Burton Bros. in Canterbury and Westland

Burton Bros. in Canterbury and Westland

2795 The Episcopal Church, Kaiapoi
Burton Bros. photograph
St Bartholomew's Anglican Church
Designed by Benjamin Mountfort in 1854-1855.

We have to thank Messrs Burton Bros., of Dunedin, for sending us a number of specimens of their large series of photographic illustrations of the Christchurch and Hokitika road. The views so kindly forwarded to us by this enterprising firm make a very valuable collection, and one of the greatest interest, particularly to those who have visited the scenes so well depicted. Many of the spots along the over land road may claim comparison in grandeur with any part of Switzerland, the Highlands of Scotland, or the Lakes of Ireland. The second series of New Zealand scenery, when completed, will comprise over a thousand views, chiefly taken on the West Coast. Their representative, Mr Spencer, is at present on a mission to the top of Mount Cook, if such an adventure can be accomplished.
West Coast Times, Issue 2799, 22 March 1878, Page 2

Hokitika. 22nd April.
A report has reached town that two brothers named Spencer [Charles Spencer and George Spencer], the representatives of Messrs. Burton Bros., of Dunedin, while on a photographic tour up the Waihoa River, at the foot of Mount Cook, discovered some payable gold on the Waihoa Flat. They returned to the stores at the Five-mile Beach, where they purchased mining tools, and returned over a very precipitous country. Nothing definite is known as to the prospects obtained, but it is believed there is sufficient inducement for the present for them to abandon photographing for gold digging, as they left with a practical miner fully equipped for a trial of the ground. The Spencers have been trying very pluckily the difficult task of reaching the top of Mount Cook under most unfavorable weather, and have had several narrow escapes.
Evening Post, Volume XVI, Issue 110, 23 April 1878, Page 2

Perillous Prospecting in Westland.
The special reporter of the Grey River Argus gives the following account of the prospecting for gold that has lately been carried on in South Westland:—

Your readers have heard the rumour which has been current for some time that a small quantity of coarse gold had been obtained by two brothers Spencer, who went down on a mission of photography to the Waiho glacier. It will be remembered that the report was magnified to some extent, in so far that the Spencers were said to have given up their original calling and had taken to mining. This was contradicted by a letter from Mr Charles Spencer, dated from Okarito on the 26th April, which was mentioned in a paragraph in this journal. They did not abandon their work altogether, but they thought they had met with sufficient indications to warrant them in giving the ground a little further trial. Their first trip may thus be described.

The two brothers Spencer and a man named German Harry succeeded in getting into the Waiho Gorge — the left-hand branch of the Waiho. They left the forks of the Waiho on the 8th of April, and reached the top of Mount Mueller. They travelled along the leading spur about five or six miles that day, camping for the night, after having walked for eight hours. Next day they travelled along the leading spur for four hours, when they came to a pass between the Waiho and Totara rivers, though about as high as the top of Mount Mueller. Stretching away from the pass to the Waiho there is about a mile of open grassy slopes. They next went down the slope until they reached the head of one of the numerous creeks that run into the Waiho. Proceeding still farther they reached the river, where they camped that night. Next day they started back, and after three hours walking they reached the grassy slopes, again camping, and getting nearly frozen during the night. They left again next day and got back about 5 p.m., being away four days and three nights.

When they reached the Waiho as described on the second day, they picked out gold from the crevices in the bed of the Waiho, with their penknives. They had no tools whatever with them, and very little tucker. They got eight or ten small pieces of gold, in flattened discs, about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The gold was water worn and had apparently travelled some distance. The crevices were mostly filled with iron pyrites and slate, mixed with small stones, the whole being cemented very hard, so that they could not get down more than a few inches with their penknives. Where bed rocks were uncovered, they consisted of quartz and slate mixed, there being well-defined reefs generally from two to three feet thick, though they did not see gold in any of the outcrops of the reefs. The small veins of quartz were reddish in appearance and loose in part from the action of the air and slips.

