Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Disastrous Fire on Colombo Street, Christchurch 1866

My ancestor William Pearce who was an Inspector of Nuisances gave evidence in a case of a disasterous fire on Colombo Street, Christchurch.  He was 25 years old at the time and was helping the owner of the billiard room that caught on fire to close up!  This is a great article which shows the kind of things that happened in the Christchurch of 1866.  Fires were common.  

The Lyttelton Times 16 November 1866

At a quarter-past one on Tuesday morning, the 5th inst,, a fire broke out in Colombo street, in the premises occupied by Mr. G. H. Roach, tobacconist, contiguous to the brick building known as Colombo House. Before the alarm was given the fire had taken such hold of the adjoining buildings that it was at once apparent that the block comprising the buildings up to Armagh street, and including Mr. Tre'eaven's flour store, and the Golden Fleece Hotel were doomed beyond hope of any action on the part of the Fire Brigade.

Behind the buildings which we have named, and extending for a considerable distance were ranges of stables and other outbuildings which were very soon on fire.
It was about twenty minutes after the alarm was given before the Fire Brigade showed in any force, and at least twenty minutes more before an engine was on the ground. By this time it was evident that nothing could be done beyond saving those buildings which lay to the south of Cookham House, and preventing the fire from spreading to the other side of the street, which, at one time seemed very likely, from the fierceness with which it raged, and the direction which it was dreaded the wind might take.

It was thought, at one time, that Cookham House might be saved, and if a timely supply of water had been at hand, such might have been the case. As soon as the Fire Brigade had got their engines into proper working order they directed their efforts chiefly to prevent the further spread of the fire, it being evident that it was impossible to save those buildings on which it had already taken hold. In a very short time the whole of the block as far as Armagh street was hopelessly under the mastery of the flames, and the Golden Fleece burned so rapidly as to leave the inmates but scant time to save themselves. By this time a large crowd had collected in the street, and the work of removing all that could be readily come at from the buildings threatened was carried on by willing hands with astonishing alacrity. The fire having been reduced within a certain limit, and the attention of the brigade concentrated, it was found that the chief danger to be apprehended arose from a store to the rear of and in connection with Cookham House, which burned fiercely and long, and threatened to carry the fire to a range of stabling and other outbuildings in close proximity. At the height of the fire, and while the front part of the buildings we have already mentioned were burning fiercely, it was feared that Mr. Alport's store, the premises of Messrs. Cook and Ross, and those of Mr. Leake, the former on the opposite side of Armagh-street to the Golden Fleece and the latter on the south side of Colombo-street, would catch fire, and the attention of the Fire Brigade was directed to these buildings in time to save them.
The necessarily hurried and unavoidably incomplete report of the fire furnished above requires to be supplemented and corrected by the fuller information we have since obtained, and which, in the midst of the excitement created by a great public danger, it was impossible to collect. The story of the fire is substantially, and in its main features, such as we have already given, but we are now in a position to estimate the loss more fully, and to add somewhat to the narrative.
Although it may be impossible to ascertain exactly where and how the fire originated, it is certain that flames were first noticed at the rear of the premises occupied by Mr. Roach, the tobacconist, and it is safe to assume that in the billiard-room, attached to, and forming part of the premises, or very near it, tlie fire began. The first alarm was given about a quarter-past one, but by whom has not been very clearly made out, there being, as in most cises of the sort, very conflicting statements with regard to this point. It was reported that the fire-bell could not be found; and it was assumed that in accordance with a resolution recently come to by the City Council for supplying an alarm gong, that the bell had been removed from its old place. From information which we have since obtained, we believe this to be incorrect. The fire-bell was and is in its old place, and was rung for a short time after the alarm was given. The rope attached to it soon gave way, however, and the warning was continued by the ringing of the bell in the yard belonging to the City Council.
As already stated in the report given above, it was about twenty minutes before the Fire Brigade mustered in any force, and from fifteen to twenty minutes more before the engines were got to work. By this time the block of buildings from Cookham House northward to Armagh street, including Mr. Roach's shop, the stores of Messrs.Treleaven, Hicks, and Baylee, and the Golden Fleece Hotel, which were all built of wood, were so fully in the grasp of the fire as to be past all efforts of the Fire Brigade, and for a time the most strenuous efforts were directed to Cookham House, the property of Mr. George Gould. Being a brick and slate building, it was hoped that the copious supplies of water which the steam fire engine was throwing from the river would yet save it. Such, however, was not the case, for the fire, which had spread northward and eastward with astonishing rapidity, seized on Cookham House with a fury which it was hopeless to strive against, bo far as the safety of the building was concerned. The attention of a portion of the brigade was then concentrated in order to prevent the fire spreading further to the southward, whi'e another portion directed a jet of water on the premises of Messrs. Cook and Ross, Mr. Leake, and Mr. Mummery, on the opposite side of Colombo street, and a third section devoted their attention to Mr. Alport's premises, the scorched front of which shows how narrowly they escaped.
It was about this time that a few volunteers from the immense crowd which had now assembled began to prepare for pulling down the premises occupied by Mr. Lane, butcher, end which are separated from Cnokham House by the store of Mr Jameson. which was in imminent danger during the latter part of the fire. Had it not been for the narrow lane dividing Mr. Jameson's store from Cookham House, and for the immense quantities of water thrown on to the building, the fire must have spread southward, and destroyel the whole block as far as, Gloucester street, or to Mr. Gee's corner. So certain did the occupants of the stores in this part of the street feel that the fire would reach them, that they had made every preparation, by removing those article which were the most easily lifted, or on whioh they set most value.
While the fire continued to rage fiercely there were not wanting willing volunteers, who saved as much property from the burning buildings as they could reach, often placing themselves in great danger. A considerable portion of the goods were removed from Cookham House; a few of Mr. Roach's light articles were taken safely out, and from Mr. Treleaven's store a quantity of flour was carried. Messrs Hicks and Baylee did not save much, nor was there time io get more than a few things out of the Golden Fleece. The principal part of the goods destroyed, and which belonged to Mr. Gould were in a large brick store to the rear of and attached to Cookham House. Only a very few cases were got out during the early part of the fire, and this building continued to send forth flames long after the main block was a mere heap of smouldering ruins. In pouring a constant supply of water on the burning mass inside this store and in directing a jet to the buildings close to it on the south side, the Fire Brigade prevented the further spread of the fire.

