Price’s Folly

Our newest display  peers inside a local icon and enigma – Price’s Folly. This local historic house with it’s ambitious architecture and fascinating history has intrigued generations of Petone-ites and tourists alike.

We are delighted to share the story of this icon with you online – and in person at our whare by the sea.  Perhaps you have a special memory of the house; do come by and say hello.  We’d love to hear your story of this fascinating building.


Folly today

Five of the twelve permanent residents of 66 Sydney Street, March 2018; Lucy Aurora Holtslag, Ange Holtslag, David Holtslag, Simon Hurley, Natalie Halliburton; Photo credit, Amber Griffin Photography


 Thomas Price creates an icon

Built in 1901, the 16-room, 465 square metre mansion at 66 Sydney Street was an instant icon. The ornate wooden house towered above its bungalow neighbours.  Amusingly, though Thomas Price christened the building ‘Sunnyside’ the locals quickly nicknamed it ‘Price’s Folly’. A Folly in architecture described a structure considered overly extravagant in its appearance compared to its functionality.

Thomas Price was a local timber merchant and philanthropist.  Thanks to his successful business ventures with a timber yard in Petone and a sawmill business in the Wairarapa, he donated the materials and skills needed to build an impressive spire for St Augustine’s Church.  The spire was the tallest in New Aotearoa New Zealand when it was built.

Price’s singular personality is evident in all his endeavours.  We think he would have enjoyed seeing today’s Petone – a bustling heritage and boutique destination.



Price's folly

66 Sydney Street, ‘Prices Folly’ or ‘Sunnyside’, Petone circa 1908; Photographer unknown; Private collection


A very useful Folly

The Folly has served as school room for the Wellington Education Board from 1905 until 1922 when it was transformed by local Tailor Brent Goldberg into his workroom and home.  In 1957 the Folly changed hands once more; this time it was converted into four individual apartments before being bought in 1985 by the Bitossi family who began renovations to turn the Folly back into a single family home.

During construction by the Bitossi family the house was used to film Open House, a 38-episode drama series centred on a community drop-in house. You can watch the first episode online here.

Sadly the house was gutted by fire in 1987.  And, though the Bitossi family were not harmed they did lose all their possessions, and turned to the Petone community who rallied behind them in an effort to continue the restoration of the Folly.

In 1989 the house changed hands again, this time it was taken over by Con McKinney, a cameraman on Open House who had also worked on the house as an apprentice carpenter before the fire.


Pic view of petone, Sunnyside

General view of Petone from Korokoro, ca 1902. Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-0079-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22892569


A very creative Folly

McKinney’s careful restoration of the Folly is on display for inhabitants and locals alike.  If you are walking by you might notice the beautiful balustrade that McKinney recast in aluminium, or the brick fence reconstructed from the Folly’s original chimneys

Today, a community of creative Petone-ites call the Folly home. Resident artist Simon Hurley maintains his studio from the old Folly stables and Ange Holtslag runs her Silver Circus children’s-wear from her workshop on the second floor.

The tradition of making and living continues in this unique house, 117 years after ‘Sunnyside’ was first established.

You can learn more about the Folly through the combined work of the Petone Historical Society and the Jackson Street Programme through their ‘Discover Historic Petone’ downloadable app or by dropping by our museum by the sea.

We hope to see you soon.








Bodgies and Widgies – rebels without a cause in Lower Hutt


Our new display, Bodgies and Widgies, stirs up mid-century memories for many of our visitors.

The Bodgie

A.E. Manning, The Bodgie : a study in abnormal psychology. (A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1958) Reproduced with the  permission of Penguin Books.


Elbes Milk Bar on High Street was the place to be in 1950’s Lower Hutt.  Some of our visitors remember socialising there, while others remember being banned from the Elbes by concerned parents.  Our display and this blog look into the reasons for this ban and the far reaching panic our local youngsters caused with their fashion and musical tastes.


