Further information on future meetings of the Nelson Historical Society Inc.

Jeff Newport Memorial Essay Prize

Secondary schools who have an interest in making this Award available for competition in their school are invited to contact the Society for further information.

Further information on future meetings


PLEASE NOTE: Members may choose whether to wear masks and are reminded of the importance of staying home if they are feeling unwell.

APRIL 2023


APRIL 2023

Date:Tuesday 25th April, 10.00am to 2.00pm
PlaceWALL OF REMEMBRANCE - Founders Heritage Park
Facilitator:: Peter & Myra Millward with NHS support.

Info: If you had a relative associated with Nelson Province as it was back in 1914 then we can almost certainly answer the question for you. Over 4000 Nelson men and women served in World War One and more than 700 died during the conflict or very soon afterwards. An additional 3500 men were balloted into the Reserves, some of whom ended up serving. Some of these men lodged appeals against going to war for a variety of reasons - marital status, religious beliefs, employment, and medical issues. Local researchers have identified the last resting place of almost all these people. If you want to know about local people we will probably have the information to want. If your relatives come from somewhere else come along to Founders Park between 10am and 2pm and learn about how to find details of service records from people who have spent the last ten years doing that kind of research.

MAY 2023

Date:Monday 8th May, 7.30pm
Topic: Kahurangi Out West
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speaker:: Golden Bay author and journalist Gerard Hindmarsh.

Info: At the May meeting, Golden Bay author and journalist Gerard Hindmarsh will be talking about his latest book, Kahurangi Out West, the third and final in his trilogy of backcountry stories from Northwest Nelson, the first being Kahurangi Calling and the second Kahurangi Stories. Starting by recounting tales of the earliest human arrivals and finishing with the family stories of the graziers who live along Kahurangi's western flank today, his audio visual presentation will cover drovers, loggers, mill workers, top secret coast watchers, linesmen, miners and uranium prospectors, King Tom of the Matakitaki, and one man's obsession with traversing the Dragon's Teeth. He will have books for sale on the night - $40 each

JUNE 2023

Date:Monday 12th June, 7.30pm
Topic: AGM & Ten Minute Tales - BACK IN THE DAY
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speakers:: Five members.

Guy Guy Guy! – Ken Wright takes a look back at Guy Fawkes and the fundraising process
A Herbarium of Nelson Grass – Shae Trewin offers a glimpse into Nelson Provincial Museum’s fascinating 19th century herbarium of grasses collected by world renowned grass specialist and scientific illustrator John Buchanan. These grasses permanently modified the natural environment of New Zealand within just four decades of colonial settlement.
Nelson Area Schools (1842 – 2020) - Some years ago, Ed Stevens inherited a very big project researching all schools in the Tasman District - including schools in Greymouth and Buller. He'll give us an update and explain what's still needed to complete this mammoth project.
My Nelson in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties – Rosemary Venner takes us on a trip down memory lane with a particular focus on the Nelson CBD and shopping.
Miss Kaiteriteri - Whatever happened to the regional beauty contests that once attracted throngs of competitors and thousands of spectators at Nelson holiday hotspots? Sarah Ryder explores why and when the tide turned on beauty contests..

JULY 2023

Date:Monday 10th July, 7.30pm
Topic: Aorere Gold
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speaker:: Mike Johnston.

Info: Mike will detail the early history of the gold fields of Golden Bay.


Date:Monday 14th August, 7.30pm
Topic: “Are You Being Served?”
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speakers:: Heather Thomas.

Info: How Kiwis shop is very different from when the Glasson brothers opened their first store in Christchurch over 100 years ago. When Heather Thomas began documenting this national chain’s Nelson link, she realised her story was bigger than collecting anecdotes from the family archives. By telling tales of the early years of Glasson’s Nelson branch, Heather will show how retailing - and our community - has changed over the years, yet she maintains we as customers still want the same things – honesty, reliability and excellent customer service.


Date:Monday 11th September, 7.30pm
Topic: A
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speakers:: .

Info: .


Date:Monday 9th October, 7.30pm
Topic: Annual James Jenkins Lecture PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speakers:: .

Info: .


Date:Monday 13th November, 7.30pm
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speakers:: .

Info: .

Brief summary of Past Meetings with associated Resources

MARCH 2023

Date:Monday 13th March, 7.30pm
Topic: Finding the Reays
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speaker:: Warwick Johnston.

