Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Domain Stories – 1870s

The Domain’s fourth decade as a park began with water concerns. The Province’s District Engineer, Henry Allwright (1827-1906), expressed his concerns as to the ability of the water supply from the Domain to provide the growing city with enough water to fight its fires, as well as supply water to public buildings and private owners alike. After a fire, the water supply was a mere trickle, and Allwright detailed in a report to the council that major work on the pipes leading to the city and supplying the side streets would be required. But – this was supposed to be a temporary supply, wasn’t it? Was it really worth it to expend more and more money on “this imperfect supply of a very inferior quality of water”? (Southern Cross, 5 February 1870)

Allwright, by the way, was the architect (working by then for the Auckland Board of Education) of Avondale’s first purpose-built school in 1882. He worked right up to five years before his death.

In the same month as Allwright made his 1870 report on the water situation, the Domain Board offered 26 residential sites for lease along Grafton Road “above the Bowling Green” (Southern Cross, 2 June 1870) in a bid to get more income for maintaining the Domain. This need by the Domain Board to try to get more income led to a confusing series of reports about the Domain water supply. The 1870s was the decade the Auckland City Council came into existence, in 1871. In 1873, the first Mayor, Philip Philips learned that the Domain Board had made an offer to the Provincial Council for the latter to buy the Domain waterworks outright – and put in a counter offer for the new City Council to buy the water-works instead. The issue then became as muddy as the bottom of the Domain lagoon.

There was mention of a grant from the Crown to the Provincial Council concerning the water-works, possibly from the 1860s, but this had been lost, and Dr. Daniel Pollen was tasked to look into it. The Board asked the Provincial Council’s Superintendent to prove their claim. (Southern Cross, 22 May 1873) There then began a state of dithering as the City Council tried to decide whether to have a pumping system to supply the city with water, or a cheaper gravitation system. Come September that year, and the Provincial Council stepped in, agreeing to lease the water-works from the Domain Board. They must have given up proving that they owned the water-works as of right. (Southern Cross, 4 September 1873)

The whole question of ownership of the Domain water supply was approaching an end, however. Auckland City Council commissioned a report on water supply options in October 1873. By May 1874, engineer William Errington was drawing up plans in line with the report, which favoured Western Springs. Negotiations with William Motion for his land at Western Springs were already underway from 1872. The foundation stone for the Western Springs pumphouse was laid on 29 March 1875. (Southern Cross, 30 March 1875) So, by the time the Provincial Council was abolished at the end of 1876 and the water system at the Domain became the property of the City Council, the Council was well on the way to a better water reticulation system. The complex at Western Springs opened on 9 July 1877. (NZ Herald, 10 July 1877) From then, the Council began to uplift the pipes across the Domain, leading from Seccombe’s Well at Khyber Pass. (Domain Board minutes, Auckland City Archives)

The last mention of the washing grounds came in this decade. In November 1870, when a Mr. Baird asked the City Board of Commissioners if he could lease the old washing grounds as a nursery and “place for testing seeds”, the Board felt that they weren’t certain they had the power to grant a 7-year lease, although they did hold Crown title. They voted to send a surveyor out to determine the exact boundaries. (Southern Cross, 1 November 1870)

There was a smallpox scare in Auckland in the winter of 1872, when Henry Thompson died from the disease at the hospital. (Southern Cross, 25 June 1872) Then Thomas Seymour, staying at the Thames Dining Rooms near the Queen Street wharf came down with smallpox as well. As the dining rooms was where Henry Thompson had been staying, it was suggested that the government might decide to set up an emergency isolation house in one of the Domain blockhouses, while converting the other into lodgings for the family who ran the dining rooms, the Gardiners. (Southern Cross, 12 July 1872) Whether that happened or not isn’t known, but the dining rooms were certainly closed for business until the beginning of August.

