Ormondville Rail Preservation Group Newsletter 1999

The Station Platform

Newsletter of the Ormondville Rail Preservation Group Inc.

Issue 16 February 1999. Editor’ address: 11 Huntingdon St, Wilton, Wellington

The modern 1990 Napier railway station hosts another arrival of the Bay Express in September 1999. The Bay Express is the daily express train from Wellington servicing Hawkes Bay that has a 109 year service legacy. This service dates from 1891, the year the railway systems of Hawkes Bay and Wellington were joined. Today’s Bay Express typically consists of a Dc or Dx locomotive and four cars: luggage van, two day coaches, and a buffet/observation car. It carries up to 130 passengers and has a crew of three: locomotive driver, train manager and assistant. It is the longest working day of any Tranz Scenic crew assignment, departing at 8.00 am, returning at 7.36 pm, over a 12 hour day.

It is scheduled at Ormondville at 11.39 am and 3.52 pm. PJM photo

Summer Events Summary:
Full details provided overleaf.
February 12-13
March 11-12
April 8-9
Subscriptions for year 2000 now due.

The Literary Webb Women:
Emigration 1884
Christmas 1885
Railway Experiences
Web site launched.

The Station Platform, Ormondville’s newsletter, is edited by Paul Mahoney. Phone 04-475-4143
24 hours. If it was an ideal world, it would appear four times a year. Publishing is sponsored by City Print, Wellington.

The objective is to authentically preserve the Ormondville railway station as a 1950’s heritage precinct, and share some fun and friendship along the way. The station can be enjoyed through members’ activities, group visits, excursions, and particularly by its public availability as a unique “country homestay” with a railway character.

Station Events Calendar – Year 2000

Sat 9 February   10.00   Working bee
3.00   Committee Meeting
4.30   Community Barbecue at station

Sun 10 February   9.00 Working bee

Sat 13 March   10.00   Working bee
3.30   Committee Meeting
5.15   Makotuku pub dinner
6.45   Evening Program – to be arranged
8.30   Conclusion & cuppa

Sun 14 March   9.00   Working bee

Year 2000 proposed dates
April 8
May 6
June 3
July 1
August 12. Station 120 year birthday party.
September 9
October 7
November 4
November 25. Norsewood Fair open day.

Year 2000 proposed walks
Three Viaducts – Paul Mahoney
Makotuku – Paul Mahoney
Bush Tramways – Doug Scott

Year 2000 proposed training
Jigger driving certification
Shunting tractor driving certification

Sunday bees.
On Sundays after working bee we usually run a bee or historic field trip. Members can stay Saturday night in the station, and we usually have an entertainment program of slides or videos that is not necessarily railways. We sleep seven in three rooms. BYO sheets or sleeping bag. Book with Paul Mahoney 04-475-4143. Gordon Menzies can provide a caravan by arrangement 06-374-1719. We can also sleep two in the wagon hut, but just on mattresses until we get two 2’6” wide beds.

Subscriptions of $24 for the year 2000 are now due. A renewal form is enclosed.

New Web Site


Ormondville’s Literary Webb Women

Compiled by Paul Mahoney with the help of others. Warning to readers: this article hardly mentions railways or trains!

Two Webb Women

Two pioneering Webb women, Maria and Alice, a mother and her daughter, have bequeathed future generations a valuable written legacy of Ormondville history in the 1880’s, the first decade of the town’s existence. Their writings provide a fascinating insight of immigrants from England who arrive to make a living and a home in a newly developing bush district.

Alice, the daughter, will get the first say in this feature. Her book ‘Pilgrimage’, published in 1949, records in detail the family’s story. She wrote: “For many years I have wanted to write my father’s life, but have hesitated to do so because in late Victorian times such numbers of biographies of dull and insignificant men were written by unknown and prosy authors that I hesitated to produce another.  But father’s life was neither dull nor insignificant, and I shall strive not to be prosy.”

Today it is interesting to observe that while Alice records her father’s story, her mother is mentioned far less, even though she was clearly an interesting woman, as you will see from her story ‘Christmas 1885’. While her father’s family line-age is recorded, her mother’s is not. Neither her mother’s maiden name or family background is mentioned. Her mother’s Christian name creeps in only incidentally.

