Category Archives: Programme for the Year

St Michaels and Stafford Place – two Victorian Jewels from our Colonial Past

Report on Field Trip to St Michael’s Church Waimea West and Stafford Place on Thursday 26th April, 2018

A very pleasant afternoon was spent on Thursday afternoon in Waimea West in perfect autumn conditions.

We met at 2.00pm at St Michaels Anglican Church.

Church of St Michaels. View from the north. The main road running from left to right is hidden by tall grass.

Fourteen of our members were present as well as some members of the congregation.  Diane Higgins who has been a member of the church for many years gave us an interesting and informative talk about the establishment of the first church on the site in 1843 (the earliest church in the district) and the construction of the second building which we see today. Names of prominent local settlers including John Kerr and Constantine Dillon, were mentioned and their graves in the churchyard (still in current use) were visited afterwards. (NB The Dillon mausoleum

The grave of the Hon. Constantine Dillon in the Churchyard of St Michaels, Waimea West.

is unoccupied as Constantine was drowned in the Wairau.  His wife took his body home to Ditchley, Oxfordshire, with the children to complete their education.  Some later returned to Nelson.)

A side view of the Dillon mausoleum.

St Michaels has some very special features such as the minstrels’ (choir) gallery above the west door, a beautiful stained glass window behind the altar which commemorates the sacrifice of soldiers in World War I and lozenge shaped doors.  Services are held every Sunday.  Our treasurer, Margaret Clark, thanked Diane for the time and effort she had put into preparing her talk and presented her with gift vouchers.

Shortly after 3.00pm we moved on to Stafford Place in Redwood Road where we were welcomed by Diana Smith whose family bought the property  in 2013.

Diana Smith stands at the foot of the main staircase to welcome us.

She had prepared an interesting photo display showing some very early photos of the house and one which showed the effects of the 1929 earthquake on the small peasy (clay and gravel)

Stafford Place west front.

cottage which was the Redwood’s first home and which had to be demolished.

The present house, built in 1866, is very solidly constructed of native timbers and has a particularly impressive panelled hallway containing a rather grand staircase on the western side.  Wide verandahs run along two sides.  The tall gables on the second storey are a prominent feature of the house. It is built in the Carpenter Gothic style and was called The Castle by Mrs Redwood who never lived in it as their family had grown up and moved away by the time it was finished so it was reserved for visitors and important guests – of whom there were many.

The main house at Stafford Place and the (almost) attached peasey cottage after the 1929 earthquake. The cottage had to be demolished .

We then had the opportunity to visit the Redwood Stables which have been rebuilt on the east side of the house.  It was the scene of Nelson’s first murder when two stablehands had an argument about the colour of a horse and  a firearm was discharged with fatal consequences to one of them.

We had our afternoon tea on the lawn in front of the main entrance.

A watercolour of Stafford Place by Nelson artist Christopher Vine which features in his book “Nelson Observed.”

At approximately 4.15pm, as the afternoon drew to a close, we presented gift vouchers to our very gracious hostess who had made us all feel so welcome.


The stables before restoration. Underneath an owners’ timeline.


The stables today after restoration.


Old Nelson: postcards from our past

Trafalgar St from from Church Hill: an afternoon scene looking north from the Church Steps, sometime about 1915-16. Motor cars mix with bicycles, sidecars, landaus and other horse traffic. On the corner with Hardy St (at right) can be seen the photographer’s own small car; strapped to it is the ladder used for his street views. RP F. N. Jones

Old Nelson – a postcard history 1900-1940 by Rob Packer and Barney Brewster, published by Nikau Press, became available for sale in our local bookstores just before Christmas 2017.  On March 1st, 2018 its co-authors spoke to our society’s meeting and offered some insights into its production.  The images and text reproduced on this site are with their permission and that of the publishers.

