Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Domain Stories - 1860s

On 2 November 1860, the Public Domains Act came into force which defined the boundaries and the regulations governing the Auckland Domain, Government House Domain beside Symonds Street, and the Government House Domain in Wellington. The lands were formally set aside as Crown land; any derelict land around the domains or within them remained Crown land. The Act gave the Governor authority to “lay out, enclose and plant the same, and build any lodge, museum or other ornamental building therein, and in such manner as he may think fit.” From time to time parts of the domains could be set aside for public recreation and amusement, and annul this just as easily. Part of the domains could be leased to others, at terms not exceeding 21 years, to provide income for improvements to the Domains. Carriageways and paths were allowed to be set out across the domains, and “from time to time make, stop up, divert, widen or alter any bridges, ways or watercourses in, upon, through, across or over any part of the said lands.” Penalties for things such as causing fires and shooting game on the domain without authority were included.

The boundary for the Auckland Domain, then still known as Auckland Park, were given as:
“All that piece or parcel of land situated in the parish of Waitemata, in the county of Eden, containing 196 acres, more or less, and known as the Government Domain or Auckland Park, bounded towards the north-east by suburban section No. 95, 120 links, 300 links, 310 links, 306 links, 306 links, 304 links, and 300 links, and by a stream. Towards the southeast by as road 1876 links, and by a road 360 links and 560 links. Towards the south by a road 669 links, and by a road 1,187 links. Towards the southwest by a road 1,612 links. Towards the west by the Provincial Hospital grounds 299 links, 520 links, 824 links, and 220 links, by a stream dividing it from suburban section No. 18, to a marked puriri tree, and by the said suburban section No. 18, 691 links and 1890 links. Towards the north-west and north by the mill-race, by a line 175 links, and again by the mill race, and by a line 423 links, and 405 links to where the boundary commenced.”

Southern Cross, 13 November 1860

Blockhouses: Two were erected on the Domain in the 1860s. A cruciform brick blockhouse in the south-west (close to the sweeping corner of Park Road, before the Domain gates area) ended up in the Hospital grounds after some later land swapping in the 1870s, altered to become a dwelling, and demolished for the construction of the Wallace Ward (1923).

Detail from hospital site plan 1889, SO 5330, LINZ crown copyright. Shows the Park Road blockhouse, turned dwelling.

Same site in 1890. The blockhouse is still just there, but not for much longer. SO 3933, LINZ crown copyright.

The other was on the ridge south of the site of the museum, close to the survey trig station. It may have formed the basis of the meteorological observatory (after which the hill was named until the 20th century). It was apparently sold for removal in 1892.

Also 1890, SO 3933, LINZ crown copyright. Site of the Newmarket blockhouse (seen in compound).

If the Domain’s blockhouses were erected in 1860, then they weren’t used as military bases for very long, if at all. Perhaps simply as two places for local volunteers and militia to gather to act as a last line of defence for the city? I really don’t know at this stage, although volunteers did apparently occupy the Domain blockhouses for a time in July 1863 (Southern Cross, 10 July 1863). By November 1860, the Domain Ranger was living in the one closest to the hospital (notice, Southern Cross, 13 November 1860), and by 1868, the Domain Board advertised it to be rented out. (Southern Cross, 11 September 1868) The other shows up clearly, backed by Newmarket, in Dudridge Gibbs’ 1862 panorama.

It wasn’t on the highest point of the Domain Hill; it seemed to be on the southern slope leading toward the top. My guess, looking at the maps along with early photographs of those slopes, is that it stood just behind the trig station (also, strangely, not on the highest point), and may have served as the base for the weather forecasters and their “observatory”. Said observatory after which Domain Hill would receive the name by which it was known from the late 1860s until almost up to the point when the foundations for the Museum went in – Observatory Hill.

The Domain Hill blockhouse might have joined by another monument in the 1860s, if all had gone according to plan.