Info: Unravel the myths, legends and stories around the Reays – Charles Lucas, first Minister of the Anglican Church in Nelson, and his wife Marianne, architectural designer of St. John’s Anglican Church in Wakefield. Who were they, what family did they have, what was it like to be a Missionary couple between 1842 and 1848, and where did they die and where were they buried? But above all, what myths can we now lay to rest?


Date:Monday 13th February, 7.30pm
Topic: Cawthron Institute -- Then and Now
PlaceSt Stephens Church Hall - Tahunanui Drive - opposite McDonalds
Speaker:: Joy Oakly and Dr Sam Murray.

Info: Nelson’s Cawthron Institute was established over 100 years ago thanks to a generous bequest by local businessman and philanthropist Thomas Cawthron. Looking to science as the key to future prosperity for our region, his legacy has endured and evolved into Cawthron Institute now being New Zealand’s largest independent science research organisation. Joy Oakly, one of the institute’s longest serving staff members, and marine chemist Dr Sam Murray will share the organisation’s journey and provide a glimpse of the world-class science it’s now engaged in to protect the environment and support the sustainable development of primary industries in the marine and freshwater space.


Date:details have been notified
Topic: Members ONLY Christmas Function.


Topic: People-Place-Story: DOC's role in heritage in Te Tau Ihu
Speaker:: Nicholas Hall, Kaitohu Matua Taonga Tuku Iho - Senior Heritage Advisor, Te papa Atawhai - Department of Conservation.

Info: Nicholas Hall is an archaeologist with expertise in the management of heritage sites, in particular cultural landscapes. He has worked at key heritage sites around the World, including in Uluru and Kakadu Australia, Vanuatu, Indonesia, Rapa Nui - Easter Island and the Angkor World Heritage Site in Cambodia. Nicholas is currently living in Whakatu Nelson, advising The Department of Conservation on its heritage management approaches and diving headlong into the history and heritage of Ta Tau Ihu. This talk looked at DOC's approach to heritage sites and present some of the challenges facing the understanding, management and protection of our local and regional heritage places.


Topic: The Tyree Photographic Legacy
Speaker:: Darryl Gallagher, Senior Curator Photography, Nelson Provincial Museum

Info: Nelson Provincial Museum’s Tyree Studio collection, mostly photographic negatives on plates of glass, is an invaluable and nationally significant photographic record. Owing to the entrepreneurial William Tyree, the intrepid Fred Tyree, the custodian extraordinaire Rosaline Frank and a list of pioneer Nelson photographers that came before them, this collection captures an unparalleled depiction of Nelson and Tasman society from soon after European settlement until after World War II. For this talk Darryl presented a history of this collection accompanied by images from the Nelson Provincial Museum’s collections.


Topic: Genealogical Conundrums in the Marsden Family Story
Speaker:: Judith Fitchett, member of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists Nelson Branch

Info: Over the last ten years, Judith has had an absorbing time researching the lives and final resting place of European settlers in Nelson. In 2020 in preparation for the annual cemetery tour, she explored the St Barnabas Churchyard in Stoke. As a result, Judith chose to research the Marsden family as if they were her own family, using the genealogical resources with which she was familiar. A ten-minute spot on a cold windy afternoon did not do justice to this early family so Judith and Cheryl are delighted to have the opportunity to present their research again – this time with more graphics, detail and comfort.


Topic: The Prow: past, present and future.
Speakers:: Nicola Harwood, Team Leader Community & Heritage, Nelson Public Libraries

Info: The Prow captures the region’s history through its stories. The website, a collaborative project managed by Nelson Public, Tasman and Marlborough District Libraries is now over 10 years old and has its own history. This presentation will give an overview of the site, what is on it, future plans, cover how you can contribute and look at some of our favourite stories.

JULY 2022

Topic: In Pursuit of Hoppiness: The History of Hop Production in Aotearoa NZ
Speakers:: Dr Ron Beatson, Principal Scientist (now retired), Plant & Food Research, Motueka

Info: Hops were introduced to New Zealand by the early European settlers. As hops are a perishable product, they were initially grown in many regions of New Zealand near local breweries. Hop growing became more centralised in the Nelson-Tasman region in the 20th Century, mainly due to favourable climate and soils, coupled with advancements in processing and transport, ensuring a high-quality product for all breweries. Over time, hop production has changed from a cottage industry supplying domestic breweries, to an expanding high value export market. Research and development has played a significant role in the success of the New Zealand hop industry which Ron will discuss.

