Karori Historical Society


Meetings & Events





Contact &

Our Next Meeting
Join us for our next meeting, which will be held on Tuesday 6 March 2018
at St Ninian’s, Newcombe Crescent, Karori at 7.45 pm. 
Members and friends welcome!
Talk  George Vernon Hudson, scientist and former Karori resident
Dr George Gibbs will be talking about George Vernon Hudson, who 
lived in Karori and was an eminent amateur scientist specialising in 
the study of insects. His grandson George Gibbs followed in his 
footsteps and has now "retired" from Victoria University. 
His book "Ghosts of Gondwana", now in its second edition, reveals 
the history of life in New Zealand and explains why many of our 
plants and animals are very different from those elsewhere. He has 
also found out much more about his grandfather's life and work 
since the previous time he spoke to us 19 years ago.
If you would like to know a little more about George Vernon 
Hudson in advance, you can read his entry in the Dictionary of New 
Zealand Biography here.
Supper will be provided after the talk.

Future Meetings
June 2018


Past Meetings
December 2017
Our December meeting featured a talk by Redmer Yska, who grew up in Karori, and has undertaken extensive research into the life of Katherine 
Mansfield and recently published the book “A Strange Beautiful Excitement, Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington 1888-1903”.
Redmer spoke to his book about the life of Katherine Mansfield’s upbringing in Wellington including the time she spent in Karori.
Her childhood memories are recalled especially those of her family and how they fitted into the social fabric of the Capital at that time.
One especially exciting find by the author was the discovery of a poem written by the budding Katherine that hitherto had not been seen before.

September 2017

In September we were lucky enough to hear Local History and Rare Books Librarian Gábor Tóth, Wellington City Libraries,
present to us on the Western Access Scheme.
For some time in the early 1900’s there had been agitation from residents of the Western suburbs for a more direct route into the
City rather than the current route  that traversed the longer way around via Tinakori Road and Molesworth street.
In 1920 a survey was undertaken to identify the various options that could alleviate this problem and as a result 17 were identified. The most favoured involved the acquisition of land that had been set aside as Cemetery land. A referendum was held with the intention of raising £19,000. The results went against the Council and some work had commenced at the Tinakori road end, the Council had to look at alternatives.Time elapsed and the next route chosen was a new one that skirted around cemetery land and the unemployed manpower scheme, created during the depression, was used to undertake initial work. Although this work proceeded there was still a problem at the City end where the Government was not prepared to let the new road use Museum Street as part of the route. After some negotiation the Council was able to purchase land immediately adjacent to the northern boundary of the Cemetery and this allowed them to bypass Museum Street. Progress continued and after some issues with land slips that necessitated the building of large retaining walls, the road was completed in late 1939 and then opened for tramway traffic in August 1940. Bowen Street was named after Sir George Ferguson Bowen, New Zealand’s 6th Governor (1868 to 1873) and initially ran from the Lambton Quay gates of Parliament up to the Terrace.
When the new road was formed in the late 1930’s it was regarded as an extension of the existing Bowen Street and named accordingly.
June 2017
In June we were lucky to hear Ben Schrader talk about his book 'The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920'.
Ben’s presentation took us through the early history of New Zealand and detailed the development of urban areas. He 
discussed how our cities grew the way they did, in what ways did Māori experience and shape cities; and posed questions around the future of our cities and whether they reflect where we have come from.

