Life in gardens: Napier, New Zealand

Williams garden, via National Library of New Zealand Commons on flickr“Group in the garden of William and Lydia Williams, Carlyle Street, Napier,” ca. 1890, a stereographic image by William Williams, via the National Library of New Zealand Commons on flickr.

Williams garden, via National Library of New Zealand Commons on flickr

The online catalogue of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington provides further details:

Lydia Williams is in the centre, playing the banjo. Seated at the right is her sister, Amy Devereux. The man with the camera is Russell Duncan. The other man’s identity is unknown but it is possible he was a member of a group such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a troupe of Negro singers and musicians who toured New Zealand in the late 1880s. Photograph taken by Lydia’s husband William Williams.

Russell Duncan was later to become a well known photographer and historian of Napier.

Another photo by Williams, below, also from the Alexander Turnbull Library, seems to show the same group, on the same day.

Williams garden, via National Library of New Zealand The man eating may be Williams, rather than Duncan.

What junipers are these, inlaid
With flame of the pomegranate tree?
The god of gardens must have made
This still unrumored place for thee
To rest from immortality,
And dream within the splendid shade
Some more elusive symphony
Than orchestra has ever played.

— Grace Hazard Conkling, from “Symphony of a Mexican Garden

9 thoughts on “Life in gardens: Napier, New Zealand

    1. Lydia and William Williams seem to have been interesting people, judging from the Library’s photos. She appears to have been a serious banjo player, and he was a photographer. I’ll have to post some more pictures of them and their garden.

      I read that Napier was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the 1930s and rebuilt in the art deco style.

      1. Yes, it was destroyed and rebuilt in the art deco style. If I remember correctly, it is the most intact art deco town in the world. It is something special.

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