Thursday, August 26, 2010

A mural survivor


At the back of the St James Cinema complex, facing Lorne Street and the Auckland City Library, there is a survivor among Auckland's collection of murals over the years.


A window space, adorned with a single mural where all else is featureless concrete.


A mother, pointing out something of wonder to her child, across the street.



The thing is -- this wasn't always a lone piece of art. Not here. I am very fortunate to have the permission from Colin Maddock to reproduce his 1999 photo of the same site. (Thank you!)


Once, the mother and her child were joined by an old woman, in an apron, her kitchen utensils poking up over the sill, watched by her black cat.


On the other side, what appears to have been simply an empty room.


Why are the other murals gone? What happened to make them be removed utterly? I don't know. At least, so far, there is the sole survivor, to enchant the viewer who happens to look up in what is, otherwise, a rather ordinary Auckland central city street -- catching sight of something extraordinary.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Auckland Heritage Festival 2010

I asked Auckland City Council for a logo-link I can install here for the upcoming festival, and they have very kindly said yes. You'll find details as to the events during the festival period by going to this website.

Yours truly, despite my New Year's Resolution not to be so actively involved this year as I was last year, has completely forgotten how to say no to people. Yet again. So, you'll find me at the following events during the Heritage Festival:






Feel free to come up to me and say hi.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Painted wall in Mt Roskill


Local historian Leigh Kennaway sent this shot in overnight (addressing me as "Dear Mural Lady". Heh!). It was taken at the corner of Potter and O'Donnell Avenues in Mt Roskill. As he said in his email -- a strange choice of subject, colonial-era villas and cottages, given that this part of the isthmus is primarily post World War II state houses, built for returning servicemen and their families. The 1940 aerials show that precise spot was just open fields back then. Leigh asked: Possibly the original farmhouse in the area?  This was part of the local Wesleyan Mission Trust farms property, so -- I don't know. By 1940, if there was an original farmhouse, it had gone. I have a pretty coloured survey map of the area dated from 1923, showing proposed cul-de-sacs which never came to pass.

Very pretty mural, though.




Monday, August 23, 2010

Three photo slideshows: Avondale's Train Stations 2007-2010

I've put up three slideshows on the AWHS site from the collection of images I gathered up over the course of three years while Avondale Train Station moved twice, ending up where it is today, at Crayford Street.

Avondale's oldest mural?


This mural, alongside the remaining bit of the old electric bus turn-around off upper Rosebank Road, is around 20-30 years old, I reckon. I've seen it for years. The back door in the photo on the right leads to what started out as the Avondale Plunket offices from the 1940s when this (the local loos) was built. Plunket moved out in the 1980s, wanting more space. And probably something less drafty -- my mum often told me that the reason why I wasn't a "Plunket baby" in the 1960s was because of one visit she made with me to see the nurse there. Through lack of room, after the check-up and weighing etc, she was asked by the nurse to dress me in the drafty corridor. Mum never went back there with me again.

Anyway ...

From the 1980s to sometime in the 1990s, those back rooms served as a base for the Council traffic department, until amalgamation swept that away from 1989. The mural is linked into the traffic safety aspect of the officers' work. The offices are still Council owned, but have been used by various community groups since.





I was asked recently how old the mural is. I'm still scratching my head on that one -- but I think it's done very, very well against the elements, car exhausts from vehicles parked just across the way, and taggers.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The life and times of Albert Potter (1822-1905)

It is truly weird how lines of research intersect, tangle, then wrap around like yarn.

I was looking at the new online links to the AJHRs, spotted the report on flax cultivation and preparation prepared in 1871, oohed and aahed because it was directly relevant to the Timber's Fortune study I'm trying to get the time to finish. Two flax mills at Henderson's Mill? Intriguing ...

I went to notes provided for me by Vivien Burgess from West Auckland Historical Society. She had also made note of that anomaly of another flax mill in the area, other than the one run by Thomas Macffarlane. She asked in her notes: Where was Albert Potter's flaxmill? I wondered that too. Then I got to wondering about him ... and the result is what follows. A research notes timeline that involves a whole heap of 19th century colonial gossipy goodness ...

Manslaughter! Fire! Bankruptcies! Wife desertion! Bridge building! Bribery accusations! Wool! Land deals! Hotels! Escape across the Tasman!

And ... a flaxmill along the way.

In May 2011, I received a series of emails from Di Potter, who has been researching the Potter clan. Information from her research is now incorporated into this post.

Latest update: 28 June 2012


England

1816
Albert Potter's father, Thomas Potter (1789-1872) married Hannah Maria Abley (1794-c.1874) in Ashton Juxtua, Birmingham, Warwick, England. "Thomas and Hannah married on the 31 May 1816," according to Di Potter. " It was discovered after the service that they were not of the same parish. Thomas swore a affidavit and oath the following day and the official marriage date was amended to the 1 June 1816."

From Di's research, here are Thomas and Hannah Potter's children:

Children of THOMAS POTTER and HANNAH ABLEY are:
 i. ALFRED ABLEY POTTER, b. 22 August 1817, Park Butts Kidderminster; d. April 1824, Kidderminster.
 ii. CECILIA ANN POTTER, b. 25 November 1819, Kidderminster Worcestershire England. Married Thomas Whitehouse and after living in Oz moved to the States.
According to what Di Potter has been able to piece together, Thomas Whitehouse (b.1812) married Ann Abley (sister to Hannah Abley/Potter, wife of Thomas Potter). But, there may well have been something going on between uncle and niece, as Cecelia had issue most likely from Thomas, and then left England with him as Mr and Mrs to go to first Australia, then the United States.
iii. ALBERT POTTER, b. 27 January 1822, Kidderminster England; d. 04 November 1905, Auckland.
 iv. ISAIAH POTTER, b. 21 February 1824, Kidderminster Worcestershire England; d. 05 June 1907, Pinjarra Public Hospital Western Australia.
 v. SELINA POTTER, b. 13 November 1826, Kidderminster Worcestershire England; d. 05 December 1896, her home cnr Kyber Pass Road & Grafton Road Auckland.
vi. EBENEZER BOOMFIELD POTTER, b. 07 September 1830, Kidderminster; d. January 1832.
vii. ELIEZER GERSHOM POTTER, b. 07 April 1833, Kidderminster Worcestershire England; d. 23 December 1873, Clifton Road Aston Manor Warwickshire.
viii. HEPHZIBAH POTTER, b. 10 June 1836; d. 18 August 1856, Phillips Street Axton Manor.

1832
Thomas Potter and Samuel Walford, two weavers involved in an earlier strike in 1828 by carpet makers in Kidderminster (Potter was secretary of the carpet weavers' union, the Friendly Society of Operative Carpet Weavers, while Walford was the union's fund-raiser), turned around and set up their own partnership in business in November 1832, with a warehouse, dyehouse, and 20 looms. Walford absconded to America with most of the firm's capital in 1834, Potter continued alone for two years, then in 1838 set up another partnership (Potter and Duckham, 20th largest such firm in Kidderminster.) This went bust sometime in the 1840s. The Potter family were harshly dealt with by their credtors, owning only the clothes they wore. (Info from L D Smith, Carpet Weavers and Carpet Masters, via Di Potter.


Immediately after the 1828 strike, a carpet weavers’ co-operative society was founded by Thomas Potter, (as the “Kidderminster Weavers’ Co-operative Association”), through which independent weavers could sell their products. It is possible that this union-backed venture- which failed after only a year – provided the basis for “Potter, Walford and Company”. This company has (perhaps) the most shadey (sic), fraudulent, and least respectable history of any carpet company in Kidderminster!” 
Legat's "Carpets of Kidderminster", via Di Potter.

