In today's world there seems to be an endless array of storage containers available for the multitude of items we need to keep safely housed.

The storage of jewellery is one facet that has always been important, especially to jewellery lovers, from the earliest incarnations which were more akin to treasure chests.

The Goldie Jewellery Box in the Whangarei Museum at Kiwi North collection.
The Goldie Jewellery Box in the Whangarei Museum at Kiwi North collection.

Primarily used for the safekeeping of expensive items rather than for sustaining the quality of pieces, storage containers for jewellery have taken on many forms and guises since their conception in ancient Egypt.

In Whangārei Museum's collections there are myriad domestic storage containers including a range of objects specifically designed for storing jewellery. One in particular stands out from the rest because of its aesthetic charm.


Gifted in 1996 by Mrs Patricia Barfoot, this highly decorative, lacquered jewellery box with shell inlay was donated with little-known provenance apart from it once belonging to Asia Goldie. From the diminutive information provided it has been possible to track down relations and people connected with this amazing treasure trove and uncover some background details regarding those associated with the boxes history.

Asia Margaret Goldie was born in Auckland on March 9, 1889 at the Domain, daughter of William Clark Goldie and Maria Margaret (nee Gosset), the couple having married in 1885 in the newly built St Sepulchre's Church, Grafton. Named after her maternal grandmother Maria Asia Hull Woodruff, she was an only child.

Around the time of Goldie's birth, her father was employed as Ranger of Auckland Domain and it is believed the family were living in a cottage in the grounds where William had been working as a gardener and curator of the Winter Gardens since about 1878.

Having gained experience as a horticulturalist and nurseryman in both England and Scotland working on estates under his father William Goldie, he had the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy to the residents of Auckland. In 1881 he submitted a design with James Slater for the laying out of Albert Park in an Italianate style Pleasure Garden which was duly accepted. He later became Park's superintendent where he had responsibility for this inner-city sanctuary.

This fascination for flora did not extend to Goldie, who after attending Auckland Grammar went on to Auckland Technical College where examination results confirm her profound abilities at sewing, winning awards for dressmaking in 1908. Four years later, at the age of 23, Miss Asia Goldie was appointed as Millinery Technical Instructor at the College receiving £130 pa.

By 1928 Asia Goldie was residing in Vinery Lane, Whangārei with a widowed aunt, Mary Christian before moving to Manse St about 1946. She never owned her own home, opting instead to share or rent a room in alternative lodgings.

Goldie remained a spinster throughout her life and was keenly interested in the Melanesian Mission, run under the auspices of the Anglican Church and chose to follow this faith, teaching Sunday School in Whangārei before moving into Potter Home in her later years.

It is unknown who originally owned the lacquered jewellery box, but it wasn't until after her death in 1958 that this special personal effect most likely formed part of an inheritance bequeathed to good friend and distant relation, Vicar Maxwell Lovelace Bull, who officiated at Goldie's funeral.

This unique artefact then passed to Mrs Barfoot's possession, daughter of Maxwell Bull and Asia Goldie's God-daughter, who recalls conversations with specific instructions that the jewellery box was ultimately to be gifted to Whangārei Museum where it can still be appreciated today.

■ Natalie Brookland is collection registrar, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.