JUNE 2022

Topic: Saloniste Extraordinaire: Frederic Maeder
Speakers:: Dr Jackie Cook

Info: As Nelson's economy swung back into life at the end of World War Two, one of the first big events in the local beauty industry was a display of the latest styles and techniques in hair-dressing and cosmetics, sponsored by Salon Maeder of Trafalgar Street. There was a chain of Maeder Salons across New Zealand and Australia, an enterprise busily expanding into beauty products, through a co-venture with Rosaline cosmetics - manufacturing in Petone. So who was salon owner 'Freddie' Maeder? How did he acquire, and micro-manage, his large network of salons, across two countries, in the 1930s? How did he so successfully re-invent himself, from his arrival and rapid 1920s rise as a 'French' hairdresser in Adelaide, to become a US-linked 1940s entrepreneur, and Swiss Consul to Australia?

MAY 2022

Topic: The dairies of Sarah Fowler: A young woman's impressions of early settler life in New Zealand.
Speakers:: Stewart and Cynthia Fowler

Info: Together with her parents and siblings, 14-year-old Sarah Fowler left a small English village and arrived in New Zealand in February 1843 on board the Indus. She and her family embarked on a new life in Riwaka and Nelson. The speakers shared some interesting excerpts from Sarah’s recently transcribed diaries that she wrote prior to her marriage.

APRIL 2022

Topic: The photo on the wall: the search for a missing World War Two airman.
Speakers:: Wendy St John [author] and Carol Dawber [River Press Publishers]

Info: RNZAF pilot Edward Saywell was shot down over Germany in 1943. This talk was based on a book that traces the search for where the plane crashed and answers as to where Edward might be buried.

MARCH 2022

Topic: Grocery Boy to Supermarket Owner/Operator - looks back.
Speakers:: Melvyn [Mel] Courtney

Info: Born and educated in Christchurch, Mel Courtney was awarded a Food Retailing Scholarship from Foodstuff Christchurch Ltd. one week after his 21st birthday. He was the youngest to attain the scholarship and gained the highest marks ever, thus enabling him open his first grocery store in Springs Road, Christchurch. Five years later Mel moved to Nelson to connect with his roots, which began with his grandparents Humphrey (Fred) and Elizabeth Courtney who lived at Glenhope. Fred was an engine driver and drove the train from Glenhope to Nelson. After opening his first Nelson supermarket at the corner of New Street and Trafalgar Street, he went on to open supermarkets at Richmond Mall, Atawhai, Stoke and Montgomery Square. Mel recalled the many changes in grocery shopping over the years.


Topic: Ten Minute Tales – Preserving the Past.
Speakers:: Five of our members stepped up to the mic and shared a diverse range of stories with a theme of ‘preserving the past’ - ranging from discovering intriguing back stories and books, to lucky rescues.

Info: • Alec Woods – Nelson’s First Cookbook? – How to pickle your grayling • Jackie Cook - 'Exploring imagination: Nelson caves and a New Zealand Fairyland. The work of Mis E. C. Harris and Mrs Ambrose E. Moore.' • Yolanda Persico – The Damned Nelson Railway – Micky Mouse Train to Nowhere! • Warwick Johnston – ‘Hey Mister, What’s in that Skip?’ • Julie Catchpole - Back stories: Nelson City Centre ArtWalk - Three 19th century images from the ArtWalk and their histories.


Topic: Blackball and Paparoa Trail.

Info: In May 2021 the speaker walked four days on the Paparoa trail, New Zealand's latest 'Great Walk'. However, this talk is mostly about the historic town of Blackball and how its history and character was shaped by several notable individuals - some with links to Nelson. Nelson ophthalmologist and mountaineer John McKinnon has a long connection with Nepal and for many years, with his wife Diane, ran a Nepal trekking company called Footprints Tours.


Topic: Gone and Not Quite Forgotten.
Speakers:Peter Millward

Info: It’s easy to recall names and deeds of those who served in WW1 and WW2 but not so simple to find details of those who served in South Africa during the Second Boer War or served as part of the Merchant Navy in WW1. Following on from their research into Nelson's contribution to WW1 Mike Carnahan and Peter Millward focused on these two sub groups in an effort to consolidate the names, service and family histories. Peter outlined the process he and Mike used and told some tales of those involved. He brought along the lists of names as they stand at the moment.


