Jail break

An extract from a letter written from Wellington, New Zealand, 24 April 1843, when the settlement was just three years old.

Wellington has been in a state of great excitement for the last few days.
On Wednesday last six convicts who had been sentenced the previous day to ten years’ transportation, broke out of gaol and took possession of a boat lying on the beach.

Wellington Courthouse_Brees

Wellington courthouse on the right c. 1843.

They were half-way across the harbour before anybody went after them. It was blowing a tremendous gale from the N.W., and it soon became dark ; many of the boats returned the same night, but the sheriff [police magistrate] meeting with a small schooner entering the harbour, pressed her in the Queen’s name, and went in pursuit of the prisoners. He returned unsuccessful on Friday morning ; but in the evening everybody was agreeably surprised by the arrival of some Mauris [Maori] in a canoe with the six prisoners.

It appears that the prisoners were wrecked on a reef near Palliser Bay, and got ashore in a most extraordinary manner, each man having from twenty to thirty pounds of irons about his legs. They wandered about the beach in quest of another boat, but they soon fell in with the Mauris, by whom they were captured, and who had been informed of the escape of the convicts by some of the constables. The Mauris behaved well, and will receive £5 for each of the prisoners. It was a daring thing to break out of the gaol in a town where there are 5,000 inhabitants in broad daylight.
‘The New Zealand Journal’, London, 30th September 1843.

Image details – [Brees, Samuel Charles] 1810-1865 :Courts of Justice, Wellington [ca 1843]
Reference Number: B-031-009 http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=4577

Kelburn: midway between earth and sky

Wellington (New Zealand) journalist, Pat Lawlor (1893-1979), digs into his boyhood diary

February 1, 1906….. Went to the Kiosk and had fun in the cable car……

Vintage postcard of Kelburn Tea Kiosk and cable car c.1907

Kelburn (with an extra ‘e’) Kiosk around 1907 with cable car at right.

The place Wellingtonians know now as the Skyline was for many years identified as the Kiosk. It was a barn-like building where one could have tea and cakes for sixpence, with a fine view of the city and harbour thrown in for good measure. The young men of the city usually took their young ladies there by cable car and then wandered on down through the Botanical Gardens on the way home, or through the then-embowered Kelburn to the other end of the city. I do not know when the tea rooms ceased to be called the Kiosk.

I do know, however, that after World War II the name became unpopular. Anti-communists suggested ‘kiosk’ was of Russian origin, but this is not correct. The word is Turkish or Persian signifying…… banqueting amid trellised splendour with fair views. This, despite all the glamour that youthful memory may inspire, could hardly describe the Kiosk I wrote of in my diary of 1906.
‘More Wellington Days’. Pat Lawlor, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd., 1962.

F. L. Irvine-Smith, in her book ‘The Streets of my City’ (1948), digs a little deeper

Kelburn, named after Viscount Kelburn, the eldest son of the Earl of Glasgow, Governor of New Zealand (1892-1897), quickly became a favourite suburb, not only because of its proximity to the city, but because of the sheer beauty of its position poised high above the city and the shining waters below.

Kelburn ascent

The nucleus of settlement was the Upland Farm, acquired by the Upland Estate Co., in 1896, originally the property of Wm. Moxham, but every possible foothold was soon covered by the heavily basemented type of house which may be said to have become the characteristic of Wellington hill-side architecture…….

It was a sheer triumph of engineering that transformed the lower levels of Moxham Farm into habitable ground….. which emerged out of the levelling of the knolls that filled the valley, their soil being spread by means of an aerial wire tramway.

Kelburn is thus an essentially man-made suburb, from its cable tramway which transports passengers in ten minutes from the heart of the city, to its flights of soaring steps and bastions and retaining walls that transform the most inaccessible eyries into “desirable building lots,” but once safely ensconced within these buttressed edifices, midway between earth and sky, the panorama that meets the eye is truly heaven-made – an unsurpassable vista of city, sea and sky in the perfection of harmonious balance…….

Kelburn descent

Nearby is Kelburn Park, a verdant expanse of “the greenest grass that ever grew,” with scarce a trace of having been made to order by cutting off a hill-top and tipping it holus-bolus into the adjacent gully.
‘The Streets of My City’. F. L. Irvine-Smith, 1948. Reprinted 1974 by A. H. & A. W. Reed Ltd, Wellington.

Overlooking the Oriental Bay area of Wellington from the suburb of Kelburn.

Kelburn Park, foreground, “made to order”.

The Skyline building was lost to two suspicious fires, three weeks apart, in 1982.

