Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chinaman's Hill, Grey Lynn

Right: Detail from DP 19781, Faulder Estate subdivision, 1926, LINZ records. Click to enlarge.

Updated: 4 January 2012

Looking into the past of the land now part of the Great North Road (since the deviation was completed just after World War I) is still work-in-progress as bits and pieces crop up, but -- most of the line of Great North Road which sweeps up from its intersection with Tuarangi Road (the old line of the Great North) was part of a farm owned by the Faulder family. The most noted member was Thomas Faulder, a respected citizen of Newton Borough, according to the Cyclopedia of New Zealand:
"Mr. Thomas Faulder, who was elected as a councillor of the Borough of Newton in 1889, was a man much respected by his fellow citizens. He was born on the 24th of June, 1838, at Braithwaite, near Keswick, Cumberland, England, and was educated at Cockermouth College. Mr. Faulder was apprenticed to the drapery trade with an uncle and at the age of nineteen years left England for Australia by the “Royal Charter, which was wrecked on the voyage. He was very successful for several years on the goldfields of Victoria, and sold out his interest there with the intention of returning to the land of his birth, but following the advice of friends he came to this Colony. After residing in Otago for a short time, and for three years in Christchurch, he went to Auckland in 1868, and established himself as a builder and contractor. In 1889 he retired to his residence “West Home,” Richmond, where he died on the 13th of February, 1897, after an illness patiently born for seven months. Mrs. Faulder was left with a family of five sons and five daughters."
 The Cyclopedia though was published three decades after Thomas Faulder's earlier claim to fame -- as one of Auckland City's early night-cart contractors, in the early 1870s. He used his holdings along the Great North Road as a night-soil depot, ploughing in the sewage. If it was indeed his land which was later known for the Chinese market gardens, from which the local name "Chinaman's Hill" for the new portion of Great North Road comes from -- no wonder it was so fertile, stretching across from Surrey Crescent to the Newton Gully.

There's a Faulder Avenue in Westmere, once part of the Newton Borough. If that street is named from the Faulder family -- Thomas Faulder may well be the only night-cart contractor to be so immortalised in the city.
Up above Faulder's Great North Road land, by the way, was the Marshfield Estate which met up with the top of the ridge. Here, according to Kaaren Hiyama in her book High Hopes in Hard Times (pp. 27-28), there were problems regarding obnoxious stuff in the neighbourhood in the early 1880s.
"Letters and a petition from tenants to the trustees from 1884 all complain of the storage of night-carts and the stabling of  'from twelve to twenty horses' on Marshfield. A Mr. Anderson bemoans the fact that he has built three cottages, one of which he and his wife live in, and the other two rented out at 6 shillings weekly, from which the tenants have been driven out by the smell. He went to his lawyers who concluded that: 'lands of the [St John's Anglican] Trust are occupied mainly by men connected with the night-soil, stabling and piggery business and that people of other occupations therefore shun the neighbourhood.'"
They complained about Maurice Casey as well, but of course, by 1888, he had a poudrette factory option way out west.

A lease for Allotment 21 of Section 7, Suburbs of Auckland (bottom of the hill, south side, bounded today by Great North, Tuarangi, Wexford Roads and the St Lukes motorway onramp) was taken out in April 1879 by Lee Chung and Si Lee (lease likely organised by James Ah Kew whose name appears on the deeds index - DI 1A.551). This lease possibly continued through to c.1902 -- there is no mention of the lease on the title sought at that date (NA 111/84). These gardens were in full operation by at least the mid 1880s. They, along with others in the vicinity, became a cause of concern for letter writers to the NZ Herald when questions were raised as the the purity of the Western Springs water supply:
"I think the general public will be surprised to learn that -- barring a very low estimate from the number of loads that pass through Newton -- ten tons daily, or over three thousand tons yearly, of stable manure, besides a great quantity of urine, is deposited in the Chinese gardens, within a quarter of a mile of and in the direct line of drainage to the springs from which our water is pumped ..."

("Aqua Pura", NZ Herald 26 February 1887)

Thomas Wong Doo, the patriarch of the successful Wong Doo family, is said to have joined older brothers on the market gardens at Chinaman's Hill, sometime during the 1880s. (Information from his obituary, NZ Herald, 21 November 1958). However, there is no mention of the family involvement in market gardening in a memoir by Mrs Lily Doo, published in Home Away From Home: Life Stories of Chinese Women in New Zealand, by Manying Ip (1990). I have yet to find contemporary documentation as to that family's involvement with the Chinaman's Hill story.

Kaaren Hiyama identified some more names:
"Transliteration and the reversal of Chinese name order makes connections difficult. In the 1890s valuation rolls show a Fong Chaw living in one of Thomas Faulder's houses on the southern side of Surrey Crescent  opposite Billington's block, and possibly working that land. Thomas Billington's property, between Stanmore and Old Mill Roads and Francis Street, was leased from 1884 to four Fong brothers and in 1890 a Quong Fong Ming, gardener, is listed as the occupier of the house and land belonging to Billington ... Memories of elderly local people of the market gardeners hawking their produce in horse and cart are the only remaining evidence of large-scale cultivation which continued for decades, supplementing home-grown vegetables." (pp. 28-29)
Mrs. Faulder appears to have inherited Thomas's estate, and when she in turn passed on, the family commenced the major subdivisions. Chinese market gardening at Chinaman's Hill may have survived the formation of the new part of the Great North Road, but not by much.


  1. Enjoying reading this, thanks so much.

  2. I walked Chinamans hill yesterday decided I needed to google it. Was as interesting as I thought it would be. Ellen