Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bell & Gemmell tannery update

An Update from here.

Last night, on a late-at-night trawl through my records on the Parish of Titirangi, I came across an entry for a lease in June 1879 concerning the 77 acre Allotment 86 (today, this is the site of Kelvinside, Arran, Stedman and Alanbrooke Streets off St Georges Road) between John Buchanan the owner and "Bell & Other" (DI A2.267, source of lower image, LINZ)

Today, a bit of nosing around led me to find Allotment 101 of the Parish of Titirangi, next to Allotment 86, but fronting onto today's Wolverton Street (image at top, from NA8/67, LINZ records). This belonged to John Buchanan as well, and in October 1879 he leased the 6 acres there to Henry James Bell and Robert Gemmell. While I doubt I'll ever find out for certain exactly what happened to the lease over Allotment 86 (except that it was probably called in by 1884 when Buchanan was selling his land, and definitely by 1889 when he went bankrupt), the one for Allotment 101 is documented on a certificate of title.

Bell & Gemmell transferred their lease to Bell and George Hemus in September 1881. Hemus was an Auckland bootmaker -- a close association with a tannery for business. In turn, Bell & Hemus' lease was transferred in October 1882 to the "Riversdale Manufacturing Company Limited." I strongly suspect John Buchanan was a leading light behind this company. In November 1883, he transferred his freehold title over Allotment 101 to that company. Back up at Allotment 86, with his sale only semi-successful and entering bankruptcy, the official assignee transferred the title from that property also to the Riversdale Manufacturing Company in 1889, but it was assigned back to Buchanan in 1891.

For Allotment 101, the official assignee also transferred it to the Company in 1889. I suspect (a lot of suspicions, I know, but I hope to nut this all out eventually), that the Company comprised the following: Jonathan Elkin of Auckland, gentleman; Charles Colville Fleming from Onehunga, merchant; Margaret Russell Smellie Buchanan, John's wife; and John Macky Alexander, an Auckland solicitor. While Buchanan himself went bankrupt, the Company didn't. It conveyed land at Allotment 86 as late as 1903, though its file in Archives New Zealand only appears to cover from 1881-1884.

Henry James Bell purchased 3 acres of Allotment 101 outright by 1893 (the half closest to the railway, just across the Whau Creek tributary from the site of the Maori carving in my profile photo, by the way), but sold it to a Mangere farmer in 1895, who then sold it to Mrs. Gertrude Stone (see below).

Margaret Buchanan transferred her interest in the Company to Herman Brown and John McKail Geddes in 1893 (the Buchanans had moved to Paeroa in 1891), and by 1898 Allotment 101 had been joined to the lower part of Allotment 86 (between the railway line and Wolverton Street/St Georges Road). From then it was owned by a widow named Gertrude Eliza Stone; Ernest Arthur Stone, an Avondale farmer (from 1906); Ralph Montgomery, a Waikino Hotelkeeper (from 1908); Joseph Ruddock Simpson of Avondale (from 1909); and many more.

By the 1950s, the land was owned by a family named Taylor, who sold part to Universal Builders Limited in 1961. By 1962, Amsterdam Place had been dedicated and formed, and the subdivisions fronting the new cul-de-sac came into existence.


  1. heya :)
    came across this 1885 entry while doing a search, mentions bell's tannery

  2. Hi Jen,

    Many thanks. More on that incident in my post from October 2008 on the Exler potteries. Cheers!

  3. This must have some connection to the Geddes family in Titirangi who were descended from John McKail Geddes and once owned, or still own, homestead and gardens that were the remainder of the 2000 acre Atkinson Estate. They also had something to do with Wenderholm/Couldrey House I think. I haven't quite figured that out yet. From my comments over the last few days on certain articles you can probably figure out that I am working up an article of the Geddes family and Brown Barrett & Co.

  4. Have you seen my further post on Bell, Darian?

  5. Just to add -- can't see any connection with the Geddes and Bell or Gemmell, actually. J MK Geddes owned swathes of central Avondale, parts of the Wolverton area (Blockouse Bay side) and some land in the Bay -- but Geddes wasn't even on the tannery shareholder list (I have that on the blog too). Seen the post on Geddes himself, also?

  6. The one that is linked to this?
    And yes I read everything else you've done that mentions McKail Geddes.
    Sounds like Buchanan did what I call a "James Whittaker" and got around the hole he had dug with some trickery.
    I don't understand where this Margaret Buchanan has a connection to McKail Geddes either.
    I did find some notices where he and Hermann Brown, the business partner, were handling some estates, out of Brown Barrett & Co but I didn't really understand what it was about...I assumed that whomever it was had died and were in debt to them for some reason and they were trying to collect their money back.
    I think the Titirangi Geddeses, didn't buy Rangiwai House until the 1930s so there's no connection to this story and the land involved, but I think the Titirangi John McKail Geddes, known as "Mac" was one of the sons, government name Hermann McKail Geddes (no doubt named after the business partner). Quite an interesting couple in their own right though. He was very active in saving old trees including the ones from the old family mansion around Elam when they built it on the same spot. Of course he had a vested interest in that one. The wife founded the Titirangi Theatre in the 1930s. An interesting family of achievers all 'round.

  7. I will quote you on the swathes if you don't mind. I just remembered, I found something odd. A descendant of the had said that all the children of John McKail Geddes , bar one I think, were born in Wairere, wich I believe is out that way in the Waitakeres. This doesn't make much sense and I haven't found anything to support that information yet. They also owned Wenderholm from 1919-1928 as a "country residence" and who knows what else. Of course all this RE activity left Mrs. McKail Geddes a very wealthy woman when he popped his clogs.

  8. I told the Titirangi McK Geddes (a solicitor) about Geddes Terrace here in Avondale one time a few years ago -- he hadn't known about the local land ownership and therefore connections in that respect. Hope he does, now.

  9. If anything I have can help you out, Darian, I'm pleased.

  10. Thanks. The person you spoke to must have been ancient because it seems to be the same John McKail Geddes I have an article on from 1970, a "Mac" McKail Geddes and he was already pretty old then! The Titters property was only sold 12 years ago. It's so hard to unravel these stories. One person tells you one small thing and you go around in circles for days and weeks until finally it makes sense.