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Warkworth & District Museum



Origins of The Grange

On the sign outside the new retail centre south of Warkworth, right beneath the golden arches, are the words The Grange.

Grave tales

Stored in the archives of the Warkworth and Districts Museum are several old maps

Resident intellectual

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Warkworth resident German and intellectual, Carl Geissler was born in Munich in 1874 and was said to have had a brilliant university career.

History storyteller takes a well-earned break

After seven years and more than 80 columns, Mahurangi Matters’ popular history columnist Judy Waters is taking a well-earned rest.

The Mahurangi wedding: a history

When immigrant ships arrived at the port of Auckland, young men would line the foreshore to view any single women.

Mystery of the drowning man

A stranger caused a sensation in the summer of 1916 when, without warning, he threw himself off the Warkworth bridge.

Wheels of industry roll through time

When the process of applying machinery to previously laborious farming tasks became more widespread, many items of interest emerged and were found worthy of preserving.

Barefooted scientist

Lucy Moore Park in Warkworth celebrates the life of a local woman who was senior botanist with the Botany Division of the DSIR, but we have nothing here to commemorate the life of her boss, Max Hamilton, who was also born and raised in Warkworth.

The original building boom

Two of Warkworth’s oldest buildings still in use were built by Charles Thomson around 1870.

‘Doctor’ Shoesmith

On the death of Mrs Mary Shoesmith in 1932, Warkworth Town Board came into possession of 10.75 acres of land on Hill Street.

Settlement’s ‘father’

The first Mahurangi land sales took place in 1853 with Henry Pulham and his brothers-in-law all purchasers. 

Life on the river

The diary of Joseph Rowe Gard, an early settler on the Mahurangi River, is considered to be of historic and social importance.

Kowhai seedling bears fruit

As the story goes, three Warkworth identities were having a conversation in Kowhai Park, when the question of the town having its own festival was raised. 

Victory celebrations

Time differences around the globe meant there were variances in the time, and even the day, that peace was declared in August 1945.

Matakana settler

The clipper ship Tornado left Liverpool on 10 June 1859 carrying 285 immigrants to New Zealand. Among the passengers was Alexander Campbell.

A Syrian connection

With Syria often in the news these days it may surprise some people to know that Warkworth had its own Syrian settlers early in the 20th century. 

Museum hosts WWI display

On loan to the Warkworth Museum for the World War I exhibition is the octagonal district War Memorial.

Sandspit posting remembered

In January, 1930, Richard Scobie was appointed to teach at Lower Matakana (Sandspit) school. More than 50 years later he recorded some of his memories.

Hotel’s early years

John Southgate, Warkworth’s first publican, came to the area in 1848 before the town had even been given a name. 


Origins of The Grange - March

It seems regrettable that these three brave sea captains are all but forgotten. If their name endures in a new commercial development on State Highway 1, perhaps Norfolk pine trees could be included in the landscape.

Farming legacies - February

It is appropriate to reflect on the courage of pioneer families who came to a new land with few resources and, at first, were faced with the urgency of producing food for themselves through perseverance, trial and error. 

Industrial relics survive - December

Warkworth’s early industrial sites, long abandoned, have become part of the network of reserves that add interest to the town. Best known are the ruins of the cement works in their riverside setting but the old lime kilns in Kowhai Park are also significant. 

Enduring wood relics - November

In pioneer times, good use was made of the native timber, which was once so readily available. 

Main street fire damages deeds - September

Early in the morning on July 28, 1931, fire destroyed a block of shops in the main street of Warkworth. With no means available to fight the flames, nothing could be done to save five business premises from total destruction. 

Dignitaries travel by rail - August

Lord Ranfurly, Governor of New Zealand from 1897 to 1904, travelled around the country visiting small settlements where he liked to meet veterans not long returned from the South African war. 

Gown returns home - July

A family in Australia, while cleaning out their late mother’s house recently, were surprised to find her wedding dress packed away undisturbed for many years. Considering their mother had grown up near Warkworth, the idea came to them that the dress should be returned and so it duly arrived at the Warkworth Museum and was accepted into the care of the textile department.

I am a volunteer - June

Recently I was asked the question: “Do you still work?” My answer was: “Yes, I am a Wednesday Worker at the museum.” 

Women’s role in the war - May

The Great War (1914-18) took place when my mother was a girl. She grew up baking for basket socials and patriotic fetes to raise funds to send comfort parcels to the soldiers. A woman’s role was to keep the home fires burning, but for more than 600 New Zealand women the war was very different. They were actively involved in the war zones of Gallipoli and France as military nurses.

