Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mechanic's Bay timeline

The Timespanner blog is, first and foremost, a research lab of mine for history bits and pieces. The following is an example of that -- a not all-inclusive timeline of development at Mechanic's Bay from the 1840s. Pulled together mainly because I'm trying to get to grips with the wider heritage picture for the area including the Domain at the present time, and I'll be adding to it as things are discovered and corrections made.

The suburb known today as Parnell was, from Parnell Road to the deep gully and the railway line today, then north towards the point between St George's Bay and Mechanic's Bay, St Barnabas' Point -- called Mechanic's Bay. The name "Parnell" seems to have gained most usage from 1846, but up to the end of the 1850s, hotels such as the Windsor Castle were still said to have been in "Mechanics Bay" rather than in "Parnell".

Mechanic's Bay today has no relation to the original 19th century Mechanic's Bay. Today's is just a reclamation policy version of the original, far out to the north east of the original shoreline.

1841 September

In a letter to W Wakefield, Governor William Hobson seeks to clarify the issue of the New Zealand Company’s rights under the Crown’s policies regarding pre-emption of land in the colony. A schedule of lands in the southern North Island is listed for which the Company will receive title. (NZ Gazette & Wellington Spectator, 11 September 1841)


At some point, a stone government building was erected at the bay – but by 1843, its use was unknown, and the building was crumbling. (Southern Cross, 30 September 1843) It was still standing in May 1844, but in need of major repair. (Southern Cross, 4 May 1844)

1843 May

James Robertson advertises completion of his rope walk at Mechanic’s Bay.

“AUCKLAND ROPE WALK. The Undersigned having now completed the erection of his extensive Rope Walk, in which the most powerful and the most approved modern machinery is used, begs leave to most respectfully to inform Shippers, Ship-owners, Masters of Vessels, and the Public in general, that he has commenced Rope Making in all its branches, and will be able to supply Cordage superior to any hitherto made in New Zealand or the other Colonies. Cables, Hawsers, Running and Standing Rigging, Fishing Lines, Net Twine, and Nets made to order. New Zealand Flax purchased.
Mechanics' Bay, Auckland,
May 11, 1843.”
(Southern Cross, 13 May 1843)

Official crown grant to Robertson is only formalised in February 1847. (DI 1A.733, LINZ records) Before then, he may have had a lease.

1843 September

Announcement from the Colonial Secretary’s office of land exchange programme for claimants of areas around Auckland. (Southern Cross, 30 September 1843)

1843 November

Surveyors are reported in the Auckland Times as being busy pegging out streets and lines of frontages in Mechanic’s Bay, land purchased by the NZ Company “in that quarter.” Dillon Bell as Company agent was also inspecting Papakura and Maketu – all this as part of looking into part of the lands to make up their promised 50,000 acres from the Crown. (NZ Gazette & Wellington Spectator, 13 December 1843)

1843 December

Report of new immigrants seeking shelter in native huts at the bay, many falling sick and dying. (Southern Cross, 16 December 1843)

1844 January

The New Zealand Company, under agreement with the Crown, “purchase” sections in Parnell, Epsom, Grafton and North Shore. (NZ Gazettes) This agreement does not seem to have concluded with either formal Crown grants or other documentation. The NZ Company were accused of not living up to their end of the deal by newspapers commentators, in that they didn’t direct immigration to Auckland. The agreement appears to have been withdrawn by the Crown, and the land “bought” by the NZ Company reverted to the Crown.

1844 August

Low and Motion’s mill at Mechanic’s Bay in the process of being built. (Southern Cross, 17 August 1844) At that point, they may well have leased the property from the New Zealand Company, if this was part of the “reserved land” at the bay. Low & Motion were there until 1846, when their “New Mills” at Western Springs were built. (New Zealander, 19 September 1846)

1846 February

Allotments to the east of the bay, known as “Parnell”, being sold. (New Zealander, 28 February 1846)

1846 March

Reference made to lands at Mechanic’s Bay, reserved for the New Zealand Company. (New Zealander, 14 March 1846)

1846 April

Advertisement for George Darroch, shipwright, at Mechanic's Bay. (New Zealander, 25 April 1846). He was at Mechanic's Bay for a couple of years at least -- later shifted to Mahurangi by the mid 1850s. (Southern Cross, 28 November 1854)

1846 July

Sail and Tent Maker William Boyd commences work at the bay, at Robertson’s Rope Walk. (New Zealander, 4 July 1846)

1846 August

Archibald Sharp & Henry Niccol operating shipyard at Mechanic’s Bay. (New Zealander, 8 August 1846)

1847 October

A house on a hill overlooking Mechanic’s Bay is set aside by the government as a residence for Te Rauparaha, who greets local Maori there. (NZ Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, 9 October 1847) Whether this was Te Wherowhero’s (also government sponsored) cottage at the Domain is unclear.

