Monday, 29 August 2016

The Opening of the Dunedin to Invercargill Railway & New Zealand's First High Profile Railway Accident, 22nd January 1879


A Rogers "K" Class locomotive of the type used on the
inaugural Dunedin to Invercargill express, c.1880
Note the "balloon" spark arresting funnel.
[Source : Alexander Turnbull Library]

After recently featuring the first passenger train to run between Christchurch and Dunedin in September 1878 I then turned my attention to the railway line from Dunedin to Invercargill which opened for through traffic just a few months later on Wednesday, the 22nd January 1879. While the main line south of Dunedin would not be as challenging in regards to gradients or curvature the inaugural express would be, even now, remembered for a serious and avoidable accident which would mar the elaborately planned celebrations at Invercargill, thus becoming "New Zealand's first high-profile railway accident".

Handover of The Last Section

On Friday the 17th January 1879, Mr Ussher, the Resident Engineer, along with Mr Grant, the General Manager, made an inspection of the newly completed section of line between Balclutha and Clinton with a Fairlie engine and carriage prior to the formal handover from the contractors to the Railways Dept. the following day. Delays caused by poor weather had in fact caused the opening to be delayed from the 7th January so a large back-log of freight had by now built up which amply demonstrated the urgent need for this new through route.


K94, one of the K Class Locos ordered in 1878,
as it appears today at the Plains Railway.
[From my own collection]

Yankee "K" Class Locomotives

The 'Yankee" American built locomotives selected to work the inaugural express on the 22nd January,"which have lately arrived and been erected in the railway workshops" and which "have been working on the Christchurch section on trial, and have fully answered all expectations", were of the Rogers "K" Class (numbered between K92 and K97). The South Island Commissioner [General Manager] of Railways, Mr William Conyers, had ordered "eight express engines... from the Rogers Locomotive Works" and "six goods engines of the 'Consolidation' type from the Baldwin shops, both to be in readiness for the opening of the through main line from Christchurch to Dunedin and Invercargill".

Strenuous Efforts to Convert the Hon. Gentleman

The two "Yankee" locomotives, including one first class passenger car "for the accommodation of the party of Dunedin bowlers", were sent down from Christchurch on Sunday the 19th January. As the Attorney-General, the Hon. Mr Stout, availed himself of this opportunity to travel south "without loss of valuable time" he was accused by the "Morning Herald" of travelling on the Sabbath [a sacred day] with a consequent "exhibition of secularism" which was an affront to the working man "more especially as it affects their seven days food for six days work". Other papers were quick to point out that it was a special train and in fact conveyed not only a Director of the self same "Herald" newspaper but also "prominent members of the Presbyterian and other Churches". In fact, "The Otago Daily Times" reported, either humorously or sarcastically (as the case may be), that "strenuous efforts were made to convert the hon. gentleman by singing Moody and Sankey hymns most lustily during part of the journey".

A Tedious Two Days' Coach Journey

The afore-mentioned two engines would work the inaugural express and subsequent timetabled passenger expresses between Dunedin and Invercargill. The normal timetabled journey time for an "express" passenger train would be, taking into account the unfenced nature of part of the line, six and a half hours. This was still a great improvement on a "tedious two days' coach journey" traversing frequently boggy, pot-holed and unreliable country roads or "an almost equally unpleasant sea voyage".

"No Ladies Going"

The afore-mentioned Mr Conyers, cabled to the Mayor of Invercargill that he and other guests would commence their journey south from Christchurch at 8.40 am on the 21st January with an overnight stop in Dunedin. He further advised "No ladies going". Fully 500 invitations had been issued with many joining the train at points south. The distribution of tickets for the inaugural train had been in the hands of Mr Conyers, which drew criticism of "centralisation" from some quarters, including from Dunedin, as not even the Railways Engineer in Chief or the Public Works Dept. had had any say in who would be invited. But as "The Otago Daily Times" noted "of course everyone cannot be accommodated".


A Programme for the Centenary of the
Dunedin to Invercargill Railway, 1979.
[From my own collection]

Departure of the Inaugural Express from Dunedin

The inaugural express train, drawn by the two American locomotives and hauling fourteen large carriages and three brake vans, departed Dunedin at 10.20 am on Wednesday the 22nd January 1879. Brake vans were a necessity as the carriages themselves were totally unbraked. Arrival in Invercargill was, in hindsight, timed rather optimistically for 4.15 pm.

Besides the "popular" Mr Conyers, special guests on board included the Hons. Messrs William H. Reynolds (representing James Macandrew, Member of Parliament for Dunedin who was ill), the Hon. John Ballance and the Hon. Robert Stout (all representing the Cabinet) along with other (named) members of the Government Legislature, and the Mayors of Christchurch and Dunedin, with the train being under the charge of Mr Grant and Mr Armstrong.

Tokomairiri [Milton] was reached on time at 11.55 am where the Mayor and local dignitaries came on board to continue the journey south. Departure was timed for 12 noon but left slightly late at 12.09 pm, continuing through to Balclutha which was reached at 1 pm, being now 20 minutes behind schedule. Here 20 guests joined the train "including the leading men of that township".

The Seven Span "Blair Bridge"

Just prior to entering Balclutha township the railway passed the site of the old north Balclutha terminus then crossed the new and impressive 870 foot timber and iron truss "Blair Bridge" [named by the Minister of Public Works, the Hon. WJM Larnach, for the District Engineer Mr Blair] spanning the Clutha River. Seven spans of 120 feet each were supported on seven foot diameter cast iron cylinders filled with concrete and sunk to a depth of 70 to 80 feet with a 30 feet stone arch spanning the Kaitangata road at the eastern end of the bridge. The railway then travelled over the short one mile 22 chain extension into Balclutha, having been opened, along with the bridge, in January 1878.

With a reporter on board able to hand messages to the local telegraph offices en-route the news of the days events, which appeared in evening papers that same day, have an immediacy to them; "The weather is delightful and everyone is enjoying the trip".

A Most Unpleasant Jumping Sensation

Upon departure from Balclutha the line now began "a continual ascension" through the newly opened four mile "Toiro section" constructed with unemployed "day labour" under Inspector McMillan and then the 16 mile 22 chain "Clinton section" constructed by contractors Messrs Proudfoot and Mackay. Through these sections the line passes the remote wayside stations of Waitapeka, Toiro, Warepa, Kaihiku and Waiwera to Clinton, being now 65 miles and 42 chains distant from Invercargill. Despite a small section of line entering "Proudfoot's section... where a most unpleasant jumping sensation was experienced" the road through the newly laid section was found to run very smoothly. And, "At many of the wayside places settlers were congregated, waving handkerchiefs, &c."

Fate Would Play a Cruel Trick

"On account of our having to moderate the speed considerably" arrival at Clinton was now well past the envisaged arrival time of 1.30 pm. Approaching the station an arch had been erected with bunting suspended from many buildings in the township. While it had been intended that a special train convey the Mayor of Invercargill and Councillors to Clinton to meet the special express this plan was abandoned just a couple of days before. With hindsight, this turned out to be a wise move. Thus with few passengers to pick up departure was prompt and "good time was made between Clinton and Gore". But fate would now play a cruel trick on this auspicious occasion.

Invercargill Arrangements

The Town Council declared that Wednesday afternoon would be celebrated as a "half holiday" with flags flying. A parade of Voluntary Battalion members would take place at 3 pm to the Invercargill Railway Station to be in attendance in order to salute the arrival of the train "with a salvo of artillery". The members of the Demonstration Committee responsible for the arrangements would then be formally introduced to the official guests conveyed on the express. Thereupon the Garrison Band, with the Battalion lining the route, would lead the guests the short distance to The Athæneum Library in Dee Street where they would continue playing while the guests were being conveyed to their respective hotels.

Illuminated by Night

Invercargill would be "illuminated" in the evening, primarily by gas and featuring some some designs described as "very handsome and expensive", but also with the use of one of Messrs Proudfoot and McKay's [the Railway Contractors for the new section of line] electric lights at The Athæneum. Electricity would be generated by an engine supplied by The National Mortgage and Agency Company. The Fire Brigade, with 38 men, would lead a torchlight procession commencing at 10 o'clock sharp down Dee Street then up Tay Street, and if the torches held out, down Esk, Kelvin and Don Streets. The evening would also occasion "a railway employees' ball".