Crowning glory for Warkworth - April

On the day George V was crowned King of the United Kingdom and the overseas dominions, the children of the Rodney district assembled at Warkworth School in Percy Street to hear speakers make clear to them the significance of the day.

Gum-digging at Snells Beach - March

In 1904 Messrs J Clayden and J Parkinson discovered a substantial deposit of kauri gum on the low tide mark at Snells Beach. For three weeks they managed to keep it to themselves, enabling them to extract some seven tons of gum. Once the word was out another 40 diggers descended on the beach, working furiously between tides and achieving good results.

Island life - January

The seascape around Kawau Bay contains several small islands and each has its own interesting history. Situated between Kawau and the mainland are the Mayne Islands. Edward Mayne had connections with Kawau during the copper mining era. 

The two Jane Giffords - December

It was a privilege to be among descendants of Warkworth’s pioneer families recently aboard the scow Jane Gifford, enjoying a nostalgic journey up the Mahurangi River.

The woman behind Lucy Moore Memorial Park - October

One of Warkworth's most distinguished citizens, the botanist Lucy Beatrice Moore, was the fifth of eight children born to Harry and Janet Moore, and was raised in the family home on the corner of Wilson and McKinney Roads. Her father, an intellectual, was the town clerk and librarian, and was a great influence in Lucy's formative years.

The life of a Warkworth ‘stirrer’ - September

Working in the Warkworth & Districts Museum archives is full of surprises. Recently, while researching the history of one of Warkworth's distinctive concrete houses, I was distracted by the story of Thomas Walker, an early Warkworth citizen.

The little black bodice - August

Recently rediscovered in the textile department workroom were two bodices from around 1850. They were carefully removed from their storage box to be photographed as part of the project to photograph all items in this comprehensive collection.

Life on Kawau Island in the nineteenth century - July

 In the age in which we live we are presented with myriad means of connecting with friends and family. How different it was for our earliest settlers.

The daily chores of a colonial mother - June

 During a recent tour of the Warkworth Museum’s textile department, I was reminded how drastically fashion has changed over the past century.

The hermit of Moturekareka Island - May

Charles Percy Hansen, South African Veteran No 90, Taranaki Mounted Rifles, late of Moturekareka Island, fourth son of the late Captain P Hansen of Greenock Scotland.
So read an insertion in the Evening Post dated April 15, 1944, summarising in those few words the life of a man who by his hermit-like existence on a small island in the Hauraki Gulf became part of local folklore.

A century of Scouting in Warkworth - April

What’s new at the Warkworth Museum? At present most of the upstairs area is devoted to a display commemorating 100 years of the Boy Scout movement.

Morrison Drive has deeps roots in Warkworth - March

The resourcefulness of our pioneer forefathers is well illustrated in the life story of Edward Morrison.

Time justifies rebel policeman’s stand - February

The first of two Vaccination Rolls, stored in the Warkworth Museum archives, is 100 years old this year. In 1913, there was a smallpox scare when serious outbreaks occurred in several large cities overseas.

Kawau’s fascinating past recalled - January

Kawau Island has long provided historians with rich material and interesting stories. The reminiscences of Thomas Harris (1854-1932) give a fascinating account of the relationship between a friendly Maori chief, the Governor of New Zealand and the children growing up on Kawau in the mid 19th century.

Early motoring - December

By 1914, motorcars had become less of a curiosity on country roads and more of an inconvenience. The Rodney County Council received a petition signed by 68 people requesting the passing of a drastic law aimed at motorists in the interest of ladies and girls driving or riding on the roads.

Cornish ancestry - November

It is pleasant to recall childhood memories of picnic outings to Martin’s Falls. The day would always include a ramble through the bush where lycopodium fern grew profusely, and rewarewa and lancewood grew tall to find the light.

A good year for Warkworth - October

“Our native bush is a picture of beauty just now with the yellow of the kowhai on a background of green.” So wrote a Warkworth resident in the year 1912.

Life before Google - August

In the future we may never take a journey without consulting Google Earth or relying on a GPS receiver to guide us to an unfamiliar destination. By contrast, not only were there no such aids available in the 1850s but place names were rare and sign posts non-existent.

Wartime memories - July

In the Warkworth Museum archives can be found three boxes labelled Wartime Warkworth. Amongst such varied items as ration books and knitting patterns for soldiers’ socks and balaclavas, there is a folder containing the records of the Warkworth committee of the Emergency Precautions Service.