Milk-bar Cowboys and Brylcreem

Young men and women from the Hutt Valley were central to the creation of the idea of the ‘teenager’ in 1950s Aotearoa New Zealand.

The years following World War Two were a conservative time in Aotearoa New Zealand.  With the devastation of the war sitting heavy in the NZ psyche, many adults desired safety, order and control.  At the same time, American pop culture was gaining in popularity. Young people began experimenting with new hairstyles, clothes and activities.


Rock and roll dancers

Rock and roll dancers at Youth Club, Taita, Lower Hutt. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1957/3619-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22744683


Many of the boys (Bodgies) wore ‘Teddy-Boy’ hairstyles, and quiffs styled with Brylcreem, while the girls (Widgies) cut their hair short and often wore trousers.  These changes might seem harmless to us today, but they were very challenging at the time.

Bodgies and Widgies met up in cafes and milk bars, socialising and listening to daring new music. Doris Day’s Secret Love was deemed too risky, with Elvis Presley’s first hit Don’t Be Cruel soon to follow. Here in Lower Hutt, Elbe’s Milk Bar on High Street became a popular spot where motorbikes could often be seen parked on the wide curb outside.

This new generation of teenagers had employment, leisure time and money to spend. They also had a keen interest in each other. The media reported sensationalised stories of gangs of Hutt youth meeting ‘for sex purposes’, shocking the population.


High Street

High Street, Lower Hutt. Ref: 1/2-047550-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22794347


To learn more about Bodgies and Widgies drop by and see us:

April–November Open Wed–Sun 10am–4pm

December–March Open every day 10am–4pm


Bike fix-kit with a side of Petone history

Every cyclist has had their fair share of punctures and flat tyres, and Petone Settlers Museum is here to help. We now have an air pump and a puncture repair kit, so if you’re having a spot of bother, pop in!  In the meantime enjoy a tasty cycle through recent bike history.

bike fix

Hello! I am your friendly local bike pump and repair kit, now helpfully located at the Petone Settlers Museum – stop by to see me if you get in a fix!


bikes petone

[Reference: Cyclists lined up on the Petone Esplanade. Ref: 1/2-C-18885. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22558339]

 pram blog

And not forgetting our smaller visitors, either! Pram wheels and runner bikes welcome also.

[Reference: Jackson Street, Petone, 1971.. Westra, Ans, 1936-: Photographs. Ref: AW-0445. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/37152885]

Located at 1 Jackson St Petone, our friends at Green Jersey Cycle Tours have plenty of exciting tours on offer too – take a look to see what they have for you, your whānau and friends.

jersey tours

It’s hardly surprising that cycling has been so popular in Pito-One all these years. The streets are flat and wide and there’s the view of the harbour as you roll along the Petone Esplanade on your choice of wheels (all the way to Wellington if you desire, not many suburbs can claim a flat commute to the big smoke!).

 Jackson street bikes

[Illustration:  Jackson Street, Petone 1924. Reference: Jackson Street, Petone. Ref: 1/2-092191-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23183077]

In fact the popularity of cycling here led to the establishment of the Petone Amateur Athletic and Cycling Club in 1927 and with the establishment of the club came the coveted the Laycold Cup. The banked track in Petone Recreation Ground was a popular location for club cycle nights.

Petone cycle club

[Reference: Three members of Petone Cycling Club with their bicycles. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1955/1301-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22546041]

A photo taken for the Evening Post in 1978 describes Constable Leroy Alexander (Roy) Cockburn as the last police constable to receive a bicycle allowance. Here he is in 1973 in Jackson Street.  Interestingly, in 2009 Christchurch Police announced that foot patrols would now be conducted on bicycles, noting that: “an officer on a bike is much smaller, quieter, and can go places that are not easily accessible to patrol vehicles. Also, a person fleeing… generally can’t out run an officer on a bike!”

