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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

The Old-Time Hotels

The Old-Time Hotels

Social, Sporting and Business Centres

Much of the everyday life in Early Poverty Bay centred upon the hotels. Important business transactions were, as a rule, negotiated in a side room of a public house. Public dinners, meetings and parties were held on licensed premises. The first race ball (tickets, one guinea) was held at the Masonic Hotel in January, 1874. The hour of closing was not uniform. In the case of the Masonic Hotel it was midnight. According to the Rev. T. S. Grace (annual report for 1852) the first public house was opened in April, 1852. Probably, Captain Read, who had just taken up his residence in the district, was the owner. It is most unlikely that it provided lodgings. Mr. Grace adds: “Although it is now against the law to sell liquor to natives, yet it has been done, and, at present, drunkenness is all too common among them.”

The Albion Club Hotel is usually referred to as Gisborne's first hotel, perhaps because it catered for travellers. A gentlemen's club formed part of the premises. It was erected by J. A. Forbes for Captain Read, and was opened in February, 1868. As there were then so few residents it was nicknamed “Read's Folly.” The Argyll (now Coronation) followed in 1871, and then came the Masonic (so named because it had a Masonic lodge room on the upper floor), January, 1874; Royal, June, 1874; Shamrock (renamed Gisborne), 1875; Settlers' Arms (now Record Reign), 1875; Wharf House (now Turanganui), 1875; and British Empire, 1879.

In the country districts the earliest licensed houses were: 1866—Muriwai (J. Maynard). 1872—Chandos, at Ormond (J. Villers); Royal Oak, Matawhero (A. Hird); Ferry (O. Goldsmith). 1873—Waerenga-a-Hika (G. Saunders); Makaraka (A. Dalziell); Karaua (J. E. Green). 1874—Roseland, Makaraka (L. Higgins); Mangatu (A. Cuff); Scott's Crossing, Kaiteratahi (T. Bell); and the Ormond Hotel (R. M. Steggall). Before L. Higgins received his licence he was required to expend £100 on an artesian well.

A surprise visit by a revenue cutter was a much graver threat to smugglers than the activities of the police. In 1869 the Ringleader was found to have a cargo of contraband liquor which had been transferred to her, from the brig Reliance, outside Auckland. Three broad arrows were painted on either side of her, and she was escorted back to Auckland. Captain Read, to whom the liquor was consigned, was fined £500, and the vessel was confiscated. During the following year it was suspected that a lot of smuggled liquor was “planted” close to the Muriwai Hotel. Search was made without avail. It was reported afterwards that it lay under a plot of potatoes, which were just showing through the ground. The police had not considered it necessary to examine that particular plot!

Under the “Outlying Districts Sale of Spirits Act, 1870,” the consent of all native assessors of a district was required in writing before a licence to sell liquor could be granted. Eight assessors were appointed for the Waiapu Licensing District. When Michael Mullooly applied for a licence for the Sea View Hotel at Tolaga Bay in 1873 a memorial in opposition bore the names of two of the assessors. The licensing bench held that that fact went for nothing, seeing that the names of the other six appeared on a memorial in support of the application, and it granted a licence. In 1872 James Peachey's store at Hicks Bay was boycotted page 341 because he refused to give spirits to some natives. Two assessors, who were sent to adjust the matter, fined him £4 worth of beer and spirits!

Gaming was an important sideline in connection with the pioneer hotels. Poverty Bay's first Calcutta Sweep was conducted at the Masonic Hotel in January, 1874. Raffles were then all the rage. In 1879 D. Page (licensee of the Masonic Hotel) advertised that he had installed a totaliser (the forerunner of the totalisator). He offered £450 in prizes in a consultation on the 1879 Melbourne Cup, and expected to sell 500 £1 tickets

When the Muriwai Hotel was destroyed by fire on 20 February, 1875, A. Tibbals (the licensee) was on a visit to Gisborne. His wife and two daughters lost their lives. At the inquest the jury found that the cause of the fire was unknown. A rumour became current that the remains of the back door showed that it had been locked from the outside. It was widely believed that natives had set fire to the building.