It was reported at one time that a man had perished in the fearful blaze in which the Golden Fleece was so rapidly and so completely swallowed up. Such, we are happy to say, is not the case.. But this man had undoubtedly a very narrow escape. He had come into town from Leeston about 12 o'clock, having conveyed a friend thence to the hospital. After taking some refreshment, in the Golden Fleece he retired; he was shown to a bed in a room just over the door, and in the upper story of the house. Being very tired, he fell at once into a deep sleep and did not awake when called, or awoke so slightly as to be insensible of the great danger in which he was. It was not till he received a severe blow from a falling rafter that he became conscious of his position.  Jumping up, he at once made for the window, from which he let himself down. He was caught in the arms of two or three policemen, the scanty clothing which he had on being on fire, wrapped carefully up in an overcoat, and conveyed to Mr, Alport's store. It may be truly said that he escaped with hardly a rag on his back.

We have mentioned that the premises of Messrs. Cook and Ross, chemists, and those adjoining were in imminent danger at one period, and saved only from a jet of water having been directed on them, at a critical moment. That such was the case, may be judged from the fact that in the fine plate glass front of Messrs. Cook and Ross' establishment there is not now one entire pane, The whole has been cracked by the sudden contact with water after the intense heat to which it was exposed, and now presents an appearance which bears a grotesque resemblance to a piece of Mosaic work, Another fact with regard to Messrs. Cook and Ross' establishment shows the very narrow escape it had. The stoppers in almost every one of the bottles in the front part of the building were found to have jumped out, while the heat inside was so intense at one time as to render it next to impossible for any one to remain long there. When daylight came and showed the extent of the damage which had been done, it showed also the more fearful calamity which had providentially been averted. The footpath on the western side of that portion .of Colombo street which extends from Gloucester to Armagh street was densely packed with a most heterogeneous mass of articles, which had been removed from the buildings on the opposite side.. Cookham House, although it may be said to be gutted, has stood ont bravely, and to its being built of brick must be attributed the success with which the gallant efforts of the Fire Brigade and those who assisted them were rewarded in stopping the southward progress of the fire. Fortunately there was little or no wind. It is worthy of record, however, that a sharp south-west gale, which suddenly sprung up between eleven and twelve o'clock, had been blowing with its usual violence not half an hour before the fire broke out. It died away as suddenly as it had arisen, and when the alarm was given, there was nothing more than a very gentle breeze from the west. While considering it our duty to record the fact that a certain space of time elapsed before the Fire Brigade mustered in force, and before the engines were got thoroughly to work, we deem it no less our duty to award them, collectively and individually, very high praise for the fearless energy with which they worked, and the successful efforts they made to prevent the fire from extending. For the credit as well as future usefulness of the brigade, it is necessary that we should state an impression which very strongly prevailed during the fire, and which was widely repeated afterwards by those who were eyewitnesses of the scene. It is that there was a want of united action, and an absence of some controlling power to direct their efforts. It seemed as if every man acted on his own judgment, and however praiseworthy the actual work done by the various sections into which the brigade resolved itself was, it must be evident to every one, that unity of action in these cases, no less than promptitude and judicious handling, are absolutely necessary if the Fire Brigade is to do that which we have every reason to believe it capable of. We do not