Watching TV’s ‘Briscoes Lady’ promoting another birthday sale, few would be aware that the birth of the Briscoes company dates to the eighteenth century.
It was probably William Briscoe who established the firm in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, sometime around 1750. One reference mentions a balance sheet dating from 1756 and another gives the establishment date as about 1768. In 1781 members of the Briscoe family signed a partnership agreement. Headquarters eventually moved to London, with branches established in the West Indies and South America. A Melbourne offshoot was established in about 1854, and New Zealand operations opened in Dunedin as Arthur Briscoe & Co. in 1863. In New Zealand the company operated primarily as wholesale ironmongers and hardware merchants, but with some retail trade.
Arthur Briscoe, one of the company partners in England, probably never visited New Zealand. The founding manager in Dunedin was Hugh MacNeil, who had begun his working life as an ironmonger in Glasgow before managing Briscoes in Melbourne. He became a partner in the firm in 1880 and gained managerial control of both the New Zealand and Australian operations.
|Arthur Briscoe & Co billhead, from MS-0989/058|
The lithographed billhead here, dated 14 July 1886, shows that different parts of the organisation were styled in different ways: Wm Briscoe & Son (Wolverhampton and London), Briscoe & Co. (Melbourne), Briscoe, Drysdale & Co. (Sydney), Briscoe Bros (Jamaica), and Arthur Briscoe & Co. (Dunedin). In the 1890s branches were established in Wellington and Auckland as Briscoe, MacNeil & Co.
The billhead features the company’s buildings on the corner of Princes and Jetty streets, which were designed by R.A. Lawson and opened in 1872. An Otago Daily Times report from that year describes a company importing directly from Europe and America, with an average of 100 tonnes of goods unloaded at Port Chalmers every week. Stock included such diverse items as kitchen stoves, umbrella stands, lamps, and lawn mowers (‘a wonderful little machine of recent invention’). Some goods, such as enamel kitchenware and cooking utensils, were similar to items sold in Briscoes stores today, but linen and soft furnishings have only become staples in recent decades. Much business was directed towards the building trade, and at a separate iron yard in Bond Street there was much in the way of iron bars, piping, and sheet iron, with a supply of up to 150 tonnes of nails in stock at any one time. The company also imported tea for many years.
Briscoes moved to new premises in Crawford Street in the 1900s and the old building was later occupied by T. & G. Life. They demolished it in the 1950s to put up the building now known as Upstart House. Briscoes’ head office moved from London to Melbourne in 1958, and then to New Zealand in 1970. The parent company was purchased by Merbank Corporation of Australia in 1973 and transformed from a wholesaler of imported goods to a general merchandise retailer. Briscoes Group Ltd was purchased by the R.A. Duke Trust (of New Zealand) in 1990 and became a public company in 2001. As of 2011 it has 54 Homeware stores and 32 Rebel Sport sporting goods stores throughout New Zealand.
Hocken holds some financial and other records of Briscoe & Co., 1865-1970, under the reference number MS-3300. The billhead is from the Preston family papers (MS-0989/058).
Blog post written by David Murray, Archivist (Arrangement and Description)
As this week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori a post on Te Reo in the south is timely. The Hocken Collections is privileged to care for several taoka (treasures) documenting the unique words heard in various parts of the South Island.
James Watkin’s small notebook includes word lists he compiled as he struggled with learning the language at Waikouaiti in 1840. He was already fluent in Tongan and had studied texts supplied to him that had been written in the North Island and was disappointed to find how difficult he found it to understand the language spoken in the South Island when he arrived on 15 May 1840. By 5 June he had compiled 400 words in the notebook with the assistance of the local chief, Haereroa. The notebook was part of his attempt to make sense of the local dialect and is undoubtedly influenced by his knowledge of Tongan. The original was given to Dr Hocken by a descendent of Watkin and photocopies are available for research use.
