Monday, October 27, 2008

George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery: Part 3 -- Other burials

Dr. Thomas Aickin and his family

First medical practitioner in the district, and second superintendent of the Auckland Asylum. More about Aickin here.

Capt. Robert David James

Captain James is discussed in detail in another post.

Thomas and Ann Fletcher Jackson

The Jacksons travelled all over New Zealand on ministry work for their Quaker faith in the late 19th century. From 1893 to 1899 they lived at “Meliora” in Avondale, a farm situated around present-day 103 Avondale Road (original house still standing, according to K. Brehmer.) In 1897 they helped found the Victoria Hall church opposite the cemetery. Thomas died in 1899, Ann Fletcher Jackson died in 1903.

Bollard family

John Bollard arrived in Avondale in 1861. From 1863 he was on the first committee for the Whau Public School (now Avondale Primary), was on the committee and later Trust for the Whau Public Hall from 1867, Chairman of the Whau Highway District Board (later Avondale Roads Board) from 1868 to 1896, when he stepped down to become MP for Eden until 1914. He was also a district coroner, land agent, farmer and roads engineer. He died in March 1915.

His son Richard Francis Bollard was a district valuer and rates collector for the Avondale Roads Board in the 1890s, and became an MP for Raglan, and later Minister of Internal Affairs, until his death in 1927. His remains are currently interred at Karori Cemetery.

Another son, Ben Bollard, was Avondale’s first postman (late 19th century) and then from 1906 until 1916 was part of the Bollard and Wood partnership with Edward Wood.

Henry Peck

From around 1870 until the early 20th century, Henry Peck’s Store next to the Avondale Hotel was the largest general store of its kind in West Auckland. Until his death in 1890, he served from time to time on the local Road Board.

Silva, Ringrose, Fremlin families

The cemetery is the resting place of many members of Avondale’s settler families. The Ringroses arrived in Auckland in 1859, the Silvas were a prominent family on the Rosebank peninsula in the 20th century, and Fremlin Place is named after the Fremlin family.

John and William John Tait

John Tait arrived in Avondale in 1864, working on John Bollard’s farm for 25 years, then running his own farm and market garden on a portion of the land. He died in 1916.

His son William John Tait served on the Avondale Roads Board, including as the last chairman in 1921-1922, and was the second mayor of Avondale Borough from 1923 to 1927. In 1937, he was one of the founders of the Avondale Businessmen’s Association, and was its first President. He was also a well-known land agent in the area. In 1932 the Unity Buildings was constructed on his property in central Avondale, and in 1940 he donated land to the Council for Avondale’s first public restroom. His widow transferred land in Blockhouse Bay Road to the Housing Corporation for the present-day Tait Village named (as is Tait Street) after her husband. He died in 1947.

Charles Theodore Pooley

From 1898 until the mid 20th century, “Charlie” Pooley was a roading contractor and transport provider for the district. He was engaged by the Roads Board to work on forming up what is now Bollard Avenue and Blockhouse Bay Road, amongst others. The stables he built on the burned out ruins of the Patterson Stables, just down Great North Road from the Avondale Hotel, was a landmark until 1924 when the stables burned down. In 1925 he gifted land along the Great North Road frontage of his property to the Avondale Borough Council (the Council bought additional adjoining land also) which was earmarked “with a view to making a civic square” (Roads Board minutes). Part of this land is the present-day site for Stage 1 of the Avondale Mainstreet Project.

Frances Gittos

Died 6 August 1924, aged 81.

Connected with the tannery company of the 19th century in Avondale and Blockhouse Bay, Benjamin Gittos and Sons. He came to Avondale around 1863, was on both the early committees for the Public School, and in November 1867, he proposed that “the members of the Committee procure as many books as possible for the formation of a library for the Hall.” Books were to be solicited to form a library for the Hall for the use of the public. (from Heart of the Whau)

He owned much of the land bounded by what is now Blockhouse Bay Road, New North Road, Bollard Avenue and New Windsor Road.

Charles Edgar Fearon

Died 31 October 1948, aged 68.

(from Heart of the Whau)
There were originally four brothers: Charles Edgar (always called Jack), Len, Cedric, and one other who was lost to the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

In 1920, Jack and Len started a butcher shop in Avondale, on the site which is now the Battersby carpark. The family had now moved to Station Road. Later, there was a fire which destroyed what had been the Thode Bros. store, then run by Mr MacKenzie. The Fearon brothers took over the land and remaining buildings, and built the Fearon Block by 1922.

In an advertisement from the News of 4 June 1921, the Fearon Bros. butchers said they were in Avondale and Ponsonby. “Patronise the Small Butcher -- No connection with the other Firm”, and asked: “Have you tried ‘Avon’ Sausages – made with specially prepared Sausage meal and clean fresh meat. ‘Avon’ Sausages are right”. They stocked “Primest Beef and Mutton, Dairy-fed Pork, Milk-fed Veal, Mild-cured Beef, Corned Pork and Ox Tongue. Our Quick-Lunch Pressed Beef is Delicious. Home-made Luncheon Sausage.”

“Avon Sausage” was apparently mixed in the Fearon’s own small factory they had built out the back the shop, using salt, pepper, mace and sage, although only a little of this was put in the mix.

Arthur John and Adelaide Annie Morrish

Arthur Morrish died 6 November 1949, aged 80, his wife Adelaide died 1 August 1941, aged 70.

(from Heart of the Whau)
Sometime in 1913-14, Arthur Morrish (1869-1949) printed the first issue of his weekly publication for Avondale, New Lynn, Waikumete, Henderson, and Swanson, called simply The News. Morrish, originally emigrating from the English county Devon in 1894 when he was 25, married and settled in Princess Street (Elm St), where he set up his business before shifting first to Great North Road (just down from the 1938 Post Office), and then to Rosebank Road. Copies of The News are rare, and photocopies sought after these days. No one knows when the newspaper ceased publication, but Arthur Morrish died in 1949, aged 80.

His wife Adelaide Annie Morrish (c.1871-1941) ran her own business in Rosebank Road alongside her husband’s printing works.

Dr. Daniel Pollen

Died 18 May 1899, aged 82.

Born 1813, Dublin, Ireland. Died 1896, New Zealand, aged 82
Premier from 6 July 1875 to 15 February 1876 Daniel Pollen was born in Dublin, Ireland on 2 June 1813. Many details of his early life are unknown but he studied medicine and graduated with an MD. He moved to New South Wales and then North Auckland in the late 1830s. He was a witness to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Pollen was appointed Coroner for Parnell in 1844 and on 18 May 1846 married Jane Henderson. He later became medical officer at the mining town of Kawau. In 1856 he was elected a member of the Provincial Council representing Auckland Suburbs and later Auckland East until 1865. In 1858 he was appointed commissioner of crown lands for Auckland. Then in 1861 he became a member of the Legislative Council on and off for the next few years.

In 1873 he was appointed by Vogel to both the Legislative Council and the Executive, becoming Colonial Secretary. After Vogel was delayed while overseas Pollen became Premier in July 1875 and relinquished the job back to Vogel on Vogel's return in February 1876. He remained Colonial Secretary until October 1877.
Pollen then spent the next 19 years as a member of the Legislative Council until he died on 18 May 1896.

Dr. Pollen was also another of Avondale’s early settlers, purchasing land in the initial sales of 1844 at the end of the Rosebank peninsula, and in the mid 1850s starting a brickworks on the Whau Creek, celebrated as the earliest of many brickworks later to start up all over West Auckland on the clay seams. Pollen Island Motu Manawa) is named after him, as is a street in Ponsonby.

Binsted family

John Binsted died 8 March 1900 aged 78, Henry Binsted died 3 September 1895 aged 44, James Binsted died 28 October 1920, plus seven other family members in Rosebank Cemetery.

(from Heart of the Whau)

In 1886 Henry and James Binsted opened a butchery on the corner of St Georges Rd and Great North Rd. Also built an abattoir on the present site of Rewa Park in New Lynn. Cattle for the yards were driven across the city from Remuera via Avondale to the yards.

According to Binsted family descendents, the parents of James Binsted, John and May, came to New Zealand in 1873, with six children. The started a butchery business in Drake St, Freeman’s Bay “before the reclamation in 1879, when Drake St ran along and parallel with the foreshore of the Waitemata Harbour.”

James Binsted is said to have been a small-built man, who wore a bowler hat most of the time (some have said he was balding). His shop would have a cashier, where you would pay for the meat, and a counter where the meat was served. Binsted’s delivered to a wide area, and were known to “dress-up” cuts of meat for those who couldn’t afford the more expensive cuts.

By October 1888, “Binsted’s corner” had become an Avondale landmark. In 1895, Henry Binsted, James’ brother and partner, died of typhoid fever, and their father John died on 8 March 1900. In 1902, James Binsted bought the Avondale shop from his family, and had a new shop in Mt Albert, corner of Mt Albert and New North Roads, by 1911.

