Sunday, July 31, 2022

The lonely death of David Snodgrass

Part of the block of West Queen Street between Wyndham (left) and Swanson Streets, from 1865. David Snodgrass' bakery would have been around the fourth building from the corner. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 4-415

Early Auckland baker David Snodgrass died, alone and far from his home, in the early hours of April 20 1895.

He was born in Leith, Scotland, on 16 March 1820, and arrived here in Auckland in 1842 aboard the Ben Nevis. By 1847, he’d set himself up in business near the northern corner of Wyndham and Queen Streets, and was there through to 1855. In 1851 he even took over the Dangar steam flour mill in Official Bay, before building his own mill on Wyndham Street above his bakery. He then detoured his career path to becoming publican at the Carriers arms on the Panmure Road, until 1861.

That was when he set up his earlier business afresh on Khyber Pass Road, obtaining the baking goods supply contract for Mt Eden Gaol. In 1869, he left to attempt to build a hotel in Panmure, then headed for Thames, taking advantage of the gold rush.

He finally settled in Paeroa, obtained swathes of land from which he earned a good income, and worked as a baker until around 1892 when he finally retired.

In April 1895, he decided he wanted to return to Auckland. Exactly why, no one seemed at all sure, including his own family.

 On the night of 19 April, a cabman named David Patterson found 75 year old David Snodgrass between 8pm and 9pm lying on his face on the footpath outside the Waverley Hotel at the corner of Customs and Queen Streets. Patterson later testified that he’d known Snodgrass 20 years, so he stopped, picked him up, and took him to the Albion Hotel in Hobson Street around 9.30 pm. Snodgrass wasn’t speaking at all, so Patterson handed him over to the Albion’s publican, James Morrice, and left.

Morrice took Snodgrass up to a bedroom, and helped him to a bed. Snodgrass’ legs were shaky, Morrice said later, but he could speak sensibly. Around fifteen minutes after settling Snodgrass into the room for the night, Morrice spotted him coming downstairs without his trousers on. Morrice took Snodgrass to his room again, but at 10 pm Snodgrass was downstairs again, insistent that he wanted to go home. Morrice gave him his boots, and Snodgrass left.

Apparently the last to see Snodgrass alive was another cab driver, John Monaghan. Snodgrass hailed him, and asked to be taken to a blacksmith named McGuire. Monaghan knew of no one by that name, so conveyed his passenger instead to the Pier Hotel in Albert Street, and left him in the hotel’s commercial room.

Around 3.30 am the next day, a watchman aboard the Melanesian Mission schooner Southern Cross spotted “a black object in the water of the harbour,” between the dry dock and Hobson Wharf. The object floated closer to the schooner, and the watchman snagged it with a line and fastened it to the vessel. Realising it was a body, he contacted the police, and David Snodgrass’ remains were identified.

After the inquest, he was taken home and buried at Paeroa.

No one testified that Snodgrass was drunk that night. He may have had something of a heart attack, or a stroke, or bumped his head. By the sounds of it, he was a confused man, with next to no money on him at the time, leaving his gold watch and chain behind at the Albion where it was later found. If he’d been kept safe that night, he might have survived, and gone home to his family.

But, the folks who came across him could probably only do so much. Not enough, though, to stop his life ending in the waters of the Waitemata Harbour.

Three faces of the United Service Hotel

The three faces of the United Service Hotel, corner Queen and Wellesley Street West, Auckland.

Originally called the Rifle Volunteers Hotel from 1860 by first publican William Baker, John and George Rayner changed the name to United Service Hotel in late June 1861.

The wooden first hotel (left) was destroyed completely in the September 1873 fire, but rebuilt in brick in 1874 by John Hancock (centre).

From 1878, Henry Nathaniel Abbott took on the lease, and tied the hotel in with his Abbott's Opera House just up the road. The name of the hotel changed to that of the Civic Hotel in 1959, and the exterior (as well as likely the interior) was modernised at some point to the way it looks today (right).

The London Bar opened there in 1969. The pub closed in 2006 for a time, reopened, then finally shut down in 2009. The Maze Restaurant & Bar that has taken over the space does not appear to have survived the 2020 pandemic. 

