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


Date: Saturday 10 April 2021
Topic: History of Queen's Gardens revealed
Speaker: Nelson Historical Society Members
Info:Come along with family and friends 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.

APRIL 2021

Date: 18 April 2021
Topic: Regional War Memorial Field Trip
Speaker: Ken Wright will lead this tour for Society Members
Info:Bookings will be required and details are as follows: Bus departs Trafalgar Centre 8am and returns there at 5pm. Additionakl pickup points at Green Meadows bus stop on Main Road Stoke and at the stop opposite Jubilee Park on Gladstone Road Richmond. We will travel Tahunanui to Kohatu, then work our way down the Motueka Valley to Moutere, Motueka, Riwaka and Tasman. Some stops will be viewed from the bus to allow us to cover them all. Notes will be prepared for the trip.
Bring your own lunch and drinks.
Cost $30 per head - members rate. If you have friends or family who wish to come on this trip please contact Ken Wright 5442690.
1. Internet banking to bank account - please include your name as reference along with the word ‘TRIP’ in the payee field. Westpac Bank - Account number 03 0703 0463554 00
2. By cash / cheque made out to Nelson Historical Society and included with form

MAY 2021

Date: Monday, 10 May 2021, 7.30pm
Place: St Stephens Church, Tahunanui Drive, (opposite McDonalds) Topic: Making the Tenths Whole -- Wakatū Incorporation and the Nelson Tenths and Occupation Reserves.
Speaker: Kerensa Johnston, Tumu Whakarae (CEO) Wakatū Incorporation.

Info– Kerensa will provide an overview of Wakatū Incorporation including Te Pae Tawhiti, a 500 year intergenerational vision. She will also discuss 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.


Date:TBC Monday 7 June 2021
Topic: History of Queen's Gardens revealed
Speaker: Nelson Historical Society Members
Info:Come along with family and friends to see enactments of historical events and people associated with the gardens. This event was part of the NELSON HERITAGE FESTIVAL that was postponed due to bad weather.

JUNE 2021

Date: Monday, 14 June 2021, 7.30pm
Place: St Stephens Church, Tahunanui Drive, (opposite McDonalds) Topic: AGM followed by The Quaker Community in Nelson – their story.
Speaker: A group from Nelson’s Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) present 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:postponed till 2021
Topic: Unpacking the Past: Past - a few favourites from the Broadgreen House Collections
Speakers: Mahina Marshall and Karen Richards
Place: TBC

Info:Broadgreen Historic House holds two unique collections – its domestic objects, art and furnishings, which are on display in the house, and a textile and clothing collection of over 3000 pieces, which is housed in a museum collection storeroom in the Broadgreen Centre. Mahina Marshall and Karen Richards will share the interesting details, provenance and mysteries of some of their favourite nineteenth century textiles items and some special objects from the house.

Brief summary of Past Meetings with associated Resources

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