Thursday, January 29, 2009

The end of "Noah's Ark"

Further to this post.

The following comes from the Auckland Evening Star.

17 September 1874.
Of "Noah's Ark" a correspondent thus writes: -- Sir: Having read a sketch of Noah's Ark in the Star of the 12th inst. I was induced to pay a visit to that resort of the homeless, and found it much in the same state as described in your journal. A number of unkempt lads, rough as colts on English commons, were there in glee singing negro melodies. Two women were also quarreling in the immediate locality, and exchanging unclassical words, until one pulled off her heavy show, and, not for good luck, flung it at her opponent's head. I noticed also a tenantless building close by, of the same delapidated character as the ark. "Noah's Ark" appeared to me to be in a very unsafe condition. The boys are continually in the habit of taking away the brick and decayed wood, which form the ararat on which the ark rests, so that possibly ere long the ark will come down with a crash on the heads of some of the half-stupified hapless slepers within. I learn that Mr. Goldie has been inspecting the ark, so that it is likely before long it will be finally removed, and no longer remain an impediment to the view from Baker-street. -- I am, &c.,
[George Goldie was the city's Inspector of Nuisances at the time.]

25 September 1875

"A new discovery has been made within the last few days in one of the silent shadowy corners of the now famous "Noah's Ark," and which will add interest to its many mysteries. The inhabitants in the immediate locality of Moreton-street keep numbers of fowls, in the breed of which they take very great pride. In truth, the ladies of Moreton street declare that their fowls are the finest in Auckland, and "thank God," as Mrs M--- says, "fowls are out of the pale of the city by-laws." Many of the finest of these birds, however, have lately been missing, and their owners have been puzzled about their mysterious disappearance. Mrs. M --- considered that they had suffered of the pip, and had crept into holes to die in peace, but Mrs W --- expressed it as her opinion that the fowls had been taken away by the foul hands of thieves, and her view was strengthened by the intelligence that a boy had been seen decoying the fowls into Noah's Ark with a handful of maize, for which the feathered innocents have a liking. "I believe that youngster stole my drake," said Mrs W ---. The women entered the echoing windy apartments of the Ark, and found in a sly corner a quantity of feathers, which plainly indicated that the lost fowls had been plucked, if not cooked and eaten, in Noah's Ark."
8 October 1874
"A great deal of excitement has been created within the last few days in the immediate locality of "Noah's Ark," at the corner of Moreton-street. A poor woman went into the ark on Monday evening to find a bit of wood for the purpose of kindling a fire in order to prepare for a cup of tea, when she gave a loud scream and fell upon the ground. Some of the neighbours ran to her assistance, thinking she was in a fit, and applied vinegar to her temples. She appeared to be suffering from nervous debility, but upon recovering her consciousness assured her friends that she had seen very distinctly, the ghost of the unfortunate woman Macfarlane, who was found dead a few weeks ago at the ark. The announcement was credited, and every evening the women are looking out for a sight of the apparition with feelings akin to awe, and no one can muster sufficient courage to enter the hollow, haunted building after dusk."
28 November 1874
"Noah's Ark, situated at the end of Moreton-street, is slowly passing away plank by plank; it is doomed but not as yet absolutely destroyed. This windy vestige of other days has been deserted for some weeks past, both by homeless women and colonial boys. The story that the place was haunted by the ghost of a woman has not been without its influence. If boys and women, however, have been deterred from venturing into the Ark after sunset and sleeping in its silent shadows; the fearless fowls have held unmolested revelry beneath its broken roof. The fowls roost on its dubious beam, and one old cock crows vociferously at break of day from one of the lonely chamber-windows. There also, the neighbouring cats "do congregate," and squeal unseen. One prolific hen belonging to a neighbour, has lately caused some disappointment as the spot where she secreted her eggs could not be found. Her disappointed owner rightly conjectured that the hen deposited her eggs somewhere. A hunt was made under the house, and along the hedge-rows, but without success. Yesterday, however, the secret hauling place was discovered, and a quantity of eggs found in a mysterious corner of the Ark. The foolish hen was heard cackling by the doorless doorway, and a shrewd colonial youth bawled out, "Mother, mother, old speckle-back has laid in the ark, I'll bet a bob on't." The unkempt urchin crept through the mystic chambers and to the joy of his mother's heart found the eggs in a corner, partly screened by an old pair of trousers left there possibly by the last lodger in this mysterious building."
17 February 1875
"The demolition of the old delapidated building, known as Noah's Atk, was commenced yesterday, and on the appearance of this issue, its last vestige will be cleared away by the workmen. As soon as its doom was inevitably sealed by the City Council, without waiting for further order, the neighbouring lads began the work and carried away board after board, until the ark appeared but a hollow symbol of winter and age."