On the Road Again

Commercial travellers, the company rep., travelling salesmen (and women) – do they still exist, or have they been made redundant by on-line ordering? If they’re still in business they probably announce their next visit by text or email but in 1906 their customers would have received something like this in the mail

calling card

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Otago and Southland edition, 1905) tells us that The firm of Messrs. Briscoe and Co., Limited, is an offshoot of the old house of William Briscoe and Son, which was founded in Wolverhampton [England] about the year 1768.

The large business conducted from Dunedin …. [opened in 1862] is confined chiefly to the South Island, where seven travellers are steadily engaged in visiting the customers; but the North Island is left to the Wellington and Auckland houses of the firm.

This particular “traveller”, W. G. Macindoe, was based in Auckland and, even at this early date, seems to have had a company car to drive around his commercial territory. Lets hope it was more practical than the steam driven fantasy on the postcard! It seems that Mr. Macindoe used both card and car for something other than company business. This was posted to a young lady in Paparoa and the single sentence at the bottom says Will you come for a drive to Whangarei and is signed Your boy. The journey from Paparoa to Whangarei would have been more than just an afternoon jaunt on the roads of 1906.

Moving forward to 1909, The New Zealand Herald of April 10 noted –
Mr W. G. Macindoe, traveller for Briscoe and Co., was the recipient of a handsome cabinet of cutlery from the staff on Thursday evening on the occasion of his marriage. The manager (Mr. A. G. Graham) made the presentation.

The cutlery was also a leaving present because, on 26th, the Auckland Star announced – Mr W. G. Macindoe, of Messrs. Briscoe and Co. (Ltd.), having been transferred to the firm’s Sydney warehouse, leaves by the Maheno this evening. He will be accompanied by Mrs. Macindoe.
I haven’t been able to find any details about Mrs. Macindoe so far. I wonder if she lived in Paparoa?

(Although the company began as a wholesaler, Brisoes is now a high-profile retail chain with their advertising slogan “You’ll never buy better”).

Travelling by stagecoach

In the late sixties of last century [19th], when the “Diggings” were in full swing, there was an excellent service of coaches owned by Cobb & Co. Coaches left Dunedin daily by the main north and south roads; the distance covered each day was well over seventy miles, so that an early start was the rule.

stage west coast

Breakfast at 5 a.m. “with our hats on” was the beginning of the first journey alone for three little sisters who set off to spend a happy summer holiday with an elder sister in her home on the banks of the Molyneux River [Clutha].

Our own road down the Glen joined the South Road a mile or so out of Dunedin, and we had, therefore, no share in the bustle and importance of the daily start from the office in town. We had not long to wait before the coach appeared on the crest of the hill and rattled down towards us. Good-byes were said and last instructions given as the big coach pulled up with a swing and stood heaving and swaying on its great leather springs, while the harness creaked and clattered as the six big greys shook it, stamping with impatience at the delay.

We were soon in the places reserved for us at the back of the coach, where we would be well protected from the weather by big leather curtains – on this fine morning rolled up so that we might enjoy the pleasant country through which we drove.

Besides the seats of honour on the box and above it, there were four (or more) seats set across the interior – just hard wooden seats with very little padding and a wide leather strap for a back. The coaches were generally overflowing with diggers, usually very cheerful, confident that they were on their way to make their fortunes, or, still more cheerful, with fortunes in their pockets, on their way to town to spend them……

The number of horses in use by Cobb & Co. must have been enormous, and the quality was outstanding. Beautiful greys were always reserved for the entrance into town, and the procession of the Gold Escort was indeed a sight never to be forgotten. Armed out-riders led and followed the special coach bringing in the gold; and there was frequently a prisoner or two, in which case the armed guard on the box, and riding alongside, would be considerably increased.

Vintage postcard of two stagecoaches on the Christchurch to Greymouth road.

All that, however, was a thing of long past when, after my marriage, I travelled by coach, this time to my new home on the Maniototo Plain. The railway that was eventually to stretch from one end of the [South] Island to the other could now be used to shorten distances, and our coach journey began at Palmerston, following up the Shag river, to Naseby – one day’s journey. In the earlier days the coach had to break the journey for the night at a so-called accommodation house that bore the very descriptive name of Pig-root.

Some of my happiest recollections are of these old coach journeys to our up-country home, my children enjoying the adventure, tucked away inside the coach with their nurse. Of course, there were inevitable discomforts, but one could forget the bumping into and over frozen ruts on a winter’s morning when looking out on the frost-laden snowgrass, the sun covering the great white domes with jewels, and icicles veiling the blue depths of fairy halls below them.

