Archives Collection

Solid as a Rock

Recently there has been considerable interest and debate over the future of the substantial brick and masonry building at 1 Victoria Avenue in central Whanganui. The decision to prevent its demolition has been hailed by heritage campaigners as an important step in the preservation of the remaining elements of Whanganui’s Victorian and Edwardian streetscapes.

Aside from its widely discussed architectural merits, the Avenue building has important links to the commercial history of the city courtesy of its builder and original owner James Thain.  He started his trading days a few blocks away in a building which is just as well known, although with a different role these days.

2 Paperweight

 A rectangular glass paperweight, manufactured for James Thain & Co., Wanganui. Ref: 2010.51.204.

In 1888 Thain and his business partner William Clapham bought a small-scale hardware operation in St Hill St which they rapidly developed into a highly successful enterprise with customers all around the region. The company sold a wide range of ironmongery and hardware, including building supplies, household goods, firearms and domestic grocery items. They were agents for famous brands such as Cooper’s Sheep Dipping Powder and Shacklock Ranges – household names in their day and for years afterwards.

As they expanded to service an area from Foxton to New Plymouth and up the main trunk line, it was important for the store to be sited very near the wharf and bulk storage depots and within easy haulage distance of the railway station. The original Thain’s Warehouse was designed by Alfred Atkins and built by local contractor Nicholas Meuli on reclaimed river bank land on Taupō Quay, near the foot of Victoria Avenue.

The Wanganui Chronicle of 12 December 1895 hailed the opening of one of “the most imposing mercantile buildings in Wanganui… of an exceptionally striking appearance”.  The article contained a remarkably detailed description of the building’s design, construction and contents. The reporter describes the shell-patterned pediment, panelled pilasters, cornices, parapet with pedestals and gold lettering. Another paragraph or two is devoted to the wooden floor, “solid as a rock” to bear the weight of “a large stock of cement, horse shoes, fencing wires, oils, felt, ridging and bulk packages of hardware”. At the rear there was a long storeroom for “an immense quantity of bar, sheet, corrugated and plate iron, steel in bars and sheets, gas and water pipes etc.” alongside an iron-clad kerosene store.

1 James Thain & Co

A view from across the river showing the James Thain and Co. building where the i-Site is now located. Ref: WR-TR-098.

As business continued to boom, Thain needed more space. His modest retail premises on the prime corner site at the bottom of Victoria Avenue provided the answer. In 1908, he commissioned his favourite builder, Nicholas Meuli, to erect a new, three-storey emporium to a design by local architect T H James. The shop quickly became a Whanganui landmark universally known as Thain’s Corner.

These days the Taupō Quay site is occupied by the Whanganui Visitor Information Centre, rebuilt by the District Council in 2009, incorporating many components of the original structure, including columns, beams and floors.

Images and objects from Thain’s shop will feature in the opening exhibition at the Whanganui Regional Museum.

 

Frank Start is the Director at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Advertisements

Henry, Son of Drew

Henry George Drew was born in 1875, the son of Catherine (nee Beatson) and Samuel Drew. His father Samuel is still a well-known figure in Whanganui, not just as the founder of the Whanganui Regional Museum, but as a scholar, a musician, a philanthropist, a creative jeweller and a successful businessman.

2. Henry Drew

Portrait of Henry Drew.  Source: Public Domain.

Henry is somewhat overshadowed by his father’s reputation, but never-the-less deserves recognition for his own substantial contribution, both to the family jewellery business and to the world of museums.

He attended Wanganui Collegiate School from 1885-1887 and then moved to Wellington to train as a jeweller, and returned to Whanganui to join his father in the family jewellery business. He was renowned as a creative and adept craftsman. The Drew premises still stands on the south side of the Bridge Block at 19 Victoria Avenue. Henry was responsible for rebuilding this shop in 1909, the previous shop being pulled down to accommodate the new. He later moved his business premises further up Victoria Avenue to Perrett’s Buildings, where it remained until the 1950s.