Topic: Ten Minute Tales - Preserving the Past.
Info: Alec Woods – Nelson’s First Cookbook? – How to pickle your grayling
Gail Collingwood – Past, Present and Protecting the Future - Have you thought about the future of your collections and treasures?
Yolanda Persico – The Damned Nelson Railway – Mickey Mouse Train to Nowhere!
Warwick Johnston – ‘Hey Mister, What’s in that Skip?’
Julie Catchpole - Back stories: Nelson City Centre ArtWalk - Three 19th century images from the ArtWalk and their histories. The ArtWalk is a joint make/Shift Spaces and Suter Art Gallery project- where 27 images of artworks from The Suter’s collection have gone up on city walls- artworks that tell stories of the Nelson-Tasman region’s people, places and histories.


Topic: Sergeant John Nash, NZ Police Officer No 1.
Speaker:Colin Feslier - great grandson of Sergeant John Nash, the first non-commissioned officer in the New Zealand Police Force, on its formation, giving him the police number ‘one’. Colin outlined his process of researching his family history based on the life and times of John Nash.

JULY 2021

Topic: F N Jones Jnr, photographer
Speakers:Darryl Gallagher, Senior Curator Photography, Nelson Provincial Museum

Info:Fredrick Nelson Jones, also known as ‘Pompey’, was a talented and energetic outdoors photographer in the early twentieth century in Nelson and the legacy of his photographic collection gives us invaluable insights into the social lives of our forebears. He also established Coney Park and Pixietown, animated entertainments which were popular for many years. Darryl illustrated his talk about Pompey with many images from Nelson Provincial Museum’s photographic collection.

JUNE 2021

Topic: AGM followed by The Quaker Community in Nelson – their story.
Speaker: A group from Nelson’s Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) presented their story through the embroidery panels created by Patricia Morissey and Lizi McLeod- Taepa, with stitches supplied by a wide group of Friends

Info– The Religious Society of Friends was forged in civil war in England and founded by George Fox in the seventeenth century. Three Quakers arrived in Nelson in 1842 as part of the New Zealand Company's settlement under Arthur Wakefield: Frederick Tuckett, Samuel Stephens and John Sylvanus Cotterell. All were surveyors with a keen interest in the new colony and in forming positive relationships with Maori. They were soon joined by Samuel and Martha Strong and Isaac Mason Hill. Surveyors John Cotterell and Frederick Tuckett were caught up in the Wairau Affray and Cotterell was killed. Friends in England purchased his cottage and it became the first Quaker Meeting House in New Zealand. The site is still there, with a small graveyard in one corner and it is maintained as a Quiet Garden by Nelson City Council.


Date: Monday 7 April 2021
Topic: History of Queen's Gardens revealed
Speaker: Nelson Historical Society Members
Info:Good numbers of family and friends came to see enactments of historical events and people associated with the gardens. This is part of the NELSON HERITAGE FESTIVAL that was postponed from 2020. Despite unpromising forecasts the afternoon clearted and remained warm and dry.

MAY 2021

Topic: Making the Tenths Whole -- Wakatū Incorporation and the Nelson Tenths and Occupation Reserves.
Speaker: Kerensa Johnston, Tumu Whakarae (CEO) Wakatū Incorporation.

Info– Kerensa provided an overview of Wakatū Incorporation including Te Pae Tawhiti, a 500 year intergenerational vision. She also discussed the history and background of the Nelson Tenths and Occupation Reserves, including the 2017 Supreme Court decision, and ongoing efforts to make the Nelson Tenths whole.

APRIL 2021

Date: 18 April 2021
Topic: Regional War Memorial Field Trip
Speaker: Ken Wright lead this tour for Society Members
Info:We travelled Tahunanui to Kohatu, then worked our way down the Motueka Valley to Moutere, Motueka, Riwaka and Tasman. Some stops were viewed from the bus to allow us to cover them all. Notes were prepared for the trip.

MARCH 2021

Topic: ‘Tableland’ – the history behind Mt Arthur Kahurangi National Park
Speaker: Ray Salisbury

Info– Tableland is the story of the area behind Mt Arthur on the eastern side of Kahurangi National Park, and of the explorers, graziers, miners, hunters and trampers, as well as many others who lived and worked in this much loved area of backcountry. Ray has many anecdotes arising from his research and illustrated his talk with historical material and some spectacular photos.