  1. It's sad to see the demise of a local landmark, no matter how nefarious or infamous it had become.

  2. I agree, Jayne. When I stumbled across the first article, I thought, "Whoa! What cool social history" -- and it hasn't been covered before, as far as I can tell. I might do a bit more digging it it -- original crown grant holder in the 1840s was a chap named J. Wright, who had a house there and subdivided in the 1850s. Might have been a building from that period, just left to rot.

  3. The stealing of bricks and timbers reminded me of the first cemetery here in Melbourne with the timber grave markers having been pinched by local kids who had to find wood for the stove for their mothers to cook tea lol!
    (Bodies are still there, we've just no idea who or how many)
    Living is Detail is an Aussie blogger who gets right into social history with buildings, too.

  4. Cheers for that link, Jayne. I think early Symonds Street cemetery here in Auckland and Bolton Cemetery in Wellington had the same problem with the old wooden grave markers. When they had to clear out and cremate most of the Anglican and Catholic burial grounds in Symonds Street for the motorway development, there weren't enough burial records matching graves. There still aren't for that cemetery.

  5. Hi Lisa

    Thanks for posting your articles on "Noah's Ark" on Morton Street. I found it very interesting, especially knowing that my 3x great grandparents, John & Isabella Wright, lived down Morton Street at the time of the events described. The descriptions of the street are invaluable!

    I see you've posted a message, above, about the original crown grant holder being a "J. Wright", and I would like to find out more about your sources of information so I can investigate further. Could you please contact me by e-mail - my e-mail address should appear in my profile.

    The earliest I've found my John Wright living at Morton Street is in the 1865 Electoral Roll, where he owned the freehold of Lot 6 in Morton Street. I have found him there ever since, up until his death in 1894.

    John left his property to his son's James (my 2x great grandfather) and Thomas in his Will. James was to get the cottage fronting Morton Street, and Thomas the cottage at the back, along with the corresponding half of the land.

    Some time after John's death, his son, James, bought a property around the corner at 29 Baker Street, where he lived until he died in 1930.

    John was a carpenter by trade. He came to NZ while serving as a Non-commissioned Officer with the Royal Engineers.

    I look forward to hearing from you, or anyone else that may be able to help with locating information about my ancestor's residencies at Morton & Baker Streets.

  6. Hi Scott,

    I'll send this by email as well -- thanks very much for your comment!

    The 1851 "Plan of the Town of Auckland" by Charles Heaphy shows "J. Wright" as the owner of Allotment 39 which included Morton & Baker Streets (neither one on the map at that stage.) This map usually (due to its date) indicates the original crown grantees, although I accept this may not be the case in every instance. But, the notation predates your own records on the Wright family. "J. Wright" in this case appears to be Joseph Wright (see below). Exactly who he was in 1851, I've been unable to find out definitely up to now.

    If you go to the Auckland City Library's site and look for their Auckland Crown Grants, do a search and you'll find a wealth of info as to Joseph Wright and his grants, apparently going back to 1845. He owned more land in the early city as well.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Lisa this is very very cool Great post great research. Love it. Sad as Jayne said about the landmark vanishing. Interesting that Heaphy drew up the allotment maps.