Precious items are often gifted into the museum collection by generous members of the public. One such recent donation is an ornate and beautiful illuminated address, found unceremoniously slotted between a desk and a shelf by a member of the Port Ahuriri Bowling Club while cleaning out their clubrooms. It was kindly gifted to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust after the Port Ahuriri Bowling Club closed. This illuminated address is both a decorative piece and an important historical manuscript connecting our community with the past.
Illuminated addresses were created to mark special occasions or celebrate a person’s achievements. They are formal greetings with beautiful handwriting and fine decoration. The word ‘illuminated’ refers to the use of gold or silver and bright colours in the tradition of medieval manuscripts. Often the decoration was personalised with miniature pictures relating to the life and work of the person honoured. The presentation of an illuminated address was marked by a formal ceremony during which the text of the address was read aloud.
This particular illumination was in honour of Edward Crowley who, after 35 years, was leaving Napier to take up a new position in Tauranga. The address celebrated his many years of valuable service to the township of Napier as a Napier Borough Councillor. While on Council, he was closely associated with the development of the Municipal tramway system, which opened in 1913 with five trams, travelling from the depot in Faraday Street to the Port Ahuriri terminus. The line was damaged in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake and never restored.
At his farewell on 4 May 1914, with over 100 people in attendance, his former business partner (and opponent in a slander hearing) Mayor John Vigor Brown, handed Crowley a purse of £165 sovereigns with goodwill. Vigor Brown stated that an illuminated address was being drawn up and that, as it wasn’t completed, it would be forwarded to the Mayor of Tauranga to present to Crowley on behalf of the citizens of Napier. Crowley said that his nine years on the Napier Borough Council had been a “labour of love and he was leaving Napier with many regrets.” The illuminated address was finally presented to Crowley on 29 January 1915 at the Tauranga Bowling Club – a fitting place because of his keen interest in the game of bowls.
The address was designed, handwritten and painted by Henry Charles Adolphus Wundram, who was renowned in Hawke’s Bay as an illuminator. Wundram was also a Napier Borough Councillor and Inspector of Public Buildings. On the right hand side of the illumination he incorporated five images of Napier. Traditionally miniature paintings decorated the address, but Wundram instead used beautifully cut-out oval images from coloured postcards. On the left, he personalised the life and work of Edward Crowley by incorporating the Municipality of Napier crest and the Napier Bowling Club flag. The Mayor, Councillors and Presidents of four bowling clubs signed the address at the bottom and finished with the statement that they “wished Crowley the best of health, happiness and fortune for the future.”
Detail of Edward Crowley’s illuminated address
Written by Gail Pope, Curator – Social History MTG Hawke’s Bay