Wellington City Libraries is proud to launch an online, digitised collection of correspondence from one of New Zealand’s most significant missionaries and supporters of Māori rights, Octavius Hadfield.
These original letters and diary extracts were gifted to Wellington City Libraries by his daughter, Amelia Caroline Hadfield, in 1951 and are now easily available to read for the first time as part of our heritage database, Wellington City Recollect.
Hadfield arrived in New Zealand shortly before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and soon made his way to Kāpiti. There he befriended Te Rauparaha and was able to prevent the great warrior making a retalitory attack on Wellington following the Wairau ‘Affray’ of 1843. Te Rauparaha and his son Tāmihana later encouraged Hadfield to establish the Rangiātea church in Otaki. He worked closely with Māori communities, introducing them to farming to allow them to engage with the settler economy and became a fierce critic of the NZ Government because of their actions in causing the NZ Wars. Despite many Europeans turning against him and even accusing him of treason, in 1870 Hadfield became the second Bishop of Wellington and then in 1890 he was elected to head the Anglican Church as Primate of New Zealand.
These letters are amoung our most valuable taonga and offer a fascinating insight into the mind and thinking of one of the greatest New Zealanders of the colonial period. Each document includes a full transcription.
Come along to the Khandallah Library this Thursday evening (7th November) from 6pm where we will be celebrating the heritage of the greater Onslow area with the rededication of a memorial scroll in honour of F.L (‘Fanny Louise’) Irvine-Smith.
Born in 1878, Irvine-Smith was a pioneering educationalist who lectured at the Wellington Teachers College and had a notable role in first introducing Māoritanga and NZ History to the primary school curriculum. She is best known for her work as a historian and her book The Streets of my City. First published in 1948, her book presented Wellington’s past through a tour of its streets and how they had been named. It was a radical departure from the dry, pedestrian works of local history which had been published to that time and it went on to be re-printed multiple times. However, we remember her for her extraordinary efforts over many years to establish the Khandallah Library. A strong believer in the importance of libraries to the social health of a community, she lobbied the council and walked the streets of the suburb to gather nearly 1300 signatures on a petition supporting the library’s establishment.
As well as unveiling the memorial scroll we are going to take the opportunity to launch a digitised collection of a historic local magazine, The Ngaio and Khandallah Review and its follow-up publication, The Social Review which were published in the early-mid 1930s. Drawn from the collection of the Onslow Historical Society, we worked collaboratively with the society to allow these extremely rare copies to be made available to the general public for the first time on our digital heritage platform, Wellington City Recollect. They offer a fascinating insight into the local community 85 years ago and will become an invaluable source of local history and genealogical information. Once launched, the digitised magazines will be fully key-word searchable.
Come along to the Khandallah Library on Thursday evening from 6pm to share your memories of the library and the greater area. Light refreshments will be served. There is no need to R.S.V.P but space will be limited.
Completed in 1904, the Levin House was one of the most extravagant houses ever constructed in Wellington to that time.
It was built at 72 Hobson Street in Thorndon for Robert Lionel Levin, the son of the wealthy businessman and philanthropist William Hort Levin for whom the Horowhenua township of Levin is named. W.H. Levin was also regarded as the ‘founder’ of Wellington City Libraries through his large donation of funds which enabled the city’s first municipal library to be constructed in the early 1890s.
Following his father’s death in 1893, Robert Levin decided against taking a partnership in the family firm of Levin & Co (he went sheep farming in the Manawatu) but used a proportion of his considerable inheritance to construct this house which soon became the talk of the town. It was designed by the notable architect John Sydney Swan who was also responsible for St Gerard’s Church and Monastery, the Backbencher Pub, The Erskine Chapel, the Iko Iko building in Cuba Mall and many others.