1844  
The Observer’s obituary from 1905 for Albert Potter refers to him regarding carpet making and Kidderminster (see below). One Albert Potter of Kidderminster, Worchestershire, a carpet manufacturer, was adjudged bankrupt in July 1844 in the Birmingham Bankruptcy Court. (Berrows Worcester Journal, 22 August 1844). If that was him, no wonder he decided to head for Australia, to try to do much better.

Australia

1853 
 Marries Margaret Ann (b.1838, although Tasmanian Archives database says b.1836) (née Currie -- see Rootsweb, but the Tasmanian Archives also show her just as Podmore) at Ballarat, Victoria. Soon after, settles in Tasmania. (Wanganui Herald, 6 December 1892)

Margaret was the daughter of William Currie, proprietor of the Blue Bell Inn at Sorell, Tasmania, and Anne Podmore. In 1840, Currie found guilty of the manslaughter of Podmore. at the hotel (Hobart Colonial Times, 4 February 1840, Rootsweb ). Currie had been publican at the Blue Bell since at least 1829, (Colonial Times, 20 November 1829) and owned land around Sorell and Forcett.

1854 
Son born to Albert and Mrs. Potter at Bankton, Pittwater, 16 April. (Hobart Courier, 25 April 1854). According to the Familysearch website, this was Ebenezer Abley Potter, father Albert Potter, mother Margaret Ann Currie. (My thanks to my friend Margaret Edgcumbe for the heads-up on this).

R. Doctor, agent, puts notice in paper that no one is to buy horses or stock belonging to the Currie family Green Hill Estate, Bankton, Pittwater from Albert Potter. (Courier, 1 July 1854)

1858 
30 September – mortgagee sale of the Green Hills estate (420 acres). (Courier, 17 September 1858)
This apparently arose from an indenture agreement (immigration to Tasmania?) between William Currie of Pittwater, farmer, and John Robertson of Hobart, esquire, on 25 November 1848. By 1858, Thomas Potter "of the Green Hills in the Parish of Fawcett" was assigned the mortgage, and started the ball rolling for the mortgagee sale. (Hobart Town Daily Mercury, 1 October 1858)

Di Potter has found in the 1858 Valuation Rolls for Central and Eastern Tasmania that Albert Potter had a farm called Green Hills in the Sorell area, 420 acres and worth £150.

1859
Potter claims half an acre of land in Sorell. (Courier, 21 January 1859)

1860 
Albert Potter is one of the local Sorell residents calling for a Road Board meeting. (Hobart Daily Mercury, 13 April 1860)

For some time prior to June 1860, he was publican at the Gordon Highlander pub in Sorell. (Daily Mercury, 30 June) He advertised to let it go in June. He’s still at the Gordon Highlander in September, organising a meeting for the construction of the Sorell Causeway. (Mercury, 3 September 1860)

1861 

Thomas Potter arrived in  Melbourne on the Aloe 30 January with a contingent of Potter family members.

"There was Mr POTTER aged 72, Mrs POTTER aged 66 in the Aft cabin, and in the 2nd Cabin was Mr Whitehouse (age 49), Mrs Whitehouse (nee Cecilia Potter, Albert’s sister age 41) “Miss” Whitehouse (age 21) (think this was Catherine, age is out by two years) plus Whitehouse children. Also in the same cabin was Mr Stainton (age 38) Selina Stainton (nee Selina Potter, Alberts sister age 34) and the Stainton children Joseph (7), Maria (5), Alice (4), Isaiah (3) and Albert (10 months)."
Di Potter's notes.

On February 9, they set sail for Hobart, less the Staintons (who may have gone on a later ship).

Albert Potter ran for office later that year.
GENTLEMEN,-The dissolution of Parliament entails upon you the duty of electing a representative for your district in the House of Assembly. I avail myself of this opportunity of becoming a candidate for that honor.

Having been a resident among you for the last seven years, I am in a great measure acquainted with your local requirements and my general political opinions are known to most of you.

I am averse to the imposition of new taxes in any shape generally, until those already imposed are equally borne by all classes of the community.

I am an advocate for the encouragement of Colonial manufactures by restrictive duties upon those descriptions of foreign importations of which we possess the raw material.

I would encourage the agricultural interest by legalizing distillation, by a restrictive duty upon foreign imported grain, flour, malt, hops, &c, and a prohibitory duty upon all damaged grain and flour.
I am in favor of placing a poll tax upon sheep and cattle, (above a certain number say 1000 more or less, that it should not interfere with the farming interests), so that the squatocraoy of the Colony may bear its portion of the public burden.

I am strongly in favor of making the absentees contribute their full share to the maintenance of the state by a percentage upon the value of their property.

I am in favor of the Abolition of State Aid to Religion, but considering the peculiar condition of the Colony, and being impressed with the importance and difficulty of the question, I would use due caution in dealing with it.

I would support the grants in aid to Rural Municipalities; I would open up the agricultural lands of the Colony by means of main roads.

I am prepared to support a liberal and efficient system of public education, considering it a paramount duty of any state to provide for the moral and intellectual culture of its rising generation.

I highly approve of Mr. Torrens' system of simplifying the transfer of real property, and would give my aid to all measures of law reform.

I need only further say that should you entrust to me the representation of this district my best energies shall be devoted to the general progress and welfare of the Colony, and the good of the District of Sorell in particular, wherein my interests are identical with your own,
I am, &c.
Your obdt servant,
ALBERT POTTER. Green Hill, Forcett.

(Mercury, 29 May 1861)

From June 1861 to October 1862, Potter served as secretary to the Sorell Causeway Trustees. (Mercury, 18 June 1863)

In August 1861, he was one of a number of petitioners aiming to have Sorell declared a municipality. (Mercury, 16 August 1861)

1862
Potter sues Richard Crocker, lessee of the Gordon Highlander, for not keeping the inn in repair. Loses the suit. It is noted that Potter’s father, Thomas, lived at the hotel, managing his son’s affairs. General downturn in the economy of the surrounding area. (Mercury, 19 June 1862) Rootsweb says that Albert’s mother arrived in Tasmania in 1861.

Conspiracy in 1862.
₤50 REWARD.CONSPIRACY
The undersigned offers the above reward to any person who will give information that will lead to the conviction of the party or parties who conspiring against him, planted in his open outhouse or barn on his land at Green Hills, Forcett, six miles from his residence at Sorell, a quantity of wool, and also planted a pair of blocks and cross-out saw adjoining the homestead, in charge of his hired servant. ALBERT POTTER. Dated 13 December 1862.
(Mercury, 16 December 1862)

His hired servant, Thomas Mitchell, convicted of receiving the stolen items the following month. (Mercury, 23 January 1863)

1863 
Potter now has his Green Hills farm up for let. (Mercury, 13 January 1863)

In January, Potter is in dispute with the Sorell Causeway trustees, who want him (as late secretary) to hand over the Trust’s book, but he declined, stating that they owed him advances, salary due and rent for furnished offices, and so could not have them until these were settled. (Mercury, 11 February 1863) The Trustees owed him around ₤3. However, there was an outstanding subscription claim promised by Potter to the Sorell Causeway project of ₤50 4s 2d as at June that same year. (Mercury, 18 June 1863)

By now, Potter had been employed by James Whitehouse for some time, and was engaging contractors to do work on Whitehouse’s behalf. (Mercury, 12 February 1863)

By May, Potter was in insolvency hearings, called on a debt by one of his creditors. In his testimony, he said he lived about 31 miles out of town on his farm, and seems to have engaged in brick making to an extent, having a kiln, and 10,000 bricks made and fired by him. (Mercury, 29 May 1863)

His 420 acre farm at Forcett (Green Hills) was advertised for sale. (Mercury, 30 May 1863)

June 23, Mrs Potter has another son, at Green Hills (Mercury, 22 July 1863) Edwin Ambrose Alonzo Potter. (Rootsweb.)