To those who have grown up in Nelson, the settings of most of the postcards will be very familiar but the clothes, modes of transport, the crowded nature or emptiness of some of the street scenes are greatly changed.  Yet if you look at the two young men crossing Bridge Street on page 13,  with their slicked- back hair, and stovepipe trousers showing a fashionable amount of ankle -( their socks might have been shocking pink or ming blue) – straight out of the late 1950’s.

To quote from the book’s blurb:  “On the edge of Empire then, the Nelson region was also on the cusp of modernity, as will be seen in this first selection from a notable private collection of postcards.  They do say that the past is another country, and how foreign this one looks, yet familiar too.  It’s surely Nelson town and country, but how very different the shoreline was then!  And not just the seafront, unsurprisingly.  Old wagons raise dust old ships and trains belch smoke – and young people play in the street.  Hatted gents and ladies go about their business (or leisure) by horse cab or bicycle, or breeze about in quaint old cars.  Not that they were quaint then – they were quite the latest.  As for the antique fashions, every six year old wonders if these long-gone people realised at the time that they were living in the olden days, but we surely know  better.”

Hardy St looking west. Note the mix of horse drawn, motorised and people pedal power.

The postcards are not solely focused on Nelson and its immediate environs.  There are cards from Murchison (the earthquake ones), Golden Bay, the Waimea and the Moutere.  Most are from the F. N. Jones collection.  Some record famous events: the first aeroplane to land in Nelson/Stoke and Motueka, the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927 (later to be King and Queen), others natural events (a hail storm in 1911) and men training for war as well as the peace celebrations which finally followed.

A striking scene at high tide about 1914. Close to A. Miller’s sawmill on Miller’s Acre, the timber scow Orakei is moored where the main street meets a ford and a footbridge (cyclists failing to dismount for this were fined). The vehicle ramp for the river crossing looks too steep and later photos show it fenced off. Behind the houses is the impressive brick edifice opened in 1906, while further on, Tattersall’s Stables advertises horses and vehicles for hire. (Hounsell series)

When asked what guided their choice from the hundreds in Rob’s collection the reply was simple, “We chose the ones we liked.” So in each case the motivation for inclusion was some personal connection – a great way to ensure that this collection is full of life, made more meaningful by Barney’s commentary on each one which often draws attention to details which he was able to see more easily on the original negatives.

This is a fascinating overview of life in the Nelson Province in the first half of the 20th Century.

The first aircraft to land in Nelson the pilot had no flight plan and the Avro540K had to land for more petrol. “Its unexpected landing in Mr Marsden’s paddock caused a sensation in Stoke and very quickly there was a large assemblage at the scene,” the Evening Mail said. The plane soon took off again to the applause of onlookers who lined Songer St. Behind them is the Methodist Church, while the Turf Hotel is at right. RP F. N. Jones

Nine divers line up at Black Hole, about 1910-15. Two dogs frolic beyond the horse and the rowboat. The bridge just visible is pedestrian only; vehicles crossed at the ford alongside. Segregated bathing is the norm; the girls have Girlies’ Hole (used for College sports), above the Nile St bridge. RP F. N. Jones.

The Manns at Messines

Following their visit to Messines Ridge in June  to commemmorate the battle 100 years ago in World War I, Colin and MaryAnn gave us a powerpoint presentation on the 24th October 2017  in the Tasman District Library.

Here is a selection of photos recording that experience.

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Messines to sort 2 050



Bookbinder Reveals the “Tricks of the Trade”

Rosie-Anne Pinney from Cambria Craft Bindery in Nelson conducted a bookmaking workshop in the Tasman District Library last week.

But that was not all.  She also explained the steps she would take to restore a bound book which was in need of repair.  Trained by a master bookbinder in Oxford, Rosie Anne who lives in Nelson, can now offer her skills to us in New Zealand.

She showed us how the pages were folded and stitched and  an example of a book she had restored with traditional book cloth.  She  even uses the older organic glues to match the original product.   In her workshop she also has available lead type which is matched to the original font when reprinting a title on the front cover.