A "Fearful Strain" on Accommodation 

With so many guests arriving in Invercargill "including crowds of people from the country", the question of accommodation arose. "The Railway Demonstration Committee" asked members to do all they could as a "fearful strain" would be placed on hotel accommodation and even "shake-downs of the roughest style will be at a premium". Visitors would "be none the worse for providing themselves liberally with travelling rugs" as "the crush will occasion some discomfort".

"The Ladies are Indignant"

And there would be no skimping on good southern hospitality. "The Invitation and Banquet Committee" called for tenders for a substantial hot dinner catering to a minimum of 200 guests although a tender for a cold collation with hot soups and vegetables could also be submitted. Sufficient liquor would need to be provided for twelve toasts.

The Invercargill City Council, on behalf of the Mayor, sent out some 100 telegrams and an equal number of written invitations "to those gentlemen who are to be invited to the banquet" which would commence at 7 pm. This will no doubt account for the short but rather acerbic comment in one newspaper column, "The ladies are indignant". The banquet itself would take place in the new Sloans Theatre in Dee Street, and "the upper portion of the house will be reserved for ladies desiring to be present [ie, only to observe] and also for gentlemen holding banquet tickets".


Clinton Railway Station with the Hotel and
Refreshment Rooms at left, taken 1895
[Source : "Steel Roads of New Zealand"]

A Shocking Accident Halts the Express  

Already late departing Clinton, the express had made good time on the journey to Gore which runs due west through the remote settlements of Wairuna, Waipahi, and Pukera. Just before passing East Gore the line crosses a substantial bridge spanning the Mataua River.

On the footplate of the second engine was "Mr Smith, of the Engine Department" along with the afore-mentioned Mr Conyers, the Commissioner of Railways for the South Island, who appears to have preferred being "up front" where he could observe the performance and handling of his locomotives.

But as the express, "which was not going at [a] great rate" negotiated a curve at East Gore before crossing the Mataura River bridge the engine brakes were suddenly applied with the "sharp, shrill shreaks of the engines denoting that something had gone wrong" followed by the cry of "A man off the train". That man, to the absolute horror of those on board, was found to be Mr Conyers. "Hundreds of people ran along the line to where the unfortunate gentleman lay, about fifty yards from a  water tank placed on a pile of sleepers."

It appears that initially, a dog had been run over. Although no one could definitely say that Mr Conyers had actually seen this event, he did at the very least lean out from the footplate to get a better view of the rear of the train and possibly to ascertain the result of this mishap. "A few minutes before [he] was conversing with the driver, who suddenly turned round, missed him, and gave the alarm".

A lady residing in a nearby cottage witnessed the whole incident but apparently not the dog. Unfortunately, a pile of sleepers supporting a water tank projected rather too closely to the line and Mr Conyers, while looking back as the train rounded the curve, was hit by one of the sleepers. He initially held on for about 50 yards before falling to the ground with "a severe cut over his eye", being rendered "insensible and bleeding profusely from ears and nose", and "breathing stertorously [gasping]".

With plenty of medical assistance at hand, Mr Convers was placed in the nearest railway van and, after having had his head wound stitched, taken on the train slowly into Gore where he was provided with a bed in Green's Hotel, the afore-mentioned Mr Smith remaining with him.

The special express could now continue onto Invercargill as planned but had already been delayed by over an hour due to the accident. Having crossed the above Matuara River bridge at Gore, which consists of ten spans of forty feet each being completed in October 1874, the express now continued due south, the line following the contour of the Mataura Vallev to Edendale which was passed at 5.20 pm. Here the line again turns due west, soon ascending a 120 foot high terrace then through a deep cutting, presenting the steepest grade on the line before continuing "along an almost dead level" to Invercargill.


K94, one of the K Class Locos ordered in 1878,
as it appears today at the Plains Railway.
[From my own collection]

Invercargill "En Fête"

In Invercargill, "The day broke beautifully fine and the sky... remained almost cloudless throughout the day." and the town was "en fête" with high holiday being kept during the afternoon. Bunting and Chinese lanterns were suspended from many buildings while flags flew from every "coign of vantage". The militia had taken up their positions opposite the Railway Station as planned, while the artillery had placed their cannon ready to welcome the train, "Hundreds of people" lined the area facing the Railway Station and The Crescent and "nothing remained undone that could have been foreseen". "...triumphal arches and all kinds of decorations abounded [while] the railway station was handsomely got up with evergreens &c."

Never Was Greater Sorrow Expressed at a Public Calamity

But it was at this time that a telegram arrived from Gore notifying the accident to Mr Conyers and that the train had now been further delayed. "Never was greater sorrow expressed at a public calamity, and the Telegraph Office was besieged with persons anxious to obtain particulars of the accident." As the amount of telegraph traffic caused a virtual "block" on communication, it was shortly after 5 pm before word arrived to confirm that the express had departed from Gore.

At precisely 6.15 pm, being fully two hours late and "eight hours on the road", the express consisting of "two very fine powerful locomotives, 15 carriages and three brake-vans"  finally pulled up to the Invercargill Railway Station platform (now confusingly facing north), being met with a salute from the artillery. Thereupon the official guests were welcomed on the platform by the Mayor of Invercargill, the Chairman of the County Council, and members of the Demonstration Committee. While "exchanging congratulation on the connection of the towns of Christchurch and Invercargill", there were also sincere expressions of regret at the accident that had marred the day's proceedings. While the Invercargill Garrison Band played "the New Zealand Anthem" the guests were escorted from the station to their accommodation. While considerable difficulty was in fact experienced in finding accommodation for everyone, "shake-downs and so forth were put up with, with good grace."

The Banquet and Presentations

While the Demonstration Committee had discussed whether the banquet should proceed, it was felt  that "it could not be well postponed". At the newly opened Sloan's Theatre in Dee street, but fully an hour late starting, "the upper portion of the house was filled by ["well dressed"] ladies, and the whole of the seats at the table, 300, were occupied". The brass band occupied the stage "and over the footlights was suspended long festoons of evergreens with a pendant bouquet in the centre, and a design with the words inscribed in it 'Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill' "

The usual speeches, toasts, and replies were given including an acknowledgement of "the very general esteem in which Mr Conyers was held". Such was his standing that a collection of around £40 had been taken up on the train by "Mr John Olliver" only about half an hour before the accident to enable a diamond tie pin to be purchased which was intended to be presented to Mr Conyers during the banquet, including a similar gift for Mr Grant, the Railways General Manager. The former would not receive his gift until the 25th April 1879, a railway themed clock (described below) with an engraved plate commemorating the opening of the through route to Invercarhill being considered a more appropriate gift.

The Governor Would Have No "Brown Towns"

During his reply, the Hon. Member of Parliament, Mr William H. Reynolds, stated, and no doubt to an appreciative and relieved audience, that he had himself had had a personal hand in naming the town. It had been proposed by Captain Cargill to name the town "Browntown" after the then Governor "but the Governor would have no Brown Towns", also to the relief of those in the south who "narrowly escaped the designation of 'Brown Town' ". So the Hon. Mr Reynolds himself suggested that Captain Cargill's name be associated with the town (being the founder of the Province of Otago and its first Superintendent), so thus it was named, with the approval of the Governor, Invercargill ["Inver" is a Scottish term meaning "the mouth of a river"].  


A "K" Class Locomotive on the turntable
at the Invercargill Roundhouse, c.1880
[Source : : WW Stewarrt]

Not Forgetting the Early Railway Pioneers

All honour was also given to Sir Julius Vogel, who had sent a congratulatory telegram, "for the conception of the public works scheme and for the courageous stand he took in the face of great opposition thereto". Vogel, as Colonial Treasurer, had been instrumental in courageously, and with some considerable degree of foresight, borrowing the then vast sum of ten million pounds in London for the purposes of developing significant infrastructure in the colony, especially roads, railways and communication.

