Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cucksey's mis-dated legacy in Mt Eden

It doesn’t pay to always take a photograph at face value. Certainly, they are a valuable resource in the quest to find out more about the past. But sometimes, putting a photograph over and above documented evidence creates a series of errors.

In 1989, the Mt Eden Borough Council commissioned author Faye M Angelo to put together a book on the area, The Changing Face of Mt Eden. In it, a photo was included, showing Cucksey’s Corner, on the corner Stokes and Mt Eden Roads. The original wooden Cucksey’s Building is shown, with “Est. 1873” inscribed above the wrap-around verandah.

Ref 7-A4322, Sir George Grey Special Collection,  Auckland Library

Angelo went with that as the date for the building; so did the researcher who compiled the Mt Eden/Maungawhau Heritage Walks brochure early last decade, an error repeated in the latest reprint, and this year repeated again in the journal Prospect, produced by the Epsom & Eden Districts Historical Society. All done in good faith – except that it is wrong.

Another example of the “Established date” thing can be found clearly across the façade of Millar Patterson Metals Brasscraft Ltd on Halsey Road, just opposite Victoria Park. That declares “Established 1903”, when actually 1903 is when the business began close to Britomart Place, whereas John Stewart Millar began leasing the Halsey Street site from 1919-1920.

This isn’t to say all dates on buildings are wrong. It just pays to check, before rushing into print and spreading the error further.

As for Alfred Cucksey and his buildings …

On 27 September 1867, the clipper ship Siam docked at Queen Street Wharf, after a voyage of 105 days from England. Aboard was Alfred Cucksey (NZ Herald 28 September 1867), brother of Henry Cucksey, well-known “Instrument Music Seller and Publisher” of 202 Queen Street, well-known at the time for his Cucksey’s Music Saloon, “established 1863”. (Ad, Southern Cross, 21 October 1863) Henry himself had been in business 13 years in London before he arrived in Auckland, taking over “Mr Webb’s Royal Harmonium and Pianoforte Saloon” in Queen Street, (SC 21 October 1863) while Alfred later boasted 10 years’ experience before arriving in New Zealand “in the London trade”. (Ad, Auckland Star 5 March 1874) Henry and Alfred’s father was James Cucksey, who later died in Kent, England, in 1870 aged 64. 

Henry’s wife first wife Eliza died in October 1867 and was buried at Symonds Street cemetery together with an infant child. Henry remarried, to Annie H Irwin, in 1870. (Annie may have already been a widow. In 1890, she was applying for assistance from two grown sons by the surname of Irwin – Star 8 Feb 1890) In 1873, Henry Cucksey became part of a “Political League” in the city (NZH 24 February 1873), after a number of years of on-again, off-again reports as to him running for office, either on the City Council, or the fading Provincial Council. Later that year, he shifted from Queen Street to the junction of Queen and Wakefield Streets.

By April 1868, Alfred Cucksey was being praised by the newspapers for his doormats made from flax fibre, on display at an ironmongers’ store in Shortland Street, and at Alfred Cucksey’s first store at 138 Queen Street. (SC & NZH 27 April 1868) Around this time, Henry Cucksey was living in Nelson Street, where some items were stolen from his house. (SC 14 January 1868)

Alfred Cucksey married Margaret Catherine Williams in 1870. In 1871, Alfred was living in Nelson Street, where a daughter was born 16 December. Between 1868 and 1873, Alfred apparently spent time at Thames. A report in the Grey River Argus at the time may have erroneously named his brother, when in fact it was more likely Alfred’s discovery.
It is reported that Mr Cucksey, the music-seller in Auckland, has made an important discovery in respect to saving gold by a new method of treating tailings. The new plan is said to be most effectual in saving the finest gold in the smallest quantity. Mr Cucksey is about to apply for a patent so as to secure some benefit from his discovery. (24 Feb 1873)
Whatever happened, Alfred clearly returned to his flax after that. In June 1873, at the opening of the Auckland Markets on the Market Reserve (present day Aotea Square), Alfred exhibited his flax working as a local industry, (NZH 19 June 1873) winning first prize for his flax mat at that exhibition, and at the New Zealand Agricultural Society’s Show in November that year. (SC 20 November 1873) In March 1874, he took over a grocery and provision store in Wakefield Street. (Ad, Auckland Star 5 March 1874) His brother Henry had returned to England in 1875 – and by 1879 was producing “Cucksey’s Miraculous Mixture,” a “Celebrated Conqueror of Bronchitis, Diphtheria, Neuralgia, Headaches, Sore Throats, and All Diseases of the Throat.” In Auckland Alfred served as an agent for the medicine, selling his brother’s mixture from the Wakefield Street store. (Ad Star 15 November 1879)

