Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Seering Hall Matthews - Pioneer Settler and Legal Manager Mines

Coromandel Peninsula beach and hills of  Northern tip Peninsula   -  Photo 2012 Chris Ball
The late 1890's with new methods of gold extraction a contributing factor, saw a revived interest in goldmining across the Coromandel Peninsula, including isolated settlements such as Kennedys Bay and Whangapoua. The photo below from papers past shows stage coaches waiting for the steamer from Auckland bringing would be gold miners to Coromandel.
Courtesy Papers Past, National Library NZ

In those days of the “Mining Rush” the Legal Managers were “considered then to be men of consequence”. (Weston, 1928, p213) Seering Hall Matthews was considered to be one of those - the Legal Managers who took care of the legal details of a gold mining company, including the Shareholder Register, calling Company meetings, acting as accountant and auditor. Having completed 25 years with the company of Joseph Clifton Firth (Messrs Thornton. Smith and Firth, millers) Matthews took on legal management of gold mining companies placement of advertisements in newspapers in 1895:
  Page 1 Advertisements Column 5 New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXII, Issue 9938, 30 September 1895, Page 1
Courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ

 Before the year was up Matthews was legal manager or secretary of a number of Gold Mining companies amongst them, an enterprise at Kennedys Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula Eastern Seaboard.
KENNEDY'S BAY TOWNSHIP AND MINING COMPANY. A company has been formed, the shares being privately subscribed, to layouts township and work freehold mining property at Kennedy's Bay, .the area acquired being 233 'acres, with water frontage, and forming the site of the Kauri Timber Company's old mills. The direotors appointed are Messrs. S. T. George, J. J. Craig, and A. Kidd; secretary. Mr. S. H. Matthews; bankers, the Bank of New Zealand solicitors, Messrs, Gillies and Colbeck. The newly-discovered 40ft. reef at Kennedy's Bay is said to be on this property.  ( New Zealand Herald, 31/07/1896, P 6)
Mathews also moved offices to the Hobson Buildings in Shortland Street, Auckland.
From the road to Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel Peninsula - photo JM Stewart 1970's


Chart Researched and Compiled by Anne Stewart Ball 2015

The photo below from Papers Past shows what Coromandel would have looked like to many of those miners heading for the mines in Coromandel County in 1898. This photo was part of the promotional supplement for Auckland's first  Industrial and Mining Exhibition. 

In addition to legal management of mining companies, Matthews also acted as auditor to the Goldfields Co-Operative Stores, Ltd. at Golden Cross. This establishment which consisted of a large double-fronted shop with a verandah and a bulk store at the back. Typical of a rural mining community this store (managed by T.W. Simpson )  provided all manner of necessities - boots, groceries, ironmongery, explosives, mining requisites, crockery, and drapery.

The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902
Dover Born, Seering Hall Matthews arrived in Auckland New Zealand with his parents -  Edmund  Israel  Matthews  and Elizabeth Austin Matthews ( nee Pike )  aboard the brigantine Deborah in 1848. Edmund Matthews, a Royal Engineer, had been bought to Auckland from Hong Kong  to oversee the building of the Albert Barracks as Clerk of Works.

Grandfather (William Gorrie Snr.) and  mother of Mathew’s Wife Amelia Matthews ( nee Wall) arrived at Kororareka also aboard the Brigantine Deborah in 1840. The years both arrived, were unsettled times and the early period of the NZ Wars ( previously called Maori Wars ) in the North Island.)
Seering Hall Matthews joined the volunteers in 1859 , as did many of the young men of early Auckland. One of the original members of the No 1 Company ( Royals ) Auckland Rifle Volunteers, Matthews saw service at Otahuhu, Drury and Papakura. Along with service in the old Rutland Company. 

Mathews applied for the NZ Long and Efficient Service Medal in May 1916. To his application letter, he added another giving the dates when he was made an Ensign and then two years later a Lieutenant. 