The absence of two gentlemen was also regretted, being Sir William Sefton Moorhouse, second Superintendent of the Province of Canterbury, and "the initiator of railways in Canterbury" and of the Hon. Dr. James A. Menzies, past Superintendent of the Province of Southland, and "the initiator of [the railways] in Southland". "Eleven years ago in the Southland Provincial Council, he [Dr Menzies] stated that he believed he would be able to travel before he died  - and he was then an old man - by railway from Invercargill to Dunedin, and now that he could get over double the distance he considered that he had been no false prophet."

The Mayor of Christchurch "contrasted the appearance of the country and of Invercargill with that presented when twenty years ago he walked from Dunedin to Invercargill."  

While one or two toasts on the list were omitted due to pressure of time, it was no doubt considered prudent to give the usual toast "to The Ladies", who were of course watching from "the capacious dress circle" above, being suitably responded to by the Hon. Mr Henry Feldwick, Member of Parliament for Invercargill.

The "Brightness and Clearness" of the Electric Light

Despite the "untoward contretemps" [unfortunate accident and delays] that took place on the day the visitors, along with the citizens of Invercargill, would now be treated to the Fire Brigade torchlight parade commencing at 11 pm through an illuminated Invercargill, finishing at a quarter to twelve. Nearly twenty "sulphuric lights" were displayed all along the route with "dozens of rockets" of various colours being let off at short intervals". The "brightness and clearness" of the electric light displayed at The Athæneum drew "general admiration amongst the immense crown of spectators assembled in the street below".

A Curious Fact

"The great fact of the connection of the by railway of the chief cities of the Middle Island is now accomplished. Invercargill is within two days' easy travelling of Christchurch whilst in an emergency the journey could be made in one." It is however also a curious fact that within the very first day of the opening of the new through route it would, as detailed below, prove necessary to run an "emergency" train from Christchurch.  

And What of the Unfortunate Mr Conyers?

Authority was requested and readily granted to keep telegraphic communication with Gore open overnight. Having commenced his railway career in Southland there was widespread local concern for his welfare. Evening telegrams confirmed that Mr Conyers was "much the same, if anything slightly better". 

Upon hearing of the accident and with Mr Conyers' condition being deemed extremely critical, "a special express train" conveying his wife, Fanny Conyers along with some of her children, Mr Buck (the General Manager of Railways) and several others, left Christchurch at 7.30 pm that evening, reaching Gore the following morning at 11 am, an uncomfortable and gruelling fifteen and a half hours journey.

After suffering "a very restless night", regular reports on Thursday state that Mr Conyers was then in a "semi-conscious state" and that Mrs Conyers, whom he recognised, along with his son, were with him. Luckily he had not suffered any skull fracture but his condition was "still in a very precarious state".

After a few days he was reported as being "only partly conscious" with "less feverishness" and making "satisfactory progress". By the 27th he was "very much better" and "readily recognises his friends, and though he frequently wanders in his expressions, everything betokens a quick recovery."



Details of the Railway Themed Clock
presented to Mr William Conyers in 1879
[Source : Papers Past]

A Significant Railway Career in the South

Conyers, who had been born in Leeds England where he gained his engineering qualifications, had "for many years" been "Manager of Southland Railways" (I note that in 1868 he held the positions of "Locomotive Manager" and "Manager of Permanent Ways" on the Bluff Harbour and Invercargill Railway), before being promoted to the position of General Manager of Otago Railways in 1874 at the then very generous salary of £900 pa. He was further promoted to the position of South Island Railways Commissioner in February 1878.

While he physically recovered from his injury, for which he [according to one source] received "substantial compensation", and resumed his railways position on the 14th April, "he was never the same man again." After his position was nationally disestablished in 1880 he held the position of "engineer and secretary and treasurer" for the Bluff Harbour Board until 1889. William Conyers died at Kew in Melbourne, Victoria on the 6th June 1915, aged 76 years. 


Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- Trove [National Library of Australia]
- "Steel Roads of New Zealand" - Edited by Gordon Troup 1973 (from my own collection)
- "Register of New Zealand Railways Steam Locomotives", by WG Lloyd, 1974 (from my own collection)
- Alexander Turnbull Library / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
- Kiwirail.co.nz


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Six - The Art Galleries)


The British Loan Collection in Room III.
Note the painting of Cardinal Newman.
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To read all parts of this blog series please click on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.



The British Loan Collection in Room III.
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus

The Art Galleries

I will now detail the Art Galleries contained within the Exhibition. This was the great feature of the Exhibition and, "were there nothing else in the exhibition, [it] would be worth a long journey to see."

The Exhibition commissioners adopted a "spirited" policy in regards to the exhibition of art, having noted that the art gallery was the "chef d'œuvre" [masterpiece] of the Melbourne Exhibition of 1888-89. This policy was publicly supported by the President of the Otago Art Society.

The commissioners, with Government assistance, were very lucky to secure a considerable portion of the British loan collection which had been exhibited at Melbourne and then, for a time, in Sydney. Together with notable works of art by artists from New Zealand, the quality of art shown at the Dunedin Exhibition proved to be a notable aspect of the event. Notable also were the works by artists from Victoria and New South Wales on display in their respective "courts".    

"The result is that the collection as a whole was admittedly superior to that shown at Melbourne and, of course, immeasurable superior to anything that has previously been exhibited in any of the other colonies."

"...it is a privilege of a very high order for the general public of this colony or of any of the colonies to have opportunities of viewing a collection of works of art which, but for the exhibition, few residents in the colony would ever have seen."


The British Loan Collectionwith the painting of Queen Victoria
Taken by D.A. De Maus, 1889

The Art Gallery Building

The Art Gallery is approached from the south annex facing Anderson's Bay Road. Entering a large archway and turning to the left visitors pass through a corridor constructed principally of iron with a curved roof affording a view of the facade over the doorway of the gallery which is in the Corinthian style with bold pilasters flanked with smaller pilasters and carved columns carrying arches, the centres containing ornamental shells. Above is a cornice and frieze with the words "Art Gallery" in cement letters.


A room in the Art Gallery
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

A very heavy iron door leads through to the gallery occupying a space of 106ft by 100ft and divided up into six interconnecting rooms, each 48ft 6in by 34ft 3in with the walls 18ft in height. This would provide a wall space of between 9,000ft to 10,000ft, which, with the walls of corridors and extensions, brings it up to 12,000ft. This allowed for the display of between 1,200 to 1,500 pictures.

The roof, which is in three spans, is carried on iron columns encased in "brickwork of a temporary nature". Light is admitted by 60 skylights in iron frames. In fact, there is, apart from the wooden plugs used to secure the pictures, no woodwork to be seen. The galleries are consequently virtually fireproof. 42 tons of wrought iron were utilised in its construction, the floor being asphalt covered with a thin coating of cement. The walls are painted chocolate with the stencilled frieze in a buff colour and a darker coloured dado.

The pictures on display comprised of four distinct collections as follows :

Watercolours in Room I
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus

The New Zealand Loan Collection -

Mr W.H. Hodgkins, on behalf of the Special Exhibition Committee set up to organise the Art Gallery display, visited all the principal towns in New Zealand and hoped that loan pictures would show "a fairly perfect panorama of New Zealand" and "that the pictures sent from each locality should be as far as possible, local in composition, so that comparative representation can be obtained."

The pictures on display would "comprise the best examples in the colony, of painters of eminence." These would make up a grand total of 600 or 700 pictures. Artists represented would include Baraud, Bloomfield, Gibb, Beetham, Cousins, Wilson, Sheriff, J.C. Richmond, Steele, H. Watkins, Miss Hodgkins, Miss Richardson, Miss Wimperis, Miss Buddon, Miss Stoddart, Miss Fenton, and others. There would also be a large and highly credible collection of amateur works, many of whose names are well known in the colony and some beyond it.

A special feature of the picture galley would be the "Gully Gallery" located in the first room to the left of the entrance, the Committee having determined to set aside a separate portion  of their space to show the representative work "of the masterly poet-painter of New Zealand".

A newspaper reporter contrasted the New Zealand watercolours to the British watercolours thus; "We may say, without offence to our indigenous colonised artists that the difference in most instances is very marked, both in execution and style."


