Saturday, August 1, 2009

Domain Stories - 1840s

Hopefully, this is the start of a series of bits and pieces of history of Auckland's Domain, decade by decade, at least to the time of the Auckland Exhibition in 1913-1914. Maybe further if time permits.

The boundaries of the Domain in Auckland, one of our region’s treasures today, were not formally gazetted until 1860. Yet, the Domain existed almost right from the time when the Crown purchased. In the beginning of European use of the area, however, it was primarily swampy, boggy ground, with higher areas where the hospital and museum stand today, but the rest bush-clad, steep gullies through which spring-fed waters ran. All around, choice allotments were marked out and sold in Grafton, Newmarket and Parnell – but the Domain remained, an area of Government waste land, seemingly fit only as pasture.

Auckland Domain 1840s detail

Click on image for enlargement. Detail Roll 61, early 1840s, LINZ records, crown copyright.

An old and unusual map, Roll 61, possibly dating from sometime before 1845, is the earliest I’ve found which shows the Domain as nearly what it once was in expanse and character. I say the map is unusual, because it shows Mechanics Bay as “Some’s Bay”, likely in honour of Joseph Somes of the New Zealand Company, three lots of land in the Grafton, Parnell and Epsom areas with their named on it, in brief tenure, and a cemetery reserve at Hobson Bay.

By late 1841, the Domain began to appear on the accounts of the early government’s expenditure: the Government Domain Superintendent earned 7/6d per day (this office may have included the site of Government House, up on Albert Park and the present-day University grounds). The office of Ranger, however, at 4/6d per day, may well have been connected directly with affairs of the Domain. (NZ Gazette & Wellington Spectator, 27 October 1841)

The encroachment and alienation of the original Domain ground has long been a matter for debate in Auckland. This source contention stemmed back further than many people think – to the early 1840s, when the Domain was still just barely formed. As at November 1842, Mechanics Bay was still wholly Crown land, unsold and not partitioned. (NZ Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 30 November 1842) By May 1843, this began to change. The reach of the Domain via the swampy confluence to the harbour ended as the Crown began the development of the bay with the establishment of James Robertson’s famed Rope Walk on a strip of land there (advertisement, Southern Cross, 20 may 1843). It took until February 1847 for Robertson to finally obtain Crown Title – before this, he may have leased the site. (DI 1A.730, LINZ records) From that point, the Domain’s expanse began to be nibbled away.
“(To the Editor of the Southern Cross.) Sir, — It has often struck me that there has been great want of regard to the nature of the ground in laying down roads and other bound-tries, particularly tint piece of ground for the Government Domain; certainly a more beautiful patch of ground is not to be found, possessing so many natural advantages ; commanding most delightful views; a fine situation for a Government House, Botanical Gardens, and beautiful walks not to be surpassed; the boundary of this Domain is denned by nature in a very distinct manner by little brooks or streams of water on both sides from the high ground, and terminates in a swamp or low ground at the boundary of the town land ; the distant boundary by high ground, or ridge sloping both ways; the whole forming the shape of a pear, the small end laying nearest the town.

"Can it be conceived that this piece of ground, which ought to have been held sacred, and which would have become the pride of the town, and the boast of the country (New Zealand) if properly planned and laid out? Is it possible to imagine that it has been broken in upon, and the work of destruction fairly commenced by running a fence, I was going to say, in a straight line ending in nearly the centre of it; but it is not a straight line, but one of those lines or characteristic crooks, for which the place is so notorious and famed, as if to shew by mathematical genius, how much of natural beauty at fell sweep he could destroy ?

“It is to be hoped the Governor will arrive soon, so as to put a stop to the work of destruction upon the beauties of nature; it is a saying that idle hands will find time for doing mischief; the question very naturally occurs, what is to be done with this piece of ground so cut out of the Government Domain by the Surveyor General and Superintendent of it?— Shall it be sold, so that it shall fall into the hands of the present officer administering the Government for services performed ?
I am, &c,
A FARMER. December 16, 1843.”
A piece which appeared in the Southern Cross of 2 December 1843 is intriguing. Written in the style of a commentary of a dream (and some satire), it has some details which are worth noting when trying to find out just what the early Domain looked like:
“Having crossed the swamp and entering in the Domain, I now ascended the steep on the opposite side, half way up which there stands a neat verandahed cottage, and still a little higher, a raupo hut lies nestling in the wooded bank, — close by confined within the stock yard, there lowed some cattle impatient with distended udder — a gallant cock called loud on his attendant harem to share some new-found spoil, and the proud turkey, big with self-conceit, majestic sailed along with stiffened neck and ruffled plumage, as he sung his hurble burble song. Delightful spot! how often have I wished that you were mine, then would I wander through your leafy shades and listening to the noisy stream that rushes through your mimic glen, my sad heart would gladden with the melody of Nature's sweetest music. But whose the neat white cottage? and whose the pleasure to enjoy this rapturous spot? Ye Gods forbid it! but 'tis true — before the City's streets could safe be walked along— before the settler with his team could reach his dear-bought farm, these monstrous follies all were reared with public money — for what ? for whom ? An easy sinecure was wanted for some favorite hireling, and the linen of Her Gracious Majesty's Representative must need be pure and white as driven snow; and this Laundry then was built!!! Oh! let us trust such days are now gone by ; and that no longer public weal shall yield to base private ends.