By this time, Potter is said to have taken up with Catherine Whitehouse (Wanganui Herald, 6 December 1892). Rootsweb researchers suggest Catherine was a relative of a brother-in-law of Albert Potter. Di Potter suspects Catherine was the daughter of James Whitehouse and Caroline Male. (James' brother Thomas married Ann Abley (sister to Albert Potter's mother Hannah), but took up Albert's sister Cecelia).  "Kate Whitehouse", aged 22, was listed on the trip from Melbourne to Hobart taken by Thomas Potter and the clan in February 1861 (Di's notes). So -- at least incest can't be added to Albert Potter's career portfolio. He was related to Catherine Whitehouse by more distant ties of marriage and other connections.

"On 23 June 1863, Margaret had a son just 13 months after her still-born daughter, named Edwin Alonzo Ambrose POTTER. (There was an Edwin Alonzo Ambrose POTTER who was a “big wig” in the religious world at the time. A sort of Super Star, and I guess that is the reason a lot of babies were afflicted with the name at the time). At that point in time, Albert was “late a publican”. It appears that whilst Margaret was pregnant with Edwin, Catherine found out that she was expecting Albert’s child Catherine’s child being born 8 months 23 days after Margaret gave birth to Edwin. It appears that when the news broke, Albert put his farm up for sale and left the property."
Di Potter's notes

By early August, Potter no longer lived at Green Hills farm, according to the continuing notices of the farm sale. (Mercury, from 14 August 1863)

On 3 October 1863, Albert Potter attended a ratepayers meeting regarding the Sorell Causeway, lack of work therof, and the visit of government commissioners. He attended as a ratepayer and former trustee.

"Mr Potter on rising to address the meeting was met by a storm of epithets of a not very complimentary nature, which, to recapitulate here would be of little interest to the public beyond the district ... the speaker was again [after repeatedly attempting to get his point of view across] met by an outburst of commentaries about himself, and on the entreaty of the Chairman Mr Potter sat down." 
(Mercury, 7 October 1863)

What were the barbed comments about Potter? The only clue is a reference made in a letter to the editor later, by someone signing off as "Anti-Humbug":

"The report [on the 3 October meeting] is also silent on the significant fact that when the climax of disorder was reached by Mr Blyth's vainglorious threat and defiance of the government to dismiss him from the trust, and his intemperent personal attack upon Mr Potter, the government party, unable any longer to restrain their disgust, rose in a body and quitted the disgraceful scene. The exclamations of a purely personal nature, and the protests of quasi indignant virtue by which Mr Potter was denied a hearing, were simply inconsistent and absurd. With Mr Potter's rumoured domestic troubles or complications, or his pecuniary or private affairs, the meeting could have no concern whatsoever ..."
(Mercury, 24 October 1863)

Bolding mine. At this point, sight of him is lost in Australia.

November: a Mr and Mrs Potter and four children sailed on board the Highlander from Hobart to Sydney. (Mercury, 18 November 1863). Margaret Potter said in 1892 that she sailed to Sydney from Hobart with four of her five children (but this was likely just her and the baby Edwin). She took out a summons against Potter for desertion, and almost got to a hearing – but he skipped Sydney and headed east for Auckland, taking the four eldest children with him, and leaving her with the baby. (one source said it was three children). The Sydney Missing Friends Agency told Margaret that they would help track Albert for three guineas – money she could not afford. (Wanganui Herald, 6 December 1892)

"On 21 November 1863, Albert and Catherine together with 4 of Albert and Margaret’s children (viz. Ebenezer, Alfred, Albert and Maria) leave Tasmania on the Highlander departing Hobartown to Sydney as cabin passengers. Where they stayed or what they did in Sydney is unknown, however we do know that Margaret had traced them and on 29 Feb 1864 (3 months later) Margaret and Edwin boarded the Highlander to Sydney. Albert and Catherine then left Sydney for Auckland on the Bella Marina, a ship carrying soldiers to the Waikato Wars, Catherine’s first child Charles Frederick Potter, being born route to Auckland on the 17 March 1864, no evidence has been found of any marriage between Albert and Catherine."
Di Potter's notes

The last reference to Albert Potter in Tasmania was during a session of that state's general assembly, when an attempt was made to investigate accusations of bribery regarding the Sorell Causeway contract. The contractor, it was claimed, paid ₤200 in gold, divided ₤100 each between an officer in the Department of Public Works and Albert Potter as the Causeway Trust's secretary, in order to guarantee payment of the government contribution toward the work of ₤2000. Beyond the 19th of August 1864, however, nothing further was mentioned on the matter. (Mercury, 20 August 1864)

New Zealand

There is a gap of four years, the time of the Waikato War, where info on Albert Potter and his movements is sparce. However, he was in Newton, Auckland in 1865 (birth of his second son by Catherine). While there, he was rabble-rousing.

A deputation, consisting of Mr. Potter and four other gentlemen appointed at the Newton meeting to wait upon his Honor the Superintendent with respect to erecting Newton into a separate municipality, did so yesterday. They explained the object of their interview with his Honor, viz., that when the boundaries of the city of Auckland were established the Superintendent granted a sum of £1,000 annually towards the repair of the streets, and afterwards, when a City Board was formed, an additional £2,000 annually, conditionally on the boundaries of the city being extended. The boundaries of the city, however, had not been extended, and the £3,000 per annum was expended within the limits for which the £1,000 had been given. A sum of £600 had been granted to Newton for the Karangahape Road, but that was utterly inadequate, and they now claimed their fair share of the £3,000 granted to the City Board. The Superintendent said he would place himself in communication with tho City Board on the subject; and the deputation then withdrew.
Southern Cross 11 May 1865

A public meeting of the inhabitants of Newton district was held yesterday evening, in Mr. Dewar's school-house, for the purpose of having the district proclaimed as a Road Board, under the provisions of the Highways Act of the province. Mr. Potter presided, and explained the object of the meeting, and detailed the result of the interview which the deputation had with his Honor the Superintendent. Mr. Brophy proposed the adoption of a petition to his Honor the Superintendent to have the district placed under the provisions of the Highways Act, which was seconded by Mr. Aicken. Mr Griffin proposed an amendment declining to accept of a Highway Act on the ground that it was unsuited to the wants of the district as at present circumstanced, which was seconded by Mr. Shanaghan. A desultory discussion ensued, and the result of the meeting was the adoption of the amendment, so that nearly three hours were spent to no purpose. 
 Southern Cross 19 May 1865



1867
Thomas Potter rejoins Albert and his family in Auckland from Tasmania (Di Potter notes). According to the Auckland War Memorial Museum library, father and son were early carpet manufacturers here in the 1860s. (Ref MS 957)

Albert Potter was at Springbank on Ponsonby Road by 1867 -- found a letter of his, on wool and critical of Auckland wool-growers (SC 13 February 1867). Springbank is about the middle of Ponsonby Road, but on the edge of the old Newton Borough area. In May 1867, he was A. Potter of Surrey Hills (another name for the Springbank area), as a warden under the Protection of Certain Animals Act Amendment Act 1865 (Southern Cross 3 May 1867) 


1868 
By the middle of 1868, an Albert Potter, with at least two sons, one Ebenezer (b.1854), is living on a farm at Kohimarama owned by J S Macfarlane, working there as a wool stapler. (Southern Cross, 6 July 1868 and 13 July 1869)

1870 
By now, Albert Potter was in Waitakerei East (SC 15 February 1870), probably already working on his flax mill.

Around November 1870 Col. Haultain was in the district near Henderson’s Mill; to look at Potter’s mill and that of Thomas Macffarlane. Potter’s mill dam had been damaged by a flood, and Potter was making unsuccessful attempts at wet scotching of the flax fibres. (AJHR, 1871, G-04)


Potter's West Auckland house is utterly destroyed by fire in December 1870.

