Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ponsonby Boys Brass Band 1916-1968

This image, from Lyn Dear’s collection, dates from 1922 six years after the Ponsonby Boys Brass Band had started in 1916.


A public meeting of residents of Ponsonby was held at the Leys Institute last night for the purpose of electing officers and committee for the recently formed Ponsonby Boys' Brass Band. In opening the meeting, Mr C Hoffman explained that the band was formed last October, and a provisional committee set up. Mr A Norris was bandmaster, and started with three boys. Now they had fifteen members. The committee considered the time had now arrived when the brass band should be put on a sound financial basis. They would require assistance from the public. They were prepared to train boys who would come to the conductor. One aim was to keep lads from wandering aimlessly round the streets at nights.

Mr T W Leys was then asked to preside. He said the object of the meeting was to put the band on a proper footing. The first business would be to decide the name of the band and elect officers and committee. That did not necessarily mean letting the provisional committee drop out. It would also be necessary to elect trustees. The secretary (Mr Foster) said Mr Norris had seven boys of his own and, starting with these, originated the idea of forming a brass band. Owing to the war members of the adult bands were enlisting, and it was felt that it would be well to train boys to fill the vacancies. As funds were needed to purchase instruments and music, it was decided to call a public meeting to enlist public sympathy with the objects of the movement. All services, including the bandmaster, were purely honorary. They had the opportunity of purchasing a set of instruments at very reasonable terms, and money was required to secure them. Motions were then adopted, “That it is desirable to form a boys' brass band,” also that it be called Ponsonby Boys' Brass Band.

The following officials were next elected: Trustees: Messrs T Vivian, P Hunt, C Hoffman, and W McMath; bandmaster: Mr A Norris; secretary: Mr T Foster; and treasurer, Mr R Francis; committee: Messrs T Vivian, J L Francis, S Hunt, P T Bint, A Norris, T Foster, A Barton, C Hoffman, G Stewart and W McMath: five to form a quorum. The committee was empowered to elect a chairman and draft rules for the guidance of the band. A vote of thanks was accorded the chairman for presiding.

Auckland Star 9 December 1916

Reverse of above card.

In 1937, the Auckland Star got a bit carried away in describing the band as the first to form in NZ. The Ponsonby Boyd Fife and Drum Band was started in 1910 at the Leys Institute.

The twenty-first anniversary of the Ponsonby Boys' Brass Band will be celebrated with a children's fancy dress carnival in the Band Hall, Jervois Road, Ponsonby. next Thursday night.

The first boys band to be formed in New Zealand, the Ponsonby Band was organised in October 1916, by a committee consisting of Messrs T Foster, C Hoffman, A Norris (bandmaster) and R Francis. Mr Francis is the present chairman of the committee. Over 600 boys have received their training in the band, and many of them are earning their living through their musical ability. From the date of its inception the band has given many performances at public hospitals and institutions, not only in Auckland, but throughout New Zealand. During the war it turned out to play the reinforcements away, and for 13 years, it acted as senior cadet band of Auckland.

Auckland Star 2 October 1937

The band incorporated at some point before the 1940s, changed the name to the Ponsonby and Districts Silver Band Inc c.1967, but disbanded in 1968 due to lack of members. Remaining equipment was given to the Boystown Police and Citizens Club band. In 1984, at a function to open refurbished meeting room at the Leys Institute, the Mayor of Auckland at the time, Catherine Tizard, made reference to the band, and how “a revival of the Ponsonby Boys' Brass Band could be a way to keep young people off the streets,” echoing what C Hoffman had said in a different society 68 years before.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A rather political hotel: the Railway Terminus/Post Office Hotel, Onehunga (1871-c.1971)

The Railway Terminus Hotel at the right, c. 1871. From Manukau Progress, 1960.

Onehunga local historian GGM Mitchell, in a series of articles in the Manukau Progress, dated the hotels on the site at the corner of Princes and Queen Streets back to April 1865, when John Samuel Williams fronted up to the local licensing committee with plans and specifications for a building he was still constructing (since November 1864). The committee approved the license for the hotel, dubbed the Courthouse Hotel (it being so called, Mitchell said, as it was right next to the Onehunga Courthouse) and said Williams was allowed to sell beer once he had erected the bar.

The hotel became a centre for meetings of great importance to the future of Onehunga. In 1866, the Mangere Bridge Company formed there, aiming to impress upon the government the importance of a harbour crossing linking Onehunga with her southern neighbour.

By July 1867, the next publican was H Powning Stark, Auckland Provincial politician and land speculator. His time there was brief. Fire ended the Courthouse Hotel on 12 June 1868.

“Miss Stark, a daughter of the licensee, awoke at 3.30 am to find smoke seeping into her bedroom from under the door. She quickly aroused the other inmates – eight in all – who made good their escape wearing their night attire only, so advanced was the fire. Flames swept across the street and several neighbouring premises were endangered.”


Stark passed the hotel over to another political figure, John Lundon, who started building the replacement from the end of 1870. The licensing application for the Railway Terminus Hotel was approved 21 June 1871, in nice time for the completion of the Auckland to Onehunga rail line in 1873. So, in the course of researching this post, I found something I had no idea of before: that there was proposed, in the early 1870s, for White Bluff at Hillsborough to become the railway terminus instead of Onehunga.

“The use of this name [Railway Terminus Hotel] is part of the story of the internecine struggle which involved two strong groups of businessmen in Onehunga. One group sought to grasp the opportunity to secure in their own hands the increase in trade that they anticipated would result from the linking of Onehunga with Auckland by a railway line. The opposing group had secretly resolved to urge the government to extend the railway line to White Bluff where there was, they contended, sufficient depth of water to enable steamers and fair-sized sailing craft to lie close in to the shore. Plans had been prepared by an Auckland marine engineer for a wharf at White Bluff which would render the existing wharf at the foot of Queen Street [Onehunga] no longer necessary. The railway line to the new wharf site would be carried through a tunnel under Queen Street, down Princes Street, then across a stone causeway from the Beach to Hillsborough, and thence along the foreshore to White Bluff.

“Mr J C Hill, who owned the land through which the line would pass, had had street and building sites surveyed in the confident belief that the government would sanction the plans of the promoters. The latter, meantime, were being subjected to the bitter and loud-voiced castigations of their fellow-citizens for their unpatriotic machinations. For long years after, the “Kelly Gang,” as the promoters of the scheme to render nugatory the wharf at the end of Queen Street were execrated by the group which manfully supported the government’s proposal to make Onehunga the terminus of the railway line from Auckland. Actively engaged in the work of defeating the aims of the “Kelly Gang” – three well-to-do members of which were engaged in 1872 in building a fine new hotel building at the corner of Captain and Selwyn Streets – was Mr John Lundon. He was ale, by virtue of his standing with the government, to thwart the aims and objects of the “Kelly Gang”. This group was busily engaged in putting pressure on the government to establish the Onehunga Railway Station in Selwyn Street, close to their hotel, which was to be called the Railway. But John Lundon spiked the guns of his opponents by securing the approval of the Licensing Committee to the name Railway Terminus being conferred on his hotel.

“The well-laid schemes of the White Bluff syndicate were set to naught when the government refused to allow the railway to by-pass the Onehunga Wharf. The grand hotel building at the corner of Captain and Selwyn Streets failed to secure a license. Until the structure was demolished, many years later, it was referred to by Onehunga residents as “Rats Castle.”


