Sunday, August 23, 2009

The New Lynn Poudrette Factory

Last edited 29 May 2015,

The first time I came across references to the New Lynn poudrette factory was while I was gathering information for the book Heart of the Whau, back in 2001. The minutes of the Avondale Road Board document the rising disquiet in Avondale, early in 1889, when the setting up of the factory looked like it was going to go ahead – and the factory’s smelly supply was to pass through Avondale along its roads …

What was poudrette, anyway?

Poudrette, as an end result of a means of processing raw human sewage, seems to have originated as early as the 1840s in France.

“ … a sum of money was voted by the municipality for the execution of trial works for the application of liquefied town manure to the cultivation of various species of plants. The manure was taken from the " depotoir," a general receptacle of the contents of cess-pools brought by carts, and from that receptacle the greater part is conveyed to an establishment in the Forest of Bondy, where it is chiefly desiccated, and made into " poudrette," for sale in the solid form as manure.”
(Southern Cross, 2 October 1857)

Initially, the French factory at Montfaucon processed only the solid part of the nightsoil, draining the liquid bi-products directly into the River Seine – until it was realised that urine was just as valuable as a source of sulphate of ammonia, increasing the value of the factory’s production. ("A Muck Manual for Farmers", Samuel L. Dana, New York, 1856, from Google Books)

By the 1870s, the French idea of nightsoil disposal was seen here in the Australasian colonies as an ideal way around the difficulties of coping with what everyone produced, but no one wanted anywhere near them.

“The City Council may learn something to their financial advantage in the recent proceedings of the Municipal Council of Paris, where money is scarce, and local ingenuity is exercised to derive additional revenue from all local force. For a long period the French Poudrette Company held the right of utilising all the nightsoil of Paris for a payment of half a million francs annually. The contract of the company has just expired, and an English association has stepped forward and concluded an arrangement with the Paris Council for the same privilege for three million francs annually. This company considers that at this price it has made a fine speculation, and promises its shareholders a net annual profit of one million francs. The modus operandi is to convey the nightsoil of the French metropolis in hermetically sealed receptacles to the forest of Bondy, where it is mixed with charcoal, dried peat and thus converted into poudrette, or manure powder. In this state it fetches two francs per bushel; converted into sulphate of ammonia, the compound, with 21 percentage of azote guaranteed, is sold for thirty francs per cwt. It is sold also in a liquid state, realising from one to two francs per cubic yard, according to the distance it is conveyed. Here are solid advantages from municipal government. The burgesses of Pans save three million francs per year in taxation, and the agricultural lands of the country are nourished at a minimum cost.”
(Southern Cross, 11 October 1872)

The Australians took on the idea in the 1870s.

“The Melbourne Age gives the following account of a recent invention patented in Victoria for utilizing the refuse of the city, which deserves the attention of our own City Council. Our worthy Mayor is a man of energy and business experience, and we invite his attention to the statements in the following paragraph, and trust that not only will he immediately cause further information respecting the patent to be obtained, but that, if the statements made are reliable, he will at once take steps to utilize Auckland's refuse in a like manner: — "The patented process of Messrs. Hesse and Rimmel for the disposal and utilization of excreta has this week been shown in actual operation on a commercial scale at the works of the Collingwood Poudrette Company, on the Merri Creek. Yesterday a number of visitors, including the city health committee, the city health officer and surveyor, and the acting Town Clerk, spent some time in the examination of the process and its results, with which they expressed much satisfaction. There is not the least unpleasantness in the process, and the products are very valuable. The latter consist of a guano which is eagerly sought after by gardeners ; and salts of ammonia, which is in large demand on sugar plantations. At present the company can only work with one retort for want of sufficient condensing power. In consequence of the guano produced is not sufficient to supply the demand, and the income from this item alone is nearly enough to pay all expenses Apparently the patentees may look forward to a very successful future.''
(Southern Cross, 25 May 1876)

But, by 1876, this factory was in financial trouble, the works sold by the sheriff and bought up by the local council. (Christchurch Star , 1 July 1876) This set-back didn’t put off those eyeing the process as a solution in New Zealand, however. The Tauranga Chemical Manure Company was set up in 1883, proposing to mix nightsoil with gypsum to produce the poudrette. (Bay Of Plenty Times, 29 November 1883) Back across the Tasman, Sydney looked like it was going to follow Collingwood’s lead in 1886. (Evening Post, 21 August 1886) In Otago, a poudrette factory was set up at Wingatui that year as well, and appears to have been the most successful facility of its kind in this country.