"A fire occurred at Henderson's Mill on Friday last, which resulted in the total destruction of the residence of Mr Albert Potter. When first discovered the fire was in the kitchen, but had obtained too much of a hold to be put out. There was hardly anything saved, as the inmates had barely time to escape before the place was in flames. One of the men who was helping to put out the fire nearly lost his life. Whilst inside the house a considerable rush of smoke took place, and the door being shut he was nearly suffocated. When pulled out his hair was all singed off, and he was severely burnt. We have not heard whether the building was insured or not."

(NZ Herald, 26 December 1870)

"... A correspondent informs us that the range of buildings destroyed consisted of three houses, occupied by Mr Potter, who was absent at the time in Auckland. It is supposed that some of the ashes from the fireplace had been blown into the lining of the house by the strong wind which was prevailing at the time. No warning was given, but a flame sprang up suddenly, and in 20 minutes the buildings were levelled. Amongst other losses were a library of 200 volumes, bedding, furniture, and a large quantity of wearing apparel, and provisions. By immense exertions, some neighbours managed to save the boxes and bedding of Mr Potter's parents, very aged persons. We are sorry to learn that nothing was insured."

(NZ Herald, 28 December 1870)
1872
Thomas Potter, late of Kidderminster, dies aged 83 on 19 March 1872. (Southern Cross, 18 April 1872)

1873 
Albert Potter turns up as lessee of the Waikato River ferry punts at Hamilton. (Waikato Times, 29 July 1873; Auckland Provincial Gazette, 1873, p. 162). His son Ebenezer is the lessee by 1877. (WT 19 April 1877)

1875 
Potter elected as a Trustee of the Hamilton East Highway District. (WT 27 July 1875)

By October, his new trade is as a butcher in Hamilton East. (WT 26 October 1875). Ebenezer is there with him. (WT 29 March 1877)

1876 
By July, he is also selling oats and maize. (WT, 1 July 1876)

1877 
Now, Albert Potter is Chairman of the Hamilton East Highway District Board. (WT, 2 August 1877).
“Over the years several trustees took turns in the chair, but in the later years the ad hoc chairman was usually Albert Potter. Potter was also treasurer in 1874-7, and secretary for a few months besides. It was not coincidental that the board should look reinvigorated when Potter became a member.”
(P J Gibbons, Astride the River: A History of Hamilton, 1977, p. 66)


He was also Chairman of the Hamilton East Cemetery Committee. (WT, 9 October 1877)

1878 
A supporter of the creation of the Hamilton Borough (image from that date, courtesy Di Potter), he is one of the first councillors. (WT 9 February 1878) He passes his butcher’s business to his sons, (WT 28 September 1878) as he re-enters the wool stapling and scouring trade to make wool mattresses, a return possibly to his carpet making roots. (WT 14 June 1879)

1882 
Potter applies for a patent for a better type of wool stapler, “an invention for scouring wool in the fleece, without breaking up, cutting, felting or injuring the fibre, to be called Potter’s machine for scouring wool in the fleece.” (Chch Star, 5 July 1882) This invention makes him well-known. He seems to have now taken on a mantle of inventor and man-of-ideas.

1883

REVOLUTION IN WOOL SCOURING.
Potter's Patent Machine.

On Wednesday last a number of gentleman assembled at the Daily Buildings, Surrey Hills Estate, Auckland, to witness a trial of Potter's patent wool scouring machine, the patent rights of which have been acquired by a joint stock company recently formed, from the patentee, Mr Albert Potter (formerly of Hamilton) and Mr S. T. Seddon and Captain Steele for joining wool in the fleece. Mr Seddon (one of the directors of the company) and Mr Steele were the only representative of the Waikato present.

The following account of the trial is from Thursday's New Zealand Herald:-

Mr Potter the inventor of the process, has been a woolstapler of extensive experience in England. He turned his attention some time back to the construction of machinery for cleaning flax, and latterly, to devising a machine for scouring wool. The machinery with which yesterday's experiments were conducted, is in small compass, simple of construction, and consisted —first, of a steam-engine of 4 horse power, to work the stampers under which the wool passes in a series of watertight boxes on trollies. There are two tanks, one holding the hot water and lye (soap and soda), and the other cold water, for supplying the boxes in which the fleeces are placed. First the boxes, which are mounted on wheels, are run up to the tanks in succession on the travelling railway, charged with hot lye and cold water, till the requisite temperature has been attained, when the fleeces are placed in them. They are then run along the rails till they come under the stampers, which are 40lbs. weight each, and twelve in number. They are in two sections, the motion in each section being reversed, so as to thoroughly equalise the pressure over the whole fleece.

The stamping process lasts about a quarter of a minute. The wool is then carried on to a pair of metal rollers, where it is squeezed and wrung out, and from thence it passes on a travelling rack back again to the hand of the dipper, who repeats the process a second time. On reaching his hand on the last occasion, it is placed in baskets, and carried to the drying racks, where it is spread out and dried. The boxes have plugs for running out the waste water. Five boxes running like an endless belt are sufficient to keep the machines going, the whole labour required being one man and four boys.

Yesterday 322lbs of wool were put through in an hour and a half. The machinery can be easily constructed, and at a moderate figure. Some of the scouring machines in the South have cost thousands of pounds, and simply tear the wool to pieces. By Potter’s process the fleece is kept intact, if desired, and the wool is uninjured. Mr McCrea, of Marlborough, was so pleased with the experiments and tests that he informed the directors he would send up at first shearing from his station 10 bales of wool to be put through the machine, to practically test for himself the whole question, as he had to discontinue hand woolscouring through the high price of labour. We were shown some samples of wool sent from Napier, Canterbury, and Waikato which had been subject to Potter's process, and turned out in excellent condition, free from grease or yolk; also, some samples of dyed wool — dyed only the previous day —and which showed that the wool after the scouring process by Potter's machine is quite ready for the purposes of the English manufacturers. Some of the dyes were of a very delicate tint. If wool can be sent home in this condition, the manufacturers can deal with the sheepbreeder and woolgrower direct, thus saving the middle man's profits, the cost of rescouring the wool in England, and a large percentage of freight.

The importance of this to the colonial woolgrower will be seen at a glance. A penny or twopence a pound even saved on the wool shipped home would foot up to something handsome in the year. A large proportion of the wool sent from New Zealand is exported in the greasy or unwashed state, and being compacted in this condition very much depreciates its value. The loss in scouring wool so packed often exceeds 60 per cent. Wool which is scoured by the ordinary process before packing is usually done so imperfectly that, before the manufacturer can use it, it requires to be re-scoured, and loses from 20 to 30 per cent. Wool scoured by Potter's machine does not, as already stated, require to be scoured a second time on arrival in England, but is at once fitted for the manufacturer, the loss on coarse cross-breds ranges from 25 to 36 per cent. and on clothing merinos, 52 per cent.

The peculiar and great advantage of this invention is that the machine can, at small expense, be placed each sheep station, so that the station masters can scour their own wools before packing, and at less expense, and with better results than by the usual process.

The machine is patented in New Zealand, and it is proposed to obtain patents forthwith for the several Australian colonies. It looks very much as if the days of wool-scouring by hand were numbered, in the face of steam and machinery, and the use of Potter’s process.