Date: Monday, 8 February 2021
Topic: ‘Into the Unknown’ – the secret WW1 Diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford No25/469
Speaker: Author Ian Trafford, Nelson-Tasman resident and grandson of the diarist

Info“If this is war, then let there be no more.” Alick Trafford was just 22 when he left a remote New Zealand farm to join his little brother fighting in World War One. He kept a secret diary throughout.
Ian’s father saved the diaries against Alick’s wishes and Ian reshaped the diaries into a gripping narrative, "Into the Unknown", released in 2020.
Alick’s words are raw and authentic, revealing the emotions of an ordinary soldier – no punches pulled, no subject sacred. In this talk Ian will share how he grappled with some of the complex moral dilemmas which shouted from almost every page. The tale was too personal to intrude upon but too good to be destroyed. In Alick’s own words, the story was ‘dynamite’.


Date:Sunday 21 February 2021
Topic: Wakapuaka Restored - a mini field trip Speakers: Brian McIntyre, Yolanda Persico and Rosemary Venner Topic: A tour of a selection of restored headstones and the memories they honour. Brian McIntyre and some of his A Team of volunteers lead us on a tour of a portion of this lovingly restored cemetery revealing their motivation, methods and stories discovered along the way, with additional insights by Rosemary Venner and Yolanda Persico.


Date: Monday, 9 November 2020
Topic: The Power of the purse: Women and money
Speaker: Dr Barbara Brookes, MNZM Professor Emerita, History, University of Otago.

Info:Women, declared the Nelson Evening Mail in 1936, were the best hop pickers, 'on account of their nimbleness in handling the hops’. Most of the 3000 workers carrying out this seasonal work were women who were paid 3d per bushel. If they were good enough, they might average about a third of the average wage weekly.
Money, apparently, has no sex yet historically it has been allocated by gender, as activist Sonja Davies highlighted in her campaign to get a wage for women at home caring for children. This lecture examined some of the gendered assumptions about money over the twentieth century and their implications for women’s lives.

Barbara Brookes is a historian whose research, writing and teaching have contributed significantly to new perspectives on women’s history. She has explored a range of topics to do with women, work, health and caring in imaginative ways. Consistently, however, she has placed women at the centre of her research. Her 2016 a History of New Zealand Women, won the Ockham Award for best illustrated non-fiction.


Date: Monday, 12 October 2020
Topic: Didn't Go, Couldn't Go, Wouldn't Go
Speaker: Peter Millward

Info:Peter shared some stories of the several thousand men of Nelson Province who appear not to have served in World War One. These stories illustrate the circumstances around their choices and the ‘at home’ stories of their families at the time.


Date: Monday, 14 September 2020
Topic: Ten Minute Tales - Strange but True.
Speaker: several Society Members

Info:Several society members shared with us intriguing Nelson-related stories. These included 'Connections and Coincidences' - Yolanda Persico revealed how her research into a person named on a postcard led to a War and Peace sized story; 'Missing Matilda Eliza', a whodunnit in which Jackie Cook searched for a murderer in a wedding photo; 'The Secrets She Kept' - Daphne Hunter on the lies told to get entry to New Zealand in 1842; 'The Men Who Came to Visit Us' - Heather Thomas reminisced about delivery men in the 1950s, with a futuristic twist; and 'Shake, Rattle and Roll' - A new dance craze or Pandora’s story coming out of the box? Debbie Daniell-Smith discussed blatant media manipulation of the 1800s.


Date: Monday, 10 August 2020
Topic: Maitai Valley oral histories and the floods of 1970.
Speaker: Jacquetta bell and Mac Crampton
Info:Jacquetta interviewed former residents in their own words for a Nelson City Council Oral History Project. She introduced some of these stories and talked with former City Engineer Mac Crampton, on this, the 50th anniversary of the huge floods of August 1970.

JULY 2020

Date: Monday, 13 July 2020
Topic: AGM followed by 'Colonial Families in Motion'
Speaker: Sue McCliskie

Info:Sue introduced her PhD research on New Zealand Company emigrant families who arrived in Nelson in the early 1840s, and shared some surprising stories about their diverse and mobile lives.

