Posted on Oct 01, 2018
The Guest speaker Alison McKim, Chair of the Old Custom House Trust.
Alison’s subject The Old Custom House in Ahuriri.
Alison told us that when she came to live here in 2008 she noticed that the Custom-house was always closed. After speaking to the trustees who were all elderly she gathered a group of volunteers and started opening on a Sunday. The viewings for this summer start on the 7th October 11am to 4pm.
As a trial run the Custom House will be open on the 3rd, 10th and 17th October (which is a Wednesday) from 12 noon to 1pm.
The Customhouse facing out to the Iron Pot area of Napier's Inner Harbour served Napier from 1895 to 1953 when the department was moved into the city. Subsequently, several Government departments used the building.
Later, because of its age and poor state of repair, the Customhouse was threatened with demolition. The Hawke's Bay Harbour Board stepped in, purchasing the building and overseeing its restoration.
In August 1989, the Harbour Board set up a trust to administer the building and the Customhouse was presented to the citizens of Napier and Hawke's Bay for use as a meeting place and future maritime museum.
The building is not the city's original customhouse. After Napier was declared a customs point of entry in 1855, a combined customhouse/post office was erected on the corner of Milton and Battery Roads.
A wharf search shed was opened in Waghorne Street, Ahuriri, in 1856. Then, in 1864, a new customhouse was built opposite the wharf search shed office. The restored building in Customhouse Quay opened in 1895.
The iron try-pot near the Customhouse is typical of those used by whalers for trying out (melting down) blubber. The resultant oil was poured into casks while waste from the cooking process was used to stoke up the fire beneath the try-pot.
Several small whaling stations operated along Hawke's Bay's coastline during the 1880s. These were strategically located to spot and capture whales on their migratory paths.
There are 3 rooms in the custom house. Brian Lockwood had compiled a number of photos and now the new trustees have added to these. A website carries personal stories and photographs. In August the trust took delivery of a large model of the dredge The Wharire.
A once familiar slice of Hawke's Bay maritime history is back in its home waters after more than 40 years docked in Wellington — well, not quite in the waters of the Bay but not far from it.
It is a shining and working 1.5m model of the dredge Whakarire which served the old Napier Harbour Board, not to mention carrying out vital wartime duties when called upon, between 1934 and 1973.
After four decades on show, and later stored, at what was the Wellington Maritime Museum it has finally come home — to a fine mooring in the Old Customhouse Museum in Ahuriri where some impressively solid parts of the actual Whakarire are on display outside. The new display case cost over a $1000 so the Port of Napier are being asked to help foot the bill.
The trust need funds and volunteers. A form was sent around asking our club if any one was interested in volunteering.
Nigel Kynoch thanked Alison and presented her with our Rotary coin.