Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two Ponsonby memorials

This particular journey of my curiosity began once I brought home from a book sale The Beauty of the Bay: St Mar's Bay and Westhaven by Glenys Hopkinson (2001). I've been interested in obtaining the slim volumes done by Hopkinson on the Ponsonby area and surrounds, but apart from at book sales, they are a tad expensive.

Anyway  ...

One paragraph, in smaller-than-usual font, beneath a photo caught my eye on page 9:
A tiny fountain in memory of a Bay man, former Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage, was unveiled by Auckland Mayor Mr J H Luxford on July 18 [sic] 1955. Sited in Dedwood Street [sic], diagonally opposite the Gluepot, it states simply: "In memory of Michael Joseph Savage, Labour Member for Auckland West 1919-1940."

In 2006, this appeared in an article in the NZ Herald:
Savage was the area's MP for 21 years and after his death a drinking fountain was erected at the top of Dedwood St - Dedwood was an earlier name for Ponsonby - in his memory.Unfortunately, as [Gerry] Hill [of the Great Ponsonby Bed and Breakfast Hotel] points out angrily, the grassy plot where the fountain stands has over the years been blocked off by the erection of the Plunket Rooms and public toilets, "so it's hard to find and hardly anyone knows it's there". He would like to see the fountain moved to a reserve just behind the Leys Institute, another Ponsonby icon, donated to the area by two philanthropic brothers, and still in use as a library, gymnasium and community meeting place.
So, there seemed to be some strong feelings about this item which is nearly 60 years old. I wanted to find out more.

 Information from Auckland Council Archives records used in this post came from ACC 275/271/43/229.

In October 1943, the Women's branch of the New Zealand Labour Party wrote to the Council requesting provision of a women's restroom at Three Lamps, Ponsonby. The Council took this on board investigating possible sites close to the famous junction, the City Engineer advising in November that the only possible site he could see was on the south side of Jervois Road, all Crown Land, part of which was used at that point as the police station. The Council then wrote to the Government, but were declined in March 1944 by the Department of Lands and Survey, who said that the land would likely be utilised for a redeveloped station.

Undaunted, Council considered other sites.

Another site came up for consideration in September 1944, the corner of Dedwood Terrace and Jervois Road.

Jervois Road, looking toward Three Lamps, in 1926. Reference 4-1786, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Detail from above image. Dedwood Terrace to the left, Jervois right, the "Old Village Smithy" at the corner, the Bond family house left.

As at late 1944, the corner site was occupied by a 1913 villa "of fair quality" at 5 Dedwood Terrace, and a dilapidated old smithy at 19-20 Jervois Road, used by a metal shutter manufacturing business, Danks Bros Ltd. The City Engineer proposed that, after purchase from the owner Mr Alfred John Bond, that the site would be a wonderful one for a women's restroom on the corner, and Plunket building from out of the suitably converted villa.

The corner site had been purchased in 1893 by Alfred Bond (1836-1914), father of Alfred John Bond (NA 66/246). The father appears to have followed another son, James Shiner Bond, to New Zealand, possibly in 1872 on the SS Hero, (Auckland Star, 16.2.1872), but his name appears in an 1881 census of Romany hawkers still in England. He was possibly the same Alfred Bond applied to be a steam roller driver working for Auckland City Council in 1884. (AS 26.9.1884) He was originally, according to this family history webpage, a "whitesmith" or tinsmith, from Shipton in Somerset.
Golden hair, and had a beard “like a Viking”. Worked as a smith (described as a Whitesmith) in Auckland at Deadwood [sic] Terrace in Ponsonby. His son Alfred John later continued the business. Alfred’s son, James Shiner, was the first of the family to come to New Zealand. Alfred and the rest of the family came out a few years later, partly because daughter Cherry had a weak chest. In their later years, Alfred and Sarah were cared for by their daughter, Rose.
His son Alfred John Bond (1877-1958) took over the old smithy on Jervois Road from 1909, and remained as owner (even though by the 1940s he was somewhat infirm, living in Epsom, and had rented No. 5 Dedwood Terrace to a Mrs. M Harvey). He admitted, in a letter to the Town Clerk dated 10 October 1944, that the smithy had seen better days, describing it as an eyesore.
"I would have liked to have held on to the property ... until the Harbour Bridge was built when I think Ponsonby will be a second Newmarket, but time marches on and I do not wish to stand in the road of progress."
He put the price at £2250. The Council, after consulting their valuers and considering the selling price of other land in Jervois Road, offered £1650, but finally went up to £1900 in August 1945, which was accepted. The site was formally transferred to Auckland City on 26 November 1945.

Danks Bros vacated the old smithy by December 1950, while Mrs Harvey left the old house in June the following year. Just before Council finalised plans for the redevelopment of the site, local MP Ritchie Macdonald wrote on 24 March 1951 putting forward the suggestion from the Auckland West branch of the Labour Party that a children's drinking fountain be included on the site, as a memorial to the late Michael Joseph Savage.
"May I add that the building on the proposed site was the scene of the first nomination of Michael Joseph Savage as a Candidate for Parliament."
This leads to a colourful part of Ponsonby history which I have yet to prove or disprove. The Star on 1 July 1955 recorded: "When the late Mr Michael Joseph Savage was first nominated as Labour Candidate for Parliament, for Auckland West, the necessary papers were signed on the anvil of the forge of a blacksmith's shop at the corner of Jervois Road and Dedwood Terrace, Ponsonby. To mark the spot and occasion, a children's memorial fountain has been erected on what is now the patio of the Ponsonby women's restrooms and conveniences."

If true, the event was in 1919, when Savage first ran for (successfully) the Auckland West seat. Hopefully, Papers Past later this year through the Auckland Star records might shed some light.