The talk was a taster of his book, which reveals how our urban origins have shaped the people we are today. If you are interested in finding out more, or missed the talk, check out http://bwb.co.nz/books/big-smoke
March 2017
Our speaker in March was Mary McEwen, who told us about her father in law, Jock McEwen,
‘If you want to have a good life, you do it helping other people.’    Jock McEwen 

Jock McEwen was a administrator, historian, linguist, composer and master carver, also remembered as a well-known figure in the 
Māori world and the wider Pacific for over half a century.
December 2016
Our speaker in December was Gordon Tait, a long term Karori resident whose presentation was titled “Karori Cemetery Field Guide and Tour.
Gordon had prepared a number of handouts which he referred to during his talk.  
The main handout covered the general layout of the Cemetery, the different types of graves, i.e. Monumental, Lawn, Wall (niche) and the War Cemetery. 
Another interesting handout was a field guide to gravestone symbols and their meaning plus another being a series of 8 photographs taken around Karori 
designed to test general knowledge as to whether people could recognise their location.
A well-researched and presented delivery, the handouts being especially useful as an aid for those just walking through or exploring the cemetery grounds.
At the conclusion of his presentation Gordon was thanked by Jo Elworthy and given a book voucher in appreciation.
You can access Gordon’s handouts via our Facebook page
September 2016
For our September meeting we had a tour of the Wellington City Council’s Archives, based at 28 Barker Street near to the Basin Reserve. 
City Archives is a treasure trove of information documenting the history and development of Wellington. Primarily holding records of the 
Wellington City Council and its predecessor organisations (including Karori Borough Council), the Archives also hold the records of the 
Union Steamship Company on behalf of Museum Wellington, as well as a small collection of community archives.
After a talk by the president outlining the work Archives does, what records they hold and how the collection can be accessed and researched, 
members got to browse selected items from the collection and go on a tour throughout the premises.
The Archives are located at 28 Barker Street, which is off Cambridge Terrace by the Basin Reserve. 
You can find out more via the Council website: http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/archives
June 2016
Barbara Mulligan and David Cuthbert gave an insightful presentation on ‘ghost’ branch railway lines across New 
Zealand. This was linked to the book they published, New Zealand Rail Trails, which explores the long 
forgotten railway branch lines, some of which date back to the 1870s. 
The speakers covered both a history of the growth then decline of the rail network, as well as an overview of 
their journey across New Zealand to discover and document the lines.

March 2016
Our speaker in March was Glenn Reddiex, author and Karori resident who spoke about his recent book “Just to Let You Know I Am Still Alive – Postcards from New Zealanders during the First World War”
The book is dedicated to World War One postcards mostly sent back to New Zealand by Servicemen serving stationed in Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Belgium and England. It is richly illustrated showing not just the illustration on the front, but the message written on the back, mostly to family and relatives.
It presented a fascinating glimpse into an ordinary soldier’s life and daily routine without the horror of war as this was excluded by censors.
His website is www.postcard.org.nz to find out more online about Glenn.

December 2015
We had a good turnout for our December talk, which saw Dr Chris Pugsley, an expert on New Zealand Military history, present a fascinating account of “New Zealand’s Experience at Gallipoli” Dr Pugsley canvassed the Gallipoli campaign from the outset of WWI in 1914 and the lead up to the NZ Expeditionary Force setting out for Europe and while in Egypt, its diversion to the Turkish front in conjunction with Australian and other British Forces. He spoke of the battles NZ troops engaged in, the loss of life and the general conditions that the soldiers were forced to suffer. A frequent visitor to the Gallipoli Peninsula, Dr Pugsley was able to supplement his oral presentation with many maps and photographs extracted from the numerous books he has written about the NZEF in WWI. A most interesting presentation given in the centennial year of the Gallipoli Campaign.

September 2015
Oliver Sutherland presented a talk on ‘Ivan Sutherland (1897-1952): academic and social activist'. The talk outlined in fascinating detail the range of activities Ivan took on or was involved in, from attacking the rise of the eugenics movement, campaigning for public radio and helping to launch the Wellington Film Society. Together with friend and colleague Professor Philip Robertson, he was a patron of the controversial Wellington-based English artist Christopher Perkins. His commitment to social psychology drew him into the world of Ngati Porou where Sir Apirana Ngata became a second mentor and lifelong friend. In his 1935 publications The Maori Situation Sutherland denounced pakeha ‘racialism’ and affirmed his commitment to a bicultural New Zealand and to Ngata’s vision for the economic, cultural and social development of Maori.