This shows the cultural tradition of women as minor players supporting the male act was also maintained by women themselves. Alice’s gender modesty extends to herself; she imparts no personal details or reflections, nor is her photo provided.

However the purpose here is not to judge, but to reflect on social values and changes over time.   We are very grateful that Alice cared enough to write, and she clearly loved her family and was very proud of them. The Webb story includes elements of family tragedy arising from untimely deaths that were common in those times, and are far less common today because of medical advances.

Pilgrimage 1884.

Adapted from: Webb Alice F, 1949, Pilgrimage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington. 161 pp.

After living in England for more than half his life, Mr A.S. Webb accompanied by his wife their large extended family emigrated to New Zealand in May 1884, and took residency as Anglican vicar of Ormondville.

Anthony Spur Webb was born the youngest of nine children, and sadly his mother died when he was only two or three years old so he was mainly brought up by his sister Mary. He was a good scholar and eventually graduated from St Johns College, Cambridge, with a Master of Arts degree as a prelude to entering the Anglican Ministry.

The Rev Webb met his future bride, a Miss Maria Tate during his first period as a curate in Ripley, Surrey. At the time she worked as a governess and was five years older than him, a factor which she apparently initially regarded as a drawback to them entering a relationship. Apparently his persistence won the day and they were married in Scotland on 26 June 1862. Rev. Webb always called his wife ‘Patty’ as his elder brother also had a wife whose name was Maria. She gained a husband but lost her name!

An Aunt had promised Maria the material and trimmings for a wedding dress, which on arrival turned out to be an expensive green silk of ‘unripe cooking apple’ tone. Maria Tate was ashamed of the vulgar colour, but her own poverty and horror of wastefulness compelled her to go ahead have it made up into a dress.  As an economy measure she continued to wear the detested wedding dress as her best dress until it wore out, and owing to its excellent quality, this took a long time.

During work among soldiers in England, Rev Webb signed a total abstainers pledge and thereafter wore the blue ribbon. At the time of his death he was Past Chief Ruler of the local (Ormondville?) ‘Tent of the Independent Order of Rechabites’.

The Webbs had produced nine children, four sons and five daughters, in order of appearance; Arthur, William, Edmond, Mary, Dora, Edith, Anne, Alice and Anthony.  In addition three cousins

lived with the family, Tom, George, and Jim, bringing the number of children to twelve. The cousins were from another Webb family of seven whose mother had died. Responsibility for raising these children was divided between Rev A. Webb and his sister Mary. Unmarried, she eventually raised six children covering two generations.

For 13 years prior to coming to New Zealand, Webb was the Vicar of Stockingford, near Birmingham, in Warwickshire. The town had several coal mines, a brick works and some factories, and was surrounded by farms. The vicarage was a large two-storey brick house with ivy and red roses climbing over its walls. Round the vicarage was a large orchard with old fruit trees, and a large kitchen garden, chicken coops and grazing for a house cow. His Vicar’s stipend was £100 per annum.

William, the second Webb child, developed tuberculosis “the illness nobody seemed to call by its real name”.  This led to him relinquishing his university art studies and to rest at home in the vain hope of recovery.  Eventually it was recommended William should be sent to New Zealand has a last hope, and that his parents and family should follow him there as soon as possible, which they did a year later.  The oldest son Arthur who was at Cambridge university, elected to remain behind.

The Webb party departed from London on their New Zealand ‘pilgrimage’ aboard the British Queen on 13 May 1884 and arrived in Port Chambers on 2 July.  They soon discovered that their sick son William, the motivation for their emigration, had already died. Soon after this, they heard from England that Arthur too had died from a football injury. Tragically the Webbs never saw either of their elder sons again.

The Webbs sailed north from Otago, with Anthony seeking suitable employment options, and in Napier he accepted an offer to become first vicar of the Ormondville Anglican parish.  The Ormondville church had been consecrated only six months before they arrived in New Zealand.

