Every community museum must start somewhere, and Te Awaroa Helensville’s begins, in part at least, in Blenheim, with some volunteers, a cob cottage, and six handmade nails. As Colleen Thompson tells the story in an account archived in Te Awaroa Helensville Museum and in her book ‘Covering the Ground’ (2013), during a South Island holiday tour in their Crusader Caravan she and her husband Alec Trotter came across a group of voluntary firefighters who had just finished restoring a beautiful cob cottage in Blenheim. Invited in as the first guests, Colleen and Alec were thrilled to share “a special moment in the cottage’s history” where “everything was restored to create a true feeling of authenticity, from the wobbly glass in the windows to the scrubbed wooden bench top, the fireplace and chimney and the flour bag tea towel.” As they left, they were given a memento, six rusty handmade nails, to encourage them to do the same in their patch.   

Back at their Fordyce Road farm the couple found support from Mrs Bel and Mr Gordon Russell and their friends Mr Mick and Greta Mills, who had recently been sharing regret at the loss of memorabilia from the district. After several informal meetings, and much talking with friends, they began gathering interesting items. These were stored in the Helensville Primary School dental clinic (as Headmaster of the school and Mayor of Helensville Mr Russell knew the ropes of school and council facilities). Colleen felt it was a great responsibility, but it was also fun, and a promising start, helped by the efforts of people like Mrs Margaret West and Mrs Ivy McWhirter, who provided useful ideas when it became clear the collection needed better housing and more formal cataloguing and by engineers Mr Mcloy and Mr Williscroft, who got all the rusty tools and implements oiled up and working.

When the Helensville and District Historical Society was formed at a well-attended meeting in 1967, its first catalogued entry was of six old nails, hand forged and mounted on a small board, from the Blenheim cob cottage. In recent refurbishment of the Museum artefacts the nails have not been found. 

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