June 2015 Meeting - AGM
The following officers were elected at the AGM:
President, Adrian Humphris
Vice-President, Jan Heynes
Secretary, Henry Brittain
Treasurer, Valerie Carter

Committee members:
Peter Anderson
Jo Elworthy
Elizabeth Bradford
Michael Foster
John Harper
Margery Renwick
Wendy Lynch

One committee member resigned, Jeni Bryant, and we had a new committee member elected, Wendy Lynch. We welcome Wendy and pass on thanks to Jeni for her time on committee.

We had a number of speakers in June, all with the theme of war-related stories. Kay Klitscher spoke about white poppies and white feathers. Peter Anderson told us about three of his relatives who served in both World Wars, with accompanying memorabilia including a photograph of his grandfather’s war service scroll, a carved tokotoko (walking stick), a carved smoking pipe and a bugle. Bob Cameron gave a power point presentation about the WWI letters written by Leslie Gower, which Bob recovered from a suitcase at a Dunbar Sloane auction. Bob was then responsible for locating some of Leslie’s relatives.

March 2015
Adrian Humphris and Geoff Mew, authors of Built Wellington - Raupo to Art Deco gave a very interesting power point presentation about their latest book. It is a very comprehensive history featuring some of the most prominent architects in Wellington and their buildings together with illustrations of these.

December 2014
Vincent O’Malley gave a very interesting and comprehensive talk about ‘the upsurge of interest in the New Zealand wars’ particularly relating to the Waikato region. The Waikato war was important as it was a turning point in the development of NZ and lead to the capital shifting to Wellington, and the introduction of Julius Vogel’s schemes. But until recently these wars have been sanitised and attention has been on commemorating WWI. However, Vincent considered that there is now a more even handed effort to acknowledge what took place.
Vincent’s talk created a considerable amount of discussion amongst members.

September 2014
Dr Rodney Grapes talked on ‘The 1848 earthquakes and the destruction of Wellington’ He described a cluster of earthquakes that occurred in Wellington between 16 and 26 October 1848. Some of these were quite severe, probably bigger than the later 1855 quakes, and caused considerable damage. The Lt Governor of the day, Eyre, undertook a survey of the damage and then sent a report back to England outlining the events. This created some apprehension amongst intending immigrants but with no long term effect. The earthquakes were not just confined to Wellington but also to the top of the South Island where damage was recorded as far south as Kaikoura. Judge Chapman wrote about the earthquakes in his journals which also give an interesting record of life in the 1840’s.

June 2014
Priscilla Williams, former diplomat and current president of the Bolton Street Cemetery, gave a very interesting and informative talk about the history of the cemetery, referring in particular to the role which the late Margaret Alington had played in ensuring the preservation and documentation of the tombstones, writing a history of the cemetery – Unquiet Earth – and the establishment of the Friends of the Bolton Street Cemetery.

March 2014
Judy Siers gave a very lively and interesting presentation about the work she has done preparing for the publication of her forthcoming book called Arrivals: Six Wellington Stories.
Judy was a Wellington City Councilor for a number of years in the 1990s and became the Council’s advocate for Wellington heritage and history. She was also a member of the Onslow Historical Society and its president for a number of years. She has been a member of the Historic Places Trust since the 1960s and a member of the committee.

December 2013
What a great meeting we had in December. We thank all our loyal members and friends who came to hear our speaker and to celebrate our 40th birthday. How lucky we were to have Norma McCallum and her husband with us. As the Society’s first president Norma has a special place in our history and we were very pleased her husband was able to persuade her to come for a mystery drive. She was also thrilled to receive her life membership certificate and to help in cutting our celebratory cake.