APRIL 2020

Date: Monday, 13 April 2020, POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19
Topic: "Didn't go, Couldn't go, Wouldn't go"
Speaker: Peter Millward

MARCH 2020

Date: Monday, 9 March 2020
Topic: James Crowe Richmond and his Historic Nelson Home.
Place: St Mary’s Parish Centre, 18 Manuka St Nelson
Speaker: Alan Winwood

Info:Alan spoke about the life of JC Richmond and the restoration work done to his former home where Alan now lives. The talk will covered the house itself, the alteration and restoration work done during the last 80 years, as well as the life of JC Richmond.


Date: Monday, 10 February 2020
Topic: Keeping in the Picture - Saving Nelson Theatres
Place: St Mary’s Parish Centre, 18 Manuka St Nelson
Speaker: Mark Christiensen

Info:In 1992 Mark initiated the project to redevelop the 1936 State Cinema building into a modern multiplex cinema. His work with the Nelson Historic Theatre Trust to save the Theatre Royal, and the revival of the Nelson School of Music have given him more experiences with the challenges of saving heritage buildings so they can live on to provide a focus for arts and culture in Nelson. Mark shared some of those stories and some of his passion for cinema.


Speaker: Hilary and John Mitchell

Info:Hilary and John spoke about the significance of local historical societies as demonstrated by their pursuit of the story of Isaac Coates.

November 2019


October 2019

Topic: Pioneering on the Waimea Plains
Speaker: Mary Ellen O’Connor, author of "Labour, Faith and Favour", which recounted the influences and experiences of early settlers in Appleby and Waimea West. Her book covers several generations of the O'Connor and McPadden families and the influence of farming, the church and the ever-present Waimea River in establishing a 170-year legacy in the Appleby and Waimea West area. The challenges posed by poverty, swampy land, a fluctuating economy, evolving technology and urban expansion were overcome with hard work and strong social networks. Mary Ellen’s book is available for purchase $30.00

September 2019

Topic: On Ya Skates!
Speaker: Heather Thomas. Roll along to discover what a beach, a gymnasium, a school and aircraft hangar have in common. Heather was keen skater and foundation member of the Nelson Amateur Roller Skating Club, formed in 1954 and has many stories to tell about the fun and games of those early years. Roller skating has been a social sport ever since J.L.Plimpton produced the first guideable four-wheeled skates in America in the 1860s. His skates are credited with starting the first ‘roller skating craze’ and gentlemen of the day enjoyed being able to ‘show off for the ladies by doing fancy figures, steps and turns.’ By 1888, Nelson had three rinks, including one in Takaka, and these places were probably the first opportunity for both men and women to participate together in a sports activity. Skating became popular again in the 1950s with the hundreds of children donning the old clip-on skates with metal wheels. Nelson Amateur Roller Skating Club began in 1954, and Heather Thomas was there. Sixty-five years later, Heather shared her memories of those early days, when skates had two wheels front and back, there were no teaching manuals, and the girls’ skirts were scandalously worn just above the knee!

August 2019

Topic: 90th Anniversary Murchison Earthquake.
Speaker: Judy Peacock Museum volunteer and local historian

Info: 90 years ago the small township of Murchison, between Nelson and the West Coast, was torn apart by New Zealand's third-deadliest earthquake on record. The scars remain on the land and in the hearts of those who have grown up in the shadow of the Magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which struck at 10.17am on 17 June, 1929. It was loud enough to be heard in New Plymouth, more than 250km away. It triggered landslides on the steep surrounding mountains that swept away homes and caused 14 of the 17 deaths

8 July 2019

Speaker: Jackie Cook and members of the Nelson STEM Writing Group discussed ways of ‘writing history’ through narrative fiction. How can creative fiction techniques help both re-create and question our lived past?

Topic: Re/Writing history – What can narrative fiction contribute to developing our engagement with local history?

10 June 2019

Speaker: Heather Thomas

Topic: AGM followed by a slice of life from 65 years ago.
Heather Thomas answers the question ‘Where were you when the Queen came to town? with a short film showing how we welcomed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to our city in January 1954.

13 May 2019

Speaker: Debbie Daniell-Smith facilitated a discussion between local planners and architects examining the role that the past and prtesent play to give the city life and character.

Topic: A City with a Past.

8 April 2019

Speaker: Annette Walker

Topic: ‘The Early, Small Ports, Landings and Jetties of Golden Bay and Tasman Bay’.
Annette’s talk wass about the little known ports and landings of the Nelson district most of which have disappeared. The presentation is based on the photo panels in the Port Mapua Maritime Museum and sourced mainly from the Turnbull Library, the Nelson Provincial Museum and private collections.

