Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A platform and and a pier at Official Bay

Detail from SO 4, crown copyright, LINZ records

I was looking for early things regarding Parnell recently, and a mis-cataloguing by Land Information New Zealand and their Landonline service led me to a Survey Office plan which wasn't about Parnell at all. Sometime in the very early 1860s, someone (perhaps Charles Heaphy) prepared what was to become SO 4, showing detail to a few bits of land in Freeman's Bay, and Official Bay.

This was what intrigued me: "Carr's Platform", just to the east adjoining the long T-shaped Wynyard Pier in Official Bay. A fenced-odd square (actually likely retaining wall, see comments below) on the beach, beside a sawpit, and possibly Carr's factory just below.

This plan also showed two more sets of similar structures, over at Freeman's Bay.

So, who was this man who owned a platform at Official Bay?

James William Carr, photo held at Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries. Reproduced with permission.

According to Euan and Robert Carr, who wrote about their ancestor in the Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal, April 2000, James William Carr was born in London in 1827.  His father was a boat builder as was his grandfather. Their article says that Carr arrived with his bride here in Auckland in 1849, and started a boat building business here, before a brief interruption of travelling to San Francisco after word of the gold there, only to return in March 1851. He must have kept his head down, though -- or didn't actually have a business of his own in Auckland until later, in November 1853, where we see he had been employed by a Mr Beeson, and had only just taken over premises at Fort Street, to build his boats.

Southern Cross 29 November 1853

But, as seen later, Carr advertised that his business began in 1849. Whatever the true date was -- it appears he was usually quite successful, and good at his trade.

Southern Cross 5 September 1854

Southern Cross 15 August 1859

By late 1859, we find Carr on the move. This was the period when Commercial Bay was being filled in and reclaimed, and Customs Street formed in front of Fort Street, no longer the fore shore and haven for boat builders. He obviously decided to move east. He took out a lease on Lot 15, Section 8 of the City of Auckland in June 1859 (DI 1A.92, LINZ records), the site right next to Wynyard Pier. Obvious, then, why he so-named his boat-building factory there, near the end of Short Street.

Southern Cross 11 February 1862

Southern Cross 15 November 1862

He assigned his lease to a Mr Harris in August 1862, and by November that year the site where he'd been for less than three years was up for auction sale. He didn't reappear in the newspapers until March 1866, with his Red House boat building business, next to the Auckland Gas Company works in Brickfield Bay (the intersection of Wyndham and Nelson Streets today).

Southern Cross 5 March 1866

But where had he gone in the intervening four years? Apparently -- up north to Batley on the banks of the Otamatea River. James William Carr and his brother William Joshua Carr, according to Carr family history, had the first store there during the initial period of Albertlander settlement, a hut later taken over by Joseph Masefield, and later still becoming the site of the Batley wharf. Probably, like a few other cases during the Albertlander immigration period of the early 1860s, the brothers Carr weighed up the privations of life up in the Kaipara at the time, versus the rewards which (at that time) probably seemed very far off. William Joshua Carr left the colony, and James William Carr returned to Auckland.

The Welcome Dining Rooms opened on Customs Street West, opposite Gleeson's Hotel, bottom of Nelson Street, in 1883. Photo ref 4-RIC372, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

By the 1880s, Carr's sons had joined the business. In 1883, Carr was elected to the Mt Roskill Road Board, becoming chairman two years later and remaining in that post for ten years. Carr Road in Mt Roskill is said to be named after him. He died in 1909 and was buried at Purewa Cemetery.

But as to why whoever drew up the survey plan called his patch on the beach a "platform" -- I still don't know. Any ideas from readers would be welcome.

Detail from SO 9, 1864, crown copyright, LINZ records

As for the Wynyard Pier itself, that originated from a subscription drive for funds in April 1851, and while it wasn't opened officially, the Southern Cross eagerly awaited its completion later that year.

During the progress of this Pier, we have frequently had occasion to allude to the beauty and solidity of the construction, as well as to the vast convenience it is calculated to afford to passengers landing, and embarking at all times of tide. The work is now approaching towards completion, and we may, we believe, safely assert, that a more substantial or more graceful structure could not easily be put together. The pier is indeed a feature of gratifying prominence in Official Bay. It is in the shape of the letter T and from its landward to its seaward extremities, is 480 feet in length, by 10 feet in breadth. Inside of either angle of the T there are staircases for the convenience of passengers and at intervals, further up the platform, there is also a staircase on either side. When we recollect that for the last ten or eleven years there existed in Auckland no landing place whatever, we cannot but feel grateful to Lieut-Colonel Wynyard for the anxiety he evinced in originating this pier, as well as for the unwearied assiduity with which he has at length conducted it to successful and substantial completion ... Under these circumstances, then, we venture to express a hope that when this pier shall be opened, as we understand it shortly will, it may receive the appropriate and well merited name of "The Wynyard Pier." And, to give eclat to that opening, occur when it may, we have heard that a miniature Regatta has been some time in contemplation. 

Southern Cross 28 November 1851

There was a bit of a fireworks display off the pier in August 1852, but as hardly anyone was told about it, hardly anyone attended.

One feature of Wynyard Pier was that this was where water was supplied, from a tank located just beside what was briefly Carr's boat building yards, supplied by a long piping system from the waters of the Waiariki spring, Waiariki being also the original name for Official Bay.