1. Tankard engraved by H Drew

 Engraved by jeweller Henry Drew, this silver tankard has dates, place names and descriptive images of battlefields of North Africa and Italy in World War II where New Zealand contingents fought. Ref: 2003.54.2

Like his father, Henry had a passion for natural history. Samuel Drew maintained contacts with world-renowned naturalists such as the Austrian collector and taxidermist, Andreas Reischek who, on two visits in 1886 and 1888, helped to classify his collections. At the age of 11 young Henry received lessons in taxidermy from Reischek and developed into a highly skilled taxidermist and a recognised collector of New Zealand birds, butterflies and moths.

In 1901, after the death of his father, Henry Drew was appointed Honorary Curator of the Museum. Following the appointment of a paid Curator, George Marriner in 1908, Henry was elected as a trustee and served from 1908 to 1912. In 1916 he was again appointed Honorary Curator, a position he held for three years.

In a 1916 letter to Amy Castle, an entomologist at the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa), he commented, “I have just been appointed Curator of Wang. Public Museum, and therefore my private collection must be reluctantly placed on one side. My duties at the Museum will take up all my spare time.”

Henry has been described as the best taxidermist produced by New Zealand. He mounted exhibits for many different museums around the country. He was especially noted for his ability to mount bird specimens in a natural way. A case of native birds, titled Morepork Under Siege, was mounted by him while Honorary Curator and was on display at the Museum for many years. It depicts a sleepy Ruru, or Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae), being besieged during the day by small birds that include Riroriro (Grey warbler), Tauhou (Silvereye), Miromiro (North Island Tomtit) and Piwaiwaka (Fantail). Still in the Museum collection, the diorama demonstrates the sort of natural poses that Drew was attempting to perfect.

20181005_151756_Richtone(HDR)

A close-up view of Henry Drew’s Morepork Under Siege, showing the birds in natural poses. Ref: 1916.66

In 1924 he produced a collection of 350 birds for display at the Wembley Exhibition in England. This included eleven blue penguins which were kept at his home for a few weeks by his two children before being killed and mounted for display. He also mounted a large brown bear that came to Whanganui in a travelling circus.

Henry Drew retired from the family jewellery business in 1949, leaving his son Frank in charge.

 

Libby Sharpe is the Senior Curator at Whanganui Regional Museum

Ladies Home Journal

The Ladies Home Journal had humble beginnings as an advice column in the men’s magazine Tribune and Farmer. This magazine was owned by Cyrus Curtis. His wife, Louisa Knapp, wrote a column named “Women at Home”. The column was so popular that Knapp expanded it to include hints and tips on domestic and private matters and launched it as a two-page supplement on 16 February 1883.

The supplement grew in popularity and in 1884 began independent publication as The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, but was shortened to the Ladies Home Journal soon after. There were 20,000 subscribers at the launch.

1. LHJ Jun 1918

 The Ladies Home Journal June 1918. Ref: 1802.5077

Edward Bok took over as editor in 1889 and introduced several features which helped to build the magazine’s success. He wrote the first edition of the “Ruth Ashmore Advice Column” offering advice and hints to women and girls on personal and household matters. The column received so many letters asking for advice that an independent journalist was hired to take it over; Isobel Mallon wrote under the nom de plume until her death in 1898.

Bok also introduced a low fee for subscribers and balanced the production costs by selling advertising space in the publication. Bok, however, had a strict code which filtered the advertisements and weeded out fraudulent claims, and he refused to advertise patent medicines.

Bok sought popular content from national and international writers. He included both fiction and non-fiction, publishing stories and book samples from prominent and upcoming authors alongside articles on architecture, fine arts, domestic life, recipes and health.

In 1903 Ladies Home Journal became the first American magazine with one million subscribers and proved to be a social influencer. Not satisfied with just refusing patent medicines advertisements, Bok and his writers embarked on a muck-raking campaign against them. This campaign was so effective that it helped to bring about the Federal Food and Drugs Act in 1906, ensuring the regulation of the ingredients, manufacture and advertising of consumables.

 

2. LHJ Oct 1918

 The Ladies Home Journal October 1918. Ref: 1802.5076

During the war years the American Government took out advertising space and published articles aimed at homemakers, with the intention of keeping up morale at home and continue public support for the war effort. With one of the highest circulation bases they had a large local and international audience.

In 1946 Ladies Home Journal adopted the slogan “Never underestimate the power of a woman”, which would prove to be a portentous statement. Members of the feminist movement targeted the magazine in 1970 when 100 women staged an 11-hour sit-in at the publishers’ offices. They protested the way the predominantly male staff wrote articles aimed at what feminists saw was the “mythological happy homemaker”. They demanded more female staff, improved conditions and salaries for female employees, and a change to more relevant and liberal content.