Mitchell theorised that this name of “Rats Castle” might have been a hark back to a historic public house in London, the lair of “swell mobsters, petty thieves, footpads and common burglars.”

The Provincial Council were indeed looking quite seriously at establishing a wharf at White Bluff as early as the mid 1850s. Carlton Hill who up to his death owned the land to become “Hillsboro” and “Queenstown” (adjoining Onehunga) strongly pushed the idea of road connection to White Bluff. White Bluff was suggested as a better spot for a landing place than Onehunga in 1856, with Onehunga as the next option. In 1858, Col. Mould is said to have put in a report:
“I cannot hesitate for a moment in recommending the White Bluff as the proper place for the construction of the Jetty , for the simple reason that that is the farthest point to which vessels of a burthen of say 200 or 250 tons can safely come up the Harbour, in consequence of the Shallow Water.”

(Advertisement for Hillsboro & Queenstown subdivision, Southern Cross 19 April 1859 p.2)

Detail from Deed S 26, LINZ records

White Bluff was an anchorage and cattle landing place by the early 1860s, timber was loaded there, and it was an embarkation point for troops heading for the Waikato during the land wars that decade. Extending the planned Auckland to Onehunga railway line to White Bluff was something the Provincial Council treated seriously in 1867.

Even after the spat which Mitchell described in his articles had taken place, White Bluff loomed over Onehunga’s aspirations to being the dominant port on the Manukau Harbour into the early 1880s, with Sir George Maurice O’Rorke pledging to his Onehunga constituents that he would prevent White Bluff dominating if a Harbour Board was set up for the Manukau. But after that, it was all over. Onehunga was dominant, and White Bluff became just another yachties’ landmark, like Cape Horn. But all this does help explain more about why Hillsborough was such an early subdivision, as well as perhaps a reason why Cape Horn was considered as an 1880s defence post, and that there was no harbour board for the harbour until 1911.

Looking north up Queen Street 1890s, the Railway Terminus Hotel on the right. Note the Onehunga Public Library on the left, replaced early in the 20th century by the Carnegie Library building close by. Ref. 4-846, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

A postcard recently acquired which sparked off this blog post: Looking up Queen Street Onehunga c.1906. Onehunga Post Office at left, the Railway Terminus Hotel at right.

Back to Onehunga’s new Railway Terminus Hotel which, despite the victory for Lundon and Co, wasn’t doing all that well as far as business went. James Sullivan took over in 1873, a man said by Mitchell to have “a wide knowledge of classical literature and of the latest scientific theories and political systems.” He knew both Latin and ancient Greek languages. He was a chief supporter of George Maurice O’Rorke, and is said to have helped the latter into the House of Representatives. In 1893, Sullivan ably assisted another famous Onehunga identity into politics, Elizabeth Yates, after Sullivan himself had retired in 1887. A Schultz was a licensee, then M Edgar (1890-1893), Patrick Benison and W H Knock in 1893, W J Bray in 1894, then B C Roberts 1896-1899. Mitchell provided a list of many subsequent licensees.

Around 1925, the name of the hotel changed to that of the Post Office Hotel. It was purchased by the Onehunga Borough Council in around June 1971, and demolished within a year.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Where I despair for corrections at Auckland Museum

 Originally published 10 August 2013 on Facebook Timespanner.

Dear Auckland War Memorial Museum,
I do get it when you folks say that you have difficulties in changing your display interpretive panels, correcting the errors. Apparently, it is very difficult.

You've still got the errors with the one by Te Toki a Tapiri (and probably the Maori guides are still telling folks the wrong info, plus the stuff about it being "brought into the Museum in pieces") ...

Then, there's the great confusion and entanglement over the Teutenberg heads ... How Hone Heke's descendants continue to let you get away with the panel is anyone's guess.

Yesterday, visiting the Museum's Weird & Wonderful section with good friend Liz Clark, I spied that you folks now have Avondale Spiders on display: "made famous by the Spider-man films". Um -- no. Avondale Spiders (aka Australian huntsmen) don't feature in any of the Spiderman (no hyphen) movies, they were gathered up for use in "Arachnophobia".

Seriously -- did you folk have to "dumb things down" like this? I really can't trust any of your information at this rate -- and I should be able to, because you're a world-class regional museum.

Please, please, please sort things out. Even if only eventually ...


A family photograph collection mystery

David Verran of the Auckland Research Centre at the central library gave me permission to photograph and put this online.

The Library are looking for info on these images,.

"A photograph album was handed in to a librarian in Pukekohe, it was found in someone's flat and rescued before it was put into a skip. It was given to the family history team for identification and preservation.

"The album is a collection of professional photographs circa 1870, taken at studios throughout the world including New Zealand, Barcelona, Sand Francisco, and several in the UK.

"Some investigating has been done ... Interestingly, apart from the photographers' names, the only names that seem to be associated with the album are Mildred Dunn, Mrs Curlett, and Mr & Mrs Walter Johnson."

Prince Albert Hotel, Onehunga (1858-1959)

The Prince Albert Hotel, Queen Street, Onehunga (left), 1878. Image taken looking south toward the Manukau Harbour. Reference 4-1384, Sir George Grey Special Collection, Auckland Library.

The Prince Albert Hotel which was at 289 Queen Street/Onehunga Mall in Onehunga began, according to Onehunga historian GGM Mitchell in Manukau Progress (1960), as the “Prince Albert Inn”, built by Edward Stallard the first publican in 1858. Queen Street itself in Onehunga appears to have been brand-new in 1857, and one of the natural volcanic caves was said to have been underneath the hotel. Important community meetings were being held at the Onehunga Prince Albert Hotel by 1858 – without any indications in the newspapers as to a license being granted, or when. Stallard had the hotel up for sale of lease in 1860. In 1862, the hotel and surrounds were again up for sale.

The Hotel contains 12 rooms, all lined and ceiled, and a large Kitchen. The Out Offices consist of 2 large Stables— two newly erected and commodious Hay and General Stores, and a new Dairy. There is an excellent garden and orchard, well stocked with Fruit Trees. The Allotment contains one acre of land.

Southern Cross, 25 June 1862

Stallard, according to Mitchell, arrived in Auckland in the 1840s, having served an apprenticeship in the carpentry an joinery trade in England. Mitchell spoke to a descendant of his in the 1950s. Stallard worked as a journeyman on a number of building jobs in Auckland until arriving at Onehunga in 1848, securing contracts to build shops in Princes Street and a number of private residences in the north of the township. Using his accumulated capital, he purchased the Queen Street site at a government sale in 1851 and built the hotel by 1858. It seems, however, that Stallard had difficulties with his wife Ellen, daughter of an Onehunga Fencible named Adam Nixon. There were financial disputes between them from the 1860s right up to Stallard’s death in 1894. The Prince Albert Inn and its land were held by trustees from 1862 to 1894. (Deeds Index 4A.71)

The hotel was “a two-gabled structure with a deep gutter running the full length of the building at a right angle to Queen Street. There was a roomy bar, a dining room, four bedrooms and kitchen facilities – all on the ground floor. The gables were entered by separate stairways as there was no connecting passage from one to the other. There were six bedrooms upstairs which were said to have been poorly lighted, attic windows at each end of the gables providing ingress for the little daylight that could filter through to the interior,” according to a grandson of Stallard’s c.1910. The hotel appeared run-down and dilapidated within 25 years of its construction.

