Saturday, August 20, 2011

Words on Lorne Street

I must say that Lorne Street, between the Central Library and the back of the old cinema complex, is looking very swish now. All credit to Auckland Council (and the legacy Auckland City Council) for a project that has certainly improved the looks of the entry to one of my favourite haunts.

I noticed that the council, as is the fashion these days, has installed some heritage inscriptions in the pavement/road, and also these words, etched into the stairway.


Voice carries us from the foot of Rangipuke / Sky Hill / Albert Park to the Wai Horotiu stream chuckling down Queen Street

Carrying a hii-haa-hii story -- from prams and seats with names and rhymes, words from books and kitchen tables.

Now we laugh again in the St James stalls, in the bookstores, Seddon Tech, Paterson's Stables, Odd Fellow's Hall, art galleries

And our great library gifted by our people who saved the words of our ancestors for one and all ...

Robert Sullivan

I think the author is mainly referencing historical memories of Lorne Street and surrounds with this. St James Theatre is still closed (as at date of this post), Seddon Tech is now AUT just up the road ... but I found it odd that Paterson's stables was mentioned, and not those of William Crowther, which were once right on this very spot.

Looking from Albert Park to Crowther's Stables (centre), corner Lorne & Wellesley East Streets, 1870s. Photo reference 4-776, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Mr Crowther has been elected Mayor of the city of Auckland unopposed. Mr Crowther was born in Lancashire in 1834, and was apprenticed to Messrs Hibbert, Platt and Sons, ironworkers, of Oldham. At the time of the Crimean War Mr Crowther and several other apprentices were told off by the firm to go to Russia to fit some machinery. They were, Mr Crowther very candidly admits, afraid to undertake the duty imposed upon them, and determined to run away. Distant fields looked "green," and they were attracted thitherwards by the Victorian gold rush, landing at Melbourne about the end of 1853. In Melbourne Mr Crowther pursued various occupations ranging from digger to contractor, and in 1862 he proceeded to Dunstan (Otago), being attracted thither by goldmining prospects. He came to Auckland with shipments of horses from Otago on two occasions, and disposed of them at Penrose, and eventually made up his mind to start business in Auckland in the livery stable line. In 1864 Mr Crowther succeeded in setting up a good business, and it was carried on ably under his personal supervision until March last, when he sold out and retired. 
 Auckland Star 3 December 1891


It is with sincere regret we announce the death of Mr W. Crowther, M.H.R. for Auckland City, who passed away at his residence at the corner of Eemuera Road and the Ladies' Mile yesterday afternoon about 3 o'clock, at the age of 66 years. Deceased had been unwell for the past two months, and for the last four weeks he had been confined to his bed. His complaint was an internal one, but it appears that he had a bad attack of influenza at the close of the last session of Parliament, and that aggravated the disease. Dr. Mackellar diagnosed the complaint from which diseased suffered, and therefore his death did not come as a surprise ...

In Melbourne [1853] Mr Crowther pursued various occupations, ranging from digger to contractor, and in 1863 he proceeded to Dunstan (Otago), being attracted thither by gold mining prospects. In Otago he engaged in carrying stores to the goldfields. He came to Auckland with shipments of horses from Otago on two occasions, and disposed of them at Penrose, and eventually made up his mind to start business in Auckland in the livery stable line. In 1864, with this object in view, Mr Crowther went to Melbourne and got a number of vehicles built suitable for the Auckland roads, which at that time were "heavy." Some of the vehicles were so ponderous that the authorities were afraid to permit them to be landed on the wharf, and they had to be returned. Eventually he brought across two "Albert" cars, which will be well remembered by old identities, and one of these he drove from Parnell to town. He also started  an Auckland-Remuera bus service. At Parnell deceased had his first livery stable, and it was in that district he married his wife (Miss Georgina Stafford). Subsequently he removed to Albert Street, and afterwards to Wellesley Street East, where he built up-to-date stables, and carried on a large and extensive business under his personal supervision with success. In March, 1891, Mr Crowther sold out and retired. He then took up his residence at Remuera, and built a house of 14 rooms.

Mr Crowther always evinced a keen interest in public affairs, and for some years he was a member of the City Schools Committee and the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board. He was elected Chairman of the Auckland Harbour Board in 1893. For 17 or 18 years he was a member of the Auckland City Council, and was elected Mayor on the 16th November 1891 unopposed. Mr Crowther won every contest in which he took part, and his elevation to the Mayoral Chair unopposed was an evidence of the esteem in which he was held by his fellow councillors and citizens. Under Mr Crowther's two years' presidency as Mayor much was done towards maintaining the beauty of the public parks and recreation grounds. Deceased also served on the University College Council, Auckland College and Grammar School Board, and the Sailors' Home committee. His last good public work was in helping to organise the local horse fund for the South African war. 

Deceased was elected three times a member of the House of .Representatives, and he was one of the most energetic of members. Altogether Mr Crowther was one who made his mark in Auckland, and it can honestly be said of him that his word was his bond, and his honesty of purpose could not be questioned. He had great energy, dogged perseverance, and manliness, and his many employees bear testimony to the fair manner in which he always treated them. Deceased leaves a widow and grown-up family well provided for. 

At a special meeting of the City Council, held last evening, the Mayor (Mr D. Goldie) announced the death of their "old friend Mr Crowther, longtime Mayor of the city and also a City Councillor," and the Council passed a vote of sympathy with his widow and children in their bereavement. The remains of deceased will be interred to-morrow afternoon, the funeral leaving his late residence at 3.30 p.m.

Auckland Star16 March 1900

I'm not too sure where Patterson had his stables, during the early 1880s or so, but they may have been further up on the other side of Rutland Street. They just weren't on the site of those steps with the words.

"Looking south along the east side of Lorne Street from Wellesley Street East. Showing the Salvation Army Metropole (dining rooms and board and residence) on corner of Lorne Street and Wellesley Street East (left), with Spraggs Auckland Garage (centre, middle distance)", 
9 October 1925. Reference 4-2077, Sir George Grey Special Collection, Auckland Libraries.

The site has changed since Mr Crowther passed on from this mortal coil. The Salvation Army Metropole dominated the corner in the 1920s ...

"Looking south from Wellesley Street East (foreground) showing the intersection of Lorne and Wellesley Streets showing (from the far left) Turnbull and Jones, Auckland Slide Company, the Cottage Shoppe, the Domestic Vacuum Cleaning Company, McLeod and Rogerson, F D Woodroffe and Company Limited", 1935. Reference 4-1387, Sir George Grey Special Collection, Auckland Libraries.

... followed by an art goods retailer and a vacuum company in the early 1930s. Then the Art Deco design beauty the Embassy Cinema from 1936, until that, too, was demolished in 1979, for the present-day library-archive complex.

I'm being too picky again, aren't I? I should just enjoy the words, and appreciate the spirit of the message. 

(But yes, I do still hope someone recognises Crowther's Stables some day soon, anyway).

Update 15 September 2011: Claire at A Latitude of Libraries has posted about these steps.  I've said over there that it's a pity Crowther's stables wasn't mentioned -- and I now also notice even "Odd Fellows" isn't right (should be oddfellows, one word.) So -- these words are, sadly, more poetry than history in those areas.

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