Monday, February 13, 2012

18 Paget Street, Ponsonby

2008 aerial, from Auckland Council website

Edited, 24 October 2016: the house has now been demolished.

I’ve had a number of people come up to me ever since the story broke regarding the demolition consent controversy around 18 Paget Street in Ponsonby, all wanting to know more about the history of the place. The NZ Herald plastered itself with reports in January this year on the issues raised by the proposed demolition of one of the oldest houses in the street.


Etc., etc. ...

Okay. A couple of points.

First, it has always been called Paget Street, since 1861 when it was so named by the developer of the original 4 acre plot of land bounded by Anglesea Street, Ponsonby Road and Picton street, despite the Auckland Library database suggesting an 1883-1912 switch to Pettit Street. The 1908 City of Auckland Plan shows “Paget”, not “Pettit”.

Second, was the original part of the house at 18 Paget ever one of the buildings removed from the Albert Barracks during 1873-1881? Unlikely. I don't think it was ever just a "two-roomed cottage", even at the beginning. More later in this post.

What the land history tells us is this:

The Crown Grant from the government for the land of which the site is part was relatively late in terms of Auckland land history. In 1860, two gents named Arrowsmith and Mactier had their names on the first title, then quickly transferred to a Mr Wood (quite possibly land agent Michael Wood). In 1861, Wood transferred to Thomas Russell, and Paget Street was formed, along with Russell’s subdivision. (Deeds Index 9A.192)

Lots 15-18, corner of Anglesea and Paget Streets, was sold to Alfred Scales in October 1862. He owned the four sections until March 1866, when he met a bit of a financial dip.

Mr. Samuel Cochrane will sell by auction to-day, at the residence of Mr. Alfred Scales, Anglesea street, Ponsonby Road, the whole of his valuable cabinet furniture, books, pictures, &c.; also at 11 o'clock, at his stores, 250 bags of Tamaki potatoes.

SC 20.4.1866

The death of Mr. Alfred Scales at the early age of 47 is announced in an obituary notice in our paper this evening: For many months Mr Scales had been a confirmed invalid, and for the past fire or six months has been closely confined to his bedroom. Mr. Scales, as a printer, has seen a good many vicissitudes. In the “palmy” days of the soldiers, when there was a large contingent of English troops in and around Auckland Mr Scales was, with Mr. R J Creighton, one of the lessees of the Daily Southern Cross, at a time when money was plentiful in Auckland. After spending some time in Melbourne, Mr. Scales returned to New Zealand and became reader in the Government printing office. Afterwards he joined his former partner, Mr Creighton, in the management of the New Zealand Times, and subsequently returned to the Government service. As we have said, for several months Mr Scales has been suffering from consumption, gradually sinking. Mr Scales had the reputation of being a printer possessing large experience and excellent taste in the promotion of printing work. He had many friends, who will regret his early death. Mr Scales leaves a widow but no children.

Evening Post 28.10.1878

Scales owned three pieces of land in Auckland in 1866: the Anglesea-Paget land, land bounded by Anglesea/Ponsonby/Collingwood Street, and land fronting Great North Road. (19D.687). The Anglesea-Paget property did have a single-storey wooden dwelling on it as at 1866-1867. This fronted Anglesea Street, near the Paget corner.

Detail from 1866 Vercoe & Harding map, NZ Map 18, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

A “gentleman who is leaving Auckland” arranged to have auctioneers C Arthur & Son sell the gentleman’s household furniture from “the house known as Mr Scales’, at 12 noon” at “Anglesea Street, near Ponsonby Road.” (SC 23.1.1870)

Then in September 1871, William Brown (through his agent and partner John Logan Campbell) sold the Anglesea-Paget corner to Mary Winslow Dickson, wife of Richard Dickson, who was also involved with the transaction. (24D.485) The price was £260. Just over a year later, in October 1872, the Dicksons transferred 26 perches of that land (the site of 18 Paget) to sharebroker Edgar Wright Walker for £440. (24D.284) Now, it is likely that the Dickson purchase from Brown was worth much more than just £260, and that possibly Dickson had done some sort of deal with the Brown & Campbell firm. But the high price Walker paid seems to indicate that he bought not just land, but a building as well – along with a water right to a well over the boundary in the Anglesea St property still held by the Dicksons. There was also an existing tenancy at 18 Paget Street – “… subject to the tenancy of one Dacre therein which expires on the first day of April one thousand eight hundred and seventy-three …”

Detail from Deed volume 24D page 284, LINZ records

The name looks like “Dacre”, and there was a James Dacre living on Ponsonby Road in 1872 (report of a stillbirth, Star, 2.8.1872). If this is correct, and there was a tenant there, possibly with a three year agreement, then this would indicate that the dwelling there dated from possibly 1870.