They describe the Waiho as very much rock-bound, and it is impossible in many places to reach the river. The general run of the river is a point north of magnetic east, for about eight or nine miles, it then takes a turn to the N.E, and disappears in what looks like a pass through the ranges. It passes Mount Tyndall in a N.N.E. direction. There are two glaciers coming from Mount Tyndall, one on the north and another on the N.N.W. side, divided by a spur running about N.W. The N.N.W glacier is the longest, reaching nearly to the river, and is very much covered with moraine, The Waiho is half as long again as the Totara, after entering the gorge. Their journey into the gorge was a most dangerous one, and not fit for any man to undertake. If a party was on the gorge when the snow came down they would most certainly starve.

A second trip was made by German Harry, a miner named Nisbett, who has been working at the foot of the Waiho Gorge for same years past, and the Spencers, also a miner named Walmer, known as Waiho Jack. I am not quite certain whether both or only one of the Spencers went over the second time. They took tools and some more provisions than on the former occasion, but with the perilous places they had to get over they were unable to take much of a swag. They reached the same spot after running terrible risks, and returned with five ounces six pennyweights of gold, which they had obtained in a very small compass. They were on the ground on the second occasion for a day and a half. They first obtained 3dwts on the bare crevice, and subsequently managed to pick out the quantity above stated, the heaviest piece being between four and five dwts. Those who have seen the gold describe it as shotty and not very much water worn. It is reported to have been sold to Mr Benyon, storekeeper at Okarito, from whom the party procured a fresh supply of provisions, and two of them, namely, German Harry and Nisbett, have started again. On this

Zala accompanied them up the gorge and to the top of Mount Mueller, going about two miles beyond the trig. station. After leaving the trig. station, he says they had to go up nearly 2000 feet, when they came to a pass, which in point of danger is almost beyond description. For a considerable distance the ridge is only about 22 inches wide, and is in parts undermined towards the south, and as steep as the wall of a house on the north side, with hundreds of feet underneath, so if an accident happened there would be no possible escape. German Harry took the lead, and got over in safety, but under great risk. Nisbett followed, and had to creep along on his hands and knees for two or three hundred yards. Zala had only six pounds weight of flour and a few biscuits, and seeing the danger, he preferred returning, which he has done with the intention of returning with two of his mates from Ross. I believe he started again yesterday overland, and will, if possible, try to discover some easier track than the one inferred to.

German Harry and Nesbitt have sufficient tucker to last them for three or four weeks, and they only got over on Thursday last. The worst part of the journey is said to be beyond that portion just described, in getting over what has been called Mount Burster. There in parts they had to slide down on the icy boulders with nails in their boots an inch long, and frequently by the assistance of a rope. Three others are reported to have gone the length of Mount Mueller, but returned rather than face the perils that appeared to await them beyond that point. Among these was a man named Samuel Harper. From Okarito to the Gorge may be said to be a day's tramp, from the Gorge to Mount Mueller another day, and from Mount Mueller down a third day. The foregoing is the unvarnished tale of those who have visited the ground and obtained the gold. And now let me add a few words on

lest any should be tempted to venture in that direction. Mr Charles Spencer's concluding words to a friend here are — "Be cautious how you make this public, as if a rush were to take place now, they would very likely have to stay there all the winter, and without a track, there would certainly be loss of life. I do not say there is a payable goldfield. I just give you the facts that we picked the gold out of the crevices. It would take a lot of gold to turn me into a miner." Zala, who has done much roughing on the Coast, fully endorses Spencer's remarks as to the dangers, and in a note I received previous to his reaching town on Tuesday, he concludes, "You may safely say that it is useless for any one to go until a better track is found."

I desire to say, though the news of gold having been discovered in a locality hitherto unknown, has already made some talk in Okarito, yet to those who are best acquainted with the patchy nature of many of the rivers and creeks in that neighbourhood, the circumstances reported are not sufficient to create any great wonder or undue excitement. It may possibly be nothing more than a mere pocket of alluvial gold which has luckily been stumbled upon, and upon the ground being further tested, the limit may be proved to be exceedingly circumscribed. Though this report is made up of threads and patches, and is consequently incomplete, should the work progress, and any further finds be disclosed, arrangements are made that the latest and reliable accounts will be given in this journal from a correspondent who has no aim or object to serve beyond prospecting the locality on his own behalf, and communicating such news as may interest the public. Even the firmest believers in the undeveloped wealth of the South must not forget the mad stampedes which took place to Bruce Bay, the Haast, and other parts of that district, and the very unsatisfactory results which attended them. In a few weeks something more authentic as to the value and extent of the ground may be ascertained.
Otago Witness, Issue 1384, 8 June 1878, Page 5

The Scenery of the Southern Alps.
(Otago Daily Times, August 17.)
Some months since we called attention to a series of magnificent photographic views of the mountain scenery between Christchurch and Hokitika, and commended them to lovers of the picturesque.