The Domain at this time, despite the bare beginnings of a cricket ground the previous decade, was still primarily a mix of farm and a place for passive recreation.
“To the Editor: Sir, - Can you tell me if persons are liable to be fined if they play games, such as football, cricket &c., in the grassy Domain? If you would enlighten me on this subject, you would oblige – Yours, etc., W.A.R. [Permission would require to be obtained from the lessee before games could be played in the Domain – Ed.]” (Southern Cross, 6 August 1872)
An unknown child’s body was found in the Domain in 1873, in tragic and horrifying circumstances.
“As a man named Robert Cliffe was engaged yesterday morning in cleaning out the dam which is used to back up the water in one of the Domain creeks, that it may be conveyed by means of piping into the boxes in the Acclimatisation Society's fish-house, he was horrified by suddenly striking his spade into the skull of an infant corpse. Upon exanimation it proved to be the body of an apparently new-born child; but it was in such a state of decomposition that its sex could not be ascertained. The body was wrapt up in an old piece of cloth, which was not large enough to cover it altogether, and there was what appeared to be some human hair also inside the cloth. The discovery was made at about 11 o'clock in the morning, and the police were at once communicated with. Sergeant-Major Pardy proceeded to the spot, and had the body, which is little more than a mass of pulp, conveyed to the dead house at the Provincial Hospital, to await examination by Dr. Philson, who will send in his report to-day.

“Upon a reporter from the office of this journal visiting the spot, which will now be made somewhat famous as having been the scene of a frightful and unnatural crime, he found that the dam is situated in the creek at a point where it runs within a few feet of the Lover's Walk. The creek winds its way over its rocky bed at a level a few feet below the path, and is completely hidden from view in many places by the trees and shrubs which grow upon its banks. The spot where the body was found is of easy access from the walk by descending a few rough-hewn steps cut in the earth. The dam had not been cleared out for about two years; but, as it had become full of leaves and other rubbish, the work which led to the present discovery was undertaken when it was noticed that some of the stones had been removed from their original position.

“The body of the child is supposed to have been lying in the water for a considerable period, probably a month or more, to reach such a state of decomposition, and had been buried— as it was doubtless supposed by its guilty parent, for ever— under some rubbish with a large stone on top of it. The spot, from its quiet and secluded position, is one well suited for the commission of such diabolical work. Late last night we ascertained that Dr. Philson, Provincial Surgeon, has made an examination of the body of the child, but he has been unable to ascertain its sex. Dr. Philson states that it is the body of a white child, and it is his opinion that it may have lain in the spot where it was found for several months, or even years, as it is a fact well known to medical men, that when a human body is kept under water or buried in a damp place, and the air wholly excluded, as in this case, it undergoes a peculiar change and becomes a fatty mass that will retain much of its original form for a very lengthened period. It is not likely that an inquest will be held.”
(Southern Cross, 21 August 1873)

The Domain Board, at the end of 1873, asked the Government for legislation giving them control over the old mill race at the bottom of the Domain, also known by that time as “Coolahan’s mill goit” (after Hugh Coolahan, first lease-holder of the Hospital Trust land which was to become Carlaw Park in the following century – see Mechanic’s Bay Timeline.) In 1874, the mill goit was transferred back to the Domain.

The Domain Gardens from the 1850s, which by the end of the 1860s had become a market garden, took on a new, brief role from the end of 1873 as the gardens leased by William Brighton, the former curator at the Acclimatisation Society’s garden close by. He offered a range of delights to attract the summer visitors to the Domain -- “prepared to Supply all Private Parties, Family Parties, or Visitors with Hot Water, Glass, Crockery, &c., &c., as may be required. He has now always on Hand Gingerbeer, Lemonade and other Cordials. If Refreshments are required a short notice will be necessary. Strawberries and Cream always on hand. Charges moderate.” (Advertisement, Southern Cross, 30 December 1873)

