Tawa Historical Society Incorporated

The Tawa Historian
Newsletter #6 December 2002

This newsletter will update members on matters discussed at our last two committee meetings, on 4th & 27th November 2002.

As members are aware, we are talking with the WCC regarding three aspects of Tawa history:
1. Heritage trails through Tawa
2. Publication of a new or expanded version of WCC's booklet on the Northern Suburbs Heritage Trail
3. Placement of "information boards" in appropriate places within Tawa

Those discussions continued on 29th November when Barbara Fill of WCC met with Bruce Murray. Barbara suggested that the best place to start was an information board outside the library setting out a couple of walking tracks. This could be less expensive and more immediate than waiting until a heritage trails booklet was produced. Barbara had a good look around, including talking to some of the "locals", and is going to look at avenues for raising money for some of our projects. She has given us some ideas for raising money ourselves, so it is all go!

A reminder that subscriptions are now due. We have received, to this point, 54% of our subscriptions from existing members. Given that we are in serious discussion with WCC and potentially some charitable trusts over good and useful projects, it is our view that we need to be in a position to make some contribution, however small, to these projects should that be required. Your support is therefore encouraged. If you haven't already done so, please fill in the membership/renewal notice, and return to the Secretary.

The THS executive have discussed two other possible and significant projects which we believe are worth pursuing. They are:
1. Footprint markers to indicate the alignment of the Old Porirua Road as it wended its way through Tawa
As members will appreciate, the first significant post 1840 activity in the Tawa area was the construction of the Old Porirua Road. Cleared and built during the 1840s and supported by stockades (Middleton's, Leigh's and Elliott's), it linked Wellington and the small settlements of Porirua and Paremata on the Porirua Harbour. The road eventually evolved into the old Centennial Highway (State Highway 1). The Old Porirua Road can be traced through Tawa along some streets (Middleton Road, Willowbank Road, Boscobel Lane, Main Road, Oxford Street, Grasslees Reserve, Main Road again, Duncan Park, across Linden Avenue to Linden West Park and back to the Main Road).

We will investigate ways in which this road, so important to the development of Tawa can be appropriately marked.

2. A register of significant buildings/sites
A subcommittee of the THS executive is gathering information and photographs on significant buildings and sites within Tawa. Our district still contains:
- old farm houses (Nott House, Greer Homestead, Harrison's Cottage, Hyde's and Woodman's houses in Takapu Road, Brown's House, Thomas Hook's House, Mexted's Stone House).
- old public buildings (Tawa School, the Railway Station [now 65 years old], shops on the corner of Main Road and Oxford Street)
- old homes (Bartlett's, Shilling's, Mexted's (corner Oxford Street and Sussex Street) as well as other sites like Elsdon Best's memorial, the WW1 memorial in Willowbank Park and the old railway houses in Duncan Street.

Our aim is to describe the history of these houses and/or sites, and to photograph them, and perhaps to publish a booklet regarding them, and/or place the information on a website.

Phil Harland, our Deputy Chairperson reports:
In our newsletter #4 (July last year), we mentioned that we were seeking information about a U.S. military ammunition depot, and we are pleased to report that a gentleman living in Churton Park who lived in Johnsonville during World War II has confirmed the existence of an ammunition and military depot in the area now known as Grenada North. He told us that "with other teenagers, hunting trips from Johnsonville to Tawa area with .22 rifles occurred from time to time. On one occasion, having successfully shot a hare the group came across an army camp guarded by a U.S. soldier (with rifle) who enquired about their intentions concerning the "jack rabbit" as he called it. On discovering that it was headed for "Mum's cook pot", the soldier offered to trade canned fruit for the hare which was accepted."

We have endeavoured to obtain more information about the U.S. base which some have described as an ammunition depot - or magazine. So far official sources, such as N.Z. Ministry of Works records have failed to show up any reference to this depot but we have seen a 1943 aerial photograph of the Tawa Interchange and Grenada North area and in this there appears to be confirmation of some activity such as that so far described by witnesses - we are indebted to Brian and Graham Mexted and Murray Henderson for information received so far. This is also confirmed by the recollections of John Woodman's on page 39 of the booklet "I Remember Tawa" by Barbara Adams and is quoted as saying "The Americans were up there (Takapu Valley) during the war and there was a lot of activity then. They had a big ammunition dump and a rifle range."

However, we would appreciate hearing from anyone having information about this small U.S. military base during the 1942-45 period. (Phil can be reached on 232 8157).

We have had cordial discussions with the Librarian of the Mervyn Kemp Library regarding our relationship with the Library. It is possible that some display and storage space may be available. Beyond that however it would perhaps be helpful if archival material in our possession was made available to the public through the library. Discussions continue.

We have written to Barbara, a member of THS congratulating her on her publication "I Remember Tawa" - a series of personal reminiscences of Tawa residents about their life and times in Tawa. At $15.00 (available at the Tawa Library) it is a marvellous Christmas present. Well done, Barbara!

Our next committee meeting will be on 27th January 2003 at the Old Council Chambers, Cambridge Street. Other things being equal, the THS executive meets every 4th Monday of the month at 7.30pm. If you wished to attend you would be most welcome.

With best wishes for a happy Christmas, safe holidays, and a good New Year

Bruce Murray

Tawa Historical Society
Chairperson: Bruce Murray 232 5374
Secretary: Bill Hinkley hinkley@paradise.net.nz

Click here for newsletter #5 October 2002
Click here for a newspaper report about the Tawa Historical Society