Friday, June 14, 2019

Thames (NZ): Local heritage features in two magazines

Heritage stories related to the Thames, appear in two national publications this month. Articles appear in the New Zealand Legacy, the journal of the New Zealand History Federation; and secondly in the winter edition of New Zealand Heritage.

In New Zealand Legacy (Vol 31, no 1), is a story by David Verran entitled James Cook (1728-1779) and New Zealand. Then a follow-on by Robin Astridge Preparation for a 250th Commemoration. The story centres around Cook's furtherest landing up the Waihou River and the monument that now sits near Netherton on Hauraki Road. Interestingly no mention is made of the memorial cairn that was at Kopu.

A comprehensive and well researched article on Captain Cook's 1769 visit to the Firth of Thames appears in The Treasury Journal. Written by Thamesite Dave Wilton - Cook Landmarks at 'The Thames' (New Zealand), November 1769
Dave has recreated details of Cook's visit using his expertise of maps and archaeology - mixed with extensive field work. The mystery of the whereabouts of the Kahikatea tree measured by Cook is also discussed.

Cook's Landing Memorial near Netherton 

Further Reading: Blog story on the Hauraki Road Monument.

In the New Zealand Heritage Magazine (Issue 153 Winter 2019), there is a two page story on our three pillar boxes, titled Stay Posted by Jamie Douglas. The category two heritage items are the oldest in the North Island and second oldest behind one located in Nelson. The new thing in this article is that two of the pillar boxes were installed in 1869 and the third in 1877. Confirmation of this date would be of interest if anyone has found those details.

There is also an article in The Treasury Journal related to these letterboxes and the family connection to letter carrier Charles Rowley. Title Thames Letter Carrier and Entrepreneur, Goldminer and Miners' Advocate by Lisa Donnelly.

From Thames Firsts by Althea Barker:
 "The Pillar Box had been first introduced in 1848 in Belgium, followed by Paris (1850) and England (1852). The ability to buy stamps in New Zealand in the 1860s, led to the introduction of public letterboxes or Street Letter Receivers as they were known. Only a handful survive, with the majority having been replaced many years back by modern designs – deemed to be easier to keep clean and empty. When The Thames was settled, many residents suggested the need for the Pillar boxes that they had seen in Australia – based on the French design they “had three vertical apertures placed near the top of the receiver, which was the height that a person on horseback could post a letter, without having to dismount.”

It is believed that the Thames boxes were designed and made based on the British model by J H Penfold. The exact date of their establishment c1878. In 1881 the one at the corner of Albert and Brown Streets was moved to corner Mary and Pollen Streets on 7th February 1881. In 1894 there is an advertisement concerning mail clearance that names the pillar letter receivers at Shortland as being at: Rolleston, Willoughby and Mary Streets.The Rolleston Street one was on the south corner of Richmond Street and had been erected September 1878.  It would appear then that the iron pillar boxes were in Thames pre 1880, with several being moved around to different street locations.

Today (2019) there remain three Red Pillar (Post) Boxes in Thames and they have an Historic Place’s rating of Category 2. Their register numbers are: 717 (Pollen Street), 7242 (Cnr Mary & Pollen Streets) and 7244 (Queen Street)."

The pillar boxes have proved so popular over the decades that shops like Coakley's even used the location in their advertisements.
Coakley's Shop at the corner of Pollen & Willoughby Streets - the iconic Pillar Box far right.

Further Reading: Blog Story on the Pillar Boxes including further photos.

I forgot to mention that one of the best places to find information on The Post Office and Postal History is via the reports in the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives available at PapersPast.

  • 1877: In the Post Office Department Annual Report January 1877, there were 20 Iron Pillar boxes in New Zealand, plus 45 receiving houses.
  • 1879: In the January 1879 Report, one of Thames' pillar boxes was replaced with a receiving box. In New Zealand there were 21 Iron Pillar boxes and 59 receiving houses.
  • 1881: In the January 1881 Report, there were 29 Iron Pillar boxes in New Zealand, and 100 receiving boxes.