Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Richardson Road's vanished pukeko

12 February this year, Richardson Road in Owairaka was graced by a pukeko ...

... and now, it's gone (image above by Cathy Casey, with permission. Thanks, Cathy!) The business is moving -- but now Richardson Road is pukeko-less. A pity.

Update, 7 June 2013: The pukeko is heading west, to Colwill School.

Tod's box in Parnell

Earlier this month, a bit of colour was added to the St Stephens/Parnell Road corner beside the cathedral complex. The indefatigable Rendell McIntosh of Parnell Heritage gave me the head's up on its preparation and installation -- and this week I finally had a chance to photograph it.

I have been asked today to give credit for the installation of this mural to the Waitemata Local Board, which I'm very pleased to do, considering how much work that Local Board are putting into the area and especially recognition of the area's heritage.

Amongst the images used are representations of the "Parnell Heritage Rose", and a caricature portrait of Robert Tod who named one subdivision of Section 1, Suburbs of Auckland as "Parnell" when flogging it off to prospective buyers in 1841. The name caught history's fancy, and spread over the next decades to include all the area from Mechanic's Bay to the bounds of Newmarket.

My friend Margaret Edgcumbe has very kindly provided the following info for this blog. (Thank you, Margaret!)

Robert Tod (1798 -1864) was a Scotsman from Glasgow who spent time as a merchant in Egypt and Syria before migrating to the Antipodes in 1837.

In Syria in 1832 he met John Vesey Parnell (1805 -1883), one of the leading members of an independent Protestant mission to Baghdad. It was a brief and mainly commercial acquaintance. Tod, as the local agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society, supplied the mission with translations of the scriptures in the Arabic, Persian and Hebrew languages, but by 1834 they had been forced to admit defeat and leave Persia for India.

In 1841 Tod came up to Auckland from Wellington, and made substantial investments in land. At the first sale of suburban land on 1 September 1841 he bought Allotment 63 of Section 1, Suburbs of Auckland - slightly more than 3 acres - for the sum of £244. 10s. 4d. In the next issue of the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette, 4 September 1841, he advertised that he was putting that same land (above Mechanics Bay, and with matchless views of the harbour and shipping) up for auction. It had been neatly divided into 36 sections and named the “Village of Parnell”.

Other members of the Baghdad mission - Groves, Cronin and Calman - were commemorated in the street names of the “village”, while the Patrick of Patrick Terrace refers to the youngest Tod brother, Robert’s main partner in Syria and Baghdad. Unfortunately, these name choices did not strike any chords with the people of Auckland, and they were soon forgotten and replaced (by Eglon, Fox and Marston Streets, and Augustus Terrace).

But the city fathers did apparently like the name of Parnell, possibly because of its associations with the prestigious Anglo-Irish dynasty, so it was gradually applied to the whole of the area along the Manukau Road towards Newmarket, and then to the Highway Board District in 1863, and to the new Borough in 1877.

Until recently the favourite candidate for the origin of the suburb’s name has been the father of J V Parnell the missionary, the politician Sir Henry Brooke Parnell. Bishop Cowie, for instance, stated categorically that the name had been “given in the early days of the colony, from one of H.M.’s Secretaries of State, afterwards Lord Congleton.” (William Garden Cowie, Our Last Year in New Zealand, 1887.)

As for Tod himself, he was completely forgotten once he returned to South Australia in 1847. Because of the perceived Irish connection many later historians have even referred to him as “the Irishman Richard (sic) Tod.” 

Caricature of Robert Tod, by S Gill 1849, courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Auckland Zoo, 1926

This booklet was up for auction recently at TradeMe.  Here are some images from the handbook.

Warning Against Feeding or Teasing of Animals: Visitor are requested to be extremely careful what they give the various animals and birds to eat; tobacco in any form is most harmful; the Polar Bears and other special animals must not be given food of any description. Animals or Birds must not on any account be teased or irritated. Persons found wrongfully feeding or annoying exhibits will be prosecuted; since the opening of the Zoological Park several valuable exhibits have died as the result of harmful feeding by visitors.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Filling the cradles

I think this is around the fourth year in a row I've done this -- given a talk at the Central Library here in Auckland. This time, on the not-well covered topic of private maternity nursing homes (ones set up in suburbia, in private houses run by licensed nurses, sometimes unlicensed, usually assisted by GPs).