Images: left -- 4-86, and centre -- 4-346, both Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. Right is from Google streetview.

Anton Seuffert's first Wellesley Street workshop

 4-86, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections [detail]

The highlighted building in this c.1866 image of Wellesley Street West was Samuel Henry Webb's "Royal Harmonium and Pianoforte Saloon", with the United Service Hotel (the original wooden version, to the right, at the Queen Street corner.) But from 1860 to 1864, this was the site of the first workshop run by Bohemian craftsman Anton Seuffert, master furniture-maker.

By September 1864, despite his fame as the designer of a secretaire desk that had made it all the way to Queen Victoria, Seuffert still needed other income streams to keep his head above water. His wife ran her own fancy goods store, and his three-storey workshop became a dancing studio in the middle floor, while he retained workshops in the basement and second storey. It was when the dance studio became a warehouse for flour, let out to CA Stone & Son to store flour, that calamity struck. Too much flour was apparently loaded onto the floor -- the rear of the building gave way one day and collapsed, tumbling into the Wai Horotiu gully behind. Fortunately, there was only one injury, a Mr White who was struck by some of the timber as it came down.

Seuffert couldn't rebuild, so shifted his business across the road to around where the Bledisloe Building is today, and his lease was taken up by Webb. Webb, in turn, set up his harmonium shop, which evolved into a dance hall and exhibitions building, up until the 1873 fire which destroyed it, along with the rest of the block.

In 1879 the publican at the rebuilt United Service Hotel, Henry Nathaniel Abbott, bought the Seuffert-Webb site from Thomas Russell, along with the other two sites leading up to Elliot Street, and in 1881 built his "Wellesley Opera House", soon to be renamed "Abbot's Opera House", and known as such through to his death in 1899.

In 1909 his widow sold the opera house to the Fuller family. Fuller's Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1926, and the site was subsequently purchased by Smith & Caughey.

Collapse of the Beehive Toy and Fancy Repository, 1865

 536-Album-285-10-1, c.1864, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

The old Market Reserve block on Queen Street (at right, Aotea Square to Civic Theatre).  Not just street numbering shifted there, but legal descriptions as well.

Anyway, while researching the Wai Horotiu stream, I spotted The Beehive store in a couple of images from the mid 1860s (centre, highlighted), and wondered what that was about.

Turns out it was a sub-lease to one John Moginie, who had previously had a shop on the other side of the street at a corner with Wakefield Street up until he shifted to the position shown here in December 1864. He sold "wedding presents, birthday presents, and presents suitable for girls and boys, also Berlin wools, finished and unfinished, Fancy Needlework, patterns and canvasses ..." His Beehive Toy and Fancy Repository seemed set to be a long-term feature. It wasn't.

In 1864 to 1865, the City Board (ancestor of the City Council) was hard at work fixing the Queen Street levels in this part of the town. As you might be able to see, Queen Street had a bit of a gully problem, and wasn't smooth going. It was determined that the levels on the western side needed to be raised for better drainage etc, and if the businesses didn't want surface flooded shops, they needed fixing as well.

Problem was, at the back of the shops that included The Beehive lay the Wai Horotiu watercourse, so the ground at that time tended to fall away sharply at the rear.

One day then, in May 1865, while contractors were busy raising Mr Moginie's store to restore it to street level -- someone slipped up, a support was knocked, and the back of the store collapsed into the gully.

The store's shutters burst open and fell into Queen Street. The stock inside, mainly toys, were thrown from their shelves and broken. The structure itself, tilted up now at the Queen Street side, was badly twisted. Oh, how I wish someone had taken a photo that had survived!

That was it for Moginie as far as that side of the street was concerned. He moved back across the road, and did reopen his store there, but doesn't seem to have stayed in Auckland as a storekeeper much after that.

The assault on Daniel Caley, 1868

View looking along Queen Street from near Karangahape Road, c.1860s. 4-399, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

One Saturday night in March 1868, at 10 pm, bakery owner Daniel Caley finished up for the night, left his shop beside the Thistle Hotel on Queen Street, locked the door, and started his walk home, up the hill toward Karangahape Road and his home and family.

