Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Whangamata “Kiwi “ Bach Heritage

Tucked behind sand dunes close to Williamson Park, Whangamata in 2009  nestled an iconic Kiwi Bach - one of a few remaining in this growing beach resort.

Miss Williamson's Bach

Part of Whangamata’s history, this bach offers some of those special memories that many of us have of holidays by the beach. Those lazy days when baches were simple in amenities and large on opportunity to roam the beach or to just sleep and relax with a good book in a sunny corner.

This bach was referred to  as "Miss Williamson’s Bach," its owner being Beverley, daughter of Philip and Madeline Williamson, an early Whangamata family Built in about 1934, it began life as one of the first two “ beach cottages” on Philip Williamson’s first beach frontage subdivision. At a cost of approximately £150 each, when Mr. H Mason had completed building, these two baches saw early years being let out during summer months to holidaymakers. For many years both were the only buildings in this area of the beach. Beverley Williamson was to write in 1981 - 

“ Now all that remains in the Williamson name of the original property of nearly 1000 acres, is my ¼ acre section at the beach”. ( Williamson, 1981)
          Looking towards Whangamata peninsula from the bach in 2009 ASB photo collection

There were a few minor alterations and additions to the Williamson bach over the years but the structure and atmosphere remained essentially the same. Beverley Williamson continued to come to the bach for holidays. 
My own memories are visits to the Bach when Beverley was down. The walk along the beach and up the sand dune track to the Bach. Time spent over a welcome cup of tea with friends. The reminiscing about recent tramping trips, overseas tours, Whangamata happenings and planned tramps on local tramping tracks ( one of her favourite holiday activities ).

There were long discussions as friends together planned production and publication of a book on Whangamata History. These bought forth Beverley memories of regular family picnics at the beach (including the bach) , armed with bottles of kerosene to combat sandflies.

Beverley Williamson died in 2008. Some of those special memories of Whangamata history live on. Williamson Park donated by Philip Williamson and nine hole Williamson Golf Course not far from the bach, continue to provide residents and holidaymakers alike, with some of them. Some Whangamata’s history also lives on in Beverley’s published book “ Whangamata – 100 Years of Change” and in articles she wrote for the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal.

                                                               Williamson Park Gates
                                                            Photo by J M Stewart 1970

However as others found Whangamata and Philip’s subdivision sold steadily, other baches appeared. In other's subdivisions other baches began to fill vacant sections. Those early baches tended to be made from varied materials - wooden and in the main fibrolite and corrugated iron roof. 

Typical Old Bach in Hunt Road - burnt down in early 2000's
as part of controlled burn practice by Fire Brigade
Photo by CRB 

 Electric Power did not come to Whangamata until 1955 so many of the houses and baches of the 1950's  era relied on candles, " tilley " lanterns or kerosene lanterns for lighting and primus for cooking.  More elaborate cooking facilities were a cooking range.

A view of the inside of the old bach, Hunt Road - before it was demolished- Photo by CRB

My memories in the 1960's of several baches at Otahu Estuary were a collection on the other side of the estuary nestled amidst flowering hydrangeas. Several of those baches had originally been homes of early Whangamata residents.
   Looking across the Otahu Estuary to the baches on the other side - Photo J M Stewart 1970

The early 1950's saw a further block of what was originally Maori Land, opened up for beach sections on the area between Whenuakura ( Clark ) Island and the Otahu Estuary. Again those early baches followed the fibrolite and corrugated iron look, typical of what North Island New Zealanders  called the holiday home. ( Down in the South Island a holiday home was called a crib.
   One of first baches built on Otahu Block 1960's - Photo by H M Stewart

June 1859 marked the date that Whangamata officially became a County Town. The bach continued to be built amid pine trees and long grass on sections. Owners were encouraged to keep the grass short to avoid fire risk. My memories of our first family bach in Port Road - the main street of Whangamata - were of a very basic affair - one room - drop down table, two bunks and a camp stretcher.

There were also a number of  early baches around the Beach Road, Mako Road and Hetherington Road area.
Bach in Beach Road - Photo by CRB 2009

Early 1990's Whangamata changed rapidly from a farming/ fishing settlement that it was in the 1900's  to a Beach Resort of more substantial holiday homes. ( some still termed " baches" by their owners) The next several decades have seen baches " on the move" or demolished. One of the first of these was " The Mayfair Apartments", moved to a new location in main street to make way for a block of shops.
Mayfair Flats on Removal Truck being transported to new location-  Photo by CRB November 1993

Old baches were moved to other places to make way for new look holiday homes.

 Bach in Port Road on removal truck - Photo by CRB
Some found a new location in Whangamata and were lovingly restored by new owners.

   Bach in Harbourview Road on removal truck On the way to new location - Lawton Photo

Yes  those early baches certainly provided holiday memories for families holidaying at Whangamata - "Kiwi" Bach Heritage that is a Part of the Past NZ History - a way of life that is iconic.
The new style holiday homes continue the holiday traditions at Whangamata, on which family stories are woven into the future. 

 References Sources

1. Ball, E.A. (nee Stewart). "This and That" Stories of People and a Growing Town, Whangamata. 2001 cd and pdf update 2005. Also on National Digital Heritage Archive, National Library NZ
2. Williamson, Beverley M, Whangamata -100 Years of Change, Goldfields Print Ltd, 1988
3. Williamson, Beverley, Philip and Madeline Williamson of Whangamata, 1981
4. Ohinemuri Regional History Journal