Ladies Home Journal remained one of the most popular women’s magazines but tastes were beginning to change. When the Meredith Corporation bought it in 1986, subscribers had dropped by over two million in the preceding 20 years.

As digital media increased, subscriptions decreased. In 2012 there was a major revamp of the publication, but increasing use of social media and digital forums meant a physical magazine became too costly to produce. After 131 years the last monthly edition was published in July 2014. Today, the Ladies Home Journal is only published quarterly, but retains an online presence.

 

Sandi Black is the Archivist at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Wanganui Technical College

The development of Wanganui Technical College mirrored the changing awareness of the curriculum needs of secondary education in early New Zealand.

New Zealand district high schools tended towards the conservative academic curriculum of British secondary schools. The need for art, technical and industrial skills led to the opening of Wanganui Technical School in 1892, widely known as the School of Art, one of the first four in the country.

The Wanganui District High School building on Victoria Avenue was dismantled to make way for the Technical School. In 1896 the buildings were extended to create space for classes in clay modeling, needle work, woodcarving and carpentry. In 1899 literature, languages, mathematics and experimental science were added.

1. Wanganui Technical College 1911

The newly built Wanganui Technical College on Ingestre Street, 1911.  The second storey was removed in 1929 after the Murchison earthquake.
Ref: 1965.127.2 Photographer: Frank Denton

In 1910 the wooden Technical School building was demolished and a new school was built in Ingestre Street. Renamed Wanganui Technical College, it opened in September 1911. Pupils from the Technical School transferred to the new College.

The Technical College was divided into five departments: high school, commercial, engineering, agriculture and art. At first there were more evening and weekend classes than day classes. From 1912 to 1922, evening classes were compulsory for young people under the age of seventeen who were not attending school. By 1914 the day school had 70 pupils in the general course, 66 in commercial, eight in agriculture, 34 in domestic and none in the art course. There were 792 enrolments in the evening school.

2. Workshop class 1920s

Group of Wanganui Technical College pupils in a car workshop class, 1920s.
Ref: SCS/TC/9 Photographer: Frank Denton

Subjects offered included plane and solid geometry, machine construction and applied mechanics and building construction, a number of art and design subjects, shorthand, arithmetic, and architecture. Also offered were the academic subjects of French and Latin for those pupils intent on matriculation in order to attend university or sitting public service exams.

The commercial department was an exemplar in preparing pupils for work success. In 1915 the Government junior typist exam required 80 words per minute in shorthand and 32 words per minute in typing. A typist with this qualification could expect to earn £66 per annum. A pass in the senior exam meant an increase in salary to £96 pa.

Subjects studied in the agriculture department included, botany, zoology, dairying, farm blacksmithing and gardening. Subjects studied in the domestic course included millinery, hygiene, physiology and applied art. In 1918 a sixth form for boys was opened for those wishing to study for further exams such as accountancy professionals.

3. College Council 1933

Wanganui Technical College Council Group, 1933.
Ref: SCS/TC/8 Photographer: Unknown

In 1933 the recently closed Central Infants School buildings and grounds were handed over to cater for the growing Technical College roll. By 1957 the roll was closed to girls; the last girls finished at Technical College in 1962. Later, two large woodwork shops and two new classrooms were added. In the 1960s a major rebuilding programme began. By 1961 work had started on a new gymnasium and plans had been approved for a building to accommodate one thousand students. Wanganui Technical College was renamed Wanganui Boys College in 1964.

In 1994 the school became co-educational again and was renamed Wanganui City College.

 

Libby Sharpe is the Senior Curator at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Dr Kater’s Voyage

The following extracts are from a journal kept by Dr William Henry Kater during his voyage to New Zealand aboard the ship Sir Charles Forbes, which departed London in May 1842. He was engaged as Surgeon Superintendent on board what was the first ship to sail from London to Nelson direct. His original spelling and punctuation have been kept intact.

