Karori Historical Society


Meetings & Events





Contact &

Our Next Meeting
Our next meeting is being held on Tuesday 5 March 2019
at St Ninian’s, Newcombe Crescent, Karori at 7.45 pm.
Members and friends welcome
The time has come, the President said, to talk of many things
Your committee have been discussing a wide range of issues over the past few meetings, and I think it is 
appropriate to share with members a number of the significant matters we have been discussing, both to let 
everyone know what we have been discussing, but also to allow members time to consider them before we meet at 
our Annual Meeting in June.
Our first presentation will be look at our upcoming reprint (and update!) of our Streets of Karori book. Judith Burch has been
beavering away quietly for some time compiling and updating the book, which is now expanded and illustrated.
We hope to publish by the end of this year, so wanted to share the progress that has been made and whet your appetite for the
book to come! 
I’d then like to have a broader discussion about a number of issues the Committee have been discussing, including 
our annual membership fee and the frequency and format of the Stockade magazine. Another proposal we have started to explore
is a proposal that the Society form a Friends of the Karori Cemetery-Park group; this has come as a result of the Influenza project
run by Barbara Mulligan over the past few years. This will be an open forum, as we would love to hear the views of members
about these issues.
To wrap up the evening Chris Rabey, who is on the Committee, will give a short presentation looking at ships that have passed
through Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour.
Supper will be served after the meeting. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday 5 March.

Future Meetings
June 2019


Past Meetings
December 2018
Our Guest Speaker for December was Barbara Mulligan who is well known for her interest in the history of Karori Cemetery and more latterly, the
1918 Influenza Pandemic and its impact on the citizens of Wellington and those buried in the Karori Cemetery.
From circa 2016, Barbara and a group of volunteers had been researching the history of many of those buried there while at the same time,
cleaning up many of the graves and restoring them to a presentable standard. Barbara gave a presentation and overview of the project which
had culminated in two open days at the Cemetery in November where displays and memorabilia were on display.
She provided a fascinating insight into the history of the Pandemic, its origins and how it was transported to New Zealand and finally its impact
on Wellingtonians. It was especially interesting to members given that the final resting place of many of the Pandemic victims was here in Karori.
You can still access the project’s really informative website : - https://1918influenzakarori.weebly.com/home.html

September 2018

Christine Grace and the history of Makara / Ohariu
The Society has always had a strong interest in the history of Makara. Every Stockade contains references or articles about Makara. In 1996 we published
James Brodie’s ‘Terawhiti and the Goldfields’.
The Society’s new committee thought it a good time to meet with Makara community leaders, to get an update on the development of Makara and
to see whether the Society could better help resident’s record and interpret their history. 
22 members braved a dreadful winter’s night to hear Christine Grace speak about the history and life in the Makara and Ohariu Valleys.
Christine is Chairperson of the Makara and Ohariu Community Board, and is a third generation Makara resident tracing her family’s
farm alongside the lower Makara Stream to the early 1900s. 
Christine spoke of the evolving nature of the region – from the extensive Maori heritage, through the early development and the fishing and dairy farm
businesses supplying Wellington, the shift from dairy to sheep and cattle, the military camp and gun emplacements above Opau Bay during the 40’s,
the significance of the Post Office’s receiving stations and the village it spawned in the 50’s and 60s, and the increasing number of new residents who
like the rural life style but who work in the city. Today Makara and Ohariu has a population of only 850 although it accounts for 60% of the land area of Wellington.
She described the school as in a boom phase and reflected on the number of children coming across from Karori to be educated in a rural environment. 
Christine also reflected on the wind farm - which most had opposed - but she said they had come to live with it, and the ongoing contributions of Meridian into
the community fund had been extremely useful in tackling numerous community projects. 
A current issue is the erosion problems facing Makara Beach and the track around to Fisherman’s Bay. The damage caused by Cyclone Gita earlier this year
was unprecedented and several houses were inundated by the sea for the first time ever. 
There appears to be unfinished business in interpreting family histories and around identifying and listing historic buildings throughout Makara and Ohariu Valley.
Some families are into their fifth generation living in the area and the Monk family for example is planning to restore the old church hall into a museum using some
of their family’s history. The committee plans further discussions with Christine on ways the Society can assist the Makara and Ohariu communities.

June 2018

The theme for our talk at the AGM in June was the Karori Teachers 
College site. Our guest speaker was Jamie Jacobs, Central Region 
Director for Heritage New Zealand, who spoke about the architectural 
significance of the site. 
As the College had recently been sold and the entire site due for 
redevelopment, the presentation was very topical.

March 2018

In March Dr George Gibbs presented an entertaining talk about his grandfather George Hudson 
(1867-1946), a British-born New Zealand award-winning entomologist and astronomer, as well 
as Karori resident. George Hudson is the publisher of seven books dealing with New Zealand 
insects, which contain 3,127 painstakingly hand-drawn illustrations. The first book was 
published when George was just 19 years old, and the longest took 24 years to complete.
After sharing some family history, George Gibbs focused particularly 
on his grandfather’s time in Karori. George Hudson first moved to 
Karori in 1881, building a house in Donald Street, where he would 
live the rest of his life. His lettuces were famous on the hilltop, and 
he often shared the fruits of his garden with neighbours. 
Being a keen astronomer Hudson built an observatory at the back of 
his section, which once again was well used by residents. He had 
success with his stargazing, for example being the first person in New
Zealand to have seen Nova Aquilae in June 1918. Diaries of his 
observations are part of the Carter Observatory Collection held 
by Wellington City Archives.
Gordon Hudson worked shift work at the Central Post Office 
from 1883 until he retired in 1908 aged 51, so he could focus 
on publishing. Dr Gibbs told us about the many places in and 
around Wellington and Karori that George Hudson used to visit 
to capture specimens; places such as Bush Hill, Campbell’s 
Stream, and the Reservoir (now Zealandia). It is not quite clear 
where some of these places actually are now, so there was a 
lively discussion trying to pinpoint some of them
The detail of Gordon Hudson’s insect drawings was exquisite; 
particularly given he was drawing specimens at the size they 
appear in his books, rather than much larger and later shrunk 
down. For its wide systematic coverage as well as its historical 
and scientific value, the Hudson Collection, now held by Te 
Papa, is perhaps the best private insect collection ever made in 
New Zealand.


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.