11 March 2019

Speaker: Jane McDonald

Topic: ‘How is the River – a Takaka Valley History”
Author Jane McDonald is descended from several of Nelson’s earliest families and her story covers five generations, drawing on invaluable archives giving an insight into the social and commercial worlds of Golden Bay settler. Jane talked about her research process and motivation for writing as well as the content and characters in the book.

11 February 2019

Speaker: Colleen Brown

Topic: ‘The Bulford Kiwi – the kiwi we left behind’.
‘The Bulford Kiwi – the kiwi we left behind’. Colleen Brown is the author of ‘The Bulford Kiwi – the kiwi we left behind’. The Bulford Kiwi is a 130m-tall chalk carving created by New Zealand soldiers at nearby Sling Camp who were awaiting repatriation following the end of World War I. Colleen told the story of her extensive research, including the links to a Nelson family’s precious war diaries and photographs. For further information see the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/commonwealthforces/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1508291805919213


Place: Nelson's Christ Church Cathedral
Topic: Come along and learn about the Cathedral history and development plans.

12 November 2018.

Speaker: Paul Bensemann

Topic: ‘Nelson’s “filthy Hun” – 75 years of German settlement up to Armistice Day’. ‘New Zealand’s first German immigrants arrived at Port Nelson in 1843, 175 years ago. Mapua historian Paul Bensemann has collected much colourful oral history about the highs and lows of German settlement, as well as information just released about local “enemy aliens” that was hidden for 100 years under the old Official Secrets Act.’


Date: Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Speaker: Professor Geoffrey Rice, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Canterbury

Topic: Professor Rice is best known for his detailed studies of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic (resulting in the books, Black November, published 1988 and 2005, and Black Flu 1918: the story of New Zealand’s worst public health disaster, published 2017). His lecture topic will discuss the impact on Nelson of the pandemic.

10 September 2018.

Speaker: Jane McDonald

Topic: Researching family diaries for her book 'How is the River', a Takaka Valley history centred on the Sparrow family

13 August 2018.

Speaker: Meredith Rimmer

Topic: Hidden treasures with Nelson Provincial Museum. Come enjoy an evening exploring the hidden treasures cared for by museum staff.
Join Collection Lead, Meredith Rimmer, as she brings her favourite objects out of storage and shares the stories that accompany them.

9 July 2018.

Speaker: NHS Members

Topic: Show and Tell. This session last year was so successful we’re doing it again. We’ll have 10 minute presentations by members on very eclectic topics. You’ll hear about ‘New Zealand Tokens’, ‘Settlement, Holes and Borer’, ‘An egg’s worth of tea’, ‘Best Laid Plans’, “Bullseye Founders’ and possibly more. Join us for a real potpourri of stories!

11 June 2018. Annual General Meeting

Speaker: Celia McKechnie, recently retired HOD History, Nelson College for Girls

Topic:‘Teaching history to today’s students’. Celia has recently retired from a career teaching History at Nelson College for Girls talked about her perspective on ways of engaging new generations to study history.

14 May 2018.

Speaker: Gail Collingwood

Topic: “Too hot to handle – a history of ironing”. Gail introduced us to her collection of vintage laundry and ironing implements and questioned why we do it?

9 April 2018.

Speakers: Hillary and John Mitchell

Topic: The New Zealand Company and Nelson’s Tenths Reserves. The New Zealand Company’s native policy was, for its time, a progressive one. But in practice, the company did not adhere to its own principles. This talk was a follow-up to a field trip about the Motueka Tenths Reserves with the Mitchells in 2017.

25 April 2018 - Heritage Festival event - Anzac Day

Venue: Wall of Remembrance - Founders Heritage Park
Topic: Honouring our WW1 Nurses
60 women with ties to the Province of Nelson served as nurses in WW1. Many of them would return after the war and take prominent roles in the region as they sought to put their normal lives back together. Ten Nurses died when the "Marquette" was sunk by a German torpedo [several Nelson nurses survived] but only one NZ nurse was killed on the Western Front in WW1, and her mother was Charlotte Greenwood of Motueka.
In this Suffrage 125 year it seems a fitting opportunity to acknowledge their service and their suffering. Their names are marked on the Wall of Remembrance at Founders Heritage Park with a special sticker. A well researched book [All Guts No Glory] telling their stories and those of the Chaplains of the Province will be available for sale on the day and author and researcher Cheryl Carnahan will be on hand to help bring their stories to life. The day is being supported by the Nelson Historical Society, the Nelson Branch of the NZ Genealogical Society and Nelson National Council of Women.

