Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Edward Wall's hulk at Customs Street

These days, such a find would be all over the newspapers, and the location would be covered in archaeologists.
When workmen were excavating for the foundations of Messrs Hipkins and Coutts' new warehouse in Customs Street East, Auckland, near Messrs A. H. Nathan and Co's large warehouse, in one of the trenches the ribs of a vessel were discovered about sixteen feet below the surface. Mr Ed. Bartley, the architect for the work, was informed of the discovery. He states that the ribs were of oak, and were embedded in the mud at about the old beach level. In the early days, before this portion of the city was reclaimed, Edward Wall had a blacksmith's shop near the spot where the ribs of the boat were found. Wall purchased the boat and dragged her up on the beach close to what was known as Jacob's ladder. Subsequently the boat was allowed to be buried in the earth as the reclamation work proceeded. 
Bay of Plenty Times 19 August 1904

Probably, though, in 1904, work simply proceeded, and the last remains of an early enterprise lost forever.

Edward Wall apparently came to Auckland by the late 1840s -- perhaps as a result of the first war with Maori up in Northland, as one of the refugees. He set himself up on the foreshore as it was then (now Fort Street).

 Southern Cross, 9 December 1848

He was in business a fair while, but by 1862, it seems it was all over.

Southern Cross 25 March 1862

This description makes Wall's store look like Auckland's equivalent to Wellington's Noah's Ark. The remains of the latter were fortunately retained, at least in part.

1863. Work was starting on the reclaimation of Commercial Bay, but the hulk was still there.

Southern Cross 26 January 1863

Cochrane tried auctioning the hulk on 16 February, but withdrew it, for lack of bidders.  There was another attempt in October that year.

Southern Cross 7 October 1863

This time -- success.
Yesterday, at his auction mart, Fort street, Mr. S Cochrane disposed of the hulk in Custom-house street, formerly occupied by Mr. Edward Wall, as a boat-building depot. It was disposed of to Mr W. F. Blake, for £37 10s.
Southern Cross 10 October 1863

So were the oak ribs the remains of the hulk which seemed to hard to auction off? And whatever happened to Edward Wall?

Update, 23 May 2011: It seems the old hulk hung around as a Custom Street landmark until at least late 1865. There were finally two auctions by Harris & Turner, one in April (Southern Cross, 5 April 1865), and the second in October:
Harris & Turner auction, the old hulk alongside Custom-house Street “with all the corrugated iron, bricks, etc. etc.
 Southern Cross 6 October 1865

Where was the hulk? Well, if the 1904 excavations did actually find it, then it was probably under 52-54 Customs Street East, corner of Customs Street East and Britomart Place. There'a a large building there now -- I did hear they found bits of old wharf pilings when they dug down for the Britomart train station (just to the north of that site), but I don't recall them finding large boats ...

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