In 1920, James Binsted died. The Avondale shop was sold to R&W Hellaby’s for £3090, and from then onwards, James’ son John Claude Binsted became manager of the Avondale R & W Hellaby’s shop.

Robert Dakin, John Rubbick Stych

Robert Dakin died 27 June 1894, aged 58.
John Rubbick Stych died 20 December 1898, aged 53.

Both of these men were licensees of the Avondale Hotel during the 19th century, Robert Dakin from March 1879 through possibly to the late 1880s, and John Stych from 1896 to his death in 1898.

Robert Dakin was originally licensee of the Suffolk Hotel in Ponsonby, and purchased the (then) Whau Hotel from its rebuilder and owner, James Palmer, in March 1879 for £2,400. “The new landlord at the Whau Hotel,” according to the New Zealand Herald of March 22, 1879, “has the reputation of being a suitable and obliging.” In 1879, he was one of the signatories to the application for incorporation of the Whau Public Library.

(from Heart of the Whau)
John R Stych, (1845-1898) committed suicide on 20 December, shooting himself in the head with a shot-gun in the cellar of the Avondale Hotel. He was apparently in financial difficulties, and after being approached that afternoon by a Mr. Boylan and Mr Abbott, he went to get a revolver and shot-gun, and ended his life. The suicide, and resulting inquest presided over by John Bollard as district coroner, was quite a sensation in Avondale at the time, so much so that it went into “Avondale lore” as the suicide of the last publican after losing the hotel licence in 1909. Only after I interviewed Mrs Vera Crawford, and she mentioned the name “Mr Stych”, was I able to put Mr Stych’s death together with the suicide story – a part of Avondale lore which turned out to have more than a grain of truth to it. His widow Emma took over the licence for 5 years.

“The deceased was very popular in the Avondale district and was not supposed a likely man to commit suicide. He had many friends in Auckland, where fore many years he was employed in Messrs Bycroft and Co.’s mills. As a horticulturalist Mr Stych used to carry off prizes year after year at the local flower shows and was an enthusiastic gardener. He leaves a wife and three sons.” [Auckland Star, 21/12/1898] See appendix.

John Stych was buried in the Rosebank Cemetery, his headstone giving no indication of the cause of his demise.

Exler family

Moses Exler, died 12 August 1900, plus 8 family members.

Moses Exler started the family pottery business in the late-1870s in New Windsor. Bricks made at that site were used, according to Challenge of the Whau, as part of Bunsted’s butchery, the horse bus stables and St Jude’s Church. Neville Exler, his descendent, was part of the Avondale History Group who worked to put together Challenge of the Whau in 1994.

William and Thomas Myers

William Myers died 2 October 1927, aged 75. His son Thomas died 16 August 1967, aged 79.

(from Heart of the Whau)
Thomas Myers (c.1881–1967), the blacksmith in Blake Street was the rival:
“Since we commenced business in Avondale we have built over one hundred carts and sulkies for the district.; We guarantee you better value than you can get elsewhere. Horse Shoeing, Ploughs made to order. All Kinds of Agricultural Implements Repaired.” [Advertisement in The News, 11/11/1916. Both examples from Challenge of the Whau, p. 73]

His father William Myers came to New Zealand c.1895, starting up the family blacksmith business in Avondale, while living in Avondale South (according to William’s grandson, Roger Myers, the family were the first ones on what was to become Myers Rd, later Margate St).

Thomas Myers went into the business with his father in 1908, and remained in business there until 1962-63. During that time, the original building was cut down, and part leased.

“I started work with my father, the blacksmith William Myers, in 1908. I had served my apprenticeship with Hughes and Donger in Eden Terrace.

“We did a lot of work then for Charlie Pooley, who was the contractor.
“There was always plenty of work at our smithy. I started work at 7.30 in the morning and we worked long hours especially in the summer.” [From Memories of early Avondale, by Tom Myers, Avondale Advance, 21/11/1960]

Myers’ was more than simply a farrier (Thomas wouldn’t do a lot of work for the Jockey Club, his son Roger told me, as he considered thoroughbreds as “too flighty, a young man’s job”) – he also did a lot of work for market gardeners, both in Avondale and as far afield as Oratia and Henderson. He’d do repairs to plows, disks, harrows. Farmers would bring up to the shed 3 or 4 spades at a time, to have handles repaired. Thomas Myers also made up wheelbarrows.

He also worked for Odlins timber at Karekare, a day’s work shoeing 8 to 10 horses.

Ernest Croft, Albert Edward Bailey

Ernest Croft, died 15 July 1968. Avondale Borough Councillor.

Albert Edward Bailey, died 15 November 1971. Auckland City Councillor.

(from Heart of the Whau)
The Croft family came to the district in 1920, Mr Ernest Croft, senior (1880-1968), taking a house in Waterview. Three years later the family moved to the corner of Riversdale and Rosebank road. Their house, according to Mr Croft’s son Ernie, was one which had belonged to the Bollards. Mr Croft was on the Avondale Borough Council from 1924 to 1927. He was also a builder by trade, and was employed by Charles Pooley to build his block of shops opposite the present-day Mobil service station after the destruction of the stables there in 1924.

Albert Bailey was an Auckland City Councillor from 1956 to 1959, and 1962 to 1965.

He bought the Avondale Hotel in 1940, and renamed it the Avoncourt. He sold it in 1967, when it was then demolished.

“Avon court is listed in the AA Hotel guide as “2027 Great North Road, Avondale, 30 Beds, B.B.” as Mr Bailey gave up the full board service in 1957. Up until it’s demolition in 1967, Avoncourt only hotel between Symonds Street and Henderson.” [Western Leader, 18/8/65]

Albert Bailey was also involved with the Avondale Businessmen’s Association as Secretary.

Sydney Margaret Hamilton

From this site:
“Before William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) had graduated from Trinity College Dublin, he was appointed in 1827 as Professor of Astronomy and Royal Astronomer of Ireland. He trained three of his many sisters to operate Dunsink Observatory for him, whilst he worked on his mathematics. His invention of quaternions in 1843 made him one of the most renowned mathematicians of the 19th century. His third sister Sydney Margaret Hamilton (1811-1889) administered the Observatory, did much of the observing and performed extensive computations to reduce the observational data to publishable form. Sydney lived in Nicaragua from 1863 to 1874.

“Her scientific friends tried twice to arrange a Civil List Pension for her from the British Government, but their appeals were rejected first by Disraeli and then by Gladstone. Accordingly, Sydney sailed from Dublin in 1875 to Auckland, to earn her living at the age of 64 as Matron of the Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Auckland. To her surprise, New Zealand's elder statesman Sir George Grey (1812-1896) was eager to meet her as sister of the great Hamilton. Grey had intense interest in science, he was a personal friend of many scientists, and at the age of 63 he was studying quaternions.

Grey's magnificent gifts to Auckland Public Library include many papers which Sydney presented to him, including manuscripts of William Rowan Hamilton and editions of two of his major books which are earlier than any listed in any of the biographies and bibliographies of Hamilton. Grey attended Sydney's funeral in 1889, when she was buried in Rosebank Road cemetery in Auckland, across the road from Avondale College.

Archdeacon Robert Perceval Graves, author of the 4-volume biography of William Rowan Hamilton, later arranged for a tombstone to be erected on Sydney's grave, with the (existing) inscription.”
At present, her grave is sadly neglected. The grave itself has been engulfed by a wild tree allowed to grow right in the grave area itself, and the headstone is being crowded out by the trunk of the tree. The remains of an old wooden pallet was leaning up against the tree next to her headstone when the cemetery was visited on 3 May 2002.

In the opinion of the author, the tree should be cut down and removed, and the grave resealed with a cement slab, so that Sydney Hamilton’s headstone can be seen clearly once more.

Update 6 February 2013: I've just received this link to a page on Miss Hamilton's life. Many thanks!

George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery: Part 2 -- Military Memorials

Wesley Neal Spragg

“In remembrance of Wesley Neal Spragg, Lieutenant Royal Flying Corps. The well beloved – last remaining son of Wesley and Ane Dearnly Spragg. Born 18th January 1894, killed, while on active service 1st January 1918. Buried in the Old Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt.” (from memorial, Rosebank Cemetery)
According to the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lieutenant Spragg was in the Special Reserve School of Aerial Gunnery with the Royal Flying Corps, and is now interred in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.

Stanley Howard Pilkington

“Second Lieutenant STANLEY HOWARD PILKINGTON 2nd Sqdn., Australian Flying Corps who died on Wednesday 24 October 1917.
Second Lieutenant PILKINGTON, Son of Edmund and Jane Pilkington. Native of Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.
(from Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.)
Stanley Pilkington is commemorated with his parents’ graves in Rosebank Cemetery.