2. Accommodation on board

 Plan of the accommodation aboard the Sir Charles Forbes on a previous voyage in 1839

1 May. Set off from London at 8a.m. to Gravesend by Steam boat where the Ship was lying. Having had but three days notice I had very little time to prepare.  Before going on board I met on the Pier at Gravesend Mr. Somes the Governer of the Company to whom I am indebted for my appointment. He was very kind in his advice and wishes.

17 May. At sunset this evening the funeral of the child that died yesterday took place.  I have often witnessed a funeral on shore but unless a soldier’s I never saw one equalled in sadness and impressiveness to one at sea … the pure feeling of the hearts break out when the souls prison is launched into the unfathomable ocean, fit emblem of eternity.

27 May. Saw the first flying fish today thought it a gull at first.

1 June. Surrounded by an immense shoal of porpoises, tried to shoot some but did not succeed.

8 June. Hurrah!  At four this morning we crossed the Equinoctial line and find ourselves in the Southern Hemisphere in the Ethiopia Ocean.

22 June. We had an addition this morning to our Mess on board. Mrs. Chamberlain having been confined and given birth to a daughter.

25 June. One cannot sleep in peace for the rascally outfitter did not send the hammock I purchased and I was obliged to use the wooden ledge called “a bunk” from which an occasional heavy lurch will transfer me to the floor where I must industriously pick myself up again.

20 July. Standing this day upon the poop musing upon the mutability of mortal affairs and gazing upon the deep a huge black mass met my view and before I could call to ask anyone what it could be I perceived the unwieldy bulk of a large whale apparently about 50 feet long and about as many feet from the ship, whilst with others looking on and wondering, the creature I suppose saw the ship for it suddenly spouted high in the air and turning up his fluke disappeared. The water he spouted was brought by the wind upon the quarter deck and covered us all with a cloud of spray, wetting us through.

30 July. Myself rather tired and sleepy having been up these two nights in attendance upon the most impatient patient that I ever had.

11 August. An overheard conversation between a husband and wife from Somerset:-

Wife. “Job dost thee love I?”

Husband. “What dost think?”

Wife.    “Noa but dost thee?”

Husband. “Love thee I could gnaw thee like mutton”

20 August. Before daybreak this morning word was passed to the Captain’s cabin “Land right ahead”, few but those who have been at sea know the thrilling interest that such a sound awakes after four months confinement in about 30 yards by eight.  As soon as the sound reached below the clarinet player seized his instrument threw his legs out of the bunk and struck up “Happy Land”. It remains yet to be proved whether he is a false prophet.

1. Nelson Examiner 27 August 1842

 Immigration Office Report on the passengers aboard the Sir Charles Forbes, taken from the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 27 August 1842

Dr Kater did not have long to live. He was drowned in Nelson Harbour in September 1843 when the flat bottom punt he was in capsized. Two boys who were with him at the time were saved, one by swimming ashore and the other by clinging to the punt.

The Bumpy Road to Wedded Bliss

Some fields of science have been around for millennia – there have been mathematicians ever since humans ran out of fingers and toes to count on. Others are more recent. Phrenology, the study of an assumed relationship between the size and shape of the human skull and individual or racial characteristics, is unusual in having a precise start date. It was announced to the world of medicine in 1796 by the German doctor Franz Joseph Gall.

In the following two centuries Gall’s ideas were elaborated on by a large number of followers, including criminologists, anthropologists and self-declared racists. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a devotee and his creation Sherlock Holmes relied on phrenological principles to deduce from the height and curve of his forehead that his nemesis Professor Moriarty was a criminal mastermind.

L0002360 Photograph: `Phrenology', a ceramic head

 A model of Fowler’s Phrenology, showing the layout of bumps and what they indicate. Source: Public Domain.

It is hard to find a practising phrenologist these days, but the discipline was once highly thought of in Whanganui. The Chronicle reported in 1879 on an examination of the prophet Te Whiti by one Professor Frazer, an eminent phrenologist. “The organs of memory are full,” he declared, “and the eye indicates plenty of language. His strong point, and the one most likely to influence, is his combination of spirituality, veneration and hope… The portion of the brain in which these organs are located is not only large, but active.”

1-os-fowler.jpg

A portrait of Professor O S Fowler, Phrenologist and Lecturer. Source: Public Domain.

