Hokianga Harbour photographs

The Sir George Grey Special Collections has recently acquired a collection of 475 glass plate negatives taken by the photographer C P Dawes in and around Kohukohu, a small settlement on the Hokianga Harbour, in the early years of the 20th century. This rich treasure trove was found unexpectedly in an antique shop in Kaitaia, by a staff member who was holidaying in the area.

Charles Peet Dawes was born in Swadlincote, England in 1867, and came to New Zealand in 1879. By 1896 he had settled in Kohukohu, where he married Jessie Allen in 1901. He worked principally as a carrier, mailman and orchardist, but he also ran a photographic studio from at least 1901 to around 1925. He died in 1947.

The Dawes collection comprises numerous portraits of individuals (quite a few of whom are named), World War I soldiers, family groups, and social gatherings. There are also views of Kohukohu township at the turn of the century.

The full collection has been digitised and is available online through the Heritage Images database.

To whet your appetite, here are a few examples from the collection ...

Ref: 1142-D171, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Apparently the first motorcycle in Kohukohu, this E W Douglas machine was photographed outside the Kohukohu Hotel. The name of the hotel proprietor, John Nicholson, can be clearly seen above the door. Nicholson was running the premises from at least 1903, and since Douglas only began production in 1907, this photograph probably dates from a year or so after that.

Ref: 1142-D460, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Charles Dawes conveniently dated this photograph of the first car in Kohukohu in 1907. Its appearance caused quite a stir among the townsfolk. George Halliwell the local butcher was the first Kohukohu resident to own a car, but he apparently had to rely on the township’s youngsters to push start it for him. They were only too willing to assist in return for a ride to the sports grounds and back.

Ref: 1142-D26, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Kohukohu viewed from the jetty, as visitors arriving by steamer from Onehunga would have seen it. The original Kohukohu Hotel was destroyed by fire in August 1900 and was replaced by the building near the centre of the photograph. The hotel, Wallace’s store adjacent, and shops and offices in the rest of the block were in turn consumed by a devastating fire in 1954.

Author: Keith Giles, Photographic Collections Librarian, Sir George Grey Special Collections.


  1. The tin shed built over the water at far right in image No. 1142-D26 was a broom factory owned and operated by Mr Antony Armistead. Mrs Armistead ran a boarding house which I believe is at the far left in this image, the building still stands today. In 2004 I deposited a full account of their lives at the Kohukohu library, the couple are buried at Broadwood.


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