On 29 March 1881, Alfred purchased Lot 4 of 11 of Section 6, Suburbs of Auckland, at the corner Stokes and Mt Eden Road, from John Batger. (Deeds Index 2A.1311) In mid April, he advertised for tenders “for the Erection of Shop and Dwelling House at Mount Eden.” (Star 13 April 1881). In July that year, he advertised his Wakefield store for lease, with immediate possession, (NZH 26 July 1881) and by August 1881, he had moved his business to the new store in Mt Eden.
Alfred Cucksey begs to inform his numerous friends that he has Removed from Wakefield-street to his New Store on the Mount Eden Road, near Smith's Stables. All Goods at town prices. First-class articles guaranteed. Families waited on daily. Agent for the Mount Eden Railway Station Coal and Firewood Depot. (Ad, Star 6 August 1881)
So, yes -- clearly the 1873 date on the photograph referred to when Alfred Cucksey established his business (in the central city), rather than had the first wooden store built at Mt Eden.

By 1884, Cucksey’s Mt Eden store became known as the Post Office Store, when Cucksey advertised for boys to run messages. (Ad, Star, 10 May 1884) However, this appears to have been a bit premature. In November 1885, Cucksey led the local community campaign to have a telephone bureau established at his store for public use, a campaign that proved successful when the bureau was set up at his store in June, with the expectation that a post and money order office would be set up soon after. (NZH 14 June 1886)

In June 1901, Catherine Margaret Cucksey died. In 1905, a permit application was approved by Mt Eden Borough Council for Cucksey to build “5 new shops” on his site, and these would likely have been completed by c.1906. “Mr A Cucksey’s Block of 5 new shops, corner Mt Eden & Stokes Road, area 132’ X 132’ (4 lengths). Builder Mr. W Firth, Architect Mr Jno. M Walker. Contract £2830.” (MEB 128/1, Auckland Council Archives) This is the Cucksey’s Building we see today.

Alfred Cucksey married his second wife, Charlotte Eleanor Nayler Smith in 1919. He wasn’t able to enjoy renewed married bliss for long, however; he died at his home, “Ravensbourne,” next to his Cucksey’s Buildings, on Mt Eden Road, 5 September 1922.
An old and respected resident of Auckland, Mr Alfred Cucksey, died at the Public Hospital yesterday morning, in his 79th year. Mr Cucksey was born in Greenwich, England, in 1843, and came to Auckland at the age of 23. Shortly afterwards he spent some time on the Thames goldfield, and on returning to Auckland went into business as a grocer in Wakefield Street. In 1880 Mr Cucksey went to Mount Eden and established the business that resulted in its location being known far and wide as "Cucksey's Corner." Mr Cucksey, who was known in the district as "the father of Mount Eden," retired from active life 14 years ago. He had not been in the best of health for some time prior to his death. He is survived by Mrs Cucksey, one son, and several grand-children. The interment will take place at Purewa cemetery this afternoon. (NZH 6 September 1922)


  1. Thanks Lisa, good to know this. Do let me know when you unearth these gems about our area. Smith's Stables (mentioned in notice advertising Cucksey's shift to Mt Eden) are clearly seen on the other side of Mt Eden Road in the 1884 Burton Bros print. Cheers Peter Haynes

  2. Hi Peter,

    When I did a research summary for the present Cucksey's Bulding years ago for Council -- I noted then that the 1873 date couldn't be supported by available documentation (and that was before Papers Past freed up our early newspapers). Unfortunately, that research wasn't used when your booklet was reprinted. These things happen. Hopefully, someone can at least correct the Council website.

    Cheers, Lisa.

  3. Stokes Road was created (established) in 1873. Just coincidence?

    1. Nice try, but no. The road was dedicated in 1873. Nothing to do with the much later wooden building.

  4. It was at Cucksey's store in Mt Eden that members of my family first heard the words uttered at the end of a viewing, prior to a funeral, “Anybody else wanna’ see Mrs Cucksey before she’s screwed down?” This became a family saying and a very useful question at times when a more direct one might be deemed embarrassing or inappropriate! My family was living in Fairview Road at the time (1901).