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Kaiapoi Woollen Mill and Mr Moriarty

I purchased a copy of a Kaiapoi Woollen Mills receipt a while back and during an office tidy last night came across it again - the tidy got promptly put aside as that rabbit hole suddenly seemed to more enticing - go figure!  

It's hard not to be hit with the first thought that this humble receipt seems more like art. The font alone is amaze and the attention to detail shows a real pride in their work.  This was no half effort! The mill viewpoint image I’ve seen before on the occasional label and shows what they wanted to present to the world.  It's impressive!  

The wording: “Bought of The Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Co Ltd” is of particular interest and quite a mouthful really.  Titles are important as name changes usually correspond to a timeline within the mill and is often helpful when determining a blanket's age.   

Mill image blanket label with similarity of style to the receipt

The date on this receipt is, wait for it.... 9th June 1911 I start to feel a little eerie when I realise I’m researching a receipt that is 110years old almost to the day!!  This feels significant but since I’m not sure what to do with that thought after a moment of wow we move on…lol. (To the day!)

The receipt is made out to a Mr. W. Moriarty, so I ask Google if it knows of such a person.  Not really expecting anything to result it turns out Google does! There are a couple of newspaper advertisements as W. (William) Moriarty owned a business unsurprisingly called Moriarty’s and was a bootmaker who also sold soft furnishings, clothing, groceries and alcohol.  Quite diverse!

Moriarty's advertisement, source Papers Past


It is amazing what you can learn from Google, a little more searching discovers a photograph of Mr Moriarty’s grave site (!), he died just a year after this receipt was made out at age 76.  This suddenly feels a little too personal so we go back to the receipt… What did Mr. Moriarty buy?


Around this part I get a little lost.  I won’t rewrite it all but perhaps you can follow along using the image above.
3  10/4 A4 Blk ts
The blanket lover that I am hopes that it might mean 3 blankets at size 10ft x 4ft (single?) - the A4 makes no sense since it certainly isn’t referring to a metric page size.  Equally Blk probably means black and ts… goodness now we are in code.  Can we hope that it meant blankets?  Google doesn’t know either.  Do you?

The receipt goes on a little clearer with 3 Epsom O’Coats (Epsom Overcoats!) and two different style trousers.  Pricing at the right with unit prices (shilling/pence) and then line total and grand total in pounds shillings pence.

Epsom Overcoat by Paul Smith

For further interest I found an inflation calculator, long story short the first item (Blk ts) would work out to about $80 in today’s money per item and his overall purchase that day was approximately just over $800.

Further info from the receipt show that the mill itself located in Kaiapoi had Warehouses in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Greymouth, some that I have seen photos of, further confirming Kaiapoi Woollen Company was a big business for its time. 

Also interesting that transit of goods was at the buyers risk rather than the common of today that it is the supplier responsibility to get items to the buyer safely.

There is a little tiny bit of writing in the bottom left of the receipt under the image.  My needle working eyes (I just aged writing that!) can't make it out so will have to come back to that with a magnifying glass.

And finally of note what I assume was contact details (?): Telegrams “Kaiaponia” Wellington.  Kaiaponia seems to be something of a made up word that Google doesn’t recognise.  Perhaps it works a bit like a phone number/account name in the sending of Telegrams.  Again I'm still learning, so more information needed to confirm.


So while there is still a few gaps I will file it for now as an interesting bit of ephemera that gives a little more insight to one of our beloved mills and the customers they provided for.  Mr William Moriarty was part of that story evidence shown by his simple order of (possibly) 3 blankets, 3 coats and 8 trousers. I wonder if he would find it surprising to know it was of interest here and now a full 110 years later.

**Note: If you can see errors or add info to my learnings please message or comment.  Thank you for following along :)


  • Thank you Elizabeth! I admit to getting caught up in the story! :)

  • Oh my gosh this is so interesting! Thank you for sharing the story!

    Elizabeth Stasny

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