The British Loan Collection -


The painting of Cardinal Newman by 
John Everett Millais, 1881 which can 
be seen in the photo of Room III above
[Source : Wikipedia]

The British Loan Collection would included a total of forty two pictures including "Opening of London Bridge" in 1831 by Clarkson Stanfield (being lent by the Queen), "Hope" by Wald, "Cardinal Newman" by Sir John Everett Millais, "Phryne of Eleusis" by Frederick Leighton, "Shallows of Havesdale Cove" by Brett, "Mount Cook" and "Pukaki Belle" by Nicholas Chevalier, plus pictures by Winterhalter, W.B. Richmond, Sir James Pender, G.F. Watts, E. Long, E.A. Waterlow, Horaley, Perugini, Hayden, Landseer, and "there are some of the best portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds"     


Room II
Photo by D.A. De Maus, 1889

Room II
Photo by D.A. De Maus, 1889

The Anglo-Australian Collection - 


Room V
The Anglo-Australian Collection
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus 

The so-named collection was of some 130 pictures consisting of representative works of the new English or Newlyn school comprising of pictures by W.A. Ingram, A.W. Weedon, N. Dawson, W.J. Morgan, A.W. Strutt, W.F. Bishop, T.C. Gotch, Wylie, Henley, Moore, Solomon, Bramley, Stanhope, and Forbes. A magnificent painting, which was believed to be one of the finest pictures in the Exhibition, is on the left hand wall of the 5th room is entitled "Helpless" and is a joint work between W.A. Ingram and T.C. Gotch.


The Anglo-Australian Collection in Room V
Note the painting of "Preparations for the Market"
Taken by D.A. De Maus, 1889

This collection was supplemented by "the Scottish Art Collection" [click here for detailed list] of some seventy or eighty additional paintings and watercolours comprising of works by Sir Noel Paton, George Reid, R.S. Hindman, Colin Hunter, A. Perigal, Anderson, McWhirter, McTaggart, and other eminent Scottish artists.


"Preparations for the Market, Quimperlé, Brittany"
noted in the photo above, by Stanhope Forbes, 1883
[Source : Dunedin Public Art Gallery]


Upon the closure of the Exhibition, the large 1690 by 1340 mm oil painting of "Preparations for the Market" by Stanhope Forbes was purchased for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, being funded by public subscription. This has always been one of my favourites, the light background giving the bright figures an added sense of perspective thereby bringing the scene to life.

The Australian Art Galleries

The Victorian Gallery -

This gallery is located near the southern end of the Victorian Court comprising about 250 pictures lent by the Victorian Artists' Association. Amongst them were works by Boorlow, Chevalier, Tom Roberts, Mather, Campbell, and others.

To this collection must be added 200 pictures brought to Dunedin by Mr Fletcher, the Superintendent of the Victorian Court. There is also a small representative collection from the Koek-Koek Gallery in Melbourne which comprises some of the work of the Hungarian painter Munkacsy.


The New South Wales Gallery -

"The Defense of Rorke's Drift"
by Alphonse De Neuville, 1880
[Source : Wikipedia]

This collection includes a large number of pictures, the property of the New South Wales Commissioner and includes some genuione old masters as well as a small collection of about 50 pictures lent by the Art Society of New South Wales. One significant painting is Alphonse De Neuville's great picture, "The Defence of Rorke's Drift".

The Various School of Art -

Located in the Home Industries Court in one of the cross-annexes, a number of bays display works by the Dunedin School of Art, the Canterbury School of Art, and the Wellington School of Design.

The display would feature only the best work of the students and included the results of the monthly Wellington School of Art competition in design.These collections were noted as being of "an encouraging nature".

Support for a National Art Collection

Following on from the success of the Dunedin exhibition, The Otago Art Society actively supported a proposal that the Government vote a sum of say, £5000 "for the purchase of 60 or 80 works of undoubted merit and educational value, such works to form the nucleus of a national collection." I note that Dunedin had the first public art gallery (housed within the museum) which opened in 1884 and then relocated to the Municipal Chambers in 1889-90 before moving to a purpose built building at Queen Gardens in 1907; the Auckland Art Gallery opened in 1888; the Christchurch City Art Gallery in 1932, with the "National Art Gallery" in Wellington not being established until as late as 1936.


The next blog in this series will provide a description of some of the Exhibition Amusements and Souvenirs. The complete series of blogs will be available by clicking on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- NZ History Net / Nga Korero a ipurango o Aotearoa
- Hocken Collections, Dunedin / Uare Taoka o Hākena
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin


Monday, 15 August 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Five - A Tour of Some of the Display 'Courts')


The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition
Buildings showing the Jervois Street Entrance.
Burton Brothers Photo
[Source : "Dunedin Early Photographs" by Hardwicke Knight]

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To read all parts of this blog series please click on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

I will now detail some of the more interesting exhibits in the various 'courts' within the many annexes which comprised the Exhibition complex.

The South Seas and Early History Courts

Exiting the main hall through the avenue on the right, the visitor will first enter the South Seas and Early History courts located in the plainly decorated west annex of the building. 

Early history is represented in the first instance by maps, charts, and documents. There is also "a splendid collection of polished kauri gum".

The Maori portion of the court commences on the right-hand side of the avenue. This is represented by woven flax mats, feather kiwi mats; the 'stone age' with axes, drills, hooks, and hinting and fishing implements; a large collection of wooden implements and models of canoes, paddles, war trumpets, elaborately carved food bowls, table cases, carved meres (hand weapons) and taiaha (spears), the carved stems of Maori war canoes, and some carvings intended for contemporary use including a Maori version of the 'Madonna' for the Roman Catholic church at Tauranga. A large pataka or chief's food house occupies a bay to itself. 

The "Wairau Cannon" is a poignant relic of the confrontation between Māori and British settlers at Wairau in 1843.

The Tongan section of the court contains examples of native produce including cotton, arrowroot, candle nuts, copra, chilis, a giant yam "5ft or 6ft in length", examples of  work from Tongan schools, "two immense rolls of tapa or native cloth", a collection of coral and a couple of portraits of noted personages including the Primier of Tonga.

The Samoan Court depicts the effects of a recent hurricane, specimens of samoan clubs, fans, hand-beaten and decorated tapa cloth, and "fly-flappers", and a model of a Samoan house.

Fiji is represented by models of native canoes and paddles as well as pottery.

Santa Crux is represented by looms and dancing clubs and a feather belt "used as a medium of exchange".  

New Caledonian goods displayed include dancing masks and tobacco pipes while New Guinea is represented by a display of stone clubs.


The south end of the South Seas and Early History Gallery.
The Presbyterian Synod display appears to be located in
the far corner with a number of portraits on the wall.
The entrance to the Victoria Court is at left with the
New Guinea display at hard left. Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The display by the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland [then the Presbyterian ruling body for the south] in the early History Court includes portraits of "early fathers of the church", a picture of the ship 'Philip Laing', a large picture of the 'Scottish Disruption' of 1843, and representations of early Dunedin. In addition are "a valuable and curious collection" of native goods obtained by the Rev. W. Bannerman on his visit to the New Hebrides [now known as Vanuatu], including native dresses, fighting and dancing spears, clubs, adzes, necklaces and bracelets, bows and arrows, samples of the native arrowroot plant including manufactured arrowroot.

The Home Industries Court 

This court occupies part of the central annex that extends across the building from the Victorian court in the western annex to the Otago section in the eastern annex.

One of the exhibits is a 'forecarriage' [ie a horse drawn carriage where the front wheels could turn independently of the rear wheels], "the workmanship and finish perfect",  a wrought iron grave railing which "shows considerable merit and patience". 

The walls of several of the bays are "decorated with many specimens reflecting credit upon the refined tastes and deftness of hand to be met with in many a New Zealand home", including patchwork and crazy quilts and mats, ladies' handwork such as crewel work, point lace, and crochet work. One less charitable correspondent stated that,

"I think that dozens of counterpanes of crazy patchwork, which represented a bewildering amount of work, and in most cases no artistic effect, Generally the blending of colours was so dreadful, and the designs so fearfully elaborate, and yet so grotesquely ugly."

Samples of the upholsterer's and coachbuilder's art are also shown as well as some good specimens of fretwork.

Crossing to the left side of the annex we find in the first bay specimens of stuffed birds. Then an area occupied "by gold saving apparatus" as well as "some capital work" in model steam engines and locomotives, followed by some very pretty specimens of majolica pottery.

