The story of Waterson’s Matamata
For ninety years Waterson’s, the oldest, privately owned family firm in Matamata has served the public as house furnishers, cabinet makers and up until 2006, funeral directors.
The company has catered for many changes in styles, tastes, materials and technology over the years.
Waterson’s has grown and expanded with the growth of Matamata from a small country township with a population of approximately 600 people in 1922 to the prosperous district it is today with a population of around 12,000.
In 1922 Mr Duncan Currie (Don) Waterson came to Matamata to join Mr M Lamb in founding the firm of Lamb and Waterson, cabinet makers and house furnishers. The site of that first combined factory and showroom was in Tui Street where Jobes workshop stands today.
An early newspaper advertisement in 1923 calls them “Furniture Designers and Craftsman” and advertises shop fittings, show cases and picture frames made on the premises.
Late in December 1923 a Public Notice in the Matamata Record stated: Messer Lamb and Waterson, having secured a Motor Hearse are now in a position to furnish funerals in any part of the district”
Matamata’s first motorised hearse had a glass body and in about 1982, when a rubbish pit was excavated at Waterson’s Tamihana Street factory, part of it was uncovered.
A fire in the early hours of Sunday, 7 March, 1926, destroyed the first shop in Tui Street and another factory was purchased by Lamb and Waterson on a new site in Tamihana Street where it still stands today.
A factory diary still in existence lists orders taken and the work completed in 1926. This includes anything from a seed box for Peria School to kitchen tables and chairs, cots, showcases, kapok mattresses and pillows, rimu and oak beds, and a table for the Matamata County Council offices.
Don Waterson made two showcases, one for Charlie Barry’s Stationery Shop and the other for his own premises.
Today both of these showcases are at the Firth tower Museum displaying some Firth family treasures and a doll collection.
New showrooms were opened in September 1926 in Tower Road (later renamed Broadway) in Wilson’s building next door to W Halligan, gentleman’s outfitters. These premises are now occupied by Tonezone.
With the departure of Mr Lamb in 1927 the business became known as Waterson and Co. The business survived the difficult days of the Depression in the early 1930’s and, when Turkington’s Buildings were erected further along the street in 1936, Waterson and Co moved their retail shop there and became the first tenants. Previously known as the Broadway Plaza, the current occupants are Matamata Paper Plus and Toyworld.
A wider range of merchandise was displayed in the new showrooms with the funeral directing side of the business growing also. In 1939 a private chapel, which could seat 80, was built on front of the Tamihana Street site by Mr Bert Hawes.
Wartime shortages of materials affected Watersons – as they did all other businesses – from 1939 to 1945, and for a number of years afterwards. Problems with the lease of the shop Turkington’s buildings resulted in a court case, subsequently won by Watersons.
However, Mr Waterson decided it would be better to own his own business premises so he bought the site that is now currently United Video. This showroom in it’s time was built by C and M McKenzie, and had a floor area of 5000 square feet of showroom.
These were opened in 1953 and the company operated its expanding services from there up until 2000 at which time they built their current purpose built premises on the corner of Tainui and Tamihana streets – right next to the location of the original factory and workshop, which still stands today.
After Don Waterson’s death in 1956 his family continued the business under the name of D Waterson and Co Ltd with Mrs Rosa Waterson as controlling director and his sons Ken (Doc) and Graeme as directors.
Mrs Waterson had always taken an interest in the family business and she continued to keep the books until daughter-in-law Fay Waterson assumed this duty in 1979.
As funeral directors Watersons provided a service for the district under the supervision of Ken Waterson. A new mortuary was completed in 1982 adjacent to the chapel and the hearse was replaced several times over the years.
Waterson’s opened new premises on Tower Road (now Broadway) in 1926 after the original shop Tainui Street burnt down. This shop is now occupied by Tonezone. Watersons moved from here in 1936 to Turkington’s building further down Broadway.