The house featured central heating, 100 volt DC electric lighting (230 volt AC mains power did not arrive in Wellington until the mid 1920s) and a “telephonette” intercom system which allowed servants to be summoned from any room. Located on two acres of land, rather than facing the street which was the norm at the time, the architect orientated the house away from the road so that it received all-day sun and had views out over Wellington Harbour. It was built before the major reclamation that created the railyards and Aotea Quay had taken place so the shoreline would have been substantially closer to the house than it is today.
By the early 1970s the house had fallen into disrepair and ownership of the property had long since passed from the Levin family. It was purchased by the Australian Government and then demolished in 1975 to become the site of the Australian High Commission.
Click here to see the house on our Recollect page which also includes a link to a digitised copy of the vintage NZ architecture magazine Progress which published a glowing review of the house in 1906.
Ever since Kupe first followed the wheke a Muturangi (a giant squid) to Te Moana-a-Raukawa (Cook Strait), the history of Wellington and the people who have lived here has been told, researched and retold. Wellington Heritage Week 22nd to 28th October is an opportunity to experience Wellington’s people, places and stories. Check out the Wellington Heritage week program here.
If you would like to do some of your own research into your Wellington people, places and stories then here at the library we have many resources to help you in your research. A great starting point is our Heritage and Local History page, with tips and links to help you get started.
Local Māori History Resources
On the Te Whanganui-a-Tara resources page you’ll find digitised resources, including: Māori deeds of land purchases, a list of Māori tribes and chiefs circa 1878, and many more resources. Check out these resources on the local Te Whanganui-a-tara Māori history available here.
We have the 4 volumes of Ngā Tūpuna o te Whanganui-a-Tara in our collection. These 4 volumes were a collaboration between Wellington City Council and Wellington Tenths Trust and our Māori subject specialist Ann Reweti was part of the writing and editing team.
“Short biographies and some portraits of Māori associated with the sale of Port Nicolson land in the 1840s.” (Catalogue)
Wellington City Recollect Database
Have you visited the Wellington City Recollect website yet? You will find a database of heritage photos, books, maps and related ephemera reflecting the Capital’s past. The database is administered by Wellington City Libraries and our local historian specialist Gabor Toth recommends having a look at some of the great new additions to this database. The latest project is the ongoing digitisation of Wellington school jubilee and centenary publications. These school publications are a great source of Wellington heritage information and you can see the ones that have been digitised so far, click on the Publications tab here.
Wellington City Recollect is a great place to spend some time during Wellington Heritage Week. Wellington City Libraries are very proud of our role in Wellington local history and some of the great things you can find on Recollect are postcards like the one below of Wellington Public Library C.1925 or browse thru the souvenir opening guide produced for the 1940 opening to find out about the library building that now houses the City Gallery here.
Exploring Early Colonial Life in Wellington in books
The following three books are good examples of how you can gain an interesting perspective of colonial life in Wellington from our collections. As for most colonists this new life started with the journey by ship to Wellington. The first book “No simple passage” tells of such a journey on board the “London” in 1842. The life and sights of Wellington in 1859 are the topic of the second book “An indescribable beauty” told with letters sent back home. Finally in the third book Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington from 1888 -1903 is detailed in Wellington’s own Redmer Yska’s “A strange beautiful excitement”. (For some background information into the research of this third book, check out the story on Wellington City Recollect here
An indescribable beauty : letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand, 1859 & 1862 / Krull, Friedrich
“This unique book is a small but priceless addition to the historical record of early New Zealand, published to recognise New Zealand’s guest of honour status at Frankfurt Book Fair 2012.On January 27, 1859, an adventurous young German arrived in Wellington after a four-month voyage on a Swedish ship. With great alacrity we helped the sailors weigh anchor, and with what suspense did H and I stand on the foredeck to get the first view of the town which was to become our new home, Friedrich Krull writes. After we entered through the narrow straits a beautiful harbour lay before us, surrounded by high hills, and behind it more hills ascending to the snowline. In the east we saw Wellington itself, stretching along the coast for a mile. We were amazed: we had not expected the place to be so big.’So began the first of many letters Krull would write at the behest of the German naturalist and historian Ernst Boll – published in English translation in this outstanding book.” (Catalogue)
A strange beautiful excitement : Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington, 1888-1903 / Yska, Redmer
“How does a city make a writer? Described by Fiona Kidman as a ‘ravishing, immersing read’, A Strange Beautiful Excitement is a ‘wild ride’ through the Wellington of Katherine Mansfield’s childhood. From the grubby, wind-blasted streets of Thorndon to the hushed green valley of Karori, author Redmer Yska, himself raised in Karori, retraces Mansfield’s old ground: the sights, sounds and smells of the rickety colonial capital, as experienced by the budding writer” (Catalogue)
Pop in to your library this Saturday, 21 November, for this special anniversary. It all started with this advertisement in The NZ Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 27 November 1840:
A highlight on Saturday at 11:30am is this fascinating talk:
Libris 175 : From Serial Murders to a Public Library Service.