“What may well be termed a new local industry has been established at the Taieri (writes our Mosgiel correspondent). Mr. Hanson, who has had considerable experience in Germany and Denmark, having arrived at the conclusion that there was an opening here for a good fertiliser, has now succeeded in establishing "poudrette works" at Wingatui, where he has been engaged for some 18 months perfecting his arrangements. Through the courtesy of Mr. Hanson and his Northern traveller. Mr. A. Glass, I have been permitted to make an inspection of the works. On approaching these the olfactory nerves are greeted with what to a fastidious taste would prove anything but an agreeable odour. Still, on entering the works the deodorising effects produced on the material are at once appreciated. Shortly stated, the idea is to utilise the city nightsoil, and the process of manufacture is as follows : — The nightsoil is sent from town to the Wingatui siding in iron tanks, from whence it is ejected into pit No. 1, the railway line being considerably higher than the situation of the pit. From pit No. 1 it is allowed to percolate into No.'s 2 and 3. Sufficient lime is then added to effect deodorisation, and the material becomes almost inoffensive. The next process is that of drying. This necessarily takes up a good deal of ground — fully an acre — being enclosed in sections with wood. The material after being taken from the drying ground undergoes another drying process and is then rolled and otherwise worked down into a powder, hence the name "Poudrette." Mr Hanson states that since he has placed his production on the market he has received inducements sufficient to warrant him extending his premises.”
(Otago Witness , 8 October 1886)

In 1885 Samuel White, at some point possibly a nightsoil contractor working for Auckland City Council, leased two large farms, 149½ acres at Pt Chevalier (see Pt Chevalier Times No. 4). He obtained a patent for a process of making manure from nightsoil, called “Native Guano”, in January 1888 (Otago Witness, 20 January 1888), and apparently worked on his farm producing 30 tons of his “Native Guano”, selling it for £5 10s a ton. (Timaru Herald, 7 December 1888) His source of supply appears to have been, from 1888 at least, via Maurice Casey, the nightsoil contractor for Auckland City down to c.1898. Casey was using a depot at Morningside to plow in the waste, as well as one in Pt Chevalier, judging by the complaints from Edwin Barker and others (Morningside) and Simon Fraser and others (Pt Chevalier). Casey batted back the complaints, making his own complaint that he hadn’t been paid by the increasingly cash-strapped Council, so he refused to do any more work. (NZ Herald, 2 February 1888).


In the midst of the ensuing controversy, a letter writer to the Herald named “Practical” suggested that private enterprise should take over from the municipal authorities, “making manures, sewage dressing, or improving barren land.” (27 February 1888) The Avondale district offered to receive the nightsoil “if delivered conveniently.” (NZ Herald, 2 March 1888) That may have meant by rail: Casey advised the Council that if he were to remove nightsoil by rail, he’d need a siding near the railway. (NZ Herald, 16 March 1888) He made a firm offer to remove the nightsoil by rail for five years on 29 March 1888 – Council liked the idea, but deferred doing anything about it until Casey had produced a report. (NZ Herald, 30 March 1888)

It seems that everything was then left as-is. Pt Chevalier residents complained again about nightsoil being disposed of in their area, and this seems to have ceased. (NZ Herald, 28 September 1888) By November, however, as Casey carted the nightsoil to Mt Albert and Avondale, those districts also raised protests, with the Avondale Road Board threatening to prosecute local landowners who allowed the nightsoil to be applied to their fields. (Evening Post, 6 November 1888) Then, a man named John Vare approached the beleaguered City Council with a proposal for an alternate method to dispose of the nuisance. The Council referred his suggestion to their Legal Committee. (NZ Herald, 8 November 1888)

By the end of November there were four proposals before the City Council: one from a Mr J E Friend (later declined); one from Messrs Fairbrother & Campion of Carterton, for a refined earth closet system (declined); Vare and F. Langdon, from Dunedin, with a proposal to erect an American-style poudrette factory somewhere in or near Auckland; and Samuel White, offering to provide a French-style poudrette depot “just beyond Avondale” for 5-10 years, able to negotiate with Casey for the balance of his contract, and backed in partnership not only by Casey but also by local timber merchant Frank Jagger. (NZ Herald, 23 November 1888)

