This photograph of Government House in Wellington is one of many in a photographic album titled Old N.Z. Views produced by Dunedin photographer Frank Coxhead.1 Taken from Lambton Quay, the image shows the original Government House situated where the Beehive is now positioned and the Parliamentary Library visible in the background.2 The grandeur of the stately building is contrasted against the modest parade of shops that run along Lambton Quay, showing a few Wellington residents going about their day.
The album in which the photograph is located recently came to light whilst processing collections of older archival material held here in Special Collections. It was created by prominent Dunedin photographer, Frank Coxhead, and contains 52 albumen prints of natural and urban New Zealand landscapes circa 1880-1889. During the 1870s Coxhead worked alongside his elder brother, Harry Coxhead, from their gallery in Moray Place, Dunedin. By 1885 the brothers closed their business and Coxhead continued operating under his own name in premises near the Octagon.3His photography focussed predominantly on landscapes and he travelled extensively both in New Zealand, and abroad, to capture a wide variety of scenery.
Although not much is known about this particular album’s origins or how it came to be part of Special Collections, it is typical of albums compiled by Coxhead. These albums were often put together for customers based on their personal selection at Coxhead’s Octagon gallery “from a collection of views” said to be “the best in the Southern Hemisphere”.4 The chosen photographs were then mounted in albums either provided by Coxhead or supplied by the customer. As a result, no two of these albums are alike.5 Those that have been preserved can be found in a number of libraries throughout New Zealand and each provides a unique snapshot of 19th century New Zealand.
Leah Johnston, Special Collections
1 Photograph of Government House, Wellington. (ca 1880-1889). Old N.Z. Views, MSS & Archives 2014/11. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
2 Martin, J. (2012). History of Parliament’s buildings and grounds. Parliamentary Library : Wellington, New Zealand.
3 Knight, H. (1998). Coxhead, Frank Arnold (1851-c1919). In J. Thomson, J. (Ed.), Southern people : a dictionary of Otago Southland biography (pp. 107). Dunedin, N.Z. : Longacre Press in association with the Dunedin City Council 1998.
4 Otago Daily Times, Page 3 Advertisements Column 3, 23 November 1888
5 Knight, H. (1996). Coxhead Brothers Photography. The University of Otago Printing Department : Dunedin, New Zealand.