Topic: An interview with Mr and Mrs R.T. Goulding (1975)

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In 1975 the City Libraries organised a Mrs. van Oorde of the Local History and Archives department to visit and interview Robert Thomson Goulding and his wife Margaret (nee Wallis). The following are her notes.

Goulding Wedding 1950s 99-999

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Mrs. Goulding was Miss Margaret Wallis;    her mother had been born in New Zealand, married in Taranaki, and in 1901, after three years in Hokianga, the family had moved to Tauranga, They had purchased “Gardenhurst”, not for the 300 acres of farmland, but for the extremely beautiful gardens surrounding the house. Mrs. Goulding was the eldest girl in a family of eight children, her brother Roy being the eldest boy (q.v.).    The first school she attended was the Bethlehem School, to which the children walked although it was quite some distance away.     The Misses Baker were then the teachers.     Later, when attending the Otumoetai Primary School, the children rode ponies, and Miss Benner and Miss Badger were their teachers.

"Gardenhurst” was originally a soldier’s grant to a Captain Farrer.      Captain Farrer sold the property to a widow with several children, who changed the name from "Gardenhurst" to "Chiselhurst” because she thought she had been poorly done by in the deal. The farm, renamed “Gardenhurst,” eventually became the property of a South African family who were largely responsible for the glorious gardens.      It is at present owned by Mr. and Mrs. Sam Gilmer.

Mrs. Goulding’s father died in 1908 and Mrs. Wallis on her own raised her large family and ran the farm.     She was an excellent manager, maintained strict account of farm and household expenses, and kept her family on approximately fifty pounds a year.     Butter, cream, milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables, of course, were produced on the farm.     Mrs. Wallis had been a school teacher and was also a great help to her children in their lessons; Mrs. Goulding recollected that during their school life no child of the family failed an examination, and she had the greatest admiration for her mother in the wonderful support she unstintingly gave them in all things.     As the children grew older they were able to help on the farm, milking the cows before and after school and assisting in other ways.     They seldom went to town;    but there were children on neighbouring farms, such as the Yerexes at "Kelston,”  the Perstons at "Ferncliffe,” and the Lindemanns, and they got together and made their own fun, being quite numerous enough to form teams for sports and games. An exciting event for the children was the Hunt, to which the older ones were allowed to ride on borrowed horses - one very fine racehorse was lent to Mrs. Goulding by Mr. Max Alley, and Mr. A. B. Lloyd would lend his brumby ponies.    

There were occasional children's parties.      One game the Wallis children loved was to swing along the trees on the Cambridge Road frontage of the farm, traversing the length of it without putting foot to ground. They certainly had to work hard, but their childhood was a happy one.

Once again Mr. Badger the grocer was remembered for his generosity, allowing Mrs. Wallis to pay the bills when she conveniently could and never failing to add to the family grocery order a gift of a big bag of sweets.

Eventually Mrs. Wallis sold the farm and settled in Mount Maunganui.  Mr. Goulding’s  father was born in 1845 and came out from Ireland as a youngster with his father to work the gold diggings in Australia.     After a period in such places as Wood's Point, Bendigo and Kalgoolie,  father and son came on to New Zealand and worked the diggings at Gabriel's Gully and around Greymouth. In time Mr. Goulding’a father became the headmaster of the Greymouth School.     Mr. Goulding's mother was also a schoolteacher; they were married in Greymouth and later moved to Napier, where Mr. Goulding was born, the third son, in 1886.     There were in all six sons, one of whom was to become headmaster of a school in Blenheim.     He was later killed at Gallipoli during the First World War.

Mr. Goulding started work in Napier as a cadet with the survey firm of Kennedy Brothers and Morgan.     He remembers that when, in the course of his apprenticeship, he submitted some plans for an examination,  and the examiner was amazed at the great extent of the land and the projects he had obviously been engaged on with this firm.      (One of the Kennedy brothers was also a partner in the legal firm of Kennedy and Lusk;    he was in fact civil engineer, surveyor, barrister and solicitor, an extremely clever and versatile man, who also bred polo ponies).