"Disconsolate"

I have not detailed "The Fisheries Court" or "The Natural History Court". I might however relate a passionate and concerned letter to the "Evening Star" newspaper by a person interested in the welfare of the three live penguins on display and how they were housed at night. He had noted how "disconsolate" they appeared to be perched on their three wet stones with about a quarter of an inch of water covering them and "forming a picture of misery unsurpassed by any in the great art gallery." The writer invited the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" to pay a visit of inspection.   

The Fernery and Garden Court

This area had, only a few months earlier, been "absolutely a desert of clay and rubbish [and] it will be acknowledged that the committee have triumphed".

Adjoining the entrance hall is the previously mentioned fernery, being about 140ft long by 57ft 8in wide and able to be reached either from the main entrance hall or from the gardens. "It is certainly a thing of beauty, and will be a joy while it lasts"

On entering "this cool, shady retreat", the visitor will gain a good impression of the variety of ferns which are to be found in the New Zealand forest. In the centre is a picturesque piece of rock work in the shape of a cairn and covered with ferns and other moisture loving plants with water descending from its summit in small cascades to the pool below. Winding paths through groves of tall tree ferns and rare forest plants lead to every part of the fern house. A soft carpet of smaller ferns illustrates a typical New Zealand forest floor while the walls are draped in mosses. "...the whole fernery is unique and surpassingly beautiful". A £5 prize was offered for the best collection of ferns, to comprise of not less than 50 specimens.

At the east end is a bed of plants contributed by the Invercargill Borough Council including between 30 and 40 varieties of veronia, some being very rare. The lovely mountain lily in full bloom and other lovely mountain plants are also notable. The fernery is lit by electric light and at night the effect is stiking. 

A rich green sward of grass fills the spaces between the open garden walks with pretty beds of flowers "flourishing as in an old established garden". These well-stocked beds of flowers were not to exceed 200 square feet with nurserymen having the privilege of fixing an advertisement board close to their individual plots. Although "much encroached upon by the demand for exhibitors' space", the gardens were expected "to be a great source of attraction". Merit certificates would be issued to all those whose beds were kept to the satisfaction of the commissioners while all garden exhibits would be carried free by the Union Steam Ship Company.


The rustic band rotunda and small 'Eiffel Tower'.
You can just make out Mr Joubert's cascade at right
and the roof of the large Maori meeting house at left
 [Source : TeAra The Encyclopedia of New Zealand]

In the centre of the garden is the rustic band rotunda complete with a conical thatched roof, a large cascade at the southern end designed by Mr Joubert, and a "large Maori house" on the eastern side. Both the cascade and the 'Maori House' can just be discerned in the above photograph.

A 12 metre model of the 'Eiffel Tower' appears beside the band rotunda. This is a much smaller version of the replica 'Eiffel Tower' in the amusement area. Having been independently built by "King, Walker and Co." to promote their range of whiskies, it proved to be too high for the exhibition gallery ceiling so was placed - rather incongruously - outside in the Exhibition gardens. The original idea had been to build the base out of whisky barrels with the "tower" made up of a "pyramid of bottles" but judging by the picture the barrels appear not to have been used.


Detail of some of the carved panels
purchased by Dr Hocken
[Source : Otago Museum]

The "Maori Meeting House" included a set of five 2.5 metre wall panels and one corner piece carved for the late North Island Chief Karaitianga Takamoana of Ngāti Kahungunu and Member of Parliament for Eastern Māori, and are formed from a single tree trunk. Unfortunately the Chief died in 1879 before they could be installed in a new meeting house. Passionately interested in Māori ethnology, Dr Thomas Morland Hocken of Dunedin, recognised "the superior carving skills and execution" and arranged for the panels to be loaned for the Dunedin Exhibition where they were installed in the mock-up of the Māori meeting house. After the Exhibition ended Dr Hocken purchased 61 of the carved panels and gifted them to the Otago Museum where they can still be seen today.
   
The Education and Science Court

The Education Court is located close to the Home Industries Court in the central annex. 

Here we can view "a variety of kindergarten appliances" and specimens of the work of pupils in New Zealand kindergarten schools. The Otago bays include a considerable display of the work of pupils in the different schools of the district. these include samples of mapping, and drawing, being both mechanical, model and freehand, some of which is "really excellent". 

A large number of school copy books, exercise books, and specimens of examination work are shown, all the work being extremely meritorious. 

Numerous exhibits of well executed maps and samples as well as needlework by the girls are of a very high order.

A Taranaki school display shows a nice astronomical model illustrating the motions of the earth around the sun and of the moon around the earth, while a display from Timaru exhibits a very ingenious map of New Zealand with a raised surface for teaching the blind. There are also various models  showing the various methods of constructing joints in house and bridge building as well as displays of school furniture and tools used in carpentry classes.

The New Zealand Native Schools Department show a good assortment of samples of school work "which speak for themselves".

"The educational exhibits will prove to visitors from the sister colonies that in the matter of education New Zealand does not lag behind in the progressive march of nations".

The Foreign Court

The "Avenue of All Nations", covers a large area "and is illuminated with a great flood of light". While it was intended that the Exhibition be 'intercolonial" in its scope, the commissioners willingly accepted individual exhibits from Great Britain, the United States of America, France, and other countries, and these proved a most interesting and attractive portion of the show.

The French goods, which were supplied by a number of firms in Paris and elsewhere, possessed great attractions for visitors as did the German, Italian and Turkish exhibitors, most of whom had also been at the Melbourne Exhibition, also provided a portion of the exhibition that was much appreciated.    

Tobaccos - 

"Lovers of the 'fragrant weed' should not fail to notice the stands of tobaccos, manufactured into various shapes, in the Avenue of All Nations; even persons who have the most firmly rooted dislike to tobacco will probably be impressed with the excellent manner in which these goods are displayed." 

The displays of tobacco and cigarettes from the great tobacco producing districts and manufacturing firms of Virginia in the United States warranted a whole detailed column by the reporter which now truly appears to be just as much an advertisement for the various products as a description of the exhibits themselves.

"The entire exhibit, which is one of the most handsome and costly ever shown in the Australiasian colonies, was specially designed by the manufacturers for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition."

Chemical Manufacturers -

Messrs F.S. Cleaver, one of Great Britain's largest manufacturers of soaps and toilet requisites, were represented through their agents, Messrs P. Hayman & Co. of Christchurch and included the popular "Iolanthe" and "Mikado" brands which comprised of various soaps, tooth pastes, shaving preparations, and other articles of toilet use.

Wines and Spirits -

In the "Avenue of All Nations" adjoining the Otago and Southland section is a fine display of wines appearing under the name of "Curcier, Adet, & Co. of Melbourne and Sydney".

"In the present festive season [Christmas 1889] there must inevitably be a great demand for wines, and exhibits of this class consequently are apropos [very appropriate]." 

Their stand was stocked with Krug Champagne; Otard, Dupuy and Co's cognac; Vergiaud clarets; and the Associated Vineyard Cultivators' Company's "Beehive Brand" cognac.  

The Machinery Court - 

The machinery court, focussing on agricultural equipment, is located beside the "Avenue of All Nations" and behind the New South Wales mineral court. The most were of British, American, and colonial manufacture.

Machines "of all sizes and shapes and degrees of mechanism" fill a space of 18,000 feet. The chief exhibitors are Messrs 'Hornsby & Sons' of Grantham England; 'Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies' of Ipswich England; the 'Buckeye Harvester Company'; 'Massey, Moufet and Co.' of Canada; 'McCormick' reapers and binders, 'Woods' Harvester and Twine Binder; 'A.Hams and Son' of Canada; 'Marshall, Son and Co.'; and 'Humble and Nicholson' of Geelong Victoria. The machinery is mostly of an agricultural nature with exhibits also made up of mining and industrial equipment.


A view of one of the annexes.
I think above the doorway reads
"The Australian[?]...   Colonies"
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections] 

The Photographic Court

This was located in the northern transept of the Exhibition building and alongside the Auckland Provincial Court, being primarily examples of portraiture, landscape and enlarged and re-touched photographs from a number Dunedin studios, including that of Mr J.R. Morris Jnr. and Mr F.L. Jones of George Street. J.G. Mills and of Messrs Burton Bros., and a number of New Zealand photographers, many of the images being of a distinct artistic nature which are detailed very closely by the reporter. Prizes were awarded for "landscapes and other views", portraits, and enlargements.