As a result of Watkin’s struggles with the language, he compiled He Puka Ako I Te Korero Maori which was printed at the Wesleyan Mission at Mangungu in 1841. Surviving copies of this publication are extremely rare, of the 3000 printed we know there is one in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington and one in the National Library of Australia in Canberra. Hocken holds photocopies only, butiIf anyone knows of other original copies of the booklet we would love to know! In 1994 Ray Harlow and Otago Heritage Books published an extremely useful facsimile of He Puka Ako I Te Korero Maori, and this is more widely distributed in libraries. Harlow’s little book also includes discussion and translation of the features of the language documented in Watkin’s booklet.
|James Watkin’s word list (MS-0031) and Ray Harlow’s book reproducing He Puka Ako I Te Korero Maori|
Ray Harlow has also published a more extensive book, A Word List of South Island Maori, which draws on wider sources to create an annotated list of distinctively southern Maori words. On pages xxiii and xxiv Harlow gives a list of sources for southern dialect words including:
The journal of John Boultbee
Boultbee was a young man who spent much time with sealing crews in and around Fiordland and Foveaux Strait in 1826-1828. Hocken holds a microfilm copy of the original manuscript (held at the Alexander Turnbull Library) but most readers may find the published versions more accessible. There is Journal of a rambler : the journal of John Boultbee, edited by June Starke, and The World of John Boultbee by Drs A.C. Begg and N.C. Begg. Both of these books include transcripts of Boultbee’s vocabulary list. The Beggs note that Boultbee’s phonetic spelling echoes that of George Forster, who recorded the Maori names of the natural history specimens he drew and painted at Dusky Sound in 1773. Probably Forster’s is the first attempt to phonetically record southern Maori words.
Edward Shortland’s journal of his trip through the South Island in 1840
This was published as –The Southern Districts of New Zealand : a Journal, with Passing Notices of the Customs of the Aborigines – and is available online from the NZ Electronic Text Centre, as well as in many libraries. This includes a vocabulary of the “Kaitahu” dialect starting on page 305. The original journals were acquired by Dr Hocken and photocopies are available for research at the Hocken.
Octavius Harwood’s papers
These include two items of interest. Firstly a short letter that appears to be written by “John White” or the chief Karetai, addressed to Te Raki concerning a boat. The letter is undated but Karetai died in 1860. The second interesting item is a list of parts of the body in one of Harwood’s notebooks (MS-0438/005). The list appears after several pages of notes from Kendall’s 1820 grammar and phrase book and features spelling more akin to Boultbee’s than Kendall’s. For example the word for hair – usually “huruhuru” – is spelt “huduhudu”, and that for nails – usually “maikuku” – is spelt “muttacook” giving some indication that the words Harwood was hearing were pronounced differently at Otakou than in the North Island. This notebook dates from 1839-1840.
|Karetai’s letter (MS-0438/163)|
|Octavius Harwood’s list of the names of parts of the body (MS-0438/005)|
It is worth noting here that Maori orthography was not completely standardised in the 19th century and varying phonetic spellings were common in written Maori throughout New Zealand.
James Herries Beattie
Beattie’s notebooks contain word lists, place names lists etc. Beattie donated his extensive collection of research papers to the Hocken in several batches during the 1950s, 1960s and in 1972. Beattie collected his information during the 20th century by conducting extensive interviews with many informants, and perhaps documents a different era from the earlier sources. For more information on Beattie’s work see Athol Anderson’s biography in Te Ara – http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4b16/1. The Hocken hold copies of Beattie’s publications as well as his papers.
Every now and then, often in an obscure part of the archives collections, I come across one of those ornate old letterheads or billheads so many businesses used to have. These often show the printers’ great artistry and skill, and intriguingly encapsulate the identities of businesses in a way that might now be considered to be branding.
Here’s one of my favourites. Dated 31 May 1898, it’s for W. Evans & Co. and depicts the mills which produced ‘Crown’ brand flour in Dunedin and ‘Atlas’ brand flour in Timaru. The design and engraving work by Dunedin firm Fergusson & Mitchell is elaborate. Sheaves of wheat curl around to form an imaginative border, and the perspectives of the buildings have a wonderful naivety to them. The address for telegrams is given (‘Evans’) and the Timaru mill has the easy-to-remember telephone number ‘5’. In front of the Dunedin building are horses and carts loaded with bags of flour. The Timaru mill was next to the railway line, so an engine and wagons can be seen.
These were roller mills, then a recent development in New Zealand, which used cylindrical rollers for grinding rather than traditional grindstones. Timaru’s Atlas mill, designed for Evans & Co. by Dunedin architect James Hislop, opened with this latest equipment in 1888. Dunedin’s Crown mill had been built for Anderson & Mowat in 1867 and converted to a roller mill for R. Anderson & Co. in 1891. Additions to the buildings at this time were also designed by Hislop. This mill was taken over by Evans & Co. in 1896. The managing director, William Evans, had begun his career in New Zealand as a storekeeper on the goldfields, having arrived from Victoria with the rush to Gabriel’s Gully in 1861.
