Sunday, October 2, 2011

Domain Waters 1: an unfortunate brewery

 
I attended Richard Simpson's talk during Heritage Festival on the story of the Waipapa Stream (illustrated above, the x marks weaving around the line of railway), the eastern-most of the waterways associated with the story of Auckland's Domain, and the one that defines most of the eastern boundary. There were a few things during the talk which had me taking notes for further investigation, and this (the Hobson's Bridge Flax "Mill" / Brewery) is one of them.

The map above was created with my usual non hi-tech methods: the underlying map comes from the Auckland Council GIS website, and I've used blue x marks to roughly plot out the line of water flow. In the earliest days, they all came together in a swampy, most likely tidally-influenced, area at Mechanic's Bay.


The above detail comes from Roll 61, LINZ records, dating from the late 1840s, when folks still entertained the idea that the New Zealand Company would come and make Auckland immigrant-rich, and so Mechanic's Bay was renamed Somes' Bay. Just in case. Didn't happen, of course.

Anyway ...

In the course of plotting the history of the Waipapa Stream, Richard has produced maps using the Kinder Map from c.1856 as an underlay -- and then brought in a straight lined from where John Kinder marked the end of the Waipapa up to Park Road, to take in the Hobson's Bridge Brewery as part of his presentations on the stream. There's a sample in his presentation available here. Flick forward to the bit on the brewery/flax mill.

Here's a detail from the Kinder Map:

The squiggly line between the words "Smith" and "GOVERNMENT" is the Waipapa. The straight line above it, angling right, is the Domain boundary, the artificially-straight property lines for the homes of Kempthorne through to Runciman. As I said at Richard's talk -- I've yet to see a stream artificially straightened in 1850s Auckland. I'd say what Kinder was trying to achieve was to outline the boundary (at that stage) of the Domain. He fairly well succeeded -- but he wasn't illustrating a link between the Waipapa and the brewery site.

Hobson's Bridge itself was a bridge where the Epsom Road in those days (today, that kink in the Epsom Road, now Broadway, has been eliminated, and the vestige is called Davis Crescent) crossed a stream which flowed down as part of the Hobson Bay catchment.  Whatever water the operators of the flax mill and brewery enjoyed from 1847-c.1874 was most likely part of that catchment, coming down from Observatory Hill in the Domain, the present-day site of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The landscape around the brewery illustrated by John Kinder below demonstrates this.


Old Flax Mill and Village of Newmarket, 1858, from the Carlton Road. "Painting by John Kinder, looking over Newmarket from Carlton Gore Road with Mount Hobson, (centre), Remuera Road, (right to centre background), with Little Rangitoto, (left) and Mount St John, (right)", ref. 4-1213, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Now, perhaps it could be said that the Waipapa shares a common aquifer source with the Hobson Bay catchment. However, it really is down to lines on a map, where streams are daylit on the surface.

Detail from "Map of the Harbour of Waitemata, New Zealand, and of the adjacent country shewing the situation of Auckland, the capital of the colony, and also the isthmus which separates the waters of the Firth of Thames on the eastern from those of Manukao on the western coast from actual measurement with the chain and from a trigonometrical survey, Felton Mathew, survr. genl., 1841," ref NZ Map 6601, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

This above detail from Felton Mathew's 1841 survey map of Auckland further illustrates the division between the Mechanic's Bay and the Hobson Bay watershed. Hobson's Bridge Brewery was part of the latter, not the former.

There is also the impact users have on the streams. The Hobson's Bridge brewery was a potentially high-impact polluter for the Hobson Bay catchment ...

… if you take a walk over Hobson's Bridge sometimes you would find such a nasty, sickening stench, arising from the fluid that flows from the brewery above, as would make you soon conclude that the residents in that locality have to put tip with what must be very detrimental to their bodily health …
Southern Cross, 26 December 1865 (Letter by John Graham of Newton)

... and wasn't even Auckland's first brewery, as the Waipapa presentation stated. Among the earliest brewers was William Smithson, who advertised in the New Zealander of 27 February 1847 that he was relocating his existing brewery at Freeman's Bay to Wyndham Street. This then predates the Hobson's Bridge brewery by around three or four years.

