Morrell family in Wellington – 2

20170612_120300 I am reading David Johnson’s book Wellington Harbour (Wellington Maritime Museum, 1996) for my evening course on Wellington’s architectural history. In a post of – almost exactly – two years ago I wrote about my great-grandparents in Wellington – this was some research I also did for my evening class so it’s not surprising it is the same time of the year.  Johnson includes a painting and some information on the ship they arrived in Wellington on – the St Leonards, and some background information on 1880, the year they arrived.  Continue reading


Otorohanga: Kiwiana town

kiwiana town Otorohanga

Recently we stayed a couple of nights in Otorohanga (in the Waikato district, sort of middle-north in the North Island). As we travel about in various places (New Zealand, Australia, America come to mind) we like to see what towns and cities call themselves. I don’t mean their actual names, I mean the little epithets they give themselves (is epithet the right word?: “an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned”). Perhaps they are just slogans thought up by someone on the local council or tourism board!

Wellington, where I live, is sometimes called Wellywood, a pastiche of Hollywood in homage to the Sir Peter Jackson-led film industry we have here. More often it’s called Windy Wellington, but that isn’t a positive image for tourism so the label “absolutely positively Wellington” was invented. You want positive? Absolutely! Actually, I see it wasn’t meant to be anything big, but caught the imagination and stuck. (click the link to see its origins.)

The silliest one I think I ever saw was “Foxton, the Fox Town”. Continue reading

Riding the rails to Whangamomona

20170227_141113Last week we did a day trip with Forgotten World Adventures using golf carts converted to run on the disused rail line from Okahukura (near Taumaranui in the North Island of New Zealand) to Whangamomona.

This rail line was closed in 2010; which seems a shame as it took more than 30 years to build in the early 20th century and includes 24 tunnels and 91 bridges. However, Ian Balme saw an opportunity and negotiated a lease with KiwiRail and started the business in 2012. There are high maintenance costs – especially clearing the line after each winter, which helps explain why the rides aren’t particularly cheap. But with lunch and morning and afternoon teas provided and a return ride, we thought it was worth it. Continue reading

Centrepoint shopping arcade, Masterton

This was a paper I gave at an architecture symposium at Victoria University today (2 Dec 2016). The theme was New Zealand architecture in the 1970s. I also gave a paper a few years ago when the theme was NZ architecture in the 1840s.

The talk was a shorter version of this paper. The full title was:

Centrepoint to Centrepointless: Roger Walker’s Masterton shopping arcade (1972 to 1997).

Abstract: Centrepoint was the name of a shopping arcade that opened in Masterton in December 1972. It was designed by Roger Walker (b. 1942) and commissioned by Ron Brierley and Robert Jones Investments as one of several shopping arcade developments they were making in various places in New Zealand at the time. Centrepoint featured 21 small shops opening from a brick-paved courtyard, with a prominent viewing tower on the corner. It had signature Roger Walker elements such as round pipe windows, steep roofs, and bright colours. Despite being described just before its opening as “Masterton’s biggest ‘happening’”, in 1997 it was demolished. After looking at the opening of Centrepoint, this paper will consider some possible reasons for Centrepoint’s failure.

Alongside this record of architectural loss, I consider how something that is still within the memories of many people (but no longer there to check) is remembered and sometimes misremembered. These are two of many comments that appeared on a popular Facebook page in 2015 in response to a photograph of Centrepoint:

“Loved that building. …. many a good memory. Should still be there; a brilliant example of 70’s design.”

“It was pretty hideous as was much of the 70’s. Food at the cafe was always good though.”

* Continue reading

The former Erskine College, Island Bay

Where I live in Island Bay, Wellington, I look across the valley to what used to be a Catholic girls’ secondary school known as Erskine College. After the school closed in 1985, the buildings had various uses including as an art school venue. I am not an ‘alumna’ or ‘old girl’ of the school, but I did visit it several times when the art school had exhibitions and I took part in one of their weekend courses once. But it has been listed as earthquake prone and is no longer usable. It has been empty for some years and, as such, the target of vandalism.

dsc05200 Continue reading

Women’s destiny in the year 2000 (as seen from 1889)

Sir Julius Vogel (1835 – 1899) was a politician, journalist and newspaper editor who also wrote a novel, called Anno Domini 2000, or Woman’s Destiny (published in 1889), to expound some of his ideas. As a novel it is bad – I can do no better than to quote from some of the reviews of the time:

DSC00818 “In ‘Anno Domini 2000’ it is easy to detect the hand of a beginner. The plot, if plot it can be called, is not very ingenious, the dialogue is not very brilliant and the characterisation is decidedly poor. The whole story is moreover ridiculously improbable, not to say that it wears an air of caricature…. The whole thing is rather vapid…. There is a great want of anything like imagination and it must be confessed that Sir Julius Vogel’s world of 2000 is not a particularly interesting one.”[1]

“Sir Julius Vogel’s novel ‘Anno Domini 2000’ has met with much unfavourable criticism. It is cumbrous from the number of characters introduced, and sketchy from the number of occurrences only half described…”[2]

“There can, however, I imagine, be little doubt in the mind of anyone who has read the book through – and happily this is not a difficult task, the volume being one of very moderate proportions – that the general dullness of the dialogues and homilies will hardly be atoned for by the novelty of the guesses the author makes regarding the future…” [3] Not surprisingly, the book was a financial failure.[4]

Its only interest now is in the “prophecies” or how he thought society in 2000 might look.

Continue reading

Halls Turkish Baths Wellington

Halls turkish baths

Hall’s Turkish Baths ad.

In my evening class on Wellington’s architectural heritage I give the following figures for buildings in Wellington in 1900:

  • 7,478 dwellings
  • 681 combined shops and dwellings
  • 215 shops
  • 97 workshops
  • 80 stables
  • 40 warehouses
  • 57 hotels
  • 36 factories
  • 12 restaurants
  • 6 timber mills
  • 3 schools
  • 2 theatres
  • 1 Turkish Baths

This comes from Geoff Mew and Adrian Humphris’ book, Raupo to Deco: Wellington styles and architects, 1840-1940; Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2014. Continue reading