The flowering of The Tulip

In the late 1950s, a pioneering restaurant helped introduce Wellingtonians to ‘fine dining’ but faced the absurdity of New Zealand’s antiquated liquor laws

The menu for The Tulip

In 1951 Boyd Klap arrived in New Zealand as a Dutch migrant in his early 20s with his wife and brother. They were among the first of a wave of immigrants from the Netherlands who moved to New Zealand during the 1950s and 1960s. He soon realised that his specialised skills in tropical agriculture which had been honed during his term of military service in the Dutch East Indies were to be of little use in New Zealand and he began what was to become a life-long career in the insurance industry.  Many European migrant groups formed societies and associations during this period and one of the largest of these was the Wellington Dutch Club and Boyd was soon involved with its administration. The club was not only a social gathering point but also went a small way to try and replicate elements of  the hospitality scene of Europe that were lacking in New Zealand. Wellington at the time had few such options: restaurants served basic grills & roasts and serving alcohol was prohibited. Coffee and wine were virtually unobtainable (tea and beer were the dominant drinks) while pubs closed at 6pm after which the city emptied out.

Continue reading “The flowering of The Tulip”

New online genealogical resource: The Scholefield Papers

A remarkable 80 year old collection of letters and family trees detailing the genealogy of thousands of individuals descending from early European settlers of the Wellington Province has now been digitised and is available to view on Wellington City Recollect.

Guy Hardy Scholefield

The 1930s saw both local and central government give increasing thought to how New Zealand might celebrate the 1940 centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.  The idea that there would be a grand centennial exhibition in the capital had been decided as far back as 1930 following an agreement between the Wellington City Council and the ‘United’ government of Prime Minister Joseph Ward. However, provincial centres across the country also wanted to mark the occasion so funds were raised for projects such as the planting of stands of native trees and the construction of community facilities such as centennial libraries, halls and Plunket rooms. In 1937 the Wellington Historical Committee was formed to come up with a different kind of  project to mark the occasion and Dr Guy Scholefield was appointed as its chairman. He had begun his professional life as a journalist, had written several books about New Zealand’s history and had a particular interest in biography, being the founder and editor of the Who’s Who series of publications from 1908.

Continue reading “New online genealogical resource: The Scholefield Papers”

‘The Streets of My City’: the Legacy of Fanny Irvine-Smith

Previously only available in an online text form, one of the most useful and readable books about Wellington’s local history is now fully digitised on Wellington City Recollect.

The 1967 reprint of the book now digitised on Recollect. It remained in print for over 26 years following its first publication in 1948

The Streets of my City broke new ground when it was first published in 1948, presenting Wellington’s past through a tour of its streets and how they had been named. It was a radical departure from previous dry and somewhat pedestrian works of local history such as Alan Mulgan’s The City of the Strait (1939) and Louis Ward’s Early Wellington (1929). It was the culmination of years of work by one of Wellington’s most remarkable women from the first half of the 20th Century, F. L. (Fanny Louise) Irvine-Smith.

She was born in Napier on 10 September 1878 but her father died in an accident when she was only six-months old and the family moved to Wellington after her mother remarried. She attended Wellington Girls’ College from 1892 to 1895, then attended teachers’ college which began her life-long professional involvement in education. Her first teaching position was as a young intern at Fitzherbert Terrace School in Thorndon in 1897 (eventually to become Samuel Marsden Collegiate) when she was aged only 19 and she soon accepted a number of placements around the North Island. As she never married, Irvine-Smith was free of the social norms of the period that expected women to give up their careers upon marriage. She completed her teaching qualifications in New Plymouth in 1898, then returned to Wellington and enrolled at Victoria College (now Victoria University) where she studied part-time while continuing to teach, graduating with a B.A. in 1908. While there she also became the founding editor of the university review magazine, Spike which remained in publication for 60 years. She returned to the institution in 1920 where she completed a M.A in history; a rare achievement for women in this period.

Continue reading “‘The Streets of My City’: the Legacy of Fanny Irvine-Smith”

Her Excellency’s Knitting Book

“For the Empire and for Freedom we must all do our bit.
The men go forth to Battle, the women wait – and knit.”