Which brings in the question as to whether or not the building was shifted to the site from the Albert Park barracks. Actually, I think it is unlikely.

“Right down to November 1871, it wasn’t certain what the reserve’s future would be. Finally, in December, the Albert Barracks Reserves Act of 1871 established a board of commissioners made up of the Provincial Council Superintendent, the Mayor of Auckland, the Speaker and the Secretary of the Provincial Council, along with James Farmer, Judge Francis Dart Fenton, Theophilus Heale, James MacKay junior, William Thorne Buckland and Thomas Macready.

"A second act in 1872 officially vested the Albert Barracks Reserve lands in the Provincial Superintendent, who in turn appointed commissioners to manage the property. This was the beginning of the City Improvement Commissioners who first met as a body on 2 December 1872, made up of the Superintendent, the Mayor of Auckland, Judge Fenton, G. M. O’Rorke, Provincial Secretary H. H. Lusk, W. T. Buckland, J. M. Clark, T. Macready, and Stannus Jones. A third act in 1873 vested the reserve with the Commissioners directly. Judge Thomas Gillies, who was also Superintendent at the time, opposed this third Act however, expressing his personal concerns that the Commissioners were being given too much power.”
The removal of the barrack buildings likely didn't start until 1873 -- a bit later than the appearance of something substantial indicated at 18 Paget Street.

Auckland Star 22.12.1873

Auckland Star 13.3.1874

Auckland Star 30.3.1876

Auckland Star 16.5.1877

The building above, by the way, had been used by Mr Brogden during planning for the railway from Auckland to Drury, including completion of the first Parnell rail tunnel.

The builder of 18 Paget Street’s original structure was quite possibly builder and politician Richard Dickson. If so, 18 Paget Street's building had some merit historically because of that fact.

“Mr. Richard Dickson, who was elected to a seat in the Auckland City Council in 1876, was born in Tyrone, Ireland, in 1829, and at an early age went to America, where he followed the trade of a cabinet-maker. He returned to the Old Country in 1850, and two years later sailed for Australia. After spending three years in Sydney and Melbourne he came to Auckland and established himself in the building trade. It was he who erected the New Zealand Insurance Company's Buildings, the Bank of New Zealand, the Lorne Street Hall, Tyrone Buildings, the Museum, and other noteworthy places. He was associated with the Oddfellows for many years, and took an active interest in St. Matthew's Church. Mr. Dickson was contractor for the Patea Breakwater, and was accidentally killed whilst working at the contract in 1879.”

Cyclopedia of NZ, NZETC

Many of our readers will join with us in a feeling of regret at the sudden and unexpected death of Mr Dickson, contractor, recently of this city, and a member of the City Council. The particulars of Mr Dickson’s death will be found among this day's telegrams from Patea, from which it appears that Mr Dickson was assisting at the Patea Breakwater works, when he fell in front of the crane used for shifting blocks and other materials; his leg being taken off completely, and which was left hanging by a piece of skin. Medical assistance was immediately sent for, and two medical gentlemen were in attendance; but too late to render any real assistance. Mr Dickson died within five minutes of the accident. Mr Dickson was a native of the North of Ireland, and previously to coming to New Zealand, a quarter of a century ago, he worked as a labouring man in California. On settling in Auckland he pursued the business of a contractor with success. He was a man of upright habits of life, and was a useful member of the congregation of St. Matthew's, both as a parishioner and teacher in the Sunday-school. He was comfortably married, but had no family. Mr and Mrs Dickson, however, adopted and educated a little girl, now nearly a young woman, who, we understand, is still with the widow. Mr Dickson was elected a member of the City Council of Auckland on the 14th of September, 1876, a position which he creditably held until circumstances called him to the South in connection with contracts which he had undertaken. The melancholy and fatal accident has cast quite a gloom over the neighbourhood of Mr Dickson’s last earthly labours.