say this in any spirit of faultfinding, but in the belief that we are doing a service alike to the Brigade and the public, as well as discharging a duty which it would be criminal to shrink from. Three excuses for the tardy muster of the brigade are very obvious. The alarm was not well given; the hour was one at which it is difficult to arouse men from sleep; and there have been numerous false alarms and useless musterings of late. The Volunteers mustered on the ground in very considerable numbers, and were under the direction of Colonel White. They did good service in keeping back the crowd, and leaving a clear space for the operations of the Fire Brigade. The police, under the orders of Commissioner Shearman and Inspector Pender werefound wherever there was work for them to do, and were most active, both as guardians of the property thrown loose on the streets, and as assistants to those who strove so manfully to save what could be saved. There was, however, one instance, in which the over-zeal of some members of the force prevented property to some considerable extent being saved. Anxious that no lives should be lost, the police interfered, and put a stop to the further removal of goods from Mr. Gould's store at the rear of Cookham House, and this, too, at a moment when no immediate danger was to be apprehended. It is invidious to single out any one from the general body of those who were all animated by the laudable desire to save property, and to aid as far as they could the work of the Fire Brigade. But one gentleman was so conspicuous that we should be wrong in refraining to name him. Mr L. G. Cole stood for nearly an hour on the roof of Mr. Jameson's store, directing and guiding the members of the Fire Brigade in using the large hose with good effect. We noticed also Mr. Tom Fawcett, of the Theatre Royal; working vigorously in removing goods from the burning stores.

Mr. Gould is the heaviest sufferer. Cookham House, which may be said to be entirely destroyed, was valued at £5000, and the merchandise in it and the store adjoining, taken merely at cost price and charges, was worth £22,000, making in all £27,000. Mr. Gould was insured to the extent of £14,000 in the following offices—Northern, £2500; New Zealand, £2500; Imperial, £2500; Liverpool and London, £2500 London and Lancashire, £2000; North British and Mercantile, £2000. Mr. Roach's stock and buildings were insured for £500 and £700 respectively in the London and Lancashire. Messrs. Hicks and Baylee's stock was insured for £750 in the Royal. Mr. Treleaven's stock, the estimated value of which was from £600 to £700, was uninsured, as was also the store. Mr. Campion's stock was insured for £400 in the Victoria; and the building for £1,300 in the Liverpool, London, and Globe. He estimates his loss at £1000. Mr Jameson, whose store escaped, estimates his loss in goods at £300. Mr. Lane's shop, which is considerably damaged, is insured in the North British and Mercantile. To these must he added the loss sustained by Messrs. Cook and Ross, Altogether the total loss may be set down at about £35,000.
Before concluding, we feel it incumbent on us to draw the attention of the City Council to the very urgent necessity which exists for a Municipal Building Ordinance. It seems the very height of reckless folly to have neglected this importaint matter so long. In a town built almost entirely of wood, it is surely necessary to make some provision for a danger which is hourly threatening us, and to take some precaution for the preservation of life and property. Our streets, which are not one inch too wide, are allowed to be made practically some ten or twenty feet narrower by the practice which has become so common of erecting venndahs in front of the stores, the framewoik of which, in the majority of instances, is composed entirely of wood. Bakehouses, ovens, and furnaces are erected in close proximity to wooden buildings of the most fragile character, and without the slightest attempt at supervision. We could point to instances in which heaps of dry litter, loose hay and straw, and other readily ignited materials are lying close to places where a fire is a thing to be looked for at any moment.

