Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Binsted’s Corner

Story of the South St Judes Street Block (part 3)

At one point, in the first two decades of the 20th century, around half of James Palmer’s “Greytown” block of Blake Street land between St Georges Road, the railway line and the unnamed stream was owned by the Binsted family. This truly was “Binsted’s Corner” to many Avondale residents from a time shortly after we came to be known as Avondale, until well into the next century. The family name however survives only as the name of a road in New Lynn close to the location of an abattoir and farm they once owned.

The story of Lots 1 to 6 of Palmer’s “Greytown” subdivision begins with mortgages.

In July 1883, James Palmer, former hotelkeeper in Avondale, took out a mortgage with the Bank of New South Wales. He was soon in financial strife. The Long Depression was biting hard, land sales were slowing down, and he certainly felt the effects. In April 1884, the bank forced a £500 sale of Lots 1 to 5 to Frank Marriott Morley, an Avondale settler, where the bank received their mortgage money back (£362 10/-) and Palmer the rest (£137 10/-). The bank then cleared Palmer’s land at Lot 6 of any mortgage entitlements – but he took out two more on that remaining land, one from a Mr. Wastenays in October 1885, and another from a Mr. Stephens in October 1886. Stephens transferred his entitlement to Wastenays a few days later, and a month later Palmer had completely defaulted, with Wastenay’s assuming full title in December 1886. Wastenays himself took out yet another mortgage with Edward Wilhy in February 1888, and must have defaulted on this himself, as Wilhy had full title in September 1891 when he sold Lot 6 to Walter John Binsted, a steward, in that month.

The Binsted family

John and Mary Binsted arrived in New Zealand on 31 May 1873 on the Woodcock out of London with their six children: Henry (b.1851), James (b.1852), Walter John – who was to be the first to purchase on the Blake Street block (b.1856) -- and three daughters. Family members say that before 1879, the family had a butchery business on Drake Street in Freeman’s Bay, before the reclamations that created Victoria Park, “when Drake Street ran along and parallel with the foreshore of the Waitemata”, according to notes I received in 2001. Postal directory records of the time show that a John Binsted, coachbuilder, was in Freeman’s Bay in 1878–1881, and then by at least 1883 Henry and James had formed a partnership operating as butchers from Billington’s Buildings (which, because references vary between saying the address was Drake Street or Patteson Street – the present-day Victoria Street West – it may be that the shop was just to the east of what is now Victoria Park Market.) They apparently exported corned beef in kegs to the Pacific Islands from their Drake Street premises, advertising in the 1882 Auckland Directory. Hardly surprising that they took advantage of their location so close to what was then the foreshore and the harbour wharves. It is likely, however, that this trade was swamped by R & W Hellaby entering the field of canned meats, dominating the market by the mid 1880s.

The 1884 “Greytown” map does not show a store, or any building, existing on the corner site. Frank (or Francis) Morley is listed as a storekeeper in the Wises’ Directory for 1885/1886 in Avondale; there was then no record of H & J Binsted here. Three sections of an allotment in New Lynn, just across the Whau Creek from the racecourse, were purchased by Walter, Henry and James Binsted in March and August of 1887 from an Avondale farmer named John Simpson. The family records state that property was purchased in 1887 by the family “on the banks of the Whau River for use as a farm and abattoirs”. This was the site of the future Binsted Road Reserve, later Rewa Park, now Ken Maunder Park in New Lynn. The butchery business in Avondale may have started around this time, in conjunction with the establishment of the abattoir over the creek.

I would say that the business began in Avondale in c.1888. Morley had left the written record by c.1887, which would have meant the store was vacant. Most likely, the early 1890s was when the somewhat famous photo of the Five Roads intersection was taken, the one showing “H & J Binsted, Family Butchers” on the right hand side, and on the left, with horses and riders and buses in between, is a building graced with a Brown, Barrett & Co advertisement for their imported beverages (namely teas and coffees). The head of Brown Barrett & Co was one John McKail Geddes – who, it so happened, took ownership of Lots 1 through to 5 across the road, including Binsted’s Corner, in March 1889.

The old shop on the corner

Frank Morley, on purchasing the corner site from Palmer and the Bank of New South Wales, took out a mortgage on the property that same day with William Dallen. This may have been so Morley had the necessary finance to build his store. Dallen transferred his interest to William Cornes of Whangarei in August 1886, just as the Long Depression was starting to bite, and in the same year that Palmer defaulted on the adjoining Lot 6. Sometime after this, Morley must have also defaulted, leaving Cornes with the title, which he sold to Geddes in 1889 for £530, only £30 more than what Morley had paid in 1884, and including “all buildings thereon erected.” The earliest written record of H & J Binsted operating a butchery business in Avondale in the in Wises directory for 1892/1893. However, by October 1888, “Binsted’s corner” had become an Avondale landmark, as the Road Board authorised John Bollard to extend the culvert to that corner. This leads me to estimate that Cornes leased the building to Henry and James Binsted sometime around 1888, the year after the New Lynn farm was purchased. James and his wife Elizabeth moved from Richmond to Avondale in 1889, living in St Georges Road by 1910.