Waikato Times, 14 July 1883

William Steele and Samuel Thomas Seddon were fellow Hamilton Borough Councillors with Potter as at 1878 (WT, 15 August 1878)

"The Potter Wool Scouring Company is to be wound up. It has a debit balance of £526."
Hawke’s Bay Herald, 5 December 1884


1884 

By now, he has left Hamilton and returned to Auckland, living in Mt Eden.

A patent application for "Potter's Process for unhairing Hides, Skins or Pelts."(NZ Gazette 7 February 1884 p. 212)

Later, on 27 February, Potter took the Potter Patent Wool Scouring Company to the Supreme Court, claiming £95. Apparent Potter was employed by the company as a manager, on a wage of £5 per week for 12 months, in return for his patent. He was dismissed in January 1884, so he claimed £15 wages and £80 damages. The company countered that Potter was guilty of gross misconduct and disobedience. He refused to scour certain wools, saying they were "locks and pieces" outside his patent, promised to keep data on wool scouring, and to scour dye samples for exhibition. It was claimed Potter opened letters addressed to someone else (he denied this). Potter also owed them £15 for rent of a house in Surrey Hills. What happened in terms of the case is not known. (NZ Herald 28 February 1884) Safe to say, though, that his association with the firm was at an end.

He designed a better kauri scraping machine, "Potter's Machine for paring and cleaning gum". (Thames Star, 9 August 1884, NZ Gazette, 7 August 1884, p. 1230)


1886 
Potter has patent for method of dissolving kauri gum, "giving them a peculiar amber colour, and preserving their quality unimpaired, to be called "Potter's Amber Gum". (Otago Witness, 13 March 1886, NZ Gazette 4 March 1886, p. 271)

He applies for a rotary plough patent, "Potter's Rotary Plough". (Chch Star, 1 June 1886, NZ Gazette 27 May 1886, p. 687)

1889 
Back to flax dressing experiments. (Southland Times, 21 October 1889) His machinery is in operation at Cairn’s flax mill in Custom Street West by 1890. (Manawatu Herald, 17 January 1890)

Meanwhile, back in Australia ...

The McCoull report followed the traces of Margaret Potter, the wife left behind on Sydney's docks back in late 1863.

Alice Louisa Potter was born in  Glebe, Sydney in 1868 -- when Alice died in 1948, her death certificate declared that her parents had been Albert and Margaret Ann Potter. Intriguing -- as, of course, Albert was on the other side of the Tasman at that point, with Catherine. Alice married William Barnsley in Sydney in 1890.

A marriage between Margaret Ann Potter and John William E Tring was registered in Sydney in 1870, the marriage (bigamous?) producing at least three children: Louisa, 1871; William J E, 1873 (d.1880); Mary A, born and died 1875. All registered in Sydney. A John William Tring died in Sydney in 1892.

New Zealand

1892
In May, Albert Potter suggests that unemployed young people should get involved with the hand-weaving by looms industry. (OW, 26 May 1892)

At the end of the year, the past returns to haunt Albert Potter. His estranged wife Margaret finally learned where he is in Auckland in March 1892, and heads across the Tasman, seeking financial support as a deserted wife. He was charged on 20 November 1892 with wilfully failing to provide his wife with adequate means of support, after leaving her behind in Sydney and heading to New Zealand with Catherine Whitehouse.

Margaret said that she had kept herself and her son going in Australia by nursing – and it was that occupation which led to her discovery of Albert's whereabouts. While nursing a young woman from Auckland, she asked if the woman knew of an Albert Potter there. With the name he’d made for himself with his inventions out of Mt Eden, the answer was “Yes”. To top it off, the young woman actually knew him and his New Zealand family quite well. (Of course, going by what Lesley McCoull has found out about Margaret's life in New South Wales, she was hardly a woman as destitute as she made out. Probably, she saw a chance to get financial support after being recently widowed.)

As soon as he heard Margaret had reached Auckland, Albert was hidden away, although his solicitor initially stated that Potter would arrange an out-of-court settlement.
“She had heard (so she testified at the Police Court) that he had had a good deal of money in his time, but had gone through it. Her sons, who still lived with their father, had asked him what he would do for her, but he said he would do nothing, that he would not even give her a threepenny bit.”
Potter did not attend the eventual hearing. This was taken by the court as admission of guilt, so the court ordered that he pay Margaret ₤1 per week. (NZ Herald, 28 November 1892; Auckland Star, 30 November 1892; Wanganui Herald, 6 December 1892)


Margaret apparently re-married in 1894 to John Wyles (giving her name as Margaret A Tring in the registration). Wyles died in Sydney in 1896. McCoull traced Margaret A Wyles through to a death registration in Newtown in 1908, aged 71. The age at death ties in closely which the estimated period of her birth (1836-1838). So -- if Margaret did not divorce Albert, she committed bigamy twice, and had at least four children out of wedlock?

1894 

Undeterred by the events of 1892, Albert Potter issues a pamphlet (and sends copies to Australia) “A State Bank, or Converting the Post Office Savings Bank into a State Bank, with an issue of Government by State notes, without affecting the status of present banking institutions of the colony.” As the North Otago Times of 7 February 1894 put it: “a pretty big title for a very small pamphlet.”

In January that year, he registers a trademark for "Franchise Bleaching Soap." (NZ Gazette, 18 January 1894, p. 129) Nothing further found regarding that product.



1896

An invention for draped photographs and pictures. (NZ Gazette 30 April 1896, p. 718)

1898

19 December: A patent for "an improvement on the present dressing of New Zealand flax." (NZ Gazette, 25 May 1899, p. 1032)

1901 
Albert’s son Harry, commanding the New Zealand Battery at Zeerust during the Boer War, was appointed extra ADC to General Lord Methuen. (Bay of Plenty Times, 12 August 1901) Albert Potter lived in Bellevue Road at this time. Harry Rowland Potter was also a Colonel during World War I at Trentham camp, served as a Brigadier from 1928, and died 1965 aged 90.  (Cenotaph database, and BDM)

Another patent application from the inventive Mr. Albert Potter: “a non-poisonous liquid and powder that will control and destroy the codlin moth and other insects and larvae without injury to fruit, trees, plants, or their roots.” (Evening Post 18 June 1901; NZ Gazette 20 December 1900, p. 2299; 13 June 1901, p. 1304) His son Ernest was selling a similar product, as an importer, in 1895. (Bay of Plenty Times, 10 July 1895)

1905 
After an eventful life, Albert Potter died, and the Observer of 11 November gives him a good send-off, if rather easy on the facts:
One of the sturdiest of the old type of men who made the way smooth for the present luxurious generation died a few days ago at his home at Mount Eden, at the age of 85. Albert Potter was a Kidderminster man, and up till middle life his interests were bound up in carpets, but about forty years ago it occurred to him that there was a wider field for himself and his young sons in New Zealand, and so in the early sixties, when the War was making things lively, the family landed at Auckland, and, when peace had been restored, pushed up to Hamilton.

There Albert Potter became interested in the flax industry, but for years he ran a flourishing butcher's business, supplemented by trade in wool, hides and tallow. Hamilton was then in the period of its first prosperity, when the conditions of progress in the Waikato were somewhat different from what they have been of late. Now, people go there to make money; in those days they unfortunately went there to spend it.

The late Mr Potter was a man of independent thought and strenuous character. He took original views of most things, and he was very often right. A little incident will serve to show the strength of his belief in himself. Mr Potter was from the first one of the leading lights in local self-government, and was a member of the first Borough Council, erected on the ruins of the old East and West Town Boards. One of the most pressing duties that met the new Council (this would be about 1878) was the task of erecting the traffic bridge over the Waikato. The money was raised, and the Council fixed a site, but this site did not commend itself to Mr Carruthers, the Engineer-in-Chief of the colony. The objections came before the Council, and Mr Potter rose, and with fire in his eye, demanded, "Who is this Mr Carruthers, who thinks be knows more about our bridge than we do ourselves?" The incident provoked some amusement at the time, but events have shown that Mr Potter knew what he was talking about.