The Webbs purchased an existing small wooden cottage in Ormondville which was in stark contrast to the previous two storey stone vicarage in Stockingford.  In Ormondville they started out sleeping on the floor and the house had to be considerable enlarged to accommodate their large extended family.

More of the Webb family story will be included in a future article outlining the history of the Ormondville Anglican church, a wonderful historic building that survives to this day.

Christmas 1885.

Text written in Ormondville in 1885 by Maria Webb as part of an album complied for the family for Christmas. Contributed by member Karen Israelsen. Transcribed from the original manuscript held in the Hawkes Bay Museum by Gail McGahan and published with the permission of the Museum.

Ormondville is an English settlement in the Seventy-mile bush, about sixty-eight miles from Napier. Eight years ago it was all dense bush without roads or houses. A good deal of bush has been felled or falled as it is called here, and there is one fairly good road leading to Norsewood which is about four miles distant.

There is at present only one street, but a good many more have been planned and named thought [though] it will probably be some years before they are made. This one street runs at right angles with the Norsewood Road. The Railway Station is on one side of it and on the other side is the Wesleyan Chapel, two stores, a little butcher’s shop, Skinner’s Hall, several houses, and the Hotel, from which however the license has been taken away.

Some little distance back from the street there is a roman Catholic Chapel. There is very seldom any service there as there are very few Romanists in the place but they have an occasional service for which a priest comes from Waipawa. I believe there used to be a good many Romanists here at one time as a good many Irishmen were working here while the railway was being made.

Almost every house in Ormondville has a verandah and so have most of the shops both here and at Napier. I think it is this which gives a Colonial Street such a very un-English look, but these verandahs are almost necessities, as the things in the shop windows would be all spoilt by the sun if they were not shaded. As you enter Ormondville by the Norsewood road you pass our house on the right hand side. You next pass Michael Brown’s little house and then the road leading up to the Church which may be seen a little way back from the Main road. John Brown’s store is then passed, and a little way further on a cabinet-makers house and shop, then the District School and the Schoolmaster’s house. All these are on the same side of the road as our house.

After passing the school you come to a blacksmith’s shop and dwelling-house on the left hand side of the road, and a little further on stands the Court House. A Magistrate attends here once a month and there are generally a good many little cases to be heard, for the people here seem to be

quite as fond of going to law as the people at Stockingford were.  John Brown has added a large shop to his former one, and it is now a very nice one. As it is two-storied building and stands on rising ground it looks quite imposing.

All shops in country districts are called “Stores” as in America but in the towns they seem to call them shops as in England. I think they imitate American ways very much in New Zealand. They get a good many of their fashions from America, they wear their hats on the back of their heads, and they use American expressions very largely in conversation.

Ormondville will, I think, be an extremely pretty place when all the burnt trees are felled and the black logs which are now lying about are cleared off the ground. Its situation is very picturesque. Hills rise on every side. Some of the lower and nearer ones have been pretty well cleared and are covered with grass, but the greater number of them are still covered with dense bush to the very summits.

In the Norsewood direction the Ruahines bound the prospect and the summits of the highest range of these are covered with snow for a considerable part of the year. A prettier sight than the Ruahines on a bright spring morning can hardly be imagined. Their snowy tops look dazzlingly white, with a sky of the deepest blue overhead, and the air so clear and pure that they look much nearer than they really are.

Though Ormondville is so surrounded by hills yet they do not seem to crowd round and give one a feeling of being shut in, as the flat is of considerable extent and the higher ranges of hills are a good distance away. Some of the smaller hills however are so near that we can easily climb them. I went up one of these the other day with Jim. We only had to cross our paddock, pass the Church, and then ascend the hill. I only put on my hat as we were scarcely going off our own ground, and is about a quarter of an hour we were at the top.

From this hill we looked right over Ormondville to the hills at Pakatu (ie. Papatu) which are thickly covered in bush. The little town (or village as I prefer to call it) lay at our feet and we could see a team of bullocks with a dray turn in at the gate leading to the railway station, but besides these no living creature was to be seen in the street. As the village was far below us we could not hear the sound of the bullock dray nor indeed any sound at all except the myriads of birds in the bush close by. It was delightful to sit there and listen to them, there were a great many tuis and they have a very rich, liquid note and when they call to each other they twist their heads on one side in a very knowing kind of way.