Henry Binsted died at his home in Cameron Street, Ponsonby, on 3 September 1895, of typhoid fever. The original Freeman’s Bay business continued until c.1909, when around that time a new branch was opened on New North Road at Mt Albert. In the meantime, however, James Binsted had purchased the Avondale corner site, all five lots, from Geddes for £750 in April 1902, and took out a mortgage from Geddes for £650 (repaid to Geddes’ widow in full by 1911, after the move from Ponsonby to Mt Albert.) In May 1901 James purchased Lot 6 from his brother Walter, and so the family owned the entire north-western corner of Palmer’s “Greytown” subdivision.

James Binsted is said to have been a small-built man, who wore a bowler hat most of the time (some have said he was balding). His Avondale shop had a cashier, where you would pay for the meat, and a counter where the meat was served. Binsted’s delivered to a wide area, and were known to “dress-up” cuts of meat for those who couldn’t afford the more expensive cuts. In old photos available, meat can be clearly seen hanging outside under the shop’s Blake St verandah. In the days before refrigeration, this was the best way to keep meat cool, in the hope of a passing breeze.

Fires, flyers and golden-toothed dogs

James Binsted and his shop were prominent in the beginnings of the Avondale shopping centre. His clientele would have come from miles around, serving West Auckland as well as Avondale itself. In September 1904, he donated 5/- towards the cost of forming a footpath in Blake Street, outside his shop. This was the corner which (two former residents recalled being told) people from the Auckland Asylum near Pt Chevalier would head for on walks from the asylum to the corner of Blake Street and Great North Road, sitting on the grass outside Binsted’s shop for a while, then walking back to the asylum again. Binsted was also one of the first four to share the first telephone line into Avondale (the others were the Avondale Road Board, Archibald Brothers, and Philp up on Browne Street) in 1913.

A photo apparently taken in 1905 (part of the Henderson Library collection) shows what appears to be stables behind the butchers shop along St Georges Road (Lot 3) and a large gable-roofed building immediate adjacent (possibly Lot 4). This latter building may have been the scene of the first of two fires on the corner site. In January 1907 in was reported that the boiling-down works building beside the butchery burned down, probably due to fat boiling over and spilling along the floor, igniting the fires under the boilers and setting everything alight. Three boilers plus stock of tallow and skins were destroyed.

The worst fire however caused the complete destruction of the 1885 store. One evening in December 1917 flames were noticed coming from the rear of Binsted’s shop. The entire building burned down; despite the arrival of the Mt Albert fire brigade nothing could be done because of lack of water supply. The only thing left standing was the brick chimney. “A few small items were saved but the flames spread too quickly to allow of much being done …During the day other premises across the road were made available and on Monday morning business was conducted as usual. It was only a few days since that Mr. Binsted had had the premises repainted and generally smartened up for Xmas,” the News reported.

However, James Binsted rebuilt the store and carried on. A 1958 Whites aviation photo (republished in Challenge of the Whau) shows a sole hipped-roofed building standing on what was otherwise a vacant section.

In September 1908 Thomas Elwood and Henry Wickman began the process of purchasing Lot 6 from James Binsted, but things fell through. The deal was completed in March 1911, with Elwood withdrawing from the purchase for a shilling, and Wickman (a builder and insurance agent) going on to take out a mortgage. In the tradition of this part of Avondale’s land ownership history, he seems to have defaulted sometime after 1915, and a Mr. Buchanan sold to property to a Mr. McGlone in 1920. McGlone may have subdivided the section into the present day numbers 9 and 7 St Judes Street. The larger section was owned by Alfred Cook by 1931. Today, it’s the site of General Equipment (from 1965).

McGlone sold the smaller section to a Mr. Farley in 1923, then came a Mr. Sharp in 1924. In December 1926, Sharp sold the property to Cecil Herdson.

Herdson was Avondale’s first true dentist, taking up business in the upper level offices in Allely’s Building in the early 1920s (there by 1925). He has left behind his share of local legends and lore, including the often reported one where his gundog, on losing all his teeth in a hunting accident, was duly fitted with a complete set by Herdson made entirely of gold. Quite a few believed the tall tale, because it is said that when the dog died, there was a “gold rush” of sorts by those determined to work out where the small treasure had been interred with the deceased canine.

The Binsted’s New Lynn farm and slaughterhouse achieved a measure of fame in August 1913 when the intrepid flyers Sandford and Miller had to make a forced landing on a glide after their engines failed, coming to a halt in the paddock and “against Binsted’s slaughterhouse” beside the Rewa Rewa creek in New Lynn. However accidental the connection, the land was to remain known as the site of the landing of the country’s first cross-country flight (all of 3 miles, at 70 mph.) In 1916, the road leading to the farm was dedicated and named by the New Lynn Town Board “Binsted’s Road” (the only remaining memorial to this enterprising family).

