Friday, December 30, 2011

Miss Newey's cottage

Back in May 2010, in a post about a stroll through part of Henderson, I referred to Miss Newey's cottage. Newey's reserve is at the corner of Edmonton and Great North Roads. Almost in the picture above, taken from one of the interpretive signs there. 

I mentioned in the post that I wasn't sure how the cottage, given with the land to Henderson Borough Council in 1987, came to end up at Western Springs. 

 Western Leader 28 September 1987

Now, I do. But it's too late for the cottage. 

Eileen Newey, described in 1987 as one of Henderson's oldest residents when she died, left the Henderson Borough Council her land at the corner of Edmonton and Great North Road as a reserve, establishing Newey's Corner. Edges of the property were used to widen the intersection, with Miss Newey's approval. The Council advised the Western Leader at the time that the house "will be made available free for removal to an approved community group." The mayor of Henderson at the time, Assid Corban, described Miss Newey as a school teacher of many years, who took great interest in the Henderson community. "She taught me at school, and many generations of Henderson people, she went beyond the bounds of  a normal school teacher in the area."

What perplexed me was how the cottage ended up at Western Springs, on land which was once part of that for William Edgcumbe's Northern Hotel (the "Old Stone Jug") on Great North Road.

This is the cottage as it was earlier this year, in from of the Auckland Horticultural Society's building on Great North Road. From what I understand, Assid Corban had connections with the Society back in 1987, and offered the cottage to them for use as a caretaker's residence -- the caretaker needed to look after the Horticultural Centre on the site which is used by community groups and other organisations for hire, once the clubhouse for Chamberlain Park Golfcourse.

By 2009, however, the cottage wasn't used as much, and the Auckland City Council advised the Society that the cottage was too close to the Meola Stream banks, and could cause major erosion problems. Earlier this year, a committee member in the Society had some ideas to reopen the cottage as a kind of arts centre. I had a look inside then. For its age, from around the late 1920s onwards, it was in very good nick.

Then, in late October, as I arrived for a meeting of the Pt Chevalier Historical Society, I found this. Bare remnants of the foundations. The storage container was linked, I believe, to a crew selling fireworks from the site later on in November.

What I later found out, thanks to some kind folk within Auckland Council and Trevor Pollard of West Auckland Historical Society, was that the cottage was removed on 23 September and carted west, to a yard on Hobsonville Road. There, it will either be sold (if it hasn't been already) or -- broken up for demolition bits and pieces.

I know it is just a cottage, and there are a lot of them around, but -- with a bit more thought, it might have ended up back at Henderson, somewhere like Tui Glen. Perhaps even set up as a bit of a historical display on the history of education in the area and in West Auckland. Something for children to help them learn about our history.

But, just like some old cottage on an anonymous and ordinary bit of land -- it's now gone.

Auckland Council can't be blamed for this. Passing any kind of file notation from Henderson Borough Council to Waitakere City Council then on to Auckland Council would be expecting too much. And Henderson Borough Council may not have even made note of the heritage values of the building anyway, values diminished to next to nothing once they allowed its removal from the district and its community associations. The Horticultural Society, faced with demands to move the cottage, obviously saw only the one solution, and that was to sell for removal. No fault lies there, they were acting in their own interests. The company which removed the cottage are, of course, just doing business. No fault lies there, either.

It's just a pity that no one mentioned, before it was removed, what was going to happen, perhaps looked into its story (published online prior to removal via the Point Chevalier Times last year), asked the local historical society about it ... just a shame.

Update 3 February 2012: Remembering Miss Newey.


  1. I remember this cottage and when they removed it in 1987. I actually knew nothing of it's history and thought they had demolished it at the time. I spent some time scavenging bits and pieces including a vase that would have belonged to Miss Newey.

  2. Have you still got the bits and pieces?

  3. Well, you're going to be disappointed I am afraid. The stuff was still around until mid 2007. It all went when I was trying to clean up my mother's house. It was a trying time and I was not thinking clearly due to the stress of what was going on. I sent the vase and a whole bunch of stuff to charity, Salvation Army or St. Vincent. Of course I am kicking myself now. But at the time it was too much to deal with. It was a small terra cotta vase with handles probably from the 1930s 0r 1940s. Well at least it wasn't thrown in the dumpster. Maybe someone somewhere has it sitting on a shelf again.

  4. There was also a plastic doll, a bunny-human hybrid in pink and blue plastic. very cute. I think they are quite collectable now. It was poking out of a mound of bulldozed dirt. I had that until 1993, where it was stolen from my studio at art school.

  5. No worries. Just thought I'd ask. The local historical society would have gone nuts over it.

  6. This is part of the sort of usual detritus that is left under houses...decades of stuff including coins that have dropped through cracks in the floorboards, and a few dessicated rats. All the stuff that remained after they low loaded the house but hadn't yet bulldozed the site.

  7. But yes it is infuriating that it was sold off and possibly will be dismantled for parts. She must be up in heaven spitting tacks. Very sad really that someone didn't even look into it, and nobody spoke up. I often lament how quickly some things can slip through the cracks and disappear against someone's best efforts - their legacy and wish to simply do good for others in the future evaporates. It reminds me of the part in the story of Patrick Suskind's "Perfume" where the owner of the orphanage spends her whole life focussed on insuring she does not end up dying in a pensione, and that's exactly what happens to her anyway in the aftermath of the revolution. I have read about Newey before and it is nice there is at least a memorial garden to remember her by.

  8. Thanks, Darian. You're thinking basically what I do about this.

  9. Graham has asked that his comment be recorded here. Thanks, Graham -- Lisa.

    Although Miss Newey's cottage may not be as significant as the Fall's Hotel and cottage, Miss Newey was a very significant person in the lives of many, many local people. As Head of the Junior Department at the Henderson School she made a huge early impact on those she taught, enabling and encouraging her students towards the early success in their learning. Additionally, she was a very important and valued member of the Henderson and Districts Garden Club, extending our knowledge of plants, growing and nurturing plants every meeting. She was a wonderful member whom all the club members admired and valued as a friend.
    Therefore her cottage symbolises the value of her contributions locally and is now culturally and socially symbolic of those contributions. We must make the effort to relocate and maintain the cottage in Fall's Park.
    This cottage has the potential to be a cultural and social symbol of recognition and encouragement for the current and future communities if it is developed and presented as an educational and community centre that supports local educational activities and club functions.
    Graham Foster
    President Henderson and Districts Garden Club 2012

  10. I was going to say, what was the problem with moving it to Falls Park? That would have been great. Maybe it wasn't a "think" yet. I know they had heritage signs up by then, at least for Tui Glen and the old Delta Wharf.

  11. of course I mean "thing" not think, but a strangely apt typo.

  12. Nobody gives a damn. This whole thing has left me at the moment with a not very high impression of how folk out West view history.

  13. Would it help to write a letter to someone? Any way any of us can help?

  14. Don't know. The contact details for the Henderson-Massey Local Board at least are on the Auckland Council website. If anyone would like to drop them a line (the board members all have emails) just expressing views, you're most welcome. They've worn Trevor Pollard and me down.

  15. Sorry just read this so ignore my other comment.