26 April 2018 - Heritage Festival event

Venue: Albion Square, Nelson (next to Queen's Gardens and Suter Art Gallery, between Bridge and Hardy Streets)
Topic: Ghosts of Albion Square: Government, Gangsters and Gadgets
Discover secrets, uncover mysteries, share stories, and re-live dramas surrounding the people, buildings and sites associated with our central city heritage precinct, Albion Square.
You'll learn about about the fate of the grand Nelson Provincial Government Buildings, the fire engine house that was used as a morgue for the Maungatapu murder victims, the oldest pillar post box still in continuous use, the former Hardy Street Girls School, the survey chain test, the trout hatchery, and much more.
In association with the Nelson City Council's Heritage Festival 2018.

April 2018 - Feild Trip

Date: Saturday 28 April 2018, date changed after the cyclone
Place: Feild Trip to West Golden Bay, including a stop at Golden Bay Museum to visit the Whalery
Topic: Puponga Coal and other industries

12 March 2018.

Speaker: Darryl Gallagher, Curator Photographic Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum

Topic: National Treasure: The Nelson Provincial Museum Photographic Collection, conservation, digitisation, and application.

12 February 2018.

Speaker: Gordon and Penny Taylor, with other members of Histrionics

Topic: Histrionics Theatre Group – Bringing history to life through theatrical dramatisations. You may have seen Histrionics at various events around the region throughout the WWI centennial and other heritage events. We’ll hear how the group came together, be treated to a short dramatization, and view a video clip highlighting the group’s education programmes.


Speaker: Sally Burton [artist] A floor talk by Sally about her newly opened historical art installation, Pale History, which explores the opposing sides of the Wairau Incident. On 17 June 1843, 22 Europeans and four Maori were killed when an armed party of New Zealand Company settlers from Nelson clashed with Ngāti Toa over the purchase of land in the Wairau Valley. The installation showcases life-size figures and paintings depicting the major players on both sides, alongside historical artefacts, documents and artworks related to the incident. This was the first significant armed conflict between Maori and British settlers after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

November 2017.

Date: Monday, 13 November 2017
Speaker: Gwyn Rees discussed the discovery of the sadly neglected Motueka memorial to South African (Boer) War soldier Len Tarrant, his research into Tarrant's life and medal, and the restoration and rededication of the memorial.

Topic: Trooper Leonard Tarrant and the rededication of the Tarrant War Memorial

14 October 2017 - SPECIAL EVENT

Place: Founders Heritage Park, Atawhai Drive, Nelson
Theme: Nelson’s Blackest Day: Passchendaele 12 October 1917

Presenters: The Nelson Historical Society and members Karen Price, Karen Stade, Peter and Myra Millward hosted a public information session and commemorative display at the Fernery (where the WWI commemorative wall is) about the Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917, the day on which Nelson and New Zealand suffered the highest number of fatalities during World War I - 43 in all.

9 October 2017

Speaker: Steve Bagley

Topic: Albion Square, Nelson: the historical seat of provincial government for the Nelson region, now a historic reserve.

11 September 2017

Topic: Members Show and Tell

Speakers: Several members gave short presentations about a variety of intriquing sounding topics. We heard about: Nelson’s Money – The Hardy Street Connection; My Criminal Past – Escapades of an Irish Criminal and Whaler; Tiny Treasures – a Miniature Mobile Memorial; A Short History of the Mouse Trap; Bullseye Founders – The Centre of it All; and Old Nelson: a Postcard History.

MAY Meeting Resource


Speaker: Peter Millward described the process he used in researching WW1 veterans buried at Stoke's Marsden Valley Cemetery and what it can help to tell us about the phases of the war. What started out as a project to map the RSA area expanded to encompass an even larger number of veterans buried elsewhere in the cemetery.
Download the database here.
Marsden Valley database

JULY Meeting Resource

Speakers: Peter Millward & Karen Stade

Topic: The speakers outlined the project that saw the transcription of the war diaries of Cyril Saunderson Spear made available for researchers. Cyril was a journalist for many years with the Nelson Evening Mail.
Download the diaries here.
Cyril Spear WW1 diary