James Binsted’s death and the years after

The next portion of land sold off went in August 1919 to the “Inhabitants of the Avondale Road Board.” This was the majority of Lot 3 to the Board, adjoining the Public Hall, for the purpose of “providing exits from the purchasers property … and also for the purposes of a yard and storage in connection with the said Board’s local public work.” Until 1924, this would have been a works depot, therefore, until the shifting of the old wooden Public Hall to its present position, beside the completed Town Hall (now Hollywood Cinema). The sliver of land left may have been the site of a tailor’s premises. According to Challenge of the Whau: “Before the old Avondale hall was moved there was a shop between it and Binsted’s butchery. For a time it was used by a tailor. In the early 1920s a Mr George used the premises. He advertised his services as a family photographer, a picture framer and a maker of guitars.”

James Binsted died 28 October 1920. In his will, dated 1913, his wife Elizabeth Mowbray Binsted and son-in-law Harold Bollard (son of John Bollard, noted Avondale early land owner and politician) were the executors and trustees, tasked to carry on the business in Elizabeth’s lifetime, with the business to come under the management of James’ son John Claude Binsted. On his mother’s death, John was to inherit the business, “also the plant, horses and carts, stock in trade, and book debts in and about the slaughterhouse, shop and premises.” (Elizabeth Binsted, by the way, was one of the daughters of noted 19th century Auckland architect Matthew Henderson, who designed the tower and portico for St Andrews Church in Symonds Street in 1882, and the verandahs and turrets for Alberton in 1870.)

In September 1920, the Avondale shop and land at Lots 1, 2 and the remainder of Lot 3 was sold to R&W Hellaby’s for £3090. James’ son John Claude Binsted continued to serve as manager of the Avondale R & W Hellaby’s shop. The business continued until into the late 1950s. However, from May 1946, the corner site was owned by Albert Graven. He was to have the old shop demolished and the present-day block of shops built on the site by around 1960.

The next land to be sold from James Binsted’s holdings was Lot 4. This was finally sold to the Avondale Borough Council in May 1923, but not without a great deal of negotiating. Harold Bollard as executor offered the section beside the butcher’s shop complete with stables, to the Council for £450 in 1922. In February, the Board felt the price was too high, and asked for a reconsideration. A lower price wasn’t forthcoming, and so the matter was left.

In November, the new Borough Council obtained option to buy the land, and by the next May the land had been bought, for the same price. It became the Borough Council Depot for storing their road-making machinery, and the City Council depot after 1927. By the 1970s, it was in light-industrial use. Mr Bob Browne recalled that in the 1930s-1940s there was a big shed near the depot housing the council’s wood-fired steamroller, which always had to have coal put in before it could go out onto the roads.

Next, the slaughterhouse in New Lynn was closed down in 1922-24. It is still uncertain as to what exactly happened to cause the closure. The Binsted family certainly held onto much of their New Lynn land until 1955 (before then, they’d placed objections in 1927 as to the site apparently gifted in the 1920s being used as a night soil dump, and in the 1940s it was the Council rubbish tip). In 1956 the remaining reserve land (part had been sold already for industrial use) was named Rewa Park, and renamed Ken Maunder Park in 1970.

Finally, Elizabeth Binsted died in 1937, and the remaining section, Lot 5 (number 5 St Judes Street) was transferred to Harold Bollard as survivor in 1958. In 1924 it had been leased to Catherine Kayes as what would appear to be, going by the memorandum of agreement of the time, effectively a market garden. It was finally sold in 1966; any connection the Binsted family had with the corner was thus at an end from that point.

Today, the corner is noted mainly for the motor mower and chainsaws shop on the corner (once a curtains store). It doesn’t really have a landmark name like “Binsted’s Corner” anymore, nor the sight of meat hanging in the sun under the verandah just feet away from the dust of the Five Roads intersection. Few would know that there is history there, stretching back more than 120 years. Few also remember the family who were so much a part of Avondale’s early story, who were also related by marriage to the Bollards, the Waygoods (Henry Waygood built the car garage which still stands, as T J Automotive today) and the Myers from the blacksmith’s and wheelwright’s yard just up the Blake Street hill.

Their story is just one of many yet to be discovered in this area so full of stories of what once was.

Additional information:

Audrey Binsted, who spent years researching the family history and compiled the timeline used in my article on “Binsted’s Corner”, has written to me that James Binsted owned Lot 5 of 8 to 10 section 41 Drake St Freemans Bay. Pulmans Register map of City of Auckland 1863 shows all the lots. The house where James and Elizabeth lived was just above the butchers shop in Blake St not St Georges Rd. There were other Binsted survivors still alive at time of Elizabeth Mowbray Binsted's death. Her son Henry Binsted headmaster died 1976 and his younger brother James engineer who died in 1974. Harold Bollard was a son in law husband of the late Rosa Binsted who died in 1955.

Also in St Judes St (Blake St) on opposite side of the road just above Geddes Tce was the home of John Claude Binsted and his wife Louise (Myers) at 12 St Judes St. They lived there from 1916. John Claude Binsted died 22 July 1950 and his wife stayed on there until she died in 1972 when the house was sold.


  1. If anyone knows how to get hold of Audrey Binstead who has researched her family please contact me, interested in her Isle of Wight connections. Email me at:

    Thank You in advance