Topic: Mary Humphreys (1869-1946)

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Mary Humphreys was a well known photographer in Tauranga (from 1899) in an era when photography was rare and female photographers more so. Tauranga City Research Collections Librarian Mrs L Noble tells the story...

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Mary Humphreys arrived in New Zealand from England at age 17 and in the care of her aunt, Mrs Adair. For a time she lived in Auckland and it was there that she met and married Thomas Humphreys. He was a barrister and solicitor and he practised in various parts of the Auckland Province, eventually settling in Tauranga in 1892. They had three children Connie, Cissie and Arthur.

After Thomas’ death in 1898, Mary started a boarding house for young professional men at her home ‘Westcliffe’, which overlooked the Waikareao estuary at the western end of Wharf Street. One of the boarders was the first surveyor of Tauranga and subsequently bought the home.

Mary took an active part in the social activities of Tauranga. She was a keen supporter of the Church of England, the Mission to Seamen and the Barnard Home. She became well known for her artistic work and needlework, sewing for the poor and needy as well as doing exquisite tapestry and crochet work. In the First World War she made a sewing kit for every soldier leaving Tauranga.

She began her work as a professional photographer in October 1899, producing work of a very high standard.

On one occasion Mary visited White Island to take photographs. The corrosive atmosphere at the time was enough to make the sleeves of her blouse disintegrate. Working with Mrs Euphemia Maxwell of the Elms, Mary played an important part in the production of a souvenir album of photographs of the Tauranga district. This was then presented, by the ladies of Tauranga, to the Duchess of York when she and the Duke (later George V) visited Tauranga in 1901.

Mary died at her home on January 7, 1946, aged 77 and was buried in the Anglican cemetery. She was survived by her son Arthur.

Other well know Photographers include:


  1. Photograph albums [1880s-19??] of Humphreys, Mary.   Both albums are stored alongside other photographic archives in the Fireproof Room of the Tauranga City Libraries Research Collections (2nd floor). Album 1: Includes photographs of local social gatherings, photographs of Tauranga, Nelson, Ngawaro, White Island, Mission Cemetery, The Strand, Cameron Road etc. Also includes photographs of local marae (unidentified) and Tangata Whenua. Album 2: Includes photographs of Ohinemutu, Pink Terraces (Rotomahana), White Terraces, Tauranga Government Buildings/Post Office before and after the fire, Mission Cemetery, Blenheim, Strand, Ngawaro, Cameron Road, Star Hotel, Elms, postcard photographs from the UK, gannet colony (Cape Kidnappers). Many of the photographs in this album can also be found in Album 1.
  2. Tauranga District Council Mana Wahine (NZR MAO 920 MANA) 
  3. Bay of Plenty Times: Turning back time on Tauranga (5 June 1999)
  4. Bay of Plenty Times: Death notice (8 Jan 1946)
  5. Bay of Plenty Times: (Obituary) Well-known figure passes – death of Mrs Humphreys (19 Jan 1946)

´╗┐This page as archived at Perma cc February 2017

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Mary Humphreys (1869-1946)

First Names:Mary
Last Name:Humphreys
Date of Birth:1869

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