Colonel Marmaduke George Nixon died at his home at Mangere, near Otahuhu in late May 1864, from wounds received at the battle at Rangiawhia the previous February. (Southern Cross, 31 May 1864) His death quickly became symbolic for Aucklanders at the time. Nixon, according to the Southern Cross, “has set a noble example to his fellow colonists: an example of Christian endurance in suffering, of utter disregard of self in the face of danger, and of that kind of patriotism which willingly lays down life on the altar of public duty.” The Royal Cavalry Volunteers with the Colonial Defences Corps began a project to memorialise the fallen hero, but this was to be assumed by a committee of Auckland notables from June 1864, who solicited public subscriptions to raise funds for the project.

Initial suggestions for a location for the monument were for it to be at Otahuhu, close to Nixon’s home. That was voted down in favour of, perhaps, a stone fountain in Queen Street. No? Well, how about a monument in the Domain, then --?

The suggestion of a monument in the Domain was raised in June 1864 because the Domain was one of the sites proposed for the new Government House. (Southern Cross, 20 June 1864, p. 4) They decided on a scaled-down version of the William Wallace monument in Stirling, Scotland, and that it should be placed on the highest point of the Domain, overlooking Parnell (Southern Cross, 26 September 1864, p. 5).

The committee approached the Domain Board for permission to erect the monument in the domain, but the board advised that, under the Public Domains Act 1860, they couldn’t authorise other bodies to erect “ornament buildings” there. Such structures had to be erected by the board itself. (Southern Cross, 3 October 1864, p. 5) The memorial committee submitted copies of Matthew Henderson’s design to the Domain Board, in the hopes that the Board would agree to have the memorial erected. The Board replied that the Henderson design “is not suitable to the public Domain”, but that “almost any site in the Domain, with the exception of the hill which overlooks the Parnell district, is available for the purpose contemplated by the committee.” (Letter from Charles Knight to I W Harrop, 2 November 1864, reprinted in Southern Cross, 14 November 1864, p. 5) By December 1864, the committee resolved to abandon the idea of a Domain site entirely, as well as the Henderson “Wallace tower” design, and consider an alternative site close to that of the future Supreme Court building, in Princes Street. Eventually, they put up the memorial in Otahuhu, as had first been proposed.

The Domain Board, who were to be the body administering the Domain until 1893, seem to make their first appearance on the scene in March 1862, when James Crawford, on their behalf, put up a reward of £5 for information to secure the conviction “of the party who willfully destroyed certain shrubs (Norfolk Island Pines) in the Auckland Public Domain.” (Southern Cross, 18 March 1862) Update, 15 September 2009: According to the NZ Herald, 3 July 1884, the Board was gazetted on 14 October 1861, the first chairman Henry Sewell, the members Francis Dillon Bell, Dr. Knight and Dr. Pollen.

"Sir,—A few days ago, in company with some friends, I had the pleasure of going through the walks in the domain, and certainly Mr. Sewell and the other members of the " Domain Board" deserve the warmest thanks of the community for the invaluable boon which they are preparing for the public of Auckland —a boon which only requires to be seen in order to be fully appreciated. Great praise is also due to Mr. Chalmers for the taste and skill which he has displayed in the design and formation of the walks, some four or five miles of which are already completed: other additions are being made, and still further extensions contemplated. Numerous ornamental trees and shrubs have been planted to decorate the grounds, and the ever varied scenery is of the most romantic and picturesque description. Prudence will dictate as to the propriety of allowing large unbroken patches of brushwood to remain as, in the event of such a sad contingency as fire, the whole place might be destroyed, unless sufficient clearances be made to prevent communication by that destructive element. No doubt every well-disposed citizen amongst us will do what he can for the protection of the grounds, but to check the mischievously inclined we would suggest that a ticket be placed at each entrance, having the following words legibly painted thereon, " Visitors are requested to keep on the walks. Trespassers will be prosecuted." Besides a number of tickets throughout the grounds painted thus, "Please to keep on the walks." Now, as such laws could be easily carried out if seats were placed for the accommodation of visitors, it is to be hoped that that desideratum will not be overlooked. Such rules, if adhered to, would greatly tend to protect the shrubs, as well as the nests of the feathered songsters which we understand will shortly be set at liberty there …”
(Southern Cross 23 July 1862)

