Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A drinking fountain at St Heliers

Neville Exler, a fellow member of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, emailed this photo  yesterday of the drinking fountain and commemorative plaque at Vellenoweth Green, St Heliers (thanks, Neville!)

The Green originated from an area of reserve land originally set aside by the developers of St Heliers in the 1880s, the St Heliers Land Company. Their venture collapsed during the Long Depression, and the New Zealand and River Plate Land Mortgage Company took things over. That company offered a deal with surrounding landowners involving the setting aside of additional inland acreage to add to the reserve, in exchange for the beachfront areas (as these were, of course, potentially valuable as prime residential properties to be sold off, even then). Four landowners refused in 1898 and protested: Anna Vellenoweth, Christopher Atwell Harris, John Wright and Edward Wright.

On 6 October 1904, the reserve was finally transferred to the inhabitants of the West Tamaki Road District (the authority which included St Heliers up to 1928 when it amalgamated with Auckland City). It was named Vellenoweth Green, in memory of Anna's part in the residents' protest against the carving up of the reserve -- but even the late historian Elizabeth T Jackson cast doubts as to how much of an impact Anna Vellenoweth had on the reserve's preservation. Apparently her efforts were restricted to being part of a general caveat action, and cutting some boundary fences.

The drinking fountain on the reserve commemorates the completion of a reticulated water supply to the district in 1914. By early December that year the foundations for the fountain were being put down  and the Board were asked to choose an inscription for the tablet in mid-December 1914.  The names thereon were the Board members at the time, among whom was George Campbell, the Chairman, responsible for seeing a start to the project of levelling the extra 2 ½ acres at the southern end of the reserve for future bowling and croquet greens.

The drinking fountain was completed by January 1915, but in January 1916 it was discovered that the tablet needed to be corrected and altered due to error.

The designer of the fountain (and later builder) were McNab and Mason, monumental masons and sculptors who also designed the Cook Memorial in Gisborne, and the Cambridge Domain Memorial Gates.

Elizabeth T. Jackson, Delving into the Past – Section Six – St Heliers Bay (Centennial edition, 1982)
Tamaki West Road Board minute books, TRB 1/1, Auckland City Archives


  1. Wow, what a pretty drinking fountain!
    It's almost a twin (triplet?) of these two here in Melb.
    Our water fountains were on a reserve, too, until it was renamed by someone or other.
    These fountains must have been the fashion of the day, probably trying to make a memorial appear more functional than a mere statue ;)

  2. What a lovely pair of drinking fountains, Jayne! It must have been a fashion, then.

    Considering the price of bottled water these days, they should bring the fashion back, an' all ...