If the members of the City Council will take the trouble to go round the principal streets of the town, and merely glance into the back premises of only a few of the houses, they will easily discover all that we have mentioned, and a great deal more. We advise them to pay a visit to the Triangle, as being the most thickly populated part of the town, feeling certain that they will be speedily convinced, of the absolute necessity for some such measure as we have indicated. The public, we feel sure, wil| not rest satisfied till a Building Ordinance has been passed. The Provincial Council is in session, and the Government, will, we are confident, lend their aid in passing a bill, the provisions of which, if properly enforced, will do much to render life and property more secure.
An inquiry into the origin of the fire was held on the 8th inst., at the Clarendon Hotel.

Dr. Coward, the coroner of the district, conducted the inquiry, Mr. Stringer being foreman of the jury. Messrs. Harper and Garrick attended to watch the proceedings on behalf of the different Insurance offices.

The following evidence was adduced:-
G. H, Roach: I am a tobacconist, residing in Christchurch. I left my premises, in Colombo street, at 10.30 on Monday night last. There was no one there at that hour. I had not been upstairs at that time. I left the house in company with a young man named Pearce. No one but us were in the house. I believe that the house was then quite safe. There were no candles or lighted fires on the premises, and the gas was turned off. I left the building, and went to Mr. Campion's, at the corner of the street, about 10,45, as nearly as possible.  I had a glass of ale at Mr. Campion's; Pearce and I left the bar in company. We went in the direction of the theatre.  Pearce then left me. I went to the theatre, and from thence into the Criterion Hotel, in company with a friend named Tucker. At the close of the performance at the theatre, I left. It was then nearly 20 minutes to 12. I went to the City Hotel, to see a friend there. I went subsequently to Mr. Campion's, where I was lodging. This was nearly 12 p.m. In the room where I was sleeping, there was a young man named Flynn. We had some conversation together. I went to bed. About 12 p.m. I fell asleep. I was awakened by Mr. Campion, who came into the room. He said "Roach, you are ruined." Campion then left the room. Flynn ran out, and returned saying, "The whole place is on fire!" A candle was lighted, and I dressed as soon as I could, and ran down stairs. I saw the shop and billiard-room rented by me on fire. I ran back to my bedroom at the hotel. I opened the door of the shop, to which I had returned, and found the whole place in flames. I succeeded in rescuing a glass case; some persons aided me. The flames were then so high that I was obliged to leave the shop. I heard some one say "Go and fetch a ladder." I went to Mr. Baylee, who resides in Kilmore street, and who has a shop next to that of Mr. Treleaven. I awoke him, and we returned to the premises. Mr. Baylee and another person returned with me. There was then no fire at his store, but I believe that the flames were then overhead. We removed some goods. I believe that Campion's premises were cleared of the wines and spirits. By this time the flames had spread to Armagh street. I tried to get at my boxes at Campion's, but was advised to desist, as the place was then on fire. The flames were then opposite to Mr, Alport's store. I did not go to the bedroom I went to Mr. Oram's, the Market-place Hotel, and went to bed for about two hours. Cross-examined by Mr. Garrick: I did not go to bed on that night earlier than usual.
In August last I increased my insurance to the extent of about £100. I had then made some additions to my stock. I had also added a billiard-room, and some other rooms. I have been in the province for two years and a half. My uncle, F. Roach, started me in business. I had £50 in cash belonging to me. F. Roach supplied stock to the amount of £500, for which I gave him bills, which have been paid. I believe that my liabilities amount to £250.
My stock at the time of the fire was about £750, invoice price. I have been very successful in raffles, having won a horse, and also some valuable articles. I sold the horse for £42; the other articles I made a profit by. I was doing a very fair business! I kept a stock-book, which has been lost in the fire. I thought that the stock-book was in my drawer; but in looking (or if I could not find it. I only found a ledger and a cheque-book. I lately removed my goods, taking some to Mr. Campion's, and some to Mr. Hick's store, to avoid them from being distrained upon. I also took some tobacco, cigars, and some furniture to Mr. Brice's premises. All the goods at Mr. Brice's were seized by the bailiffs, and taken to Mr. Alport's. The goods were afterwards released and given to me. Niemann, the carrier, brought them back to me. Within the last two months I have bought goods from Mr. Simpson, to the amount of £300. I have also bought a few more articles from some parties in Christchurch, and also in Dunedin.
When I went to Kilmore street to call Mr. Baylee, the shop was in flames. I could save nothing. I have lost all my clothes, and so has the young man who served in the shop. By Inspector Pender: The billiard-room at the back of my shop was a good sized one; it was lined with netting. The gas was turned off when I left. Several gentlemen were in the room on the evening. Some were smoking. I never left the bedroom at the Golden Fleece until Campion called me. The first part,of my-premises which I saw on fire was the billiard-room. I was not smoking myself. I believe that Mr. Needham was the last to leave my shop. I was then serving two customers with tobacco. I went into the billiard-room after the others had left.
By Mr. Harper: The whole premises were lighted by gas; there, were no candles burnng. Pearce was with me when I put out the gas.  By Mr. Garrick: I made out the claim for £5897s sd, which I, submitted to the Insurance Companies, from information I obtained from the persons with whom I dealt.  I have no documents to account for the exact figures. I cannot account for the odd shillings or pence. I shall be a loser by the fire. By the Jury: No one could have obtained access to the billiard-room after I had left.

