A New Zealand Edwardian Photo Album

3graces “The three graces, 1905”

The photographer was Sidney Small, born in Cardiff, Wales, aged 37 when he married in 1916, so born about 1879. The three women were sisters – Winifred, Evelyn and Violet Read of Whanganui, New Zealand. Winifred was to become my grandmother. Sid wanted to marry Evelyn, but she was 10 years younger than him (in the photo she’s about 16), and her family were opposed at that time, so Sid went to the UK for a few years – from 1907 to about 1911.

He wrote letters to Evelyn, which she kept and which came to me and I donated them to the Turnbull Library some years ago. The photo album is small with a green cover with an art nouveau design on it – I also donated it to Turnbull Library. This is Evelyn in 1907 – I love this photo. And this is Winifred when she married in December 1905.

evelyn    winsdress

But back to the photo album. Sid gave it to Winifred and her husband Walter in 1906. It shows scenes from around the Whanganui district – a picnic and ‘crossing the brook’ at Kai iwi at Easter 1906, Evelyn paddling in the sea, and a few to do with Winnie’s wedding.

evsea2  kaiiwi1906

“My lady of the sea”- Evelyn paddling. And “Crossing the Brook, Kai iwi, Easter 1906”


“We, us & co” – that’s Evelyn in the front with the jaunty cap – perhaps Sid’s cap while he took the photo. Walter Morrell (my grandfather) leans on his elbow at the right and Winifred looks at the camera near him.

wincake  christ church

Winnie’s wedding cake and the church where they married, 1905. The church was later moved to the Wanganui suburb of Gonville, and renamed St Peter’s Church.

What I like about the album are the casual shots – the picnic, the walk in the bush, the paddling and so on. I wonder if this is unusual for an album from this period – and maybe I will do further research and compare it with some other albums [see post on Part 2]. But I have a feeling that most photos of people at the time were more likely to be studio portraits, like this one of the three girls and their parents taken in 1894 before the mother and girls went back to England for a couple of years.

Reads1894 Evelyn is in the middle and my (future) grandmother is on the left. In 1984 an aunt donated it to Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum of New Zealand – you can find the record here. The original of this is an opalotype. See also a Te Papa blog about it.

These are not from the 1906 photo album. I love the fact that Evelyn is wearing her clothes and the rest of the team are in their swimming costumes! The medal was for lifesaving. The Wanganui Chronicle of 2 November 1911 (p. 3) reported that the Castlecliff Surf Bathers’ and Lifesaving Club were awarded the Bronze Medallion and a Certificate of Proficiency in that year’s Royal Life Saving Society prizes.


Team members were listed. P Sarten is ‘Pearl’, so she is presumably one of the women in the photo.surf

evwedgrp evelyn sid

This is Sid and Evelyn when they married on 1 Jan 1916. Two of my aunts are flower girls. The Best Man was Lawrence Sarten who lived next door to the Reads (and was probably Pearl’s brother).

On their wedding certificate Sid’s occupation is given as school teacher, but he had various jobs. Evelyn’s occupation was tailoress. At some time they ran a stationers and bookshop, in Masterton and in Wairoa (Sid was in Wairoa during the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake and took photos of the damage in the region). He entered various competitions – he won a guinea and a medal for a brief piece of writing when he was in England, and he entered the competition to design a medal for the NZ Institute of Architects in about 1912. He also tried his hand at writing music. He died in 1937. Sid and Evelyn had no children.

smallbooks  sidsmedal2

The album can be found in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington – reference PA1-o-1382

The letters from Sid to Evelyn are MS-Group-1636


3 thoughts on “A New Zealand Edwardian Photo Album

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