Caley was born on the Isle of Man around 1817, and arrived in Auckland with his family in late 1859. But instead of taking up a farm in the Kaipara district as intended with other Manx settlers, he settled in to business as a baker in central Auckland instead by early 1860. He was a kind, gentle and well-liked and respected member of the community.

On that March night, however, he had a feeling he was being followed. He stopped along the way to talk with a friend, then continued on. Until up near the top, by the cutting at the junction of the two main streets, he was suddenly set upon by two men who beat, garroted and kicked him to within an inch of his life, and left him bleeding on the road. All for a pocket watch one man yanked off the chain, and a few silver coins, shillings and pence he was taking home with him that night to share out among his children.

Once Caley had been found, taken to a nearby house and the police alerted, the latter were onto it smartly. A house-to-house search through the streets and by-ways which “suspicious characters” frequented led them to Barrack Street and the home of two “notorious females” as the newspapers described them, Elizabeth Kelly and Mary Mininex. Inside were Joseph Bryant and Henry Kersting, both fresh out from completing two years each in Mt Eden Gaol.

Bryant, a soldier with the Military Train who was now absent from his barracks, had been found guilty of garroting a man, while Kersting stole watches and pigs. On Kersting, the police found Caley’s watch.

While Bryant and Kersting were held on remand, they joined up with another highway robber, William Goldsmith, and all three assaulted a prison warder. Before they could make their escape, however, they were captured.

All three men were later found guilty of the two attacks, Bryant and Kersting for the one on Caley, and Bryant and Goldsmith for the one at the gaol, and sentenced to up to eight years hard labour and 25 lashes each. Bryant and Kersting received their flogging, but simply shrugged it off, one saying that it was no more than he’d get from his mother.

Goldsmith’s flogging wasn’t due to take place until he’d complete one of his sentences – but then the authorities realised that if there was a delay of more than six months, the law stated that the flogging would be waived. He probably did miss out on that part of his punishment.

As for Bryant and Kersting – they successfully escaped from Mt Eden in November 1868, and disappeared. The public were outraged.

Daniel Caley recovered, returned to his business, was burnt out in the 1873 fire without insurance, and decided to retire to the Waikato. He did return to Auckland around 1890, though, and died here in 1900, aged 83. He was buried in the Wesleyan section of Symonds St cemetery.

Harriet Powley, and the Queen Street Fire of 1873

 4-418, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections [detail]

The highlighted building, I believe, was the one used by Harriet Powley for her millinery and drapery business. It had three storeys, the two you see here, and a lower cellar, and in a sitting room on the ground floor, behind the main shop (each storey had two rooms), the great 1873 Queen Street west fire started in unexplained circumstances behind a staircase.

Today, this is the northern-most part of Smith & Caugheys.

Thomas Elwin/Elvin/Edwin Powley (the middle name varies from record to record) was born in Norwich, England, around 1813. He enlisted with the 96th regiment in 1830, and in 1838 married Harriet Guyton, before the couple left with the regiment the following year, bound for Sydney. His obituary says Powley was discharged in 1848. He seems to have then joined the constabulary in Tasmania, and come across to Auckland in 1851 with three others to escort transportation prisoners, according to a file held in Wellington’s Archives NZ office.

Sometime between then and 1858 he and his family came to settle in Auckland, and by 1858 Harriet had set up a drapery and millinery business with her son-in-law Edward Johnson in Shortland St, under the name of Powley & Johnson. Most references though seem to credit Thomas as being the one in business as a draper, not Harriet. In the late 1850s, Thomas worked as a bailiff.

By 1862, the Powleys had shifted, now living on the east side of Queen Street, between Vulcan Lane and Durham Street, and the business came with them. In June 1863, however, their shop and a number of others, including the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, burned to the ground, the fire seeming to start somewhere in the vicinity of the Powleys. They were insured, however, and rebuilt.

