Early New Zealand photographers captured scenes of a country in the making. A closer look reveals the way change was taking shape.

Early New Zealand photographers captured scenes of a country in the making. A closer look reveals the way change was taking shape.

Princes St, Dunedin, 1861. From the album: Early Dunedin, Meluish - Burton - Muir & Moodie, 1861, Dunedin, by William Meluish, Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (O.030513)

Princes St, Dunedin, 1861. From the album: Early Dunedin, Meluish - Burton - Muir & Moodie, 1861, Dunedin, by William Meluish, Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (O.030513)

THE photograph above was taken in late 1861, within a few months of Gabriel Read striking gold on May 23. Little remains of this streetscape today but connections to the past can still be found.
Though published in an album by the photographic firm Burton Brothers, it was taken by William Meluish (1823-1888). With Emma (1830-1915), he was half of a husband-and-wife team who came to Dunedin in early 1860 and stayed a decade, becoming property owners and developers. Their photographic studio is just out of shot on the left side. Re-using similar vantage points across time they captured Dunedin’s rapid development in these years, generating civic pride and promoting the city nationally and internationally.
In the photograph, above, we’re looking south along Princes St from a rough track above the cursory post and rail fall protection in the foreground, leading up to what was then Dowling St (now Tennyson St): see this reverse shot (right), where I’ve inserted Meluish.
This popular track Meluish took his photograph from was later replaced with timber steps as roads around were widened or lowered, and then in 1927, by the masonry Dowling St steps we know today. Green shows the surviving section of the Jones and Williamson store.

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

Princes St, Dunedin, 1861. From the album: Early Dunedin, Meluish - Burton - Muir & Moodie, 1861, Dunedin, by William Meluish, Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (O.030513)

Princes St, Dunedin, 1861. From the album: Early Dunedin, Meluish - Burton - Muir & Moodie, 1861, Dunedin, by William Meluish, Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (O.030513)

THE photograph above was taken in late 1861, within a few months of Gabriel Read striking gold on May 23. Little remains of this streetscape today but connections to the past can still be found.
Though published in an album by the photographic firm Burton Brothers, it was taken by William Meluish (1823-1888). With Emma (1830-1915), he was half of a husband-and-wife team who came to Dunedin in early 1860 and stayed a decade, becoming property owners and developers. Their photographic studio is just out of shot on the left side. Re-using similar vantage points across time they captured Dunedin’s rapid development in these years, generating civic pride and promoting the city nationally and internationally.
In the photograph, above, we’re looking south along Princes St from a rough track above the cursory post and rail fall protection in the foreground, leading up to what was then Dowling St (now Tennyson St): see this reverse shot (below), where I’ve inserted Meluish.

Princes St, Dunedin in 1861, 1868, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers, William Meluish. Te Papa (O.000757)

This popular track Meluish took his photograph from was later replaced with timber steps as roads around were widened or lowered, and then in 1927, by the masonry Dowling St steps we know today. Green shows the surviving section of the Jones and Williamson store.

Today the exposed stairwell of the Standard Building (1875), shown above, preserves the double-gabled south wall of the Jones and Williams Store shown in these two Meluish photos, and a wall of the store building then being constructed just to the east. Photo courtesy of Ted Daniels.

Today the exposed stairwell of the Standard Building (1875), shown on the right, preserves the double-gabled south wall of the Jones and Williams Store shown in these two Meluish photos, and a wall of the store building then being constructed just to the east. Photo courtesy of Ted Daniels.

Ocean Beach: St Kilda, Middle Beach and St Clair dunes.

South Dunedin Flat (undeveloped)

The mouth of the Toitū creek was an established tauraka waka site before colonial settlement of Ōtepoti / Dunedin and a focal point for trading in the 1840s. It had a good beach for landing waka to access fresh water and mahinga kai. This was taken from Ōtākou Kāi Tahu in the push to develop land.