There are not quite so many hotels in the Poverty Bay-East Coast area now (1949) as there were in the middle 1870's. Hotels that have disappeared stood at The Willows, Karaua, Pakirikiri, Mangatu, Waito-tara, Anaura, Marahea, Tuparoa (2) and Port Awanui (3). Makaraka, Waerenga-a-Hika and Ormond have each lost one, and the number at Tolaga Bay has been reduced from three to one. There are now hotels in a number of fresh localities, viz.: Matawai, Patutahi, Tiniroto, Waerenga-o-Kuri, Tatapouri, Whangara, Te Puia, Tikitiki and Ruatoria. The centres at which the number has increased are: Gisborne (four to eight) and Matawhero (one to two).

The acquisition of large blocks of land on the East Coast by the Crown in the 1870's had a grievous effect upon the social conditions of the natives. Many of them flocked to each locality in which negotiations were taking place. Payment was made with £1 notes bound in books of 100. It was not uncommon for unbroken books to be taken to the banks at Gisborne by hotelkeepers and storekeepers. Women as well as men became intemperate. Disorderly scenes occurred even at funerals. Sometimes, when more than one grave had been dug, violent quarrels arose as to which should be used.

Writing to Te Wananga after his wife's funeral in 1875, the Rev. Mohi Turei said that it was the first for many years among the Ngati-Porou that had not been marked by disreputable conduct. A practice had arisen that every mourner should provide at least one gallon of rum. However, their friends had respected his wife's entreaty that not a single bottle of liquor should be taken to her funeral.

In the 1870's liquor could be obtained at many stores, as well as at the hotels, on the East Coast. Between Anaura and Hicks Bay 39 stores sold liquor in 1875. Only five were owned by pakehas. By the end of 1877 the number of establishments between Gisborne and Hicks Bay at which liquor could be obtained had grown to 52, of which 42 were conducted by natives.

Pioneer Hotelkeepers

Stapylton Cotton Caulton (born in Lancashire in 1840) migrated to Australia in his youth. In 1863 he became licensee of the Masonic Hotel at Napier. He served with the Hawke's Bay Defence Force at Omarunui (1866) and in Poverty Bay (1868). In 1872 he took up Combermere (Ormond) and joined the Poverty Bay M.R. He was the first licensce of the Masonic Hotel at Gisborne (1874–5). During 1875–6 he represented Poverty Bay on the Auckland Provincial Council. He was licensee of the Albert Hotel at Auckland in 1880, and of the Roseland Hotel at Makaraka in 1883. Then he took up a Waimata property. He page 342 served with the J Battery (1884–6) and Cook County Rifles (1886–9). Returning to Auckland, he conducted, in turn, the Governor Browne, Wharf, Central and St. Heliers Bay Hotels. In 1890 he joined the Irish Rifles at Auckland. He went as a lieutenant with the 7th Contingent to the Boer War, and had an arm shattered during the Battle of Bothasberg. Two of his sons (Alexander and Reginald) became well-known hotelkeepers in Poverty Bay.

Thomas Bell, the first licensee of the hotel at Scott's Crossing (Kaiteratahi) was 14 years old when he arrived in New Zealand in 1853. Before settling in Poverty Bay he lived at Mohaka. In 1877 he took his wife and five children to Samoa, where he made the acquaintance of a Scotsman named Johnstone, who had resided on Sunday Island (Kermadec Group). The Bells found the island uninhabited when they settled there in 1878. Mr. Bell became known as “The Robinson Crusoe of Sunday Island.”

Alexander Blair (born in Argyllshire in 1839) served with the Hawke's Bay Defence Corps at the Siege of Waerenga-a-Hika. Shortly afterwards he settled in Poverty Bay, entering into a storekeeping partnership with John Cadle. In 1871 he built, and became the first licensee of, the Argyll Hotel. He died in February, 1897.

J. R. Scott, who became licensee of the Masonic Hotel in 1885, acted as advance agent for a Maori haka troupe which visited Sydney in 1879. He assisted to promote, and became manager of, the Maori Rugby team which toured the United Kingdom in 1888–9, winning 54 of its 74 matches.

John Maynard (born in London in 1840) went to the Ballarat goldfields and to Gabriel's Gully. After being on active service in Taranaki he settled in Poverty Bay in 1865, and took part in the fighting against the Te Kooti rebels. He conducted the Muriwai Hotel for Captain Read in 1866, and was the first licensee of the Albion Hotel (1868). In 1870 he established a butchery at Ormond, where, in 1875, D. McNair built for him the first stone house erected in Poverty Bay. Subsequently he was in business in Gisborne. He died in February, 1925.

