Today is the day I get to do a few more hours at The Elms.
The time I thought to share a few snippets about this fascinating piece of history in Aotearoa.
Starting from the beginning of how the Mission established itself.
Let’s take a glimpse back to around the 1880s where there were no roads or barely any cleared paths. To move from one settlement to another required a very long bush walk or for most folk the use of a ship.
They were pioneers, with a vision.
For some new arrivals, it would’ve taken much longer to acquire that vision. Can you imagine their startled expressions on arrival seeing this new world in which was to be their home?.
This is one of the reasons my hunger for more knowledge was ignited.
I wanted to know more about how it really was for our pioneering ancestors and the effect on the local Maori people. The Elms/TePapa historical site is where Maori and Pakeha made the first contact in Tauranga area way back in the early 1800s. My knowledge and other tour guides are gained via the diaries of Rev Brown with which local historians have painstakingly spent years putting together a storyline that is as true as can be of how Tauranga developed into the city it is today.
Previous to the establishment of The Elms/Te Papa, the area and in particular Otahataha Pā was a thriving Maori community before the onset of further intertribal Maori wars which eventually left the land deserted and tapu. With the Missionary [Christian Missionary Society, originating from England] saw it as a perfect site as it was close to the harbour and between two Maori pa’s. With the failure of other Missionaries. It was finally developed in the 1830s by Rev Brown, his family, supporters and the local Maori. Once established it brought Christianity, education, and peace amongst warring tribes of the Bay of Plenty and Waikato. Also, it was a place that practised bi-culturism as Brown learned to speak Maori and preached his sermons to his Maori congregation with hundreds attending from various local Pa’s.
This small snippet, of course, is a simplified version of the historical significance and development of the Tauranga CBD and surrounding area.
This local historic house and gardens, has caught my attention on more than one occasion. Now known as The Elms Foundation . It is one of New Zealand’s oldest heritage sites, second after the Mission House in Paihia.
It encompasses category one listed heritage buildings and nationally significant collections. The original house dating back to the mid-1800s with New Zealand’s oldest free-standing library both of these buildings are the only original buildings. There are other buildings on the property including a Chapel and outhouses which are replicas.
One of the more interesting points is this property is that it was owned and occupied by the same family from the late 1830s until the late 1990s, it was then made into The Elms Foundation in 1997 with the passing of Duff Maxwell as the last surviving descendant.
It has been and still is a place to gather and learn, for our community and visitors alike.
Oh, did I mention the diverse and tranquil garden settings? Another reason to fall in love with the place.
Which is deemed of historical significance due to rare native plants such as the King Fern. Just that alone, makes me want to wander around there regularly. The garden adds a calming ambience to the place.
Two notable historians whose knowledge I continue to refer regarding The Elms are Jinty Rorke [archivist/historian] and C.W. Vennell [author]. Essential readings to be an informative guide. At this stage, I can state it is not easy to vocalise all those dates and information I have learned when confronted with a group. Of course, this will become easier as I gain experience.
In the meantime, I emphasise the fact I am a new guide when I greet our visitors.
Thankfully, I have now jumped over that hurdle of “first-time” nerves, and I’m enjoying being there as the place has a positive vibe that makes me want to return. Each and everyone I have shown around has created a differing dialogue which means I continue to learn about each visitors’ interest in their visit as well as extend the knowledge I share with them.
I call that a win-win situation.
What I do love about this new experience is that I am continually pushing out my comfort zones due to the fact I am not a person that is known for her eloquent verbal skills. Having said that by involving myself in something that interests me I have become more proficient with words than in other social arenas. Practice and more practice makes for improvement.
More importantly, is the fact that heritage is a non-renewable resource.
With this knowledge I do believe, it really is the job of every one of us to protect our heritage sites, and to ignite people’s interest in history.
With that in mind, I look forward to sharing stories about The Elms/Te Papa, a place unlike any other in New Zealand in “that carries such a pleasant and robust family association over 160 years”.