Brain Watkins House Tauranga


  Adam Hyde and Cat - Brain Watkins Garden Party

Gifted to the Tauranga Historical Society by Elva Brain Watkins in 1979, at her death on 15 May 1979. The Society is responsible for the management, preservation and display of the Brain Watkins House Museum.

Built in 1881 by Elva's father, Joseph Brain, it is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category II Historic Place.

Occupied by one family for nearly 100 years and filled with original contents, the house offers an insight into the life of a middle class European family of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On the death of Elva’s mother the property was shared between Elva and her sister Bessie, the two unmarried daughters.

Elva became the sole owner of the house in 1957 when Bessie and her friend Alfred Byron were struck and killed by a car outside the front gate. A few years later Elva, aged 72, married Willy Watkins who predeceased her.

To mark the opening of the house as a museum, a garden party was held on the 1st of December 1979, which I attended along with my family.

Shown here is a few snapshots I took of the occassion.

Reference: Brain Watkins House

Guests at the Brain Watkins Garden Party

From the left: Rena Bowling, ---- , Rebecca Hyde, ----. If you can name the other guests please let me know.

Bob Addison conducting a choir from Otumoetai College at Brain Watkins Garden Party - Dec. 1979
The Elms Mission House - circa 1975


When Alice Maxwell died in 1949 she had spent 62 years caring for The Elms and sharing her knowledge of the history of the mission station which she had learned from Archdeacon Brown himself.

Alice decided that she would leave the property to her nephew Duff as a life tenant. So, in 1949, Duff and Gertrude Maxwell moved up from Taranaki to take over guardianship of The Elms. The property which they inherited needed a great deal of work. Money was always scarce, and considerable sacrifices had to be made in order to provide what Duff considered to be appropriate care of the mission station. Duff left The Elms in 1992 and died in September 1997.

In 1962 The Elms Historic Family Home Preservation Trust Inc. was established to provide Duff with support and help in the maintenance of the property. One of the first tasks undertaken in 1964 was the building of a replica chapel to replace the original which had fallen into disrepair in the 1880s.

The mission station has passed into public ownership with the establishment of The Elms Foundation in 1998. Funding for the purchase has come from charitable organisations and businesses in Tauranga and the western Bay of Plenty as well as from the Lotteries Board Heritage Fund. Trustees and a Board of Directors are now responsible for the management of the property.

Duff Maxwell and friend at the Brain Watkins Garden Party 1st Dec. 1979

From the left: Duff Maxwell, ---- . If you can name the other guest please let me know.

Reference: Elms Mission House (Tauranga)

Alan and Margaret Oliver - at Brain Watkins Garden Party - 1st Dec. 1979

Bobbin lacemaking demonstrator - Brain Watkins Garden Party - 1st Dec. 1979

If you can name the lace maker please let me know.

A guest at the Brain Watkins Garden Party - 1st. Dec. 1979

Thanks Fiona Kean for the surname.

A piano-accordionist at the Brain Watkins Garden Party - 1st. Dec. 1979

Thanks Fiona Kean for the surname.

Dancers at the Brain Watkins Garden Party - 1st. Dec. 1979
David Hyde at Brain Watkins Garden Party 1st Dec. 1979
I was the man who mistook his wife for a hat - Brain Watkins Garden Party - 1st Dec. 1979
Craig Laird winner of the Silver Rook in 1979
Government Building Tauranga - Built circa 1910
Tauranga Firestation completed in 1912
Aspen Tree and 1906 Post Office Tauranga - taken in 1977