Reference to government stables at Mechanic’s Bay. (Advertisement, New Zealander, 27 October 1847)

1849 January

Building lots, fronting The Strand and Stanley Street (an early mention of the latter) up for auction. (Southern Cross, 20 January 1849)

1849 February

Archibald Sharp dies at the bay, aged 48 (Southern Cross, 3 February 1849). Henry Niccol continues the business. (New Zealander, 17 March 1849)

Government sale of lands east of Mechanic’s Bay, in what is now Parnell. Reference to a suggestion for the line of road from beside Presbyterian Church across Mechanic’s Bay to extend to the Epsom Road – Parnell Rise? “The line of road in question is a continuation of the present road nearly in a straight line from the Presbyterian church across the flat to the opposite bank immediately below the mill and to come on to the Epsom road at the termination of the Government lands advertised for sale.” (Letter by Thomas Cleghorn, New Zealander, 21 March 1849)

1849-1850 is when most of the lands "purchased" by the NZ Company in 1844 were put back up for sale by the Crown or converted to endowment reserve status, according Auckland City Library's database for central city crown grants, and LINZ records for the endowments (10D.57)

1849 May

The rope walk building laid out as a banqueting hall for 500 Maori in celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. (Southern Cross, 26 May 1849)

1849 August

Tenders open for building of “Native Hostelry” at Mechanic’s Bay. (New Zealander, 21 August 1849). It opened February 1850 (New Zealander, 27 February 1850)

1850 January

[An update, 4 August 2009] Found by Carolyn Cameron, a member of Parnell Heritage: On only two days (18 & 22, Southern Cross) did some intrepid gardener advertise his wares, grown in a market garden in Mechanic's Bay, "adjoining the Rope Walk". Even given the looseness with which the word "adjoining" was applied in those days (it didn't always mean "right next to", I'd say there is every chance that this was indeed next to the Rope Walk. Exactly where is a good question. Anywhere on the empty allotments around Number 96. Thanks, Carolyn.

1850 13 March

Auckland and New Ulster Agricultural and Horticultural Society hold their show at Robertson’s rope works at Mechanic’s Bay. (Southern Cross, 1 March 1850) Included a performance of the band of the 58th regiment. (New Zealander, 13 March).

1850 May

Annual dinner for Queen Victoria’s Birthday to be held at the rope walk. (Southern Cross, 24 May 1850)

1850 September

Declaration of hospital and grammar school endowment lands.

Section 31 of the Town of Auckland, Lot 1, a shipwright’s yard at Mechanic’s Bay (2 roods, 16 perches), for hospital reserve. (New Zealander, 7 September 1850)

1851 April

Hugh Coolahan, baker, takes lease on part of the hospital endowment land at Mechanic’s Bay, part of Carlaw Park site (DI 1A.733, LINZ records). He had dealings in the past with Low & Motion at their Western Springs mill, and seems to set up the Mechanic’s Bay mill again to run in opposition to them. George Ashby, an employee of Low & Motion, is employed by Coolahan to work the mill at Mechanic’s Bay. (Court case report, Southern Cross, 15 June 1852)

1852 April

Charles (George?) Ashby takes over the “Mechanic’s Bay Mills” (New Zealander, 14 April 1852). This probably in response to Coolahan obtaining contract to supply bread to the Commissariat Department that month, but the bread he supplied from Low & Motion’s flour being condemned for having too much adulteration with the flour. (court case report, Southern Cross, 15 June 1852)

1852 May

Ashby calls for tenders for building a dwelling house and water wheel at the mill. (New Zealander 12 May 1852)
I, CHARLES ASHBY, late of the Parish of Yaxly, in the County of Huntingdon, England but now Shortland-street and Mechanic's Bay of Auckland: — Do hereby challenge any man in Australia, Van Diemen's Land, or New Zealand, to dress a Single or Pair of French Burr Millstones to time and neatness, for ONE HUNDRED GUINEAS. Umpires to be chosen on deposit of the Stakes. August 10th, 1852.”
(Southern Cross, 10 August 1852)

It is uncertain whether this second mill continued much beyond the end of 1852.

