Heritage expert launches talks

Robert Brassey (left) and archaeological consultant Hans Bader recording foreshore structures at the site of Browne’s spar station.

Mahurangi residents will have an opportunity to revisit their past on July 12 when Auckland cultural heritage specialist Robert Brassey delivers the first in a series of monthly lectures and discussions entitled Warkworth Town Hall Talks.

The series is being co-hosted by Mahurangi Action Group and One Warkworth Business Association.
Action Group secretary Cimino Cole says town halls have always been places where communities can meet and discuss issues pertinent to their area.  

“Now that we have a town hall again, it will be good to re-establish that role,” he says. “We hope the range of speakers will elevate the discussion and thinking on local issues.”

Mr Brassey says few Aucklanders would be aware that an unremarkable looking bay in the Mahurangi Harbour was the site of first European settlement in the Auckland region, preceding the establishment of the town of Auckland in 1840 by several years.

“The spar and timber operation was a collaborative venture with Hauraki Maori, in a region where no Europeans had previously been resident,” he says. “The station was not a financial success, closing in 1836 after only four years, as the supply of trees suitable for topmasts for British Admiralty battleships ran out.

“The station is historically important because it represents the first sustained period of contact between Maori and Europeans in a region that had previously been decimated by inter-tribal conflict. The site is important from an archaeological perspective, because it is, in effect, a rare ‘time capsule’ of life during this pre-colonial period, when Maori were very much in control.”

In his presentation in Warkworth, Mr Brassey will discuss the eventful history of the Browne’s spar station and its manager Gordon Davies Browne, who eventually descended into insanity and religious fervour, and died an early death. He will also cover the archaeology of the station site and of associated places in the harbour.

“This will focus on the results of some archaeological excavations that have been undertaken at the site – what we found and what it tells us about life at the settlement and the relationship between cultures.”
Doors open at 5pm for a 5.30pm start.

Anyone interested in helping to compile a list of speakers, or who has any suggestions of speakers who could be invited, should contact Cimino Cole on 027 462 4872 or editor@mahurangi.org.nz


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