George Child

“Sergeant GEORGE CHILD 425233, who died age 31 on Thursday 19 October 1944. Sergeant CHILD, Son of David Poulter Child and Annie Child; stepson of Mrs. S. Child, of Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.
Remembered with honour
(from Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.)
Apparently, according to his memorial Sgt. Child was killed on active service in an aircraft accident in Yorkshire . According to the CWCG website: “Many airfields were established in Yorkshire during the Second World War, among them R.A.F. station at Harrogate, Linton-on-Ouse, Tockwith, Rufforth and Marston Moor. No. 6 (R.C.A.F.) Bomber Group, had their headquarters at Allerton Park near Knaresborough and all the stations controlled by this group were in the area north of Harrogate, the largest base having its headquarters at Linton-on-Ouse. Nearly all of the 987 Second World War burials in Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery are of airmen, two-thirds of them Canadian. Many of these men died in the military wing of Harrogate General Hospital.”

R V McVeigh

Buried in Rosebank Cemetary. Died 20 April 1934, aged 46.
The simple, very weathered headstone bears a fern leaf arched across the top of an Ionian cross-style circle within the cross, and seems to be regimental in type. However, to date, there is no further information on this person.

Ba Shaw

Died in Brussels, Belgium 8 February 1922, aged 40. “Late 10291 BEF Salonica”, according to his memorial, the son of Alice Emily Shaw who is buried with the memorial (died 1897). His father was William Shaw of Oakleigh Park, Avondale.

George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery (aka Rosebank / Orchard St Cemetery) : Part 1

This would appear to be Avondale’s oldest cemetery, the earliest burial in 1862. The cemetery was originally part of the farm of Dr Thomas Aickin from 1859, and it is a child of his, William Aickin, who is the first burial there (3 August 1862). Dr. Aickin, according to a memorial stone in the cemetery, “dedicated this land to the Church of England as a cemetery (in 1862)”. Dr Thomas Aickin was the first medical superintendent at the Auckland Lunatic Asylum in the 19th century, and was Avondale’s first available local physician. He is buried in the cemetery, along with members of his family and descendents.
The Avondale Anglican Cemetery Board recorded that on 12th July 1876 a Deed of Conveyance was registered, concerning “the piece of land containing one acre”, transferring ownership of the property From Dr. Thomas Aickin and a mortgagor William Earl to “Alan Kerr Taylor, John Bollard and Matthew Thomas Clayton upon trust for a cemetery and for religious charitable and educational purposes.”
The present address is 208-210 Rosebank Road, Avondale.

According to an undated history written by the Board, “Upon the deaths of the above persons, Harold Robertson Jecks, Frederick Harry Walker and Harold Anthony Valentine Bollard were appointed Trustees. On 30th May, 1958, Harold Bollard being the sole surviving Trustee appointed the General Trust Board of the Diocese of Auckland to be trustees of the said land.”

Responsibility was then handed over to the Parochial District of Avondale, the first meeting of the Avondale Anglican Cemetery Board was held 17th June 1959.

During the 1960s, sheep were kept on the cemetery grounds to maintain the lawn. One animal died and was buried in the cemetery. In 1991, the cemetery was named the George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery, after the caretaker of the cemetery.

Updated 3 October 2012 -- discovered a coipy of the deed sent to me from Anglican Docese, correcting the date of the deed itself.

For the comfort of members – New Zealand’s Bellamy’s

This was first written to go straight onto a message board around 4 years ago. Now, it's on my own blog. Funny how life goes.

The House, an extremely good history of New Zealand’s House of Representatives from 1854-2004 published last year, is a record of our centralised form of government which at first started out alongside provincial councils, then from 1875 came into its own. Dotted in amongst the stories of parliamentarians and buildings past and present, is that of Parliament’s catering service, known as Bellamy’s. This is a place that’s always been mentioned when satirical comment is made on the foibles of our leading citizens down in Wellington, especially in the early 1980s when there was speculation that Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon had stopped off at Bellamy’s for a few before he called the snap election of 1984 (which he subsequently lost). Possibly drunk in charge of a country.

The first Bellamy’s was part of the British parliament, an idea started by Deputy Housekeeper John Bellamy in 1773. It was in response, some say, to the proliferation of taverns in London Town at the time (I hardly think 1773 was any different than other periods in that city’s long history, but that’s the story.) The purpose of the original Bellamy’s, as has been that of its New Zealand counterpart, was to provide “for the comfort of members”, supplying them with food and drink while parliament was in session. The food part of that arrangement has hardly ever been a problem, except in terms of public expenditure in this essentially private club. The raised eyebrows, especially in 19th century New Zealand, have always been over the booze.

According to Jim Sullivan in his 1977 article for the NZ Listener called “A few drinks at Bellamy’s”, the original British Bellamy’s was destroyed by fire in 1834, and when facilities were rebuilt there the catering services were taken over by a Kitchen Committee; the name “Bellamy’s” was officially dropped. But the colonials on the other side of the world in Auckland (our second capital, before Wellington), decided the name was good enough for them. Or, perhaps, they were good enough for the name.

The first Bellamy’s in 1854 was a simple affair – a lean-to attached to the rear of the General Assembly buildings on Eden Crescent, staffed by a woman employed as a housekeeper who also rented out rooms to members in her cottage to the back of the lean-to. Inside this Bellamy’s, the catering facilities were basic – the table consisted of a board supported by two trestles, a clean tablecloth, with cups, saucers, and a few plates of butter. I wonder if the name “Bellamy’s” was actually attached to this rudimentary set-up as a bit of joke.

A joke or not, this first Bellamy’s was the subject of the first Act under representative government in the colony, the Liquor Amendment Act (which was also the only Act passed in the first session). The sale of liquor at Bellamy’s was not only legal from that point, but retrospectively so. The parliament was mocked by newspapers of the time for this, with Frederick Whittaker of the Legislative Council accusing them of having set up “a grog shop for members.” By the early 1860s, Bellamy’s was enlarged, a proper caterer appointed (who had a wine shop of his own on Fort Street, where members of parliament tasted his wares while negotiating the scales of charges for Bellamy’s).

When Parliament moved to Wellington in 1865, Bellamy’s moved south with it. Towards the end of the 1860s, the temperance movement in the country began to gain ground. One of the targets for the ire of those opposed to the demon drink, of course, was Parliament’s own club. According to Jim Sullivan:
In 1869, the Member for the Bay of Islands, Hugh Carleton, moved that Bellamy’s be closed. He felt that the public had gained the impression that Members were too solicitous about their own comforts and, what was worse, the availability of liquor helped many debates to drag on far too long. His proposal failed, but he bounced back next year with the motion that no alcohol be served between one and two in the afternoon and five and seven in the evening. His main reason for the restrictions, he claimed, was the painful memory of a “disgusting scene” a couple of years earlier when some Members “forgot themselves” during an all-night sitting. The next speaker promptly accused Carleton of no sooner putting the motion on the notice paper than he was off to Bellamy’s to take his brandy and water.
Talk that much of the colony’s legislation of this period was “considered in a miasma of whiskey fumes” was widespread.

From’s page on Bellamys:
”Bellamy's stocked the best liquor in the country and MPs did it proud. In 60 sitting days the short session of 1871 got through 50 dozen bottles of champagne, a hogshead and 72 bottles of claret, 4 casks of sherry, a cask of port, 4 casks of wine and £100 of spirits, to say nothing of the selection of ales, wines, and liqueurs. Bellamy's kept a cellar, tested the proof of imported spirits, and broke down and bottled spirits for sale both over the bar and by the bottle or case to MPs. Its own brand of liquor was exclusively for the parliamentarians.”
One notorious incident involved Edward Jerningham Wakefield who was, sadly, a renowned alcoholic. Sir William Fox’s government in 1872 desperately needed his vote, so the government whip locked him in a committee room (perhaps to keep him away from the opposition). However, when the opposition whip heard of this confinement, he climbed up onto the roof, and lowered a bottle of whiskey with the cork conveniently loosened down the chimney. By the time the government whip returned to collect his sure vote, said vote was “paralytic” under the table. The government whip tried plying Wakefield with even more alcohol, but Wakefield voted to throw out the Fox government anyway. No wonder that (and perhaps also with a touch of irony) Sir William Fox devoted much of the rest of his life to the cause of prohibition.

Belts were tightened at Parliament with the onset of the Long Depression (1879-1895). Bellamy’s was one of the targets of those who decried the ‘division of the House into “nobs” and “snobs”,’ and from 1880 while the liquor supply was assured, the cook was fired, subsidies removed, and prices increased. However, the atmosphere of economy didn’t last all that long. On the menu for Sir William Larnach’s farewell in 1887:
”… roast turkey, braised duck and olives, saddles of mutton, fillets of beef with Madeira sauce … (and) quail on toast were followed by nougat a la crème, Rhine wine jelly and diplomatique pudding.” The bar at the time still supplied “the finest liquor in the Empire City.”
Despite the cost-cutting and self-funding, Bellamy’s was still in financial strife by the early 1890s. The temperance movement by now was now in full cry. The bar was closed at 11 pm from 1893, the year anti-prohibitionist and former hotelkeeper Richard Seddon came to office as premier. The ascendency of Dick Seddon probably saved Bellamy’s from shutting completely as a liquor provider for the House. Despite the commotion when new member John McLachlan took a step too far off a pier while heading for home from The House while drunk in 1894, despite also the likes of the Otago Daily Times chiding that New Zealand might acquire “the reputation of a community which returns a Parliament which cannot be trusted in the presence of strong drink”, it was agreed to keep the liquor supply going at Bellamy’s as stocks for that session had already been ordered from Britain.

