Sunday, December 25, 2011

Street Stories 18: Why Lincoln Road?

 Detail from DP 670, originally dated 1888, LINZ records (crown copyright)

The question, "Why Lincoln Road?" came up when a reader of the Avondale Historical Journal contacted me recently asking about the origins of the name. What we now know as Lincoln Road, the long drive from Henderson township up towards either the North-Western motorway, SH16, or the turnoffs towards Massey and Ranui, is an old road. Older than its name actually. It existed from 1866 at least, when Thomas Henderson sold a farm at the end of the area to a man named Shortt, and the road served as a right-of-way connecting Shortt's farm to the Great North Road if required. It wasn't named Shortt's Road, however.

Nor was it named Duncan's road, after that buyer along the frontage in 1878. Nor Hudson's Road, after another major landowner there.

Instead, by 1889, it was called Lincoln Road, the first documented use of the name appearing that year.
An amount of business was transacted yesterday at the meeting of the above body, after we went to press. Lincoln Road.—A petition was read from residents and property holders abutting on Lincoln Road, praying that it should be formed and metalled. It was decided to form the road next summer.
Auckland Star 7 September 1889

The accepted answer as to the origin of the name Lincoln Road is because one Robert Cranwell, one of three members of a syndicate selling the Pomaria Estate (the entirety of the western side of Lincoln Road, plus 173 acres or so along the eastern side) from 1888, came from Grantham, Lincolnshire. That does seem as good an answer as any, considering that I have yet to find any instances of the use of the name for that road prior to 1888. But even that raises questions for me -- why Lincoln? Why not "Pomaria Road"? Well, that option went to one of the side roads in the 1888 estate subdivision (above). Other roads in the subdivision are Rathgar Road (a suburb of Dublin, in Ireland; first reference found online 1916), Larnoch Road, and Woodside Road, named (according to Auckland Library's online list) by the Waitemata County in 1928.

Probably, the three partners behind the Pomaria Estate, especially Cranwell, were able to campaign better than previous landowners to the Waitemata County Council to have the right-of-way recognised as a true road to be formed, and so their choice of Lincoln for a name stuck.

The Pomaria Estate's total area of 898 acres was sold by Thomas Henderson in 1878 to a Mr Mendelsohn (DI 16A.386). This may have been a Temuka storekeeper, one T Mendelsohn -- because by 1885, he had sold the land to three more South Island, more precisely Canterbury, businessmen: Frederic Le Cren (1835-1902), solicitor Arthur Ormsby of Canterbury, and Isaac Lewis Morris of Pleasant Point (NA 41/164). The point of the dealings was undoubtedly for investment. After all -- Henderson received a connection with Auckland by rail in the early 1880s, and it was considered that there might either be a rush of settlers wanting land, or the government itself might come knocking on the doors of major property owners, seeking land for special settlements.

But, the three South Island businessmen sold to three Auckland businessmen in 1888: 

Robert Cranwell, an upholsterer who had his own firm (Cranwell & Co) until 1876, joined Holloway & Garlick that year as manager of their furniture department (Auckland Star, 18 October 1876), and had his name join the others heading the business by 1877. Edwin Holloway left the partnership in September 1879, leaving Jonathan Tonson Garlick and Robert Cranwell to carry on. Robert Cranwell finally dissolved partnership with Garlick in August 1892. According to an obituary for his granddaughter Lucy May Cranwell Smith, Robert Cranwell's son Benjamin (Lucy's father) was the one skilled in orchard cultivation -- but he was born in 1878, a bit young to take part in the earliest years of what some newspapers at the time called the experiment at Pomaria.

For a time, Robert Cranwell became a farmer, and retired in 1893 to his considerable land holdings at Henderson, in the name of his wife Eliza (who had also taken over in September that year, in her name, the mortgage owed by the North Island syndicate to the South Island syndicate.) The Cranwells still retained property in Parnell, however. (Auckland Star, 7 August 1894)
One of the greatest features in Henderson is, of course, the Pomaria estate. It has an excellent position, being tapped by road, railway and navigable water. The owners of this estate, besides planting large orchards on their own account, have sold a good many sections to smaller settlers. The sections run from eight acres upwards. Several of them have water frontages to an arm of the Waitemata Harbour. Mr R. Cranwell occupies a large portion of the Pomaria estate. He has recently erected a very handsome house on his property and has settled there with his family. A Canterbury man tells me that he saw on Mr Cranwell's estate a crop of oats which would more than satisfy a farmer on the richest lands of the premier grain province and I learn from another source that the crop is not so good as one grown on the same ground last year.
 Auckland Star 7 December 1893

He was involved with the local school committee.