Once phrenological credentials were established, other opportunities beckoned. Orson Fowler, declared by a pamphlet in the Whanganui Regional Museum to be “acknowledged by all classes as the most distinguished exponent now living of the science of phrenology”, evidently felt qualified to extend his wisdom to “the mutual relations of the sexes”. The flyer promotes his 1870 book Sexual Science which examines “that great code of natural laws by which the Almighty requires the sexes to be governed in their mutual relations”. Knowledge of these laws, it contends, is “of the highest importance, and it is the general ignorance of them among all classes which swells the list of diseases and misery in the world”.

3 Fowler's Great Work

Headline of the flyer advertising O S Fowler’s Great Work. Ref: 1802.8272

The book is described as “pure and elevated in tone; eloquent in its denunciations of vice and forcible in its warnings against the secret sins which are practised with impunity in every community.” As you might expect, it provides practical advice, including “how to make a right choice of husband or wife; to judge a man or woman’s sexual condition by visible signs; to keep wives healthy and avoid sickly wives; to keep a husband faithful and avoid discord; to avoid the evils attending pregnancy; to manage children; to recognise the signs of self-abuse and cure it; and to raise healthy and vigorous girls fit to be wives and mothers”. It also offers useful information on how to promote the growth of the female bust.

Unfortunately the Museum does not hold a copy of Sexual Science, originally on sale at AD Willis bookshop for 25 shillings. Modern readers will have to make do with Eat, Pray, Love.

 

Frank Stark is Director of the Whanganui Regional Museum.

Is handwriting a lost art?

Writing may arguably be one of the most important inventions of humankind. For centuries writing was a means for humans to record history, ideas and discoveries, and to communicate with each other.

Thought to have originated in Mesopotamia around 3,200 BC, writing has undergone a mass of technological development to get where it is today. Handwriting has been evident in many forms: inscribing with tools on stone, leaf, wood, wax, papyrus and parchment and in more recent times, on paper.

These days, people handwrite less and less. The arrival of the printing press in the mid-15th century meant multiples of transcriptions and books became easier to produce. Then the typewriter eliminated the need for composing everything by hand. In recent years the rapid development of computers and smartphones all but do away with the need to write by hand; instead we use texting, emailing and instant messaging. And that’s a pity.

1. Contract 1577

 Commercial contract dated 22 August 1577, written in fine black ink on high quality heavy parchment with three red wax seals attached on hanging strips. Written in English, the signatories are Laurence Robynson, Thomas Bell and Matthew Walker.
Ref: 1959.197.2

The Whanganui Regional Museum archives hold numerous examples of handwritten text, some as early as the 16th century, in the form of legal documents, mortgage papers, manuscripts, indentures, patents, diaries, letters, business records, cash books, autographs and personal papers. In delving into the pages of these beautifully kept records we can appreciate the art, skill and importance of hand-written text. Future generations are unlikely to stock museums with our dull digital printouts.

Why is the art of handwriting so important? Firstly, learning to write by hand is a vital component of literacy. There is evidence to suggest that more information is retained and expressed when putting pen to paper. Handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing. Learning how to shape and link letters improves reading comprehension. Researchers have ascertained that students who hand-write their notes indeed learn more. Writing a word out, letter by letter, is a self-conscious process that requires a certain processing of information, which provides a deeper connection to thoughts than is acquired by using a keyboard. Handwriting can also increase creativity and improve memory.

2. Stewart journal 1843

 Excerpt from the field journal of Whanganui surveyor and engineer, J T Stewart, 1843.
Ref: 1805.388

Secondly, someone’s handwriting gives clues to their personality that cannot be assessed in digital text. The unique style and slope of individual letters, a flowing cursive and the expressive quality of an individually written word is something that we stand to lose. There is warmth and personality attached to a handwritten letter or note, a postcard sent home or daily diary entries.

Other than the ubiquitous handwritten shopping list, scrawled reminder note or obligatory form filling, how many of us use handwriting on a daily basis? When did any of us last write a handwritten letter to someone? Texts, emails and other forms of technical communication have taken over and caused us to neglect our penmanship. Technology has diluted our collective handwriting ability and there is a real possibility that the skill of hand-writing is dying out.