For several years Mr Potter has been out of the stream of activity, but his instincts and qualities live in the personality of his several sons, who have nearly all become prominent business men in the city of Auckland. One of the number, Walter Potter, who has recently set up on his own account, was almost as well known in the Waikato an his father was, having for many years represented the firm of T. and S. Morrin there. Hardware claims another, and chinaware a third.

The late Albert Potter was a man of many kindly qualities, and his name, after the long lapse of years, is never mentioned in Waikato save with the accompaniment of some complimentary phrase. He was a good citizen, and the number of such is never too large.

Albert Potter had last lived on Kenyon Avenue in Mt Eden. (Wises Directory), and is buried at Waikumete Cemetery, Anglican section. A Catherine Potter (c.1837-1906) died 2 February 1906, and was cremated, her ashes interred in the plot next to Albert. Could that be where the Catherine he ran away with from Australia ended up?


I'll update this when I can, with either a yes or a no. (Update: 24 August -- Yes. From the brief obit in the NZ Herald, 6 February 1906:
"The funeral of the late Mrs Catherine Potter, of Mount Eden, widow of the late Mr. Albert Potter, took place on Sunday, at Waikumete cemetery. The service was conducted by the Rev W Day. The deceased was an old colonist, arriving here from England over 40 years ago. She leaves a large family of grown-up sons, who are well-known in the city. Two of them served in the late Boer war, viz., Mr. Vivian Potter and Captain Potter."
Descendants of Albert Potter:

From Margaret Ann Potter:
Going by Alfred Gresham Potter's death registration and Albert Thomas Potter's (jnr) obituary, despite the record in the Tasmanian archives as to Margaret Ann being the mother of the following, all reference to her as their mother appears to have been wiped in family records on arrival in New Zealand.


Ebenezer Abley Potter. (b.1854) Last seen in butcher's business in the Waikato, taken over from his father Albert Potter. No record found in NZ beyond the late 1870s. The Familysearch site lists an  Ebenezer Abley Potter marrying Elizabeth Robertson/Robinson in Levuka, Fiji, 4 July 1881, and an Ebenezer Abley Potter marrying Masalina Traile in Levuka, on 18 October 1892. There was a butchery business in Levuka flourishing in the mid 1880s known as Potter and Barling. (Te Aroha News, 9 January 1886; Evening Post, 6 April 1889) Whether this is a connection is still not known.

Maria Selia Ann Potter (b. 5 October 1855) - Info from Di Potter.

Alfred Gresham Potter (1855/57-1940). Partner, with Ebenezer, in Waikato butcher business. Bankruptcy in September 1880 (WT, 11 September 1880). Died 1 June 1940, aged 85, father, grandfather of four, great-grandfather of two. (NZ Herald, death notice, 3 June 1940) His death registration, with his undertaker as the informant, says that he was a publican when he died, living in Alma Road, Milford. His father's full name was Albert Thomas Potter, while his mother is noted as Kate Potter, maiden name Wild. It confirms his birth in Sorell, Tasmania, and says that he had lived in New Zealand 78 years (arriving c.1862). He was survived by his widow, and two daughters.

Albert Thomas Potter (1859/1860-1931) (Tasmanian Archives database) Possibly Albert Thomas Potter who died in 1931, an orchardist in the Whau Valley near Whangarei since the late 1880s. He apparently reared introduced insects to fight orchard and horticultural pests, including  Cryptolaemus Montrouzieri, the mealy bug ladybird. (Northern Advocate, 19 March 1898) He was a member of the Lodge Star of the North masonic order. (Northern Advocate, 16 April 1898) He may well have had a partnership in the shipping and butchery firm of Potter & Co, perhaps with Ebenezer. He retired from this in July 1898. (Northern Advocate, 9 July 1898) He was appointed Government Entomologist in August 1898. (Northern Advocate, 6 August 1898) By 1906, he was operating the Kia Ora Fruit Depot & Orchard. (Northern Advocate, 8 January 1906)

He married Rosanna Georgina Bevege in 1881. His children's names are of interest. Before 1898, his children had these ordinary names when born:  Alfred James (1881), Alberta Annie (1884), William Albert (1886), Selina Clara Ann (b. 1892), Walter Percival (b.1894), and Geoffrey (b.1895). However, after this, when he got the entomologist's job, things were a little different:

Oreda Natala (b.1898). As "Oreda Notata", this is a NZ weevil.
Cecada Muta (b.1901) -- spelled "Cicada", that's what it is, a type of cicada.
Veronica Zenlandica/Zealandica (b.1904) -- uncertain, but possibly linked to the koromiko tree (Veronica).
Vedalia Cardinalis (b.1906) -- a South Australian ladybird
Coccinella (b.1908) -- a North American ladybird

Two of A T Potter's papers are online: Cicadas of New Zealand,  and On the Habits of Dermestes vulpinus.

His obituary (NZ Herald, 23 November 1931) reads:

The death took place of Mr Albert Thomas Potter yesterday at his residence, Whangarei Heads, aged 72 years. Born in Tasmania, deceased came to New Zealand with his parents in 1864. A few years later he went to Fiji, where he studied entomology, and upon his return he was appointed Government entomologist and viticulturalist. Early in his appointment as viticulturalist, Mr Potter had to deal with the first outbreak of phylloxera in Whangarei, which was then a centre for grape culture, and he found it necessary to burn some of the finest vines. Of recent years Mr and Mrs Potter have lived in retirement, in Urquhart's Bay, on the Whangarei Harbour, where Mr Potter devoted himself to landscape gardening, turning a rough piece of ground into a beautiful locality, which has attracted many visitors. He leaves a widow and an adult family of eight.

F Potter(b. 1862) (Tasmanian Archives database) Margaret Edgcumbe has raised the suggestion that the "F" stands for female, and that this may have been a child who didn't survive long enough to be registered with Christian names. According to Di Potter, Margaret's guess was correct. A stillborn female child was recorded 5 May 1862 at Sorell, Tas.

Edwin Alonzo Ambrose Potter (b. 1863) (Tasmanian Archives database) Margaret has found (NSW BDMs) that Edwin A A Potter died in Liverpool, Sydney, in 1943, listed as son of Albert and Margaret Ann Potter. He's the only one of Margaret's children found to record her as maternal parent -- but then, it is likely he was the babe-in-arms left behind when Albert took flight across the Tasman. Lesley M McCoull's 2006 report on the Potter saga (part sent to me by Di Potter) says Edwin married Catherine Hudson in Sydney in 1889, the couple living in Little Queen Street, Newtown.


From Catherine Potter:

Charles Frederick Potter (1864-1920). Born at sea on the Tasman. Worked at the Post and Telegraph Department in Hamilton, rose to position as inspector, in charge later of Dannevirke office. Failing health forced early retirement, resided with his brother Vivian Potter at Mt Eden until his death. (NZ Herald 8 November 1920)


Ernest Herbert Potter (1865-1951). Born at Newton, Auckland. Mayor of Mt Eden for a number of years. Member of Auckland Hospital Board for 40 years. Bought out business of Boyle and Tanfield in 1895 after working for them as a salesman, to form Tanfield, Potter and Co, chinaware dealers. With William Stanton, built Courtville Flats and Civic House in Auckland. (Auckland Star, 27 August 1951; 13 December 1981) Like his father, he also applied for invention patents, such as the "Potter's Roller Spring Rubber": "for washing and cleaning flax-fibre after its being stripped, also wool, in the fleece and lock, divesting it of its animal and other impurities, also for textile fabrics in piece or made up into household or personal use." (Evening Post, 7 April 1890)

Walter James Potter, b. 10 November 1867, Auckland. (Di Potter's notes)

Ralph Horatio Potter (1869-?), a chairman of the Mt Eden school committee for many years. (E C Franklin, Mount Eden's First Hundred Years, 1956, p. 74) Di Potter says he was born in Hamilton.