Petone police

[Reference: Constable Cockburn on his bicycle in Petone, New Zealand. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1973/5443/18A-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22334191]


Signing off,

Lotte Kellaway



Taking care of your history

Jules here, from down by the Seashore – to share some tips to keep your family’s treasured documents safe and sound for years to come.

I spend my days at the Petone Settlers Museum recalling stories of local significance, and lending a helping hand to people as they look deeper into their family ties here in Petone.


Jules blog photo Grandmother and Granfather

Grandmother and Grandfather Коць

Using the Petone Settlers Museum Database, combined with knowledge of local history, we are able to trace some of the passengers from those early voyages to the Wellington area.


I always enjoy listening to the stories of our visitors, and I am impressed by the work and time people have put into researching and strengthening these family ties.

As those who have met me know, I am not originally from New Zealand. I carry with me my Canadian accent, as I spent most of my childhood just outside of Toronto, Canada.

Canada, much like New Zealand, is a land of immigration and settlement. My own family’s story begins much further back in places like The Ukraine, Poland, and Czechia. On a recent trip back home, I took the time to sit down with my grandmother and aunt to ask some of the questions I often answer at the Museum.

Spending my days helping others with their history has shown me how important it was to take a stake in mine as well. Luckily enough, my aunt and grandma were ready to go! My aunt already had a wonderfully preserved box of family history for me to rifle through.

I’ve had training in in archaeology and conservation as well as museums. So, as I excitedly opened the box, my inner history nerd knew that these documents and clippings were fragile and priceless. Although my aunt had already done an incredible (and invaluable) job of keeping these treasures, I could see a few simple things she could do to ensure their longevity and protection.

I began to suggest some techniques we use at the museum for our textile collection, and to my surprise, she was just as enthusiastic as I was! She too was invested and interested, and was onboard to help hold these traces of our family’s story for the next generation to connect with. It doesn’t take much- there are easy, cost effective ways to conserve and preserve like a pro.

Here are some simple techniques to help preserve some of your family’s more fragile or precious items:

Store items in a box with a lid, fire proof if possible.

Keeping your precious artefacts safe in an acid free box is probably the simplest and most effective conservation technique. The box is the cornerstone of care and preservation. It protects dust from accumulating also, in case of objects shifting, it protects them from getting crushed or damaged from the weight of other items. Moreover, it offers a layer of protection from pesky house hold critters that love to eat up old documents.


Jules blog photo Grandfather passport

One of my Grandfather’s early passports

Keep away from UV rays or strong artificial lighting.

Light will cause irreversible damage, often in the form of fading. Keeping your treasures in a dark safe space is always highly recommended. Yet again, boxes are a fantastic conservation tool.


When retrieving the items, it would be handy to keep in mind the light levels in the room at the time. Especially when it comes to very old delicate documents or artefacts. It’s best to look at your historical documents them in rooms with no natural light and low artificial lighting.


Storing the object in their natural form

Relieving pressure and stress on these treasures is always recommended. For example store paper documents – unfolded, and laid out flat. If you want to go the extra mile, popping them into an acid free photo-sleeve will really help, you can usually buy them from a craft store, or stationary supplier. If it is an artefact that has more of a shape and weight to it, we recommend putting a pillow or soft object in the box to let it rest on. If possible, remove staples or pins from textiles as they can rust and stain the textile.

These are good ways to get started, and we use many of these techniques down here at our whare whakaaro beside the sea. As a final reminder, always try to store textiles in climate-controlled spaces, not in attics or basements. It is tough in this Wellington āhuarangi, but keeping your family documents in a dry, dark space, will allow you and your family to conserve and preserve your family taonga for years to come.

Kia ora rawa atu! – Jules


The Garden of Perfect Happiness – (part 3/3)

In this part three of ‘The Garden of Perfect Happiness’ we introduce Laurie Foon, an inspirational eco-creative who ran the fashion label Starfish from 1998-2013. She is the great-granddaughter of Willian Yan Foon, an early Chinese immigrant to Petone in the 1890’s, who farmed his market vegetables in Alicetown, sold his produce from his shop on Jackson Street, and raised his family alongside his hardworking wife Mary.