Mr. Goulding remembers that on his first day of work he was sent into the yard shed with a matchbox to collect some spiders. He thought it was a kind of practical joke until it was explained to him that the spider's web could help set up the angles of the fine wires in the theodolite inside the telescope.     The spiders that favoured ti-tree were considered best, as they spun a particularly strong, clear thread.

Mr. Goulding served his apprenticeship for four years, between 1903 and 1907.     The projects his firm were engaged upon often took him far out into the country and the bush, where camps were set up, or accommodation was found on nearby farms.     At night, by candlelight, he would work on the calculations from the day's findings.     His work took him out and about so much that he found it hard to get in the necessary study.      In the first year he participated in the surveying of 50,000 acres;   he recollects that on the property of Mr. McLean he had to survey all the fences, making a plan showing all the paddocks, and there were over 300 miles of fences on that farm.

Excellent experience was gained when he was given the job of checking the plans, before they were printed, of some city property that was being sub-divided.     The plans were traced on a kind of sensitized paper that was difficult to work with, and frequently corrections had to be made on the stones used in the printing process;   but on these the plans were upside down, so that the greatest care was needed in checking them for faults and necessary corrections.

By the end of his apprenticeship Mr. Goulding was earning three pounds a week.

In time he went to Auckland, to the City Engineer's Office, under Mr. Bush.     He attended the University, studying under Mr. Lamb, then Professor of Engineering.     While at the City Engineer's Office, he was engaged on the job of making a plan of the whole of the City of Auckland; about a dozen people were employed on this plan, which was a most detailed survey showing every road and every building, etc, down to every drainage pipe. He worked in this Office for about two years, then was engaged for surveying for the Department of Lands and Survey in the King Country.

In 1909 he was sent to Tauranga to do triangulation work for the Government;    and he liked it here so much that he returned early in 1914 and entered into partnership with the surveyor, Mr. Frank Stevens.     The First World War interrupted his career at this point, and he served in Egypt, Gallipoli and the Balkans.     He was attached to the British Royal Engineers, and some of the maps he made during this time were thought so well of that they appear in the official War Records.

Returning to Tauranga in 1920 he continued in partnership with Mr. Stevens, and was engaged in surveying a great number of the sections in both Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, and in the surrounding districts.     During the Depression many surveyors had to turn to other work;    Mr. Stevens joined the Borough Council, but Mr. Goulding carried on and was joined by a cadet, Mr. Benham.     This gentleman was later to become a partner. At the same time Mr. Goulding did consulting work for the Borough Council, and continued to do so for thirty years, when failing health made it advisable to retire.

Mr. Goulding always found surveying interesting and satisfying work.     The town planning for Tauranga was based on Mr. Blair Mason’s report for the Tauranga Harbour Board, which provided an excellent basis for all subsequent development. This Report was published in 1919 in a special edition of "The Bay of Plenty Times," and Mr. Goulding considered   it the result of first-class groundwork.

On one occasion Mr. Goulding was employed by the company engaged in taking sulphur from White Island.     They required some engineering and surveying work to be done, and he travelled over with the manager of the company, and with Mr. Bassett, the secretary, and Mr. Ron Kennedy.     This was quite some time after the disaster of 1914 when 12 men lost their lives there, but Mr. Goulding remembers that his party also was almost overwhelmed by fumes from the main blow-hole.     There were Pohutakawas growing near the encampment at that time, and between the encampment and the crater was a gannetry;    the birds were not at all shy, but rather curious and occasionally a bit aggressive. Mutton birds also abounded.

In 1938 Mr. Goulding suggested to the Council that it would be a wise investment to buy two farms in Otumoetai that could have been obtained for about forty-five pounds an acre, the land to be developed as part of the city and eventually sold to create funds.     He offered a detailed plan, and included a plan and estimate for a bridge across the Waikareao Estuary. However, the Council was not in favour of this proposal;    the causeway that was in time put across the Estuary cost thousands of pounds more, and Otumoetai property meanwhile has increased in value many many times.