The sketch which forms the frontspiece of this volume was taken from this hill. I hope the distant hills will remain as they are, with thick bush growing up to their tops, at least during my life-time as the land mostly belongs to the Maoris and even if they were to sell it, it would take years to clear it. In the meantime it is one of the greatest charms of our landscape as these wooded hills are ever varying in light and shade.

I will now describe the buildings. There are three places of worship, one (the church of the Epiphany) belonging to the Church of England, in which we have service every Sunday at 3 o’clock. Our Sunday School is also held in the Church as we have no Schoolroom. We have about seventy children on our books, of ages varying from five to seventeen. These children almost all attend the Wesleyan Sunday School in the afternoon, except the elder boys and one or two of the girls who prefer to come to Church.

The Wesleyans have a chapel but they do not belong to the regular Wesleyan body but call themselves ‘United Methodist Free Church’ which seems a somewhat contradictory designation. The minister, the Rev J Worboys, who does duty in it, lives at Woodville and rides over every other Sunday and holds a service in the evening. Some of us always attend this as we have no evening service in our own Church, and either Mary or I play the harmonium for them as they have no one in their own congregation who can play.

There is also a service held in this chapel on Thursday evenings by Anthony. He was requested by the Wesleyans to hold it in their chapel which is more central than the Church and then the service is attended by Church people and Wesleyans also, but the attendance has not been very good. The third place of workshop is a Roman Catholic chapel but as I have already mentioned there is no regular service at it.

There are at present no public buildings in Ormondville except the Court House and the District School. There is also a Hall which is sometimes called a Public Hall but it belongs to a baker named Skinner who lets it for Tea Meetings, Concerts, Lectures and Theatrical entertainments, so it is usually called “Skinner’s Hall.” There are three stores, John Brown’s, Groom’s and Westlake’s.

Brown is nominally a Romanist but I believe never enters the chapel. He has, however attended our church on one or two special occasions. Groom is a member of the Church of England, and is one of our Church Officers, a very worthy man, with a rather doleful wife, something in Mrs Neal’s style. It is a

favourite (sic) story of Mrs Groom’s (which I think she has told me at least four times) that when they first landed at Napier which was then a very small place I said to Mr Groom. Well you might have told me I was going to be transported!’ I always think, when she tells me this story, that if she tells it to everyone else as often as she has told it to me, her poor husband must be pretty tired of hearing it by this time.

The third storekeeper, Westlake, is the leading member of the Wesleyan congregation. He has, I think, the most stentorian voice I ever heard and one of his little boys almost rivals him, so that in playing their hymns for them Mr Westlake decidedly leads and the harmonium follows. He has also a curious habit of tacking the last letter of one word on to the next word, which has a droll effect, as for instance when he sings “Happy day – yappy day” or “Myyappy yome” or “over the fields of glory yover the crystal sea.”

Mrs Westlake who sings an entirely original alto used to put in some very novel words in a piece which came in the service of song which we lately assisted them to sing. The trebles had to sing “we watched’ sustaining a note while the alto sang “we watched”. This Mrs Westlake rendered as ‘Ve watched – totch toched”. Of the three storekeepers Brown keeps much the best things, his groceries are of better quality than Groom’s or Westlake’s, but he does not do so much in the drapery line, as he is a bachelor and the other two have wives who trim astonishing hats and bonnets.

The other houses in Ormondville are small houses occupied by settlers, except the Accommodation House which used to have a license and be called an Hotel (this is a good-sized house of two stories). All the houses which we should call “inns” or “public houses” in England are dignified with the name of “Hotels” in New Zealand. The other Accommodation House to which we went when we first came to Ormondville has been given up. There is a very good six-roomed house inhabited by the policeman and his wife, and another pretty good house with a garden in front, occupied by Mr Gundrie and his wife and family. Mr Gundrie works a large sawmill at Makotoku (Makotuku) and employs a good many men.

