Thursday, March 5, 2009

Michael Wood: the man who named Waterview

Back in 2004, a family historian named Vivienne contacted me and shared information she had at that time on Michael Wood: merchant, bookseller, land agent, speculator, and publican/hotel keeper. I found her email recently, did some further digging (thanks in large part to the innovation of a searchable Papers Past) and put the following together from Vivienne’s information and my own research.

Wood is of interest to me, as it was he who named Waterview (a pretty, descriptive land agent’s term for sites he was attempting to sell in 1861), and was associated with the second (1864) Greytown sale of the central business district of Avondale (the first Greytown sale, of the same area, was that by Thomas Russell in 1863; Wood was foolish to purchase most of Russell’s land, and was then left holding baby, as it were.)

Michael Wood (1827-1869) was born in Horncastle, Lincoln, in England. He married Hannah Jones in 1853, recorded as a draper at the time. However, Vivienne thought he may have worked as an auctioneer in Spalding. Soon after he got here in 1855, he is listed as a Queen Street storekeeper.

He is recorded as giving £5 5/- to the Patriotic Fund in July 1855. (Southern Cross, 6 July, p. 4) He was a bookseller by later that year
“1500 volumes by the most popular writers of the day, also a few copies of “Household Words,” “Punch”, “Illustrated London News”, “Family Herald” etc.
(SC, 25 December 1855, p.2)

By April 1856, however, he authorised auctioneers Connell & Ridings to sell all the stock from his Queen Street shop: “About 500 volumes of new works by Bulwer, D’Israeli, Cooper etc., Stationery & Fancy Goods.” (SC, 29 April 1856, p. 2) On 10 July, he advertised that he was going out of business.

It seems that Wood, then only 30 years old, had irrepressible energy when it came to business. He apparently dusted himself off and set forth onto a new endeavour promptly, this time as a publican. The British Hotel’s license was his from April 1857 – but by April 1858, this pub was run by William Kennedy instead. Later that year, Wood was chasing another business dream. “M. Wood, House, Estate & Commission Agent, Next door to Mr. Mark Somerville” (the City Mart). (SC, 29 October 1858, p.1) According to Vivienne, he purchased land in 1859, possibly on the Kaipara river.

His brother Edward Wood (2 years older) also came to New Zealand, and married on 10th April 1860. At that time, Edward was a merchant, while Michael was a land agent, with offices in the Orpheus Hotel, in lower Queen Street.

In May 1861, Michael Wood held the first of his Waterview sales: 72 acres, 210 allotments, complete with special omnibuses from Shortland Street put on for the buyers. Along with other speculators at the time, he gambled on people wanting to buy up land as close as possible to the proposed line of the Whau Canal (which was, of course, never built).

From James's, Shortland St., AT TEN O'CLOCK A.M.
Intending buyers are requested to visit the property as the whole will be sold unreservedly. TO-MORROW, at 12 o'clock.

Suburban Homes and Villa Sites.
Have been instructed to sell by public auction, without reserve, TO-MORROW, the 1st day of May next, at twelve o'clock, THE WHOLE OF THE VILLAGE OF WATERVIEW, containing 207 spacious Building Sites, unsurpassed in the neighbourhood for salubrity and beauty of position. The distance from town is less than 3½ miles, and as the omnibus passes the property daily (leaving Auckland at 9 a.m., and Henderson’s Mill at 3 p.m.) purchasers will have an opportunity of forming their own opinion of the desirability of selecting an allotment in one of the healthiest neighbourhoods of Auckland. The Great North Road and all the streets are a chain in width, and none of the allotments have less than a chain frontage by an average depth of 190 feet. The land has a warm northerly aspect, and is situated about half way between the City and the Line of Junction Canal, which must, ere long, connect the waters of the Waitemata with the Manukau. The immediate neighbourhood of Oakley's Creek, with its pretty rivulet, and the never failing springs that supply the Mills of Messrs. Low & Motion, add much to the desirability of the situation. Point Chevalier selected as the future site for our Garrison Buildings, &c. closely adjoins, and in a few years must much enhance the Commercial value of the property. Situated on the main road to the Northern districts of the Province, and having in addition an extensive water frontage, there is no doubt of Waterview speedily becoming of equal importance with the villages of Newmarket, Mount St. John, and Epsom. N.B.—The Sale will be total and UNRESERVED.
Terms : — One third Cash. The balance may remain 3 years at 10 per cent., or 5 per cent, allowed for immediate payment.
Lithographed Plans may be obtained, at Mr. Brophy's, Newton Store; Mr. Edgecombe's Northern Hotel; Mr. Michael Wood's office, Queen-street, and the Auctioneers.
(SC, 30 April 1861)

As will be seen later, not all the sites were, in fact, sold. Wood’s assets did not readily turn either into cash or a profit.