You can see one of Laurie’s dresses on display at our place, the Petone Settlers Museum, alongside a portrait of her Great-grandfather and his veggies….

 Wearable Garden


Poster advertising Starfish Summer Collection 08/09, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This dress was designed by Laurie Foon for her eco-fashion label Starfish. It was part of the summer 2008/2009 collection titled “The Garden of Perfect Happiness”. The collection reflected Laurie’s Chinese heritage and tells stories of her great grandfather William Yan Foon, content amongst his vegetable garden—his place of “perfect happiness”.

William is remembered by his grandson Roger (Laurie’s father) as “a good man, an honest man, a hard-working man” who had boundless patience for his grandchildren, and who considered life to be “a gift”. This was communicated with the limited English William had, and through his body language.


Laurie’s sketchbook, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Laurie’s label Starfish is no longer in operation, and the dress has become a part of our recent history, even as it captures her own family narrative. Raised in Wainuiomata, Laurie is an inspirational creative. Her entrepreneurship and love of the environment could be seen as inherited Foon family traits.


One of Laurie Foon’s busy workbook pages, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

We’re thankful to the Foon whānau for sharing their stories of their hard-working kaumātua William Yan Foon and Mary, his ‘everything’. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we have enjoyed gathering all the parts which made it.


Signing off,


Arawhetu Berdinner

The Garden of Perfect Happiness – (part 2/3)

In part one of ‘The Garden’ we looked at Chinese market gardens in the Hutt from the 1880s to the 1940s. In part two we are introduced to William Yan Foon, market gardener, green grocer and Petone resident of the 1890’s. Here is the story his family shared with us:

William Yan Foon (c. 1867—1950)

1929 William Yan Foon w Grandson Tony

William with his grandson Tony circa 1920. Image: belonging to a private collection

At the age of 18 or 19, William was brought to Auckland from Canton, China, to work as a farmhand for his uncle. Unhappy with the situation, he departed in the night to begin his journey to the Wellington region.

By the 1890s William was market gardening in Alicetown, and selling fresh vegetables door-to-door. Eventually he established himself as a greengrocer, with the High Class Fruit and Vegetable Shop opening in 1934 on the corner of Jackson and Fitzherbert Street, Petone.

1910 Alicetown

Alicetown 1910. Image credit: Aldersley, David James, 1862-1928. Alicetown, Lower Hutt. Ref: PA5-0417. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22768777

William was one of a few Chinese immigrants to gain Naturalisation in 1896 (equivalent to Citizenship today); this would have helped him in business and in his community standing.


William’s Naturalisation Certificate, 1896. Image curtesy of Archives New Zealand, Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga

William’s wife Mary (née Crighton, 1864–1942) was a British immigrant of Scottish descent, and was central to his connection to the wider world. She was said to have been “his everything”, taking a key part in business communication.

When they met, Mary was a recent widow with three children, who worked for William, taking in laundry and cleaning his shop. As times were hard, Mary decided to return to Durham, England, only to find the condition of life much worse there. She wrote to William asking him to support her to get back to Petone. He agreed on the condition that they marry, to which she accepted.

The couple lived a busy life, working together in the family market garden and having four more children together. At the age of 78, Mary died in a tragic accident, perhaps due to her habit of wearing black. She was struck down one evening while crossing the road in Petone during WWII blackouts. William lived into his 80s, and the two are remembered with love by their descendants.

1939 William Yan Foon 27 Ariki St with his Rover

William at 27 Ariki Street with his Rover. Image: belonging to a private collection


















The Garden of Perfect Happiness – (part 1/3)

Come and visit us at our whare to see the full story in our newest display – The Garden of Perfect Happiness.  Perhaps you remember William Yan Foon and his fruit and vegetable store on Jackson Street?  We’d love to hear your stories of arrival, immigration and food.