The topic intrigued me, because of so many I'd heard over the years with stories of either being born in such homes. or their mothers/fathers born there. At one time, Avondale had two going, in the early 1930s, out of a total of four between 1915 and 1945.

If anyone has any info they'd like to share about the homes, do let me know. My email:

Update 9 November 2013:
Website for NZ Maternity Homes

Images from the end of the line -- Methven, 1976

Methven railway station, early 1900s. Ref PAColl-5482-010. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

According to Robin Bromby in Rails That Built a Nation (2003), the rail line to Methven began as the result of a private company, the Rakaia and Ashburton Forks Railway Company, forming after the passing of the District Railways Act. This allowed companies like the R & AFRC to "construct lines and levy rates on properties served by them." The area known as Ashburton Forks was eventually decided as the terminus, where six roads meet. This became Methven.

Christchurch Press, 10 June 1878

Landowners opposed to the plan tried setting up a rival company, the Rakaia, Mt Hutt and Alford Forest Railway -- but Ashburton County Council raised objections, and the plan never left the drawing board.

The first sod was turned for the Methven line 19 November 1878, and the line was completed in February 1880.

Rakaia and Ashburton Forks Railway.—The line to Methven was inspected on Tuesday by Mr F Back, Government Traffic Manager…Shortly, after leaving Rakaia, and near to Hatfield station, two lads, who it was ascertained were cooking for Mr Dearden were seen to lay two pieces of firewood across the rails and run behind the hedge. The train was immediately stopped and Mr Back, accompanied by Mr Dickenson, ran to the whare the boys had hidden themselves and turned them out. Constable Bowse, who happened to be in the train, at once apprehended them and took them to Rakaia, as well as the pieces of wood, which were quite large enough to have thrown the train off the line, and small enough to pass under the cow-catcher. Mr Back expressed himself pleased with the construction of the line, but there are several little matters yet to be attended to before it will be quite fit for traffic. … It is intended that the first train shall leave Methven at 5.30 a.m., so as to arrive at Rakaia in time to catch the 7 a.m. train for Christchurch. Mr Sydney Dick has made arrangements for opening a post-office at Methven at once, and has appointed Mr Charles Hibbs of Morgan and Hibbs as postmaster.
Christchurch Press, 26 February 1880

It had nine stations: Hatfield, Somerton, Mitcham, Sherwood, Lauriston, Urrall, Lyndhurst, Cairnbrae and Methven. Two tank locomotives were imported from the United States, while goods wagons on the line were built in New Zealand.

After a settlers' petition, the government bought the line from the company in 1885 for £75,000. "After the sale was completed on 1 April 1885," Bromby writes, "the government moved to cut costs by raising charges and eliminating some services -- race-day trains were abolished, as were the daily mail service to Methven."

The branch line retained its own locomotive crew until after World War II. From that point, it was operated from Christchurch, surviving longer than other Canterbury branches because it retained freight business into the 1960s.

In July 1976, however, it came to an end, just short of the centenary. Bryan Blanchard, of Pleasant Point Museum and Railway, very kindly gave permission for me to reproduce his photos from that day here.

Bryan says in his email that the diesel shunter at the rear, Tr 18, ended up at Pleasant Point Museum.

Update 29 May 2013 -- photo of Rakaia Station, also from Bryan Blanchard. As Bryan says, the station is no more.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Auckland's First Houses for the Admirals

I recently bought the above colourised postcard on TradeMe, one showing the Glenalvon boardinghouse, formerly Admiralty House. I hadn't realised until looking further into the story of the building that it wasn't the only Admiralty House Auckland had had. There had been a first. But the second was always the grander edifice. In order that Auckland should have a better traffic route, it was demolished in 1915.

The first Admiralty House was actually a house for a commodore, Sir William Wiseman, commander of the Royal Navy's Australian squadron. He was based at Sydney, but it was hoped that a purpose-built house here in Auckland might entice him to change bases. The house, at the western corner of Jermyn and Short Streets, was completed in 1864 by builder William Cameron. 

 The first Admiralty House (left), up on the slopes overlooking Official Bay and the harbour, before rail lines and factories blocked the view. Ref 4-2641, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

It was described as a large 14-roomed dwelling for the commodore "and others". The house was apparently built under the orders of the Auckland Provincial Superintendent. Members of the Council though questioned the Superintendent into the early part of 1865 as to how this project actually came about. It came out that it resulted from a verbal agreement between the Government and the Superintendent, and had cost a total of £1738 5s 10d.

