Hounsell's Circle, the Sundial and Natureland at Tahunanui


The site currently occupied by Natureland at Tāhunanui Beach Reserve is located within an elliptical circle.  You used to be able to drive completely around this circle and it was always referred to as Hounsell's Circle.  Hounsell's Circle was grassed and used for picnicking, before Natureland was built on the site.  Natureland was started in 1966, when the Jaycees established a zoo by initially fencing the circle and laying foundations for buildings.1

Hounsell Mr Jesse 7997

Mr Jesse Hounsell. Nelson Provincial Museum

At the beach coast side of the circle, there is a concrete walled and stepped recess, with a concrete memorial sundial.  This recess used to access the grassed area, but is now fenced off to contain Natureland.  It is now an access to nowhere and is easily missed.

In July 1929 Mr J. E. Hounsell passed away at the age of 71 years.2  The following report appears in The Press of 18 July 1929: 

The death occurred on Sunday of one of Nelson's oldest and most respected residents, Mr Jesse Ernest Hounsell, for many years proprietor of the well-known bookseller's business in Trafalgar street, in which he succeeded his father.  It was only at the end of last month that Mr Hounsell disposed of his business.  His health had not been robust for some time.  Away from business Mr Hounsell's pastimes were angling and bowls.  He was one of the oldest anglers of the Nelson district. and in his day had secured many good bags.  He had been a member of the Maitai Bowling Club since its foundation.3  

He also held many public and social offices including: Fire Brigade, National Bands, Horticultural Society to name a few.

Hounsell memorial sundial. Ken Wright

Hounsell Memorial Sundial. Tāhunanui. Ken Wright

And from the Evening Post of 20 July 1929:

A number of public bequests, subject to certain prior interests, are made under the will of the late; Mr J. E. Hounsell, bookseller, who died a few days ago.  Various institutions will benefit, as follows: Nelson Institute, £100, Salvation Army, £100, Royal New Zealand Society for the Health of Women and Children, £100, St Andrew's Orphanage, £100, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals £100, Auckland Point School, £100, Central School, £100, Hampden Street School, £100, Nelson College Governors, £500 for the purpose of founding and establishing a scholarship at Nelson Boys' College, Nelson College Governors, £500 for the purpose of founding and establishing a scholarship at Nelson Girls' College, the residue of the estate is to be divided into two equal parts, one share for the Tahuna Sands Association should it be, in existence at a certain time and the other share for the Trustees of the Nelson Anglican Cathedral Fund.  The Public Trustee, is the executor and sole: trustee.4

The Tāhuna Sands Association had been formed in 1926 to look after the Tāhuna Reserve, which was vested in Nelson City Council. Evidence of an official unveiling of the monument has not been located. The Tāhuna Sands Association made considerable improvements to the beach area, including Hounsell’s Circle and associated facilities, in the 1930’s.

The brass sundial atop the monument has the following Latin inscription; “Non Numero Horas Nisi Serenas”.  “ I count only the sunny hours”.

2017 (updated 2021)

Sources used in this story

  1. Roving camera (1966, May 28) Nelson Photo News, p.48
  2. Births Deaths and Marriages Historical Records. DIA: 1929/99973, 71 years
  3. Obituary. Mr J.E.Hounsell (1929, July 18) The Press, p.2
  4. Nelson News. Requests under will (1929, July 20) Evening Post, p.11

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