Early Warkworth retailers - June

“Warkworth is, after lying in a dormant state for nearly half a century, at last bestirring itself and judging by the traffic coming in from all parts of the surrounding districts and the new buildings going up, indications are that a progressive chapter has opened.” These words were written in 1901 and the report continued with a description of the large two storey store and dwelling under construction in the business street for the use of Civil Bros general storekeepers.

Colonist makes his mark - May

The clipper ship Flying Foam on her maiden voyage from London to Auckland in 1864 brought back the Maori chiefs and their wives who had journeyed to England to offer their allegiance to Queen Victoria. Also aboard were a number of immigrant families including Henry and Eliza Palmer and their children.

Seafaring family - April

It was Captain Charles Ludwig Kaspar who brought the steamboat Lady Bowen up the river to Warkworth in the 1870s.

Popular picnics - February

Organised picnics have long been enjoyed at this time of the year and though the mode of conveyance to such events has changed over the years, the formula of ample food and drink, sunshine and good cheer in a congenial location is tried and true. Many picnics became a part of the social calendar, eagerly awaited each year.
Travelling 1880s style - December
For each generation, remarkable changes take place, making travel faster and easier. We must all have remarked at some time on the travel time between home and Auckland, compared to years ago.
Time marches on - November
The 93rd anniversary of the signing of the Armistice between Germany and the Allied Forces, heralding the end of hostilities in World War I, will be marked on November 11.
Early road building - September
A hundred years ago there was hot debate about the use of catamaran sledges.
Early schooling - August
A recent request for information about Dome Valley School uncovered some interesting history.
Enterprising operator - July
Bridgehouse, located on the central riverside site first occupied by Warkworth’s founder John Anderson Brown, has long been one of the town’s recognisable heritage buildings.
Patriotism reigns supreme - June
News of the upcoming Matakana Heritage Day on Sunday, June 19, at the Matakana Hall, has been welcomed by the Warkworth & Districts Museum.
And the band played on - April
The Warkworth Brass Band has played the National Anthem through the reign of five monarchs and a display of band memorabilia can be viewed at the Warkworth and Districts Museum.
Early property investment - March
Early photographs of Warkworth show a large house standing alone on the hill overlooking the river. This was ‘High Holme’, the residence Henry Pulham had built in the 1860s for his growing family.
Learning no easy task - February
As a new school year begins, it is timely to reflect on the beginnings of education in this area.
Precise book-keeping  -  January
A piece of Warkworth’s history is enclosed in the covers of a day book dated April 1860 to October 1862 belonging to John Baxter, first storekeeper in the town.
Warkworth benefactor - December
The stately residence of Dr John Valentine Shoesmith once stood in the centre of the present domain; it’s sweeping driveway bordered by camellias.
In the line of duty - November
Warkworth’s first policeman Constable Neil McLeod is believed to have been the first officer in New Zealand to lose his life in this way.
Hospital service - October
The history of the Warkworth Cottage Hospital chronicles a changing approach to maternity care through the decades.
Fortunes won and lost - September
Ranulph Dacre (1797-1884) was a master mariner and merchant trader who entered the Navy aged 13 years and saw service in the blockade of American ports.
Determined settlers - August
In 1854 the Ahuroa/Kourawhero land purchase was made by the Crown from Te-Kawerau who were Ngati Whatua and Te Kiri of Ngati Wai.
Artistic beginnings - July
On the 25 May 1867, The Daily Southern Cross reported that the first vehicle to cross a new bridge over the Mahurangi River, at Warkworth, was a dray laden with paintings owned by artist/settler Mr Horsley.
The Age of Timber - June
As Auckland City spreads north, and demands are made on the rural landscape, areas of native bush become more valued for the glimpse they give of the splendour of the forest in pre-European times.
Gold diggers have mixed fortunes - May
The gold fever that gripped many places in New Zealand in the late 1860s also affected the Mahurangi district.
Bulford kiwi remembered - April
It is now more than 90 years since 100,000 young men of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces journeyed to distant lands to take part in the First World War. Included were many sons and grandsons of pioneer families from this district.
Tennis served on grass courts – March
A tennis club was formed in Warkworth 117 years ago in 1893. Instrumental in promoting the sport were Mr W. Worsley, headmaster of the school, and Miss Emily McKinney.
Gumdigger days – February
Early settlers in this area found an abundance of kauri gum and learned from Maori to use it as a fire starter or wrapped in flax, as a lantern. As the land was cleared, collecting gum to sell became a useful way to supplement income.
Tale of two Julias – January
The story of two women bearing the same name but from two different generations is worth relating.

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Anthony Worsley says ...
My great grandfather William Worsley was this Mr W Worsley. .
Sally says ...
Great facts keep it going guys great website


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