In 1884 an Oriental Bazaar was held by the St Paul’s Ladies Working Society. It was described vividly by the Evening Post:

On entering, the visitor passes under an arch of flags, and by a little effort in imagination to assist him, fancies himself in the street of an Eastern city. On each side of him is a row of bazaars, having lower and upper storeys, with fronts of oriental architecture … We should not forget that the whole of the floor is thickly spread with sawdust, giving it the yielding softness of a Turkey carpet.

It was held on 6 September and for the following week in the Drillshed, Wellington to raise funds for Old St Paul’s to buy the churchroom at 44 Tinakori Road. St Paul’s had been renting this building, which had become essential to them, for £100 a year. The rent money came from the tireless effort of the Ladies Working Society, who had been raising funds for it every year since 1878. It was a huge task, so in 1884 they decided to raise enough money to buy the building. To do this, they decided to hold an Oriental Bazaar.

Oriental Bazaar programme
1884 Oriental Bazaar programme

The Bazaar was promoted throughout Wellington and the lower North Island. There were advertisements in the newspapers, and the programme left at different shops. The event’s parton was Lady Jervois, a founding member of many Wellington societies and wife of William Jervois, the Governor of New Zealand.

Evening POst, 16 August 1884
Evening Post, 16 August 1884

The stalls were labelled by their hosts rather than their wares, except the ‘refreshments’and ‘flower-stall’. This reflected the small community of Thorndon at the time, where people knew everyone.

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The opening ceremony was tremendously successful, it ‘drew near a crowd of fully a thousand spectators.’ The ceremony started at 2.30pm when Governor Jervois arrived. His entry was enhanced by God Save the Queen. He praised the committee for organising the Bazaar, in particular the ladies: ‘he could not sufficiently express his admiration of their exertions’.  The Evening Post also provided his description of the ladies’ costumes: ‘What effect they would have upon the young men he could not say, but he could answer for the effect they would have had upon himself before he became an old married man.’ After that statement, he declared the Bazaar open.

Governor and Lady Jervois

There was more mention of the costumes in the Evening Post in describing the atmosphere of the popular Bazaar: ‘We must not omit to remark that the costumes were in nearly all cases extremely becoming. The gentlemen, too … were appropriately attired.’ I have looked for a photo but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find one.

In addition to stalls selling raffles and nick-nacks, there were theatrical and musica; performances every night, including children dancing the Fan Dance and a Japanese dance, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and A Grand Eastern Pantomime, and performances by St Paul’s famous organist Robert Parker.

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The Bazaar raised £1,250, a vast sum of money at the time, but unfortunately not enough to purchase the churchroom. The Diocesan Synod, who owned the land, had offered to sell just the schoolroom for £1,500, or the building and land for £2,300.  A meeting of parishioners was held to decide what to do.  The vestry had clearly made their own decision about what to do prior to the meeting – and announced that they thought that both the land and building should be purchased.

Tinakori Rd, page 44
The Churchroom, 44 Tinakori Road

The meeting was dominated by men, and women did not have voting rights in parish matters at the time.  Interestingly, however, one man, Mr Wright, said he had been deputised to ‘watch the interests of the ladies in the matter’, because it was they who had raised all the money, and he questioned whether the land was too expensive, and whether the money should just be put in the bank. The matter was discussed at length, until finally Harold Beauchamp, Katherine Mansfield’s father, suggested actually asking the ladies present on what terms they had given the money.  Mrs John Smith, Secretary of the Bazaar Committee, spoke to the meeting and reminded the parishioners that the money had been raised to purchase the churchroom. They thought that it ‘would be inadvisable to secede such an important question at such a small gathering of parishioners.’  A month later it was announced that the parish purchased both the building and land, so Mrs John Smith must have been finally heard. The Tinakori churchroom went on to be a vital part of the working of the parish for many decades.

The Bazaar was an absolute social success. It was reported in other New Zealand cities, particularly about the ladies’ costumes, and was still being talked about a year later: the Evening Post described an different event as ‘as successful as … the occasion of … the Oriental Bazaar at the Drillshed.’ It was so successful we are still talking about it right now!


Sources: Wairarapa Daily Times, 10 September 1884; Evening Post, 6 September 1884; Evening Post, 6 September 1884; Evening Post, 8 September 1884; Oriental Bazaar programme, Ref Eph-B-VARIETY-1884-01, Alexander Turnbull Library; Evening Post, 14 November 1884, Evening Post, 14 Oct 1885.  Images: Oriental Bazaar programme, Ref Eph-B-VARIETY-1884-01, Alexander Turnbull Library, Elizabeth Cox; Governor Jervois, ref: 1/1-001430-G, Alexander Turnbull Library; Lady Jervois, call no. 31-WPSCH33, Auckland Libraries.