Julia Millen was a very lively speaker and brought to life the story of Sergeant Bruce Crowley DCM, a New Zealand prisoner of war in Greece and Germany who escaped from captivity. She has written a book about him (North to the Apricots) and members were able to purchase copies. Bruce’s son Grant was also present and he was able to fill in some gaps about Bruce as a father and to show some family photographs.

September 2013
Tricia Laing spoke about ‘Karori Bees and Beekeepers’: where they are located in Karori and the importance of backyard beekeeping. She showed photos of her hives, and discussed the life cycle of bees and some of the challenges bees and beekeepers face in Karori.

June 2013
Susan Price spoke about the childhood of her father Hugh Price who had had a difficult childhood in Masterton because of mobility problems and unsympathetic school teachers. She based her talk around the book she had written ‘A Mind of his Own’  and illustrated it with  photos from the book. Hugh became a well know publisher in Wellington in his adult life.

March 2013
Joanna Newman from the Mt Victoria Historical Society gave an illustrated talk about aspects of Mt Victoria's history and its importance to Wellington. The main focus of the talk was on the Basin Reserve Heritage and the values of this iconic area of Wellington.

December 2012
Trevor Morley was a very entertaining speaker and as well as giving an excellent account of policing in Wellington in the early 1900's. He also brought along some of his collection of artefacts, including old Police truncheons. His account of the events leading up to Constable Dudding's murder reminded us of the changes which have taken place in policing. We also heard that it was due to Trevor's persistance that policemen who had been murdered in the course of duty were recognised by the police force.

September 2012
Our speaker was Lydia Wevers, the title of her talk was 'Sensation Novels and Colonial Readers' - about reading in the nineteenth century in relation to her book Reading on the Farm.
Professor Wevers is Director of the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand. She is a distinguished post graduate researcher and writer with a long list of published work on New Zealand and Australian literature; several of the books have focused on early New Zealand travel writing and writers.

June 2012
Our speaker was John Harper, committee member and Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics, Victoria University of Wellington. His topic was Transits of Venus As there will be a transit of Venus the day after the meeting and there will be no more over the next 100 years, John's talk is very appropriate. It will emphasise matters of historical interest rather than astronomical technicalities and cover questions such as: What are they? When do they occur? Why are they important enough for expeditions to be sent to observe them? Why did Karori's most eminent historian ask the speaker about them? What does one see? How was New Zealand affected?

March 2012
Our speaker was Vicki Treadwell, British High Commissioner spoke to us about her diplomatic career. This was a fascinating and entertaining account from a highly experienced diplomat.

Dec 2011
Our speaker Richard Nanson gave a very interesting and informative talk about his own career, over 50 years and something about the history of the garden at Homewood. Richard was head of the WCC's Parks & Recreation section from 1967-92. He was made a Fellow of the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture in 1970 and became a member of the Order of New Zealand in 2011 for services to horticulture. Following his talk we enjoyed refreshments in the reception room at Homewood.

Sept 2011
Our speaker was Jenny Jones, who spoke about her book "No Simple Passage", the story of her great-grandparents journey to New Zealand on the London in 1842.

June 2011
Our speaker was Joseph Romanos, editor of the Wellingtonian and Karori resident. Joseph gave an interesting, informative and witty talk aboout his involvement with the publication of books, about sport and the triumphs and disasters that inevitably occur.

March 2011
Our guest speaker was Janice Shramka (Karori West Normal School Principal), she spoke about her use of the Woolf Fisher Fellowship for overseas study travel. She visited schools in Canada and the United Kingdom and attended a course at Harvard entitled "Leadership: An Evolving Vision".

December 2010
Guest Speakers: there were two speakers, Adrian Humphris and Geoff Mew, joint editors of the book “Ring Around the City” which outlines the growth of Kilbirnie and Kelburn in the early part of the 20th century.
Adrian’s address focused on how the transport system, especially tramcars, opened up the city and suburbs, while Geoff concentrated on the style of homes that were built during this period. Both speakers complimented their presentation with power point photographs.