Council agreed with the proposal, provided that the Auckland West Labour Party branch took responsibility for the cost of the fountain and its installation. In the end, Ponsonby locals paid £75 toward the cost, the fountain designed by City Architect Tibor Donner. The Plunket rooms in the renovated villa were opened 12 December 1952. The restrooms and drinking fountain had their own moment on Friday 15 July 1955, when the Mayor took a drink from the new fountain.

The site today has greatly changed. The old villa has gone (left of this image, taken yesterday), and I believe the 1950s toilets have as well. Now, that site appears to be a toy library. All that remains is a patch of grass in the middle, behind the blue car, on the other side of the shrubs and the low brick wall, behind a childproof fence and gate.

I stopped at the gate, and asked one of the adults there if I could come in and take a shot. They seemed surprised that I asked, saying that it is a public space still -- but the fence and gate are there for the kiddies, and as a strange adult coming into places like that, even just to look at bits of history, it pays to ask first. I can see there would be the comment that "it's hard to find and hardly anyone knows it's there."

It is cool, though, to see that the fountain is indeed used by the children. I saw one young chap leaning his elbow on the flat part, where the inscription is, as he leaned forward into the flow of the water for a sip.

 But ... just when I thought I'd fairly well sewn up another post, found the item, prepared to put the words together, I found the following image in the Sir George Grey Special Collections.

"Memorial erected at Ponsonby to the memory of Trooper Stanley Rees Scott and Unveiled by the Hon. J Carroll, last Saturday. Frank Harris, Sculptor," according to the NZ Sporting and Dramatic Review, 31.12.1902, p. 18 (SGGSP ref 7-A15384)
Intelligence received from Durban yesterday records the death of Mr Stanley Rees Scott, of Ponsonby, after a short illness. Mr Scott was twenty-seven years of age, and a well-known Ponsonbyite. At the commencement of the South African war he, accompanied by a number of Aucklanders, left for the seat of war and joined Brabant's Light Horse, afterwards being attached to Roberts Horse. The departure of these young Aucklanders from our shores was a most enthusiastic one. For a number of years Mr Scott was clerk in the office of the late Mr E. T. Dufaur of this city, subsequently joining Messrs Morrison and Phillips' business, Auckland. His loss is mourned by a large number of friends. He leaves four sisters and four brothers to mourn their loss, and much sympathy is felt for them in their hour of tribulation. 
 AS 9.8.1902

A meeting of those interested in erecting a memorial to the late Mr Stanley Rees Scott took place last evening at the Suffolk Hotel, Ponsonby. Mr J. Baxter presided. Designs, estimates and specifications of a drinking fountain were submitted by a number of monumental masons. The number was reduced to two, Messrs McNab and Mason's and Mr Frank Harris' designs. The final ballot resulted in favour of Mr Harris' design, which provides for a fountain 12ft. high, of marble, with bluestone foundations. The cost will be about £7. The memorial will be erected near Shelly Bench in about three months' time.

AS 5.9.1902

On Saturday last the Hon Jas Carroll unveiled a memorial erected at Ponsonby, Auckland, to perpetuate the memory of Trooper Stanley Rees Scott, a member of Brabant's Horse. The memorial is in the form of a drinking fountain of white marble on a bluestone base. It stands 12ft. 6in high and bears the inscription: "Erected by old chums and friends to the memory of Stanley Rees Scott, who, after 2 years active service, died at Durban, June 26, 1902." 
AS 1.1.1903

Well, the memorial is no longer there on St Mary's Bay Road, opposite the Leys Institute and outside the old Ponsonby Fire Station. So far, I haven't found any Council records on it (but I'll still keep an eye on it), and it may well have vanished during work on the road any time from the mid 1920s.  Which is a shame, as Boer War memorials are uncommon in comparison with those for the First and Second World Wars.

Any info or suggestions from readers as to what was the memorial's fate would be appreciated.

Update 23 May 2013:
Edward Bennett of the Karangahape Road Business Association emailed me the other day, saying that he had been told the Boer War memorial had been removed to Symonds Street Cemetery possibly  in the 1930s and that "the Memorial was one of the casualties when the motorway was constructed; few of the gravestones were preserved and as the Ponsonby Memorial to Trooper Stanley Rees Scott wasn't connected with an actual body it wouldn't have been considered very important especially as there was the Memorial nearby on Symonds Street at Wakefield. Neither was his name incorporated into the 1966 memorial created next to Hobson's Grave."


  1. Councils and authorities really should not 'vanish' public sculptures. If they are in the way, then moving them should become part of the construction process. We have a huge Boer War memorial just five minutes from home. I can't find an online photo of the whole of it, but there is a bit at this site.

  2. Interesting commentary on Auckland's dearth of drinking fountains here -
    though I think they may be making a comeback: one's been installed recently (together with a dog drinking bowl, which I guess a variation on the horse troughs of old) outside my local library in Avondale.

    I also think - and correct me if I'm wrong - that an elaborate drinking fountain erected to the memory of a temperance advocate, Robert French, still exists in Ponsonby, in Point Erin Park. It's a very different kettle of water from that utilitarian-looking memorial to Mr Savage, which I guess is a product of its age (and perhaps very appropriate for a hero of the working man).

    1. Hi. I am the great great grand son of Robert french. I happened to see your info above today. I even still have his walking stick which he is pictured using while in parliament. Regards, Ross

  3. Cheers, Claire. I must visit Pt Erin Park at some stage. There are at least files in Council archives on the French fountain. Good to know it hasn't disappeared too!

  4. I think almost anyone with high cheekbones could resemble Amy Bock.

  5. There's a nice public memorial in Rotorua to a Boer War casualty, local lad Fred Wylie...