Archives NZ Archway AABK 22526 W5573 42/171 Seering Hall  Matthews

His application was also accompanied by letters from Henry Parker, Lieut.Col. N.Z.F., John Edson, Chemist and former member of the Auckland Rifle Battalion, Arthur Morrow, Lieut. Colonel, Staff Retired, Thos J Sansom, Colour Sergeant of the Royal Co. and Geo. Black, J.P. Despite the letters, his application for a medal was turned down. A letter dated 12th June 1916 from the Colonel, Officer Commanding District pointed out that the Medal Award was not instituted until 1st January 1987 and that service prior to then was not counted.

The photo below shows the garrison - typical during the wars for that time.

Fort Britomart during Wars. There was also accommodation at the Albert Barracks  in  The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited. Bold Century. Auckland: The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959. (Shareholders Copy)

Following the wars, Mathews worked firstly with his father Edmund Israel in the building trade. His father following the building of Albert Barracks was, for some years, in business as an architect along with that of contractor and builder. Edmund was attributed with the design of Wynyard Pier. On the death of Seering Hall Mathew’s brother Frederick the Auckland Star wrote regarding Edmund’s building of this pier:

“His father superintended the building of the wall round the Albert Barracks, and erected a small pier on the water front, just below the Victoria Arcade, to land the material. When piles were being driven in Queen Street for the foundation of the lines for the Auckland tramways, this stone pier upset the calculations of the engineer, who could not understand why he had suddenly encountered stone in the mud. A son of Mr. E. Matthews, sen., who was standing by, said that the pile had struck the pier his father put up on the banks of Ligar Canal in the early days.” ( Auckland Star, 22 July 1927, Page 8 )

Seering Hall Mathews and Edward Bartley advertised a partnership as builders and contractors in 1865 (P1 Advertisements Column 6 New Zealand Herald,3 Jan 1865,P 1) 

Bartley had also worked in partnership with Seering’s father. John Barr in 1922 was to attribute Mathews and Bartley with completing the Supreme Court building which was begun by Messrs Amos & Taylor in 1863 ( Barr, 1922.p.72) This is confirmed in the photo below. The photo also shows the building construction complete with scaffolding.

Showing the Supreme Court in Waterloo Quadrant under construction with Parnell Road and Gittos Street (right background) Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1085'

Mathews & Bartley had the contract for plastering and woodwork - £2800. (DSC 22/11/1867 P3Following completion in 1867, the Supreme Court was well used by many. Amongst them our family members who practised law, including Barrister John William Stewart who also acted as Auditor to the Law Society.

The "winds of depression" were upon  Auckland during the late 1860's and early 1870's. Matthews turned to other occupations to make a living. By 1872 Mathews  was advertising again, this time  as Superintendent of the Fire Brigade. ( Auckland Star 13/05/1872,p3
In those days the Insurance Companies organised their own Brigades. The insured building concerned carried a distinguishing metal plaque to indicate to the firemen which company held the risks. Each brigade to the insurance company's own, the others on standby for buildings that might be theirs, large fires attended by all. The photo below, although Nelson Fire Brigade and not that of Auckland where Seering Hall Mathews was Superintendent, was typical of the firemen and equipment of that time.
The Nelson Fire Brigade 1870 - photo  in  The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited. Bold Century. Auckland: The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959. (Shareholders Copy)

A career change wherein Matthews  was, secretary to Mr. Josiah Clifton Firth and the flour-mill of Messrs. Thornton. Smith, and Firth. Several years before his death in 1924, Matthews was secretary of an ostrich farm -  Helvetia Ostrich Company Ltd – along with also the Dominion Brace Company Ltd. and The Lake Taupo Shipping Company Ltd. – interesting enterprises.
Matthews had a long record as a worker in the Baptist Church during his life, one which extended for more than 50 years as a member and officer of the Baptist Tabernacle, the chapel in Wellesley Street, one of the founders of the New Zealand Baptist Union of which body he was appointed treasurer, an honorary deacon, member of the Auckland Bible Society Committee, member of the Young Men's Christian Association – someone who was active in the church worshipped in.

So ends a story of a man of many parts and a part of the past of our New Zealand History.

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