Interestingly, no less than six Victorian photographers exhibited at the Exhibition (I would imagine mostly within the Victorian Court) and received award certificates first. second and third class awards spread between the various classes. One photographer is noted from Ceylon, having received a first class award "for foilage and flower studies".


Season Ticket Holder Photographed by Mr D.A. De Maus
[Source : Toitū Otago Settlers Museum]

A large album may today be viewed in the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin with small but good photographic portraits of all those who held season tickets to the Exhibition as well as members the choir members, being taken by the Photographer Mr D.A. De Maus so that identities could be confirmed upon entry. Over 2,650 persons were photographed.


The entrance to the Australian Victorian Court
Photo by D.A. De Maus 1886
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The Australian Courts

The Australian Courts extend from the South Seas and History Courts in the western annex running along Crawford Street right down to Octagon in the South West corner.

The display by the Colonies of Victoria included a large quantity of manufactured articles, being supplied and paid for by the Victorian Government and paid for by a Royal Commission.

Also prominent is a display of gold nuggets which "appeared to astonish many", and a Victorian Art Court "which drew much admiration".

The South Australian court occupies a snug corner behind the Victorian Art Gallery, the displays chiefly being wines but also prize fleeces from sheep, having been shown at the South Australian Agricultural Show.


The New South Wales Colliery / Mining Display
in the western court. Photo by D.A. De Maus.
[Source : Hocken Collections]

We then pass through the New South Wales Court which also includes an Art Gallery, a mining display, and a magnificent mineral display. One reporter was less enthused about the display of the "Janolan Caves", referring to it as being "a very poor show". Visitors would enter what was set up as the entrance to a cave then when inside would look through holes in the wall at what were just a row of stereoscopic views.

Prominent is the Australian Wine Bar, in which each of the Australian colonies represented have an interest, is situated on the verandah behind the Victorian court. There is a strong desire on behalf of the growers and producers to introduce their wines into New Zealand,


The Ceylon Tea Planters' Association
Tea Kiosk with a staff member
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[source : Hocken Collections]

Ceylon and Mauritius Courts

The Ceylon Tea Planters' Association kiosk is located close to the South Australian court. At a kiosk with seats accommodating six people each, Indians [sic] in native dress would serve you tea. This was "a great attraction, and always full of people."

The Colony of Mauritius was officially represented at the Exhibition and forwarded a small display of its chief products.


The 6 inch Armstrong Disappearing Gun
now at Taieroa Head and dating from 1889
[Photo by Gerard O'Brien]

The New Zealand Government Courts

A timber trophy, at the entrance of the south-western octagon indicates that the New Zealand exhibits have been reached, this octagon being occupied by the Public Works department. Here many paused to inspect the kauri trophy and the models and diagrams of bridges etc. The object of the display is also to specially to illustrate the timber producing capabilities of the colony, and there are many obelisks of several samples of stone.

The New Zealand exhibits occupy the avenue along the southern and eastern sides of the buildings and, with the exception of a small space, the portion of the northern avenue that lies between the angle of the junction of Cumberland and Jervois streets, and the main hall. On display here was the "unique gold trophy of New Zealand" which brought forth astonishment from many who viewed it.

A space has been fitted up for a display by the Prisons department of the handiwork of some of the prisoners of the colony to demonstrate "the advisability of instructing prisoners in trades", being specifically from Mount Cook Gaol in Wellington, and Mount Eden Gaol in Auckland.

 "The external decorations of this bay are of a somewhat sombre kind, though distinctly appropriate." Some levity was made of the immediate proximity of Donaghy's exhibits of rope and oppiste being several bays occupied by brewing firms. "It has occurred to some waggish and wicked person to mark the sequence, which this juxtaposition of exhibits suggests, and therefrom to point a moral."

Notable is the Armaments Court. On display here are shown a number of pieces of modern ordnance including a Maxim machine gun with a recoil operated firing system, a 32-pounder muzzle-loader cast at Woolwich Arsenal in 1841, a 6-pounder Nodrdenfeldt mounted on a recoil carriage, a 6-pounder Armstrong, a 6-inch "Armstrong Disappearing Gun" [which can today still be viewed at Tairoa Head as part of a tour] mounted on a hydro-pneumatic carriage, a 6-pounder Hotchkiss, and"small arms from the obsolete types down to the deadly Martini-Henry [breech-loading single shot lever-actuated rifle] and Martini-Enfield [303 rifle], and of ammunition".

The submarine mines and "the terrible Whitehead torpedo" [the first self-propelled torpedo invented], were "viewed with expressions of wonder".

The Tourists' court is located in the eastern avenue and occupies several bays. This court was established with the idea of furnishing visitors to New Zealand, "who were desirous of seeing some of the country, with reliable information respecting the routes they should proceed by." and "proved very valuable, and thoroughly justified its existence." The walls were hung with oil paintings, water-colours, and photographs.

In conjunction with this court, a Railway Enquiry Office proved "of the utmost use", with an efficient and well resourced officer providing information to visitors who took the trouble to seek it.

The shipping companies were represented by the Union Steam Ship Company, Shaw, Saville and Co., the New Zealand Shipping Company, and the White Star Line, together with a display of models of ships.

Tourist agents Messrs Thomas Cook and Son were also represented.


The Auckland Court in the North Eastern Annex
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The New Zealand Provincial Courts

The Otago and Southland exhibits are located in the southern annex and the southern end of the eastern annex, the continuity being broken by the Government Mineral Court in the south eastern Octagon.

The Southland display "made a bold show", a great feature being a splendid exhibit of colonially manufactured furniture.

The Otago displays include mining exhibits, Ales and stouts made by Otago brewers, tanned and manufactured leathers, confectionery, a display by Donaghy's twine and rope works, and displays from two Otago woollen mill manufacturers. The latter "were a complete astonishment to the good people of Australia who were privileged to see them."

The Canterbury court adjoins the Otago and Southland section. Showing a very fair representation of industries, the chief display from this province  - the granary of the colony - was appropriately of grain. There was also a fine exhibit of native timber and of plain earthenware.

This is followed by the Westland court. The Nelson and Marlborough courts follow but are small, then the Wellington court which occupies the remainder of the avenue as far as the north-eastern octagon and included two large exhibits. This consisted of woolen manufactures and of soap and candles.

The Hawkes Bay court is advantageously located at the angle of the building. The Auckland court comprises the bays from the corner octagon to the photographic studio but were somewhat disappointing in their size.

The hard to please 'Taranaki Herald' correspondent took exception to the furniture exhibited in the New Zealand Court - "the drawing room suites were gaudy, inharmonious, inartistic, and opposed to every law of good taste."

The Refreshment and Dining Rooms

The refreshment and dining rooms are off the right of the corridor leading to the Art Gallery. Here may be obtained meals or refreshments. The dining hall is 54ft long by 35ft wide with two smaller private dining rooms at the top end, "both furnished with electric bells". The dining room is painted grey with an Indian red dado and the roof almost white. Opening off the dining room is another room which can be made available when entertainments are held in the concert hall, there being an inter-connection to the rear of the hall. Also in this area are the kitchen, scullery, storehouses, and offices.


In the outdoor space at the Anderson's Bay Road end of the Exhibition is the space reserved for side shows including "a switchback railway", "a merry-go-round" and "a model of the Eiffel Tower".


The next blog in this series will provide a description of the Exhibition Art Galleries. The complete series of blogs will be available by clicking on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.


Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- NZ History Net / Nga Korero a ipurango o Aotearoa
- Hocken Collections, Dunedin / Uare Taoka o Hākena
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin


Monday, 1 August 2016

"Turret Clocks and Bells" - A History of Timekeeping in Dunedin (Final Part)


The new "Post Office" building and clock tower in 1870.
 then the Otago Museum and City Corporation Offices, 
Burton Bros. Photo
[Source Te Papa Tongarewa]

This concludes my four part blog on early timekeeping in Dunedin and specifically of its early bells and turret clocks.  Click Here to read the first instalment. This final part continues to focus specifically on the highs - and unfortunate lows - of Dunedin's municipal turret clocks. I trust you will find the subject as interesting as I have.