From Vivienne’s email:
1861 June 11th. Michael wrote to His Honor, The Superintendent, Auckland from his office in Queen St, offering land in Freemans Bay (No1, Section 8, suburb of Auckland) as a suitable site for a new cemetery. “Believing that there is a general wish on the part of the inhabitants residing in the vicinity of the existing cemetery for its removal, and understanding that the Government contemplate taking action in the matter, I have the honor to make an offer of a piece of land in a position most suitable for a place of interment. Its advantages are being approachable by a good and level roads; and though so short a distance from town so situated as not in the least likely to affect the sanitary condition of the neighbourhood and the ground inclining towards the Waitemata (to which it has a large frontage) and away from the town. In addition to easy accessibility by land its approach by water is so favourable that a boat can be brought close to the place at any time of tide…..”. His offer was not accepted. (Copy of letter).
Later, part of his Waterview land would also considered by the Provincial Council as a possible site for a cemetery.

In 1862 Michael Wood bought land at Coromandel and laid out the town of Kapanga. This deal apparently went quite well. He followed it up with the Lake Property deal on the North Shore by December that year (SC, 30 December 1862). In January 1863, an entertainment fete was organised at Takapuna. “Enquiries to be made at “Boulters, Queen Street” (SC 22 January 1863) Joseph Boulter of the British Hotel was sole supplier of refreshments to Wood’s Takapuna shindig and will reappear later in Wood’s story.

By 1863, Michael Wood lived at Brookville, in Freeman’s Bay, according Vivienne’s research into electoral rolls. His eldest daughter Bessie, sadly, died of dysentry aged 7 years and 9 months in December. Another daughter, Nellie, died the following February, aged only 15 months. But, in September, his son James Michael Wood was born.

In late 1864 Wood may have tried to diversify, being the possible purchaser of an office in Durham St. There, a newspaper was started called the Evening Post with printer/publisher Isaac Donchaise. According to Vivienne, “George Main, a former compositor mentioned this in a pamphlet written approximately 1890s.” The enterprise was rather short-lived. The paper was defunct by April 1865, with Waymouth & Gilmer, accountants, were liquidators. (Public notice, SC 7 April 1865) This debacle cannot have helped Wood’s fortunes.
“Messrs. Jones and Co. will hold an important sale of city property to-day. It comprises a six-roomed verandah cottage and allotment in Barrack-street ; twenty valuable building sites in Lower Hobson street, adjoining St. Patrick's School, and having frontages to Hobson-street and the harbour; and a valuable leasehold property in Hobson-street, with six buildings on it, let at £2 12s. per week. We need hardly say that all of the sites named are rapidly improving ones, and that they therefore offer particular inducements to small capitalists to invest. Mr. Samuel Cochrane will hold a large land sale to-day of city and suburban property, viz., two cottages in Chapel-street ; the lease of office in Hardington's yard, now in the occupation of Mr. Michael Wood ; ten very valuable allotments in the very pretty suburb of Glenburn ; a large number of lots in Waterview and East Whau; several farms of from five to twenty acres at the Whau bridge; and thirty-six acres at Takapuna, late the property of Mr. Hawkins. Much of this property is of so valuable a description that we cannot doubt but that there will be a brisk competition for it.”
(24 January 1865, SC)

In 19 April 1865 – the license for the British Hotel passed from Joseph Boulter to John Skeats. (SC) Meanwhile, the partnership between Edward and Michael Wood dissolved.
Mr. David Nathan is to sell to-day, commencing at 11 o'clock, the valuable city, suburban, and country freehold estate, city leaseholds, gold-mining and other shares, the property of Edward and Michael Wood, who are dissolving partnership.
(20 April 1865, SC)

But, “never say die” appears to have been the theme to Michael Wood’s business tenacity. At the termination of Lake Road on the North Shore, by the beach, on the site of Mr. Beddoes’ house (who had sold much of the land around Cheltenham Beach), it was advertised in June 1865 that Michael Wood planned to build “a large marine hotel”. (SC 6 June 1865) By June 1865, Wood was also a shareholder of the Waitemata Steam Ferry Company (SC 16 June 1865) and 1866 he owned land and a house on Victoria Road, Flagstaff (Devonport).