Both mill buildings, although they no longer produce flour, remain prominent landmarks in Timaru and Dunedin.
Blog post prepared by David Murray, Assistant Archivist. Billhead found in Preston family papers (MS-0615/004).
Photographs and a short manuscript from the archives of the Mosgiel Baptist Church (AG-263/023, AG-263/053 and AG-263/054).
F.W. Boreham (1871-1959) is not widely known today, but in his time he sold over a million books. Frank Boreham arrived in New Zealand from England in 1895 to become the first minister of Mosgiel Baptist Church. The young man quickly proved himself as a successful and popular preacher, pastor and writer. His sermons appeared in the Taieri Advocate and he became a regular contributor of leading articles to the Otago Daily Times. He also edited the New Zealand Baptist. The first of his several dozen books was published before he left England, to be followed by The Whisper of God and Other Sermons, published in 1902. Many of his books were devotional in character, but they also included charming tales of people and places he had known. Boreham moved to Australia in 1906. He retained fond memories of his first pastorate in Mosgiel, which featured in some of his later books. For instance, the booklet The Bachelors of Mosgiel (1936) is a “collection of unusual love stories of crusty old bachelors never suspected of having any.” Boreham’s writing might be dismissed as simple and sentimental today, but it was also engaging, as the opening of The Home of the Echoes (1921) reveals:
Hester Spanton – Auntie Hester, as everybody called her – was the tenant of a large second-hand store and a small asthmatic body. I used at times to think that the adjectives might be regarded as interchangeable. If you had described her as the occupant of an asthmatic store and a second-hand body, the terms would have seemed perfectly congruous and fitting. Her poor little body looked a very second-hand affair. It was terribly the worse for wear, and was so battered and broken that Auntie Hester could only crawl about by the aid of a crutch. It gave you the impression that it had been bought and sold over and over again, and that, having got it cheaply, none of its owners had taken any care of it.
There is a special F.W. Boreham collection at the Mosgiel Library (described by Barbara Frame in the March 2005 issue of New Zealand Libraries), and another at Carey Baptist College in Auckland. But southerners who wish to know more of one of the best-selling authors of the early twentieth century may like to start with a perusal of the 59 individual Boreham titles held by the Hocken (some in more than one edition). Also available at the Hocken are the Taieri Advocate and Otago Daily Times, which feature Boreham’s early journalism, and the archives of the Mosgiel Baptist Church.
Blog post prepared by Ali Clarke, Library Assistant – Reference.
In November 2008 Hocken was offered further records of the printing and publishing company John McIndoe Ltd, following the liquidation of successor firm Rogan McIndoe Print Ltd. McIndoes had been established in 1893, and its publishing arm flourished from 1968 through to the 1990s under editors Peter Stewart, Brian Turner, and Barbara Larson.
On 17 November we appraised and collected records from the former company buildings in Crawford Street. Storage conditions were dry and the records were generally in good condition. Many were stored in cupboards and bundled according to publication titles, others were found in boxes on shelves, in loose piles on the floor, or tucked away in odd drawers and corners. We picked our way through two large floors of the rambling old buildings and eventually took 16 shelf metres of records back to the Hocken. These were added to a similar quantity of records we had received between 1978 and 1985, but which mostly remained unlisted. Much of the material was neatly wrapped in parcels with paper printed with the elegant cat logo of McIndoes.
From February 2009 to January 2010, thanks to funding from the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board, Project Archivist Sally Milner fully arranged and described all of our McIndoe holdings, packaging them in preservation-quality enclosures, and listing them in detail on Hakena.
The collections contain a wide array of material relating to the publishing and printing activities of the company. They include authors’ book files and other papers relating to literary projects, correspondence, financial records, photographs, and artwork. Authors and poets who are represented in the collection include Roderick Finlayson, Owen Marshall, Cilla McQueen, Vincent O’Sullivan, Philip Temple, and Hone Tuwhare, to name but a few.
The collection, which occupies some 25 shelves, is already proving valuable for research into printing and publishing history, individual authors, and related subjects.
Our special thanks goes to Lawrie Forbes of Zealsteel, owner of the McIndoe buildings, for ensuring that records were not destroyed following the company liquidation, and arranging for their donation to the Hocken.
This post was prepared by Arrangement and Description Archivist, Debbie Gale, and Assistant Archivist, David Murray.