The City Council decided to go with White’s application, with the following conditions; they had to approve the site, necessary machinery and apparatus had to be completed within 3 months, the nightsoil to be received from the city within that period, White and his partners had to submit a £100 deposit as a goodwill bond, no nuisance to be created at the depot by manufacture (and if any authority objected, the deal was off), and the Council were to have contractors use the depot for 6 years after expiry of present contract with Casey. Even though Vare and Langdon raised their offer to a bond of £1000, they were still turned down – mainly because White, Casey and Jagger were locals. (NZ Herald 7 December 1888)

Frank Jagger’s partner William Johnson Parker took out a patent with an Auckland engineer in early 1889 “for an improved method or system of evaporating and drying manure, nightsoil, fish, offal, blood, meat, or any other refuse matter, and to be called "The Giant Evaporator." (Evening Post, 1 February 1889) Jagger & Parker, having done well with their timber businesses swallowed up by the Kauri Timber Company, not to mention their stake in the Onehunga Woollen Mills, had also now taken over the Gittos tannery at Richmond. The poudrette business looked like it would be yet another success in their commercial portfolio.

On 16 January 1889, The Mayor and several City Councillors went out to see the proposed sites for the poudrette factory, along with White and Parker.

“The first site inspected was at New Lynn. It is a fine piece of property many acres in extent, with a creek and copious supply of water running through it, and with the railway line adjacent. There are no dwellings in the vicinity, and no objection is expected to be raised by the owners of adjoining properties. The contractors appeared specially anxious to secure this site for their works because of its nearness to the railway and the possibility of their being able to come to some arrangement with the railway management for the conveyance of nightsoil.”
(Auckland Star, 17 January 1889)

The New Lynn site impressed the Mayor and Councillors, but the distance from the city (and potential increased charges from Casey) were a concern. There was really little contest between New Lynn and Pt. Chevalier, however. The latter had made loud noises in the past year about the nuisance of nightsoil disposal. New Lynn was in another county altogether. Apart from their due obligations to public health, they were effectively exporting the problem. Out of sight (and beyond the range of offended noses belonging to those who could complain) out of mind …

In February 1889, the Avondale Road Board protested again, contacting both Auckland City Council and White & partners registering their opposition to the establishment of the poudrette factory in New Lynn, threatening to put tolls on the road if need be. (Avondale Road Board minutes, 13 February 1889) A letter from the Board joined a number of others in protest to the Waitemata County Council the following month. Walter McCaul protested, declaring the factory as “an intolerable nuisance, danger to public health, and (likely to cause) deterioration of the value of the property.” Other residents and ratepayers followed suit. At the meeting, where both John Bollard (Avondale Road Board) and McCaul were present, Parker said “…that the people of the district, with the exception of three persons, were in favour of the establishment of the works. He was confident that there would be no nuisance, and if the people who had signed the petition in favour of the scheme objected to the work after it was given a trial, it would be stopped.” The County Council moved to consider the whole matter at a special meeting in two weeks’ time.

Come 15 March 1889, and Bollard was there again, as was Samuel White. The Inspector of the Bank of New Zealand wrote in declaring that the factory would depreciate New Lynn property values. The assignee of John Buchanan’s bankrupt estate objected strongly to the factory as it was likely to deteriorate the value of Buchanan’s property (part of which adjoined the factory site). But, 26 New Lynn residents signed a petition (presented no doubt by Parker) agreeing to the proposal, along with a further petition of 61 residents of Avondale saying the same thing. That petition, to Bollard’s chagrin, included signatures from three Avondale Road Board members – in those days, a majority. This despite Bollard being given authority from the Board, in a unanimous decision, to try to stop the factory. “The greater part of those signing the petition,” he advised the County Council, “were not property-holders in the Avondale district. They were mostly working men, and one of them was now working at Cuvier Island, and he wondered how his signature was obtained. To show the fallacy of these petitions, he might say that one man got up a petition to have nightsoil received on the Avondale district, and it was signed by 25 people, and another got up a petition against it, and it was signed by 85 people, including 20 of those who had signed the other petition.”