Auckland Star 15.5.1879

Edgar Wright Walker appears to have arrived on the City of Melbourne 23 February 1872, so his purchase of 18 Paget Street was one he made quite early in his Auckland career. By March 1874, He and Mrs Walker were living on Paget Street …

Auckland Star 30.3.1874

… but he was on the move by September that year.

Auckland Star 7.9.1874

In May 1875, Walker sold the property to Edward George Smith for £200 (30D.403) – a considerable drop from the price Walker had paid in late 1872. This may have been due, however, to the undischarged mortgage still on the property deed, which Walker obtained from Ellen Western in 1873 totalling £300 (17M.407). By 1875, Walker was living in Brisbane, Queensland.

The Western mortgage hung over the property until 1877, when it was finally paid in full by auctioneer George William Binney, who therefore obtained title to the house and site. (21M.738)

Auckland Star 18.1.1878

He then sold the property for £400 to John Arthur Cramond in March 1878. The Cramond family were to remain owners of the property up to March 1905.

Auckland Star 4.4.1878

Detail from T W Hickson's map, 1882, NZ Map 91, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

Auckland Star 20.4.1893

By the 1890s, the house appears to have gained a name: "The Oaks".

The death occurred at Onehunga on Thursday of Mr John Arthur Cramond, in his 91st year. Mr Cramond was born in London in the year 1830. As a young man he emigrated to South Australia, arriving at Adelaide in 1849 in his father's ship, the Brightman, commanded by Captain Cowley. He was engaged in business there for a number of years. In 1870 he arrived in Auckland, and made his home in New Zealand from then to the time of his death. After being with Messrs Henderson and Macfarlane for a time he entered the service of the Union Steam Ship Company many years ago and remained in that employ until 1900, when he retired from active business. One of his grandsons is at present Mayor of Adelaide.

Hawera & Normanby Star, 15.5.1920

So, I think the house dates from c.1870, built on the site probably by Richard Dickson, and it is one of the earliest on Paget Street, but unlikely to be from the Albert barracks.

I think another question to be asked regarding all the fuss over this building is: what's going to replace it, once it is demolished? We'll have to wait and see.

Update, 27 February 2012: This came in tonight via email from Sandra Coney (see comments below), regarding Anthony Mactier and William Arrowsmith.
"Anthony Mactier was the son of the former governor of the Bengal Province and destined for the Indian Civil Service but this was not to his liking. He trained as a doctor in Edinburgh but then emigrated to NZ. William Arrowsmith (a qualified pharmacist) was a close friend of Anthony Mactier, they travelled to NZ. Arrowsmith and Mactier arrived in NZ in 1858, both originally settled at Ramarama, but they surrendered their land to govt in exchange for 2500 acres at Awhitu. Mactier is mentioned in Thayer Fairburn's book on the Orpheus in connection with finding and burying bodies found on the coast south of the Manukau Harbour entrance in 1863. He was one of the original purchasers of land in the Awhitu Parish 1873, purchasing 203 acres. His homestead Puketapu is still standing near Hamiltons Gap. He left the district during the Land Wars, and Arrowsmith looked after his property. He returned and took a leading role in the affairs of the district. Both Arrowsmith and Mactier gave medical help to fellow settlers. After a period, Mactier sold his farm to Alfred Buckland and retired from farming. However he returned to Awhitu and taught giving his salary to the poor. Mactier was well off but had a social conscience.

"In 1886 he married Susie Seaman, daughter of Thomas Seaman, census enumerator for the north, chair of the Lake District Road Board etc. Anthony and Susie at first lived in Ponsonby - I dont know whether this matches any dates you have for Paget Street, I suspect a bit late. I haven't looked into where they lived in Ponsonby. They later lived in a very large house in Hauraki Rd Takapuna and had a large garden where they grew vegetables the proceeds of which went to Barnadoes.

"Susie Seaman was an early teacher in Takapuna, the first headmistress of Takapuna Primary School, also a poet and novellist, known as "the Takapuna Lake poet". I came across her as one of the women who started the Auckland YWCA.

"Anthony died in 1925 and Susie went to live in Rotoura and died there in 1936.

"So it seems Arrowsmith and Mactier may have been investing in land. Hope this is of some interest as a side-bar to the Paget Street saga."

Edit (23 February 2017) -- the cottage was demolished in October 2016.

