Did ‘fair trade’ start here 200 years ago?

The Northland Age - - Local News -

‘Fair trade’ is a well-es­tab­lished global move­ment aimed at im­prov­ing trad­ing con­di­tions for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, but there is ev­i­dence that it was be­ing prac­tised in the Far North of New Zealand al­most 200 years ago.

Stock ledgers from the Stone Store’s ear­li­est days in Kerik­eri pre­sented some­thing of a mys­tery, Kerik­eri Mis­sion Sta­tion man­ager Liz Big­wood said, although a lit­tle re­search might have solved it.

Of all the com­modi­ties recorded in the ledgers in the Stone Store’s books in the 1830s, brushes and brooms stood out by virtue of the sheer num­bers or­dered.

“At the time the items were or­dered there were cer­tainly a num­ber of houses on the var­i­ous mis­sion sta­tions, and they were no doubt put to good use,” Liz said.

“What I couldn’t work out for a long time though was why mis­sion­ary James Kemp, who was re­spon­si­ble for or­der­ing stock at the time, brought in so many brushes and brooms, more than would ever have been used.”

A lit­tle his­tor­i­cal sleuthing may have pro­vided an ex­pla­na­tion.

“James Kemp came from Wy­mond­ham, in Norfolk, a low-ly­ing county full of marshes and fens. This vast area was the nat­u­ral habi­tat of marsh grasses and reeds, tra­di­tion­ally used for thatch­ing and mak­ing brushes of all kinds,” she said.

“Wy­mond­ham was the cen­tre of the Eng­lish brush-mak­ing trade — and that’s where the plot thick­ens.

“Brush-mak­ing was the poor­est-paid of the Eng­lish trades. Whole fam­i­lies would sit around a vat of boil­ing tar, dip­ping bunches of dried reeds into it and then ram­ming them into turned blocks of wood. The brush-mak­ers of Wy­mond­ham were very poor, food was of­ten scarce, and many spent time in the work­house.”

As the Church Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety store­keeper, James Kemp was re­spon­si­ble for or­der­ing in trade goods, most of which were sta­ples, like tea and flour, or es­sen­tial tools, like chis­els and axes, or de­sir­able and use­ful items such as fish hooks and scis­sors.

“Not to men­tion brushes and brooms. Hun­dreds of them,” Liz said.

“By or­der­ing these in such im­prac­ti­cally high vol­umes you have to won­der whether James Kemp was ac­tu­ally help­ing the im­pov­er­ished work­ing poor of Wy­mond­ham in his own unique way.”


NZ Her­itage En­dow­ment Fund trustee David Nicoll and Kerik­eri Mis­sion Sta­tion man­ager Liz Big­wood with the re­cov­ered ledger pages, stolen from the Stone Store in the 1960s. The store’s ledgers re­veal some fas­ci­nat­ing de­tails of early ‘fair trade’ in Kerik­eri.

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