As there is no business going on in Ormondville most of the men have to go elsewhere to get work. A good many are employed in the various saw-mills at Makotoku and Papatu and probably there will soon be work for many more at Makotoku, but at present many of the men have to go much farther off to obtain work. Some work at Takapau, and some at the railway works which are carrying out the extension of the line from Tahoraite through the Manawatu Gorge.

This is not at all a good thing, as men working at these distances can only be at home from Saturday to Monday, and in some cases the men are away for two or three months at a time. The men however earn very good wages, sometimes getting as much as £3 a week, and generally being paid eight shillings a day, so they are able to live much better than working men at home can – and they do.

On almost every station a bullock-driver is employed and several men keep bullock-drays with which they work on their own account, carting timber and so on. They sometimes pompously describe themselves as ‘oxen-conductore’. When Jim was at Tahoraite he was employed for a little while in clearing a track for the bullock-dray which was carting two or three thousand post out of the bush.

The road the dray had to pass over was so deep in mud that it covered the axles of the wheels, and Jim sunk up to his knees. There are some very steep hills in this bush and the track is very narrow so that the dray keeps running into the trees and getting damaged. The sketch represents the bullocks coming down a hill with a load of posts, and just about to cross a small creek. The driver has to stand on a log and step from one log to another to keep himself from sinking in the mud.

I think women of all ranks have to do a great deal more in New Zealand than they would ever dream of doing in England and the working men’s wives do much rougher work than they do at home. A man will take up a section of land on the deferred payment system and then he has to clear it by degrees, and of course he and his family must live in the meantime. So he goes away to work at a distance and his wages help to keep the family and meet the half yearly payments for the land. I say that his wages help to keep the family because the wife does a good deal towards it.

I will describe one family which is a good specimen of many others. The man works in a saw-mill at Takapau and leaves home on Monday morning and does not return till Saturday evening. He has a section of about 50 acres on which he has put up a nice little four-roomed cottage with a verandah. Some of the land is cleared and fenced. The wife is a strong, active, young woman with four little children. She has to do her house-work, look after her children (the oldest is only ten) wash, bake, make, and mend. Besides this she has three cows to look after, and to milk, and make butter. Then she has calves, and pigs, and poultry to feed. She also does all the work in the garden with the help of her little boy. She digs it, plants potatoes and other vegetables, and has a really

good garden. Last year she prided herself on having the best onions in the neighbourhood.

I think you will say that she helps to keep the family. And you will see that they ought to be able to live very comfortably. They have their own milk, butter, eggs, bacon and vegetables. They have no rent to pay (except of course the half-yearly payments for the land but then that is really purchase money), they have no coals to buy as there is an abundance of timber on the land, and of course she sells butter and eggs besides supplying themselves.

When a husband and wife in this position are both steady and industrious, they will probably in a very few years rise considerably in the social scale, especially as they have nothing to pay for the education of their children. In the meanwhile the wife, as you will see, has to work very hard, far harder really than the man, (who only works eight hours a day) and I can’t think how these women ever get through all they have to do.

The particular woman I have been describing is always neat and tidy in her appearance and so are her children when they come to school, but I don’t think she much minds what they look like at home. If the man had not to go so far for work of course it would be much better for the wife, as he would milk and attend to the animals and the garden.

There are several other families in the place very much like the one I have been describing but there are many others that do not seem to get on very well; though there is no poverty like we have at home. There are many causes why some of them do not prosper. In some cases drink is, or has been, the cause. In others gambling is a fatal drain on the income. Horse-racing is almost a passion in New Zealand, and betting is general among all classes. I am sorry to say ladies go in for it almost as much as any one. I was very much struck by the way in which the ladies on board the steamer coming up to Napier, discussed racing matters, speculating as to which horse was likely to win and so on.