“Continuing my route through the Domain, I struck along the ridge leading to the right, leaving below me on the left the Government Garden; an object generally entertained to be more useful (to the culinary departments of certain favoured individuals) than ornamental to the colony, and soon arrived at a certain suburban allotment which has recently been cut off from the Domain, and surveyed for sale; to suit the grasping views of one man, whose absence to the colony would truly be good company. Having heard some whisperings of the beauty of this allotment, I came for the purpose of inspecting it previous to the day of sale, and found my early walk more than repaid by the pleasure I derived in sauntering over it. It is indeed an enchanting spot; ever-green shrubs luxuriate on its sheltered and beautiful exposure— a noble view to seaward — the whole harbour and adjacent isles — the distant city and its suburbs all lie before it. But enough— the spot I covet as well as he who hopes to get it, (I wish, he may?) but others will oppose, although his fawning sycophants dare not snatch the prize from out his greedy hands.”
Exactly what that verandahed cottage was for at the early stage of 1843 is, at the moment, unknown. It may just have been a writer’s figment. It does seem to correspond in description with another cottage which shows up in photographs of Mechanics Bay from the 1860s, on the site of the old Carlaw Park grandstand. At this point, all I have is conjecture, however.

One mystery which stems from this first decade of the Domain’s existence as a government reserve is that of Te Wherowhero’s house, the first building of significance on the Domain (barring any cottages which may have housed the Domain’s keepers and rangers).

George M. Fowlds in 1959 (“Te Wherowhero and Te Rauparaha: Confusion re sites of house [or houses] in the Auckland Domain”) wrote: “For some time it had been thought that the site of this cottage was where the present tea kiosk now stands, but that would be doubtful as from 1869 the springs were used as the city’s first water supply.” He mentions that Schofield’s National Biography 1940 refers to the cottage being at Pukekawa, the name applied to Domain Hill/Observatory Hill, the site of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, but contends that Schofield may have meant Puke-karoa, “a famous pa site” behind the site of the Fernery. Fowlds himself felt that the cottage “stood in a small clearing in the Domain, half way up on the left hand side from Stanley Street to the Domain pools.” In 1936/1937, Fowlds claimed to have found part of the brick base of a chimney there, and donated a couple of the bricks to the old Colonist’s Museum.

Image detail from SO 13, c.1860, LINZ records, crown copyright.

I think Fowlds, of all the theorists, was the most correct. Trouble is, the site itself is now out of the reach of any archaeological research – as near as I can determine by comparing the 1860s map with today’s layout, the former site of Te Wherowhero’s house lies today somewhere beneath the foundations for buildings on the Auckland Hospital site, namely the Te Whetu Tawera Acute Mental Health unit (building 35) and the Sexual Health Unit building (building 16). This was one of the last parts of the Domain transferred over to hospital purposes, in 1947 (SO 34617, LINZ records), alongside the site of the hospital T.B. shelters, and the former City Morgue. It’s likely that the house had been removed from the Domain at some point during the 1860s, however. Little trace, if any, may have remained when the hospital authorities increased their grounds.

Te Wherowhero’s house was built by the Crown in 1845. (Nelson Examiner, 8 August 1845) Immediately, it sparked criticism from settlers and newspaper editors. When Te Rauparaha had been seized by British troops at Porirua in 1846 and brought to Auckland in September 1847, the local Maori tribes gathered at Te Wherowhero’s lodge on the Domain to listen to Te Rauparaha recount his deeds. (Encyclopedia of NZ, 1966; New Zealander 15 September 1847). The last written reference I’ve found to the house was from 1850, when Te Kate, Te Wherowhero’s brother, died there (New Zealander, 28 August 1850). Then, aside from the 1860 plan of the Domain and its bounds, the house disappears into history – possibly soon after Te Wherowhero’s death that year.

Regarding early Domain staff: we know that there were “superintendents” for the Government Domain right back to 1841, but James Lochead is the earliest documented name found, so far, and therefore the earliest named member of staff. He features in the Domain’s story in public notices he inserted as Domain Keeper in 1845, his job mainly to keep the herds of stock under control – as well as their owners. He wasn’t the keeper for long, however. By 1850, he was in charge as publican of the Union Hotel, and by 1852 he had died.

The second building of note on the Domain was the first Auckland Hospital. Initially, the intentions of Government were to erect a Maori hospital (perhaps tied in with Te Wherowhero’s residence, and taking into account the nearby Orakei settlement). Then, the Government enlarged the project, aiming to supply healthcare for poor and destitute Europeans, and free healthcare to Maori, combined in one institution. (This comes from David Scott’s The Story of Auckland Hospital, 1847-1977.) Tenders were called in October 1846, once the Governor gave a hospital reserve from out of the Domain to the cause, and the building was finished in 1847.

The story of the Auckland Hospitals on that site is large enough to warrant its own study. Suffice to say that from 1846 when the original reservation of land was made, right through to 1947 which is the latest gazette notice of land reservation for hospital purposes I have to hand at the moment, the hospital complex appears to have been the greatest cause of Domain land alienation from the original layout of the park. It was also, by the 1890s onward, one of the most controversial in terms of debate as to that alienation. More later on that.

Back on 12 January 1844, Andrew Sinclair, the Colonial Secretary, gazetted that “His Excellency the Governor directs it to be Notified, that the Ground hitherto known as the Domain, will be called Auckland Park, and will be opened to the Public, who are requested to assist in preserving the Wood thereupon, and preventing injury to such Public Works as may from time to time be effected there.”

The eastern Government Domain (as opposed to the western one where Government House was situated, today’s Auckland University grounds and Albert Park) was officially known, therefore, as Auckland Park from 1844. The name would linger on until at least 1860 (the plan from that time is headed up “Auckland Park”) but then, the name “the Domain”, “Government Domain” or “Auckland Domain” reasserted itself in official documents. To the Auckland residents, perhaps, they’d always known the park as Domain, anyway.

As the 1840s drew to a close, hopes were high that the Governor would actually use the Domain for what it was supposed had been its original purpose – the site of Government House, perhaps on Domain Hill, the highest point in the whole park, with stunning views of Auckland and the Waitemata Harbour.

No comments:

Post a Comment