The small group which attended were appreciative and were soon involved in making their own booklets using simple implements and following straightforward steps.

A simple A5 booklet with stitched pages using a template, an awl (not shown) to make holes, a diagram showing the direction of sewn thread and a printed cover (supplied ).

Never a Reluctant Sailor

When Colin William Mann, aged 20, No.710345, was called up to do his Compulsory Military Training in 1952 during the time of the Korean War it was with no sense of irritation or reluctance that he left his civilian life in Wellington and volunteered to join the marine section of the airforce based in Hobsonville, Auckland, because there was nothing he liked better than to be “messing about in boats.”
He joined the RNZAF Marine Section at the Hobsonville base for 3 months training in June 1952 as part of a “Motor Boat Crew Under Training.”
Following the overnight train journey from Wellington, a bus ride to the Base a medical and a clothes issue he was finally introduced to the barracks which he would share with 18 other young men for 3 months basic training followed by 2 weeks annual territorial camps from 1953 to 1958 with a final discharge in 1960.Scan

For the first 3 weeks life was an established routine:  rising at 6.00am, learning the orders to fall in, stand at attention, route marches, P.T., early barrack chores (bed making, wardrobe layout), lots of “square bashing”, marching to the mess for meals.  Some nights were compulsory film nights.  As Colin was a Basketball player he joined the Station Team for games on Wednesday nights in the city.  An early scheduled game would allow time to take in a movie in Auckland.  Rugby games were organised for Sunday afternoons as there was no weekend leave.  During this time there was only one rifle shoot – the exceptional amount of rain ruling out the beach exercise under war conditions.Route march

After 3 weeks of this basic training the group divided into their chosen sections.  The Marine Section began with roll call at 8.ooam followed by  learning about Air Force rules, rules of the sea, Morse Code with sound and flags, knots, splices and other small boating skills.  Then there was information about things new to him:  heavy moorings for aircraft and other requirements for securing seaplanes.  After lunch at 12.00 some afternoons were spent in the gymn.  1700 hours was early tea time followed by an evening in the barracks washing and ironing shirts, creasing trousers, cleaning brass buttons and rifles and generally getting ready for the 0600 wake up call.

Boat at moorings

Colin on board No. 313 – a Bilge Cabin Launch about 25ft. Good for towing and training trips for coastal navigation.

Colin decided to stay in the T.A.F./F. Force to do 2 weeks a year camps for 5 years training and became a Motor-Boat Crew Assistant.


Sunderland preparing to land

Now, 6 decades later and after discovering that Launch No. 88 on which he had crewed all those years ago was now being held by the Airforce Museum at Wigram in Christchurch, he was encouraged to write down his recollections of that time and together with photographs, maps and other information he has now produced a booklet  for his grandchildren and members of a generation who would have no idea of what CMT was all about.

Boat in museum

Colin and his wife, MaryAnn, with Safety Launch No. 88 used to clear landing zones and lay light buoys for night landings. A twin screw vessel capable of 25 knots.

We were privileged to hear Colin speak at our April meeting and enjoyed his relaxed wry humour in recounting some amusing episodes which he had experienced during that time.  Here is one example:  One morning as all the craft returned to the wharf after servicing a Sunderland, the 20ft launch fitted with a generator for charging the radar went to the inside of the wharf to tie up.  The high tide was on the ebb so the skipper endeavoured to hold on to the pile while he passed the rope around it to tie to the cleat on the deck.  Unfortunately for him, the very strong tide took the boat from under his feet, so to the highly amused onlookers he slowly slipped into the water.  He (and the launch) was duly recovered – somewhat wet but O.K.


Colin demonstrates a manoeuvre with one of his flying boat models during his talk.









