Saturday, October 25, 2008

AWHS report on the Roberton area, 2005

The Avondale-Waterview Historical Society submitted the following to Auckland City Council in 2005 in response to proposals put forward to change the zoning of almost all of the Roberton area in Avondale (apart from one block that's Res 1) from Res 6 to Res 8 -- and thus create a zone of intensified housing. To date, we haven't heard anything either for or against, and the zoning so far hasn't changed. Above image comes from the Viggers photo collection, AWHS records.


Originally, the Roberton area was Allotment 63, 61 acres purchased at public auction by Henry Walton (1815-1898) on 20 October 1845 for £61. (1) The purchase was described as bounded by three roads, so what was to become Great North Road, Browne Street (later Rosebank Road) and Station Road (later Blockhouse Bay Road) had been drawn up at that time -- but were likely, including Great North Road, to be little more than rutted tracks at best.

Henry Walton was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1838, he and his brother Charles arrived in Sydney, and soon formed partnerships with Thomas Elmsley (who bought land at the Kaipara and Maungatapere) and William Smellie Grahame, a Scottish trader in Auckland from the 1840s. (2) It is said that Charles and Henry Walton were the first in the Whangarei District to import sufficient men, stock and machinery to stock a complete farm there in 1840. (3)

Among Walton's achievements in this country: mediating between Sir George Grey and all Northland chiefs in 1862 over a major land dispute, election as a member of the Legislative Council in 1863 and appointment as Auditor of the Bank of New Zealand. (4)

It is likely that it was through his partnership with W.S. Grahame that Walton came to know a Scotsman named John Roberton (c.1829-1894). Roberton, born in Glasgow, arrived in Sydney at the age of 16 with his brother-in-law, and sailed for Auckland in 1845 to join Grahame's office staff. Grahame was a partner of Roberton's brother-in-law, a Mr. Wright. (5) In 1854 Roberton returned to Sydney to take charge of Wright's business there. In 1860 he returned to Auckland, setting up in business for himself after a Sydney business partnership (possibly involving Grahame) was dissolved. (6)

Sometime from 1866 to the early 1870s, Walton decided to retire and leave the colony to return to England in retirement. He resigned from the Legislative Council in 1866, but still retained land holdings which would have needed a New Zealand resident agent to manage on his behalf. Walton appointed John Roberton as his attorney. (7)

In May 1878 the Walton Estate, as Allotment 63 came to be known, was altered slightly under Section 26 of the Public Works Act 1876. Part of the south-eastern corner was transferred back to the Crown to allow the line of the coming railway (completed 1880) to head straight through to the present railway station site as it is today, and realign the top section of what is now Rosebank Road to suit. (8)

In 1883, the Walton Estate was put on the market, with Roberton organising the subdivision. It is from this subdivision that the three roads the area is best known by came into being and were named: Henry and Walton (now Walsall) Streets, after Henry Walton, and Roberton Road, after John Roberton. (9)

The map detail to the right comes from the 1890s, and shows the Walton Estate subdivisions of 1 to 3 acre lots. Sales were slow, however. Only 9 sections were sold between 1883 and 1899, (10) an effect possibly of the Long Depression from the mid 1880s to mid 1890s. John Roberton died in 1894, and apparently his son Dr. Ernest Roberton was appointed Attorney by the Walton family in England on the death of Henry Walton 4 years later. (11)

In the new century, 23 of the sections were sold between 1900 and 1903, (12) which would appear to indicate that three-quarters of the Walton Estate was sold to individual title holders within the first 20 years.

Between 1900 and 1925, many of the original lots of the estate's subdivision of the mid 1880s were in turn subdivided. The map to the right (c.1925) illustrates the developing intensification of settlement within this part of Avondale. This would have been in line with better passenger rail and bus timetables, and the concreting of the Great North Road, but came before the arrival of trams to Avondale (along the Blockhouse Bay-Rosebank Road route to the south of the estate) in 1932.

Bound by limitations of time, the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society have been able to conduct only a brief version of the full area study which we feel would be required for this area and its history. Looking at Cleave's Directory for 1911 (showing the "postman's walks" for the previous year, and therefore an indicator as to tenancy in Auckland streets at the time), we note the earliest settled part of Roberton Road would appear to be between Rosebank Road and Henry Street (4 occupiers on the left side from Rosebank Road to Henry Street and 4 on the right side, the latter occupants now all in the current Residential 1 zone). For Walsall Street, down from Roberton Road, there were also only 4 occupiers. For Henry Street, there were only two occupiers: Henry Viggers, a carpenter at no. 8 Henry Street, and Magdalene E. Davis at (possibly) no. 7 Henry Street. From this point on, occupation of sites within the area increased.