In 1869 however, things changed. Edward Johnson accidentally poisoned himself. He was suffering from a chest infection, and mixed up two prescriptions he had from his doctor – one for a cough mixture, and one for a chest rub, not to be taken internally as it was poisonous. The Johnson-Powley partnership was officially dissolved a year later, and by November 1870 Thomas Powley was bankrupt.

Harriet, though, kept the business going, at that stage the family’s only income. She shifted over to the west side of Queen Street by September 1871, and was doing a good trade, up until the fire in September 1873 which razed all Queen Street businesses on that side from the Thistle Hotel at the northern end, right through to the Anchor Hotel to the south.

In the aftermath, Thomas’ military pension finally came through. He and Harriet quit business, and lived quiet lives, until his death in December 1901, and her own in September 1902.

Interestingly, their son George Henry Powley, after a bit of a stint as a publican in the Kaipara at Batley, returned to Auckland in the early 1880s and took over a clothing factory in Shortland Street. In partnership with Macky, Logan, Steen and Co, he renamed it the Cambridge Clothing Factory, and shifted it to Victoria Street West in the 1890s, finally selling his shares in the business in 1904. Today, Cambridge Clothing still exists, and once had a factory in New Lynn.

William Smithson, and his Ship Inn

 Image: 4-415, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections [detail]

The Trafalgar Inn on Queen Street, 1860s, between Wyndham (left) and Swanson Streets. From 1908, this was part of the Milne & Choyce building. Before it was the Trafalgar, it was the Ship Inn, built by William Smithson in 1842 after the local pub keepers refused to buy Smithson's products from his first brewery set up in 1841 beside the Queen Street gaol.

With the Ship Inn Smithson, a former inhabitant of the Australian penal system, hoped to be able to break in to the market. It helped that his landlord, McGarvey, had his cooperage to the rear of the hotel. Smithson intended starting a theatre at the hotel, but that idea came to nought.

With tinsmith Archibald McPherson's help, Smithson was able to install a coal-burning system at the hotel which provided enough coal gas to make the light over his doorway (necessary for customers to navigate the footbridge over Ligar's Canal) bright enough that it not only served its purpose, it was blamed for blinding people so much with its dazzle that folks were falling into the ditch anyway. This has been held up to be Auckland's first gas light, with the coal coming from seams found in the Mahurangi area, some of which Smithson claimed as his.

However, his hotelier days were brief, ending by 1844. His land claim was disallowed, and led to numerous petitions that lasted beyond his death in 1853, and ceased only with the drowning of his widow in the harbour in 1861.

Whether his gas lamp remained in use is doubtful -- importing coal was expensive, and it would be another 20 years before the Auckland Gas Company started up. By then, there was a proper footpath in that part of Queen Street, forever burying Ligar's Canal, while the natural bed of the watercourse in behind was filled in and converted to becoming just more basement space for Auckland's rising infrastructure.

Ephraim Mills, and his Market Hotel

 Detail from 4-53, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

The Market Hotel mid 1860s, at the corner of Cook Street and Grey Street (later Greys Ave), Auckland. The original version dated from 1865, and the last version closed in 1969, demolished early 1970.

The originator was one Ephraim Mills, born in Gloucestershire in 1836. He arrived in Auckland in 1855, and took up work as a builder and contractor. In December 1856 he married Mary Ann Neale, daughter of Henry Neale who owned a substantial amount of land in Grey Street including part of the later Myers Park. Neales Lane was named after Mills’ father-in-law, and today is part of the Council carpark beside Mayoral Drive.

One tributary of Wai Horotiu (what I term Waihorotiu East) flowed through the gully between Queen and Grey Streets (Myers Park), then out onto Grey Street itself close to the hotel site. This was channelled by a culvert and bridge across the street to flow in behind the hotel site. Another tributary (Waihorotiu West) between Grey and Vincent Streets joined up with the eastern flow, went across Cook Street just right of the hotel site you see here, and on into what is now Aotea Square and beyond, slowing just after the crossing (also channelled and bridged) to become a swampy gully area. The Market Hotel was able to exist, as you can see here, because both bridges (dating from the early 1850s) had by 1865 become part of passable roads.