Edward Needham: I am a teacher of writing. I live at Sydenham House, Colombo street. On Monday night I was retuming home from Armagh street. I called in at Roach's, and went into the billiard-room. This was about 11 p.m. I remained there about twenty minutes.  Roach told me that he was going to see a friend. I saw him put up some of the shutters. I was smoking whilst I was on the premises. I left about 11.20 p.m. I did not see him put out the lights. The billiard-room was lighted up when I left. Several persons were smoking and playing billiards. There was a box of matches in the billiard-room. I was the last person in the billiard-room with Roach. Two persons were served with tobacco, but they left before I did.  
William Pearce: I am the Inspector of Nuisances for the city of Christchurch. On Monday night I was in Roach's shop this was about 10.30 pm. When Roach closed the shop I went to see his billiard-room. After he had put out the lights, he struck a match, which I held, whilst he put out the gas. The match went out, and I lighted another. I was particularly cautious about the match, because I detected a smell of gas. I carried the second match in my hand until we reached the door. I then put it out. I walked with Roach as far as Campion's, and a little way down Colombo street again, and Gloucester street, as far as the theatre, where we parted. By Mr. Harper: I did not observe in what manner the front door was fastened. 

Henry Flynn: On the day of the fire I was at Campion's hotel. I was reading in bed until Roach came in. [The witness here corroborated the evidence of Kuacli with respect to the alarm of fire being given by Mr. Campion.J Roach fell asleep, and I awnkehiin.
By Inspector Pender: Roach was undressed and was sound asleep. No one could leave, our room without my knowledge. Roach went to bed about his usual time, it was a little past 1 a.m. when Campion came to our room.
John Mummery: I live in Colombo-street. On Tuesday morning I saw the fire, and immediately gave the alarm. No. 2 engine was out at the river in ten minutes after I first saw the glare of fire. I did not hear the bell. The engine was supplied with water within a few minutes after the alarm had been given.
Inspector Pender: On Tuesday morning last I was called by the constable on duty this was about 1.20 a.m. I went to Roach's premises; I saw that the place wa& on fire. No one was near the spot but myself. The fire was confined to the billiard-room, and had made no further progress, I shouted fire, and a cab-driver named Beattie came up. Mr. Hobbs also came. Mrs. Oakes lived close by. Not being able to make her hear me, I burst open the door. [Mr. Pender described the progress of the fire.] Beattie rendered every assistance in his power, but was obliged to leave the place where he was standing on account of the heat. I passed by Roach's late on Monday night, but saw no light burning, No further evidence being adduced, the Coroner briefly summed up. The foreman suggested that as the place was infested with rats, and it had been proved that matches had been kept in the billiard room, where the fire broke out, it was probable that, as it was a known fact that rats were in the habit of gnawing off the points of matches, and scattering them about, the fire was caused by this means. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that a fire had broken out on the premises of Mr. G. H. Roach, in Colombo street, on the morning of the 6th inst., but that there was no evidence to show how it originated.