"A 135-year-old cottage on death row for four years has finally been demolished by a business couple for a large four-bedroom house. David Elder and Wynnis Armour got a gang of workers to raze the Freemans Bay cottage this week ... The simple white painted cottage with a blue corrugated iron roof survived for the past four years but was removed this week - two months before the demolition consent expires in December."

More here at the article link.


  1. Charles Craven Dacre son of Captain Dacre is a likely initial occupier of 18 Paget St after terminating his farming venture at Hobbs Bay, Whangaparaoa and returning to town in 1871.
    Both these men are significant early New Zealanders.A link to the Dacre family demands further investigation.

  2. I don't think there is enough evidence to rule out the Albert Barracks story yet, and there is apparently physical evidence (very wide floorboards) to suggest the building could be quite early. Hard to say without seeing it, but sometimes buildings were moved and joined to existing ones.
    It has an unusual footprint in the 1882 plan.

  3. There also isn't enough evidence to rule that theory in, either. Dickson may have built the house from materials from other places in auckland -- and not only Albert Barracks buildings were on the move in the early days. It would be nice if, somewhere, a building could be indicated with considerable certainty as being from Albert Park. I'd love to see that, considering nothing is left of the drill hall. I'm just not all that hopeful, at this stage, that 18 Paget is one of them.

    But, as always with our city's history, I'm looking forward for that extra bit of proof to emerge.

  4. Lisa, Is the Mactier mentioned as the 1st co-owner of the section Anthony Mactier, if so he was a doctor, lived at Awhitu, married Susie Seaman, the poet and novelist. Let me know and I'll tell more.

  5. The crown grant itself (6G.625) was one document I didn't look at and photograph at Archives New Zealand, Sandra -- the names Arrowsmith and Mactier comes from the Deeds Index only (9A.192). But, short of heading down to Mangere again soime time, I'd say that Anthony Mactier is most likely our man, as the only Mactier popping up at the time in the early newspapers, usually for land dealings. I'll send this by email to you.

  6. The Paget Street corner with Anglesea Street shows the transfer of the remainder of Dickson's land to AG Purchas and Kissling trustees in I877.
    AG Purchas built a house on six acres in Pitt St fronting K'Rd where he had a medical practice.It later became the nurses home of St Helens Hospital.Rev AG Purchas was a true colonial pioneer, a cleric responsible for the architectural design of early church buildings and from 1849 the vicar of Onehunga for 28 years.He founded the Sydney Choral Society in 1845.He was medical officer in charge of Auckland's first wooden hospital at St Johns College during the Late 1840's and early 1850,s,He was a founder and President of the Auckland Society.His contribution to the early Auckland community is large and varied. He is even said to have invented although never been credited for 'an internal combustion engine'in the early 1880's.
    The Kissling mentioned as a trustee is most likely GS Kissling, Manager of the Auckland Branch of the BNZ.For some time he was chairman of the Auckland Harbour Board and Mayor of Parnell.Born in England he was the eldest son of Rev G A Kissling,Archdeacon and first vicar of St Mary's Cathedral,friend of AG Purchas.
    Linking these people to the Paget Street property demands further investigation before demolition proceeds.This is our National heritage at stake here.Do the planners concerned here actually know what they are doing?

  7. Any linking of Purchas and Kissling with the property at 18 Paget Street though is pure red herring; and if you look at the deeds records, they served as trustees under equity of redemption (possibly first for Dickson and then for his bereaved widow (remember, Dickson was one of the leading lights for St Matthews Church). By 1885, the property fronting Anglesea Street belonged to John Francis White (but he may have owned that part of the Dickson property before title was granted.)

    The 18 Paget Street story had gone on its own path 5 years before Purchas and Kissling came into the picture.

  8. Well if the property of Number 18 is treated in isolation this may well be as you say a 'red herring'.
    I think you have shown all the owners of 18 have a unique story to tell.I also think there are many more secrets this property will reveal if left where it is and it can contribute even more over time.Seen in isolation all this is interesting enough.
    Now if we consider adding the overlapping history, the lives of owners, neighbours and contempories into the mix a real insight into colonial life starts to emerge.
    When dealing with the protection of colonial heritage we are not just talking single individual homes. We are also dealing with a streetscape of properties-a neighbourhood and zone.The surrounding homes and history is very important to the bigger picture.It is this that adds perspective,richness ,dimension and timescale.
    For instance 18 was built first on the corner of Paget and Anglesea, so it can still
    be imagined on a larger block,space around it with commanding uninterupted views of the harbour out to Rangitoto.
    As a new property is built the story changes and 'the plot thickens'.Each home has it's own list of owners continually growing,new stories to tell.Owners of the properties interact with each other,many leaving their mark with alterations along the way.This can be observed in the changes to the streetscape and environment over time -decades,indeed centuries if we let it.
    We can nurture this process.
    -if we protect individual homes from total demolition,say no to fake old new builings and modern infill housing and favour sensitive creative renovation instead.