Given that breathing space, Seddon amended the legislation allowing for a poll to take place at the start of each Parliamentary session to determine whether liquor should continue to be supplied; such vote only needed a bare majority for prohibition. While on the surface it appeared he was siding with the temperance movement, he actually assured continuance in the House because while perhaps only half the lower House may support continuance, virtually all of the Legislative Council would vote with their glasses charged in toast. The restrictive laws as to hours and provision for a poll each session was repealed in 1960.

Bellamy’s has thus remained as an institution of the New Zealand Parliament. And so it remains; a connection between the need to find a better place to wet the whistles of eighteenth century British politicians, and one of the Empire’s distant colonies. If it was meant to be just a joke in 1854 -- that has been long forgotten.

World War I camps at Avondale Racecourse

A wonderful magazine called Forts and Works published two articles I'd written about World War I military camps at Avondale Racecourse: here they are:

"Waiatarua" about the Pioneer Maori Battalion, 1914-1915, and "The Avondale Tunnellers" about the Army Corps of Engineers, 1915-1916.

Index to Once the Wilderness

J. T. Diamond's classic Once the Wilderness is a wonderful book -- but I decided to compile an index to make it easier to use as a reference for West Auckland History. Here's the result.

Land History of New Windsor School site

The following was put together in response to a request for information on the history of the present day school site.

The original Crown Grantee for the land on which New Windsor School stands was one John Shedden Adam who originally came to Auckland as one of the settlers to Cornwallis, only to find that promises about a developed township there proved false (see Dick Scott’s Fire on the Clay, and John Lifton’s Cornwallis.) By the late 1840s, Adam had settled in Sydney with his sisters, but retained a large amount of property here in New Windsor and Avondale right through to the mid-1860s, stretching from Maioro Street area down to the present-day site of St Ninians church, part of the racecourse, and down to the Whau Bridge at Great North Road.

On 3 May 1866, two carpenters named Robert Laing and Frederick Davies purchased two large lots, totalling just over 10½ acres, fronting what was later to become Garnet Road (Tiverton from the 1930s) and New Windsor Road for £53. In February 1882, the two men in turn sold the land to accountant William Beaumont for £53 16/- (not a lot of profit made from the transaction there!) Beaumont may have worked for licensed victualler Dennis Lynch who took over the site a month after Beaumont’s purchase, and then transferred all of his property (the New Windsor farm was only one of many pieces of land he owned dotted around Auckland) to his wife Catherine in June 1882.

At this time, the New Windsor farm would probably have been leased out to tenant farmers for income.

In 1883, Catherine transferred the whole portfolio back to her husband, who passed it back again in 1885. By 1901, Catherine Lynch had remarried to commercial traveller George Maxwell Clarke, and was heavily mortgaged to the likes of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society and a solicitor. The property was sold for £149 10/- to Mrs. Christina Craig. In 1911, Mrs. Craig sold the site to Mrs. Mary Eliza Hoffman, wife of piano tuner William Frederick Hoffman for £150.

Charles Brooks and Mary Caple Murray inherited the property in 1937 and sold it a year later to farmer Walter Aldridge Gower and his wife Flora Farquharson Gower. It was sold again in 1940 to Nina Maud Dailey, who sold it in turn to a builder named George Robert Englefield. Finally, from 1947, the site was owned by retired draper Jessie Yates Oamaru Whyte for £2710. She subdivided the site in 1952, creating 17 residential sites fronting Tiverton and New Windsor Roads, leaving 6½ acres to the rear. Most of the New Windsor sites, plus that rear area, was transferred to the Crown in 1954 for a whopping £5900.

Auckland City Council valuation records for the site go back to 1927, when Avondale district amalgamated with the city. In 1945, the valuers estimated an old wooden villa then on the site to be around 70 years old – which would put it into the period of the two carpenters, Laing and Davies. Not much else is known about what the farm was used for. Gower in 1938 had 5 cows on the site, along with 4 fowls. By 1945, two sheds along with the house were noted, and that there were trees by the house. It is most likely then that the former farm was primarily grazing for most of its existence.

Compiled: 12 September 2007

Sources: Deeds Index 17A.762, CT 545/156, DP 40625, all LINZ records; Valuation field sheets, ACC 213/109b, Auckland City Archives

Two streets in New Windsor

Two streets in New Windsor, Ted William Street and Trevola Street, are named after members of one family.

Born 1911 in Wanganui, Mrs Ola Williams trained as a nurse in the Red Cross, and was in Napier during the famous February 1931 earthquake there. She and her fellow nurses experienced a hundred aftershocks there within 48 hours of the ‘quake, where there was one tap for 25,000 people, and no electricity.

Mrs Williams met her future husband Ted in 1932 and they married in 1935. At a station in Taihape called Ohinewairua where Ted Williams worked as head ploughman, Mrs Williams cooked for up to 10 men: the shepherds, ploughmen and rabbit inspectors in the area.

The Williams bought land in New Windsor in 1948 and remained there for the next twenty years. Their property was subdivided in 1960. She recalls New Windsor Road was just a straight street, part of her journey via Bollard Avenue to New North Road to catch the tram. The only phone was at the phone box on New Windsor Road. The late 1940s was still the days with no sewer connection, and the regular visits by the night soil collection. Mrs Williams told me it was the last of the Green Belt, with only four houses from Richardson to New Windsor Road. Mrs. Williams campaigned and went to Court to have the first chemist shop in Stoddard Road licensed. In those days, she told me, chemist shops needed to have 3000 residents in a surrounding area before being licensed.

On the couple’s 10 acre section they grew vegetables, had a poultry farm, and milked Rosie the cow in the paddock (Mrs. Williams recalled the cats always around for the hot milk.)

Mrs. Williams was the first woman on the New Windsor School committee, and the first to start school lunches there, ready each day by 5 minutes to 12. Before New Windsor School was built, the nearest one was in Richardson Road. Mrs Williams recalled big tractors cutting up the section, with a fine spray from a water hose to get rid of the bees swarming nearby.

Ted Williams died in 1988, three years after he and Ola Williams celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Ted William Street is named after him, while Trevola Street is from the combination of the names Ola Williams and her son Trevor.

When the Lights came on in Avondale (1953)

I found this in the Auckland Scrapbook at the Research Centre, Central Library. From the NZ Herald, 28 November 1953:

“The Mayor of Auckland, Mr. Luxford, last night switched on community lighting systems for the shopping areas at Avondale and Remuera. At Avondale, hundreds packed the corner of Rosebank Road and the Great North Road, where two trucks parked end to end made an impromptu platform for the official party.

“Mr. A. E. Bailey, president of the Avondale Businessmen;s Associatio, introducing the Mayor, spoke of Avondale as the ‘Cinderella’ of the suburbs. Mr. Luxford said that as long as Avondale had no direct representation on the City Council, residents could have direct access to him on any problem to be dealt with on a civic basis.

“Other speakers were Mrs Mary Wright and the Western Suburbs Birthday Carnival queen, Miss Barbara Walmsley. The City Pipe Band led marching girls in a procession and a free ice cream stall did a brisk business.”
The Avondale Businessmen’s Association met together on 11 November 1937, those present that day resolving (a) to incorporate, and (b) that the aim of the association was to be: “That the businessmen of Avondale form an incorporated association for the purpose of installing a community system of electric lighting of shops …” Incorporation came in 1939, but apparently it took much longer to get those “community lights” in 1953, 126 years after that first meeting of Avondale’s business people.

Albert Bailey, by the way, was the owner of the Avoncourt Hotel, and became Avondale’s first City Councillor in the 1960s since Edward Copsey had a brief term in the late 1920s after amalgamation with the City. The site of the of the festivities in 1953 would have been that of the present-day Ray White’s building, then just an empty paddock before the National Bank bought the section (the Businessmen’s Association had a Christmas Tree on that site each year until then.)

Those community lights were to be Avondale Mainstreet’s main illumination until the 1990s and the installation of security lighting in 1996 (which was also inaugurated with a festival and parade). But, it can now be said that Avondale was well and truly “switched on” long before then!

No. 1 Station Road

A photo from way before the 1950s, when the rail line from Mt Albert end into Avondale was realigned (the curve that can be seen in the photo was eliminated. and the track raised, so that present-day Tait Street to the right of the shot, and out of the photo, now ends at a point below the level of the line. This is No. 1 Station Road, today the last house at the end of Trent Street (still exists behind tall impenetrable trees, and is part of an Auckland City Council massive road reserve).

In response to a request, I did some research into the land history of the property in 2005 (uploaded to Scribd here), and a pair of comparison photos of the rail line alignment from c.1915 (the photo above and one from 2005) are published here.

They used to cross the rails here before 1913-1914, before the overhead bridge was built linking Station Road directly with Manukau Road. It was once notorious for accidents, both close-calls and injurious.