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Schoolmaster on the Cashmere and a new genealogical discovery!

I have just made a discovery today which proves that just when you think you have completely finished the family tree, another discovery is made.  My ancestor William Pearce was a barrister's clerk in London.  He travelled to the port of Lyttelton, New Zealand on the Cashmere, arriving in 1859.

I decided to research the Cashmere for my new emigrant ship book "The Cashmere:  New Zealand Immigration Ship 1851-1863 and found many archives in Archives New Zealand for me to peruse sometime after the Christmas holidays.  I then noticed a document for a Mr Pierce who had done his duties as schoolmaster on board and was entitled to his gratuities.  I thought, well this is probably a different man, but after checking the passenger list I saw that my ancestor actually paid nothing to come to New Zealand and was the only man named Pierce/Pearce.  

The first time I found him on the passenger list about 10 years ago, I had no idea about things such as positions on a ship and that a person could work their passage out to New Zealand.  I was just stoked to confirm my ancestor's name on the passenger list, as I had about 10 William Pearce options.  William Pearce was a fairly common name.  He had an unusual occupation though, that of barrister's clerk, where most men at that time were agricultural labourers and other trades.  William came out by himself, leaving his family behind in England.  His wife Jane Pearce nee Fogden and three children remained in London. She worked as a shirt collar maker while her husband travelled many hundreds of miles to a new land for new opportunities.  

Anyway, the fact he paid nothing means that he was in fact working on board and was the schoolmaster, just with his name mispelt as Pierce.  There were no other men named Pierce or Pearce on board the ship.  William would have been fairly well educated in reading, writing and arithmetic to work as a barrister's clerk and this would have been the perfect job for him.  

He eventually sent for his family and, I think, paid their way to New Zealand.  It is almost impossible to say which ship they came on as they are in no passenger lists.  Was the separation worth it?  Almost definitely, as William had established himself in the Colony with good work and soon after Jane arrived, a new job as an Inspector of Nuisances for the local Council.

The find of new documents on my ancestor is exciting for me.  In the new year I'm going to get onto researching the Cashmere and see what else I can dig up on my ancestor William Pearce.  What do the documents hold that are tantilisingly close but yet so far away at the moment.  I have to wait until I have a babysitter and the Christmas shutdown has ended, and the public are allowed back into the archives.  Exciting!  It's almost as good as Christmas!

For my original post on William Pearce (which I've now updated) click here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sepia Saturday 207: An accommodation house and other photo mysteries

For Sepia Saturday this week one of the themes was "strange compositions" such as things in the way.  I chose this photo because there was a ladder on the side of the building and horses all in front.  They are kind of blocking the actual building.  Maybe they actually enhance the composition!  I even see a small person there who doesn't seem to be looking.
House taken by Chch photographer in German album

Since posting this a few months back I have received some information on what kind of building this could be.  There is a lamp in one corner with a ladder going up.  This lamp is a strong indicator that the photo is definitely of a hotel or accommodation house, (12 October 2014). This is what I wrote several months ago:

"This is a small, very faded photo, from colonial New Zealand which is unidentified.  It could be an old accommodation house (judging by the amount of horses outside), or maybe a homestead for one of the sheep runs, or a general run-of-the-mill farm house.  I am not an expert on colonial houses of this era, by the way but I'm guessing it is from about 1870s-1880s.  My ancestor Jabez Lord lived next to an accommodation house called Watson's Accommodation House on the West Coast Road (now called the Old West Coast Road), not far  from the Waimakariri River in Courtenay, Canterbury.  Whether it is this house, I can't say.  I also don't have a picture of Jabez's farmhouse in Courtenay.  The Courtenay area, however, was known as a desert with not many trees at all and mainly tussock and harakeke or just bare land.  Some tussocks were so high that children where tied to them by mothers while they were working, so they would not get lost!  This photo has no trees near it. Tick!  The fact all the horses are in front, could have been to show the wealth of the farmer.  Maybe this photo was sent back to relatives overseas who were much poorer?  I'm guessing and guessing again." 

