Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Wedding of Note




After looking at the various places in New Zealand that the Middlebrook family purchased land, there seemed to be a definite trend to areas that held a Wesleyan Mission. This could well have been cooincidence, the family may have bought land there because they were areas of known settlement, but at least one story has John Middlebrook leaving the UK because of his staunch Wesleyan views . The truth of this may never be known but I feel its worth more research and so I shall be visiting the Methodist Church archives very soon in order to see if they hold any clues for us.


Journalling on this layout reads:
At first glance the wedding of Elizabeth Middlebrook and George Douglas Hardy seems to be a rather insignificant affair, held as it was at the home of Elizabeth’s mother Ellen Middlebrook, in Duke Street Auckland, however on closer reflection it appears to be a far more impressive occasion and gives us an insight into the religions background of the Middlebrook family.  
Historically the family had been Anglican for hundreds of years, but  in the  early 19th century with the formation of the non-conformist Wesleyan church in Yorkshire , the family appears to move to Methodism . While there was a “foot  in both camps ” approach in the latter years of their time in Yorkshire, one theory is that John Middlebrooks staunch Wesleyan views were  the crux of his decision to move his family to a new land.
James Wallis, the Officiating Minister at Elizabeth’s wedding was no mere local parish representative.
He had been one of the earliest missionaries to New Zealand , leaving the UK in 1834 to join the Wesleyan missionaries here who numbered just two! He set up missions at Waiangaroa, and Kawhia and spent much time in the Hokianga area ( quite possibly near where the Middlebrooks had purchased land after their arrival in New Zealand.
He moved to Auckland in the 1860s and retired from the Ministry Circuit but remained preaching part time and it was at this time he was called upon to officiate at the marriage of the young Elizabeth Middlebrook in her marriage to George Douglas Hardy.

Monday, April 7, 2014



“A while back I posted  here  about Russell Middlebrook who was quite a famous clown in New Zealand and Australia.

I’ve recently discovered there was so much more to Russell than his performances as a clown. He was in fact a master at sculpture and modelling. Like others in his branch of the family, he was a great artist ( his sister Eva was a commercial artist and his brother Farrer was also involved in architecture and modelling, apparently being responsible for much of the Roman lettering on the Auckland Museum.

Russell’s sculptures graced such places as the Civic Theatre and the Tea Rooms at the Farmers Trading Company . With subjects as diverse as church alters, gothic gargoyles, fountains, and bunnies he was a master at creating them all.

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Charles “Russell” Middlebrook was born in 1908, youngest child of James and Julia Middlebrook, Russell is best known as a clown. His talents went way beyond this though. As a child he learned acrobatics, and when his deafness meant he could not serve during WW2 he joined the Arcadian Troupe who entertained the troops in Auckland Camp Shows. After the war he went to Australia and joined circuses such as Whirling Brothers and Robinson Brothers. A great crowd pleaser in his many clown persona, he was best known for his feats of balance. He would balance on his hands on a stack of chairs, with the chairs balancing on beer bottles.
By trade though Russell was talented in other art forms. He had as a teenager attended Elam Art School where he excelled in the art of sculpture and modelling. He worked on parts of the Civic Theatre and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. His sculptures were seen in the Farmers Trading Company and in churches around Auckland. He also dabbled in photography, a collection of his photographs of the Piha region is now held in Auckland Library Heritage Images Collection. Russell spent his lifetime entertaining and was still performing and riding a bicycle at eighty-seven, and was still performing with Robinson's Family Circus well into his eighties. He was presented with a Benny Award ( the highest honour that can be awarded to a New Zealand variety performer) in 1983, and passed away in 1999 aged 91.