Michael Mulligan got the license in 1863, but failed to attract sufficient custom to the hotel, and appealed to Stallard to release him from his obligations. By c.1869, John Brierly (son of another Fencible) took over the hotel. The trouble was that customers in the northern part of the township preferred the Royal Oak Hotel, while those in the Lower Settlement stayed away from the Prince Albert in droves. He was fortunate one day in 1871 however when a crowd which had gathered to attend a meeting across the road to choose members for that year’s Highway Board found themselves locked out, according to Mitchell, and so “joyfully surged across the road” at the suggestion of chairman John Bycroft to avail themselves of the bar at the Prince Albert. Around 1876, a Cornishman Richard Tregoning gave it a shot, but soon transferred to James Duncan Dillon in 1878, then to T Hodson in 1879, to John Grogan then to J Field in 1880, then W E Allen by 1881, then Edward Ward Sladder by December that year. By March 1882 the publican had changed again, to Stillwell. In May 1882, Edward Stallard himself (the owner) applied for the license. “One landlord followed another at fairly regular intervals,” Mitchell wrote, “mostly yearly, all complaining to anyone who would listen about townspeople who did not know where good ale was on tap, and if any did know, would not walk up Queen Street ‘to have some’.”

By December 1883, the hotel was run by James Smith, when an argument over a card game began which ended with bullets. For a time, Onehunga became Auckland’s version of the American Wild West, and made headlines around the country.

Before two o'clock William Henry Jones, the manager of the Onehunga Ironsand Works at Onehunga, was in the Prince Albert Hotel, Queen-street, Onehunga, kept by Mr James Smith, in company with a Mr Ploughman and John McDermott. Ploughman left them in the hotel playing a game of cards—euchre. It appears that Jones and McDermott had some row over the game, and hot words ensued. McDermott says that Jones struck at him, and then he struck Jones. A scuffle or fight seems to have taken place, and Jones' cheek was cut and his eye blackened. Jones then made use of some threats towards McDermott, and went down the street towards his residence in Church-street. McDermott returned into the hotel, and remained there for a short time—about 20 minutes—and then got on his horse to ride down towards the wharf.

It is surmised that in the meantime Jones went home and armed himself, having first gone into a house to wash the blood off his face. McDermott, when riding down the street, saw Jones some distance off, but did not address him, but seeing Jones turned his horse's head to ride back. Several shots were then fired—some say three, and some four—out of a revolver by Jones, and that some of them took effect was evident from the fact that McDermott cried out that he was shot and galloped away to his home. It may be explained that the shooting took place in Queen-street, nearly opposite Mr. Oates’ boot manufacturer, and McDermott resides on the outskirts of the settlement, near the Royal Oak Hotel, and fully half a mile distant from this spot, which is just at the rise of the hill, below the Hibernia Hotel.

McDermott got home, and Dr Scott was sent for. He examined the man, and found a bullet wound on the back, at the side of the spinal column, and got the bullet out from under the skin under the left arm-pit, where it had lodged. There is a second bullet wound through the left thigh from side to side. There were several people in the street when the shooting took place. Dr Scott considered the case critical, as it was not ascertained whether the ballet, from the principal wound, had penetrated the lung or injured it.

Shortly after the occurrence Jones was arrested by Sergeant Greene and Detective Walker, who happened to be in Onehunga on other business, and the man brought to the lock-up. He was quite cool and collected, and apparently not under the influence of drink, but he made no statement.

NZ Herald 22 December 1883

Jones was sentenced to 14 years in gaol in April 1884 for shooting with intent to murder.

There was yet another series of publicans: J Bradley took over the hotel license in June 1884. By 1888, Charles Joseph Molloy was the publican there. Charles Meehan took over in 1890, then John Lloyd in 1891. Around this time, Mitchell says, the old hotel was demolished and a new one built by Enright & Campbell.

Edward Stallard died in 1894, after bitter disputes with his wife Ellen over savings accounts the year before. Ellen Stallard took over ownership from the surviving trustees until her own death in 1910. Mrs Annie Ziegler took over the hotel’s license in 1895, then Nicholas Brown from that year. There was another series of publicans coming and going: 1897, Stephen Keogh; Thomas Keogh in 1898; Joseph Schollum 1901; George Dalziel, 1902.

In January 1904, Campbell & Ehrenfried advertised tenders for additions and alterations to the hotel. After this, the hotel boasted 17 rooms. (Auckland Star, 2 May 1907) More publicans: John James Russell from 1906; William George Rae from late 1907; Thomas Foley late 1909. The hotel narrowly escaped losing its license in the 1909 local reduction. Campbell & Ehrenfried took title from 1911 from Ellen Stallard’s estate, and all the furnishings at the hotel were sold up in March 1912.

Postcard image, courtesy Lyn Dear showing "Gordon's Prince Albert Hotel" on the left (looking south, as in the top image). As Bernard Gordon was licensee only in 1914-1915, this would likely be the period of the image.

The hotel was bought by William James Brewin who applied for a license for the hotel April 1912. Bernard Gordon took over the license in 1914, but Mary Hislop applied in 1915. She transferred to George Toyne Harris later that year. He transferred in 1917 to Horace Garsten, who then transferred in 1918 to Arthur Kerr. Then Norman Cunningham in 1921, Thomas Glanville in 1923, William Jury 1924, George Page 1925; John William Macdonald 1926; and Hugh McGahan 1928. McGahan apparently bought the hotel from a Mr Jury, who had purchased; he died there 8 November 1941.

The death has occurred at Onehunga of Mr Hugh McGahan. Born at Otahuhu in 1877, he moved with his parents to Onehunga a few years later, the family carrying on an extensive market gardening business over a long period. After the Great War in which he was invalided home in 1918 he purchased the Prince Albert Hotel. He was a prominent member of the Hibernian Benefit Society for the last 36 years and had acted as treasurer of the Onehunga branch for ten years. Since its inauguration in 1926 he was a member of the Onehunga Medical Board. Mr McGahan is survived by his wife and three sons. (Auckland Star 11 November 1941)

His widow Esther Ivy Rubena McGahan applied for the hotel license in April 1942, and retained it until 1946, assisted by Edward Drum. Under L G Gallagher (Dominion Breweries), after considerable planning and discussions between Dominion Breweries and the Licensing Committee, the Prince Albert Hotel was closed 1 October 1959, demolished, and replaced by the £200,000 Onehunga Hotel by mid 1960, just alongside the old site to the south. This in turn lasted through to around 2001 before it, too, was either demolished or became just part of the fabric of the building complex there today.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Ponsonby Hall 1874-1911

The Ponsonby Hall. Ref 1058-9828, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

I started wondering about the Ponsonby Hall, which once fronted Jervois Road near the hotel which later became the site of the Gluepot at Three Lamps, when I read this:

Ponsonby Hall, which stood on a site next to the police station in Jervois Road for many years served all the needs of the district. It was originally a store, erected by the Government near the main gate of Government House on Barrack Hill, for storing war material. When the war was over there was no use for the building and Messrs T T Masefield and Field succeeded in getting the Government to allow it to be removed to Ponsonby, those two gentlemen acting as trustees for many years.