Description of Mechanic’s Bay:
“Mechanics' bay is as yet but little built upon; a large rope-walk, a shipbuilder's yard, a native hostelry, and a few small shops are the only buildings. This Bay is the principal place of encampment for the natives visiting Auckland in their canoes; here they land their native produce, in fine weather bivouacing in the open air, or under their sail-made tents ; and, in bad weather, seeking shelter in the neighbouring hostelry.” (New Zealander, 12 May 1852)

1853 June

Grammar School endowment land at top of Parnell Rise offered for lease. (Southern Cross 14 June 1853)

1854 September

Robertson leases his rope walk to John Hornby, Patent Rope Manufacturer. (DI 1A.733, LINZ records) It may have been him who enlarged Robertson’s original works. He sold all his household furniture and effects there in June 1857. (Southern Cross, 29 May 1857) The rope walk seems to have continued for a time under Lang & McCaul. (Southern Cross, 16 June 1857)

1855 January

Stanley Street building allotment sale at Mechanic’s Bay. (Southern Cross, 30 January 1855)

1855 August

Baron Charles de Thierry operated a flax mill at Mechanic's Bay from around this time. (Advertisement, Southern Cross, 21 August 1855) According to James Robertson, this didn't last long -- de Thierry next trying the enterprise at Freeman's Bay. (Southern Cross, 4 July 1867)

1856 April

Auckland Steam Saw Mills appears at Mechanic’s Bay. (Southern Cross, 4 April 1856) These may have become the Mechanic’s Bay Saw-Mills, under John Booth & Hodkinson, by 1859. (Southern Cross, 21 June 1859)

George Leech and his Shipwright’s Arms appears at Mechanic’s Bay. (Southern Cross, 4 April 1856) Later known as “Victory at Sebastopol”, the Swan, and the Strand Hotel.

1856 December

Hugh Coolahan leases the mill site to James Dawson (DI 1A.733, LINZ records) In partnership with Roger Kay, Dawson operates a tannery on the site. The partners assign the lease to a consortium in 1860: John Roberton, Alfred Buckland and William Hunter (Southern Cross, 21 August 1860). It would appear that George Ireland was operating the Ireland Brothers tannery business there by late August. (advertisement, Southern Cross, 24 August 1860). Coolahan formally leased the ground to George Ireland in May 1863. (DI 1A.733, LINZ records) It is known that Roger Kay went to work for the Ireland Brothers. The Ireland Brothers remained at Mechanics Bay until their new tannery at Penmure (from 1864) was fully set up. They had left by 1866.

1858 March

William Kinloch & Henry Allwright start the Mechanic’s Bay Foundry. (Southern Cross ad, 16 March 1858). The partnership ended on 28 June 1859. (Southern Cross, 1 July 1859) Another partnership, Kinloch and James Hill, dissolved in November that year. (Southern Cross, 28 November 1859). Kinloch appears on the 1860 Jury list as a founder in Parnell, so he may have kept the business going. In 1861, Kinloch was in partnership with Peter Birley (Southern Cross, 3 December 1861) and that dissolved as well, in April 1862. Birley then joined John Pettit and John Booth at the Mechanic's Bay timber yard. (Southern Cross, 25 April 1862)

1862 May

Fraser & Davidson's foundry at Mechanic's Bay -- possibly taking over from William Kinloch. (advertisement, Southern Cross, 30 May 1862) George Fraser entered into partnership with Theodore F. S. Tinne on 1 February 1865, to form Fraser & Tinne. (Southern Cross, 22 February 1865)

1863 February

Announcement of the proposed line of railway going through Mechanic’s Bay.

“The proposed Auckland terminus is outside Fort Britomart, where the line commences, skirting that point and winding round the bay, keeping about a chain outside Mrs. Shepherd's property. The line crosses the road between the Swan Inn and Mr. Niccol's yard, in Mechanics' Bay, and passing close by the corner of Mr. Boyd's sail loft, it strikes into the high ground beside the Parnell brick works, cuts the willows at the end of the tannery, and enters the demesne.” (Southern Cross, 28 February 1863)

1864 April

Henry Niccol considers shifting to the North Shore, purchasing 400 acres there. (Southern Cross, 11 April 1864)

1865 July

It appears the Mechanic's Bay Sawmills was taken over by the Union Door & Sash Company by this time. (advertisement, Southern Cross, 15 July 1865)

1866 March

Compensation claims for the Auckland-Drury railway:

"Union Steam Sash Moulding and Door Company (Limited), Strand, Mechanics' Bay, freehold, with right of water-way, 124 ft. 11 in. frontage by 112 ft 133 ft 4in. in rear. Price asked, £2,750 ; valuators award, £1,940; arbitrators' award, £2,600; fees, £4 4s. ; paid, £2,604 4s.

"William Boyd, Strand, Mechanics' Bay, leasehold of sail-loft. Price asked, £100 ; valuators' award, £97108.; paid, £97 10s.

"Fraser and Tinne, Strand, Mechanics' Bay, leasehold, Iron Foundry. Price asked, £4,000; valuators award, £1,740; paid, £1,740.

"James Robertson, Strand, Mechanics' Bay, freehold, with buildings thereon (except Kays), 137 links by 410. Price asked, £3,000; valuators award, £2,250 ; paid, £2,250.