Trouble was, Auckland by that time was no longer the capital, and the commodore seemed vastly more interested in Sydney, so right from the start the Superintendent's house for the commodore seemed doomed to be a white elephant. By now, the building was called Admiralty House, and at least it proved to be living quarters for naval officers stationed here.

By the mid 1870s, the building began to fall into decay. The Colonial Secretary asked the city council in 1879 to put the building back in repair, as it was thought the commodore might stay there again. It was indeed renovated in 1880. Temporary use of rooms there was made by the University College from 1884. By 1890, however, the old building once again showed its age, run down and occupied only by a caretaker. Auckland offered the building back to the colonial government, so that they could do it up this time, making it fit for naval accommodation. The government fobbed it off, first by saying there were no funds for repairs, then by saying more or less "We'll wait to see what the commanding officer of the squadron wants." By January 1892, agreement had been reached, and the building was being spruced up again. In 1894, however, an impasse was reached in terms of funding furnishings at the house (the government wanted Auckland City Council to contribute). The government gave up on the idea, and decided to lease the building instead. From 1904, the building was used by the Public Works Department and the Department of Agriculture.

The first Admiralty House, 1909, when in use as a government departmental building. Ref 4-2687, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

In 1897, there were complaints as to inadequate accommodation for naval personnel at Auckland. Despite the difficult experiences with the first Admiralty House -- plans began in 1897 to have a second house built. Whereas the instigator in 1864 had been the Provincial Superintendent -- now the Auckland Harbour Board led the way, contacting the government directly. A special Admiralty House Bill was drafted up in 1898, to enable the Harbour Board to build, furnish, and provide the house as naval accommodation. The bill passed in November 1898.

Property further down Jermyn Street was purchased by the Harbour Board by early 1899. Architects were invited to submit sketches of proposed designs in early 1900, and those of Charles Le Neve Arnold were accepted in February.

The siting of this new Admiralty House was questioned as being unwise by some commentators. Too close to the train lines for noise, too close to traffic, surrounded by factories ... The Harbour Board called for fresh designs in April 1901. Arnold resubmitted, along with Keal and Jacobsen. After all the fuss, the Harbour Board and C R Vickerman for the Public Works Department went for Arnold's design. The builder John Jenkin was awarded the contract for £4995 in June 1901. It was completed by early 1902.

In June 1902 -- the Harbour Board began to worry if this was going to be another white elephant of a project. As with the first house, there were disputes as to furnishing costs. In March 1903, however, Admiral Fanshawe "plainly and emphatically stated that he cannot live in Admiralty House himself, and that he does not see how the naval officer commanding on the New Zealand station could live there either." The NZ Herald called it the "Admiral-less House." The Admiralty House Act 1898 was repealed in November 1903.

"Willie Napier Shows the Admiral over Admiralty House and comes a Cropper," The Observer, 3 May 1902.

An advertised tender in April 1904 for a 14-year lease of the building attracted no offers. The Harbour Board were probably somewhat relieved to receive two offers in July for 5-year leases, however: from a Mrs Boult, £300 per annum plus rates and taxes to set up a "ladies' residential club", and for £312 per annum plus rates and taxes from Mrs Margaret Douglas Scherff, widow of Auckland merchant Franz Scherff, to set up a boardinghouse there. Mrs Scherff's offer was accepted.

The second Admiralty House, renamed "Glenalvon" (during the period when my postcard was made), narrowly escaped destruction for fire in November 1906. But it couldn't escape the plans for the realigning of Jermyn Street from 1915, the street almost totally replaced by Anzac Avenue which emptied straight out onto Customs Street, instead of using the dog-leg into Emily Place (that dog-leg, the surviving part of old Jermyn Street became part of Emily Place). Both Admiralty Houses were in the way. By the end of 1915, both buildings were gone. Mrs Scherff shifted to Waterloo Quadrant and the former home of David Nathan at number 16, "Bella Vista", renaming that building "Glenalvon". That name lasted through to the mid 1940s, until that building became part of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland in 1947.

Looking from the northern tip of the garden triangle between Emily Place and Shortland Street. The second Admiralty House on the right. Check out Map D14 of the 1908 City of Auckland maps on the Auckland Council Archives pages. Ref 4-182, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.