James Stitchbury, “Old Ponsonby”, Auckland Star 20 November 1926

In August 1873, “several inhabitants of the district” held a meeting in the rooms of the Auckland City Council where it was resolved “to form a Ponsonby Hall Company of 600 shares of £1 each.” The provisional directors appointed were Stannus Jones (chairman), James Stodart (secretary), James Morton (treasurer), G W Owen, D A Tole, Andrew Stewart and James Dacre. (Special meeting report, NZ Herald, 31 March 1875). Masefield’s name only turns up on the list of directors of the company elected in 1875, so Stichbury’s recollection where he and a Mr Field obtained the building is somewhat muddled. Also, as it turns out, the “trustees for many years” description was probably not correct, either.

The name of a Mr Field only shows up as someone who sold the land on which the hall once stood to Galbraith in 1869. (Deeds Index A3.114)

It is finally decided by the people of Dedwood that a public hall shall be erected, fronting the Ponsonby road, the spot where the 'buses start from. A plot of land has been secured, and a large number of shares taken up. Tenders are asked for by Mr Mahoney, the architect, which must be sent to his office by Saturday next. The neighbourhood of Dedwood is being thickly studded with houses, and shortly it will be impossible to get an allotment in the district. The proposed Ponsonby Hall is to answer all the purposes of an institute, will possess a library for the accommodation of all readers, and a chess and reading-room for the pleasure and amusement of persons of advanced years.

Auckland Star 19 August 1873

Two buildings were apparently purchased from the Improvement Commissioners, for £125 and £55, according to the 1875 report, but this with an earlier report from the hall’s opening (see below) which indicates a single building (armoury) purchased, and a different sum of money in total for “building” (much less). A building was purchased at auction from Albert Barracks on 8 August 1873 by Stannus Jones, "one of the largest buildings, a very fine structure  about 40 feet by 80 feet ... as a public hall for Dedwood." (NZ Herald, 9 August 1873) It seems that those who moved ahead with purchasing the buildings and materials, commissioning the architect, hiring the builder, buying the land -- did so in a rush, to ensure that things got done, but without taking time to fully ascertain exactly how much financial support they could get. The hall was, from the start, a commercial proposition. That was its undoing.

Auckland Star 20 March 1874
PONSONBY PUBLIC HALL. A meeting of the residents in the Ponsonby district was held in the new Public Hall last evening. About seventy gentlemen were present.—Mr. Stannus Jones occupied the chair, and stated the object of the meeting. It was to give an account of the building of the hall they were assembled in, and to enable the residents of the district to give an expression of opinion as to whether the hall was required or not and if it were, they would be asked to become shareholders. The Chairman then narrated the action which he and six other gentlemen had taken to build the hall. They considered that a public hall was necessary, and when the buildings in the Albert Barracks were sold they purchased one, which supplied the material of which the present building was constructed. A considerable advance upon the price given was offered them on their purchase the following day, but it was bought for the district, and they considered it better to make financial arrangements, erect the building, and then ask the residents to approve or disapprove of what had been done. They formed the committee, and purchased the present site for £100 cash, and had the building erected. The fee simple of the land and building had cost £921 0s 1d. They had formed a limited association of £1 shares, and if those present approved they would have an opportunity of subscribing. When the shares were taken up they proposed to hand over the hall to trustees appointed by the shareholders. A building such as the one they were in could not be built for less than £300 or £400 more than this one had cost. It would be for the meeting to approve or disapprove of the action which had been taken; and if they approved they would do so by giving their assistance. From time to time they had asked a few gentlemen to subscribe, and they had taken the number of shares opposite their names in the share-list. The total number of shares already subscribed for was 230, a very large proportion of which were taken by non-residents in the district. The committee had acted in faith for the district, and were simply liable for the £600 due on the building. If the residents of the district thought the hall was required, and that it was a cheap and good one, they were asked to take shares, the responsibility of which rested with the amount of the share only. They desired the shares to be distributed over the district, and to have the hall a nonsectarian and district property. The shareholders would appoint their own directors. He had no more to do with the hall than anyone else who had paid his pound. His interest in the building was exactly 10 shares. The proceeds of the concert would go towards liquidating the debt.—Mr. Morton Jones said an enquiry was made as to whether the share must be paid up at once in full or by instalments.— The Chairman said that, so long as the money was not kept back too long, it might be paid in instalments, as the interest at the bank would be a mere bagatelle. The object desired was to have the shares scattered throughout the district. They did not want any person to hold more than ten shares. He asked for an expression of opinion.—Mr. Bullock moved, in order to elicit the feeling of the meeting, “That this meeting, having heard the statement of the provisional directory, approves of their action in the matter, and pledges itself to further the object of the Ponsonby Hall Company by using its best exertions to obtain additional shareholders.” He said it had been a very general impression that a public hall was not only desirable but necessary, and those who were of that opinion, he thought, should give practical proof of it by moving in the direction indicated in the motion.—Mr. Boardman seconded the resolution, and said it would be clearly understood that the company was a duly registered company, and not a private association which might collect funds and afterwards use the building for any private purposes. Mr Boardman spoke strongly in favour of the motion, and also advocated the establishment of a free public library in connection with the hall. His remarks were well received, and the motion being put was carried unanimously. A large number of shares were taken up at the meeting after the passing of the resolution. The following is the full statement of the costs of the land and hall: Land, £100; building, £158; Dawson (contractor), £475; painter, £90’ gas fitter, £29 15s 1d; registration, £11 5s; insurance, £5; architect, £30: total, £921 0s 1d. The amount subscribed before the commencement of the meeting was £237 10s, leaving a balance to collect £683 10s 1d. The opening concert in connection with the Ponsonby Hall will be given this evening.
NZ Herald 26 March 1874

The hall reportedly came from materials which had been from the armoury at the Albert Barracks. Designed by Edward Mahoney, the building seated 500, had a gallery above the entrance capable of seating around 80 spectators, a ladies’ ante-room, space for theatrical performances, plus a “large room” below, “which can be used as a green-room, supper-room, card-room or smoking-room, according to the nature of the entertainment.” (Star 27 March 1874)

While the hall was popular, and it did serve as a centre of culture, local democracy, the formation and fostering of other community groups in the area – it was also a bit of a white elephant, right from the start. A meeting was held 16 March 1875, where it was announced that few share offers had been taken up, so the company’s capital was very low, while their debts and liabilities seemed mountainous.

[Mr Boardman] was also strongly opposed to the attempt to wind up the company, which meant the sale of the hall, and its loss as a public hall to the district. He thought that sufficient efforts had perhaps not been made to carry out the original design of the promoters of the hall, which was to enlist the sympathies of the bulk of the population, by providing entertainments, concerts, lectures, etc, also a reading-room and free public library. He had a strong desire to preserve the property in perpetuity for the inhabitants of the district, and would like to see it placed in trust for that purpose, in the Highway Board for the time being, or in some other way. He suggested that a district bazaar might be got up, which he believed would realise £250 net at the least; that the unsold shares should be disposed of, if necessary, at a discount; that at the next annual meeting of ratepayers a proposal should be made to levy only a rate of three farthings in the pound for road purposes, and make a voluntary rate of one farthing to be specially applied to reducing the debt on the hall; the total taxation would not be thus increased, while the hall would benefit considerably. If all these failed, the hall should be offered to the Central Board of Education as the public school in the district, for which it is admirably adapted; the Board taking over the liabilities, which it was stated, were scarcely two-thirds the value of the property. Mr Stewart was doubtful whether a bazaar would be successful, and it would take time, and involve a good deal of expense.
Auckland Star 17 March 1875

A special general meeting was held later in the month to decide on whether to wind up or not.