3. Oldknow letter 1789

This letter was written by H Oldknow from her school in Nottingham to her mother, in 1789. It starts with “Hon.d Madam” and ends, touchingly, with “I am / Madam / your most dutiful / and obedient Daughter”. Ref: 1966.22.1

Handwriting is unique. It has a tremendous expressive power, and more than that, handwritten text can be incredibly gorgeous. The physical act of writing takes time and can communicate that the writer cares about the content of the communication, and in turn the person intended to receive it. There is something special about sending or receiving a precious hand-written note or letter.

Pick up a pen. And write something.

Rachael Garland is the Events Coordinator at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Physiognomy – it’s written on your face

A small paper booklet held in the Museum’s archives offers an intriguing look into how some people once attempted to learn more about themselves. The title of the booklet is a mouthful: Physiognomical Chart of Character, with Illustrations of Temperaments, Facial Angles and Types of Faces, and Definitions of Mental Faculties, Together with the Explanation of Their Facial Indications. In short, the booklet covers the basics of physiognomy.

1. Physiognomical Chart

 Physiognomical Chart of Character given to Fred Allen in 1882. Ref: 2011.13.62

Physiognomy refers to the once popular practice of assessing someone’s personality based on their outward appearance. It was believed that a person’s inner character was revealed through their physical traits and could be read by deciphering the size, shape and placement of facial features on the head. Today it is known as pseudoscience and generally regarded as just a bit of fun.

Face-reading was an everyday practice in Ancient Greece and was common through to the middle ages, even earning a mention in an addition to The Canterbury Tales when a character is called out as a thief with the line, “I knowe wele by thy fisnamy, thy kynd it were to stele”.

It was dismissed by Leonardo da Vinci as having no scientific foundation, although he did believe the lines and creases on a person’s face could indicate their character, but it continued to be taught at English universities until King Henry VIII outlawed it as a vagabond’s crafty game.

Physiognomy began to increase in popularity again from the 17th century and peaked 200 years later, becoming a common subject in novels and artworks of the time. With doctors and philosophers giving it their professional backing, the police even used it to profile the appearance of criminals and warned officers to be aware of people with pointed heads, heavy jaws, receding brows and scant beards, as they were more likely to commit crimes.

New Zealand was not left out of this fad and several physiognomists journeyed here to offer lectures and consultations, including Oswald E Hugo who visited Whanganui in November 1882. His talks were attended by small but enthusiastic crowds.  Frederick Hanson Allen was one attendee, aged 18 at the time, and he received the booklet which contains the hand-written results of his consultation with Hugo.

2. Frederick Hanson Allen

 Frederick Hanson Allen in the 1880s. Ref: 2011.13.26

Fred received a low 4/10 for “memory of dates” but a high 8/10 for “memory of events”. He scored an average 6/10 for “love of life” but the high score of 8.5/10 for “sensual proclivities” came with a recommendation for restraint.

Fred was warned to “not give any thought to the other sex for several years to come”, but Hugo listed the set of features he should look for in a future bride which would indicate she had the right personality to balance his own. “ … dark hair and eyes with arched eyebrows and concave lashes, forehead full in the middle, nose straight or short, face short and broad, slim figure and rather tall, conical head”.

Fred took Hugo’s advice to wait, and was 29 when he married Ethel Elizabeth Barns in 1894, although we don’t know what she looked like.

Physiognomy fell out of favour by the early 20th century as science and technology advanced, although some programmers use physiognomical analysis in developing facial recognition software today.

 

Sandi Black is the Archivist at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Sling Camp and the Bulford Kiwi

The Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire is famous for a ring of standing stones, but the area is noted for another stone feature with an antipodean connection – the Bulford Kiwi.  How did our country’s national bird end up carved on the side of a hill in south England?

A military camp was established on the Salisbury Plain in 1897 near the town of Bulford for which it was named.  In 1903 an annexe was built to provide more accommodation. Named Sling Plantation Camp after the nearby woods, it was usually known as Sling Camp.

1. Table Runner

 A pink cotton needlework souvenir table runner, made in Sling Camp during World War I.  Ref: 2015.49

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I the camp housed many New Zealand troops and became known colloquially as ANZAC Camp. The ANZACs were soon joined by Canadian soldiers and civilians, and together they worked on building huts.  It has been estimated that if these completed huts were placed end to end the line would have measured six miles long.

