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Brain-Watkins House Museum (Est. 1881)


07 578 1835

Hours Open

  • Sunday: 2pm–4pm
  • Closed on Public Holidays


  • Carpark
  • Toilets
  • Guided Tours Available

Suitable for Ages

  • Families

On the death of Elva Phoebe Brain-Watkins (née Brain) (1891-1979), the house she had been born, lived and died in, was gifted into the care of the Tauranga Historical Society (Est. 1952). Elva stated in her will that she wished it to be “retained intact as a memorial to my parents.”

Work on what is now Brain-Watkins House Museum started in September 1881 when a shipment of kauri arrived in Tauranga for her father, boatbuilder Joseph Denham Brain (1841-1924). The house was registered by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as a Historic Place Category 2 on 4 April 1983. The house museum and heritage garden are a unique historic property located near the central business district of Tauranga city, and volunteer guides open the building to the public on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm.

Occupied by one family for 98 years and still retaining the original contents, the house offers an insight into the life of a middle-class European family of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is predominantly the story of the women of the Brain family who occupied the house from 1881 to 1979. Joseph Denham Brain was married to Kate Ellen Brain (née Bishop) (1844-1933), and their daughters were Ada, Alice, Eleanor, Edith (Bessie) and Elva.

The collection is an eclectic mix of all the decades during the period of occupation. The collection is currently part of a cataloguing project, with only a small portion so far displayed on eHive. A yearly subscription to the Tauranga Historical Society is $40 per household and new members to support the work of the Society are always very welcome, as are donations. Bank account: SBS 03 1355 0660053 00 (please email us your name and contact details).

Map showing Brain-Watkins House Museum (Est. 1881)

233 Cameron Road, Tauranga

Past events at Brain-Watkins House Museum (Est. 1881)

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