Still, the County Council Chairman approved of the factory, provided the nightsoil was “removed in covered tanks and shot into one place where it would be treated.” The County Council agreed “That permission be granted by the Council for the establishment of poudrette works at New Lynn, on condition that the promoters enter into a bond to be drawn by the Council’s solicitor, guaranteeing that no nuisance would be created by the works and that the Council be indemnified against loss or expense incurred in any legal proceedings in reference to such works.” The bond set was £1000. The council later agreed the following month that the provision that a complaint made by 10 residents was sufficient to shut the factory down was “too stringent”, and resolved to alter the clause that the power was left in the hands of the County Council and two medical men to say whether or not there was a nuisance. (Weekly News 9 & 23 March, 13 April 1889)

During a Waitemata County Council tour on March 23 1889 through their vast district checking on the roads, they stopped by to take a look at the factory site.

“At New Lynn a temporary halt was made to have a look at the Poudrette Works. The buildings are in the process of erection and some of the machinery is on the ground. A railway siding at a cost of £500 is to be constructed. About 50 acres of land are secured with the works so that the promoters are not likely to be worried by litigation on the part of the neighbours. The nearest neighbours are living nearly half a mile to the westward and as the prevailing winds are from that quarter they are not likely to suffer any injury or inconvenience. The party were of the opinion that the Poudrette Works will prove a blessing not a nuisance to the district as there are thousands of acres of dun brown fern-clad land in the district which only want the poudrette to turn them from barren wastes into smiling farms, dotted with homesteads. One of the party said he would be glad to see such an enterprise in existence at the Wade (Silverdale) and if poudrette could be manufactured at £2/10/0 to £3 per ton it would be extensively used by the northern settlers.”
(Weekly News, 6 April 1889)

How long was it in operation? That’s unknown at this stage. The Observer made a passing reference to “the proprietors of the manure works at New Lynn” on 24 August 1889. A WS Wilkinson operated  or was at a "manure works" in New Lynn from at least August to October 1891, seeking "old horses and cattle, dead or alive" (Star, 18 August 1891, p. 1(6)) but there’s nothing further after that.

From late 1889, a raft of freezing companies and abattoirs set up their own manure works, and supplies of natural guano and chemicals came in from overseas, fairly well flooding the market. This may be one of the reasons why the New Lynn works disappeared. However, it’s unknown why the complaints about nightsoil died down as well if the works weren’t in operation. What happened about the 6-year contract isn’t known, either, but Maurice Casey’s contracts with the City Council were renewed at the end of 1889, and again in 1893 (that time for 5 years).

One person interviewed by Jack Diamond in the 1950s suggested that the night soil was simply ploughed into the ground in New Lynn and Avondale districts.
“When this venture failed, the night soil was spread on the land thereabouts and ploughed in and it was also used on the Rosebank Peninsula where the orchards and vegetable gardens are today.”
(Mrs. Southgate, aged 73, interviewed 10 March 1956 by Jack Diamond. ”Memoir of Jim Ellestone together with the memories of 18 other residents of the Western Districts of Auckland, collected between 1948 and1968”, Item 110, J T Diamond Collection, Waitakere City Library.)

Others interviewed by Diamond said that “Casey used to cart the nightsoil from Auckland in the early days to a place on the right hand side of Titirangi Road just past the railway bridge and it was then ploughed into the ground on our place.” (Percy Thompson, from “The Poudrette Works at New Lynn with associated items on nightsoil disposal”, J. T. Diamond, unpublished draft, 1991, Waitakere City Libraries)

Whatever happened, Frank Jagger had not left the nightsoil trade at all. By 1904, he was City Council night soil contractor, and was supposed to have secured land at Harkin’s Point at Riverhead where he was dumping bargeloads of nightsoil. Only thing was, he was dumping it below the high water mark, so effectively Auckland’s sewage was washing into the Waitemata Harbour. The Council closed him down, but bought his land at Riverhead in 1907, and a little later turned it into a cart horse stud farm. (Ian Madden, "Riverhead, the Kaipara Gateway", 1966, p. 177)

So – where was the factory?