The result, however [of the grand opening], was not equal to expectations, the net gain to the company being only £6 17s. Since that time several troupes were engaged to give performances in the hall, but in no instance did the company reap any pecuniary benefit from them. On these occasions the company were much indebted to Mr and Mrs Stodart for assistance in various ways. A musical society and a chess club were formed, and from them a small revenue was derived in the shape of rent. In June last a loan of £680 at 8 per cent, was obtained on which enabled the board to settle with Mr Dawson, the builder, but still left an overdraft at the bank unpaid. The National Bank required the overdraft paid on the 31st of the present month, and the directors had come to the conclusion that the best means by which to reimburse themselves for the outlay they had incurred was to wind up the present company and let the hall pass into the hands of a new company of larger capital and smaller means.

Meeting report, NZ Herald 31 March 1875

The directors narrowly voted to stave off a wind up of the company at that stage (by 92 votes to 90), and decided on a course of trying to save the situation, including publicising the state of financial to local residents, seeking to increase the number of shareholders, “and to use such other means as may be agreed upon with a view of preserving the hall as a public building for the district.”

It looks like efforts to secure enough local financial interest failed. The company conveyed the land to the Crown in October 1879 (A3.114), and while the Hall continued to be a community focus for many more years, its fate was essentially sealed. 

Detail from Sheet D8 of City of Auckland map 1908, ACC 014, Auckland Council Archives.
The Public Works Department has called tenders for the removal of the Ponsonby Hall. The building, which is situated in Jervois Road, near the Three Lamps, is owned by the Government, and the section is vested in the Police Department. A little revenue has been obtained, from the letting of the hall, but applications for its use have not been very frequent. In consequence of this, and owing to the fact that further accommodation is required at Ponsonby for police purposes, the Government has decided on the removal of the building.
NZ Herald 17 January 1911
The old Ponsonby Hall, adjoining the Ponsonby police station, is being pulled down. The section upon which it stands is to be reserved for future extensions to the police premises. Although no steps have been taken towards adding to the present depot enlargements will be necessary at no distant date.

NZ Herald 4 March 1911

Thursday, August 1, 2013

150 years of rail in NZ - celebrated at Pleasant Point

A wonderful video of the celebrations this year of 150 years of rail in New Zealand at Pleasant Point Railway, Canterbury. Definitely worth a watch, both for railfans, and those who like the views.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Titirangi Treasure House

Postcard purchased June 2013. At front, left, Peat's gift shop, and his Treasure House. Rear, left, Alec Bishop's house; at right "Quambi/Quamby", F O Peat's house. Information from Titirangi Fringe of Heaven, p. 72.

This card was another recent purchase from the UK. Seeing postcards for West Auckland on the auction market that aren’t to do with the Waitakere falls is unusual, so I went ahead and took the plunge.

The Titirangi Treasure House, a private museum meant to become part of a grand tourist complex, still exists today, but not as it once was. The property on which it sits is a very small part of a vast area of land, Allots 44-46 of the Parish of Waikomiti, the original September 1855 Crown Grant possibly going to John Alfred Langford, an Auckland merchant and shipping agent. In October that year he transferred to the timber firm of Canty & Bishop, (7A.610) and it became the core of the Bishop family’s story in the Titirangi hills.

The main phase of subdivision of this property began during World War I. A quarter acre was transferred to Frank Oscar Peat in October 1925 (oddly, this transfer was re-registered, along with other transfers made by the Bishop family, in mid 1927). (28A.424) This piece appears to have been the site of the Treasure House. Another quarter acre, possibly next to the first and to the west, also facing Brooklyn (now Huia) Road, was transferred to Peat in October 1927. (NA 463/79) Then William Alexander Bishop transferred over 1½ more acres to Peat at the end of 1929, including land fronting Brooklyn Road, and the corner site fronting Brooklyn Road and School (now South Titirangi) Road to Hotel Titirangi Limited. (NA 463/79) In 1936, Peat transferred the land he owned adjacent to the Titirangi Hotel to the company. (NA 604/198)

Frank Oscar Peat was born 1883 to Robert Betts Peat (from Waikato, but born in India) and Elizabeth Euphemia (née Bishop, born in Freemans Bay), so was part of the Bishop extended family. Elizabeth’s parents lived at Dunvegan House, where the first son Robert Joseph Peat was born. Frank was the second son, of a total of seven children, five boys and two girls.

R B Peat worked for the Railways Department. By June 1881 he was stationmaster at Penrose, then was transferred to Frankton Junction in 1889, Kawakawa in 1897 (including Opua), and in 1902 moved from Kawakawa to Dargaville, and put in charge of the Kaihu Valley Railway. He died at Dargaville aged 60 in 1913.

Frank O Peat first went into business in Dargaville as a jeweller by the early 1910s. He made a bit of a splash, becoming involved with a candle-burning promotion for a local movie theatre.

The Dargaville police recently proceeded against Mrs Montgomery, proprietor of a picture show, for having established a candle-burning competition by which prizes were gained; and against F O Peat, for having sold tickets, giving the purchasers of the same an interest in the gaining of such prizes. The police, in outlining the cases, showed that by purchasing a shilling ticket a purchaser was entitled to guess the time it would take a certain candle to burn, the winning prizes being gold watches. Each ticket also admitted the purchaser to a cinematograph entertainment. The police seized the books in connection with the scheme, and found that some hundreds of people had entered the competition. Mr Fraser, S.M., in giving judgment, decided to dismiss the information. The evidence adduced on behalf of the defence showed that several competitors had made elaborate calculations by measurement and computation, on which they based their estimates of time, which eliminated the element of pure chance. He held that if the exercise of skill on the part of the competitors contributed to success the scheme was not a lottery, although chance would have played a part in it. He was certain that an approximate degree of accuracy was attained by careful computation on the part of those whose estimates were the produce of thought and skill rather than guess work.

Press, 9 October 1911

According to Wallie Titchener in Marc Bonny’s 2011 book Titirangi Fringe of Heaven (Titchener is a grandson of Frank Peat), Peat devoted his whole life to collecting Maori artifacts. He also gathered up items of natural history interest (stuffed birds, bats, sea life) and accumulated a celebrated kauri gum collection. Part of this latter fascination Peat exhibited in Auckland in July 1923 at the Winter Exhibition, then again at the Dominion Industrial Exhibition in June the following year.

