S&SWM PR papers L1797


Science and Art Department South Kensington | 21 April 1897

Dear Gen: Pitt Rivers,

Pray excuse the very great delay in replying to your letter of a fortnight back, with respect to the Maori House which we have packed away in one of our sheds. I called for all the papers relating to its coming into our possession and have had to wait some time for them. Now I find the only difficulty in the matter to be that of obtaining consent from the New Zealand Gov. which it is probable the S&A Dep [Science & Art Department] would require before parting with it. I am not sure however but think that if you address a formal letter to Sir J. Donnelly as Sec'y to the Dep asking for the House to be transferred to the Farnham Museum and offering to erect it there at your own expense it is probable that we will be able to get the Agent General for New Zealand to consent without giving you any further trouble. I believe that every one here will be glad to know that it is again erected and will assist in facilitating the transfer to your Care. I am glad to hear that you have purchased some of the best examples of the Indian woodwork from the Earl's Court Exhibition. Many of the pieces were very choice and not likely to be matched by any modern work.

Yours very faithfully
C. Purdon Clarke



Science and Art Department South Kensington | 28 April 1897

Dear Pitt Rivers,

I am very sorry to see from your letter that you are so ill: hope it is not so bad as you indicate.

Thanks: I am all right - since my sciatica last year.

I will see what we can do about the Maori house I am afraid we must ask the New Zealand people.

As far as we are concerned you are quite welcome to it

Yours [illegible
in haste
J. Donnelly



Science and Art Department South Kensington | 13 July 1897

Dear Pitt Rivers,

I enclose you a copy of a letter I have just received from the Agent General for New Zealand

This stumps us

Yours very truly
J. Donnelly


Copy M27533/97 | Copy | Science and Art Department South Kensington

Agent General for New Zealand, | Westminster Chambers | 13 Victoria Street | London, S.W. | 9 July 1897.


I am directed by the Agent-General to ackowledge the receipt of your letter of the 2nd inst; and, in reply to inform you that he is unable, on behalf of the New Zealand Government, to concur in the proposal to permanently lend to Lt-General Pitt-Rivers (whom the Agent-General desires to than for the offer he has kindly made) the Maori House which is at the South Kensington Museum.

I am to add that the attention of the Agent-General has been recently directed to the fact that the House in question was no longer on view at the museum, and it was his intention to communicate with you as to its future disposal, and this he will do as soon as the pressure of other matters will enable him to give the matter his careful consideration.

I am, &c.,
(Signed) Walter Kennaway
Secretary to the Dept.

The Director | Science & Art Dept., | South Kensington.



Clarke | Ansd Aug. 5/97

Science and Art Department South Kensington | 3rd August 1897

Dear Gen: Pitt-Rivers

In order to stir up the New Zealand Gov: I suggested to Sir J. Donnelly that a letter should be written informing them that we were under a great difficulty with respect to the storage of the Maori House. This action however has done no good as the Agent-General has replied that the N.Z. Gov. will relieve us of the charge and take the materials of the house back. I do not know whether they intend returning it to New Zealand or not but regret that this chance was afforded them to get it back.

We would have all liked to see it in your charge but at present the fates are against it.

Yours very sincerely
C. Purdon Clarke

See here for correspondence with Howorth about this Maori meeting house, Mataatua which precedes this letter.

Caspar Purdon Clarke (1846-1911) Director of the South Kensington Museum. The Indian material reference refers to Add.9455vol4_p1433 /1 and on. He may have lived on the same road as Pitt-Rivers in London as he is later recorded in 1909 living at Penywern Road. Major-General Sir John Donnelly, was Secretary of the whole Department in 1884–99

There is a strong possibility that it refers to a carved Maori meeting house called 'Mataatua', see here and here. This was carved by the Ngati Awa over two years, as the site referred to says, 'it was intended to cement alliances between these tribes and to heal divisions created during the war with the Government a few years before'. After being exhibited at the Sydney Exhibition in 1879 it was shipped to England and stored in the cellars of South Kensington Museum. The house is now back in New Zealand and in 2010 was being re-erected, see here for more information. In Chris Gosden's 'Anthropology and Archaeology...' [1999] pages 187-188 he gives the history of the meeting house, saying it was first transferred to the South Kensington Museum in 1882 [page 188], 'the house was originally exhibited in the quadrangle of the SKM with the interior carvings turned outwards ... a year later, Mataatua was moved to the grounds of the Museum and four years later was dismantled and stored'. The house was not displayed again until 1924 when it was shown at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley so it seems that Pitt-Rivers did not get to loan it (if indeed that is the object referred to). It seems likely that after it was dismantled it probably was taking up quite a bit of space in the SKM stores so it is possible that people like Franks and Howorth would have worried about the long term implications for it if it was left in storage and sought a permanent solution elsewhere.

Transcribed for Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project by AP June 2011

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