Topic: The Price of a Beer and a Bath: The Edward Lofley Story by Judith M. Lofley

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Edward John Lofley was a man on the run with a mind of his own. Like many settlers of the time, his reasons for leaving home are sketchy; the dates of his birth and arrival only approximate. When he arrived in New Zealand he was barely twenty years old and fit for adventure and a fresh start.

Edward grew up in Hull, England. He left in 1860 on board the HMS Harrier. On arrival in New Zealand he became part of the naval brigade and fought in the Waikato land wars. It is also likely that he was involved in the rescue effort of the HMS Orpheus, which sunk in the Manakau harbour in 1863, drowning 189 people. The HMS Harrier was the first ship to respond to the distress signals.

A few years later he transferred to the land force of the armed constabulary and became the quartermaster responsible for supplies. As part of the advanced party, he helped set up camp on the banks of the Waikato River at Tapuaeharuru, near Taupo. The site provided a good space for corralling horses and offered plenty of hot water.  A few basic structures were built and the site became a bathing facility for the war-weary soldiers.

In 1869, the armed constabulary moved camp away from the valley where they feared an ambush from Te Kooti and his men. They headed back along the valley to the high point, closer to Taupo.  Edward left the armed constabulary and stayed on at the spa, which became known as Lofley’s Glen.  He continued to provide refreshments and basic laundry services at a modest price to soldiers and passing travellers, becoming, in effect, Taupo’s first publican.

Not one to miss an opportunity, Edward recognised the spa needed improvements that could only be made by having title to the land.  Premier William Fox had previously visited the area and noted Edward presiding like some sort of river god. It didn’t take much to persuade him that a lease was necessary to develop the opportunities presented by the growing tourism trade; nor was Edward opposed to making personal gains from government-sponsored land theft, such as the receipt of stolen land would secure for him. In 1875 the lease was granted and improvements were made, including additional buildings and tree planting.

With the land wars now over, tourists began to flock to the region and Lofley’s Glen was on the map.  Edward thrived in his role and became a celebrated and entertaining host, always ready with a story. His quick-witted humour kept spirits high and the beer flowing.  It wasn’t long before he became a guide to the growing number of sight seers who passed his way. He took them to the mud pools, geysers and a range of natural wonders of the region, including the famed pink and white terraces; before the eruption of Mountt Tarawera in 1886.

As resident host and storyteller his notoriety as a guide grew. He was often engaged by respected and renowned travellers wanting to see the sights; including the novelist, Anthony Trollope, who was guided across Lake Rotomahana. Edward, however, was not impressed when the author failed to share his whisky with the rowers. “Writing prettily is one thing,” Edward wrote, “and acting like a gentleman is another.”

Edward was not a man to hold his tongue, nor still his pen, to make a friend or keep the peace. He had an unnerving need to speak his mind which was given every opportunity between 1879 and 1886 when he became the Taupo correspondent for the Hawke’s Bay Weekly Courier and several other regional papers around the country.  He often used his column to praise his own guiding skills; referring to himself as highly-respected, celebrated, well-known and popular, amongst other terms of praise. This added to his growing reputation which was supported by regular advertising in the local papers.

By this time Lofley’s Glen had become the Lake Taupo Hot Baths and Sanatorium, boasting “curative properties of the highest value.”

It was Edward’s tendency to push his luck and speak his mind that led to his eventual downfall.  The investment in new buildings and services for the growing tourism trade had cost him and meant he had to raise the price of beer to cover expenses. His regular patrons, being members of the armed constabulary, weren’t interested in his tourism venture or his grand plans. They just wanted a beer and a bath at the end of the day. 

The price rise was more than they were prepared to pay and they took their beer drinking business to the new pub which had opened in Taupo. Edward responded that if they chose not to drink with him they would no longer have access to the spa. The men of the armed constabulary stood their ground and informed Edward they had no intention of bathing at the spa; they would build their own.  True to their word they built the AC Baths at the top of Spa Road.

This incident fuelled tension between Edward and local police officers and was a precursor to further conflict.  In 1882 there were two incidents of arson at his spa, within a week of each other. Edward offered a reward to find and convict the culprit, which the police never referred to in their public statements, much to Edward’s annoyance.