“The Grange” Hosts History Groups of the Nelson Region

On a still, sunny autumn day in March, members of the Nelson Region’s history groups met at “The Grange”,

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History group members gathered in front of the main house. The oak tree is behind the camera.

just outside Motueka, built 170 years ago for Motueka’s first doctor, John Danforth Greenwood, his wife Sarah and their 9 (eventually 13) children. About 42 people from Nelson, Waimea, Tapawera, Motueka and Golden Bay gathered on the lawn near the largest English oak tree in the South Island, planted in 1864 and at 33 metres one of the tallest in New Zealand.
We were treated to an interesting, fluent and very knowledge talk about the Greenwoods and the house by the current owner, Martyn Whittaker,

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Our host, Martyn Whittaker, whose passion is to share this historic house with others.

after which we were able to wander around the property and the house which, as you can see from the photographs, is really two houses linked by an enclosed passageway – the first a typical settlers’ cottage and the second a two-storey addition built in the front. This allows the smaller house to be let for holiday accommodation.

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The original house facing north. Window near chimney shows position of the linking passageway

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The original house facing west. This is the back entrance.

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The kitchen and dining area in the cottage looking towards the back door.

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The sitting room in the cottage.

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The south end of the main front lounge.


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The north end of the main front lounge.

After lunch members of each group shared their more recent activities and concerns. Waimea South were particularly dissatisfied with the attitude of the local authority towards the celebration of Nelson’s Anniversary Day on 1st February and expressed the view that recognising this event should not be solely the responsibility of Nelson city. The whole district should celebrate in some way the arrival of the first settlers and that this should be planned for each year well in advance. It should be a yearly on-going activity and not just reserved for special anniversaries.

It was a most enjoyable day – a perfect venue to showcase and appreciate our colonial heritage.  Coralie Smith and the Motueka and Districts’ Historical Association deserve our thanks for organising this event.

Whitefriars Enjoys 141 years of History

Waimea South members held their first meeting of 2017 in a house built in 1876 on land purchased by Jacob Watson who, together with his wife Alice, arrived in Nelson on the Clifford in May 1842.
This was particularly appropriate in a province which, this year, celebrates 175 years of European settlement.
The two storey wooden structure built of pit-sawn timber and more recently added to by

Whitefriars about 1915. A young Gordon Wadsworth being held in the arms of his father.

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Whitefriars – view of the north-eastern side.

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All the way from Fife. A grandfather clock stands proudly in the sitting room

American boat builder Brian Bennett, is the second house on this block of land. The first (site not yet discovered) was built of cob by Jacob who at 23 was extremely competent in this medium as well as stone. He constructed the first Wakefield School, part of which lasted until the 1970’s.
The house was first called The Pines but in the 1960’s the named changed to Whitefriars.
Jacob and Alice had 5 children. The youngest, Violet, married Thomas Wadsworth some time in the 1890’s.

Jacob died in 1888 and after Violet’s marriage, Alice moved into a house on a terrace across the main road overlooking the Wai-iti Church of Christ. She had been acting as a midwife for the local women and had passed these skills on to her daughter who, as well as bringing up 5 children of her own, continued in her mother’s profession.

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Susie, Bryan and their pet dog.

Bryan and Susie Houston from Fife, Scotland, are now the proud and energetic owners of Whitefriars. They are lovers of old houses and have plans to develop the lifestyle block with heritage plants and trees: roses, fruit trees and possibly (if conditions are right) a truffle woodlot. Animals, cats, dogs (one a Leonberger), and peacocks are also part of the picture.

Our group enjoyed their friendly hospitality on a sunny and warm autumn afternoon.Whitefriars - Colin Mann 035 It was a wonderful way to begin a heritage year in Nelson.

Christmas Lunch at Willowbank Ends the Year’s Activities

Members enjoying lunch at Willowbank on their last meeting of the year, November 2016

Members enjoying lunch at Willowbank on their last meeting of the year, November 2016

A key group of Waimea South’s members enjoyed an end-of-year shared lunch at Willowbank on Tuesday 22nd November.

The event followed the traditional format of general meeting, lunch, followed by a quiz and the sharing of gifts with three chances of changing your present.

