Saturday, December 25, 2010

Visit to a pocket volcano

I finally stopped long enough in the Park Road area of Grafton yesterday to pay a visit to Outhwaite Park.

The original Crown Grant holder, unnamed on the otherwise excellent interpretive panel, was apparently G D Lardner, according to one of my early maps (Roll 61, LINZ records).

Mr G D Lardner, D.A.C.G., quits this colony for England, via Sydney, in the course of a few days. This gentleman arrived at Auckland early in 1840, and came to Wellington in February, 1844, to take charge of the Commissariat Department in this place. Throughout a period of five years, Mr Lardner has had a very arduous and onerous duty to perform. During the disturbances of 1845, in the Hutt Valley and Porirua and Horokiwi districts, at a distance from a port from which supplies only could be obtained, his energies and talent were called into constant requisition, and though the troops had to be supplied in the very depth of a severe and lengthened winter, and provisions carried along most execrable roads, by the continued zeal and management of the head of the Commissariat, the British force and allies were as well and sufficiently rationed as though cantoned in town. It is in time of war that the benefit of a Commisariat Department is most materially felt, and for the services of Mr. Lardner in that period of trouble and danger, he received the warm eulogistic thanks of the Commanding Officer. Mr. Lardner's loss will be felt by a large circle of friends, who, however, sincerely wish, him all prosperity wherever fortune may conduct him, or in whatever place he may be stationed. Mr Wood, D.A.C.G., for some time past head of the Commissariat Department at Wanganui, succeeds Mr. Lardner, and Mr. Sutherland, D.A.C.G , takes charge at Wanganui.
(New Zealander, 19 May 1849)

The family who were likely the earliest ones to make a home here, though, were the Outhwaites. Thomas Outhwaite, another public servant like Lardner, made his mark on the colony's affairs.
Mr. Thomas Outhwaite, a native of Westmorland, England, left Paris, where he was practising his profession as a solicitor, to come to New Zealand in 1841, and arrived in the “Tyne” with Chief Justice Sir William Martin, and the Hon. William Swainson, Attorney-General. Mr. Outhwaite was the first Registrar of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, and took office on the 1st of January, 1842 ... In 1843 he, in company with Sir William Martin, and the late Hon. Henry St. Hill, M.L.C., returned to Auckland overland on foot from Wellington, whither they had journeyed in the Government brig “Victoria” (a three weeks' sea voyage), to hold a session of the court. The return trip overland occupied a period of six weeks.

During his long public career Mr. Outhwaite held the office of Registrar of the Supreme Court, Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty, Clerk of the Crown, Registrar of Deeds, Taxing Officer, Receiver of Intestate Estates, Acting Attorney-General and Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Some of these offices were unremunerated, and in those days the public funds were sometimes at so low an ebb that many of the offices under Government were held by gentlemen, who sought not their own emolument, but the good of the country. Among those was Mr. Outhwaite, who, in addition, to fulfilling his official duties, took an active interest in the various social and public institutions of Auckland. He was one of the first movers in the establishment of the Mechanics' Institute, of which he was for some time vice-president. Ever an encourager of art and passionately devoted to music, he was the principal founder of the Auckland Philharmonic, the first musical society in Auckland, and gave all the time he could spare as voluntary instructor to its members, and also in training church choirs in their turn. Mr Outhwaite retired from office in June, 1869, and died on the 14th of July, 1879—a pioneer colonist, universally esteemed and lamented by his fellow-colonists.

What intrigued me most, though, was the fact that Outhwaite Park is part of a small "pocket" volcano, 50,000 years old. The eruption wasn't as mighty as others on the city's volcanic field, but it partially covered some of the Domain's older debris, and covered the Medical School and Auckland Hospital sites. I keep learning new things about this city's story all the time, that's why I love it.

The park was donated to Newmarket Borough Council by Thomas Outhwaite's daughter Isa Outhwaite in her will in 1927.

A tribute to the late Miss Isa Outhwaite, of Auckland, is given by Mr. F. Carr Bollett, who was among her oldest friends. He mentions her artistic talents, and is of opinion that some of her sketches, specially those of the Waikato in the old days, should have an historic value. Miss Outhwaite wrote some delightful stories for children, those of the Maoris being,particularly good. Apart from the musical and artistic talents, Miss Outhwaite was one who showed wonderful kindness to others, and through her encouragement and help many young painters, musicians, and writers have received just the impetus which was needed to lead them along to success. The prisoners of Mount Eden Gaol were among those who benefited from her social work, and many of the unfortunate ones of life have also cause to bless her name and memory. Mr. Bollett writes that it is a question if any more noble or capable woman could ever have been found in this country, and he feels that her loss is one to the city as well as to a host of individual friends.
(Evening Post 17 December 1925)

Bequests under the will of the late Miss Isa Outhwaite, who was born in Auckland 83 years ago, include £1500 for the Mater Miserecordiae Hospital, £500 for the benefit of discharged female prisoners, £300 for the Jubilee Institute for the Blind, and £500 for the poor of the city of Besancon, France, her mother's native city. Gifts of property include Hen Island, off the entrance of Whangarei Harbour, to the King, with a trust that it shall be used as a bird sanctuary; the testatrix's home, with over an acre of ground in Newmarket, to the borough as a public park; and a property of several acres adjacent to the Auckland Boys' Grammar School for a Roman Catholic College site. The residue of the estate, after gifts to various Catholic organisations, goes to the Roman Catholic Bishop for purposes of education.
(Evening Post 21 December 1925)

The park, therefore, is a fitting memorial on many levels.


  1. Happy Christmas Lisa. Fascinating story as usual. It is interesting that there was also an Australian artist and children's book illustrator called Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960). Outhwaite was her married name and Rentoul her maiden name. I haven't read all your references to the Outhwaite family yet but I wonder if there was any relationship?

  2. Hi John.
    I think that the late Una Platts (where the NZETC reference came from), who is usually very reliable when it comes to correctness of detail, especially regarding art history, may have been in error this time around. Looking now, I can find only three references online to Isa Outhwaite having a middle name (here, Platts, and a domain reserve management plan in Te Aroha). Tellingly, the NZ BDM database does not give her a middle name. So -- Una Platts may have been mistaken. I'll go change the post.

  3. At the risk of sounding repetitive fascinating! Pass here every day on the way home from work...will think of it differently now :-)


  4. Yes, that's how I feel too. I've passed by there dozens of times. Never realised it was volcanic, let alone the rest of it.