Monday, September 29, 2008

Charlie Pooley & The Avondale Stables

The Avondale Stables (2059 Great North Road) had been an established part of the landscape of the township long before Charles "Charlie" T. Pooley came to the district by the late 1890s. In the 1880s, Pattersons ran a popular horse-bus service and hired "brakes" to the Roads Board (a large wagonette, carrying 6 to 8 people facing each other -- probably for the Board's regular road inspections around the district) from the same Great North Road site, until the original stables burned down in 1897. Before Pattersons, the Northern Omnibus Company made an attempt at running a successful transport business from the site -- but, due to the ill winds of the Long Depression and rivalries within the company, to no avail.

Pooley is recorded working as an occasional contractor for the Board by 1898. On 1 June that year he won a tender to provide “1- horse team @ 8/6 per day or 4/6 for half day, and a 2-horse team at 12/- per day (6/- per half day)" By now, he owned the Stables, and the land around it, (up to and including the site of the present-day Whare Kai Cafe.)

According to Mr Ernie Croft, whose father (Ernest Croft) was a close friend of Pooley's, Charlie Pooley used to cart logs from up the Waitakeres, and did roading work on Bollard Avenue in Avondale.

Locals found entertainment each week in the lofts of Pooley’s stables on Great North Road.
“There were dances in Mr Pooley’s loft on Wednesday nights. We drove there by horse and cart and what great dances they were! The girls took a basket and the Pooleys supplied tea. We danced the Scottische and Polka and Barn Dance to the accordion and mouth organ.”
[From Memories of early Avondale, by Tom Myers, Avondale Advance, 21/11/1960]

One of Pooley’s daughters had infantile paralysis, but would still get around the district in a little cart pulled by two large dogs. Sometimes, so some I have interviewed told me, the speed her cart would go along the footpaths meant pedestrians had to step out of the way smartly. Miss Pooley apparently was quite able to ride a horse as well, mounting by way of a special platform, possibly at her father’s stables on Great North road. At times, Mr Croft said, she would go droving.

From around 1919, the Stables became a service garage for Pooley's grandson Percy Keen. By 1924, the General Omnibus Company ran a bus service from out of the front of the Stables.

On 14 November 1924, the Stables burned down . Destroyed totally was a large motor-bus garage, 2 passenger buses, 2 heavy motor lorries (one a Republic lorry owned by CT Pooley himself), 2 motor cars (one, a 6-cylinder Cleveland, valued at £550 but only insured for £200, owned by Constable Douglas) , 2 motor-bus tops (1 owned by Mr M McCarthy, listed in the NZ Herald as “taxi proprietor of Avondale”, who was also the first funeral director) and the neigh-bouring house in which lived Lawrence Tierney and his family (who owned the local barber shop and billiard saloon). He, his wife and 10 children were able to escape unharmed, but weren’t able to save any possessions.

The front of the garage was occupied by the General Omnibus Company a firm only in existence 3 months, owned by Messrs E R Alexander and G R Horrocks.

The main telephone and telegraph wires north of Avondale to Helensville ran in front of the garage, and these were seriously affected by the flames. The services northward from Avondale were thus temporarily cut off. [NZ Herald, from M Butler report, 2001]

C T Pooley also apparently owned land behind the Avondale Hotel/Post Office in Wingate St. In February 1925 he offered “66ft frontage to Great North Road free for improvements on condition that any further land be purchased for £5 per foot.” It was resolved “that the offer be accepted and that a further 30 ft be purchased with a view to making a civic square.” [minutes, 18/2/25] The “civic square” idea didn’t happen exactly as hoped.

The disastrous fire of 1924 did not deter Charlie Pooley from rebuilding on the Great North Road Stables site. By the 1930s new brick and corrugated iron buildings were up, and served as the base and workshops for the Transport Bus Company and a taxi service.

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