Mills had gone in for the publican business the year before with the Governor Grey Hotel, and his period with the Market Hotel, the building of which he supervised, was also brief (1865-1867). But he was certainly a colourful businessman.

In 1867, he ran foul of the regulations at the time against any form of singing, music playing or dancing in pubs. A regulation in place to stop pubs attracting people to, well, you know – drink.

“Ephraim Mills, of the Market Hotel, was charged with a breach of the 29th clause of the Licensing Act, which provides that "no person holding a publican's license under this Act shall suffer or permit any music or dancing for public entertainment to take place in the house or on the premises for which such license shall have been granted without the sanction of any two justices of the peace for the special occasion named."

“… Police-Sergeant Murphy deposed: I know defendant. He is the holder of the license for the Market Hotel, Grey-street, He produced the license to me. On Friday, 23rd August, I was in the hotel about a quarter before nine at night. I was accompanied by Constable Jackson. Before I entered I heard the sounds of music and dancing proceeding from the house. I went upstairs to a large room over the bar. There were about twenty men and two women in the room. A man named Henry Chambers were playing the piano. In the centre of the room six women and two men were dancing. At the last end of the room is a bar, and I saw liquors taken from it to the customers. The piano is at the other end on a raised platform. I sent for Mr. Mills, and he came. He said that I had spoiled his game at pool in the billiard-room. I spoke to him about the music and dancing. He said it was not with his permission. He did not say he had taken any means to prevent it. I have frequently seen music and dancing going on in the house, and have frequently cautioned Mr. Mills. He did not take any steps to prevent the music and dancing. Sometimes, they would be stopped while I was there, and as soon as my back was turned they began again. Mr. Mills did not lock up the piano, or take any measures to stop the dancing or music. He went downstairs again.

“Cross-examined by Mr. Joy: The playing had been stopped before Mills came into the room, as the man playing stopped when he saw me. I saw the people dancing when I went upstairs. I have an option which public-houses I go into. I was in three or four public-houses that night. I was in Rose's, Carter's, and Mackenzie's that night. There were musical instruments in all three. I did not lodge information against any but Mills’. I have frequently cautioned others besides Mills. They have music, but I have not seen dancing in their houses. I know a man named Macrae who keeps a public-house within a few yards of the Court-house. I was in there the night before last. I have heard music there, but I have not seen dancing. I consider Mills' the worst-conducted house in town.

“By Mr. Gillies: My reason for reporting Mills in preference to the others was because he keeps the worst-conducted house in town. I did not drive people out of the other houses into Mills'. It is easy to hear from the billiard room the music and dancing going on upstairs.

“Constable Jackson corroborated the evidence of Sergeant Murphy. George Lawton deposed : l am barman at the London Hotel, Mr. Carter's. On the 23rd of August I was waiter in the room at Mills'. I was waiting that night in the large room upstairs. I was in that room when Sergeant Murphy and the constable came in. When they came in music was playing, and some girls and some men were dancing. The dancing had not been going on long when the constables came in, but the music had been going on for some time. I had been for some weeks in Mr. Mills' employment before. I have often seen music and dancing in that room. There was music every night. I have heard Sergeant Murphy caution Mr Mills. In the billiard room, one could hear the music and dancing. I have seen Mr Mills in the room when the music was playing and when a man was step-dancing. He never said anything about the music. “Cross-examined by Mr Joy: l am in Mr Carter's employment now. He has a piano and music night after night. I have never seen the police in the room where the music is. There was a man step-dancing there since I have been there, but no girls dancing. He was dancing for his own amusement. There was a man-of-war's man dancing once. A man called Henry Chambers was playing the piano. I do not know that he is a professional. He did not do any waiting that night. He was not a waiter. I have received orders from Mr Mills not to allow girls to dance. I told Chambers to stop playing. I could not stop the dancing. My orders were not to allow dancing.

“By Mr. Gillies: It is an open room, fitted for dancing. If there were a few tables put in, it would stop dancing. “This concluded the case for the prosecution.

