Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wanderings at Three Kings


Updated and edited 10 October 2016.

Invited to the reopening of the Fickling Centre in Three Kings today, I took the opportunity to do a bit of camera wandering for the ol' blog.

Above is a reserve with no name board -- but it does appear to be known in records up to at least 1988 as the Mt Roskill Rose Gardens. The triangle of land was once the site of the Olesen Store, first store in the Three Kings Area, dating from late 1903 (set up to service the nearby Veteran's Home, and later -- in 1906 -- becoming a telephone bureau and postal agency) before work began around 1959-1960 to create Warren Avenue's outlet with Mt Albert Road. So the Mt Roskill Borough Council had the land declared road reserve, bowled the shops that had been there, finished up what they needed to do with Warren Avenue (most of which lies on land once owned as open paddocks by the Ranfurly Home to the left of this image), then created the garden to compliment their new municipal building across on the other side of Mt Albert Road (see below)

The sundial was unveiled in December 1972 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Mt Roskill Borough Council. The plaque at its foot commemorates the start in March 1988 of a 10 year project by Mt Roskill Rotary Club to raise funds there for Rotary Polio Plus humanitarian project, that plaque unveiled by the Governor General Sir Paul Reeves.

As happens with some nice things in our city, the top of the sundial is missing today, probably due to brass & copper thieves. Hopefully, with the rise of the local historical society to raise awareness of the district's heritage, that will be sorted out in the future.

The foundation stone for the Mt Roskill Municipal Chambers was laid in 1956, with the building finished in 1957, then added to over the years. In the 1990s it came to be the offices for Metrowater, and with the amalgamation in 2010 to the Super City, it came to house some council departments, as well as the Puketapapa Local Board. Then, last month, things got rather mouldy in there.

Around the back of the Fickling Centre is a gathering of volcanic rock in still and muddy water, surrounded by more rock. This is actually a water feature, "Three Kings Waterscape", donated by the Mt Roskill Rotary Club in 1985. The Club fundraised to help complete the Fickling Centre itself.

But what I was heading for was the old Three Kings pumphouse.

The Mt Roskill Municipal Band were granted sole use of the pumphouse building for their practices back in 1958. According to the Auckland City Brass website, their successors still call it home. Pity, then, that the old Auckland City Council sign (you can just see the last peeling remnants of the logo) hasn't been upgraded and replaced.

The Mt Roskill Road Board formed a Water and Gas Committee in 1899, and initially sourced the district's water supply from the One Tree Hill reservoir. Then, in 1911, the Board called in water diviner and Anglican minister Rev Harry Mason, who determined by early 1912 that "an underground river or reservoir of water would be found under the three Kings Hills."

Successful test bores later that year, producing 1000 gallons per hour, convinced the Board that Three Kings was a grand place to build their pumphouse. Construction was approved in 1915.

Trouble was, along came Mt Albert's typhoid outbreak in 1922 (which I studied in Wairaka's Waters).  That a small-scale municipal pumping station, using volcanic spring water, was involved in the outbreak convinced the powers-that-be in the Public Health Department back then to urge that the Road Board in Mt Roskill shut everything down at Three Kings, and sell the disused assets.

The Road Board shut things down -- but they didn't knock the building down. Instead, they adapted it, adding a kitchen, ladies' cloakroom and a porch to the northern wall (see image below). The pumphouse became Roskill's first community hall, where dances, parties, social gatherings, local theatrical productions -- all the things that helped knit together a community -- took place.

The Auckland Boxing Club used the building in the 1950s, under the brass band took over. The Mt Roskill Borough Council restored the building in 1988.

And -- here's part of the interior of the Fickling Centre, where the Mayor Len Brown and other dignitaries spoke at the official re-opening. The Centre opened in 1976-1978, but it was felt recently that it needed a bit of a revamp ($2.9M worth, according to the Mayor today), and extensions to the library. Well, yes, the library has more space, shared with the local Citizens Advice Bureau, and the new panelling in the interior looks nice, but -- when the air conditioner turned itself on while the speeches were being made, the ducts rumbled as if heavy rain hammered on the roof. Unless you've got a strong set of pipes, even with a microphone, you run the risk of being drowned out by the rumbling.

Still, there are new touches. Orange, said to represent lava (this is on part of the now nearly all gone Three Kings volcanic zone).

Green for, um  -- well, growth, I think. Couldn't quite hear due to the air conditioning ...

Yellow kowhai flower detail on sliding doors, to symbolise the tree they say is found along the Manukau coastline from Waikowhai to Lynfield.

Plus the wooden pole entryways, reflecting the pa on Puketapapa or Mount Roskill. Perhaps uncarved pou?

The centre was originally named after Richard (Dick) Fickling, Mayor of Mt Roskill Borough from 1974-1987, and 31 years on the council. Fickling Hall opened in 1978, named after him. Mt Roskill, in the days of the Borough Council, has a tradition of naming rooms, buildings and streets after living, and in many cases still-serving at the time, mayors and councillors of the borough.

Anyway, well done to Mt Roskill for their revamped Fickling Centre and library. Wonderful to see so much heritage displayed today in the latter. Now, if Auckland Council could see their way clear to doing something about the (older) Avondale library ...


  1. "The triangle of land was once a residential property, before work began around 1959-1960 to create Warren Avenue's outlet with Mt Albert Road. "

    Actually, there was a small group of shops there identical to groups at Duke St or along Dominion Rd until late 60s or 70s. When I attended Three Kings Primary opposite, we would go there and on Mondays a special treat by the PTA was that we could order a doughnut and/of filled roll which came from that dairy. I left TKP in 1970 and the dairy and the other 2 - 3 shops were still there then. btw - the road was at that time Three Kings Road and was renamed Mt Eden Road in the 70s or 80s.

  2. I need to update this post anyway -- and can top your comment with the info that the rose garden was actually the site of the Olesen Store (Anders Nielsen and Rosina Olesen) dating from late 1903, the very first store in the Three Kings area. There's a blurred photo of it I'll dig up, if I can ...

    Thanks for your info.