Clarence Eugene Potter, b. 31 August 1873, Auckland. (Di Potter's info).

Harry Rowland Potter (1875-1965) (see above). Born in Hamilton.


Arthur Augustus Potter (1877-1945), another son found by Margaret trawling the BDMs. Born in Hamilton, according to Di Potter.

Vivian Harold Potter (1878-1968), MP for Mt Roskill from 1919-1928, he first entered the House as a member of William Ferguson Massey's Reform Party Government, and became known as "a spirited speaker with a gift for repartee."  He later stood as an Independent for Eden in 1931, and for Roskill in 1935. He was born in Hamilton, described in his obituary as the youngest of seven brothers. Educated at Mt Eden and Epsom, he went to Waihi and became chairman of the school committee there, a member of the local borough council, and was on the chief executive of the Miners' Union. "Mr Potter was outspokenly opposed to the miners' strike of 1912 and when it ended travelled throughout the North Island lecturing in favour of arbitration and conciliation." He served as an officer during World War I, after being a private during the Boer War. (Obituary, NZ Herald, 20 November 1968) Born in Hamilton, according to Di Potter.

Beatrice Alberta Catherine Potter, b. 7 November 1880, d. 30 November 1880, in Hamilton. (Di Potter's notes)


Margaret Edgcumbe, spotting things I didn't, has been a great help in the compilation of this info. Di Potter's comprehensive and detailed information based on her own researches has added depth to this report on the saga. I do have a feeling, though (as I type this in April 2012) that more may yet still come from out of the past.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Art in Eden Valley


Eden Valley Shops, the last shopping centre along Dominion Road before you hit the start of the CBD, at first didn't seem to offer much in the way of photo opportunities.


It's in the shadow of Eden Park, the reconstruction of which in time for next year's Rugby World Cup dominates not only this landscape, but that of Auckland itself in political and economic terms.


Just walking past that, on my way from Sandringham to Dominion Roads, made me feel sorry for residents there. Loud, loud, loud noise ...


A comfort stop, though, changed my view of this shopping centre in terms of its art.


Along the interior walls, separated by white tiles, are some lovely patterned ones.


And then, I started to notice adornment on the buildings.



Below are painted doors from Antique Alley, who gave me kind permission to photograph while the shop was open. Great antiques place, by the way. Well worth a long, long browse.


Vegetation springs up in unexpected places ...




And then, there's the architecture.



The Auckland Meat Company building, from the early part of last century, was up until recently painted in garish colours and swathed in billboards. It looks great now.


Dominion Road Methodist Church.



Pillars guarding an entry to who knows where.


And to finish off -- the sea.


Guardians of sunken wrecks, and the 45 minute parking zone.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wade Hotel revisted


I found an old photo in a fairly cheap old frame in a wonderful antique shop on Dominion Road today -- and it has helped solve a bit of a mystery for me.

Back in November 2008, I posted a shot I took of the Wade Hotel at Silverdale. (Despite the fact that the shot was a distance one, from across the busy street, it must have been thought of as a bit of a cracker by whoever put up an entry for the hotel on the View Auckland site, because they nabbed it from Timespanner and used it on their site. Eh. Such is the way of the 'Net. I've emailed them and asked for due credit.)

Anyway ... this photo I found today looks like the centre part of the old hotel. I found, as well, that Maurice Kelly's original Wade Hotel burned down in 1880, so this must be the rebuilt version. So, an answer to my question almost two years ago -- the centre of the hotel, still to be seen today, dates from the 1880s.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives online

I was told about this just today: the National Library have put the first two decades of the AJHRs, 1860s and 1870s, online and (like Papers Past) they are keyword searchable.

AtoJs Online.

Enjoy.

Edwin Oakley, a mill and a creek

Image from NZETC.

Post updated, with additional information and corrections, 14 February 2011.

On 15 July this year, Peter McCurdy, a resident of Waterview at the end of Cowley Street (and living in direct line of the northern entry/exit point for the Waterview tunnel for State Highway 20) made a submission to the Auckland City Council Joint RCA and Transport Committee. His submission was to do with historical findings as to the land usage history of the northern bend and mouth of Oakley Creek, on behalf of a new group called Star Mills Preservation Group.

He referred to 2009 being the 150th anniversary of the appearance of John Thomas' Star Mill close to the end of Cowley Street -- then went on to say:
"... Edwin Oakley -- engineer, entrepreneur and violinist -- had a dam, a water-wheel and a mill on the Creek named after him. That is, by 1845."
The submission seems to imply that Oakley's mill was on the Star Mill site: "there was a working mill here some fifteen years earlier."

It seems that Edwin Oakley's idea involved constructing an operating a flax mill in the mid 1840s. Trouble is, the Blue Books, the NZ Government statistics collection of the day, do not list a flax mill among Auckland's places of manufacturing for the years 1844, 1845 or 1847. The only flax mill mentioned is one in Nelson. Yet, yes -- Edwin Oakley did write a petition to the Colonial Secretary in 1844, asking for a squatting license and to purchase iron to erect a flax mill. (from Archives NZ register room, 1844 Colonial Secretary’s Office Inwards Correspondence Register Transcript), and the following year asked for a renewal and extension (the transcript list refers to "Allotment 61"). Allotment 61 refers to the then new Parish of Titirangi, illustrated here:


From SO 833, c. 1850s, LINZ records, crown copyright.
Oakley was definitely involved with flax dressing at that point -- with a partner.
We are glad to perceive that flax dressing is beginning to attract the attention of the people since the date of our last paper we have seen various samples of fine flax. Mr. Wright has by means of steam prepared some very fine samples. But we are led to think, from various experiments, that steam is not adapted for the first process; it certainly assists much in bleaching the flax when prepared by a first process, but the effect of steam upon the green leaf is certainly to harden it. Steaming may with great advantage be used as a secondary process, but the most efficient plan is boiling in potash. We were pleased to see a simple, but efficient machine in active operation at Mr. Smithson's. It is the invention of Mr. Smithson and Mr. Oakly; and is merely an improvement upon the plan in use by the natives. The flax is in the first instance boiled in a solution made from potash, or wood-ashes, and then passed through a scraper worked by the foot. Even with this simple machine, one man could dress from fifty to seventy pounds a day. Several improvements will, we doubt not, be made in the application of machinery. We ourselves would be very happy to show any of the mechanics the principles of machinery whereby any quantity of flax may be dressed. By this plan, the flax after being boiled in potashes, would be afterwards subjected to a beater; then passed through two wheels with hackles on their circumference, thereby the flax would be separated into small fibres; and finally subjected to the action of a scotching machine. A process of this kind, would certainly, and effectually dress any quantity of flax. Since the above was written, we are happy to say, that Mr. Smithson is successfully engaged in dressing flax. He is about adapting effective machinery to the after process of cleaning and from his ingenuity and perseverance we have no doubt of his success.
 Southern Cross, 14 October 1843

FLAX-DRESSING MACHINES. THE Undersigned is willing to contract for the Erection of Mills and Machinery for Dressing Flax in any quantity, not less than one ton per week, and will guarantee the quality suitable for the English market. E. Oakley. Wyndham-street, April 5, 1844. 