Legend Maker: Rev. Alexander MacKenzie

In 2005-2006, starting with a speech before the NZ Pioneers & Descendants, I spoke to about 8 different groups on the "Danish Princess" legend. Jessie MacKenzie's grave is arguably the most famous in West Auckland -- many have come across the stories of royalty making unofficial visits to Avondale's St Ninians cemetery. In 1986 the Danish consul, when approached by some folk and advised that the 99th anniversary of Jessie's death was coming up, was unfortunately not aware of the decades of letter from Denmark (and Wales, and Scotland ...) denying all knowledge of a princess in the grave. He came out with staff dressed in Danish national costume to a service at the gravesite. As I said during the speeches, when I found this out, if he'd only waited for the 100th anniversary, he'd have found out all about the legend ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An early Rosebank industry: the Best family's varnish works

Back in 2005, I compiled a history of the Best family varnish works for an article in the Avondale Historical Journal. The embedded document is updated to include an account of the fire and destruction of the works in 1907 -- it was rebuilt, but on a vastly smaller scale amid the ruins, to continue producing varnish from kauri gum into the first three decades of the 20th century.

Mrs. Vera Crawford (1907-2006)

Written as an obituary, for the Spider's Web.

On Friday 19th May 2006, Mrs. Vera Florence Rebecca Crawford, née Syers, died aged 98. With her passing, another part of Avondale’s history slipped away. Mrs. Crawford came to Avondale with her family in 1916, her father a railwayman, in charge of the lines from Avondale to Henderson until his retirement in 1931. Mrs. Crawford first saw Avondale in the days when horse-and-cart was still the main way goods were delivered to homes, before the Great North Road was concreted, before there was even a Borough Council, let alone the amalgamation with Auckland City.

She married Jim Crawford in the 1940s, and together they managed and operated the Morrison & Crawford Garage at 1851-1853 Great North Road until Mr. Crawford’s first stroke in 1957, and then his death in September 1966.

After Mr Crawford died, Mrs Crawford managed the business for another ten years, shifting the service station and realigning it to its current layout. As reported in a contemporary trade magazine: “Whilst we now see women taking an increasing part in the management of New Zealand service stations, she surely was a pioneer in this area. And why did she take on this challenge? ‘Because people told me that (as a woman) I couldn’t do it,’ says Mrs Crawford.”

In 1976, the business was sold to Curtis & Miller, and more recently was known as Tahal’s Service Station. It is currently under the Caltex brand.

Mrs. Vera Crawford had, during her life, served as a nurse in the Melanesian Missions, worked for Plunket and the Anglican Church, and even supported a Mother’s Union group in her last years at Selwyn Village, where they celebrated her long and busy life on Monday 22 May. In June 2001, she took time out to talk to me, while I was gathering information on our village’s past for Heart of the Whau. “You won’t get much from me,” she’d said on meeting her and shaking her hand. “I don’t remember much.” I was there at her unit for three hours, that first time, and left amazed and awed by how much that wonderful lady did remember. Thanks to her, we have some of those memories to pass on to those who come after us.

Mrs. Vera Florence Rebecca Crawford, 1907-2006 – Avondale businesswoman, nurse, community stalwart, matriarch to her family and a determined lady. Thank you, Mrs. Crawford, for the pleasure of knowing you.

Street Stories 3: Thomas Russell’s Greytown

In early 1863, a map was drawn up of a subdivision which was to be auctioned by Samuel Cochrane on behalf of Thomas Russell. Russell, better known in New Zealand history as one of the founders of the Bank of New Zealand, had purchased Allotment 64 that month from city publican Daniel Lockwood. Immediately, it was surveyed and 48 sections mapped out, along with four new streets: Blake Street, Layard Street, Cracroft Street and Browne Street (the latter alternately lost and regained its "e" over the years). The subdivision was entitled “Greytown”.

Now, it is fairly easy to see who the “Greytown” was named after: Governor Grey, at the time embroiled with the land wars of the 1860s. But why were the streets so named?

I still can’t be certain at this stage, but I have some theories for you.

Blake Street (now St Jude Street) may have been named for Lieutenant William E Blake, while Cracroft Street (now Crayford Street) could have been in honour of Captain Peter Cracroft. Both men served aboard the HMS Niger during the Taranaki period of the 1860s land wars. In March 1860 they saved volunteers and militia by attacking a Maori pa at Waireka. The settlers during the battle of Waireka were led by a Captain Brown, but the new street on the Greytown map clearly had “Browne” with an “e” on the end. I’m led to think, therefore, that Governor Thomas Robert Gore Browne might be a more likely candidate, as it was under his leadership that the Taranaki campaign began in 1860. Browne Street is now Rosebank Road.

The odd one out remains Layard Street. There doesn’t seem to be a connection in the land wars history with anyone by that name. As I mentioned in Heart of the Whau, there could be one possibility: a British Imperial hero, academically anyway, named Sir Austen Henry Layard. In 1851 he made significant discoveries regarding ancient Assyria, and was called “Layard of Ninevah”, the most famous archaeologist of his time. In the 1860s, however, after failures in politics, he was working in the Foreign Office in London.

Without access to Thomas Russell’s papers of the time, we may never know for certain why he chose these names for his 1863 subdivision, which included around half of today’s Avondale Mainstreet. But of all of them today, only Layard Street has kept its name.

Street Stories 2: “Lucus a non lucendo”

Fourth century Roman grammarian Honoratus Maurus gave examples in his writings of “etymology by opposites”. Putting it simply, his “Lucus a non lucendo” means calling a grove a “lucus” (similar to the word for light) made “sense” in that there was little light in a forest grove. In other words, it represents the far-fetched derivations cooked up for the meaning of street names as we know them today, in many cases.

In 1929, an anonymous writer in the Auckland Star used the same phrase, “lucus a non lucendo” to comment on the pattern being considered then for the renaming of Avondale’s streets.

Fifty-two streets in both the former Avondale Borough and Tamaki Road Board areas were on lists for reconsideration of name change by 1929. As the writer “W.M.” advised, Maori names were suggested for Avondale but discounted at the time. Taylor Street in Blockhouse Bay was “Taylor” in one part, “St Georges” in another (Taylor won out). Folk at the time weren’t happy about losing the name of Brown Street (now upper Rosebank Road between Blockhouse Bay Road and Great North Road), the name having been “so widely and so honourably associated with business that it was chosen for one of the chief business areas.” (I wonder which Mr. Brown this was who was so honoured? There had been at least two Browns of note in the 19th century story of Auckland enterprise.) The writer also queried why the more “euphonious” name of Manukau Road should be swapped for “Blockhouse Bay”.

But what really caught “W.M.’s” eye was the suggestion that Avondale, “with a few exceptions”, should be divided along the line of the railway when it came to deciding on street name changes – south of the line, the names coming from those of English counties, while north the names of trees were to be suggested. Take a look at a map of Waterview, Avondale and Blockhouse Bay today, especially one showing the line of the railway, and you’ll see what they meant by “north” and “south” of the line. South of the line you’ll see English and Irish place names crop up, ones which later commentators have erroneously explained away by saying it reflected the European patterns of settlement – but were actually just a matter of street renaming convenience for the Council and Post Office alike: Armagh, Exminster, Bolton, Crowther, Ulster, Wolverton, Tiverton, Holbrook, Margate, Hertford, Leinster, Bentleigh, and Donegal. In Waterview, a pocket of exception to the rule, with Middlesex, Daventry, Arlington, Hadfield, and Cowley north of the line. But in Avondale, the “north rule” brought the non-descriptive tree names: Plane, Aspen, Holly, Elm, Ash, Oregon and Maire. Trees by which the streets were never associated with at all.

Such is “Lucus a non lucendo”.

See also Street Stories 4.

Street Stories 1

These were originally written in 2005, I think for the Spider's Web newsletter in Avondale. I've done some updating reflecting information gathered since then.

Street names help us define where we live. In some cases, though, they are of more meaning than we think.

Take Henry Street. Along with Walsall Street (once known as Walton Street before the early 1930s), this is a memorial to Henry Walton (1815-1898) who owned the land called Roberton today. In 1838, he and his brother Charles arrived in Sydney, then journeyed to New Zealand, soon forming partnerships with Thomas Elmsley (who bought land at the Kaipara and Maungatapere) and William Smellie Grahame, a Scottish trader in Auckland from the 1840s. It is said that Charles and Henry Walton were the first in the Whangarei District to import sufficient men, stock and machinery to stock a complete farm there in 1840. Among Walton's achievements in this country: mediating between Sir George Grey and all Northland chiefs in 1862 over a major land dispute, election as a member of the Legislative Council in 1863 and appointment as Auditor of the Bank of New Zealand.

Roberton Road itself is named after John Roberton (c.1829-1894) who helped his friend Henry Walton from the mid 1880s until his death in organising the subdivision and sale of Walton’s Estate. Sometime from 1866 to the early 1870s, Walton decided to retire and leave the colony to return to England in retirement. He resigned from the Legislative Council in 1866, but still retained land holdings which would have needed a New Zealand resident agent to manage on his behalf. Walton appointed John Roberton as his attorney.