The house, "Westcliff,”  first became known to Mr. Goulding as a boarding-house, where his partner Mr. Frank Stevens had been staying and where Mr. Goulding also secured accommodation. It was owned by Mrs. Humphries, who, having been left a widow with three small children to raise, took in boarders and in her spare time undertook photographic work.     The house then was about half the size it is now, and the present enclosed balcony was an open verandah.     When Mrs. Humphries died, Mr. Goulding bought the house for his own private residence and considerably enlarged it.     In time the steep narrow staircase linking the entrance hall with the lower floor was removed, and the latter converted to self-contained flats.     The original house, prior to Mrs. Humphries purchase of it, had belonged to a solicitor who travelled about a good deal on Maori land work;    and is thought to have been built in the 1880’s.     There is a lovely view across the Waikareao Estuary to Otumoetai, and Mr. Goulding remarked that when he first lived there only two houses were to be seen in that direction - "Woodhill,” occupied by the Brabant family, and ,”Maungawhare,” the home of Mr. Harry Bell Johnston.

Waikareao estuary, Tauranga, from Mary Humphreys’ front gate, Hamilton street, showing (Peach Island), Motuopae in the background. c 1912..Handwritten on reverse: This is a photograph taken from the front gate 

Mrs. Humphries was a very talented woman;    her photographic work was of a high standard, and even in her old age her hands were always busy turning out beautiful embroidery and other handiwork.     An embroidered picture made by her and given to the Gouldings shows exquisitely fine stitching and testifies to marvellous eye-sight, which Mrs. Humphries apparently possessed all her life.

In conjunction with Mrs. Maxwell of "The Elms," Mrs. Humphries played a large part in producing a souvenir album of beautiful photographs of Tauranga and the district which was presented by the ladies of Tauranga to the Duchess of York when she and the Duke (later King George V) visited here. A card written on behalf of Her Royal Highness acknowledging this gift, bound with unusual fine-grained wood covers, is in Mr. Goulding’s possession.

On one occasion Mrs. Humphries visited White Island to take photographs;    and Mr. Goulding remembers her remarking that, such was the corroding atmosphere on the island, the sleeves of her blouse disintegrated!

Mrs. Humphries was a very close friend of Mrs. Maxwell, whom Mr. Goulding remembers as looking very much like Queen Victoria - tiny but indomitable.

Mr. and Mrs. Goulding have kindly given the Library five photographs, and other material may be offered at a later date.


Two photographs show early views of The Strand, Tauranga, and of Mt. Maunganui;    and one shows a gathering of people at the entrance to Coronation Wharf, recording some event in the early 1900fs - the steamer at Victoria Wharf is possibly the "Clansman," and in the background is Mr. Brain's boat-shed and beyond that the Redoubt and military cemetery.

A most interesting photograph is that of Mr. C. MacMillan and the Rt. Hon. W. Massey, P.M., who visited Tauranga to support Mr. MacMillan during his successful election campaign. Another photograph shows the Tauranga Cricket Team of the very early 1920’s, taken at the Domain;    at the left is the umpire,  Mr. C. MacMillan, then, back row - Mr. Glasgow (bank manager), Mr. Chadban (who had a barber's shop on –The Wharf) , Mr. Renshaw (retired), Mr. E. T. Baker (New Zealand Insurance Company representative, also stockbroker, who owned the Bank Chambers at the corner of Wharf and Willow Streets), ?....., Mr. H. Griffiths; front row - Mr. Yorke, Mr. Hitchins (of Te Puke), Mr. George lies, Mr. Baker (who had a business at the Mount), Mr. Goulding, and finally the second umpire, Mr. Mervyn Stewart.


(Research Collections are looking for this photo, which may be added later)

This page was archived at perma cc March 2017

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An interview with Mr and Mrs R.T. Goulding (1975)

Note:ROBERT THOMSON (BERT) GOULDING (1886-1987). Tauranga Town Planner. WWI Hauraki Regiment and 8th Survey Company, Royal Engineers. Present at Galipoli and Salonika.

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An interview with Mr and Mrs R.T. Goulding (1975) by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License