"There is a twist in this story.  This photo was in a German photo album.  The album was likely brought out on the ship Sebastopol to New Zealand in 1863 and was filled with photos once in NZ.  I know it is German as it is coming apart, and inside the leather binding it is lined with ancient German newspapers.  My German ancestors lived on the opposite side of the Waimakariri River to the Lord family.  They lived a fairly humble life and I'm pretty sure never owned a place so big.  I do have a picture of their main family farmhouse and it is two storey.  They also lived away from the major accommodation houses."

"However it gets more confusing.  My German ancestor Karl Meng lost his first German wife and married English born widow, Sarah Potts who lived in Courtenay at one stage and knew my Lord ancestors.  She would have been near all the accommodation houses in the area - true icons - on the road that took men to the West Coast of the South Island, and the gold diggings.  Sarah married Karl in 1882 and I'm certain took over the family photo albums.  The German album has portraits sent from England, all unnamed, but likely belonging to Sarah." 

There are also portraits of people from Germany and the following photo of buildings:

German houses - unknown location

Does anyone recognise the style of these houses and where they may come from c. 1870s?

"The houses have a European appearance, but the photo doesn't belong to either of the villages my German ancestors came from.  We are not sure where it is situated as there is nothing on the back of the photo.  If anyone can shed light on the style of house and where it may come from, I would appreciate this.  There is snow on the ground, but the snow has already melted from the roofs.  The houses are far too tall and grand for the poor little villages that my ancestors escaped from, named Friedelsheim and Hohen-S├╝lzen, which I visited three years ago.  Many people used to live in one or two tiny rooms.  They also struggled to get enough food to survive.  They were desperate to escape to New Zealand, America, anywhere really!  Most of their houses were one level or sometimes two levels.  These have four levels and multiple chimneys as well.  Could they be a hospital or some other institution?  Or are they in a major city, or a suburb of wealth?

The composition is excellent in this photo but it is unclear what we are meant to be focusing on?  Is it a particular building or the snow itself, or just the general scene?  It seems the photographer has taken the photo from an upstairs window in another building as it seems to be looking down at the scene from a height.  Whatever it is trying to show, there is an echo of another mysterious land coming out of the photo, and I bet the sender had a fascinating story to go with it, which will now never be uncovered. 

The photos in the German photo album are amazing (I think) and I will post more in the future; a mix of different cultures and periods of time."

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The ship Cashmere: New Zealand Immigration Ship 1851-1863

Please buy my new book on the ship Cashmere which had many journeys to New Zealand filled with immigrants.  The book is available on Amazon or for Kiwis the cheapest way is to search for it on trademe where it will be available until all my copies are sold out.  I have spent many hours researching this ship and I'm sure the stories and diaries I have summarised will give you an interesting read.

The story of the ship Cashmere:

"The Cashmere was a fine clipper ship of 640 tons, a preferred vessel for travel from England to New Zealand in the 1850s.  She delivered many immigrants safely to Auckland, Lyttelton, Port Chalmers and Nelson from the Motherland.  During her career, the Cashmere came across undiscovered islands and left tragic and interesting stories in her wake.

Using ship diaries, official documents and newspapers of the day, the story of the Cashmere has now been told in full.  Includes passenger lists and passenger biographies and uncovers what it was like to travel on an immigrant ship."

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Sepia Saturday 206: A kind of an apron and a photo mystery!

I searched and searched for pictures of aprons for this weeks Sepia Saturday and I could only find two pictures!  I decided to go with the apron that is not really an apron.  You will understand when you see the picture.