Walsall Street is one of several in Avondale and Waterview that lost their original names (and their meanings) in the early 1930s as Auckland City Council rationalised the multiplication of names within their (then) boundaries. Walton Street in Remuera had more residents – so ours had to change. In the main, new names were chosen randomly, with the common pattern being those which started with the first few letters of the old name.

Six Avondale streets once commemorated, by their designated names, the age of derring-do out there in the glory days of the British Empire – before World War I. The number of mute memorials to once celebrated British commanders now stands at three – Methuen Road, Cradock and Powell Streets, the rest having had their glorious designations changed over time.

Travel along Tiverton Road, across the roundabout which in a couple of years (according to plans drawn up) will become a set of traffic lights, then head down Wolverton Street towards New Lynn, and you journey down the two roads once known as Garnet Road (Tiverton) and Wolseley Road (Wolverton). Alas, these roads had their names changed during the early 1930s Auckland City Council reform of street names across the city. I’ve wondered as to the reason why a name which came to be synonymous with a popular make of 20th century motor vehicle should be next to one for a precious stone. I still have no firm proof – but the leading candidate for a theory as to why is Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley of Cairo (1833-1913). His career was a long one in the British military, and can’t be totally described here; suffice to say, he was involved in action in the Sudan and Egypt in the early 1880s, around the time both roads would have been formed for settlement, and tried in vain to come to the relief of General Gordon in Khartoum.

Travelling further north along Blockhouse Bay Road you come to Methuen Road. In 1903 this was the centre of Methuen Hamlet, one of the workers’ homes settlements devised around the country by the government to encourage settlement by offering sites with low mortgages to working class folk, within easy reach of the railway station (much like one of the intents of the Avondale’s Future Framework today, ironically enough). The road once terminated abruptly just east of Bollard Avenue, and is named after Paul Sanford Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen (1845-1932), best known for his exploits as a British commander during the Boer War (1899-1902).

Also along Blockhouse Bay Road, you find the other Imperial history survivor: Powell Street, named after the more famous Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell (1857-1941), who became a hero throughout the old Empire for withstanding the Siege of Mafeking (1900) during the Boer War. Much later, after Powell Street (along with half of Cradock Street, part of the Cradock Hamlet, another workers’ settlement) was named, he founded the Boy Scouts movement.

The fifth street was Kitchener Street, centre of the Kitchener Hamlet (completing the set of three such settlements in Avondale), but we now know this road by the name Holly Street. The hamlet and road was in honour of Horatio Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener (usually referred to as “Lord Kitchener”) (1850-1916) who also, like Garnet Wolseley, served in the Sudan during the 1880s, as well as the Boer War, like Lord Methuen and Baden-Powell, shortly before Kitchener Hamlet was created. His face is the most well-known of all the commanders in this article, as the moustached stern visage pointing a finger at prospective recruits from the famous “Britons, [Lord Kitchener] Wants YOU!” posters of the First World War.

The sixth is Cradock Street, often misspelled Craddock because the latter just looks better somehow, I suppose. But the fighting Cradock brothers, any one of whom could be the reason behind Cradock Hamlet's name, would probably take issue with such arbitrary adding of letters to their family name. There are three brothers likely to be memorialised in the Avondale placename: Major Sheldon Cradock (1858-1922), who served in the Boer War and World War I with distinction; Lt. Col. Montagu Cradock (1858-1929, noted for campaigns both in Egypt and South Africa (and author, in 1904, of a now rare book called Sport in New Zealand, all about our abundant fish & game, shooting, horse racing, yachting and polo -- he's the front runner, I'd say); and Sir Christopher Cradock (1862-1914) who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral, served in the Sudan and China, and was later killed in action during the battle of Coronel. Take your pick.

Bell & Gemmell and the Riversdale Tannery

Image from a detail from Deed 40, LINZ records.

The Bell and Gemmell tannery remains a mystery at this stage. I know roughly where it was: along the Whau River shoreline, between the railway line and bridge (north of Olympic Park) and the Whau Bridge at Great North Road. This was all land owned by John Buchanan, one of the early elders of the Avondale Presbyterian Church and an agent for the first landowner, John Shedden Adam. But, with Bell (a member of the Whau Public Hall Committee and auditor for the Highway District Board) and Gemmell either working for Buchanan or leasing the property for the tannery from him, details are sketchy. There is, however, a likely archaeological site worth investigating along that stretch of the river, if anyone cared to give it a go.

The tannery appears to have been operating as early as 1878. In November 1879, the firm won a first prize at the Auckland Agricultural & Pastoral Show for "sole leather, sides, kip, butts, tweed, calfskins, memel kip, belting, hose leather, black and brown harness and bag leather." That's quite a range of product. All else that is known comes from a scattering of contemporary sources.

Herald, 1882: "On part of Mr. Buchanan’s estate, at the head of the Whau Creek, is the fellmongery and tanning establishment of Messrs. Bell and Gemmell, who, from small beginnings, have now succeeded in acquiring a business which is as large as their plant can overtake. They are now making additions to buildings and machinery with a view to an extension of their trade. Out of the 16 acres available they are about to plant a considerable breadth in wattle, so as to produce their own wattle bark at first hand, and save expense of importation."

Weekly News, 1883: "The Riversdale tannery and fellmongery (formerly Messrs. Bell and Gemmell's), recently converted into a company concern, has been enlarged, fresh pits put down, and additional machinery added of an improved description. Adjacent, some ten acres of land have been planted with black wattle for tanning purposes. This factory, and the older established one of Messrs Gittos and Sons, near the railway station, are now turning out large quantities of manufactured leather for local use and the interprovincial trade."

Herald, 2 February 1884 (11 days before the auction of the property in the above image): "The Riversdale Tannery, situate on Mr. Buchanan’s estate farther westward, has been enlarged, and the machinery improved by the Riversdale Tannery Company. This factory is still on the fringe of the settled sections of the district, but if the Auckland suburban population pushes westward at the pace it has done of late years, it is only a question of time when the above institution will also be requested to “move on”."

From Parliamentary reports, AJHR, H-14, 1884:

T. Thompson prepared a report for the Premier, including an extract from Auckland merchants Potter & Co, regarding "The Cultivation of the Wattle".

"I enclose copies of some information re wattle-growing in Victoria, also the result obtained from a tree cut down by Mr. Bell, manager of the Riversdale Manufacturing Company, Avondale, Auckland. I may mention that this company have 10 acres planted with wattle. The trees have been planted three years, and are now 12ft. high. Other 30 acres were planted last year, and are doing well ..." Memoranda from Mr. Bell, Avondale. "I cut down one of the wattle trees growing by itself on the Riversdale property, stripped and dried the bark, and it weighed when dry 56lb. This would give about 90 tons per acre for four or five years' growth. The tree I cut down would be four years old."

By 1885, however, it appears that the firm had vanished from Avondale's landscape. Perhaps Buchanan pulled the plug in selling his "Avondale Estate" in February 1884. Perhaps the Long Depression began to bite, and the removal of the Gittos Tannery in 1886 convinced the firm to pack up and leave the area themselves. I'm just not sure -- but if anyone reading this sees any further references to them or to the tannery, I'd appreciate the info.

An update (31 October 2008): On reading through some notes and articles I have on the Gittos tannery in Avondale, I saw that both a Mr. Bell and "R. Gemmell" were around in the Whau village in the late 1860s, associated with the Whau Minstrels, which took in most of its members from the Gittos tannery. Slender stuff, but Bell & Gemmell, like Elijah Astley, may have learned the skills of the leather trade while working at Gittos', and then branched out with Buchanan's assistance.

Further update (5 November) here.