Afterwards, Christine showed us around Willowbank and described some new developments which include a new street and frontages which she plans to implement in the new year.

It was a typical Nelson early summer’s day and we felt privileged to be able to enjoy our final function of the year in such appropriate surroundings for a history group.

Rosie-Anne Pinney – Bookbinder

Our speaker for April, 2016, was Rosie-Anne Pinney, the new owner of Cambria Craft Bindery in Nelson.

Rosie-Anne ready to begin her talk.

Rosie-Anne ready to begin her talk.

Rosie-Anne’s talk covered the history of books and book-binding from Medieval times, the development in the use of materials:  parchment, vellum, paper;  illustration and decoration: illuminated manuscripts, up to Gutenberg and the use of moveable type. With this invention there were more books produced in 50 years than in the preceeding 1,000 years.  His first printed work was a Latin grammar book.

A book bound in calf skin with hand-tooled design, gold decoration, marbeled edges and clasps to keep the pages from wrinkling.

A book bound in calf skin with hand-tooled design, gold decoration, marbeled edges and clasps to keep the pages from wrinkling.

Then came Caxton in 1476 who set up the first printing press in London.  Gold  was used around the edges to protect the surface of the book.  In the 17th and 18th centuries pictures were painted over the edges that were not related to the contents.  Marbeling  was also used.  The books were stored on shelves with the page edges pointing outwards to show these effects.

Elaborate page edge scene decorations.

Elaborate page edge scene decorations.


What a bookbinder works with.

Mechanisation of book production came in the 19th century and then the Arts and Crafts movement followed as a reaction to this.


A particularly fine example of an elaborately illuminated cover design.

Rosie-Anne used a power point presentation to very effectively illustrate her talk.

We plan to invite Rosie-Anne to pay us a return visit next year to demonstrate the techniques she uses in her work.


George Harvey’s Hop Kiln

Early spring rain had turned to a bright, sunny afternoon when about 12 of our members visited George Harvey’s hop kiln in Mahana on 27th September.

Our guide, Eileen Thawley is a third generation descendant of George who had build the kiln on land granted to him by the Crown in 1913.  When that kiln was destroyed by fire in 1938, it was quickly rebuilt according to the original plans and on the original footprint the following year.  It therefore still qualifies to be registered as an historic building with the local council and Heritage New Zealand.

Since hop growing is no longer carried out on the farm, it is set up as a small museum with original tools and equipment together with historical items connected with the Harvey family.  Many photos copied and enlarged from  family albums adorn the walls, illustrating how this cottage industry worked.

Eileen is a mine of information and we greatly appreciated her easy recall of facts and incidents relating to the workings of the hop garden and apple orchard over three generations. It was satisfying to think that her knowledge will not be lost but will continue to be told by other members of the Harvey family in the future.

Later that same afternoon we visited the Moutere Hills Public Cemetery in Gardeners Valley Road where Eileen was also able to be our guide as her family had been the guardians of this public amenity over the years.

A very informative and enjoyable afternoon  concluded with afternoon tea at the Upper Moutere Cafe.

Members gather to listen to Eileen Thawley (Harvey) give some background to the family farm's operations.

Members gather to listen to Eileen Thawley (Harvey) give some background to the family farm’s operations.

The second kiln building built on the the original footprint about 1900 after the first kiln was destroyed by fire.

The second kiln building built on the the original footprint about 1900 after the first kiln was destroyed by fire.

Two young figures at work picking hops into a portable bin which could be moved around the garden as the hops were cut. Note the bushel measure used for measurement. (36.37 liters)

Two young figures at work picking hops into a portable bin which could be moved around the garden as the hops were cut. Note the bushel measure used for measurement. (36.37 liters)


An invoice from Buxtons, the local buyer, for a bale of hops from the Harvey farm.


An unusual headstone in the Moutere Hills cemetery in Gardener’s Valley Road. Sadly there is no name.