    1. My great great grandmother eliza neil passed away at 18 paget st 02 nov 1926. It's mentioned it was at the residence of her daughter
      Mary white (neil) husband was Nathaniel white

  9. Seeing as Purchas and Kissling do not come into the land history of the site which is 18 Paget Street -- yes, I stick to my judgement of "red herring". If you are talking about the history of the site to the immediate north, and along Anglesea Street, then Kissling and Purchas' involvement is relevant, and as I said, quite possibly linked to the Dickson family's involvement with the Anglican church. Involvement by those two in any property transaction isn't necessarily special or significant in terms of adding association value, though -- they had land dealings dotted in other parts of Auckland during their lifetime, and the word "trustees" doesn't indicate they had a lot of direct hands-on involvement with the property.

    I do agree with you regarding considerations of streetscape, both physical as can be seen today, and the creation of that streetscape in historical terms over time. Paget Street was, on quick glance through the papers, where the buildings were gradually added, on both sides. Most of the development appears to have been from the mid 1870s through to the early 1890s -- something which could indeed be looked at further. This would be a block history, something I've done in the past, and which almost always unearths interesting stories about not just the houses/buildings, but also the people who lived and died there.

    As a history enthusiast, and a member of a number of historical societies, I agree with your last sentence. But -- sometimes things from the past do have to be let go, unfortunately. The New Lynn Hotel is a case in point -- structurally doomed, right from when it was built. So, I can't use a broad brush statement as every case must be looked at on its own merits. Always with the hope for preservation, to be sure, but we also need to be mindful of the rights of property owners to do what they want to with their property, within the bounds of district plans, by laws, and government legislation.

    After all -- would you like someone coming in off the street to tell you what you can and can't do with your own home?

  10. Lisa
    The 1871 Plan from Frissell notebook shows that most of the barracks building on the eastern side have gone by Sept 1871 but not sure when this process began

  11. Thanks for that, Rod. Pity that it isn't known (as far as I know) where those barracks buildings went to. They may even have been dismantled and headed to other areas where the armed constabulary and militias were set up.

    John Adam, landscape historian, put another possibility into the mix -- that it might not have been Albert Park which was the source for the house, but Western Park, which was also going through a residential clearance at that time. If only that could be checked out somehow! As with the disposal of the barracks buildings at Albert Park, though, records if any survive would be sketchy at best.

  12. Hi Timespanner
    I live in Macandrew Bay and recently wrote a history of the area and I am trying to track down a book called 'Down The Bay' by Margaret Walther who lives in Kaiapoi - you reviewed the book on this blogsite4 in Jan 2010

    I would be most gratefukl if you could email me Maargaret's current address or Ph number so I can conact her - my email is

    many thanks Brian

  13. Hi, l was bought up in paget st thru the from 1946 to late 1959 we lived 3doors about house in question and played there maney times. do you have any imfo on other houses in the st . Cherrill Wheatley

    1. Hi Cherrill, My mum moved into 18 Paget st in 1947, she asks were you one of the Lewis family or was that next door?

  14. Do you have more imfo on other homes in the st, l lived in 12 paget st and knew the family in 18 paget st well

    1. My mother lived in 18 Paget street with her father (passed circa 1970?)and mother Esther Bessie White(passed 1979) and 5 sisters, Christine, Robyn (Passed 2015?), Gay, June and Rae. My mother Joy passed away in 2016 the same year the beautiful and historic house at 18 Paget Street was demolished.
      My Aunty Rae lived in the house until 2012.

    2. Hi, are John Francis White and Nathaniel White your relatives?

  15. No, but if you visit Auckland Council Archives to take a look at their valuation field sheets (ACC 213 series), that might help you.

  16. I thought they took it to Howick Historical Village? No?

    - Katherine

    1. Nup -- demolished, Katherine, as at October last year.