The first store of (whaler, farmer, shipowner and trader) Johnny Jones

Otago Provincial Government buildings

Little Paisley, above Southern Cemetery (est. 1858)

Rev. Dr Thomas Burns’ Manse

Former house of Charles Kettle, surveyor

This Town Board Office also housed a fire engine. The building was later transferred to the Volunteer Fire Brigade, then removed in 1864 to Lower High St, where it caught fire in 1877. It had been moved to make way for the Stock Exchange Building, which survives today only in our name for this part of town, “The Exchange”.

Built in 1853 for educating workers, before its demolition in 1863, the Mechanics Institute performed many other roles — church, town hall, courthouse and provincial council hall. Cargill's Monument has stood on its site since 1872.

This timber building started life as a modest kitset house for lawyer David Garrick in 1848, quickly transforming into the Royal Hotel, a key venue. In this photograph it is W C Young & Co’s store. It was demolished to make way for a BNZ building, itself subsequently replaced by the one that survives today.

This store under construction for Jones and Williamson, importers and general dealers, is almost complete here, dating this photograph to late 1861. The south wall survives today.

The Old Jetty served shallow draft vessels bringing supplies from ocean going ships in the deeper waters of Port Chalmers. Begun with mānuka trunks, it was gradually extended. Barely coping with the 69 ships visiting Port Chalmers in 1860, once gold was struck traffic surged, to 256 ships in 1861, and 983 in 1863. A new jetty was built alongside in 1862 but this old one survived until 1873. The road accessing them was (and is) called Jetty St.

This shows the extensive tidal flats of the shallow Ōtepoti / Upper Harbour and the shoreline’s proximity to Princes St. Demand for flat land, spurred on by the gold rushes and fuelled by fill from levelling hills and roads over many decades, pushed out Dunedin's shoreline. Today, even without buildings, no harbour would be visible in this shot.

Ocean Beach: St Kilda, Middle Beach and St Clair dunes.

South Dunedin Flat (undeveloped)

The mouth of the Toitū creek was an established tauraka waka site before colonial settlement of Ōtepoti / Dunedin and a focal point for trading in the 1840s. It had a good beach for landing waka to access fresh water and mahinga kai. This was taken from Ōtākou Kāi Tahu in the push to develop land.

The first store of (whaler, farmer, shipowner and trader) Johnny Jones

Otago Provincial Government buildings

Little Paisley, above Southern Cemetery (est. 1858)

Rev. Dr Thomas Burns’ Manse

Former house of Charles Kettle, surveyor

This Town Board Office also housed a fire engine. The building was later transferred to the Volunteer Fire Brigade, then removed in 1864 to Lower High St, where it caught fire in 1877. It had been moved to make way for the Stock Exchange Building, which survives today only in our name for this part of town, “The Exchange”.

Built in 1853 for educating workers, before its demolition in 1863, the Mechanics Institute performed many other roles — church, town hall, courthouse and provincial council hall. Cargill's Monument has stood on its site since 1872.

This timber building started life as a modest kitset house for lawyer David Garrick in 1848, quickly transforming into the Royal Hotel, a key venue. In this photograph it is W C Young & Co’s store. It was demolished to make way for a BNZ building, itself subsequently replaced by the one that survives today.

This store under construction for Jones and Williamson, importers and general dealers, is almost complete here, dating this photograph to late 1861. The south wall survives today.

The Old Jetty served shallow draft vessels bringing supplies from ocean going ships in the deeper waters of Port Chalmers. Begun with mānuka trunks, it was gradually extended. Barely coping with the 69 ships visiting Port Chalmers in 1860, once gold was struck traffic surged, to 256 ships in 1861, and 983 in 1863. A new jetty was built alongside in 1862 but this old one survived until 1873. The road accessing them was (and is) called Jetty St.

This shows the extensive tidal flats of the shallow Ōtepoti / Upper Harbour and the shoreline’s proximity to Princes St. Demand for flat land, spurred on by the gold rushes and fuelled by fill from levelling hills and roads over many decades, pushed out Dunedin's shoreline. Today, even without buildings, no harbour would be visible in this shot.

Text: Jonathan Howard
Page Design: Mathew Patchett