Members of the Wellington Spinsters Club knitting socks for soldiers during World War I. ATL Ref: 1/2-030986-F

Digitised for the first time, to mark Anzac Day, is Her Excellency’s Knitting Book from 1915. The publication came about through the efforts of Annette Foljambe, the wife of New Zealand’s last Governor (and first Governor General), Arthur Foljambe, the Earl of Liverpool. Until the role began to be filled by New Zealanders in the 1960s, Governors General were generally minor British aristocrats, often with a military background.  Governors and their wives (the first female Governor General was not appointed until 1990) were feted as celebrities during their time living in NZ but were often aloof from the general population.  The Earl and Countess of Liverpool on the other hand, made a special effort to ‘connect’ with New Zealanders, in part because their term covered the entire period of the First World War.

Annette Foljambe, Countess of Liverpool, c. 1913. ATL Ref: 1/1-001466-G

Unusually for someone of her background (she was herself the daughter of a Viscount), the Countess of Liverpool was an experienced knitter. She came to believe that a mass knitting effort by the women of New Zealand would not only provide socks and clothing for soldiers fighting overseas, it would also be helpful to ‘calm the nerves’ of women missing their loved ones and draw them together in social ‘knitting circles’ where their worries and concerns could be shared. A network of organisers across the country sought out knitting patterns from contributors with each submission being thoroughly “tested” (i.e. knitted) before being accepted. The book opens with the Countess’ own sock and mitten patterns followed by a selection of military-related items such as balaclavas, naval jerseys and shooting gloves (allowing the index finger to be free to fire a rifle). Also included were women’s coats, bed jackets and a wide variety of children’s garments. 

Continue reading “Her Excellency’s Knitting Book”

Plating Up: a talk about the history of Wellington’s restaurant trade

The New Commercial Cafe, c. 1929, formerly located at 70 Lambton Quay. From the collection of Wellington City Libraries.

From basic grill restaurants serving countless plates of sausages & chips to French cuisine served on fine porcelain, through to the multitude of different ethnic dishes available today, dining out in Wellington has changed hugely over the past 100 years.

As part of Local Food Week 2023, Plating Up – a free hour-long talk about the history of Wellington’s restaurant trade – will be presented at

12pm Thursday 9th March
Te Awe Brandon Street Library
by Gábor Tóth, History Specialist for Wellington City Libraries

This is a free event and all are welcome; pop it in your diary! This illustrated talk will cover the impact that the arrival of different migrant groups has had on the restaurant sector, the introduction of new technologies in the kitchen and how changes in planning rules and legislation transformed one of our most pleasurable activities; eating out! 

Ans Westra, 1936 – 2023

Self Portrait by Ans Westra, [c.1963], ATL Ref AWM-0705-F
We are greatly saddened to hear of the passing of one of New Zealand’s best-known and loved photographers, Ans Westra. Born in Leiden, Netherlands, Ans migrated to New Zealand in 1957 aged 21 and briefly lived in Auckland before moving to Wellington the following year. She quickly settled into her adopted city and set about capturing local communities, street fashion and generational shifts as the baby boomers came of age. Wielding a medium-format Rolleiflex camera held at her waist, for many years she was a regular sight at parades, concerts and school fairs; her lens always focused on the people who were attending rather than the event itself. She also travelled across the country and paid special attention to photographing Māori communities who until then had been largely ignored by contemporary photographers.

Ans Westra was a regular visitor to the former Wellington Central Library and became friendly with a number of staff in the old New Zealand Room. When tasked with establishing a photograph collection in the 1970s, the Local History Librarian Hilda McDonnell recognised the quality and breadth of Westra’s photographs and acquired several hundred images.  Hand-printed by Ans in her own darkroom, these photographs capture the people and streets of Wellington with a rare degree of intimacy.

Photograph by Ans Westra, 1976. Wellington City Recollect Ref AW-992-8

With permission from her family and agent {Suite} Gallery, we digitised our collection of her photographs and these are now available to view on our heritage platform, Wellington City Recollect. Browse them online via the button below:

Ans Westra Collection – Wellington City Recollect

Our thoughts are with Ans’ family during this difficult time.