Having occupied the intended "new Post Office" since July 1871, the University of Otago Council decided in 1875 to sell their building in order to fund new extended and purpose built premises. The Colonial Bank submitted a tender £27,000 but were declined as the University did not consider this to be a sufficient amount. In the hope of purchasing the building as a new town hall the Dunedin City Council also tendered the amount of £21,000 The "City Corporation" had of course used part of the building from 1867 to 1871. But it may have been for the best. In December 1875 the Dunedin correspondent for the Bruce Herald notes tongue in cheek that;

"It is not known whether the clock will be sold with the building, but if not, it should fetch a good price; for a more extraordinary time-keeper there is not this side of the line. That clock can be backed by your humble servant to do an hour in less time than any other one in this city. It will do with ease 60 seconds in ten minutes under the hour, and never turn a hair. It has caused more persons to miss trains than any clock I know."


The Colonial Bank Building and Clock Tower,
taken circa 1890's
[Source : "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905]

A correspondent notes in July 1876 that for "the last few weeks, the University clock has been dancing about to anything but correct time, sometimes as much as ten minutes in one day." Tenders were now to be "called for cleaning and keeping the public clocks in repair".

But discrepancies in timekeeping were again noted in April 1877 when the Dunedin Fire Brigade "obtained permission to affix a rope to the clapper of the clock in the tower of the University building, for the purpose of using it to give alarm in the case of fire. It was pretty generally conceded that the arrangement could not have the effect of making the clock more erratic than it is at present."

In June 1877 the University finally sold the building to the Colonial Bank for £27,000., being the same amount tendered in 1875, and it now became their New Zealand head office. After the University Registrar was instructed to claim possession of the clock and bell the Manager of the Colonial Bank replied that the directors of the bank considered them as part of the sale which included "fixtures as they now stand". This forced the University Council to give up their claim.

The "inexplicable phenomena" of the University clock tower without a clock would not be remedied until 1930 when the Hon Sir T.K. Sidey donated funds to Otago University for a turret clock which is referred to further down this page.

From 1878 the Colonial Bank allowed the Dunedin City Council "to have the University clock [ie now the Colonial Bank clock] for the nominal rental of 1s per annum, providing the council would light it and keep it in repair."

The poor timekeeping of the Colonial Bank clock continued to be occasionally noted in the press, especially as the Dunedin Tramways - and their passengers - "take their time" from this clock. In 1888 the Secretary of the Tramway Company formally wrote to Council complaining of the poor timekeeping as "numerous complaints had been made by the public in consequence". Planned stoppages for repairs or cleaning were normally advertised in the newspapers but unforseen breakdowns often brought forth public displeasure which demonstrated the great reliance the public placed on it. In 1896 it was noted that the minute hands had a "drop" of two minutes and would be fast two minutes after the hour and two minutes slow before the hour, this defect having existed since 1881.


The 1880 Town Hall and Clock Tower in 
The Octagon Dunedin. Architect Mr R.A. Lawson
Morris Photo, taken circa 1903
 [Source : "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905]

In 1879 the Dunedin City Council finally purchased their own striking and chiming clock for the new Town Hall in The Octagon being started on the 2nd Dec 1880. Constructed by the Gillett and Bland Steam Clock Company of Croyden, London, the full history of this clock and its unique "discordant jangling" chime, may be read by clicking Here. I therefore need not repeat the history of this clock other than to mention that on the 20th May 1910, and by order of the Mayor, the clock "tolled" the minutes continuously from midday until nine minutes past one to mark the funeral of King Edward VII. In 1988 the R.A. Lawson designed Municipal Chambers of 1880 were restored, including rebuilding the rather fanciful clock tower to its original imposing height and splendour. This clock is today kept in excellent working order by Dunedin Horologist Jeff Martin. [UTube link to hear the chime here]

Regular setting of the Town Hall clock to "New Zealand Greenwich mean time" commenced in March 1898 with the correct time being "flashed" from Wellington by telegraph. The "absolute reliableness" of this clock would now make it very much the "authoritative standard" for time in the city. Although the Colonial Bank clock would be regulated by the former it quickly appears that "mean time" did not always agree with the latter. And as "Railway time" was some minutes ahead of the Colonial Bank clock travellers were urged to take note. In 1899 the contractor, Mr C.H. Tweedie, was publicly blamed by a correspondent for forgetting to wind the clock before he departed on his holidays. Upon his return, and in explanation, he states that someone got access to the tower and clock chamber (not for the first time) and interfered with the clock causing it to come to a stop, the matter being reported to the City authorities. The council paid for a padlock.

The lack of or inadequate gas lighting of the University / Colonial Bank clock dials also brought forth complaints. As early as September 1872 "the proprietor of the Gas Works" generously supplied the gas necessary for lighting the dials "free of charge" having been "for some years past... been left in darkness at night". The council appear to have eventually taken over this responsibility and cost.

By 1890, and with the Colonial Bank refusing to now bear part of the expense, the cost of gas at £89 p.a. was such that the council ceased lighting it altogether bringing forth comments "on the niggardliness shown by the City Fathers" and that strangers to the city would think it "a peculiar and poverty-stricken town". In 1891 the City Council Gas Committee agreed to light one dial at night at a cost of 7s 6d per week.


The "Exchange" Building and Clocktower
[Source :  Wikipedia]

After the Colonial Bank suffered financial reverses in 1895 and were taken over by the Bank of New Zealand the latter put the building on the market. Finally, a syndicate of small shareholders calling themselves "The Dunedin Stock Exchange Proprietary Company Limited" bought the property in 1900 for £28,710 It then became "a rabbit warren of shops and businesses". But it is this last owner who have left their name on the building and on the clock.

In 1900, and also being very mean spirited, the new Stock Exchange Building owners refused to contribute towards payment of the cost of £50 p.a. to be able to light all the clock dials. It appears that the Council now took up the full cost only to have the Stock Exchange have their name written in black letters on the dial obscuring legibility at night. The bell strike appears to have been inoperative from prior to "the days of the old Colonial Bank" until August 1906 when a new complete striking mechanism was installed. In August 1907 it was announced electricity would replace gas lighting of the dials at a cost of £55 14s p.a., gas lighting having latterly cost £92 p.a. But gas had a reprieve after the experience of electric lighting of the Railway Station clock not being bright enough was pointed out to Council. It would be October 1923 before electricity finally won that battle.


An Advertising Posibility for the
Exchange Clock, October 1952
[Source : Otago Daily Times]

We now fast forward to October 1952 when we find that the "existing mechanism is in a very bad state of repair" and had ground to a halt with the hands stuck at just past 1.30  In an "uncompromising statement", Mr Skinner, the Chairman of the Stock Exchange Proprietary Company", advised that as "no material benefit accrues to the company from the ownership and housing of a clock", and as a public amenity "it could hardly be expected that the company should maintain it". Although the company paid a small sum each year to the council towards the cost of maintenance, after rates, taxes and other costs were met "there was little [left] for the shareholders" so either the clock should be removed or council should bear the cost of repairs or a replacement. And, as Mr Skinner ominously states, not only was the clock in need of attention but also the clock tower. The company even seriously suggested that they could use the clock faces for advertising purposes to generate revenue for their shareholders, in fact they had already been approached by a potential advertiser. So what was to be done?

The Dunedin City Council were now forced to explore possible alternatives in order to maintain what was a "valuable, even essential service in the interests of [the] citizens". The cost of repairing the old clock was estimated at between £1,000 and £1,200 The City Engineer now made enquiries of his counterparts at Auckland and in Invercargill, both councils owning dismantled turret clocks. Auckland advised full details on their chiming clock at a guide price of around £450 and Invercargill likewise on their old Post Office clock and bells at around £400 based on scrap brass value, both availability and final cost being subject to respective council approval. Additional costs would accrue for scaffolding (£250), dismantling, repairing and modifying the clock platform, transporting and erecting thus adding in the order of £1,000 to the total cost.