What could connect a series of horrific murders in early 19th Century Scotland with New Zealand’s first public library? Local History specialist Gábor Tóth will explain the origin of Wellington City Libraries and some of the fascinating characters who were involved in its history and development as we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our predecessor institution in 1840. This free talk will also include a presentation of items selected from the library’s collection of rare books.
What else is happening?
Librarians are dressing for the occasion, with Central Library staff taking on the earliest era – Victorian; Newtown and Island Bay – Edwardian; Karori, Cummings Park and Khandallah – 1910–1930s; Johnsonville and Tawa – 1940–1950s; Kilbirnie and Miramar – 1960–1970s. Why not take a selfie with a librarian from years gone by and tweet it to @wcl_library, #selfie175 and #libris175 ?
There are will be competitions to enter and if you come along, there may just be a surprise for you!
If you’re not a member, join now and choose a special edition 175 anniversary library membership card. If you’re already a member, you can swap your current card for an anniversary card for $2. (Please note that your card number will change, so tell librarians if you use our eLibrary services).
Fabulous commemorative calendars are on sale now for $25 at all of our libraries, just in time for Christmas. A series of historic photographic banners will be making their way around branches after the 21st.
Stretching for 15 kilometres from Makara in the south to Tawa in the north, Ohariu Valley is a rural district on Wellington’s urban doorstep. Feeling that the social history of the area deserved to be more widely known, Wellington City Libraries have captured some of the memories of current and former valley dwellers as part of the Ohariu Valley Oral History Project.
The most recent addition to this heritage project is a vintage analogue recording of Seton Nossiter being interviewed by Vivian Harris. Wellington City Libraries wish to thank and acknowledge Vivian Harris and Gill Pratley (the daughter of Seton Nossiter) for allowing us to digitise the recording and to make it available via this collection. Vivian and Gill have also contributed their own stories to our archive and these can be listened to by clicking the named links on the main page of the Ohariu Valley Oral History Project.
Who was Seton Nossiter?
Seton Nossiter was one of Ohariu Valley’s most notable personalities of the 20th Century. He came to live in the valley aged five in 1914 when his parents purchased what was to become one of the first dairy farms in the area. He began farming as soon as he left school and later inherited the family farm but became best known by the wider community for his involvement in local body politics. He won a seat on the Hutt County Council representing the Makara “Riding”, then became a City Councillor when Makara and Ohariu Valley were absorbed into Wellington City. He served in this role for many years under the mayoralties of Sir Francis Kitts, Sir Michael Fowler and Ian Lawrence. He also sat on the Wellington and the Hutt Valley Milk Boards and was elected to the Johnsonville Liquor Licensing Trust where he was instrumental in the establishment of the Burma Lodge and the Broderick Inn. Shortly after his death in 1989, Seton Nossiter Park in Paparangi was named in his honour.
You can listen to the recordings over on the project page for Seton Nossiter.