Transcript:White, Eric Hoyland. 60 Years Whites New Plymouth, N.Z.



Whites of New Plymouth

Image:Cover sheet 60 Years Whites New Zealand.jpg

Stephen Boothby White, strongly influenced by Mr. William Burton the immigrant agent for New Zealand, decided to try his fortunes in New Zealand.

In 1878 he sold his Grocery business in Walthan to his brothers for approximately £400 and this enabled him to buy the family Steamship tickets. The balance of the money was used for deposit on a farm of 38 acres, which Mr. Burton had secured for him on Barrett Road, New Plymouth.

On September 2nd, 1880, Mr. White, his wife, two sons Percy and George and infant daughter Mary, sailed from Gravesend, London, aboard the S.S. Orient for New Plymouth.

After a rather uneventful voyage, the family arrived on November 11th at 5 am., having transhipped to the Te Anau at Sydney for Auckland and from Onehunga to New Plymouth per the S. S. Penguin.

On landing at a point approximately opposite the New Plymouth Railway Station, they were met by Mr. Burton who invited them to breakfast at his home at the "Mission Farm."

The story of the White family's life on the farm is a short one. The soil was poor, the price of butter low and Mr. White was soon convinced that neither the land suited the man nor the man the land.

The farm disposed of S. B. White took a position as accountant with the late Newton King, later taking up an appointment as law clerk to Mr. H. R. Richmond, the leading lawyer of the town. The salary of £3 per week, although small, proved to be too large an expenditure for Mr. Richmond in the difficult period of the 80's and he was forced to dispose of Mr. White's service.

The family had, by this time, been almost eight year's in New Plymouth and had developed a close friendship with Mr. John Handy, the owner of Egmont Store. This friendship led to the purchase on March 1st. 1888, of Mr. Handy's store by S. B. White, the deed of sale being completed on April 20th.

First Decade 1888 - 1898

The "Egmont Store," still a well-known landmark in New Plymouth, was situated at the intersection of Courtenay and Eliot Streets, at that time a busy trading centre.

Immediately behind the Store was the Eliot Street Railway Station, for in those days and until approximately 1910, the railroad track from the Township passed from the present station site along the western bank of the Huatoki Stream crossing Devon Street, where Kings Buildings now stand and continuing along the Huatoki to swing by overhead bridge into the rail cutting on the seaward side of the Baptist Church and then following the present Leach street eastward over the Te Hunui River bridge, on under the Mangorei Road bridge through Waiwaka Terrace to Join the present railway line. The Eliot Street Store was also the Depot for Kibbys Coach to Waitara and Tarrys Coach to Inglewood.

In the early life of the Store the founder was mainly helped by his wife, formerly a Miss Hoyland who, although untrained for a business career, speedily proved her worth as a keen judge of values and a competent help-mate in the conduct of the business.

In 1890 Mr. White took into partnership his brother-in-law, Mr. C.C. Carter and the partnership opened a Branch in Devon Street on a portion of the site at present occupied by Messrs. Deare's Ltd.

Subsequently, Mrs. M. Bowen's general business in Devon Street was acquired. This Store was situated on the present site of V. H. Beal and Milton Scott premises. Later in 1896 the firm purchased the drapery business of Mrs. Hood situated on the corner of Currie and Devon Streets. Shortly after this period the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Carter arranged to take the Grocery side of the business and Mr. S. B. White decided to concentrate on the Drapery business. So ended the first decade in the life of "Whites." Ten years full of activity, interest and gradual expansion which was to continue and gain in impetus in the next 50 years.

Second Decade, 1898-1908

By now the White family were well settled in the community. S. B. White always a keen Churchman and staunch Temperance advocate, was to be found taking more than an active part in the spiritual life of the townsfolk. The Wesleyan Methodist Church, Preachers' Plan and Statement of Accounts, dated 1889, shows S. B. White as one of the circuit stewards and also a teacher in the Sunday School classes.

The White home was situated on the rise in Fillis Street overlooking the recreation ground, more popularly known by the present generation as Pukekura Park.

The boys, Percy and George, attending the Central School received their tuition and education from that dearly loved and popular Headmaster, the late Mr. Hector Dempsey. Both boys were, at an early age, making themselves useful at the Egmont Street Store besides attending to the milking of the cows which were grazed on the racecourse.

The end of the century saw Percy, the elder son, being sent off to Auckland to learn the Drapery business in the firm of J. McArthur, returning to New Plymouth in 1901 to take charge together with his brother George of the Devon Street shop.