Then many of the people spend a good deal on amusement of various kinds. Every now and then a theatrical company comes up from Napier and gives an entertainment in Skinners Hall generally for two nights and a good many people go. Then they have concerts, balls, and various entertainments of a similar kind. The price for a ticket for a dance is genarally (sic) five shillings, but ladies are, as a rule, admitted free. A little while since there was a Foresters dinner and ball for which the tickets were a guinea, or half a guinea for either dinner or ball alone.

A good many of the people are absorbed in the desire of getting on in the world and as they are working hard all the week they think they need amusement on Sunday so they take rides or walks, (as present we have no Sunday trains). And others have been so long accustomed to be without any religious service that they have got out of the habit of going to Church. When you speak to them about it they are generally quite willing to admit that they are not living as they ought to do, but they make very much the same excuses that people at home do. They are quite ready to see how very careless and irreligious their neighbours are, and one woman amused me very much by telling me how greatly she was scandalised by her Scandinavian neighbour’s doings on the Sundays.

She said when she first came out some Scandinavians or “Scandies” as she termed them, lived just opposite to her and they used to plough, or fence, or cut their hay, or do anything else, just as they would on a week day. One Sunday the Scandinavian sent over to ask if the woman who told me the story would lend her an iron, to which she replied “Go and tell your mother that I don’t keep Sund irons.” She also told me that the Scandinavian woman always knitted on Sunday but that she had special Sund knitting, so that whereas she knitted stockings on week-days she kept a shawl for knitting on Sundays.

We are just about to have the church lined and some additional benches put in and I hope as we get to know the people better we shall be able to induce them to come to church more regularly. They like to be visited and always welcome us pleasantly and thank us for going to see them so I think we are very well placed here, and have plenty of opportunity for doing good.

It is very much to be desired that we should have a doctor resident in the place as at present there is none nearer than Waipukurau which is twenty-three miles distant, and you have to pay £5 for every visit, besides which the time occupied in sending for him might be of serious consequence in case of any serious accident.

I think you will consider that Ormondville is a very pleasant place to live in though of course it is very quiet, and there is nothing that can be called society within any reasonable distance so that many people would find it dull but as we are such a large family we do not feel it.

Railway Reflections.

Incidents relating to the railway and station selected from Alice Webbs book ‘Pilgrimage ‘, mostly taken as direct quotes.

Like most English emigrants to New Zealand the Webbs travelled first by train, from Birmingham to London to catch the boat, on a standard gauge mainline express.

In NZ they arrived by boat in Napier, then travelled to Ormondville by narrow gauge train stopping at all letterboxes. Alice recalls that “Annie and I, the two younger daughters … greatly enjoyed the journey … the journey by train was full of interest. We were met at the station by Mr Skinner, the local baker, who was also the owner of the accommodation house. ”

“Our post office was then part of the railway station, and mother was much annoyed when letters from our brother Arthur were delivered with the stamps torn from the envelopes. This only happened when his letters were written in the long vacation, when he was ‘bear leading’ on the Continent, seeing Switzerland, France, Belgium, and other countries at the expense of the wealthy parents of backward sons. Had our stamp-collecting stationmaster asked for these stamps he would probably have got them, but he took no risk of refusal. A news-paper at the time reported this issue. Residents were too scared to argue with the stationmaster because he became irate and threatened to delay the delivery of letters in retaliation.

When the Webbs arrived a constable in charge of the district was resident in Ormondville. There was also a courthouse in which the magistrate held monthly sittings. However the police residence and lock-up had not yet been built. “If it was necessary to lock anyone up, they were put into the ladies’ waiting room at the railway station.” This was quite a practical arrangement as it had an inside toilet and just one window.

In the old days when entertainments were few, the railway station of any town was the meeting place for young people to ‘hang about’ in the evenings. Alice reports that the young lads of Ormondville, too, had “the custom of gathering at the station to see the last train come in.”

Napier was not then a very healthy town, owing to the swamp which was later reclaimed and became Napier South. The doctors often ordered children up to our village (by train) in hot summers, and inhabitants made money by letting rooms or even cottages to such visitors. These people benefited by our mountain air, Ormondville being nearly 1000 feet above sea level, as well as by the fresh fruit, milk and vegetables available. (A 1910 travel guide still listed Ormondville as a resort town).