In the following three part blog series we share the story of William Yan Foon, and trace his whānau right up until today.

In part-one we acknowledge the Chinese immigrant farmers of the Hutt Valley, in part two we meet William Yan Foon and his family, and in part three we wrap up with Laurie Foon, great granddaughter of William, self-described ‘eco-fashion designer, eco creative, good projects collaborator, good business consultant, and good local stories storyteller’.

Chinese Market Gardens in the Hutt Valley


Image credit: Te Aro Seeds Limited :Garden annual, 1949-1950. Printed by L T Watkins Ltd., Cuba Street, Wellington [Front cover. 1949].. Te Aro Seed Company :[Garden guide or garden annual – price lists. 1900s-1940s]. Ref: Eph-A-HORTICULTURE-TeAro-1949-01-front. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22625370

Once an area of lush rata forest, the fertile soil of the Hutt Valley made for excellent market garden farming in the 1880s to 1940s, supplying Wellington city with more than half of its fresh fruit and vegetables at peak production. In the 1900s, a series of stop-banks (continuous mounds of earth built next to a river) were constructed to control flooding from the Hutt River and stabilise farmland.

1957 market garden

Image credit: Market gardens at Lower Hutt. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1957/3722-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22869953

By 1904, the majority of farmers in the Hutt were Chinese immigrants, who earned a living selling their produce. They faced a rising wave of anti-Chinese sentiment and tension. One of the worst incidents occurred in 1890, when pressures erupted into a violent clash leading to the death of a young man, and the hospitalisation and near-death of another.

The Chinese Immigrants Act of 1881 was the first legislation to restrict entry to Aotearoa New Zealand for any one group of people. A poll tax of £10 was introduced, and in 1896 this rose to £100 (estimated at NZ$13,400 today). International ships were ordered to limit Chinese passengers or face heavy penalties.

1932 Yates seed

Image credit: Arthur Yates & Co. Ltd, Auckland :What to sow in the garden now. Yates Reliable Seeds. [1932].. Arthur Yates & Company Ltd :[Horticultural sales catalogues. 1932-1933]. Ref: Eph-A-HORTICULTURE-Yates-1932-02-back. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23010524

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Labour Government strove to meet a boom in population growth with ambitious social housing development across the Hutt Valley region. In 1940, it was decided that market gardens should be relocated to the Otaki-Levin district. Farmers were forced to sell their land for the housing development, and the birth of the Hutt Valley region as a suburban city progressed, with streets, buildings and houses soon replacing the gardens.

Green house 1957

Image credit: Market gardens at Lower Hutt. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1957/3721-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22492207

1947 Alicetown

1947, Aerial photograph taken by Whites Aviation. Image Credit: The suburb of Alicetown with the Western Hutt Road in foreground looking east to the Hutt River, Lower Hutt City, Wellington Region. Ref: WA-07213-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/30645663






Through the Collection Store and What Alice Found There (Part 2)

As promised in my previous post, this will focus on some great finds from the Petone Settlers Museum stores and some stats relating to how my internship is going thus far.

Discovering the Petone Settlers Museum’s stores

I’ve spent a lot of time recently in a cool (if a little claustrophobic) storage space, getting to know the Petone Settlers Museum collection! Below is a less than flattering image of the Petone Settlers Museum stores as it was just a month or so ago.

collection stores

When we first started working in the collection stores, it was a little messy and cold from a lack of concentrated and consistent work, but it was bursting with interesting finds and stories just waiting to be uncovered. Since the photo was taken, we have spent a lot of time and love tidying and starting an inventory of the collection.

Inventorying an entire collection is a daunting task, one I am almost certain we won’t manage within the timeframe of my internship. My mentor in this mammoth task, Collection Manager Jo Wehrly, has some tricks and shortcuts up her sleeve for the software we’re using—Vernon—which should really help.

