Genealogy History Lifestyle Vicky's Musings

For the love of keeping the past alive

Staying with Bristol and Welsh Back from my previous blog for the moment, what always fascinates me about research in the UK and Europe is the history. I especially love the ancient buildings that have stood the test of time for centuries, and are still in use today as places to live, to work, and to play.

In New Zealand, a relatively new country by European standards, much of the history of the land was subsumed by the busyness of development, and there are few buildings remaining from those early colonial times. Some notable exceptions are New Zealand’s oldest wooden building, the Kerikeri mission house built in 1822, and the Stone Store erected in 1836.

In those early years, as European settlers began arriving in greater numbers after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi on 5 February 1840, demolition of older buildings was rife. At the time it was seen as a modern concept of progress over preservation. In the case of Måori på and other pre-European structures, ignorance and neglect allowed them to return to the land unrecognised.

Such destruction continued until the turn of the 20th century – and repeated again in the 1980s  through to the 2000s.Today, thanks to the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, our country has an increasing number of protected buildings. Many of those having been strengthened to withstand future earthquakes after the destruction of so many in the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and the February 2011 quake that caused such loss of life.

To me, where our ancestors lived teaches us much about how they lived. In the historic photographs of Welsh Back, there are several centuries-old church spires. Many can still be seen today. St Mary le Port was the main church used by my ancestors (it can be seen in the sketch above behind the ropes on the ship). Unfortunately, much of it was destroyed by the Blitz between November 24, 1940 and April 11, 1941 but knowing where it fitted into their daily lives in the 1800s helps me write their stories.

Churches were the backbone of society at the time. It’s nice to know there are still there. New Zealand’s oldest wooden church is Christ Church in Kororareka, Russell built in 1835, and the oldest stone church is The Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary’s (formerly St Mary’s) with the original part built in 1845.

What do you like most about looking into the past? Are you a lover of photographs, antiques and historic buildings like I am?

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