Messrs Burton Bros, have since added some forty pictures to their series of views of the Southern Alps, and the views which have recently been taken rival in beauty, in novelty, and in grandeur the previous views, which, until the latter part of the series are inspected, appear incomparably beautiful.

In ordinary cases it is only "newspaper cant" to make reference to the "enterprise" of a firm, and generally it means only that the usual methods of pushing a business have been adopted; but in the present instance the term may he employed in its most complimentary sense. In order to place before the public views which will in some adequate degree represent the exquisite loveliness and the strikingly picturesque character of the unrivalled scenery of New Zealand, Messrs Burton Bros have had to leave the beaten track of ordinary enterprise, and at great cost, and at considerable risk, to explore the Southern Alps, and to reproduce for the cosy drawing-room, scenery including bleak mountain peaks, frozen rivers, snow fields, the glaciers of Mount Cook, and other marvels of beauty.

Much credit is due to Messrs Spencer, the employes (sic) of the firm, who have undertaken this work is a spirit which only the love of the art could produce, and are fulfilling their arduous duties successfully. From time to time paragraphs have appeared in the Press describing the hardships encountered in this pilgrimage for the picturesque. In some of the adventures there has been present a considerable element of danger, and all of them have been more or less beset with so many difficulties that only determined perseverance and a willingness to suffer privation could overcome.

The views of the scenery between Christchurch and Hokitika were taken with comparative ease, but much labor, privation, and delay have been necessary to obtain the views of the glaciers, and to complete the series. Soon alter Messrs Spencer reached Hokitika, they left again for Okarito, and thence have made their excursions to the glaciers of Mount Cook. In this work they were engaged for nearly four months, and a great portion of the time was spent on the ice.

During one month only ten good pictures were taken, for unless the sun is shining brightly only a blank white outline is obtained, and the real character of the scenery lost. Another difficulty which had to be met lay in the fact that light was reflected through the ice upon which the tent was pitched, and destroyed the negatives, but this was overcome by covering the floor of the tent with bags. But the work was not only tedious and difficult, but in order to obtain the best of the views great personal risks were run.

In order to give an idea of the hazardous character of the work, it may be well to give an extract from a letter received by Mr Burton from Mr Spencer, especially as the subject matter is of a genuinely sensational character.

Mr Charles Spencer, writing from Okarito says :- "You will be surprised to see that I am down in Okarito again. I have had a very hard time of it at the glacier. I have not had a fine day for a month. I will endeavor to explain how matters are situated. I left here the day after I wrote to you last, and it took me three days getting up to the glacier. After that it rained for ten days, and then partly cleared up for a day. We then tried to get on the, glacier, but could not for some time. At last my brother climbed up between the ice and the rock - a very hazardous operation, but he would try it. He then let a rope down to me, and I climbed up. This was no easy matter, as it was 50 feet high, and quite perpendicular. We then decided, on account of the difficulty of getting on the ice, that we should shift the camp over to the other side of the glacier. I accordingly went down and fastened the two swags to the end of the rope, and he pulled them up. Then I swarmed up after, and we took them across the glacier, and put them under an oilskin safe from the weather, intending to bring the tent and blankets over the next day. So far so good; but we got into trouble coming back. We fastened the rope to a piece of ice, and my brother started to slide down, when just as he got half way down the rope broke, and he went down head first about 25ft. As soon as the rope broke I went down after him as far as I could with the rope, which was just on a ledge overhanging a large hole between the rock and the ice. It was not a pleasant sensation. I could not see any sign of my brother, but in about five minutes I saw him come put some distance lower down. I never felt so thankful for anything in my life before. I could not get down there, and had to climb up a large range and come down again lower down. It took me a few hours. When I got to the tent I found my brother all right. The water where he fell was very deep, or he would have been killed, or if he had sprained an arm or leg he would never have got out."