I’ve learnt so much in the last few months with just the basics of Vernon, and I’m excited to see what else it can do!

The Museum holds some really interesting collection items, ranging from an old piano to a series of children’s toys, as well as examples of advertising, and items relating to Petone’s industrial history… and there’s a lot more of everything in-between, too.

Interesting collection finds and highlights

Some of my favourite finds so far include a programme for a farewell dinner on the SS Atlantis. SS Atlantis was a one-time military-turned-passenger-ship chartered by the NZ government to transport emigrants from the UK, leaving Southampton and arriving in Wellington between 1948 and 1952.

The programme itself was a fairly typical example of ephemera of its type, but the Vernon record was not. Vernon records can be populated with lots of useful information, from where to find the object in the stores to manufacturer and donor details.

Most of this record was filled out as we expected, until we came to the ‘place made’ section. This category was listed as the programme having been made in “the high seas”! An example of bad collection management, as it gives no useful information, but it did give Jo and me a laugh. Needless to say, we updated it quickly, but it will live on in our memories and now this blog.

I’ll provide a quick summary of what’s going on in this next image. The advert’s main character, Jane, in the first panel is lamenting the fact that she is left free at work to do her job unencumbered by admirers.

Colgate advertising

The second panel consists of Jane doing her job & her co-worker helpfully pointing out her bad breath, and that no man will lust after or love her as she is. In the third panel, Jane has gone to visit a dentist or Colgate salesperson who asserts the benefits and science of Colgate, and in the final panel (presumably after using Colgate), Jane is left surrounded by men and unable to do her job effectively.

I hope I’m not missing something, and that other people don’t actually want to be swamped by people trying to grab at them and distract them from their job…? Having access to these old adverts allows a more thorough critique and comparison of the advertising media we are currently subjected to.

And finally, on to the statistics! In the last 2 months, Jo and I have seen and inventoried over 1600 objects! That is over half of the entire collection! As well as that, we have fully updated the records of 150 objects, entered hundreds of hierarchical cataloguing terms and things like place names, makers/manufacturers, etc.—all things that make the Vernon records and the collection better and more usable.






Through the Collection Store and What Alice Found There (Part 1)

Hello again!

It has been a busy time since my last blog post Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice! I’ve spent a lot of time at the Petone Settlers Museum stores—those tales will come in Through the Collection Store – part 2.

In this post I wanted to talk about some of my creations over the last few months. Collections work is very hands on, but I’ve also had a chance to try some things outside of my internship.


Weaving putiputi

Petone Settlers Museum hosted a raranga workshop a month or so ago; it was well attended and everyone left with bright smiles and an armful of their own putiputi (woven flax flowers). It was organised as part of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori—Māori language week. Community Curator Arawhetu wrote about the workshop in her first blog post too, if it seems familiar.


This is me at the event caught intently inspecting my harakeke.

The session marked my first actual steps into my raranga journey, as before I had only read about the weaving art form, or viewed others people’s taonga. The teacher, Kody Loretz, was incredibly knowledgeable, patient and an all-round wonderful guide (even when faced with my very inexperienced and surprisingly clumsy self).

Though my creations were not the most technically perfect, I still love them, and I think they hold a certain charm of their own—they certainly brighten up my flat nicely! If you want to check out more images from the day, they are on the Petone Settlers Museum Facebook page (coincidentally a good place to follow for updates of upcoming events at the museum).

Nesting objects behind the scenes


Nesting in progress – Len Castle, Avian form bowl, The Pat Parker Collection, The Dowse Art Museum.

Not only have I learnt fun new skills outside of my actual internship, I’ve been learning new collections management skills too! This is an early in-progress attempt at nesting an object for storage.

Nesting, as I’ve learnt, is creating a custom built home for an object that keeps it safely stored and happy from outside influences, while minimising any damage in the event of an earthquake.

A successful nesting project provides a complete and strong surround for an object: not allowing it to move around too much, not putting undue pressure on any part of the object, and allowing the object to be easily and safely accessed when needed.