Cricket came to the Domain in the 1860s. The Parnell Cricket Club had cleared 2½ acres of ground, “ready for the plough”, behind the “Gardner’s Brick House” from May that year, (Southern Cross, 21 May 1862), but by September an unexpired lease held by a Major Stoney seemed to prevent much further in the way of developing the Domain as a cricket ground. (Although the Newmarket Club wrote to the Southern Cross assuring the readers that Major Stoney, who ran sheep and cattle on the Domain, was actually quite helpful to them.) By May 1864, he’d paid half the cost of the formation of Grafton Road) Indeed, they played their first game on the Domain that month). By the end of that year, the Board had agreed to set aside a part of the Domain as a Public Cricket Ground (Southern Cross, 19 December 1862). James Stewart, as a civil engineer and land surveyor, reported back to the cricket clubs on the state of the offered grounds.
“Mr. James Stewart, at the request of the Chairman, made a statement as to the position and present condition of the ground. He said most of the cricketers present would be aware that there were only one or two places in the Domain, which could be considered naturally fitted for a cricket ground, and most of those around him would be acquainted with the ground played on by the Newmarket Cricket Club. The piece of land offered by the Domain Board was in continuation of the same level ground to the gardens, and where the stream broke into the bush of the Domain. The land which appeared to be the best suited for the purposes of the game was in the middle of the portion indicated. It was quite possible to get five acres of good ground tolerably level; although the whole might comprise ten acres. The first thing required to be done would be to eradicate the dock, the difficulty as to the stream of water could be easily overcome. £200 would possibly clear the ground, and grass seed could then be sown. Play could be commenced on the land next season.”
(Southern Cross, 24 December 1862)

So much more could be written about the history of cricket in the Domain; like the subject of the hospital, it needs its own spotlight.

The next sporting code to make a move to utilise the Domain was that of lawn bowls. A “meeting of gentlemen” took place in the city on 3 November 1862, and Thomas Macfarlane was able to tell his fellow enthusiasts that after negotiations with the Government, “a piece of ground had been granted close to the entrance to the Domain from Stanley-street, and which was considered especially suitable for the object intended.” (Southern Cross 4 November 1862)

Click to enlarge. Southern Cross, 21 December 1863.

In 1863, the Provincial Superintendent advertised for all persons having a claim to water coming from the Domain to register such claims, and also record claims for compensation should the Provincial Council decide to temporarily divert water to supply the city. (Southern Cross, 1 June 1863) Work on laying pipes and brickwork for the water supply lines began in 1865. By late 1866, James Robertson registered a claim for £100 which was paid, although the Provincial Council was sorely tempted to take to the courts. (Southern Cross, 7 December 1866) During all the period in which water was diverted from the Domain to the city, it was only ever an auxiliary source – and always just as prone to drying up in the summer as any of the city’s wells.

Some of the story of the Acclimatisation Society Gardens I covered in The Zoo War (but, as I was looking mainly at the furred and the feathered, rather than the floral, that’s only part of the story.) Edward King asked the Provincial Superintendent to approach the Government for a part of the Domain to be set aside as a garden for the Society in 1863 (Southern Cross, 2 April 1863), but his early death helped to stall the process. They did get their gardens in 1867. Interestingly enough it was King, while in the Provincial Council, who expressed concerns over the Domain Board possibly selling off pieces of the Domain lands along Stanley Street and Grafton Road for income to maintain the remainder of the Domain. (Southern Cross, 21 & 26 October 1864) One of King’s legacies, apart from the revived Society, to remain on the Domain was his small herd of seven alpacas which were left to run on the Domain until auctioned off in 1866.

Image from Wikipedia.

I can see why the Domain Board may have considered such options. It cost money to make a Domain fit for being called a public recreation space. In 1864, for example, they did up the Lagoon area.
“We are glad to observe that the authorities are taking steps to make the Domain more attractive to the general public. Within the last few weeks a very pretty “Virginia Water” has been constructed, and there are now a pair of white and a pair of black swans upon it. In the garden the flowerbeds are being laid out, and the other work done preliminary to its assuming its spring dress.”
(Southern Cross, 9 August 1864)

Sadly, the swans, numbering six in total, were packed up and taken down to Wellington by the Governor Sir George Grey in 1866. (Southern Cross, 5 January 1866) By then, any lingering ideas and hopes that the Governor might choose the Domain, and the top of Domain Hill, as his place of residence had been quite dashed.

