Thursday, October 9, 2008

History of "Banwell" (part 2)

(Updated 14 January 2015)

From 1849 to 1865 apparently came a succession of occupiers of the land at Allotment 85 who, unlike John S Adam, certainly made their mark on the history of the district. There was first Mr James Comrie:

Among the early settlers in the Whau district were several members of St. Andrew's congregation, but the distance was so great and the roads and the means of transport so poor that regular attendance at the central Church was not possible, and services were desired in their own neighbourhood. The first of these of which there is a record were held in the dwelling house of Mr. James Comrie (later of Pukekohe during the 2nd New Zealand War in 1860s), and were conducted by his brother, Rev. Wm. Comrie, of Auckland, who preached on 16th January and 6th February, 1859, from the texts John 3 :7 and Phil. 3 :13, 14. From that time a weekly service was aimed at, and, subject to a good many breaks owing to weather and other conditions, services were held there until the Church was built. Mr. McCall and other laymen from Auckland gave valuable assistance.

(From The Presbytery of Auckland, by W J Comrie, A.H. and A.W. Reed, 1939)
Later, another elder of the Church, Mr John Buchanan, who also ran a warehousing business on Karangahape Road in the city, is listed as having been a tenant of Adam on the allotment. From 1863, he was on the Whau School Committee. He was later the first Chairman of the Mt Albert Highways District (1867) and on the Whau Highways District Board from 1868. Along with an elder from Riverhead, he donated land to the Presbyterian Church, in order that the present-day St Ninians Hall could be built for services.

Part of Allotment 85, Sections 5, 6 and 7 were sold by John Adam to Buchanan on 2 July 1866. These were the central portions of the allotment.

And finally, just before 1865, James Palmer came to the site.

James Palmer (1819-1893) left Plymouth bound for New Zealand on 4 December 1842 on the Westminster, arriving 31 March 1843. He gave his age as 22, and that of a “Maria Palmer” as 18. Before coming to the Whau in the mid 1860s, he was the keeper of the Royal Hotel in Eden Crescent. He is more noted, however, as being the owner of two of the three Whau Hotels – one built in the 1860s before he arrived in Avondale, and the replacement in 1873 after the first one burned down, (See The (first) Whau Hotel.)

He would also be known as the donor of land for the Whau Public Hall (1867), and for St Jude’s Church (1884). Present-day Donegal Street was once called Palmer Street after him.

In 1866, it became necessary for John Adam, absent in Australia, to arrange the subdivision and sale of his lands in the Whau. The Government Road had been formed (present day Chalmers Street-New Windsor Road, around 1863) and had changed the holdings. Wolseley Street (Wolverton) was formed to the south, while Manukau Rd (Blockhouse Bay Road) and St Georges Rd remained the east and west boundaries respectively. While selling sections 5 to 7 to Buchanan, he sold 1 to 4, along the Government Road line, to James Palmer on 27 February 1866. The future “Banwell” possibly sat on Section 2, the second from off the Manukau Road.

It appears likely, from looking at later title documents, that Palmer also owned the Wolseley third of the allotment (south end), but possibly bought this from the Adam family at a later date.

Adam is recorded as having ownership interests which he transferred to Palmer in Allotment 13 also around this time, possibly including the site of the two Hotels Palmer would erect in the village-to-be. (Adam and his sisters, according to Challenge of the Whau also sold parts of Allotment 13 to William Forsyth, builder of the Public Hall, and John Tait, father of future Avondale Mayor W J Tait.)

In February 1867, Palmer is noted as having land in the village centre which he lent out in order that the Whau Minstrels stage their inaugural public performance, and another in early March which helped fund-raise toward the building of a Public Hall. In April, he donated land (site of the present-day Hollywood Cinema) for the new Hall to the community. By late 1870, the second Whau hotel was built on the corner of Windsor Road (Wingate Street) and Great North Road – this was to burn down in December 1872, only to rise again and be reopened on July 4 1873.

On 22 May 1878, part of the sections was taken by the government for the railway (completed 1880).

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