Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003
By Clare Fennell
The little old house which stood on the corner of Arney Street and Willoughby Street will be remembered by many. Numerous music pupils went there for their weekly lessons. It was then the residence of the late Mary Fennell (nee Walls) and her daughter, Clare, who was a music teacher. The property had been owned by the late Mary Walls who passed it on to her granddaughter, Clare, who sold it in 1993 to Lynch and Partners, an accountancy firm. The house was subsequently demolished and a modern two-storey office block was erected on the rear portion of the land. Lynch and Partners also purchased an adjoining section, where the Farmers Trading store had been.
During Mary Walls ownership of the property, it was rented out to many tenants. The late Irene Hughes was born in the house, as was Lilian Walls, when her parents, John and Zita Walls (son and daughter-in-law of Mary) resided there.
The only reminder of the house now is the large rhododendron tree, standing in front of the office car park. The tree produces pink flowers every year and would be approximately one hundred years old.
The history of the house dates back approximately to 1863, being one of the earliest houses in Paeroa. It had been built for John Earl, who had established one of the earliest butcheries in Paeroa, previous to Josh Tetley. He and his family resided in the house for many years and Mrs Earl (Senior) remained in residence after the butchery business changed ownership.
John Thomas Walls was born in Scarborough, England, in 1858 and learnt his trade in Hull. In 1891 Mr Walls arrived in Australia and two years later, came to Auckland, then to Paeroa, where he purchased the butcher shop from Josh Tetley. He married Mary Bullians, who had come from Mangapai to Auckland, where she worked as a dressmaker for Milnes (later Milne and Choice). She came to Paeroa with her sister, Helen Bullians, who was later well known in Karangahake, having taken up a drapery business there.
Mr and Mrs John Walls resided in a house beside the ex-butcher shop, towards the main street. In later years John became a diabetic and had a leg amputated. He eventually died of his illness in 1930, at the age of 72 years and his wife, Mary, carried on the business for some 26 years. She was assisted by her son, John and her daughter, Mary, who came from Auckland to reside with her. Mary did the books and took the telephone orders.
Over the years, Mrs Walls also employed many men workers who served an apprenticeship in the butchery business under son, John. She herself worked in the shop serving, etc. until she was approximately 78 years of age and she died in Waihi Hospital in 1961, aged 86 years.
Son, John, ran the business until he became ill in 1974, when it was run by Trevor Mora (of Te Aroha) and later, Eric Dickson, when it closed as a retail butchery. It was then let for cutting down purposes, and it was sold in 1992.