So ... to the story of the flax mill and the brewery, and their failures.



Matthew Whytlaw turned up with dreams and ideas in Auckland around 1842-1843, by his account. (Wellington Independent, publishing notes from Whytlaw's 1861 pamphlet, 10 December 1861). In July 1843, he left Auckland for the Bay of Islands and entered into a merchant business with John Whytlaw and William Jeffrey. Jeffrey left the partnership in September that year. Matthew Whytlaw returned to Auckland in January 1844, touting his manganese mine near Whangarei.

We are happy to hear that this mineral has been found in abundance at Wangari. The Thomas Lord is about to load with peroxide of manganese for Sydney, to be shipped for England on account of Mathew Whylaw, Esq., the proprietor of the mine, who is himself about proceeding to England in the Bangalore. Mr. Whylaw is much interested in the welfare of this colony. He has, resided here for the last seven or eight months, and has had the opportunity of making himself intimately acquainted with the varied resources of our country, which we doubt not he will use every effort in representing fairly at home. We expect much from Mr. Whytlaw's exertions in England. His own well-known character will be sufficient guarantee for the accuracy of his statements; and, after his experience in this country, we may safely trust him to speak of New Zealand to our friends at home. 
 Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 23 March 1844

By April 1847, he was one of the leading lights behind the campaign to erect the first Presbyterian Church in Auckland.

Flax seems to have started being interwove with his story by the end of 1847. He sought to purchase flax in bulk from Maori landowners, and chemically treat it to make it ready for export -- but his idea never seemed to quite come up to expectation. He entered into a partnership of sorts with William Brown and John Logan Campbell of the firm Brown & Campbell -- and here is where the Hobson's Bridge property comes into it.

In June 1845, surveyor Thomas Florence purchased Allotment 27 of Section 3, Auckland Suburbs, from the Crown, and two years later sold first one part, then another (1850) to William Brown. Whytlaw leased the land, built his factory (not so much a mill, as he was using his chemical process rather than a milling process) by mid 1849, and set-to with things. By November 1850, Whytlaw had left to try out his luck in the Waikato district (he had a better time of it there), and Brown & Campbell leased the site to R Clark, who converted Whytlaw's factory into a brewery.

Southern Cross 12 November 1850

Matthew Whytlaw eventually ended up over in New South Wales, dying in July 1879 and buried at old Balmain Cemetery. He and thousands of other burials are now lying in unmarked gravesites beneath a memorial park.

As for the brewery -- well, ups and downs. Mainly downs.

Clark was operating a soap and candle factory beside the brewery, which can't have been too good for the drainage into Hobson Bay at the time. By June 1855, Brown & Campbell were advertising that the brewery was up for lease -- or for sale (no one seemed to take up that latter offer, probably to the partners' chagrin). William Brown transferred the problem to Campbell in late 1855, and so Campbell was the one who had to deal with, as William Brown put it in a letter to Campbell in 1862 (according to Dinah Holman in her book Newmarket Lost and Found, 2001), "this unfortunate concern" which had "broken down again."

Everything was up for sale by the end of 1861. Robert Whitson & Co took over in 1862, but partnerships fractured over the course of the years, Lyell Brothers taking over from June 1872. By December 1874, though, Campbell was subdividing the site. Land sales there went on to the 1890s and beyond.

Today, the brewery site is primarily commercial buildings. I came across the Mangahao Relic along George Street (used to be Park Road) near there in June last year. The straight line supposedly linking the brewery site to the Waipapa Stream is Titoki Street, just below the museum. Haven't noticed an interpretive sign there, yet.

Update 4 October 2011: Reference should be made here to the fact that Campbell tried once again to make a go of things with a brewery in this location, between 1880 and 1901. His Domain Brewery (no connection to the earlier brewery by the same name) later became Whittombe and Stevenson's jam and pickle factory, then a biscuit factory. Campbell in his second attempt sunk deep artesian wells to try to access the water source enjoyed by Seccombe from off Mt Eden. The brewery didn't long succeed the amalgamation of Campbell's business with that of Louis Ehrenfried.

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