John Alfred Harding (born at Tipperary in 1853) was 14 years old when he landed at Auckland with his parents. He spent 14 years as a surveyor, and, during part of the time, was engaged on the East Coast. Then, for nine years, he kept a store at Waipiro Bay. Moving to Gisborne, he became licensee of the Masonic Hotel. He served on the Borough Council (19 years), Cook County Council, and Harbour Board, and was a Hospital Trustee. His death occurred on 8 May, 1907.

Francis Robert (Frank) Harris (born at Napier in 1858) was a son of Edward Francis Harris and a grandson of Captain J. W. Harris. In 1873 he went to work on Opou station, spending 12 years on that station. He was landlord of the Albion Hotel for 17 years, and, subsequently, of the British Empire Hotel for some years. For several terms he was a member of the Borough Council and the Harbour Board. He died in January, 1931.

Edward Walker (born in 1830) had a store at Opotiki in 1865, when the Hauhau emissaries arrived there from Taranaki. On the evening before the Rev. C. S. Volkner was hanged a young native in his employ attended a Hauhau meeting and, as he was returning home, threw stones on the roof to warn him that the attitude of the native converts towards the Europeans was hostile. He packed up and fled to Whakatane. For some years he kept a store at Waipiro Bay, and then took over an hotel at Port Awanui, proving a cheery and most hospitable landlord. Masters of visiting schooners kept a look-out for the signal which he flew from his flagstaff to indicate the state of the beach. He died at Auckland on 17 September, 1899.

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George Brown Oman (born at Swansea in 1864) came to Poverty Bay with Mr. and Mrs. Haache (his step-parents) in 1874. He took over the Muriwai Hotel in 1898 and then held, in turn, the licences of the following hotels: Waipiro Bay, Whatatutu, Coronation, Wairoa, British Empire, Gisborne and Masonic (Gisborne). He was 38 years in the hotel business. Short periods were served by him on the Borough Council and Hospital Board. He owned several successful racehorses. His death took place on 14 July, 1936.

Brewery Interests, Etc.

The first brewery in Gisborne stood at the corner of Gladstone Road and Disraeli Streets. It was built by Captain Read in 1872, but it had only a brief career. Whitsun and Co., of Auckland, built a brewery at the northern end of Lowe Street in 1874. W. F. Crawford (the manager) bought it in 1875. Subsequently, a company which he formed and managed erected a new brewery in Aberdeen Road, and conducted it until 1897, when it was taken over by the Gisborne Brewing and Malting Co. Ltd. Flook's brewery, which stood in Upper Gladstone Road, was operated for a few years in the early 1890's.

David John Barry (born in Liverpool in 1861) went to Western Australia with his parents in 1865. Some years afterwards the family settled in Hawke's Bay. He was employed as a driver at the Gisborne Brewery from 1878 till 1886, engaged in the manufacture of cordials from 1890 till 1897, and then became managing director of the Gisborne Brewing and Malting Co. Ltd. When New Zealand Breweries took over the business in 1923 he was appointed local director. He was the founder of the firm of D. J. Barry Ltd., wine and spirit merchants. For some years he was president of the Gisborne Racing Club and, later, patron of the Poverty Bay Turf Club. He presented to the town the park which bears his name. His death took place on 26 March, 1945.

George Matthewson (born at Selkirk in 1840) landed at Wellington in 1868, and joined the firm of W. and G. Turnbull. In 1873 he settled in Poverty Bay, becoming manager of Rangatira station. He then established a wine and spirit business in Gisborne. For several terms he was a member of the Harbour Board. He died on 12 November, 1924.

Frederick Hall (born at Troubridge, England, in 1854) became one of Gisborne's most enterprising residents. He obtained employment in the town in 1874 as a painter and paperhanger, and, by thrift and industry, was in a position, within a few years, to buy out his employer. Eventually, he gained large interests both in town and country, and built up an extensive business as a painter, plumber and electrician. For a time he was a part-owner of the Gisborne Brewery. He replaced the old wooden Masonic Hotel with the present fine structure. On the turf he was very successful. Merry Roe (one of his “string”) was the dam of Duvach, who was the dam of Hiragi, the winner of the 1947 Melbourne Cup. He died on 20 April, 1935.