The Bridson Family

William John BRIDSON was born in Auckland in 1868, one of six children, of William and Harriette Bridson (nee White)(30). William the elder migrated to New Zealand with his parents in the 1850s, eventually becoming an officer of the Native Land Court. As a practising Methodist he had earlier been a teacher in the Methodist College and honorary choirmaster at Pitt St Methodist Church.(31) He married Harriette in 1862 in the old High Street Methodist church.

William John Bridson and Agnes Gordon had not been married for long at the time when they purchased Braemar as their family home. He was a successful ironmonger(32) in Auckland and after a short time they shifted to Wellington where he was employed as the manager of Briscoes.(33)

Although Mr W J Bridson owned Braemar from 2 nd August 1906 till 11 th September 1917, for most of the time the property was leased to the Ziman family. Previous published references to Braemar as “ the townhouse of the Ziman family “(34) have however been based on the incorrect assumption that Braemar was owned by the Ziman family. A title search shows that the Ziman family have never been registered owners of Braemar.

By the time Mr Bridson sold Braemar to Potter and Stanton, Middle Courtville had been built. The construction of that apartment building so close to the western boundary of the property and to the house, must have had an adverse effect on Braemar’s resale value. (In fact Middle Courtville has been built so close to Braemar it is actually over the boundary, giving rise to the easement that now exists on the title for Braemar to give the Middle Courtville Body Corporate access rights.) However, Potter and Stanton purchased the property for a net figure of ¦ 1,500.0.0 and took over the remaining balance of the mortgage of ¦ 1,400.0.0, a total consideration of ¦ 2,900.0.0.

A letter from the Alexander Turnbull Library confirmed that they held journals that had belonged to Jacob Ziman. A trip down to Wellington was in order. John and I went down the weekend of the Mobil road races; he was keen to see the road races and I was keen to visit the library.

The Alexander Turnbull Library is housed within the National Library of New Zealand , and the journals were in the Rare Manuscripts room, where everything is precious and gets the “white glove” treatment. I spent several hours going through the fragile papers, which had been meticulously compiled and indexed by Jacob Ziman. Each journal was a book of sequentially numbered pages of very fine paper, carbon copies of letters that he had written. Many of the letters were to family members; to his son Sol, who was embarking on a trip to London; to his brother David in London about the business deals together in the gold mining industry. The letters I hoped I would find were those he may have written to Mr Bridson regarding the lease of the property. I didn’t know if any such letters existed, so it was with great excitement that I found a series of letters setting out the terms of the lease.

On May 13th 1907 Jacob Ziman wrote the following letter to Mr Bridson:

Mr Bridson,

c/o Briscoe & Co


Dear Sir

With response to my offer to rent your house as wired to you by Mrs Bridson.

I saw Captain Frater, and he was not sure of the length of lease you are prepared to give. He also seemed unwilling to wire my offer to you, why I cannot understand, and am therefore communicating with you direct.

I am prepared to lease your house for (3) three years with the right of renewal for a further term of 2 or 3 years at a rental of one hundred pounds (100) per annum and pay all rates and insurance against fire. Payment can be arranged quarterly by cheque direct to you thus saving you 5% for collecting.

Mrs Bridson told me you wished to sell the linoleums the which I would be prepared to purchase at the prices mentioned by her.

As I am leaving here for Melbourne today will you please wire to Mrs Ziman Newmarket if you accept my offer, as I have to give notice to my landlady. I would ask you to reply by Thursday. I understand you will occupy the house for about a month, thus giving me time to give notice on return from Melbourne.(35)

The lease was renewed for a further period and the Bridsons do not appear to have returned to live in Braemar. In March 1910 Mr Bridson received the following letter from Mr Ziman:

Dear Sir

Please take notice, that in terms of my lease of “Braemar” I desire a renewal of the lease for three (3) years from the end of the present term.

Your acknowledgment in due course will oblige and will I take it, be sufficient to constitute a renewal without going to the trouble of having a formal lease drawn up.

and a further letter dated 19th December 1911

Dear Sir,

As you have no doubt seen in the newspapers Auckland was yesterday visited by a very severe storm. As a result part of the old wooden fence at the lower end of the boundary of “Braemar” nearest the harbour has been blown over leaving a wide opening leading into the yard of the next-door property. The portion blown over was simply torn out bodily and laid flat on the concrete. The whole of the wooden part of the fence on that boundary from the end of the iron fence to the fernery – a distance of about 25 or 30ft – is old and shaky and it might be worthwhile for you to arrange with the adjoining owner to replace it. It is of course a matter for you and the adjoining owner to arrange whether you will do this or simply repair the part actually blown over. Please let me know what you decide to do. Trusting that Mrs Bridson and yourself are well and with kind regards,

Yours Truly

p.s. The planks of the wooden part of the fence are for the most part fairly sound and the part remaining upstanding is propped up from next door, so that the same trouble is liable to occur again. That is why I suggest replacing that part of the fence. For that purpose most of the present planks could be used: but it would be necessary to have new posts and crossbeams.

J.J. Ziman

There are no photographs of the garden as it was, but it is easy to imagine the fernery at the bottom of the garden, lush and green.

William and Agnes Bridson were the parents of Lieutenant-Commander Gordon Bridson, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for outstanding work in command of the HMNZS Kiwi in the English Channel in WWII.(36)

William John Bridson died on 15 th September 1942 at the age of 74.(37)


(30) Letter Rae Bridson to S Sweetman dated 29 th April 1995
(31) Methodist Times Vol XI – No. 15 , November 20 1920.
(32) Valuation List for East Ward of the City of Auckland for the years 1907 , Auckland City Archives, Auckland Public Library
(33) NZ Post Office Directory 1909 , Pg 1106.
(34) Courtville in Context, under-graduate thesis Julie Stout (Auckland University School of Architecture Library)
(35) MS-Papers-1648-1 Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts of Jacob Ziman
(36) The Dominion ,7 th December 1972, “Little ship Captain dies in Cambridge”
(37) Death notice NZ Herald 15 th September 1942 ; as for 28 above