Wynyard pier (mid distance) as seen from eastern Mechanics Bay, 1850s. Ref 4-5182, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

Same view, 1860s. Ref 4-834, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

Wynyard Pier was where troops arrived by ship, disembarking for the march up to Albert Barracks in the 1850s. Foley's Menagerie, the first of its kind in the country in 1855, entertained Aucklanders alongside the pier on the beach amongst the trees -- possibly pohutukawas. In 1857, H Webster informed ladies via advertisement in the newspapers "that he has one of his Bathing Machines now ready, and at their service," from 7am to 1pm, and from 2 pm until evening, at the "Bathing Office, Wynyard Pier". His wife, a milliner, also sold tickets.

Henry Dangar's Steam four mill, preceding the pier by a matter if months in 1851, remained on the western side of the pier until around 1862, the period when Carr was shifting out and commencing his brief period up north.

By 1862, though, the pier seemed to have passed its heyday.

The pier in Official Bay seems gradually falling to pieces. Pray, who is to blame? I presume the provincial government have charge of it. It is a great pity for want of a stitch in time, that so useful a structure should be allowed to fall to pieces but I suppose no political partisans have land close to it. Yours, R. 

Southern Cross 24 November 1862

But -- not quite so.

Could you, or any of your correspondents, inform me if Wynyard Pier is to be used for foot passengers alone, or to be a landing place for sheep, cattle, &c. As  I am informed, some hundred sheep were landed yesterday and to-day, causing a loss to me, and a breach of contract, if not protected, as I paid an advance of £600 and upwards on last year's rent, on the faith of no other wharf being allowed for traffic. I have always understood that Wynyard Pier was devoted to the personal convenience of the public and I presume the police, or someone having authority, will see who are the aggressors, and protect my traffic in future.

I am, &c, 
Jno. Russell, 
Lessee Queen-street Wharf. Auckland, January 13, 1864

Southern Cross 14 January 1864

Wynyard Pier was the point where Governors arrived, and from which Royals (such as Prince Alfred in 1869) left the city for other ports.

The stub of the pier in the 1870s. Beach Road is already being formed, and causeway formed across adjoining Mechanics Bay. Official Bay now virtually a memory. Ref. 4-540, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

But as the 1870s proceeded, the pier began to fade.
We are sorry to find that the Wynyard Pier is fast failing into a state of dilapidation, and is melting away. The timbers are perfectly rotten, and in many places the planks have disappeared bodily. This jetty has always been a favorite place for promenading on summer evenings, and even for that reason ought to be kept in such repair as would prevent people from breaking their legs. 
 Auckland Star 14 December 1871 

The disgraceful state of Wynyard Pier, to which we have repeatedly called attention, has at length caused an accident, as we predicted. Captain Gilfillan, of the schooner Nukulau, while going down the pier on Saturday night to where his boat was moored, slipped through one of the dangerous apertures which have wantonly been allowed to remain. He fortunately saved himself from dropping in the sea, but two of his ribs were fractured in the fall, and he is now under medical treatment. Public safety demands that the pier be either repaired forthwith or closed, and unless something is done after the repeated attention called to it by the press, should any fatal accident occur there is no hesitation in saying that the authorities, who have charge of this pier will have been as much guilty of manslaughter as any reckless driver who runs over and kills a fellow creature. 
 Auckland Star 11 March 1872

Railway works were commencing around this time, finally connecting Auckland with Onehunga -- and the beach where Carr built his boats became the line along which the trains would pass. In combination with that, Beach Road was initiated, linking downtown Auckland directly with Mechanics Bay and on to Parnell. The Auckland Harbour Board in January 1873 considered the old Wynyard Pier, now broken in two places by the railway contractor was "almost beyond repairing" and should probably be replaced by a wharf elsewhere. By July, the pier was largely demolished, the remainder just a jetty poking out from the other side of the railway embankment.

The pier's traffic now mainly redirected to Queen's Wharf, those east of the city felt aggrieved enough as to the inconvenience of losing their ready access thanks to railway construction as to take it through to Parliament in 1875, where proposals for re-erection of the pier were mooted. The wrangle over the lost access to the pier continued on as far as 1879.

Detail from "Standard Survey, City of Auckland", 1879. Ref NZ Map 116, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

The Auckland railyards, looking towards Parnell, 1880s. Wynyard Pier's remnant left of centre. Ref 4-1027, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries.

Petitioners asked the Harbour Board in 1879 to lengthen the stub of the pier into deep water -- but the Board turned down the request. Ladies, though, still strolled there, little boys fished, and the occasional shark was caught, and made the headlines. The public, with no direct access, simply crossed the railyards anyway, despite the dangers. The authorities seemed to relent in 1885 by promising a special road access to the old wharf -- but there was still discussion about a bridge access over the rail lines into 1889.

The extended Wynyard Pier, c1900. Ref 4-939, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries

Then, in 1899, the Harbour Board agreed to extend Wynyard Pier, by then popular with yachtsman as well as nearby boat builders. For the first three decades of last century, the pier remained -- but finally, development of both Tamaki Drive from 1928 and the Auckland Railway Station in the early 1930s on Beach Road finished it off. Carr's Platform would possibly now be deep under the vicinity of 73 Beach Road.


  1. Hi Lisa. I think the reason it is referred to as a platform is because what you refer to as a "fence" on the survey plan is actually a timber retaining wall that has been backfilled with earth to create a flat area higher than sea level. David.

  2. That makes a ton of sense, David. Cheers for that.

  3. His first advert for the red house by the gasworks at Brickhouse Bay was April 1865. He took over the two storey boathouse from shipwright William Hanson who built it early the year before.