranga. Samuel Crowther seated in front of Armstrong gun wheel at far left
Copy albumen print mounted on card, attributed to Charles Moeller, 1870
Collection and courtesy of Suzanne Johnston
Bartlett made the first copy, but seems unlikely to have taken the original photograph, or he would presumably have printed it directly from the negative. So who did take the photograph? A significant clue was provided by Bruce Crowther who got in touch after the original image was published on this blog. He is descended from former Armed Constabulary member Samuel Crowther, and the extended family own another copy of this photograph, pictured above. Crowther served first as a private with the Wellington Rangers against Riwha Tītokowaru at Te Ngutu o Te Manu, South Taranaki for 3 months around August-September 1868, during which time the notorious Von Tempsky was killed. He then joined the Armed Constabulary No. 8 Division in March 1869 as a corporal and took part in the infamous invasions into Urewera Country, with attacks on Te Whāiti and Ruatāhuna in May 1869, and further incursions in 1870.

This too is a copy print, as evidenced by the detailed retouching visible on the men’s faces and on the profile of trees against the skyline. A letter written by Samuel Crowther in July 1913 to Captain Henry Crapp (pictured in the right foreground) in support of a NZ War Medal application, not only gives the identities of all the men pictured, but also provides a year and asserts that it was:
“… taken by Moeller or Muller the old German photographer in 1870 on the Parade in front of the redoubt at Tauranga, Bay of Plenty.”
After travelling widely in the North Island the late 1860s and early 1870s, producing landscape views of the Rotorua and Taupo districts and portraits of its inhabitants, the first record of Charles Moeller in Tauranga was his advertisements in the Bay of Plenty Times in September and October 1872. He didn’t last long here, and it seems very likely that he sold his photographic equipment to James Bodell, who opened his studio towards the end of November that year. Little further is known about Mr Moeller, although it is possible that he is the same Charles Moeller (c1826-1923) who is recorded as having arrived from Holland in the early 1860s, was engaged on active service throughout the Land Wars, including at Gate Pa, in the Waikato, Poverty Bay and Taranaki, present in the action at Te Ngutu o te Manu in 1869, and later worked in the lighthouse service until his retirement.

Tauranga Militia roadmaking at Chadwick’s Cutting, May 1870
Albumen print (185 x 238mm) on card (208 x 263mm), attributed to Charles Moeller
Collection of Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref. PAColl-3386
Few of Moeller’s photographs seem to have survived, at least not with his name on them – perhaps his output was so small that he didn’t have printed cardstock. Given his connection with the militia, a print in the Alexander Turnbull Library collection depicting members of the Tauranga militia engaged in roadmaking at Chadwick’s Cutting, Tauranga in May 1870 (see BOPT article above), seems to be another potential candidate, since there weren’t many other photographers working in the Bay of Plenty at the time.


Many thanks to Bruce Crowther and Suzanne Johnston for sharing photographs, documents and family stories. I’m also grateful to staff at Ngā Wāhi Rangahau, Tauranga City Library, including former archivist Stephanie Smith, for their ongoing assistance with research.


The Bay of Plenty Times on Papers Past,

Obituary of Charles Moeller in Personal Items, Hawera & Normanby Star, 14 August 1923, Courtesy of Papers Past,

Auckland Libraries Photographers Database,

Colonial troops invade the Urewera, 6 May 1869,, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 14-Dec-2016

Te Ngutu o te Manu memorial,, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Aug-2017

MacDonald, D R, active 1965?. MacDonald, D R :One mounted photograph of Tauranga Militia roadmaking at Chadwicks Cutting. Ref: PAColl-3386. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Payne, Brett (2015) Tauranga Photographers: James Bodell, Tauranga Historical Society blog,, accessed 14 May 2020

Rackstraw, Tony (2012) BARTLETT, Robert Henry, on Early New Zealand Photographers,, accessed 14 May 2020

Smith, Stephanie (2018) Armed Constabulary Roads, Tauranga Historical Society blog,, accessed 14 May 2020

Friday, 15 May 2020

Stone Jetty or Boulder Wharf, Mount Maunganui

Old Stone Wharf, Mount Maunganui. Photo: Tauranga Heritage Collection Ref. 0202/08
The Stone Jetty lies at the foot of Mauao in Pilot Bay. In the 1880s Mount Maunganui grew into a popular picnic spot for the people of Tauranga. However, the ladies’ long dresses were getting wet when they disembarked from boats onto the foreshore at Pilot Bay, hence the need for a jetty. The principal proponents of the jetty were George Gardiner, the owner of a hardware store, and architect Arthur Washington Burrows, both longstanding residents of Tauranga.