Sling Camp was officially named the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade Reserve Camp and included four sections: Auckland, Wellington, Otago, and Canterbury. It was the chief New Zealand training camp throughout the war, serving to both prepare reinforcements and rehabilitate casualties. Senior personnel were tough on discipline and training, but also provided huts that were warmed in winter, good food, libraries and billiard rooms. A nearby cinema also provided entertainment.

The camp also housed 14 New Zealand conscientious objectors, including Archibald Baxter (father of James Keir Baxter) and his two brothers, who were sent to England to be made an example of.

In 1918 an estimated 4,300 men lived in Sling Camp. This count was greatly reduced after Spanish Influenza took hold and resulted in high casualties.

After the war ended the camp became a repatriation centre where 4,600 ANZACs waited for their turn to come home. Troop ships were in short supply and the soldiers were getting restless, so the officers introduced a series of enforced marches. The troops requested relaxed discipline; after all, the war was over. When their request was denied they rioted, looting the mess and stealing alcohol from the officers.

The riot was calmed and the men were promised there would be no consequences for their actions; however, the ringleaders were arrested and, ironically, promptly shipped back to New Zealand.

2. Postcard of kiwi & camp

 Postcard of the newly carved kiwi above Sling Camp.
Unknown artist, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18041333

The remaining men were put to work carving a large kiwi into the chalk on Beacon Hill behind the camp. The kiwi was designed by Sergeant Major P C Blenkarne, based on a sketch of a taxidermied kiwi held at the British Museum. Sergeant Major V T Low surveyed the area and extended the design of the kiwi, which covers an area of 1.5 acres.

In the 1920s the original buildings of Sling Camp were torn down and replaced. The Kiwi Polish Company took over maintenance of the chalk kiwi and paid local villagers to take care of it, more from its status as a memorial than for any advertising benefit. During World War II it was covered to prevent German planes using it as a navigation point. The Boy Scouts removed the leaf mould cover once the war was over. In the 1950s Blenkarne arranged for the British Army to maintain the kiwi, and in 2017 it received protection as a scheduled monument.

3. Photo of kiwi in 2013

 A view of the Bulford Kiwi, August 2013.
Photograph by Jonathanjosh1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

 

Sandi Black is the Archivist at Whanganui Regional Museum.

The Sisters of St Joseph: Catholic Education in Whanganui

The Sisters of St Joseph are an Australasian order founded by Mother Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods in 1873. Mother Mary was canonised in Rome in 2010.

A distinctive habit was worn by the Sisters, unchanged until the late 1960s. The habit was a sign of their consecration to God, and served to identify their unity as a group. The distinctive blue monogram distinguished their Order. Today Sisters do not wear the habit but show a symbol of their consecration with a silver ring and a lapel pin or a pendant.

4. Sisters of St Joseph

Sisters of St Joseph – Sisters Madeleine and Bernadette Murphy, 1934.  Ref: Tesla Studios 26000

The Sisters arrived in the town of Whanganui in 1880. They immediately set up a school for girls in Victoria Avenue which they named Sacred Heart Convent. It was a mixture of primary and secondary pupils, many of the older children being boarders from surrounding rural districts. Their mission was to provide education for the children of the poor. St Joseph’s Convent School, also in Victoria Avenue, had been running since 1858 staffed by lay teachers. The Sisters also took over teaching duties there. It closed in the 1940s.

As the town of Whanganui grew, so did the need for more schools. The Sisters taught in Catholic primary education and in a secondary girls’ college, working extremely hard, and for the most part, with scant resources. But what came out of their work and persistence was a wide-reaching and comprehensive Catholic school system. It provided a first class education for every Catholic child in the district, regardless of wealth, race and social status. Those not able to afford the very modest fees were never turned away. Between 1880 and 1904 seven new schools were opened.

2. Sacred Heart Convent

Sacred Heart Convent, 1912.  Ref: SCH/Misc/40

Alongside reading, writing and arithmetic, the Sisters also taught and nurtured the tenets and practice of the Catholic faith. This is what gave their schools their distinctive character. Icons or statues featured in every school as part of the traditional Catholic devotion. A crucifix, as a symbolic representation of Christ was present in every classroom. A small container of holy water was usually placed just inside the door of every classroom.

