Stolen trea­sures re­turned to Kerikeri

The Northland Age - - Local News -

Fif­teen pages of a ledger book from the Kerikeri Stone Store have been re­turned after be­ing bought at auc­tion by the New Zealand Her­itage En­dow­ment Fund, a char­i­ta­ble trust set up to ac­quire arte­facts of im­por­tance to New Zealan­ders, with Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as the sole ben­e­fi­ciary.

“The pages of the ledger date back to 1868, and are be­lieved to have been stolen by an op­por­tunis­tic thief in the 1960s, when the ledger was on open dis­play at the Stone Store,” Kerikeri Mis­sion Sta­tion prop­erty lead Liz Big­wood. “Over the years the odd page has been re­turned to us by peo­ple who have pre­sum­ably felt a bit guilty about hav­ing im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments in their pos­ses­sion that don’t be­long to them. Hav­ing so many pages re­turned to us in one go like this has never hap­pened be­fore, how­ever, and is ab­so­lutely won­der­ful.”

Dat­ing from Oc­to­ber 1868, the pages in­clude ref­er­ences to well-known per­son­al­i­ties at the Church Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety mis­sion, in­clud­ing James Kemp Ju­nior and Henry Tacy Kemp. A range of trans­ac­tions are recorded, in­clud­ing a 112-pound pig, which was sold for 18 shillings and six­pence.

“The ledger pages are an im­por­tant record of the sort of com­merce that was tak­ing place on a daily ba­sis at the mis­sion sta­tion in the 1860s, and can po­ten­tially tell us a lot about what was go­ing on at the time, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally,” Ms Big­wood said.

Her­itage En­dow­ment Fund trustee David Ni­coll, who spot­ted the pages listed in an auc­tion house cat­a­logue late last year, said he had to act.

“I felt strongly that the ledger pages had to come home,” he said. The Auck­land-based lawyer sub­se­quently found him­self in a fierce bid­ding war by phone with a pri­vate pur­chaser. He ac­quired the pages for just un­der $3000, five times the es­ti­mated price.

Fol­low­ing the auc­tion Ms Big­wood phoned the auc­tion house to ask who might have bought the pages, and was told that they had been ac­quired by “a very nice fam­ily who wanted to do some­thing good with them”.

“We could never have guessed that these pre­cious pages would be re­turned to us,” she said. “We’re ab­so­lutely thrilled to have them back.”

Mr Ni­coll, who is also on the board of Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, re­cently trav­elled to Kerikeri with wife Rosey to present the pages to staff at the Stone Store.

“The ledger pages are back where they should be at last,” he said.


One of the ledger pages that has been re­turned to the Stone Store half a cen­tury after it dis­ap­peared.

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