Business did not go so well for Brighton, however. In 1875, he was found not to have paid his advertising debts to the Southern Cross:
“Daily Southern Cross v. Brighton.— Claim £1 17s. 6d. for advertising. —Mr. Bennett for the plaintiff, and Mr. Rees for the defendant. — The defendant is the lessee of the Domain Gardens, and the charge was for several insertions in the Daily Southern Cross of an advertisement headed "Strawberries and Cream." The defence was that no instructions were given to insert. — Charles Macindoe deposed that he had charge of the advertising department of the paper. Mr. Brighton, while paying for one insertion of the advertisement on the 2nd. December, gave instructions that it should be continued every Friday until countermanded. Witness at the time pasted the advertisement on a slip of paper, and wrote underneath "T.C.," which meant "till countermanded." The advertisement continued to be inserted until after the strawberry season, when witness, thinking that the defendant had forgotten all about it, discontinued it on his own responsibility.—U. G. Hurrell, clerk in the office, said he was present and heard the defendant give instructions for the advertisement to be inserted until he stopped it. — The defendant in his evidence denied that he ordered the advertisement to be inserted as stated. On the occasion in question he only ordered one insertion which he paid for. — By Mr. Bennett: He was told that the advertisement was appearing in the paper, but he did not stop it because he thought it would render him liable. There was a similar dispute in the Herald. Witness had not instructed the Herald to continue the advertisement during the season. This was all the evidence. — The learned counsel having addressed the Court, his Worship gave judgment for the plaintiffs.”
(Southern Cross, 12 July 1875)

In 1873, the beginnings of a brief dispute over the Bowling Green began with an observation made by Domain Board members.
“Mr. Mitford drew attention to the bowling-green, which he said did not look unlike a market-garden. He thought that as the party at present in possession had incurred some expense, he should receive some notice to the effect that the Board would shortly require the green.— This suggestion was adopted, and the secretary was instructed to prepare the necessary notice.” 
(Southern Cross, 7 August 1873)

By December, members of the Board had duly inspected the grounds, and decided that it should be up for lease, for a term of 33 years. (Southern Cross, 4 December 1873) Perhaps, this meant the Domain Board considered that the bowling green would make a wonderful market garden to be leased out and earning income. Naturally, this upset the Bowling Club. Thomas Macfarlane wrote a letter to the Board, promising that the club would “resist to the death” any attempts to take the ground away from them. The Board responded by instructing their solicitor to take legal steps to recover the ground from the club. (Southern Cross, 8 January 1874)

In March, the Board’s solicitor delivered bad news: the bowling green wasn’t part of the Domain, and never had been. It came under the 1858 Auckland Reserves Act, not the 1860 Public Domains Act, so the Governor retained the right to handle the land as he pleased. However, there was a silver lining: the club’s title was as a “tenancy at will”, and the Board could appeal to the Commissioner of Crown Lands to sell the land from underneath the bowling club. (Southern Cross, 5 March 1874) In August, the Domain Board remained adamant: they were to get the land back, no matter what the bowling club said.

In October, the beleaguered bowling club wrote to the Board, offering to relinquish the ground if the Board refunded them for their expenses incurred in draining the boggy ground, planting trees, and generally landscaping the area. The Board’s response? That the club send them a letter, proving that they had an agreement with the Crown entitling them to be there. (Southern Cross, 8 October 1874) By November, however, there was a change of heart. The Board resolved to declare that they had no objection to the bowling club remaining on the ground, provided they used it as intended when granted. (Southern Cross, 5 November 1874)

The failure to obtain the bowling green as a potential money-making market garden was compensated somewhat by Mr. R. Baird coming back into the picture, offering to lease what appears to have been the site of what was to become the market garden alongside Stanley Street. At one point a little earlier, the Domain Board considered using it as the site for an ornamental fountain. (Southern Cross 2 July 1874) The lease was cheap for the 6 acres - £17 per annum, but the term was restricted to five years. (Southern Cross, 4 March 1875) The lease was taken over in 1879 by Ah Hung, for the same rental, with the proviso that he had to submit plans for a house to be erected there to the Board. (Minutes, 3 February 1879) Ah Hung seems to have been the first documented Chinese market gardener in Mechanics Bay. Two months later, residents of Stanley Street petitioned the Board not to let Ah Hung have “the free use of the water near the allotments.” The Board complied. (Minutes, 7 April 1879)

Brighton’s lease of the Domain Gardens site, meanwhile, was transferred to a Mr. Gundry in 1877, with Gundry saddled with Brighton’s rent debt to the Board. (Board minutes, 12 February 1877) Gundry wasn’t there long, however; the Board took back possession of the grounds from 5 June 1878, then tried leasing it to John Hamilton (who had been looking after the cricket ground) the following month. (Minutes, 1 July 1878) More on this in the next decade’s post.

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