Moses Exler's pottery

Image: one of Moses Exler's ceramic lions, on display at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

It is not certain exactly when Moses Exler (1835-1900) arrived in Auckland. He landed at Brisbane in December 1874, and then decided to move on to Wellington, and finally Auckland where he worked first at George Boyd’s potteries in Newton, then at a Grey Lynn works, before settling in Avondale, on two sections between New Windsor Road and Tiverton Road. He purchased the two sections outright in 1882 and 1883 (the latter in a mortgagee sale), but may have leased them from the owners c.1879. By October 1880, he’d attracted the attention of the NZ Herald:

“Another local industry has been started in the Mount Albert District, about a quarter of a mile from the land taken up by the French vignerous for vine-culture. It is that of pottery-making, &c., by Mr Moses Exler. He had visited the Waikato and other districts without finding a piece of land so suitable as that which he has selected, which contains nine different varieties of clay. He is at present engaged in making flower pots, vases, and ferneries, also encaustic and ornamental tiles for gardens. Mr. William Aitken visited his place, the other day, and gave him, by way of fostering local industry, a large order for the latter articles, as has also Mr. Samuel Morrin. Mr. Exler is at present supplying Messrs. Mason, Wren and other gardeners with all they require in the above descriptions of pottery manufacture, and the industry promises to become thriving and lucrative, as the articles can be produced under the price of foreign importations.”
In 1882, the Herald said:
"Adjoining Captain James’ nursery is the Brick, Tile and Pottery Factory of Mr. Moses Exler, situate on a section of some six acres in extent. Mr Exler is a working man, and he and his two lads do all the work. Considering these circumstances, what he has accomplished by patient industry, in eighteen months, is something wonderful. Here are made drain and ornamental tiles, drain pipes, jars, bread-pans, and all kinds of brown ware, the latter class of goods having a glaze equal to that of similar ware turned out in the Staffordshire potteries. Had Mr. Exler looked the Province over he could not have got a piece of land with seams of clay better adapted for his purpose, and even Ingersoll would admit that this is not one of “Moses’ Mistakes.” In his kiln at the time of our visit were over 500 dozen of flower pots, drain tiles, and bricks. The flower pots, which are of excellent manufacture, are turned out in some cases as low as 4 ½ d. a dozen – about the English price. He has a good demand for all the bricks he can make, while his flower pots are furnished largely to the nurseries of Messrs. Wren, McDonald, Palmer and Green. Mr. Exler also exports flower pots to the South. He has a fine seam of white clay on his property, very suitable for the finer classes of houseware, but owing to lack of sufficient capital is unable to do much in that way. These valuable seams of clay seem to run down to the railway station, where in the face of the railway cutting they can be seen several feet thick."
The distinctive brick house at the corner of Exler Place probably dates from just after 1882, replacing an initial home which was little more than a “clay floor and shingle roof.” It is likely that the house also served to advertise the quality of Exler’s work to all who passed along the road, one of the main routes toward Onehunga.

His eldest son, also named Moses, was drowned in the Whau River on 5 July 1885.
“He had been working all night attending to a kiln that was burning, and in the morning, being all black from the smoke and coal dust,, the deceased and a coloured man named “Harry”, who had also been up all night watching the kiln, decided to go to the river for a wash. Exler being unable to swim, wished to go in the fresh water higher up the creek, where it is not so deep, but Harry asked him to go lower down to the salt water, alleging that the other was too cold. The deceased refused to do so, saying, “No, I won’t go there; if I do, I’ll be drowned.” Ultimately, however, his companion prevailed upon him to go into the salt water. They waded across the creek together in safety, but as they were coming back, Exler must have got into one of the blind channels, for he suddenly drifted away from his mate, and was drowned before he could assist him. This occurred at the portion of the river between Bell’s Tannery and the Whau Bridge. [Today, just north of Olympic Park.] As soon as the news reached the village, Mr. Richard Bollard came into Auckland to inform the police of the accident. At that time the body had not been recovered. Between one and two o’clock the body was discovered by a party of searchers near the boathouse of My John Buchanan. [Possibly just upstream from the Whau Bridge.] The deceased was a bright intelligent young man, universally liked by those who came in contact with him. He was engaged to a young lady residing in Grafton Road, whom he was in the habit of visiting on Sunday evenings. She was naturally surprised at not seeing him last evening, and it was not until this morning that the sad news of his unfortunate death reached her. The deceased was well known in Auckland, his father having been employed at Boyd’s Brick Works, and afterwards at the premises now occupied by the Arch Hill Brick and Tile Works.” (Auckland Star, 6 July 1885)
Exler potter was awarded two gold medals at the Auckland Exhibition of 1898-1899. His fired pots were used by local nurserymen. Decorative roof ridging from the pottery was used as one of the features of St Paul’s Church in Symonds Street. The pottery eventually closed in 1965.

The old Goods Shed is no more

An update from here.

The Western Line has been completely shut down this Labour Weekend for track maintenance, and so Ontrack can also get going in earnest on the two big projects -- the New Lynn rail trench and the Avondale station relocation. Going past with a friend this afternoon, I saw the last bit of the demolition of the Good Shed at the Avondale station -- above is what's left today.

I'm still waiting to see what happens to the Pigeon Club building. After all, although it's on railway land, the clubhouse belongs to the club. It'll all get sorted by December, I'd say.

Post updated here.

The Lively Brays of Mt Albert

I've been working on this piece of research for a couple of days, all coming via the usual circuitous route of diversion-following which I do when not really looking into a project specifically. In the city on Friday, at the end of some commissions, I went into the Research Centre at the library to look up some articles related to the Henderson racecourses. I was in the late December period for 1867 because Boxing Day on some years during the 1860s was when the Dundee Saw Mill Races were usually held (started initially by Thomas Henderson, apparently, for the benefit of his mill workers. Probably the stop-gap until a hotel could be started up there, and a healthier alternative to same.) Anyway ...

I was scanning through the NZ Herald film file for December -- and spotted the A. K. Taylor attack story of Christmas Eve. This had remained undated in the book In Old Mt Albert by Dick Scott. Then, later, I saw William Galbraith's rather pointed letter identifying himself as the man who "impertinently" put his head into Taylor's carriage -- something else I hadn't seen before. Finally, came the report of an arrest made and the police court hearing concerning William Bray. I then contacted a friend of mine who is a descendant of the Bray family of contractors in Onehunga, and asked if his line included some Mt Albert settlers, and the answer was yes ...

Now, I have another piece of Avondale's puzzle filled in, as well as Mt Albert's. Thomas Bray and his sons William and George owned land between what is now Richardson Road and Oakley Creek, leading down between Hendon Ave and New North Road (and, for a time, the Pak n' Save site as well). Part of that land, the remaining farm owned by Thomas Bray at least in the early 1880s, went to his son-in-law J. Stewart, whose name keeps popping up with some regularity as a landmark for both Avondale and Mt Albert Road Board minutes. All this may even help me nail down a Mr. Gallagher in the future, someone I've been trying to sort out (who attempted to start up a brickyard, and have a rail siding along Blockhouse Bay Road towards his land, but failed with both projects).

Anyway, here's the research:
The Lively Brays of Mt Albert
Get your own at Scribd or explore others: History

Update: confusion between John Stewart (married to Mary Bray and the next owner of Thomas Bray's farm) and James Stewart (one of the owners of Allotment 66 and associated with the Thames Hotel) has been resolved. The original version of "The Lively Brays" has been deleted and replaced with the amendment (29 October 2008).

Update 28 April 2011: Info from Lew Redwood (see below also) re the Redwood-Bray connection

Saturday, October 25, 2008

AWHS report on the Roberton area, 2005

The Avondale-Waterview Historical Society submitted the following to Auckland City Council in 2005 in response to proposals put forward to change the zoning of almost all of the Roberton area in Avondale (apart from one block that's Res 1) from Res 6 to Res 8 -- and thus create a zone of intensified housing. To date, we haven't heard anything either for or against, and the zoning so far hasn't changed. Above image comes from the Viggers photo collection, AWHS records.


Originally, the Roberton area was Allotment 63, 61 acres purchased at public auction by Henry Walton (1815-1898) on 20 October 1845 for £61. (1) The purchase was described as bounded by three roads, so what was to become Great North Road, Browne Street (later Rosebank Road) and Station Road (later Blockhouse Bay Road) had been drawn up at that time -- but were likely, including Great North Road, to be little more than rutted tracks at best.

Henry Walton was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1838, he and his brother Charles arrived in Sydney, and soon formed partnerships with Thomas Elmsley (who bought land at the Kaipara and Maungatapere) and William Smellie Grahame, a Scottish trader in Auckland from the 1840s. (2) It is said that Charles and Henry Walton were the first in the Whangarei District to import sufficient men, stock and machinery to stock a complete farm there in 1840. (3)

Among Walton's achievements in this country: mediating between Sir George Grey and all Northland chiefs in 1862 over a major land dispute, election as a member of the Legislative Council in 1863 and appointment as Auditor of the Bank of New Zealand. (4)

It is likely that it was through his partnership with W.S. Grahame that Walton came to know a Scotsman named John Roberton (c.1829-1894). Roberton, born in Glasgow, arrived in Sydney at the age of 16 with his brother-in-law, and sailed for Auckland in 1845 to join Grahame's office staff. Grahame was a partner of Roberton's brother-in-law, a Mr. Wright. (5) In 1854 Roberton returned to Sydney to take charge of Wright's business there. In 1860 he returned to Auckland, setting up in business for himself after a Sydney business partnership (possibly involving Grahame) was dissolved. (6)

Sometime from 1866 to the early 1870s, Walton decided to retire and leave the colony to return to England in retirement. He resigned from the Legislative Council in 1866, but still retained land holdings which would have needed a New Zealand resident agent to manage on his behalf. Walton appointed John Roberton as his attorney. (7)

In May 1878 the Walton Estate, as Allotment 63 came to be known, was altered slightly under Section 26 of the Public Works Act 1876. Part of the south-eastern corner was transferred back to the Crown to allow the line of the coming railway (completed 1880) to head straight through to the present railway station site as it is today, and realign the top section of what is now Rosebank Road to suit. (8)

In 1883, the Walton Estate was put on the market, with Roberton organising the subdivision. It is from this subdivision that the three roads the area is best known by came into being and were named: Henry and Walton (now Walsall) Streets, after Henry Walton, and Roberton Road, after John Roberton. (9)

The map detail to the right comes from the 1890s, and shows the Walton Estate subdivisions of 1 to 3 acre lots. Sales were slow, however. Only 9 sections were sold between 1883 and 1899, (10) an effect possibly of the Long Depression from the mid 1880s to mid 1890s. John Roberton died in 1894, and apparently his son Dr. Ernest Roberton was appointed Attorney by the Walton family in England on the death of Henry Walton 4 years later. (11)

In the new century, 23 of the sections were sold between 1900 and 1903, (12) which would appear to indicate that three-quarters of the Walton Estate was sold to individual title holders within the first 20 years.