All this really didn’t change his true situation all that much. The bubble had burst, the land wars were winding down, and Wood found himself in trouble (in Police Court) in January 1866 for non payment of rates to the City board for wood buildings and allotment in Howe Street, wood building in K Road, brick office in Queen Street, wood buildings in Chapel Street, allotments in Franklin and Ponsonby Roads. Ordered to pay £15 8d. (SC, 17 Jan 1866)

Next came another fire-sale of his assets.
We have been requested to direct the attention of our readers to the peremptory sale of city and suburban properties which will be held to-day by Mr. David Nathan, for the benefit of the creditors of Mr. Michael Wood. The sale will comprise houses and cottages in Karangahape Road, Howe-street; Day-street, Freemans Bay, Home Bay, Marston's estate, Bayfield, Richmond, Oakley's Creek, Greytown, Mahurangi, Kaipara, Takapuna, Kapanga, Devonport, North Shore, Waterview, and 180 shares in the Waihau Gold Mining Company. The terms will be found to be most liberal -- seven years' credit for the whole amount of purchase money, bearing interest at the rate of 10 per cent., payable annually in advance; the purchaser having the option of paying off at any time during the seven years. Cash purchasers will be allowed a discount of 5 per cent. A great number of these properties are desirable investments.

A substantially-built and well-arranged Family Residence, containing eight rooms, kitchen, pantry, etc etc, at present in the occupation of Mr. Michael Wood. It is situated on a valuable and large plot of ground, having a carriage entrance from the Karangahape Road, and a frontage to Day-street, commanding a splendid view of the harbour, &c. The grounds are beautifully arranged and planted with choice trees, shrubs, &c; with the usual out-buildings are a good poultry house and enclosed yard.

OAKLEY'S CREEK. Lot 18, parish of Titirangi 31 acres 1 rood bounded by the Waitemata, Oakley's Creek, and the Great North Road. For a Slaughter House a position not to be equalled in the vicinity of Auckland.

GREYTOWN. Lots 19 to 22, 27 to 30, in all, 8 acres; surrounded by 66-feet streets. Lots 33, 34, 39 to 42, 47, 48,in all 8 acres 1 rood 17 perches ; streets on three sides. Lots 35 to 38, 43 to 46; in all, 8 acres 2 roods perches; streets on three sides.

WATERVIEW: A few water frontages.
(SC, 10 April 1866)

While his assets appeared to be dwindling, Michael Wood made one last business decision, it seemed – he took up partnership with Joseph Boulter, in October 1866 – advertisements for the Orpheus Hotel, lower Queen Street, listing Joseph Boulter and Wood as partners.

Then, in December 1866 – came the Cremorne Gardens in Herne Bay. Originally known as Kemp's Gardens, these were a popular pleasure resort for Auckland's people during the 1860s. The gardens were "complete with pavilion, gardens and illuminations": “A free hand was given, drinks were sold, music was provided and the least said the better”. Later renamed “Cremorne Gardens” after the fashionable pleasure gardens in London, Kemp’s gardens boasted a “Dancing Pavilion, ten acres of walks and sports grounds” It is remembered in the name “Cremorne Street”, and the gardens were operated by Joseph Boulter down to 1871. There is a possibility that Boulter may have been set up by his partner Wood. Of the two, Boulter’s success lasted slightly longer.

Michael Wood obtained a new bush license for the British Hotel on the North Shore (he must have been quite fond of the name -- SC 18 April 1867) but by August 1867 this was up for sale or lease. In December 1867 the whole of his household furniture, etc. at his North Shore residence was sold. (SC 7 December 1867)

Joseph Boulter, meanwhile, apparently quit the hotel keeping business entirely, transferring his licence for the Orpheus Hotel to John Nolan in December 1867, and transferring the British Hotel on Pollen Street, Thames, to John Gibbons in September 1868.

Michael Wood, however, died intestate on January 22nd 1869 on the North Shore, aged 42, from organic disease of the liver. The family historian wondered if he had died from drinking himself to death. That’s possible – there were a few cases of publicans killing themselves with the occupational hazard of too many debts, and a lot of ready booze to forget them by.

His widow Hannah and the children (one born just a few months after Wood’s death) went back to England at some point prior to1881.


  1. Again, an eerie similarity with the bloke, George Coppin who owned the Melbourne Cremorne Gardens!

  2. Righto, so there's definitely more to this Cremorne Gardens business than meets the eye! Cheers for that link, Jayne -- I'll do a bit more investigating, I think. Hmmm ...