Southern Cross 6 April 1844

But, did this piano-forte salesman from 1843 actually build a mill on the steep slopes of Allotment 61? As I said earlier, the Blue Books indicate otherwise, and I could find no newspaper references to its operation (and believe me, the newspapers were very interested in ideas and developments when it came to the flax industry back then.) But, the records remaining from his three petitions in 1844 and 1845 indicate that he had a mill of some sort, a water wheel, and a number of ineffective dams which were washed away in floods before he could use them.

44/1037 3.5.44 Edwin Oakley Petition for Squatting License and to Purchase Iron to erect a Flax Mill.
To His Excellency Robert FitzRoy Esquire Captain in the Royal Navy Governor and Commander in Chief of the Territory of New Zealand and its dependencies. Vice Admiral of the Same,
The Petition of Edwin Oakley of Wyndham Street Auckland, Carpenter and Joiner
Humbly Sheweth
That Your Petitioner has been some time passed been occupied in adapting machinery to the purpose of dressing the native flax in quantities for exportation and having at length succeeded is desirous of building a water mill –

That your Petitioner from want of capital is unable to purchase the large quantities of land, wood and flax which would be required for the carrying on an establishment of this nature and feeling convinced that your Excellency would look favourably on an effort to bring into use an article on which the future prosperity of this Country so much depends has been induced to apply to your Excellency for your aid.

Under the above circumstances your Petitioner humbly prays that your Excellency will be pleased to grant him a Squatting License upon a creek with your Petitioner can describe to your Excellency no better at the present time as situate between four and fives miles from Auckland on the Road to the Wao and Karangahape District about one mile from the River Waitemata with the use of the Creek and Liberty erect a dam across same – Your Petitioner would also wish to have a lease of about 2 acres of land for the erection of the buildings necessary and your Excellency’s consent to the loan or purchase of a piece of old Iron now lying near the old Market House or Store on the Beach –Your Excellency’s petitioner engaging on his part to erect a water mill with machinery to dress the flax fit for exportation – And your Petitioner will ever pray …

D. Sinclair – Inform the Petitioner that Squatting (Occupational Licenses) can only be granted from year to year – that such a License I will readily grant him if the Surveyor General approves … a suitable situation.
Refer him and these papers to the Surveyor General.
TF May 4/44

Oakley informed 7/5/44

D. Sinclair – Grant License at one shilling per acre for three acres. Give the piece of iron. T.F. May 16/44

5/1018 24 June 1845 Edwin Oakley for renewal and extension of squatting licence to Allot No. 61
To His Excellency Robert FitzRoy Esquire Captain in the Royal Navy Governor and Commander in Chief of the Territory of New Zealand and its dependencies. Vice Admiral of the Same,
The Petition of Edwin Oakley of Auckland in the said colony, settler
Sheweth
That your Petitioner had an occupational License granted to him by your Excellency of about three acres of land situate near Auckland about twelve months ago – That since that time your Petitioner has at considerable expense erected a water wheel and prepared machinery for the dressing of flax. That your Petitioner has also formed a mill dam but that a sufficient power cannot be obtained without incurring the risk of great loss of property, the dam having already been carried away by a Flood – That Petitioner is anxious to unite a Flour Mill to the wheel already erected and for the purpose of propelling the water it will be necessary to have a still increase power – That on Government Reserve No. 61 in the Parish of Titirangi a little higher up than the present wheel is a good Fall of Water sufficient for the purposes aforesaid – That Petitioner proposes to cut a Mill Race from the Upper Water Fall on the said Reserve 61 to the Water Wheel above mentioned and for the purpose of a flour mill.

Your Excellency’s humble Petitioner therefore prays that the License already mentioned as granted to your Excellency’s humble Petitioner be renewed and also that your Excellency will be pleased to grant your Petitioner a further license of the Government Reserve No 61 in the Parish of Titirangi for the purposes of the Flax Wheel and Flour Mill aforesaid and your Excellency’s humble Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray …
(Written across the page)
There is no objection to the Petitioner’s obtaining a squatting license of No. 61 under the Act. I visited his works on Saturday the 28th inst and found that he had been at much trouble in erecting dams across the stream, which are, I find, quite useless for the purpose he requires. The Water Fall to which he alludes and from which a race can be cut is the best water power within 15 miles of Auckland.

C W Liger
Surveyor General

D Sinclair –
Authorise compliance.
TF July 5 1845

From Archives New Zealand, documents photographed by John Adam.

The Northern War came along in 1844/1845, causing anxiety in early Auckland. Oakley's scheme may have come adrift at that point. Indeed, in October 1845 and on into 1846, Auckland farmers lamented that there was no other flour mill, other than those at Epsom and Mechanic's Bay. (Letter from "A Farmer", New Zealander, 2 August 1845). In 1850, Oakley was in Hawaii for a time, then returned to Auckland later that decade to take up another partnership, this time with carpenter/builder John C Jearrad at a Mechanics Bay sawmill. In 1859 Oakley took it over (Southern Cross 11 March 1859) but it is unknown how long he remained involved there. The term "entrepreneur" suits him well -- trouble was, his ideas never seemed to stay the distance.

In 1861, he was one of a number writing reports as requested by the Provincial Council as to Auckland's water needs and future supply. Tellingly, he did not refer to the creek that seems to bear his name as an option (perhaps because it had cost him so dearly?) By 1862, he was living in Mongonui, arguing over timber rights (Southern Cross, 5 September 1862), was an unsuccessful tenderer for the construction of an iron store at Queen Street wharf in 1864 (Southern Cross, 29 September 1864), and ran for both the General Assembly and Provincial Council for Mongonui -- although he lived at Port Waikato -- in 1865.

TO THE FREE AND INDEPENDENT ELECTORS OF THE DISTRICT OF MONGONUI. GENTLEMEN,— You will soon he called upon o exercise the privileges conferred by the Constitution in the election of a Representative of your interests in the General Assembly, and also in the Provincial Council. Having been solicited to accept both these nomi nations, I have consented to the proposal; and, if necessary, demand a poll. Should you elect me as your Representative, I shall strenuously urge the facility of access and great security of your splendid harbour, the salubrity of your climate and fertility of the soil, which, I believe, only requires some modification in the existing land laws (holding every facility to those who are willing to reside on the land and cultivate it) to cause an immediate and large increase to your population and to the Electoral Roll, sufficiently preponderating over any obstacles that can be raised by the Southern portion of the colony to prevent reparation, followed by effective and economical Government for the North, in which I intend being a permanent resident. I remain, Yours faithfully, EDWIN OAKLEY.
Southern Cross, 11 November 1865

He pulled out just before the election, deeming it "prudent" to do so. (Southern Cross, 30 November 1865)

At that point, I lost sight of him in Papers Past.

Allotment 61 remained in Crown hands, passed to the Auckland Provincial Council as a funding reserve in the mid 1850s, leased by the Superintendent in 1874 to a man named Howard (possibly Joseph Howard, who owned the farm just across the creek at the time), and then assigned back to the Crown in 1882. This was a smaller version of the original Allotment 61. Bits seem to have been carved off it, at the Waterfall end, and initially passed to private hands, but eventually (Allotments 102-105) ending up back in the hands of the government, and were traded between education board and asylum authorities for the future Fowlds Park site in the early 1890s.


Roll 46, c. 1890s, Linz records, crown copyright

So, was Edwin Oakley's flax mill at Waterview just another one of his grand ideas for profit, or did it exist in  any sort of functioning state? Contemporary records so far weigh against it, but -- hopefully the group researching him and his mill will provide further clues for public viewing as to what went on alongside Oakley's Creek all those long years ago.

Update: Edwin Oakley was successful in his tender (and contract) to build a store at Port Waikato for the Government by July 14, 1864. (Return of Contracts, December 1864, AJHR 1865, Session I, D-07)