Between 1900 and 1925, many of the original lots of the estate's subdivision of the mid 1880s were in turn subdivided. The map to the right (c.1925) illustrates the developing intensification of settlement within this part of Avondale. This would have been in line with better passenger rail and bus timetables, and the concreting of the Great North Road, but came before the arrival of trams to Avondale (along the Blockhouse Bay-Rosebank Road route to the south of the estate) in 1932.

Bound by limitations of time, the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society have been able to conduct only a brief version of the full area study which we feel would be required for this area and its history. Looking at Cleave's Directory for 1911 (showing the "postman's walks" for the previous year, and therefore an indicator as to tenancy in Auckland streets at the time), we note the earliest settled part of Roberton Road would appear to be between Rosebank Road and Henry Street (4 occupiers on the left side from Rosebank Road to Henry Street and 4 on the right side, the latter occupants now all in the current Residential 1 zone). For Walsall Street, down from Roberton Road, there were also only 4 occupiers. For Henry Street, there were only two occupiers: Henry Viggers, a carpenter at no. 8 Henry Street, and Magdalene E. Davis at (possibly) no. 7 Henry Street. From this point on, occupation of sites within the area increased.

Robert J. Allely lived here, Avondale's first chemist/dentist and the man who saved lives in the district during the 1918 influenza epidemic by operating a field hospital on the racecourse and tirelessly visiting people in their homes. St Judes Street blacksmiths William and Thomas Myers lived here. The area was home to Frederick Bluck, early Avondale land agent, clerk of the Avondale Road Board, and the man who had the Bluck Buildings erected on the corner of Roberton Road and Rosebank Road (today a sewing machine centre) 90 years ago in 1915. Up on Station Road, now Blockhouse Bay Road, J. W. Kinniburgh, Avondale's first Borough Council mayor, lived with his wife Naomi. Harry Waygood who operated Waygood Motors in Wingate Street, in a building which still stands today, lived in Roberton Road. The Richardson Family lived here as well, in Henry Street - Paul Richardson was an Avondale Borough Councillor, worked for the tramways, and in 1955 was on the ASB Board of Trustees; and his wife Margaret Richardson is renowned as the "Cocoa Lady" for Avondale Primary School during the Depression years, a JP and was one of the ladies holding the ribbon across the new tram track at the opening ceremonies, 1932.

But aside from those noted as part of Avondale's history so far as is known, this was a working class area. Taking a snapshot of occupations of those living here in 1925, we find a council employee, a blacksmith, clerks, a liftman, carpenters, bootmakers, cabinetmakers, a carrier, a baker, painters, storemen, drapers, engineers, labourers, a brickworker, a tailor's cutter, motor mechanics, postmen, a doctor, an orchardist, a salesman, joiners, a land agent, a grocer, an electrician, a railway employee, a builder, a tramway inspector, and a farmer. (13)

Why Walsall Street, and not Walton? In the early 1930s, the Auckland City Council changed Walton Street to Walsall Street, to avoid confusion with Walton Street in Remuera.

Roberton Today

Today, Roberton is an area of contrasts that works well. The area has already been infilled with a variety of housing styles ranging from flats to townhouses, all of which are sympathetic to the overall aesthetics of the area. The residents here like where they live; they have pride in owning period houses and pride in living amongst styles of housing with character. Villas and bungalows here are restored and maintained to a high standard. The two cross intersections, Walsall/Roberton and Henry/Roberton, have distinctive and attractive views, both in terms of the houses which are adjacent to these intersections, and the Waitakere Ranges in the distance.

It is a concern that these views, valued highly by the residents and visitors to the area alike, could be jeopardised or severely compromised by the introduction of intensive development under Residential 8a and 8b zones which may not be in keeping or sympathetic to the existing special character typified by the villas and bungalows.

It is hard to see why only one block of the Roberton area has indeed been zoned Residential 1, whereas the rest of the area isn't. There is little difference in the overall occurrence and density of styles of housing between the corner zoned Residential 1 (bounded by Rosebank, Blockhouse Bay, Walsall and Roberton Roads) and the rest of Roberton's residential area, zoned 6a at present.

The Avondale-Waterview Historical Society has conducted an interim survey and historical study of the area. We find that there is a considerable number of houses remaining which are either cottages, villas or bungalows of good to exceptional quality, many of which would be affected by the proposed land use zoning change. [We included charts reflecting a visual survey of the area.] We also conducted a photographic study, only a small part of the results of which accompanied this report.

The Avondale-Waterview Historical Society would like to see the heritage importance of the Roberton area reflected in all urban design provisions for any land-use zoning change to this part of Avondale. While we have not been consulted to date during the process leading up to the Avondale Future Framework proposal, we welcome the opportunity to make this, our submission, to that proposal, and would warmly welcome the opportunity to liaise with Auckland City Council regarding the future of Roberton.

We are opposed to any land-use zoning change from 6a to 8a and 8b under the District Plan that does not contain provisions recognising and protecting the special heritage character of the Roberton area of Avondale.

Lisa J Truttman,
President and Historical Research Officer for Avondale-Waterview Historical Society
30 April 2005


1. Crown Grant No. 1428 (LINZ records)
2. Courtney, Phyllis E., "The Walton Brothers of Kaipara and Maungatapere," Auckland- Waikato Historical Journal, September 1989, No. 55, p. 20
3. Rae, D. A., "Whither Walton Street?", Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal, April 1984, No. 44, p. 26
4. ibid.
5. "Death of Mr. J. Roberton", NZ Herald 21 July 1894, p. 5
6. ibid.
7. Courtney, p. 21
8. Deeds Index for Allotment 63, LINZ records
9. Rae, p. 21
10. Deeds Index, Allot 63.
11. Notation to deed no. 157081, 11 November 1901.
12. Deeds Index for Allotment 63, LINZ records
13. Postal directory 1925 for Roberton Road, Walton Street and Henry Street.

Sometimes, the past breaks through

On my way into the city yesterday, I spotted something a little different about what was once a second-hand furniture shop on the corner of Carrington Road and Great North Road in Pt Chevalier. Somehow, part of the newer signs along the top of the verandah had come off. Perhaps truck damage ... who knows? Underneath it, however, is a bit of the building's history.

Now, to me it looks like the sign used to read: "Shop at MAX MARKET". It might even be "MAY MARKET" I took a couple of moments to check an old directory from the 1960s, and that shop was once a grocer's, so -- the old sign may be late 1960s to 1970s. A corner general store, the kind that was probably choked off by the 3 Guys development across the road.

I took the shot from a moving bus going through the intersection, by the way, so please excuse the quality. It was a one-shot (which I usually do), quick snap through a grimy bus window while in motion job. I'm glad I had the camera with me. You never know when a bit of the past will suddenly appear from out of the coverings of the present.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hetana and Waari question -- solved?

My reference to the Hetana Hamlet in New Lynn as being one of only two out of six in Auckland from the Workmen's Homes scheme of 1902-1904 to retain a Maori name may be solved. Tonight, I spotted on Paper's Past a piece from the Otago Witness in March 1902 where they said:
"A new nomenclature is being founded in New Zealand. Evidently the musical Maori language is not adequate, and a northern paper reports that Hetana, Methuen, Plumer, Kitchener, and Cradock Workmen's Homes, near Auckland, will be open for selection on the lease-in-perpetuity system on the 22nd April."
Intriguing ... the writer lumped "Hetana" in with the English names, it seemed, and for mysterious reasons. After all, "Hetana" looks Maori, doesn't it?

Well, apparently it is, but the reason the New Lynn site kept the Maori name was because it is in honour of a person, and a European at that: Richard "King Dick" Seddon. From the Hawera & Normanby Star of 24 March 1899:
"According to the Manawatu Standard the following are the Maori names of the Maoriland Ministry: - Hetana (Seddon), Mikenihi (McKenzie), Waka (Walker), Katiman (Cadman), Tamihana (Thompson), Timi Kara (Carroll), Horihoni (Hall-Jones.)"
Elsewhere, I see that "Te Waari" was a nickname too -- for Sir Joseph Ward.

So, none of the Auckland hamlets in John Bollard's scheme ultimately bore truly Maori names -- all were named either for politicians of the day, or Boer War commanders.