Hopefully I’ll be able to perfect my nesting skills for speed and accuracy, but, as an early attempt, I’m pretty proud of myself.

That’s a quick snapshot into what I’ve been making in my internship so far. In my next post, I’ll be back with interesting stories and objects from the collection stores as my journey continues!




Down the rabbit hole with Alice

Kia ora!

I’m Alice Jackson, the new Petone Settlers Museum intern. I moved to Wellington last year to start my Masters at Victoria University after completing my undergrad and honours in Art History at the University of Otago. I’m passionate about inclusivity and accessibility, the environment and music.

I’m at Petone Settlers Museum as the final step in my Masters of Museum and Heritage Practice. Soon, I’ll be starting in the museum’s stores, cataloging and re-enlivening the taonga. I’ll be sharing their interesting stories on this blog, I’m super excited!


I’m ready for a new adventure – as the owners of these bags from the Petone Settler’s Museum stores were.

There are so many local stories to tell, and new displays in development. Our newest display outlines an iconic Petone building – The Grand National Hotel. Many locals will remember the Grand Nash’ and have stories to tell on their next visit. It is a slice of history all wrapped up in a well-known local building.

Our upcoming displays explore special personal stories, such as that of ‘naturalised’ Petone resident William Yan Foon. Foon immigrated from San Sin, Hong Kong at the age of 19, arriving in Petone in the 1890s where he worked as a market gardener and greengrocer. We loved talking to William’s descendants, and can’t wait to share this story with you.


Petone Settlers Museum’s new Community Curator Arawhetu, with a visitor discussing the Grand Nash’.

We will be displaying a dress from Laurie Foon’s eco clothing label Starfish. Laurie is the great granddaughter of William Yan Foon. The Starfish 2008 summer collection titled ‘The Garden of Perfect Happiness’ was inspired by Laurie’s great grandfather’s market garden and all the happy time he spent there. The display may even inspire you to create your own garden of perfect happiness.

Hutt residents, for help finding your local community gardens check this list.

I didn’t know much about Starfish before starting the research for this exhibit, but the more I learned the sadder I became about the label’s closure. What really interests me about Starfish is Laurie Foon’s early adoption of eco-friendly, sustainable and traceable practices. It seems that even now some of these concepts are just filtering through to the fashion world so 24 years ago when Laurie Foon started Starfish those ideas must have been ground breaking. Laurie continues to champion sustainable practice in her current role as the Wellington region Coordinator for the Sustainable Business Network and also as founder of B-Side Stories, a radio-podcast on Wellington Access Radio 106.1 FM that tells the stories of the unsung heroes of Wellington. B-Side Stories plays live every Tuesday from 5-6 pm and you can listen online.

Living in Petone

One of our wonderful visitors enjoying a rest from the busy Petone life.

Another display in development will explore a subculture popular in the 1950s that caused quite a stir about the Hutt; Bodgies and Widgies. The subculture was made infamous because of the damning 1954 Mazengarb report into juvenile delinquency that blamed the perceived promiscuity of teens on working mothers, the availability of contraception and girls ‘enticing men to have sex’ (I don’t want to say the whole report is victim blaming, but…). The display presents a local perspective on the subculture. I don’t want to give too much away but I hope that gives an intriguing glimpse into an interesting moment of history.

The other display-change planned for the museum is ‘Price’s Folly’ – another local Petone building with an eventful life. Price’s Folly has cycled from being a family home, to a school and back to being a residence once more.

These last two display changes are a wee way away so best to watch this space for updates on display-changes and my internship progress. In the meantime get down to Petone Settlers Museum and check out The Grand Nash’ and the new window interactive – ‘A View Into Te Ao Māori!


Name what you see from our window! A visitor using the newly installed window interactive.

As I said, keep your eyes open and I’ll be about with another update soon!

Ngā mihi mahana


Alice Jackson