The driver, appreciating my husband’s eye for a horse, always kept the box-seat for us, and his fund of yarns was inexhaustible, so that on many a drowsy summer afternoon their voices seemed to me to grow fainter and fainter as the coach wound up the sunny side of the Range. But, at the top, the fresh breeze in one’s face was like the meeting with an old friend, and, with a crack of the long whip and the rattle of loose swingle-trees, away we would go, down the long cutting and across the river-bed, till, in the cool dusk, sweet with the scent of the flax blossom and dewy tussock, we pulled up at the wayside hotel where we changed horses for the last stage that day.
J. M. Buchanan, a contributor to ‘Tales of Pioneer Women’, Whitcombe & Tombs Limited, 1940.

The stagecoaches illustrated here, with the popular five horse configuration, are similar to the one Mrs. Buchanan would have taken on her trip to Naseby. These coaches travelled some New Zealand “roads” until the early 1920s.

A cast-iron lighthouse

From the ‘Wairarapa Age’, Masterton, New Zealand, 6 June 1912.

castle-point-buildMessrs S. Luke and Co. Ltd., Victoria Street, Wellington, are at present engaged in building the new cast-iron lighthouse for Castlepoint. The lighthouse, which is to be sixty feet in height, is being cast in ten rings of six feet each (each ring having twelve sections). The diameter of the lighthouse at the base is eighteen feet, and at the top ten feet. The cast-iron plates average about an inch in thickness, being slightly heavier at the bottom than at the top.
Instead of the edges of the plates being hand-chipped, they have been milled by machinery, interior platforms are to be built at intervals, with an iron stairway zig-zagging to the top. It is expected the lighthouse will be finished at the yard towards the end of the month. Then, after inspection, it will be taken to pieces, and re-erected at Castlepoint.

castle-point-wide

And here is the result – one of the most photographed and accessible lighthouses in the country. This is the cliché shot, no tourist leaves without it thanks to a convenient wooden stairway to a viewing platform on the headland.

castle-point-storm

These two images were taken about two and a half hours apart on a warm Spring day in October. Ten minutes later the temperature suddenly dropped and this southerly storm front was dumping hail and sleet on the beach.

Castle Point racing

North Island, New Zealand in the 1870s. George Meredith signed on “to help take a mob of cattle through to Napier, where there is a demand for store-cattle for fattening purposes.” The herd was driven north along the coast because, in the absence of inland roads, that was the easiest route available at the time. On his return, Meredith wrote to his family in Tasmania.

We had a great trip with the cattle. It was risky swimming them over the rivers. If the cattle fail to make for the opposite bank the leaders may turn back and start “ringing” in midstream, the cattle in the middle of the ring being forced under water and drowned. At first it is difficult to get a clean swim-over; but the mob soon gets used to it. One of the first camping-places was Castle Point. Here there is a wonderfully flat beach over a mile long, on which races are often held. It makes an ideal racecourse, but must be rather distressing for the horses, as there is no elasticity in sand.
‘Adventuring in Maoriland in the Seventies’. G.L. Meredith. Angus & Robertson Ltd, Sydney. 1935.

cp_races2

The tradition continues today, weather and beach conditions permitting. The Castlepoint Racing Club holds one meeting a year in March – this Saturday (11th) if you’re in the area. Meredith needn’t have worried about the horses’ welfare. Races are run on wet sand, between tides, and they show no more discomfort than on any other soft track as they come thundering down the beach.

cp_races

Follow the link to see more.

 

Oamaru encore

This post expands on my last, showing more of the Victorian Precinct in Oamaru, New Zealand.

oamaru-warehouse

These are the second and third floors of a large grain store. The elaborate carved decoration around windows and doors projected an air of success and prosperity to the street. The back of the building, which faces the old railyard and harbour, has no decoration at all.

oamaru-hotel

This facade sits to one side of the main precinct and is all that remains of the Northern Hotel. Originally built of Baltic pine in 1860, it was rebuilt in local stone twenty years later. There used to be more of it on the right. It was a social and business hub in its prime, located just across the road from harbour and railway, and it was the terminus for the Dunedin coach. Then the rail station was relocated to the north and the business district followed, leaving the “Northern” marooned at the southern end of town.
The precinct buildings lend themselves to a dramatic monochrome treatment but you have to see them in colour to appreciate the charm of the area.

Street sign on the derelict Victorian era Northern Hotel. Oamaru, New Zealand.

The limestone reflects ambient light and changes from cool white in the shade to yellow in the evening sun. This is a detail on the shadow side of the Northern Hotel.

oamaru-window

A boutique shop in the precinct. This one sells second hand “retro” clothes.

The Victorian Precinct, Oamaru, New Zealand.

The Criterion Hotel really “pops” against a blue sky, with direct lighting from the late afternoon sun. Unlike the Northern, the Criterion is still in business. (They didn’t ask me to tell you that.)