In 1901 the founder, S. B. White, acquired a part of the present site from Dr. Leatham. The Currie Street corner was sold and the present position was used for the premises of the business.

The Egmont Store was also sold in this year, the Railway Station soon after being moved from Eliot Street.

With the entry of the sons into active management of the business the firm's name was changed to S. B. White & Sons, again changing to White & Sons on the retirement of the founder in 1908.

Third Decade 1908-1918

The retirement of the founder after 20 years' active control was hastened by approaching ill-health and the start of the third decade saw the sons Percy and George in full control of Whites. In the last few years of his life, S. B. White was bed-ridden and partially paralysed and died early in August, 1914, on the eve of World War I.

The sons, now faced with the difficulties of wartime trading and the need for closer personal attention to the growing New Plymouth Store decided to discontinue country travelling which had been an important branch of the Firm's activities.

For years regular trips had been made down the Coast as far as Opunake and right on round [to] Egmont soliciting business. The importance of these regular contacts made in the early days by buggy and in latter years by Humber Motor Cycle and side-chair, were to prove of inestimable value to White & Sons in the years that lay ahead. The old associations then formed have continued down through the years, and to¬day the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of our early customers, now having the benefits of good roads and modern motor transport facilities, honour us with their regular visits to the Firm's Stores at New Plymouth and Stratford.

"Overseas Representation"

White's had, for many years, been fortunate in having Messrs. Thompson, of Glasgow, as their buying representatives abroad. The advantages of the Firm's policy of buying as close to the source of manufacture as possible, proved itself, especially during the trying war years of 1914-1918. The great scarcity of supplies, not only in New Zealand but particularly overseas, placed those companies with overseas buying contacts well to the fore in the scramble and search for goods.

The year the founder, S. B. White, died his grandson, Ronald, son of Percy White, left the High School and after spending 12 months on the staff of the Bank of New Zealand took a position with John Cobb of Fielding, the leading Drapers of that town.

John Cobb was to train Ronald White to be a Draper so that he could eventually return to New Plymouth and follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father.

However, this was not to be. That same year he volunteered for the Army and sailed with the 10th Reinforcements for France. Ronald White was killed in action, on September 14th, 1916.

New Plymouth, at this time, was showing very marked signs of expansion and development with a rapid increase in population. In adopting the slogan "Growing with New Plymouth" the White Brothers realised the future possibilities of expansion within the town. The growing and improved port facilities, the improvement and increase in primary production augured well for the future prosperity and development of the district.

The brothers worked hard and long hours in complete harmony. Theirs was an ideal business combination, George in control of the clerical side of the business was by nature a likeable man, cool and calm in any emergency, quiet in his manner and sound in judgement. Percy, in control of management and merchandise, was a keen buyer and ambitious planner for the future.

In 1916 Whites added an additional 20 feet to their Devon Street frontage. This property was adjoining the Store on the western side and was purchased from Mr. A. E. Aykes, Chemist, who was retiring from the retail pharmaceutical business in order to concentrate on the wholesale manufacture of drugs, etc.

"Mail Order Business"

With the discontinuance of country travelling the Firm concentrated on Mail Order business. This section of the business grew rapidly and remained for many years an important phase of the Firms' activities.

It was not until comparatively recent years when the Company established Branches and Subsidiary Companies throughout Taranaki, that Mail Order business was to a large degree replaced by customers' personal visits to the Store. However, even to-day the Company's Mail Order Department is by no means the least important section Of the present Store. Appreciating the fact that the question of distance still handicaps many country folk from ready access to City Shops, Whites Limited see to it, that all Mail orders received are given that extra personal care and attention in execution that they rightly deserve.

In 1917, the Firm suffered a severe blow in the death of one of its principals, George S. White The third decade, a decade of Peace, War and personal tragedies, brought with it nevertheless steady progress and expansion in Whites Organisation.

Addendum - Ships mentioned above

The following information was found on the Winters Collection by Hugh Winters.


Name of Ship Year Type of Vessel Service Source Comment
PENGUIN 1864 single screw Union Steam Wreck Book Built Glasgow in 1864 of 749 tons bought by NZ 1879. Used inter island. Wrecked near Wellington heads 12/2/1909. 45 passengers & 30 crew lost.
TE ANAU 1879 Steamer Plowman Built in Scotland in 1879 of 1652 tons she was deliberately sunk as a breakwater at Wanganui after being dismantled at Port Chalmers. She was the first ship in the world to be made of mild steel.