By May 1865, the Domain Board assumed control of the old washing grounds area from the 1850s, and announced an intention to sell it. (Southern Cross,16 May 1865) Fortunately, that didn’t happen. The Auckland to Drury Railway, starting in 1865, was to carve away the eastern fringe of the Domain, further reducing the total acreage.
“Owing to the fact that the greater portion of No. 1 section of the Auckland and Drury Railway passes through the Domain, on the Parnell side, it has been found necessary to lay out a new set of walks or promenades in lieu of those covered and bisected by extensive excavations. Judging from the progress already made with the new walks, the change will be advantageous in many respects, but mainly from the fact that a better view will be obtained of the surrounding scenery. There will be an uninterrupted parterre on each side of the promenade, and ready choice specimens of flowering shrubs, trees, and evergreens are being planted in suitable spots. The old road passing along the foot of the Domain, towards Hobson's Bridge, having been destroyed by the railway cutting, a new line is being laid out on higher ground, the entrance to it being from the Parnell Road leading from the Roman Catholic Church, and a three-arched bridge is to be erected; beneath the centre arch of which visitors will pass. In order to meet every requirement in laying out the new promenade, and planting ornamental patches of ground, Mr. Chalmers, who superintends the work, has taken the wise precaution to set apart small patches of ground in the Domain as nurseries for the growth of choice specimens of flowering shrubs, ornamental and forest trees. There are ready for removal in the transplanting season a very large variety of flowering shrubs, such as oleanders, laurestinus, laurels, yellow, jessamines, &c., oaks, poplars, karakas, blue gums, cypresses, pines, arbores vitae, &c., with the hardier flowering plants. The most of our readers will be aware of the great improvement effected, under the direction of Mr. Chalmers, in the formation of the ornamental lake in front of the entrance-gate to the Domain gardens. The adjoining grounds have now been laid out into ornamental beds, and the swamp is in process of being drained. A carriage drive is also projected leading past Mr. Lynch's house, and so on to the Grafton-road.”
(Southern Cross, 24 April 1865)

The Government Garden dating from the previous decade came under the control of the Domain Board by the end of the 1860s. The brand-new Auckland Institute, formed in 1867, appealed to the Domain Board for the garden to become a Botanic Garden, “and suggested a plan by which this could have been gradually effected, and the Domain improved at a comparatively trivial cost. No acknowledgment of this communication has been received by the Council, which has however learned with regret that the garden has been let as a market garden.” (Southern Cross, 16 February 1869)

So, the Domain ended the decade with a half-finished railway line to the east, an established Acclimatisation Society Garden (with the start of the propagating nursery we can still see today), defined boundaries, the beginnings of a landscaped lagoon at the duck ponds, a market garden and grounds for cricket, bowls and even archery.

We have to hand a description of the Domain as it was in 1865, by Mrs. Charles Thompson:

“One great advantage to this town is the thickly-wooded hill that rises nearly in the centre of it, the upper part of which is laid out in gardens and pleasure-grounds, and the lower and wooded part in shady walks, the whole thing is called the Domain, and is reserved for public recreation and health; according to present intention this hill is never to be built upon …

“Monday – Looking much like rain, but I ventured forth to explore the Domain. Some of the walks are rather steep, others nearly level; some parts are thick, wild looking wood, others thinned out and park-like; some, again, with plants and shrubs, like pleasure-grounds. There is a deep ravine (gully is the New Zealand term), thickly wooded, and with a stream of water flowing along its rocky bottom, with occasionally small waterfalls; the water is thick and muddy, but the sound of it is very pleasant. In another part is a serpentine piece of water, with black swans (with their bright red beaks) sailing majestically upon it, and walks, prettily planted, round it, the effect is much marred by the muddiness of the water, which appears to be supplied by the drainage of the land; the overflow from it forms the streams and waterfalls before mentioned. There was a herd of the graceful alpacas grazing here. It is altogether a very pleasant lounge, and must be especially so in hot weather; there are many walks where neither sun nor wind can penetrate, and these are now consequently damp and muddy, but, on a dry summer’s day must be delightful. There are plenty of pheasants preserved here, I have started some in the course of my walk.”
(Mrs. Charles Thomson, “12 Years in Canterbury”, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Library, pp. 80 & 101)

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