"A. and K. Kay, Strand, Mechanics' Bay, small wooden building. Price asked, £12; valuators award, £12.

"K. Ridings, Tan-work Road, Parnell, freehold, 33ft. by 71ft. 6in. ; unimproved. Price asked, £100; valuators' award, £88; paid, £88.

"David Jackson, Tan-work Road, Parnell, 33ft. by 72ft.; unimproved. Price asked, £132; valuators' award, £88 ; paid, £88.

"Henry Berry, Tan-work Road, Parnell, freehold, 33ft. by 73ft., corner lot, unimproved. Price asked, £130 ; valuators' award, £110; paid, £110. "(Southern Cross, 2 March 1866)

Tan-work Road may have been today's Carlaw Park Road, or close to it.

1866 September

Another description:


Few casual passers-by know the importance of this little district, in a manufacturing point of view. It now numbers, amongst its industrial commercial enterprises, a brewery ; iron foundry, perhaps as complete as need be met with, for all general machinery; saw mills and general sash and door manufactory, rope walk, brick yard, tannery, bone-crushing mill; besides sundry firewood and coal emporiums. Thus, it forms, on a small scale, quite a busy manufacturing district ; but we should yet be glad to see added to its useful works of enterprise and profit a paper manufactory, pottery works, bottle and glass works — it being, in so many respects, thoroughly well situated for such undertakings. — [Communicated.] " (Southern Cross, 4 September 1866)


(Update, 25 August 2009): Reappearance of the Mechanic's Bay gardens -- a flood in 1869 damaged the gardens alongside the Ireland Brothers tanyard (Southern Cross, 12 February 1869).

(Update 26 August 2009): Mason Brothers advertised an acre of maize at Mechanic's Bay in 1866. 
(Southern Cross 15 February 1866) There may have been a connection with their later lease of the Tanyard Gully site 1870-1873, but at this point in time I'm not sure of the details.

(Update: 5 December 2015)
The Mason Brothers, at least William Mason, who had a nursery between Titoki Street and Parnell Road at the south-eastern corner of the Domain may also have been gardening in Mechanic's Bay at this time. In March 1869 Sections 98 and 99 were to be offered up for lease by public auction, for a term of 21 years. (Auckland Provincial Government Gazette, 22 March 1869, p. 204). The auction was to take place on 26 April that year. Then it was postponed to 6 May (NZ Herald 29 April 1869, p. 2[1]). Then, it was completely withdrawn. (Southern Cross, 10 May 1869, p.3).

1870 February

A woollen mill proprietor, Mr. Hunt, suggested to the Provincial Superintendent that Ireland's old tannery building at the bay would make a fine woollen mill. (Southern Cross, 28 February 1870) Nothing further seems to have come of it.

1870 November
(Update: 5 December 2015)
By November 1870, the decision was made to offer a three-year lease of Tanyard Gully, and this went to William Mason. All primary documentation related to this transaction, the lease itself, the conditions, any correspondence related to it, are lost to history, due to the November 1872 fire which destroyed most of the Provincial Council's archives. However, in a later file dating from December 1873-July 1875 regarding a later lease of the site, a note exists which refers to this now missing agreement with Mason, and confirms the term length of the lease. (Hospital Endowment - Correspondence, AP2 34, ID 21118699, Archives New Zealand).

Their lease expired towards the end of 1873. A number of interested parties contacted the Auckland Public Buildings Commission, a committee that was part of the Provincial Council, managing endowment properties and administering debentures offered, asking for leases of the property (and some just wanted the old cottage near the Domain). (Hospital Endowment - Correspondence, AP2 34, ID 21118699, Archives New Zealand).

August 1874
(Update: 5 December 2015)
In 1874 (Southern Cross, 18 August 1874) the new lease advertised was for 7 years. "6 1/2 acres in Mechanic's Bay, rich alluvial soil, well watered, and late in occupation of Mason Bros., nurserymen, with large Dwelling House, beautifully situated, adjoining the Domain."   It was awarded to Robert Baird, a nurseryman and seedsman based in Victoria Street. (Hospital Endowment - Correspondence, AP2 34, ID 21118699, Archives New Zealand). He set up "Victoria Nurseries" there, and brought in Charles Walter Scott Purdie as a manager from c1876. In 1878, Baird sold his business to D Hay & Son, and they advertised briefly, until mid 1879, including the nursery. By 1880, the property was possibly vacant once again.

(Update: 5 December 2015)
On 24 October 1881, the site's lease was put up for auction yet again -- and Thomas Ah Quoi purchased it for £95 per annum. (NZ Herald 25 October 1881 p. 4). Quoi was likely acting as front man for Chan Dar Chee and Ah Sec, seeing as he acted as their interpreter when they signed the deed in 1882, and set up their garden in the area.

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