In Edward’s opinion, as stated in his column in November the same year, the fires were no accident. He used his column to launch a scathing attack on the local police, asking, “Why do the police fail so often. Are they apathetic or are they incompetent?”

This was one of several columns in which he had challenged the integrity of local authorities, members of the police, and the church. While others may have agreed with him, it was Edward who penned the challenge and who became the face of local dissidence.

In December the same year Edward was instrumental in bringing charges of vandalism against two members of the local police force, for wilfully damaging a famous geyser named Crow’s Nest. This was another first, in bringing charges against individuals for environmental damage. As a guide he was well aware of the need to protect the environment from vandals and preserve it for his own sustainable gains. The charges did not stick but it was hoped that his actions would stop others from damaging “the grand and beautiful works of nature.”

The following year, in 1883, Edward was banned from using the armed constabulary reading room in Taupo because of his attacks against the integrity of the police and for using his column as a vehicle to challenge their behaviour. On at least one occasion he was referred to as an ‘inkslinger’ in an attempt to undermine his opinion on law and order issues.

On the night of 26th August 1884 the conflict came to a head when Edward was brutally beaten by four men on Spa Road. He was hospitalised for a week and sustained injuries from which he never fully recovered. He recognised one of his assailants by voice as Sergeant Cleary, one of the officers he had witnessed vandalising the Crow’s Nest geyser. The incident was widely reported as The Tarawera Assault Case and heard in the Supreme Court in December. Several of the reports were written by Edward himself.

On reviewing the evidence, including several witness accounts, the judge summarised that the assault was planned but there was insufficient evidence to convict anyone. Sergeant Cleary was, however, later charged with perjury for providing contradictory evidence and told he was unfit to be a police officer.

Edward left Taupo in 1886 to manage a hotel in Napier. A few years later he moved to Woodville with the intention of buying land but died of an illness in the Star Hotel in March 1889. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Woodville Cemetery.

During his life he had two wives and several children. His first wife was Maori, his second was Irish. He separated from his first wife in about 1879; and his second in 1885. His second wife was described in the Woodville paper as “a woman of considerable ability, but given to fits of violence.” She was in prison at the time of Edward’s death, and died in 1917.



Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

A Short History of the Association. Royal New Zealand Artillery Association,

Acclimatisation IN Otago Daily Times, 29th September 1875

Local and general news IN Bay of Plenty Times, 6th May 1880

Lake Taupo Hot Baths and Sanatorium (advertisement) IN Hawkes Bay Herald 1879 - 1886

Undetected crime IN Hawkes Bay Herald, 15th November 1882

News from Taupo IN Wanganui Herald, 27th December 1882

Miscellaneous IN Hawke’s Bay Herald, 26th February 1883

Destroying the natural beauties of Taupo IN Wanganui Herald, 22nd March 1883

Assault case at Tarawera IN Daily Telegraph, 22nd September 1884

The Tawera Assault Case IN Daily Telegraph, 23rd September 1884

Resident’s Magistrate’s Court IN Hawkes Bay Herald, 24th September 1884

Supreme Court – criminal sittings IN Hawkes Bay Herald, 3rd December 1884

Local and general news IN Feilding Star, 6th June 1885

Our Woodville letter IN Evening Post, 29th March 1889


ABOUT THE WRITER: Judith Lofley, who lives on the Kapiti Coast, is a communications consultant, technical writer and researcher. She also writes short stories and has written a novel for teens.  She is a descendant of Edward Lofley and intends to write his story when she has completed the research.

‘The Price of a Beer and a Bath’ was written for the Memoir & Local History Competition 2011, run annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region) with support from Tauranga Writers, and was Highly Commended by judges Susan Brocker and Tommy Kapai Wilson.


The grave of Edward Lofley


Edward John Lofley


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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The Price of a Beer and a Bath: The Edward Lofley Story by Judith M. Lofley

First Names:Edward John
Last Name:Lofley
Date of Birth:c1840
Place of Birth:Hull
Country of birth:England
Date of death:March 1889
Place of burial:Old Woodville Cemetery
Date of Arrival:1860
Name of the ship:Harrier
Military Service:New Zealand Wars
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
The Price of a Beer and a Bath: The Edward Lofley Story by Judith M. Lofley by New Zealand Society of Authors in the Bay of Plenty. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License