In the 1880’s, the roads in the district were largely unformed and so the railway was commonly used (illegally) as a footpath. “Coming from the settled and orderly life of the Old Country, with a possible radius of three miles well supplied with road and lanes, the emergencies which arose in a bush settlement in the process of civilisation must often have put a heavy strain on him (Webb), especially as he was past middle age when he came to New Zealand.

“I well remember a dark night in mid-winter, when a gale blew and the rain fell in torrents, he learned that a woman lay dying at Matamau and a new born infant awaited baptism.

“The horses had been turned out before dark and could not be found, so carrying a lantern, he set out to walk seven miles (10km) along the railway track which was the shortest way, crossing open trestle bridges without handrails where one had to step from sleeper to sleeper in the flickering light from his lantern. (These were the lofty Makotuku and Matamau viaducts)

“He got there two or three minutes after the woman died. The baby lived and was adopted by friends, and the other children were brought up by relatives.

“After a short rest, when he had baptised the baby, and arranged to return a day or two later for the funeral, he patiently walked home again, arriving tired out in the grey dawn.

“Other problems presented themselves in his pastoral work among the souls committed to his care easy to deal with. One of these was the extraordinary exchange of wives by two railway surface men.

“Man number one decided that he liked the wife of number two, who held the same sentiment with regard to wife number one. So after a friendly discussion they decided to swap. There were children involved in each case. Some people telling the story say that a sack of sugar changed hands to balance the deal.”

This concludes the Literary Webb Women feature. The Webb family departed Ormondville in 1891 and shifted to Gisborne where Canon Webb took take charge of the diocese. He returned upon retirement and died in Ormondville in 1903 and is buried in the cemetery.

The Webb writings provide a colourful insight into some Ormondville lives in the founding period and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

Anthony and Maria Webb: younger in England above and older in New Zealand below

Photographs from Pilgrimage by Alice F Webb, 1949, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, NZ

Photographs from Pilgrimage by Alice F Webb, 1949, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, NZ

The Webbs were a comparatively well-to-do English family, The Rev. Webb having an MA from Cambridge University. However they were certainly not “spoilt rich brats” and did not lack strength of character. Imagine the transition they coped with in 1894 moving from the stately Stockingford vicarage (above) to a humble three-bedroom wooden Ormondville settlers cottage (below). The cottage was already enlarged in this photo. Alice Webb is likely the girl in the white dress third from right. We hope to find her photo some day.

Photograph from Pilgrimage by Alice F Webb, 1949, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington NZ

The Ormondville Anglican “Church of the Epiphany” had already been built by the community when the Webbs arrived in mid 1884. As built it was a simple gable roof building and Rev. Webb masterminded the addition of transepts and a steeple (above) that transformed it into a striking example of a rural New Zealand wooden church. Perhaps Webb had a propensity for enlarging buildings; this is how his own home evolved from the basis of a simple three room settlers cottage.

Photograph from Collection of Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust – Hawke’s Bay Museum, Napier

Ormondville township as it was when the Webbs arrived in 1884. The view from the hill is one Maria Webb describes in her story. This is the earliest photo we have seen of the railway station sited on the Norsewood side of the line. It includes a south-bound misced train and opposite the station is the Ormondville main street which included Westlake’s store, directly opposite the goods shed (discernible by its verandah). Maria Webb writes with much amusement of Mr and Mrs Westlake’s singing style in church. Likely both are posing, she in the dress with her hands clasped, and he with a possessive hand on a verandah post, 6th and 10th from left.

Photographs from Collection of Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust – Hawke’s Bay Museum, Napier

The Rev Webb, along with other locals, used the railway line as a footpath in the days before roads and safety plans! This very humane man seemed prepared to go out at any hour to meet the desperate needs of his beloved parishioners. In one of the more touching episodes on record, he walked 10km from Ormondville to Matamau and return on a bleak stormy night. The journey involved crossing two wooden viaducts, including the 30 meter high Matamau viaduct, guided only by the light of a lantern. The noticeboard on the right probably says “KEEP OFF”

In this daytime Matamau viaduct scene around c.1887 the two railway servicemen on the hand jiggers may well be meeting to discuss their wives, apparently a topic of mutual interest.