“For the defence, Mr Joy called Henry Chambers, who deposed: I was in Mr. Mills' employment on the 23rd August. I am hired as barman. There was dancing going on when the police came in. I received orders from the last witness to stop the dancing. I have acted as waiter repeatedly in that public-house. I was not engaged professionally to play the piano. L am not a professional musician. I did not see Mr Mills in the room while the dancing was going on.

“By Mr. Gillies: I was in the habit of playing the piano in that room. Mr Mills was aware that I did so. Mrs Mills was attending to the bar downstairs while I was playing upstairs. Mr Mills did not give me orders not to play. There has been dancing on other nights. I was in the room when the police left. I re-commenced playing shortly after the police left. There was no more dancing that night.

“By the Court: There were liquors supplied while the music was going on. His Worship said that the words in the clause under which the information was laid were very stringent. [His Worship then quoted the clause, as given above.] Now, that there was music and dancing going on that night was beyond question, and that Mr Mills had no license for that was also certain. The defence apparently was that the music and dancing was not with the consent of the proprietor of the house. But evidence had been given, at all events, that the music and dancing could not have taken place without its being heard in the billiard-room; and Mills, being in that room, must have known the fact that it was taking place. One of the witnesses stated that he had received instructions not to suffer dancing, but he stated that he could not put a stop to it. There had been nothing in the evidence to show that the police were ever required to put a stop to the dancing; on the contrary, the police gave evidence that they had over and over again cautioned Mills about what was permitted in his house. The object of music in a public-house was to attract people and people never assembled at these places without drinking, and thus grist was brought to the publican's mill. There would be neither music nor dancing if it were not to encourage drinking and other vices. The case cited by Mr Gillies was very much to the point, and in passing judgment he would read a case to show how necessary it was for a publican to be careful as to how he acted, and which it was desirable they should know. … He would find the defendant guilty, and inflict a fine of £10-and costs.”

(Southern Cross, 7 September 1867)

And, on top of this – Mills was also before the Court the same day for allowing prostitutes to be in his hotel.

“Ephraim Mills was then charged with a breach of the 16th clause of the Municipal Police Act “by suffering prostitutes to be assembled in the Market Hotel." Mr. Gillies appeared for the prosecution, Mr Joy for the defence.

“Mr Gillies said the present complaint had reference to the same time as the last case and the women were some of those who were dancing. The prosecutor, however, would not press the case, on the defendant stating that he would prevent the assembling of such characters in future, and, if need be, call in the aid of the police.

“Mr Joy would undertake to say, on behalf of Mr. Mills, that in future, where he had the slightest cause of suspicion for believing that any woman was a prostitute, he would then and there have her ejected, The real difficulty was to say who were to be designated prostitutes. There were hundreds of women who were drinking in the public-houses of Auckland, and it was not easy for Mr Mills to tell who were prostitutes unless he had the evidence that was in the possession of the police. The moment the police pointed out a prostitute, she would be turned out at once.

“His Worship said he was sure the defendant would find no difficulty in getting the assistance of the police. On the occasion in question, if he had sent down to the police-station he would soon have got assistance.”

(also Southern Cross, 7 September 1867)

Mills would go on to have two bankruptcies in his career, and a period working on the Coromandel Peninsula in the early 1870s, before returning to work in Auckland, then finally leaving to live in Fiji. He died there in 1893.

King David Sykes and his Turkish Baths

"Looking south along Queen Street from the Wellesley St intersection, showing the premises of R H Bartlett, R Hobbs, F Hewin and Brother, the Army and Navy Hotel and the firebell tower on the corner of Greys Ave (centre)." [Detail, c.1875] Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-67 

Somewhere on the left side of this image, a man named King David Sykes started Auckland’s first Turkish Baths business.

He might not have been the first at all. An earlier planned Onehunga Turkish Baths company announced intentions with a hiss and a roar in the newspapers, with prospective directors shoulder-tapping prospective shareholders in the street.