Stone Jetty, Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui, c.1920s
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 11-029
Andrew Gilmore, a blacksmith, and the plumber William Hale both lent tools, while J. Salt, another blacksmith offered to do the smithy work and volunteer labourers built the jetty. J.W. Grey (later Mayor of Tauranga) a timber yard owner, provided the timber and Messrs. E. Daines, Joseph Brain, and John Mannix helped with the carpentry. Gardiner provided the winch and derrick to move the heavy boulders. George Crabbe, store-keeper was another volunteer, and the first working parties were well attended. In spite of the donated time and materials, cash was in short supply so funds were raised by donations and concert proceeds.

George A Crabbe, founder of the store (1840 - 1905)
Courtesy of N. Wilson, Crabbe Collection, Tauranga Heritage Collection
Completion of the project was too late for the 1888–1889 summer season when 250 people visited the Mount on Boxing Day and 400 on New Year’s Day. It took the architect and three paid helpers who camped at the Mount until mid-March to complete the jetty. On 28 March 1889 the Mayor of Tauranga, James Bodell, along with 36 residents opened the wharf before enjoying tea provided by the Wharf Committee.

It was another twelve years before any Europeans lived at Mount Maunganui.

One hundred years later the wharf was noticeably deteriorating and plans began in 1989 to rebuild it. New Zealand Historic Places Trust authority to proceed with modification of the archaeological site was granted in August 1989. Donations from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Port of Tauranga funded the project. Naval personnel from HMNZS Southland and HMNZS Endeavour and local surfers helped Ales Sager of City Bricklayers (1989) rebuild the jetty. Firth Certified Concrete donated the concrete. Whitianga claims to have the remains of the first stone wharf in Australasia. [1]


[1] Heritage NZ file. Stone Jetty Mount Maunganui. Reg. No. 4569

Friday, 8 May 2020

Gate Pa

Image: Aero Surveys NZ Ltd., Tauranga Heritage Collection
This photograph was taken by Aero Surveys in November 1970. It focuses on the area in which the Battle of Pukehinahina (Gate Pa) took place. St George’s Anglican Church, which opened in 1900, can be seen in the lower right of this image. In 1992 an electrical fire damaged the church building beyond repair. Kauri beams from the old church were saved and integrated into a new building on the same site.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Ada Brain’s teasing confessions

Tucked away in a cupboard in the display room of Brain Watkins House with a miscellany of bound volumes I found this unexpectedly delightful object. Autographic gift-books were very popular in late Victorian times, and have occasionally been the subject of academic interest [1], although the field is still rather unexplored. Ada’s book is no exception, and will, I hope, be the subject of many more blogs and maybe a more substantial publication.

The book was given to Ada on her 21st birthday. It came back to Brain Watkins House about five years ago by way of Australia, when (I think she must be Ada’s great-grand-daughter) Jennifer returned it to the collection [2]. It was evidently something that Ada valued – it was not left behind in the house when she got married, and the companion volumes returned with it were her Bible and the Methodist Hymn Book.

Sixteen people [3], including six women and, interestingly, rather more men – eight – contributed to the Confessions section of her book. The first half or so of the volume offers date-spaces for birthdays, and there are considerably more names listed there. The 29 questions requiring “Confessions” start simply, but quickly become quite searching: even a reader constrained by historian’s discipline can form a view of the personality of the person under interrogation. Most of the entries are in different handwriting: Ada preferred to entice people to take her book to a quiet corner and write their responses, rather than questioning them directly and noting the answers herself. They are, of course, mediated by the light-hearted circumstances of a parlour game; but as a whole the information she gathered from her acquaintance offers a fascinating insight into a slice of Tauranga society at the turn of the twentieth century. This research is still in its early stages but already promising avenues – always a good place to look in Tauranga - of inquiry are revealing themselves.

Why is Ada’s book, all the same, such a tease? For the brief purposes of this blog, the answer lies right at the back of her book. For there, quite apart from her other contributors’ entries, with all 29 questions completed, is a list of responses autographed by someone with the initials “W.T.T.”  Miss Ada Brain became Mrs William Teasey in 1899. We have examples elsewhere of William’s handwriting. To my inexpert eye, the initials match closely. And the entries show a clear, approving bias towards the kind of young woman we know Ada was. It is my romantic conclusion, which may of course be displaced as research continues, that during the friendship that led to engagement and marriage, Ada’s book was deployed by William to use the nineteenth-century equivalent of FAQs to tell her how highly he regarded her.


[1] See, for instance, Samantha Matthews, Gems, Texts and Confessions: Writing Readers in Late-Victorian Autographic Gift-Books [2007] Publishing History 62, p. 53
[2] Unsigned, undated entry in the Brain Watkins House Information Record book, p.29.
[3] I am at a loss to infer the sex of two other respondents from the answers they give.