The views which were obtained of the glacier from which Mr Spencer fell — the Francis Joseph glacier — and of the surrounding scenery show that both gentlemen must not have been daunted by peril or fatigue. Here they managed to obtain some very valuable pictures showing the fantastic formation of the glacier, and two views of the River Waiho, which issues from beneath the glacier; one when the river was frozen, and the other when it was flowing. Nearly all the views are taken in duplicate, one being taken full plate size, and the other as stereoscopic views.

The series also includes interesting scenery on the West Coast, including the townships of Kumara and Greymouth. The next series to be taken will be in the North Island, so that by the time the work is finished almost the whole of the best of the scenery of the Colony will have passed through the camera.

Amongst the products of the photographic art now exhibited in Messrs Burton Brother's studio, are two objects of special interest. One of these is a splendid view of Mount Cook — the negative plate of which is 18 inches by 16, and the other is a stereoscopic picture of the mountain lily, the Ranunculus lyallii; a beautiful curiosity, both in nature and art.
West Coast Times, Issue 2932, 26 August 1878, Page 2

Charles and George Spencer and Edwards, London photographers, have left for the Lake country and Tongariro, to photograph scenery for Burton Bros., Dunedin.
Otago Witness, Issue 4000, 28 September 1878, Page 15

from: An Easy Trip to the Glaciers
It should also be mentioned that a short distance up the track a magnificent waterfall lies to the right about half a mile, the stream from which has to be crossed. This fall equals, if it does not excel, that of the West Coast road, known as the "Devil's Punch Bowl," photos of which have been taken times without number. In summer there is not much ice to be seen under this fall. At present the water seems to fall into a basin, and come down under a bridge of ice; but in spring the ice will reach in a compact body down and across the river, which has then to tunnel itself through. An ice cave of this description must be seen; it cannot be described. Mr [Charles] Spencer, who was travelling for Burton Bros, of Dunedin, about three years ago, succeeded in getting a few fine pictures in this locality, one of which shows this fall in early spring, and another gives a view looking up the river, and is taken underneath, so as to show the roof of the tunnel through which the river has cut its way.
The Star, Issue 4363, 19 April 1882, Page 4

The Star, Issue 4851, 16 November 1883, Page 2
The notice first appeared in The Star about 7 November 1883 and continued to 19 November 1883

Photographs of New Zealand Scenery.
Coming close on the heels of Messrs Burton Bros.' admirable method of illustrating our scenery in miniature by means of photographs on Christmas cards, another venture of a somewhat similar character now appeals to the public. The proprietors, Messrs D. N. Adams and S. H. Saunders, who have opened premises in Gloucester street, in the old Telegraph offices, have contracted with Messrs Burton Bros, for an enormous supply of their landscape photographs, and these can be obtained on rather unusual terms. Subscribers for 52 views receive one per week, neatly mounted and finished, at the exceedingly low price of 1s apiece. By this means the buyer soon becomes possessed of quite an extensive collection of photographs, acquired at a cost which is so small as to be no tax whatever upon his purse, because incurred by almost imperceptible degrees. The pictures comprise scenes of every description, from one of the Dunedin High Schools and University Buildings to the wildest points of rugged glacier and picturesque fiord scenery, in which the south-western portion of this Island is so remarkably rich. "Standard," or whole plate, size will be that uniformly adopted, and the mounting tinted boards. As for the merits of the pictures from an artistic point of view, the name of the firm of photographers supplying them is guarantee of the very best character, to any one acquainted with photography in New Zealand, that the work will be of the highest order. The specimens submitted to us are certainly very good, and up to the high standard of everything bearing the stamp of Messrs Burton Bros. Many of them, indeed, both for natural beauty and manipulation, may rank with almost any views to be obtained in any country. The Bowen Falls, the various views at different points in and around Milford Sound, the Lakes — Manapouri, Wanaka, &c. — and the West Coast road numbers of the series, may be instanced as showing this most dearly. The project has, we believe, met with considerable favour, and certainly as a means of obtaining a good and truthful photographic collection of the best "bits" of New Zealand scenery for sending to friends in the Old Country, or for keeping, could hardly be surpassed here, at all events at present.
The Star, Issue 4866, 4 December 1883, Page 4

The Star , Issue 5926, 15 February 1884, Page 2

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