Robert J. Allely lived here, Avondale's first chemist/dentist and the man who saved lives in the district during the 1918 influenza epidemic by operating a field hospital on the racecourse and tirelessly visiting people in their homes. St Judes Street blacksmiths William and Thomas Myers lived here. The area was home to Frederick Bluck, early Avondale land agent, clerk of the Avondale Road Board, and the man who had the Bluck Buildings erected on the corner of Roberton Road and Rosebank Road (today a sewing machine centre) 90 years ago in 1915. Up on Station Road, now Blockhouse Bay Road, J. W. Kinniburgh, Avondale's first Borough Council mayor, lived with his wife Naomi. Harry Waygood who operated Waygood Motors in Wingate Street, in a building which still stands today, lived in Roberton Road. The Richardson Family lived here as well, in Henry Street - Paul Richardson was an Avondale Borough Councillor, worked for the tramways, and in 1955 was on the ASB Board of Trustees; and his wife Margaret Richardson is renowned as the "Cocoa Lady" for Avondale Primary School during the Depression years, a JP and was one of the ladies holding the ribbon across the new tram track at the opening ceremonies, 1932.

But aside from those noted as part of Avondale's history so far as is known, this was a working class area. Taking a snapshot of occupations of those living here in 1925, we find a council employee, a blacksmith, clerks, a liftman, carpenters, bootmakers, cabinetmakers, a carrier, a baker, painters, storemen, drapers, engineers, labourers, a brickworker, a tailor's cutter, motor mechanics, postmen, a doctor, an orchardist, a salesman, joiners, a land agent, a grocer, an electrician, a railway employee, a builder, a tramway inspector, and a farmer. (13)

Why Walsall Street, and not Walton? In the early 1930s, the Auckland City Council changed Walton Street to Walsall Street, to avoid confusion with Walton Street in Remuera.

Roberton Today

Today, Roberton is an area of contrasts that works well. The area has already been infilled with a variety of housing styles ranging from flats to townhouses, all of which are sympathetic to the overall aesthetics of the area. The residents here like where they live; they have pride in owning period houses and pride in living amongst styles of housing with character. Villas and bungalows here are restored and maintained to a high standard. The two cross intersections, Walsall/Roberton and Henry/Roberton, have distinctive and attractive views, both in terms of the houses which are adjacent to these intersections, and the Waitakere Ranges in the distance.

It is a concern that these views, valued highly by the residents and visitors to the area alike, could be jeopardised or severely compromised by the introduction of intensive development under Residential 8a and 8b zones which may not be in keeping or sympathetic to the existing special character typified by the villas and bungalows.

It is hard to see why only one block of the Roberton area has indeed been zoned Residential 1, whereas the rest of the area isn't. There is little difference in the overall occurrence and density of styles of housing between the corner zoned Residential 1 (bounded by Rosebank, Blockhouse Bay, Walsall and Roberton Roads) and the rest of Roberton's residential area, zoned 6a at present.

The Avondale-Waterview Historical Society has conducted an interim survey and historical study of the area. We find that there is a considerable number of houses remaining which are either cottages, villas or bungalows of good to exceptional quality, many of which would be affected by the proposed land use zoning change. [We included charts reflecting a visual survey of the area.] We also conducted a photographic study, only a small part of the results of which accompanied this report.

The Avondale-Waterview Historical Society would like to see the heritage importance of the Roberton area reflected in all urban design provisions for any land-use zoning change to this part of Avondale. While we have not been consulted to date during the process leading up to the Avondale Future Framework proposal, we welcome the opportunity to make this, our submission, to that proposal, and would warmly welcome the opportunity to liaise with Auckland City Council regarding the future of Roberton.

We are opposed to any land-use zoning change from 6a to 8a and 8b under the District Plan that does not contain provisions recognising and protecting the special heritage character of the Roberton area of Avondale.

Lisa J Truttman,
President and Historical Research Officer for Avondale-Waterview Historical Society
30 April 2005


1. Crown Grant No. 1428 (LINZ records)
2. Courtney, Phyllis E., "The Walton Brothers of Kaipara and Maungatapere," Auckland- Waikato Historical Journal, September 1989, No. 55, p. 20
3. Rae, D. A., "Whither Walton Street?", Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal, April 1984, No. 44, p. 26
4. ibid.
5. "Death of Mr. J. Roberton", NZ Herald 21 July 1894, p. 5
6. ibid.
7. Courtney, p. 21
8. Deeds Index for Allotment 63, LINZ records
9. Rae, p. 21
10. Deeds Index, Allot 63.
11. Notation to deed no. 157081, 11 November 1901.
12. Deeds Index for Allotment 63, LINZ records
13. Postal directory 1925 for Roberton Road, Walton Street and Henry Street.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to know! I grew up in Avondale from the 60's to the late 90's and didn't know this part of History.