Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 39, September 1995


By I D Parlane

One of the most interesting and attractive items in the Paeroa Museum is located in a glass showcase just inside the entry door on the left. It is an Illuminated Address presented to Mr E W Porritt on the occasion of a function to farewell him and his family prior to their departure to Dunedin where Mr Porritt was to take up a position as Stipendiary Magistrate (now called a District Court Judge).

Mr Porritt was born in 1865, the son of the Rev. Thomas Porritt, of Featherston, in the Wairarapa. After primary schooling there he went on to the English High School in Wellington for his secondary education. He joined the Justice Department in Masterton in 1884 and commenced the study of law. He obtained a practising certificate in 1894 and in 1896 came to Paeroa to take up a partnership with Mr James A Miller, a notary public in Thames. Mr Porritt ran the Paeroa branch of the partnership. A few years later he terminated that partnership and entered into a new partnership with Mr Frederick Henry Mueller who had a practice in the Criterion Chambers in Normanby Road.

Both Mr and Mrs Porritt became very involved in the affairs of the town. He had taken a great interest in military activity and actively participated in the Territorial Service, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in command of the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Infantry. He had been in Paeroa only 13 years when he gained the appointment as Magistrate but the extent of the feeling of loss which pervaded the town was shown by the efforts put in to suitably honouring him on the eve of his departure. A committee of citizens was set up to organise an appropriate farewell social, which was held on the 22 October 1909. Over 300 people attended the function held in the Criterion Theatre which was located very close to the site of the present Memorial Hall.

During the course of the evening presentations were made along with the usual very complimentary speeches. A silver tray and the illuminated address were presented to Mr and Mrs Porritt, a silver mounted clock to son Athol and a pair of military hairbrushes to son Eric.

The Address is a marvellous example of the workof bookbinder and artist responsible for its production. Unfortunately the names of these two people are not recorded in the newspapers recording the preparations for, and the event. If any reader has any knowledge of those names it would be most appreciated if they could be supplied so that the history of the item is complete. In an article in Journal No. 6 at page 17[see Journal 6: Edmund William Porritt - E], Mrs Jean Gamble (nee Bellamy) who worked for Mr Porritt in later years, refers to the fact that before typewriters became readily available in law offices, each firm employed an "Engrossing Clerk" who hand wrote all legal documents such as leases and wills in beautiful copperplate hand writing. Engrossing clerks spent many hours of their own time practising their skills and vying with their peers to produce the highest standard of presentation. Mrs Gamble says that Mr E A Campbell was Porritt and Mueller's engrossing clerk and was renowned for his skill in producing illuminated addresses. Perhaps our exhibit is his work.

The Address is contained in what appears to be a green morocco clad cover with padding over the backing boards. The morocco is liberally decorated with gold leaf. Inside, the text of the Address is written in beautiful copperplate hand writing and the artwork embellishment is absolutely superb. The "cameo" paintings include a house (probably the Porritt home), a view of the Paeroa Domain, a mining poppet head, a geyser, a mountain (probably Ruapehu), a Maori warrior standing on the bow of a canoe with a palisaded pa in the background, and in other areas there are pohutukawa flowers, red and yellow kowhai flowers, cabbage trees and flax plants.

The signatories to the address are:

M J Harris, chairman and H R Bush, secretary, for the Farewell Committee.

Hugh Poland, M.P.

Pierce Grace, Chairman, Ohinemuri County.

Edward Shaw and E H Andrews for the South Auckland Rifle Assoc.

A.C, ? , and W. Niccol, for the Ohinemuri River Silting Committee.

S J Laughlin & W G Nicholas for Paeroa East Coast Railway League.

A L Yule & D T Inglis for Ohinemuri Agricultural & Horticultural Society.

W D Nicholas & F A Balcke for the Paeroa Bowling Club.

Chas. Meredith & E V Quick for the Thames Valley Polo Club.

F W Harris-Daw & M McDonnell for Paeroa Golf Club.

A T Bush & A P Matthews for Paeroa Club.

Minnie Shaw & Jno, Hubbard for Paeroa Camera Club.

H A Whitmore & A H Tremain for Paeroa Hockey Club.

Edith Moresby & Wyn Edwards for Paeroa Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Dr Gilbert Smith & Lionel Sanderson for Paeroa Branch St. John Ambulance Society.

Geo. Dean & J W Silcock for No.l Ohinemuri Rifle Volunteers.

Members Practising at the Bar in Ohinemuri: T A Moresby, Frederick H Mueller & J L Hanna.

The house shown in the artwork of the Address is probably "Knoch- na- Veagh" which was located in the area now known as the Dell, opposite the Catholic School. An advertisement in the local paper a few days before the farewell was :

For Sale. A 9 roomed rimu and kauri house on three-quarters of an acre. Hot and cold water and gas. Apply to E W Porritt.

Porritt Street is named in honour of Mr Porritt. He was also the uncle of Sir Arthur Porritt who visited Paeroa as Governor General about 25 yearsago.

Additional Notes:

(1) Mr E W Porritt returned to Paeroa at a later date and set up as Eldon Chambers and his son Eric joined him in practice there. (Broadbents are in Eldon Chambers.)

(2) The house now occupied by Mr & Mrs Oliver Hare in Raroa Road was the Porritt home in their later years.

(3) The Chairman of the Farewell Committee, M S Harris, was a jeweller and he supplied thewallclock which is in the Paeroa Museum, ex the Paeroa Borough Council Office.

(4) H R Bush was Clerk of the Court and was very active in the community. I think, President of the Racing Club for a time and a Borough Councillor from 1915 - 1921. He topped the poll for councillors at the inaugural Council elections in 1915.

(5) The Thames Valley Polo Club operated on the Hubbard property on Thames Road just northofthe Hubbard Road intersection, on the western side.