Four impressive displays, representing the combined wealth production of four important districts of the Auckland Province, attracted much attention at the Dominion Industrial Exhibition yesterday … Next to dairy produce, the northern districts are noted for their export of kauri gum and the collection of gums exhibited by Mr F O Peat, of Dargaville, is a truly beautiful display. Of a unique character, too, is the display of seven varieties of kauri gum oils and the crude gum from which they are derived valued, according to the labels, at from £30 to £350 per ton. Naturally, the mineral waters from the Helensville Hot Springs are represented by attractive samples, Kaipara coal, enamelled tiles, wool, wines, flax, field produce, including an 84lb pumpkin, dressed bullocks and a huge kauri ''flitch," measuring 10ft. by 5ft., are other outstanding displays. Mr. Peat has an exhibit of stuffed birds from his great, collection at Dargaville …

NZ Herald 11 June 1924

Even though Frank Peat, his wife and children had a large home in Dargaville, Titchener recalls, the collection made the home so cluttered that the decision was made to sell up everything in Dargaville and move to Titirangi. I’d say the success of Peat’s two exhibitions, plus the plans being made at the time by William Alexander Bishop and his partners to replace the Bishop family’s store and tea kiosk at Titirangi with a luxurious hotel complex, had a lot to do with the decision as well.

He sold his Dargaville business in August 1925, but at the time told the local papers he wasn’t about to leave the district. However, by July 1926 he had commissioned architect Reginald B Hammond to design the fireproof brick and plaster museum on the property he acquired from his family, and this was completed by December that year. The Auckland Star published the following description – possibly penned by Peat and his partners.

Almost every city in America proudly refers to some one of its possessions which is '"the best in the world.'' And it is not vain boasting, either, but an expression of healthy civic patriotism. Henceforth Aucklanders will be able to make similar claim, for nestled away in the Blue Mountains at Titirangi, along the city's great exhibition drive is, undoubtedly, the finest collection of Kauri gum in the world. It is an amazing exhibition, and Aucklanders will experience a keen sense of delight and appreciation when they see it. More than a '"nine days wonder at Titirangi”, it is so truly an Auckland and a national asset that some day a big effort will be made to secure it for the public for all time.

Occupying two acres in the charming forestry of the hills stands "The Titirangi Treasure House," a sweet building of chaste design, appropriately lending itself to its mission. Tiled roof, cream concrete walls, pillared portico (60 by 40), not unlike a Greek Temple. Architect, Mr. Reg. Hammond, Dominion town planning expert. The fairy dell which it occupies is being rapidly transformed into a botanical garden, crammed with native flora. A most charming place for a day's picnic. In the treasure house is the rarest collection of kauri gum, Maori curios and handicraft. New Zealand birds and beautiful timbers; also an invaluable display of historic photos of Auckland and of wider interest. The whole setting is artistic and delightful. A rare rendezvous of pleasure and profit. Buses run from the G.P.O., Auckland, at 9.45 daily, and also special trips.

 Ref 4-4084, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library
This unique private museum has been established for the enjoyment of the public by a former resident of Dargaville, Mr. F. O. Peat. Its contents are the fruit of more than twenty years' assiduous collecting and the expenditure of a large sum of money.

Mr. Peat's kauri gum collection, consisting of several thousand specimens, occupies four cases each nearly 20ft long and 5ft wide. The pieces were obtained from every gumfield in North Auckland.

Sir Edwin Mitchelson, who is a recognised authority and the donor of a fine collection to the Auckland Museum, went out recently with Mr. F. L. Gribbin to inspect it. Both stated that it was the finest they had ever seen, and the best in the world.

The Maori curios are of great interest. They include a fine carved sternpost from the largest canoe used on the Manukau Harbour in the 'forties, a large waka-huia or feather-box carved and inlaid with paua shell; a kumete or food-box, supported by two human figures: a cylindrical box made to contain food given to a tohunga; several carved posts from houses, and a large number of mats, fish-traps, bone, greenstone and wooden meres, flutes, adzes, tomahawks, canoe-balers and ornaments, among which are a couple of tikis. One fish hook, of copper, is stated on good authority to have been made from metal obtained when Captain Cook's vessel called at Mahia in 1705.

 Ref 4-4075, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library
The most interesting of the historic relics is a half-suit of armour, consisting of a breastplate, back-plate and helmet. This was obtained by Mr. Peat from the Webster family at Opononi. The helmet, which has a high crest and the remains of a red plume, resembles that worn by British cavalry of the early nineteenth century. It bears a brass frontal plate with the Royal arms and the words "Waterloo" and '"Peninsula." Tradition has it that the armour was given by George IV to a Maori chief in 1820. It is known that such a gift was made to the famous Hingi Ika when he visited England, but whether this armour belonged to him is not known at present. Mr. Peat means to make further inquiries on the subject.

The natural history collection includes stuffed and mounted specimens of the huia, tui, pigeon, parakeet, kakapo, long-tailed cuckoo, shining cuckoo, kaka, bellbird, saddleback, blue-mottled crow, weak, bittern, and many other native birds. There are rare seashells, including the paper nautilus, and a fine exhibit of the large native snail found in kauri forests.

Round the walls of the hall are many photographs and prints of early New Zealand scenes and people. Altogether, the museum is a fine example of energy and perseverance on the part of its owner. It will add greatly to the attractions of Titirangi and is surely destined to be one of the chief centres of tourist attractions in Auckland's environs.
Auckland Star 17 December 1926

Peat also built a house there for his family, named "Quambi" (sometimes spelled "Quamby"). According to Wallie Titchener:

"My maternal grandfather, Frank Peat, built the house called Quambi at 1 Huia Road. At the time he was building the house there was a corrupt inspector at the County Council who would not approve the position of septic tanks unless offered money. My grandfather played dumb until, as my grandmother recalled, the inspector said,"For Gods sake, £5 will do it." My grandfather was a personal friend of Gordon Coates, the prime minister, and passed the information to him. Subsequently, the County Council had one less staff member!"

Titirangi: Fringe of Heaven, 2011, p. 211

In October 1928, the new company Hotel Titirangi Ltd had its registration reported in the Mercantile Gazette with capital of 50,000 shares of £1 each, in the business of “Hotel properties etc. and incidental.” (Evening Post, 15 October 1928)

Auckland Star, 8 December 1934

The proposal to erect a modern hotel at Titirangi has assumed definite shape through the flotation of a company, Hotel Titirangi Ltd., with a nominal capital of £50,000. The new company, which has already gone to allotment, has purchased the property and tea room business of Mr W A Bishop, and intends to erect an hotel capable of accommodating 63 guests, and including a tearoom, garden, ballroom, and basement garage. The building is to be fireproof, with central heating and all modern conveniences.

 Lopdell House, formerly Hotel Titirangi, in 2010

Considerable support from residents of the district has already been given to the undertaking, as it is anticipated that the proposed hotel will become the centre of one of the finest and most popular of holiday resorts in the Dominion.
Auckland Star 27 October 1928

The Treasure House was listed among the surrounding attractions in the area around the proposed hotel, along with the nearby golf club and other outdoor recreation sites. (Prospectus, Auckland Star 27 October 1928)

Bishop’s store/post office at Titirangi was pulled down in late 1929 to make way for the new hotel (with stock from the store plus the postal facilities moved to the family’s tea rooms until it was possible to move everything into the new building). (Auckland Star 3 December 1929) William Alexander Bishop was chairman of the Hotel Titirangi company at that time. (Auckland Star 21 December 1929)

Mr F O Peat, writing from the Treasure House, Titirangi, where his well-known museum overlooks the Manukau Harbour, has sent me some interesting bird notes on the birds at Titirangi and the Huia. Mr Peat believes that the pigeon is maintaining its numbers and is fairly plentiful between Titirangi and the Huia …
Auckland Star 5 April 1930

