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

2019 Jeff Newport Memorial Essay Prize

Congratulations to last year's winners.

Entries for the 2019 competition are now open. Check the website for the updated competition guidelines, entry form and checklist.
Download the poster here.
Jeff Newport Poster 2019 Jeff Newport Entry Form 2019

Further information on future meetings

May 2019

Date: Monday, 13 May 2019, 7.30pm
Place: Nelson Masonic Hall, 109 Nile Street (next to Prince Albert Hotel)
Speaker: Debbie Daniell-Smith will facilitate 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.

June 2019

Date: Monday, 10 June 2019, 7.30pm
Place: Nelson Masonic Hall, 109 Nile Street (next to Prince Albert Hotel)
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.

July 2019

Date: Monday, 8 July 2019, 7.30pm
Place: Nelson Masonic Hall, 109 Nile Street (next to Prince Albert Hotel)
Speaker: Jackie Cook and members of the Nelson STEM Writing Group will discuss 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?

Brief summary of Past Meetings with associated Resources

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