By 1900, son Benjamin  operated his own "Delta Nurseries" at Henderson , growing "flowering and ornamental trees, plants and shrubs, including nearly every known and rare varieties". (Auckland Star, 21 July 1900) His father appears to have been involved with growing wattle trees, calling for bark strippers, "3 acres stripped per ton", in the same year. (Auckland Star, 28 September 1900) He died in Parnell in 1916.
A highly esteemed citizen, Mr Robert Cranwell, lately died at Parnell, on. Monday, at the advanced age of 81. He arrived in Auckland on the vessel Matilda Wattenbach over fifty years ago, as a member of a Nonconformist party, formed to settle at Port Albert, on the Kaipara Harbour. Mr Cranwell's. family brought with them a spring cart— the first imported into Auckland— in which they had planned to drive to Port Albert. However, they found that the state of the roads necessitated travelling by bullock waggon, which took six weeks to cover the distance from Auckland to the destination of the party. After farming at Port Albert for some time, Mr Cranwell returned to Auckland, where he entered the furnishing trade, in which he was engaged for some twenty years, first as the head of Cranwell and Company, and later as a working partner in the firm of Garlick and Cranwell. He afterwards took an interest in fruit-growing, and, with two others, established the Pomaria Estate at Henderson, which was one of the pioneer farms of the local fruit trade. Mr Cranwell was for some time a member of the Mount Eden Borough Council, and further evidence of his public spirit was his donation of a library to the people of Henderson. Deceased is survived by three sons and two daughters— Messrs A. H. Cranwell, B. F. Cranwell, and R. B. Cranwell, Mesdames H. West and T. Colebrook—besides grandchildren and one great-grandchild. 
Observer 16 September 1916

George Harden was an engineer by profession. If this marriage notice involves him:

On Tuesday 15th September 1863 at St Mary's, Parnell, by Rev T Chapman, MA,
George, only son of the late George Harden Esq of Hunston near Dublin, to
Mary Sabin, second daughter of Mr Haselden of Arai, late of London.
New Zealander 16 September 1863, via Rootsweb

then this might explain the inclusion of "Rathgar" among the Pomaria Estate street names. By 1880, he was Patea County Council Engineer. Not much else is certain, at this time, about his life and career, and how he came to be involved with Cranwell and Bell.

Thomas Bell was manager of the Union Oil, Soap and Candle Company, at Bell Road in Otahuhu from at least 1882. The company was still in existence well into the 20th century. Could Bell have had Scottish connections, hence the Larnoch name? That isn't at all certain at this stage. But there's one thing -- neither Bell nor Harden were fellow Albertlanders like Cranwell. That's another West Auckland myth taking a bit of hold in the retelling of the Cranwell story regarding Pomaria, helped by some misinterpretation by those writing obituaries for Lucy Cranwell Smith.
What of the Pomaria Estate itself? Named after a noted orchard district in Ancient Rome, it appears to have been part of a movement at the time, financed by local businessmen, to set up orchard growing in districts where other types of agricultural  appeared to be struggling.
Of late increased attention has been paid by the townspeople to the necessity of fostering country industries, as it is recognised that commercial prosperity is largely contingent upon having the land opened up, and settled thereon a thrifty and industrious population … 

Perhaps the most novel feature is the forming of associations of city tradespeople for the purchase of land exclusively for fruit growing and fruit preserving. It is believed with the experience now gained, and the improved appliances for fruit preserving, that this may become one of the most thriving industries of the province. One such block has thus been taken up by city tradesmen, some 15 miles from Auckland, on the Kaipara railway line, containing 1000 acres, and named Pomaria. Active steps are being taken for fencing and planting with fruit trees. In the event of the experiment proving successful, private parties adjacent and the Government intend to open up some thousands of acres for fruit culture on somewhat similar lines. The founders of Pomaria are going upon the lines recommended by Mr Alderton and by Mr Federli. They are looking less to benefitting themselves as a commercial speculation than in initiating for the benefit of' the province a new and more excellent way of dealing with our northern lands, not specially suited for agriculture. The experiment is being watched with great interest by the small orchardists and horticulturists generally. 
Otago Daily Times 27 September 1888

Was the estate a real success? Probably not initially. As with other land developments during the period from 1885-1895, it was a bad time to try to sell land and pay off mortgage debt, during the country's Long Depression.  The title (NA 41/164) shows that from March 1889 to December 1893, only 6 of the total of 40 lots were sold. At that point, the three partners divided up shares in the remainder, or sold broad chunks outright to the Cranwell family, via Robert's wife, Eliza. It would appear that Cranwell ended up taking on most of the financial burden for the estate from 1893. Fortunately, he must have both done exceedingly well in the furnishing trade, and was able to hold on just long enough for true settlement in the Henderson area to take effect from the latter part of the 1890s -- and the coming of the vineyards for which Lincoln Road was to become famous last century. He subdivided the eastern wedge of 170 or so acres in June 1894, keeping part as his property, transferring others to family members, and selling the rest.


  1. And the vineyards are now all being replaced by factories and shops. I still remember how Lincoln Rod used to be before they turned it into an urbanised nigthmare. Gorgeous map and great post!

  2. I spent my childhood in the Lincoln area in the late 70's and early 80's. It has changed so much since then , it is really a shame that so many vineyards have been swallowed up by buildings.. it had a semi rural feel even back then.
    Great post Lisa!

  3. Thanks, Liz & Dolphinus. Just realised I should have put in a link to a previous (and brief) post I did on what's left of the vineyards. I'll do that now.

  4. Re: Cranwell, Harden and Bell; Fire on the Clay by Dick Scott page 180, "All three arrived in NZ in 1862 as Albertlanders"

  5. That's a tertiary source, Lyn -- as I noted above, there appears to be a bit of a legend rather than fact floating around about their Albertlander 1863 status. Sorry, I take Dick Scott's work with a grain of salt. Do you have a primary or contemporary source?

  6. The architect of Robert Cranwell's 'handsome house' on the Pomaria estate was R.J. Roberts (Auckland Star 22 Dec 1892). It seems this house may still be there, at 7 Crockett Lane, and listed in 2005 by Waitakere City as of historical significance.