 “Several times I have been importuned by a very highly respectable timber agent in Auckland, to take a quantity of shares in the Great Onehunga Turkish Bath Dictating Company. The same gentleman tells me that the shares are in great demand, and will all very speedily be taken up, (£5 shares) as no doubt the Company will be one of the most successful ever started in the southern hemisphere. He knows the public will flock from Melbourne, Sydney, Dunedin, &c, to receive the benefits arising from the above establishment. Thus, sir, may be all very true; the antecedents of the gentleman would prevent me doubting his word, but I have not heard one single word of it through the papers - not one advertisement, and I have not even found it a subject of serious conversation in Onehunga.”

(Southern Cross, 8 January 1874)

The ads did appear, shareholders meetings were announced, but … it was all over a year later.

“The Turkish bath scheme at Onehunga has fallen through, owing in a very large measure to the unwillingness of Auckland people to cater heartily into a scheme for erecting baths on a site so far removed from the city, on which it would have to rely for support. Can nothing be done to revive such an admirable project?”

(Auckland Star, 7 January 1875)

Well, yes. Enter our man KD Sykes, a watchmaker by trade, originally from Manchester. By the beginning of September, Sykes had set up his own Turkish baths establishment, a few doors south of present day Airedale Street junction with Queen Street. In it he installed two “sudatoria” or sweating rooms, a tepid bath massage room, and cold water shower-bath. After that, the customer stretched out on a couch wrapped in towels until dry. It started out as a men-only thing, but later on women were allowed to partake of the benefits on select “women only” days.

 Sykes had an uphill battle. This was, of course, the height of the Victorian British Empire, with all the attitudes toward anything that involved naked adults in a public building.

“We learn that Mr K D Sykes is about to extend the Turkish Baths to meet the requirements of bathers. He also intends to reduce the prices, as the baths become more largely patronised. He informs us that he is not without hope that a public company may ultimately take the matter up and erect a hydropathic institution that will be a blessing to the public, and a credit to the city. Mr Sykes has fought the battle of the Turkish Bath against a good deal of ignorance and its value is becoming more generally recognised. He has shown a commendable determination to advance as circumstances justify, and improve his establishment. One of the chief advantages of Mr Sykes' baths is the fact that the proprietor, who has had great experience in hydropathic institutions is always in attendance, and bathers are thus preserved from the evil consequences which might result under an ignorant control. An apparatus is in course of construction to supply the baths with pure oxygen gas. Bathers will then come out like fairies, and frisk like kittens.”

(Auckland Star, 20 October 1877)

Sykes even renamed his business slightly and grandly, to the Auckland Turkish Bath and Hydropathy Institute. He had endorsements put into the newspapers from satisfied customers.

“In leaving Mr Svke's Establishment after a stay of eight weeks, I feel it my duty, both to him and the Publlc generally, to testify to the great success of the Turkish Bath in my case. In February last I had a severe attack of Rheumatic Fever, which left me in a helpless condition, and my friends thought I should never recover the use of my limbs. In Auckland I was recommended by a friend to take some Turkish Baths. I thought I would try them as a last resource, and feeling too weak to walk there I took a cab and called upon Mr Sykes, who advised me to place myself under Hydropathic treatment, and as my case was a bad one arrangements were made for me to reside in the house. After the first week I felt great relief, and continued to improve steadily every week. I have given Hydropathy a fair trial, and I now leave Auckland cured of Rheumatism and able to perform my duties. I have met friends in Auckland who look upon my recovery as a miracle. I may add that during my stay I witnessed many cures, three remarkable cases of Rheumatism, and leave others progressing favourably. My best thanks are due to Mr SYKES for his kindness and constant attention, and to Mr COGLAN the chief Bath attendant, for the cheerful and faithful manner in which he carried out his instructions. FREDK. JOHN BLAKE, Reserve Division, Armed Constabulary Force Cambridge, Waikato.”

(Auckland Star, 31 July 1879)

Sykes sold his enterprise to the Auckland Turkish Bath Company in 1881, and he retired to his home on Mt Eden Road, just across from Maungawhau Mount Eden. His house caught fire however in January 1886, and two weeks later King David Sykes, himself of a delicate constitution (a large part of the reason behind his fascination with Turkish baths) passed away.