The new hotel opened 20 November 1930. In 1931, however, Hotel Titirangi Ltd went into liquidation, reportedly due to “the present dull times”. (Evening Post 9 March 1931) It did re-open in December 1934, after the company registered with a much-reduced capital of £1220. (Star, 22 November 1934) The Hotel Titirangi, though, finally closed its doors in 1942 when it was sold to the Crown for a school for the deaf. (NA 680/59)

From the time of the first closure, though, Peat obviously saw the writing on the wall for the hoped-for tourist centre concept. He began looking for a new home for his collection,and found one with the assistance of his friend Gordon Coates.
Described as the finest collection of its kind in the world, kauri gum specimens owned by Mr F O Peat of Titirangi, Auckland, are to be acquired by the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. The trustees of the museum will receive an allocation of £3000 from the proceeds of the Great Easter Art Union, and the money will be devoted to the purchase of the kauri gum and Maori curios. Recently Mr Peat received a tempting offer from an American museum, but he has decided to accept the New Zealand offer, preferring that the collection should remain in this country. The collection is at present housed in Mr Peat's private museum at Titirangi, and it will remain there until the erection of the Dominion Museum building in Wellington is completed.

Evening Post 13 April 1933

Hubert Earle Vaile, however, was less than impressed with such a purchase in the midst of a nationwide economic depression. Not to mention his own keen interest in supporting the Auckland War Memorial Museum, of which he was president 1926-1931. What followed was what was at times an acrimonious exchange in the newspapers between Vaile and Peat.

Many of our readers must have been astounded to read yesterday that in a time of acute national stringency the Government has been able to find £3000 to present the Peat collection of kauri gum and Maori curios to the Dominion Museum in Wellington. We publish a letter to-day from Mr H E Vaile which throws some light on the transaction, but calls for more information. Kauri gum is a substance confined to the Auckland province, and the collection is an Auckland one, so that the proper place for it is the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Indeed, this museum tried to secure it, but could get no help from the Government, yet two Auckland members of the Government go past this institution and buy the collection for the Dominion Museum at a price that is apparently much higher than that for which it could have been bought for Auckland. It is stated that there was a danger of the collection leaving the country, and that Mr Peat was prepared to take less than he was offered from America, in order to keep it in New Zealand. Mr Vaile, however, mentions £2000 as the figure for which the collection could have been bought for Auckland, and the Government gave £3000. Why was the price raised to this extent? It is an extraordinary transaction, especially when the needs of the times are considered. For example, the Cawthron Institute, the most valuable scientific research institution in New Zealand, which is doing most important work for our industries, is feeling the financial pinch so seriously that there is talk of it having to close. Its closing would be an absolute scandal, made all the worse by reason of the provision by the Government of £3000 out of art union profits for a collection largely consisting of kauri gum.

(To the Editor.)
Keen as I am on the acquisition of museum specimens, I do not think public funds should be spent in this direction when part of the public is short of food. It is only fair to say that the Wellington Museum had nothing to do with it, and the purchase is a political one. It is strange, however, that two Auckland Ministers; —the Rt. Hon. J G Coates and the Hon. J A Young—should be so anxious to put the collection past Auckland. It was made in this province of northern material, and the owner was very anxious for it to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and offered it accordingly. Having no money, some friends of the museum endeavoured to get an art union permit from the Government, with the result that it was bought over our heads for £3000. The Government recently voted no less than £100,000 of public money for the museum building at Wellington, and finds no difficulty in buying collections for it. If we ask for assistance —moral or financial— we invariably meet with a flat refusal, notwithstanding that we pay the whole costs of our own museum and about one-third of Wellington's. I know the Peat collection well. It consists mostly of gum specimens which have been out of demand for many years, and the only price I have previously heard mentioned is £2000, and the story of other buyers is not very convincing. However, I suppose the Government is to be congratulated upon having so much money in these hard times, even if it is spent in Wellington. We certainly do not see much of it here. H. E. VAILE.
Auckland Star 13 April 1933

Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi, whose collection of kauri gum and Maori curios has been purchased by the Government, replies to criticism of the transaction that appeared in the "Auckland Star" on Thursday. Mr Peat writes: "Mr H E Vaile's letter in your paper of the 13th instant, and your editorial founded on his remarks, are misleading to the public and most unfair to the Rt. Hon. J G Coates, the Hon. A Young and myself. Mr Vaile and your editorial state that the Government has paid £3000 from the public funds for this collection. This is contrary to fact. The purchase price is found by means of funds from an art union, subscribed to by participants throughout the whole of New Zealand, and this collection of kauri gum specimens will be housed in the Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery for all time for all the people of New Zealand. Mr Vaile states that 'he knows my collection well; it consists mostly of gum specimens out of demand for many years” (whatever that means) and infers that its value is £2000. If Mr Vaile can prove that the Peat collection of kauri gum specimens is not the best in the world of its kind and is not worth at least £3500, I will give £500 to the Auckland Museum, provided he agrees to give the same amount should he fail to prove this within 12 months from this date.

“My collection has never been offered for the ridiculous price mentioned by Mr Vaile. I offered it to the Government for £5000 some time ago. This offer was not accepted through lack of funds. Subsequently a wealthy American tourist, a patron of American museums, who had made overtures from time to time for the purchase of the kauri gum collection, made a definite offer of £3500 cash to me. My desire has always been to keep this collection in my native land if possible, and when it was suggested that the Dominion Museum authorities might find £3000 by way of an art union, provided I agreed to accept this amount, and so keep the exhibits in New Zealand, I turned down the better offer and agreed to accept £3000 on the distinct understanding that the kauri gum specimens would be housed in the Dominion Museum, which I had lately ascertained had no collection, whilst the Auckland Museum has Sir Edwin Mitchelson's very fine collection of kauri gum specimens.

“Subsequently, I understand, the Auckland Ministers mentioned in Mr Vaile's letter and your editorial took steps to have the valuable Maori and other curios comprised in my collection divided between Auckland and the Dominion Museums and National Art Gallery, when the building now in course of erection is completed. This means that the Auckland Museum will receive a portion of the Maori section of the collection."
Auckland Star 15 April 1933

Mr. Peat entirely misses the point. I have been in business all my life, and would be the last to object to anyone selling his goods to the best advantage. The gum is excellent, but for years past, as any dealer or auctioneer will agree, kauri gum collections have been unsaleable, and Mr Peat is to be congratulated and not blamed for obtaining what seems to me a very handsome price indeed—and I have bought many collections. What I maintain is that in these times the Government has no right whatever to buy any collection with public funds. Surely Mr Peat does not argue that it was bought with private funds. He mentions "an" art union. What art union? The second objection I make is that kauri gum is found in this province only, and the Government should not have competed with us for it and presented it to the Wellington Museum. From a public viewpoint this political purchase is indefensible, especially when the vendor is to retain possession for two or three years, and will presumably be entitled to charge to see it, as heretofore. H E VAILE.
Auckland Star 17 April 1933

The long negotiations which led to the public acquisition of the valuable collection of kauri gum specimens and Maori curios from Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi, were detailed at the request of the "Star” correspondent by the Hon. J A Young, Minister of Internal Affairs, who was able to throw official light on some points which have been the subject of controversy. That the collection is very valuable, and that New Zealand is fortunate in being able to retain it against outside competition was a point which the Minister demonstrated. He spoke enthusiastically of the value of the kauri gum specimens, 1600 in number, and splendidly polished in an effective way, which retains a portion of the natural rough background. Mr Peat, he said, has been a life-long collector, and understood the art of polishing gum in such a way that the finished specimens would not crack. His cases for exhibiting the collection were substantial and dignified. '"There is no doubt whatever about the value of the Peat collection," declared Mr Young. "It has been described as being the best of its kind in the world, and I believe that Sir Edwin Mitchelson's fine collection, now on loan to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, is the next best. That we were in danger of losing the Peat collection altogether is definitely established, for the owner held a permit, granted by some past Government, to export it, and he was definitely offered £3500 in cash on behalf of an American museum, which desired to take it.

