River’s early days revisited

An early shot of the Mahurangi River, with Browns Mill on the left. Photo, Keys, H. J. 1954, Mahurangi: the story of Warkworth; Cameo Press.

The Mahurangi River’s coastal trading history, from Gordon Browne’s timber station in the 1830s until the connection of an all-weather road in the 1930s, is the subject of this month’s Warkworth Town Hall Talk.

The speaker will be archaeologist Bree Wooller.

Bree says the talk will be based on her honour’s dissertation, The Historical Archaeology of Coastal Trade on the Mahurangi River, which she completed at the University of Otago last year.

“I utilised both historical and archaeological records to develop a narrative of the coastal trade operating on the river for over a century until land transport took over,” she says. “It was a fast-changing, sometimes drama-laden, activity that connected sparse and isolated European settlements.

These small industrial outposts and their associated habitants clung to the coast and the river served as a highway, with communication and trade, and most other activities revolving around water transportation.”

Bree says coastal trade is a fundamental, yet frequently overlooked, element of New Zealand’s past with very little archaeological or historical research in this field.

“Having grown up in the area, the Mahurangi River provided a perfect case study for me,” she says.

The talk will cover the early industries that attracted settlers and which led to the establishment of

Warkworth, as well as the vessels and associated shipping lines that traded on the river.

Bree says physical remnants of the coastal trade can still be seen in the landscape today.

The talk is free and will be held on Thursday, August 22. Doors open at 5pm for a 5.30pm start.

Bree Wooller

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