By the end of the month the Invercargill Town Clerk advised, "that the council, after consideration, regrets that the clock and chimes are not available for sale". The offer of the services of their retired clock service-man to install it was likewise withdrawn. To their great credit, Invercargill finally 'exhumed' and restored their precious 1893 "Littlejohn & Son" turret clock and chimes in 1989 (also using parts from the dismantled Bluff Post Office turret clock). I can well remember being fascinated but saddened seeing the dismantled dusty remains and clock faces stored in their water tower during a school visit in 1970.

We now find on the 23rd December 1952 that the Council accepted a quote from "Armstrong and Springhall Ltd." of £388.0.0 to install an "International Business Machine Master Control Clock System" with a one year guarantee, in other words an electric clock. Only certain parts of the existing mechanism would be used, but despite all being "in a very bad state of repair", those parts re-used would be guaranteed for three months. These would, I assume, be the gears and linkages from the mechanism to the hands. All work was to be completed within two months.  I am assuming that henceforth it would be a silent rather than a striking clock. As to who the original 1863 clock mechanism was initially sold to I do not know but ownership still rested with the Stock Exchange Company and I would imagine it was then disposed of according to its value as scrap.

It is interesting to note that an alternative clock being concurrently discussed with the Postmaster-General was a three-faced clock on the Princes street - Water street angle of the 1937 Chief Post Office Building. This did not proceed.

So, while the "Exchange" clock would continue as before, but without it's old and worn out turret clock movement, it is perhaps not surprising that in 1954 we find that the Stock Exchange building itself was sold by the "syndicate" to the New Zealand Government. It does sound as if the returns to the shareholders on the building had latterly been relatively meager.

One helpful source advised me that latterly the "Exchange clock" was looked after by the late John (Jack) Dever. I assume this to be the post 1953 electric clock and original mechanism driving the hands. Mr Dever reminisced that due to the nature of the crumbling lime mortar in the old Oamaru stone and brick building the weight of the tower was causing it to compress and literally sink on its foundations. The poor condition of the tower is mentioned by Mr Skinner in 1952 but this "sinking" of the masonry was undoubtedly further exacerbated by a shameful and calculated lack of maintenance on the building by the Ministry of Works after purchase by the Government in 1954.

By the time it was demolished in 1969 many actually wanted this neglected "eyesore" gone in favour of something modern. As Historian Lois Galer commented, "Retaining, strengthening and renovating the 100-year-old building was never considered... in the end, the community let it go". Such was our then complacent and disinterested attitude to the rich history of this city.


UTube Demolition of the Exchange Building 
and Clock Tower, Dunedin. January 1969 

It is well known that upon demolition in January 1969 the building came down very easily and to prove that point the demolition can be viewed in colour on UTube, including good views of the clock tower. Only the west and south facades as well as the clock tower facades were of limestone but the rest was of brick. Another film showing at Toitū Otago Settler's Museum appears to show that the clock faces were removed immediately prior to demolition but it is only a quick shot and still less than clear.

As to the Stock Exchange clock, I understand from an independent knowledgeable source that parts from the 1868 clock faces and actuating / linking mechanism (only) are held in Council storage in Balclutha. From another source I was able to confirm that various "parts" definitely known to be from the (1863 built) turret clock mechanism are privately held in Dunedin by more than one individual who wish to remain anonymous. I do not believe the trail of ownership post 1952 is clear, even to them. They have however been slowly progressing their own independent research on this and the Hospital clock but I have not been given the opportunity to view this research or the said "parts".

It is therefore certain that what remains of the historic 153 year old turret clock mechanism from 1863 will never again serve the purpose for which it was originally built. And of course, the bell, after having been in storage for many years, is now somewhat incongruously on public display as a permanent fixture in the basement food court of the "Meridian" in George street and cannot be rung. I believe it may have been placed there by the architects, Mason and Wales, being successors to William Mason who had designed the 1864 Exhibition building where the clock and bell had first been housed. So for that we must at least thank them as it also helps to keep alive in the public memory a little bit of Dunedin's very early horological history.


The Dunedin Railway Station and Clock Tower.
Muir & Moodie Studios Photo, circa 1910
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa]

The Dunedin Railway Station non-striking turret clock, with three dials and a gravity escarpment movement, was made and installed by W. Littlejohn and Sons of Wellington at a cost of £179 and commenced operation at noon on the 15th February 1907. The first person responsible for its care was Mr D. Dawson. In July 1910 this clock was included in the station synchronous electric clock system comprising of 20 small clocks, the two five foot dials of the platform clock, and of the turret clock. Being wound electrically with a one-twelth horsepower electric motor, the old mechanism, which included a "going" weight of about 150 lb and a pendulum weighing about 130 lb was replaced, with the "going" weight now reduced to about 15 lb and the pendulum entirely dispensed with. The Dunedin City Council have owned the now fully restored Railway Station building and clock since 1994. Illumination of the dials has always been by electric light.


The Otago University Registry Building and Clock Tower.
George Chance F.R.P.S. Photo, circa 1930's-1940's.
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa]


The Otago University Registry Clock Tower turret clock is the result of the Chancellor of Otago University and Member of Parliament for Dunedin South, the Hon. Sir Thomas K. Sidey, offering in March 1930 to make "a voluntary contribution" towards the cost of an electric turret clock for the tower and a master clock for the main entrance. After approaching Messers Littlejohn and Son of Wellington and receiving a quote of £700 [around NZD$33,565.00 in today's values], Sidey then asked that "under the legislation of last [Parliamentary] session, a £1 subsidy be granted on this contribution." Government then approved a subsidy of £350. for the clock. Sidey, in making this offer to the University, "trusted that the council would see its way to accept the offer and thus remove what had been an eyesore ever since the University building was erected half a century ago." Naturally agreeing to this generous offer, the members of the council then joined in singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow". In regards to his offer, Sidey further added "that if at a later date it should be decided to install chimes, he would be prepared to bear an equal proportion of the cost." This obviously occurred as the clock plays a Westminster chime besides tolling the hours [UTube link here].

While Dunedin still has a commendable number of "turret clocks" in operation, being the Town Hall chiming clock of 1880, the Railway Station clock of 1907, the University Registry chiming clock of 1930, and the Dunedin City Council owned 1885 "Littlejohn & Son" striking clock in the Iona church spire at Port Chalmers, the permanent loss of two of the earlier examples of such turret clocks is to be deeply regretted - even if  one example should early on have been consigned to a museum 'celebrating' colonial New Zealand's horological history.


"Watching the Clock - Dunedin's Time keeping Landmarks"


Further Information & Feedback : Any further information on Dunedin's turret clocks and bells is welcome. I will update this blog as any new relevant information comes to hand. A link to my email is in the right hand menu bar. Any feedback is also appreciated.

Copyright - No commercial reproduction permitted without the permission of the writer. Excerpts may be freely quoted for academic use provided this site is acknowledged.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- Te Ara, The Enclyclopedia of New Zealand
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- Hocken Collections, University of Otago
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin New Zealand
- Dunedin City Council Website
- Dunedin City Council Archives
- Otago Daily Times Online
- Diary of the Rev Thomas Burns 1847 - 1852, First Church of Otago Heritage Centre (electronic version held by the writer)
- "The Founding of the Otago Settlement - Its History and Development", 1898 (from my own collection)
- "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905 (from my own collection)
- "The Story of Early Dunedin" by A.H. Reed, 1956
- "Early Otago and Genesis of Dunedin, Letters of Rev T. Burns D.D. 1848 - 1865"
- "A Brief Account of the Origin and History and Also the Income and Expenditure of the Presbyterian Church of Otago", Rev T. Burns, 1865
- "A Great Coloniser - The Rev Dr. Thomas Burns" by E.N. Merrington, 1929
- "Cathedral in the Octagon - the First 100 Years of St Paul's 1849 - 1994" By G. Parry
- "Centenary of Invercargill Municipality 1871-1971"
- "New Zealand's Lost Heritage" by Richard Wolfe, 2013
- "Old Scottish Clockmakers 1453-1850" by John Smith
- "Post Office Directory - Edinburgh and Leith 1864-1865",
- Presbyterian Church Research Centre (Archives) website (Lost Archives)
- Te Papa Tongarewa
- Private individuals in Dunedin
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