The question of the acquisition of Mr Peat's collection had been under consideration for some time, and was first considered by my predecessor in the position of Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. A. Hamilton. I was informed of the matter, and the Hon. J G Coates was also aware of the position, but the difficulty was to find the money for so valuable a purchase.

Offer of £3500 Cash.
"The position came to a head when the American offer was so obviously definite that the representative of the proposed purchasers was in New Zealand, prepared to complete the deal, for £3500 cash. It was mainly through my intervention that Mr Peat was induced to sell the collection for retention in the Dominion, and to reduce his price to £3000, which included not only the kauri gum specimens, but the valuable Maori and other curios and the exhibition cases. In accepting the lower price, Mr Peat made certain conditions, and after a good deal of negotiation I was able to finalise the matter. The question involved was not that of placing the collection in Auckland, but of getting it retained in the Dominion. Having reached this position, the problem was to get the money, and a suggestion which had been made to raise funds through one of the alluvial gold art unions was recalled. Under the terms of license for one of these recent art unions, a way to procure the money was found, though it had to be paid to some institution, and not to any individual. The National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum trustees agreed to act as the medium of purchase, and the payment to Mr Peat comes through that source.

The Vendor's Stipulations.
"In Mr Peat's contract with the trustees," continued the Minister, "he makes the condition that the whole of the kauri gum collection must be kept intact, and designated: 'The F O Peat Kauri Gum Collection.' It was only on these terms that I was able to secure the retention of the collection in the country. Mr Peat, realising the national interest and value of his collection, stipulated that it should go to the Dominion as a national exhibit, not as an Auckland exhibit.

"Then there is a further contract executed between myself and the trustees of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, which vests in myself the absolute power to decide the distribution of the whole collection, subject to the condition set out in the principal agreement that the gum specimens are to be kept together. The original contract also stipulates that until such time as the trustees are able to house any part of the collection in the new museum, the building contract for which has been let, safe storage will be provided in 'The Treasure House,' a fireproof museum at Titirangi, owned by Mr Peat, who is empowered to make a charge for admission as in the past. He undertakes to insure the collection for £3000, at his own expense. I have undertaken, in due course, to visit the collection and decide its allocation. This decision has to be made by me personally, so that no question could arise at any future time as to the intentions of the original owner and the terms mutually accepted under which the collection became available to the Dominion at a lower price than that offered for sale to an outside buyer.

"I intend to carry out this obligation in conjunction with experts from the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, subject to Mr Peat's conditions in the original contract of transfer, and the agreement between the trustees of the former institution and myself. I am at once arranging for the whole collection to be scheduled and described, for there is a good deal of interesting history associated with some of the exhibits, and Mr Peat's services in this connection are being employed. Finally, when the national institution is able to house the kauri gum collection, the whole of the exhibits will be distributed according to the allocation which I have to make, and Mr Peat will provide packing materials and give his services without salary to arrange the kauri gum collection in Wellington.
Auckland Star 24 April 1933

The Hon. J A Young tells us nothing new—we have heard all about the American millionaire. In his keen desire for the promotion of science, the honourable gentleman finds no difficulty in writing a cheque for £3000 and presenting a collection of gum to the Wellington Museum. When people are hungry a political transaction of this character is absolutely unjustified. If there is money to give away in the interests of science, why does the Government cancel the grant to the New Zealand Institute, so that it is almost impossible to carry on? This Dominion-wide organisation has always hitherto been able to publish the only scientific research journal of any moment in this Dominion, but the annual grant of £1500 has been wiped out, and a sort of ex-gratia payment of £450 made. The Government should have allowed the American gentleman to have the gum and the money should have been spent on scientific research, which is essential to the farmer's existence. H. E. VAILE.
Auckland Star 27 April 1933

The Minister went ahead and allocated the £3000 from the Great Easter Art Union proceeds towards the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum obtaining the Peat Collection in May 1933.

In June 1936, Peat applied to the Rotorua Borough Council to have the sub-lease for Nuku Te Apiapi, a Maori meeting house built from 1873, and lease from a trust by the Council from 1932. He intended to use it to house his Maori curios. He took over the lease in 1938, according to historian D M Stafford in The New Century in Rotorua (1988), leased the collection to the Rotorua Council 1940 with right of purchase after two years, and that part of his collection is apparently now housed in the Rotorua Museum at the old bathhouse and sanatorium.

The kauri gum did at least initially end up at the Dominion Museum.

Display cases in the Dominion Museum, Buckle Street, Wellington, circa 1936. Photographer unidentified. Reference Number: PAColl-6301-39, National Library.

The display of kauri gum is the largest and probably the most valuable in the world. It comprises 1600 pieces, collected by Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi. The exhibits are displayed in 10 cases, mounted on four tables, and are allotted a gallery to themselves.
Auckland Star 1 August 1936

But, Dargaville claims to have at least part of his gum collection. According to the Kaipara Lifestyler (28 April 2011): “Gained with financial help from Dargaville Rotary in 1978, it totals 400 golden samples, large and small, out of Peat’s collection of 1,600 pieces.”

So ... where are the other 1200 pieces?
The death occurred at his residence, Godley Road, Titirangi, of Mr Frank Oscar Peat, second son of the late Mr R B Peat. He was born in Auckland 63 years ago, and after being apprenticed as a watchmaker and jeweller with Messrs Page and Spencer, of Auckland, established himself in business in Dargaville and subsequently at Rotorua, He was a recognised authority on ancient Maori art and kauri gum specimens, and had one of the finest collections of greenstone, Maori carvings and kauri gum in New Zealand, A portion of his collection is now in the Dominion Museum, Wellington, and a further section in the Town Hall, Rotorua. Through his efforts, many priceless ancient Maori treasures have been preserved for the benefit of the people of the Dominion, His works of art attracted visitors from all parts of the world. Mr Peat, who was appointed a justice of the peace in 1935, had lived in semi-retirement over recent years. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter and two grandchildren.
Auckland Star 29 November 1945 

Update, 1 December 2016 -- I received this info today in an email from the Rotorua Museum:
"The remains of Frank Peat’s collection are at Rotorua Museum. We still have a large collection of kauri gum, taonga Maori, artworks, prints and natural history specimens. After the Treasure house at Whakarewarewa was closed, Frank sold his collection to the Rotorua Borough Council who set up a museum in 1940. It contained mainly the Peat collection with a small collection of other objects. We have some photographs of that museum, and are currently linking the objects in those photos with our database records so we can identify them as the Peat collection."

After all the year and varying uses, the Treasure House was reopened this year as a community hall.

The Treasure House, July 2013