The photo is of a mother and child, who may or may not be my relations, taken maybe around 1870s to 1880s.  The child has a kind of apron style dress on.  I have no idea who they are and it is frustrating.  Our beautiful Victorian photo album has no names in it, only those that could be identified by my great grandma and written on the backs of the photos by my Mum and myself.  About 60% of the people in the album have been identified now and they are all relations.  So are the remaining unidentified pictures just of friends?

Possibly Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer)2
This mother and child may have been identified in later photos but as we all know, people's looks change with age, added weight and hairstyles, which make it hard to identify them when they were younger.

If anyone can date it more accurately from just "1870s to 1880s" I'd love to hear your comments.

Anyway I posted a photo last week of Jabez Lord and his family with lovely moustaches on display.  Jabez died in 1924 and his wife Mary Ann Lord nee Spencer in 1896.  I thought it odd that we didn't have any photos of Mary Ann as she died quite late.  Then one day I was looking at a photo which had "Uncle Ellenberger" written on it.  I suddently realised that the face was not that of Uncle Ellenberger.  It just looked wrong or different.  This is the photo:
60_Possibly Jabez Lord & Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer)

 The man in this photo doesn't have a hat on, but if you imagine him with the same hat as my confirmed photo of Jabez, I'm sure it is the same man.  What do you think?

Jabez Lord close up 19_Jabez Lord Unconfirmed picture of Jabez Lord and a confirmed picture of Jabez in a hat.  Then a picture of Uncle Ellenberger with his wider face. What do you think?
 Jakob Nathanael Ellenberger
I am 99% sure the two photo are of the same man, Jabez Lord, with the man below being Uncle Ellenberger (the incorrect label on the photo).  Uncle Ellenberger's wife looks nothing like the woman in the photo.  The beard is longer in one photo than the other (easy to happen) and of course in one photo he has a hat on and the other he doesn't.  You have to remember that my great grandma was in her 80s when she identified the photos and it was 70 odd years since she had seen these men.
What other clues could I find.  Well the photo of the man and woman is more faded than most of the photos in the album, which suggests it has been in a frame on a mantelpiece at some stage, meaning probably close family members rather than extended family or friends.  

Now if this man is Jabez Lord then the woman sitting next to him must be his wife Mary Ann Lord nee Spencer.  This would be the only photo we have of her!

Then I looked at the picture of the younger lady thinking maybe it was Mary Ann when younger.  But if you compare the two closely, their features are different.  The woman I now think is Mary Ann has what looks like blue eyes (or the photo is actually faded) and the younger lady has darker coloured eyes.  The ears are different also.  The younger lady has a kink in her earlobe.  The hairline is also different and the hair.  The younger lady has flatter hair and a wider hairline, the older lady has curly hair and her hairline is narrower at her forehead.  So despite the similarities in the face shape, they are not the same.

I confirmed for myself that they are different ladies! 

Possibly Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer) cropped Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer)

This is the process that I go through with all my unidentified photos.  "Maybe that photo could be of this person when younger."  I then compare the two photos in minute detail to determine whether I am correct or incorrect.

An example of a photo that I identified by this process was of my ancestor Elise Meng.  My Mum wrote to relatives in  Germany in the early 1990s and received a photo back of Elise, taken in the 1870s.  I looked at her unique face and knew her instantly.  She was in our photo album standing next to her new husband in about 1866.  It was such a wonderful discovery and so exciting!  We had received the photo before family members in Germany died and the information was passed down before being lost forever.  Elise never looks happy and she has a particular look around her mouth with tiny chin that can't be mistaken.  I hate to admit that I used to think, "Oh my goodness she is not very attractive," when looking at the photo album. I had other very beautiful relations.  If she had smiled it would have probably lifted her face and shown her beauty, but her photo had been taken at a time where sitter had to sit very very still and not smile.

We only have two photos of Elise and are so lucky!  I have mentioned before that she died in 1879 after having a stillborn child and bleeding to death, so to have two photos of her is absolutely amazing for someone who died so long ago.

Elise Katherina Meng (nee Ellenberger) with Elizabeth & Mary Meng 1873 Karl Phillipe Meng & Elise Katherina (nee Ellenberger)

Most photos in our collection will probably never be identified, but I'm chipping away at them slowly!  I'll probably never identify the baby in the apron.