The Sisters were always busy. Religious Sisters were not permitted by the Government to attend Teacher Training Colleges so the Sisters of St Joseph gained their Teaching Certificates by studying through the New Zealand Correspondence School. The exclusion continued until the 1970s.

Sisters taught full-time, prepared and marked lessons, cleaned their own classrooms and the convent and they taught music to private pupils. The Sisters also tended to their daily devotions and played an important role in parish work and pastoral visiting, attending retreats and contributing to community life. Despite their commitments, they were always encouraged by their Order to be creative, to extend their talents and to find some time for hobbies and recreation.

1. Villa Maria

Villa Maria Boarding House and School, once known as Hutchinson’s Folly, c1900. Ref: 1962.90.12

Villa Maria opened in Cameron Terrace in 1898 to accommodate Catholic boarders of all ages and for use as classrooms for primary pupils. The building, called locally Hutchinson’s Folly for its former owner, had plenty of rooms and extensive grounds for pupils to play in. The “Villa kids”, as they were known, moved to a new site in Guyton Street in 1944 and their little school was renamed St Monica’s. It closed in 1963.

Holy Infancy School opened in 1899 in Aramoho with 40 pupils and grew quickly with the expansion of the suburb. The school was also known as Sister Rita’s School as she worked there for 40 years and was a well-known and much loved character. In 1966 Holy Infancy was renamed St Joseph’s. In 1970 it became an Intermediate School for girls, finally closing in 1979.

In 1911 a foundation stone was laid by His Grace Bishop Francis Redwood for a new school in Oakland Avenue on St John’s Hill. In 1912 the new Sacred Heart Convent and School were opened by the Bishop. The building was 188 feet long, 100 feet wide, three stories high, and had 300 windows. Heart of matai was used for the floors in the four classrooms and the six piano rooms. The convent was lit by gas and was on town water supply. It also had tanks to store 3,000 gallons of rain water. There were balconies at the front and back which, in addition to affording the best views of Whanganui, doubled as fire escapes. By 1948 the school catered for secondary school girls only. In 1982 it was demolished.

The merging of St Augustine’s Boys College and Sacred Heart Girls College became Cullinane College in 1981. It is situated in Peat Street and continues today.

The distance from town made it difficult for pupils in Castlecliff to attend a Catholic school. When St Vincent’s School opened there in 1918, the Sisters travelled from town to school by tram until the 1930s when they were taken by car. A falling roll saw St Vincent’s amalgamate with St Anthony’s in Gonville in 1947.

3. Sacred Heart Dancing Girls

Sacred Heart Convent Dancing Girls, 1931.  Ref: Tesla Studios 23804

St Mary’s School has a long history of relocating. In 1919 the school was located at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Ingestre Street. In 1927 St Mary’s moved to Hurworth, the site of an old Anglican boys’ school in Grey Street. In 1964 the school was off again, this time to the former Marist Brothers School in Wicksteed Street. Finally, in 1988, a newly built school named St Mary’s opened in Aramoho on the former Holy Infancy site and still continues.

St Anthony’s School opened in Gonville in 1925. At first the new school building was used for Mass on Sundays. In 1930 a nearby house was purchased and converted into classrooms. A crisis in resourcing led to the Catholic schools of New Zealand whilst retaining their special character, being integrated into the national education system, supported by government. In the ensuing reorganisation, St Anthony’s was moved to Marcellin School in 1982.

A new school opened on the old Marist Brothers site at Totara Street. Marcellin School drew in the intermediate pupils from the newly closed St Joseph’s in Aramoho, as well as the St Anthony’s pupils. It is still operating today.

St Anne’s School in Wanganui East first operated from a house on the corner of Kawakawa and Nixon Streets. It opened in 1942 with just seven juniors and two young nuns. A new school was built in Raine Street in 1976. The school is still going strong today.

The Sisters of St Joseph finished teaching in Whanganui in 1988. During the course of 108 years the Sisters were involved in 10 primary schools, three of which remain today to carry forward the Catholic tradition so ably laid by the Sisters.

Now the Sisters of St Joseph’s family of schools is staffed by lay principals and staffs. The world of the Catholic nun has changed and the Sisters turn their considerable talents and experience to other forms of education. They continue to give support in their community wherever it is needed.

 

Libby Sharpe is Senior Curator at Whanganui Regional Museum and Helen Doyle is a Sister of St Joseph.