Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002


By Irene Hughes

On Saturday, 2 February 2002, the Tauranga Historical Society celebrated their 50th Anniversary in the form of a Garden Party in the grounds of Brain Watkins' House.

Reg and Irene Hughes accompanied Mr and Mrs Graham Watton to the function.

It was a lovely summer's day and we were glad of the shade of a marquee and seats. The function was opened by the President of the Society. He then introduced the guest speaker, Judge Russell Calendar. He gave a most interesting speech and the funniest we have ever heard - no danger of slipping off to sleep. It was a collection of school boy howlers, dealing with historical events from Adam and Eve to the present day. Unfortunately I don't remember a single one of them.

The Judge's speech was applauded and followed by several musical items presented by the Tauranga Choral Society. Afternoon tea was served with the opportunity of mixing with the guests. We wandered around the garden and into Brain Watkins' House - it is a real treasure. The house was built by Captain Joseph Denham Brain, together with its beautiful kauri furniture, in the 1880s. Captain Brain had arrived from England in 1866 - he married Kate Bishop in Auckland in 1871 and went to live in Tauranga in the early 1880s. He established a boat building business and became very active in the affairs of the town. They had five daughters, one of whom, Elva, married William Watkins and because of this marriage the home was known as Brain Watkins' House. Elva died in 1979 and bequeathed the house, its contents and adjoining property to the Tauranga Historical Society who have restored it for future generations to admire.

The house is left as it was used - all the furniture, linen, cutlery, ornaments and some fine works of art, also lovely old clothes are in the drawers and cupboards.

A custodian lives rent free in two of the rooms and the place is kept beautifully clean and sweet. The Society receives no financial help from Government or City Council and is dependent on donations. Some of the high valued land has been sold to help with expenses. We trust that the generosity of people will help keep this lovely place alive.