Sunday, May 17, 2009

Huia Settlers Museum

I was very fortunate today. A good friend of mine and President of the West Auckland Historical Society, Trevor Pollard, took me out on a site visit to Huia and Whatipu, part of planning for next year's NZ Federation of Historical Societies conference. This meant finally, at long, long last, I got to be able to see the Huia Settlers Museum, home to a collection of HMS Orpheus memorabilia, amongst lots of other things.

The museum is situated in the Karamatura Valley (I can tell you, even on a rainy day like today, it is a gorgeous setting). It opened on 10 March 1984 after "two years of planning, negotiation, fund raising, collecting and eventually building," to quote from their brochure. It is wholly owned and administered by the local community. It was established "to collect, preserve and disp;ay items that represent the way of life of the early settlers of the Huia and surrounding districts of the Waitakere Ranges and Manukau shoreline." The museum is open Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Even across the road from the museum, interesting stuff can be seen.

While inside, stuffed birds preen, or take flight next to old irons and a cast iron, copper lined clothes boiler (this one, below, once property of the Turner family of Huia).

The museum's maritime displays, for all its compact size, are well-worth a long browse through. Here's a model of the scow Alma, the boat itself built in 1902 by G. T. Niccol of Auckland.

But, star of the show is the HMS Orpheus collection. This is a cast iron lid from a water tank on the ill-fated ship.

A piece of copper sheathing.

A piece of the ship's inner railing, a baluster made into a lamp.

Outside, under cover, the remains of a section of the main mast, 10 feet from deck level, and 10 feet below the "main tops" platform. According to the interpretive sign above it: "It was recovered from the Kaipara Harbour entrance in October 1991 and brought to this museum in February 1992, after being sighted periodically during the intervening 121 years."

Certainly a lot to see at this museum so close to the edge of the Auckland region -- even this odd sight -- a blackface figure seemingly fixed to a sewing machine treadle table. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to take another look at the museum again next year. I'll ask then what the story is behind it.


  1. One source for further reading on the area is Bob Harvey's Untamed Coast (IBSN 0-908988-11-7) which includes a reference to the museum. It's a useful primer to the development of the area, supplemented by the excellent photos of Ted Scott. It's probably a bit lightweight for a serious historian, but I found it a good "scene setter". Same with his companion, Rolling Thunder - the Spirit of Karekare.

  2. Thanks for that, Phil. Books by Bob Harvey I tend to have in my "yet to be proven" mental category, though. I'm still not convinced that he has all his facts straight enough to be used as a historical reference and resource. If I was asked to do a research study of the district, I'd tend to go to other sources:
    Memories of a Huia lass by Gwen Wilkinson (2007); conservation plan for Huia Lodge, prepared by Dave Pearson Architects (2000); The settlement of the Huia : a history of the Huia and adjacent parts of the Manukau Harbour by Norman Laing (1998); Huia, An Album from the Past, Norman Laing. Also, books on Whatipu (one recently from the ARC, as well as Bruce Harvey's book, and John Lifton's Cornwallis.

  3. *sigh* What a fab museum, wish I could visit but thanks for the photos, Lisa, and the article :)

  4. memories as i painted the orpheus nails and fittings in anti rust paint in 1992 and painted the museum 20yrs later im now living on the other side at the top of the manukau penninsula good page brings back memories

  5. Thanks, melky7. Your comment has made my day, cheers!