Photo William Williams, Alexander Turnbull Library, Print held in Ormondville station historic collection.

AGM Report – Committee

The committee elected for 1999-2000 is:
Paul Mahoney (President)
Fred Playle (Vice-President)
Alan Flaus (Treasurer)
Shirley Flaus (Secretary)
Kay Brabender
Val Burr
Lyle Haste
Gordon Menzies
Gary Shingleton
Tom Williamson

The Groups audited accounts to June 1999 are shown on the back page.

Ormondville Web Site now On-Line

Our 1950’s-theme Group has recently entered the computer age. Val Burr has developed a ‘web site’ at no cost to the group. The web site includes our brochure and provides five main categories of information.

Becoming a member
Staying at the bed & breakfast
Bringing your group on a hosted day trip
Interesting station and district history
Recent events at the station

This Station Platform took 37 hours of volunteer time to write, print, and distribute. Special thanks to Jenny Falconer, Karen Israelsen and Gail Mc McGahan for help.


For the Year Ending 30th June 1999

Opening Balance 1/7/98   2,276.58
Subscriptions (55)   1375.00
Donations – Station Box   225.00
Other   531.50

Grants (for repairs to goods shed doors):
Tararua District Council   1,000
Rail Heritage   2,000

Interest   40.55
Homestay   725.00
Fundraising   795.00
Souvenirs   655.40
Sundry   4.20

Station Overheads   1,022.12
Society Overheads   32.00
Heritage Purchases   50.00
Fundraising   326.72
Sundry Expenses   27.90
Homestay   60.85
Souvenirs   559.95
Heritage Projects
Goods Shed Doors   2,172.57
Transport   353.82
Matamau Station   125.00
Goods Shed Electrical   863.37
Station Grounds   279.36
Bank Closing Balance   3,754.57


The Members,
Ormondville Rail Preservation Group Inc.

We have audited the statement of receipts and payments of the Ormondville Rail Preservation Group Inc. for the year ending 30 June 1999. This statement is the responsibility of the management committee. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on this statement based on our audit.

We conducted our audit in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the statement is free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the statement. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

In common with other organisations of a similar nature, control over the income for takings and donations prior to its being is limited, and there are no practical audit procedures to determine the effect of this limited control.

Subject to the possible effects of the limited control over income from takings and donations referred to in the preceding paragraph, in our opinion the receipts and payments presents fairly, in all material respects, the results of its operations for the year ended 30 June 1999.

Beard Dodson & Co.
Chartered Accountants

28 September 1999


As at 30th June 1999


Current Assets
Westpac Trust Bank   3,754
Fixed Assets
As per attached schedule   101,730
Total Assets   $105,484


Current Liabilities
Sundry creditors   7,328
Accumulated Funds
Balance as at 1 July 1998
Net income for the year   98,156
Total Funds Employed   $105,484

Notes: –

This statement has been prepared to accompany the application for funds to the Eastern & Central Community Trust.

The valuation of assets as attached, has been prepared by Messrs P Mahoney (DOC, Wellington), G Singleton (builder) and F Playle (life member Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters of Australasia).

Original digital file


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Business / Organisation

Ormondville Rail Preservation Group

Format of the original


Date published

16 February 1999

Creator / Author

  • Paul Mahoney


  • Kay Brabender
  • John Brown
  • Val Burr
  • Jenny Falconer
  • Alan Flaus
  • Shirley Flaus
  • Mesdames Groom, Neal, Westlake
  • Lyle Haste
  • Karen Israelsen
  • Gail McGahan
  • Gordon Menzies
  • Fred Playle
  • Doug Scott
  • Gary Shingleton
  • Alice F Webb
  • Anne, Anthony, Arthur, Dora, Edith, Edmond, Mary, William Webb
  • Reverend Anthony Spur Webb
  • George, Jim, Tom Webb
  • Maria Webb, nee Tate
  • Mary Webb
  • Tom Williamson

Accession number


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