Jack Diamond stated in his book Once the Wilderness (2nd edition, 1966, p. 24) that it was at the back of the New Lynn Hotel, but on the opposite side of the railway line. This description tied in with his references from interviewing Dick Malam and Percy Thompson, both describing the works (or anything to do with nightsoil) as being on the “right hand side of Titirangi Road”). Trouble is, that would put the factory on what was, up to c.1884, Walter McCaul’s Rothesay Farm, from Titirangi Road to Fruitvale Road, approximately. McCaul’s house was between 3206-3214 Great North Road approximately, just up from the New Lynn Hotel. Unless the poudrette factory partners were somehow able to secure most of that farm, it’s unlikely that they had a 50 acre section there, which was what the Waitemata County Councillors saw in March 1889. It is possible that his informants may have confused the later nightsoil ploughing with the factory itself – and tangled that up with the brickmakers who came later.


Detail from Deed Whau 12, LINZ records (crown copyright), showing Rothesay (arrowed), and other landmarks c.1884. "D" marks the most likely poudrette factory site.

The other option is across Titirangi Road, the block bounded by Titirangi, Great North Road, Rankin and Margan Avenues. This was purchased by Frank Jagger in May 1887 from the Nathan family, and sold by him in December 1902 to John Gardner. (NA44/249, LINZ records) There is one reference in Jack Diamond’s research which backs that location up: “The Powdrette Factory stood near the Titirangi Road on the land now occupied by Gardner’s brickworks. It was to process the night soil but it was not a success. The night soil, brought out in trucks from Auckland and dried in the factory, was intended to be bagged and sold. A railway siding was run to the works from the New Lynn station yard.” (Mrs. Southgate, 1956, reference above.)

The Rewarewa Creek runs through that property. It is hard to see these days how that could have ever been considered “flat”, after all the years of brickmaking on the site and clay quarrying, first by Gardners (although Diamond claims the Archibald Brothers may have been near there before they shifted to Avondale), then Amalgamated Brick and Pipe down to the middle of last century. But it does fit in with proximity to the New Lynn railway station, the factory possibly closer to Margan Avenue than the railway line, hence the talk of a siding (ultimately, a railway siding was in use somewhere on the total Amalgamated Brick and Pipe property which stretched through to Astley Avenue.)

Diamond himself, in his unpublished draft report, wrote “In a photograph of the collision between two morning passenger trains in 1913 near where the railway crosses Titirangi Road, there is in the background a smoke stack with some buildings beside it. Unfortunately these are very hazy and indistinct as it was a foggy morning when the collision occurred. However, when I asked Mr. Dick Malam of Parker Road, Oratia about the smoke stack, he informed me that it was for the poudrette works which was working before 1900 processing the nightsoil brought to it from Auckland.” Then Malam went on to describe it standing on flat land to the right of Titirangi Road, according to Diamond.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Death of Mrs Ellen Castle, Oakley Creek 1889

The creek where Mrs. Ellen Castle, aged 45, drowned is not named in the following piece from the Weekly News of 15 June 1889, but the description matches that of Oakley Creek, probably just down from the waterfall.
On Friday afternoon, June 7, between four and five o'clock, a telephone message was received at the police station to the effect that Mrs. Ellen Castle, wife of Mr. George Castle, settler, of Avondale, had been found drowned in the creek about a half mile past the Asylum. Mounted constable Kelly was despatched to ascertain the particulars. It appears that the creek runs past the back of Mr. Castle's orchard. Mrs. Castle, who was about 45 years of age, had been in a despondent state of mind for some time, suffering from religious mania, but her condition was not such as to require restraint, and when Mr. Castle left his home in the morning for town she was more than usually cheerful.

Her daughter last saw her alive about eleven o'clock, and being missing for some time after, the young woman and a neighbour, Mrs. Sansom, went to look for her. On going to the creek they found her body there, but life was extinct.

Mrs. Sansom went back to the house, and seeing Mr. Sansom, told him of the facts, and he at once went to the creek, got out the deceased, and aided by a young man named John Hill, removed the body to the residence.

The creek is 15 feet wide and six deep, with steep banks, where the body was found. About five feet higher up the creek was a plank across, which had formerly had a handrail, which was missing. It is possible that deceased was leaning against the rail which gave way, and she thus fell in and was drowned.

Mr. Castle was just returning to his home when he heard the painful tidings of his wife's death. A coroner's inquest was held on Saturday last, at the residence of Mr. George Castle. Mr. J. Bollard, J.P., officiated as coroner. Mr. Woolgar was foreman of the jury. The evidence of the following witnesses was taken:- Miss Castle, who found deceased, deposed to the circumstances under which the body was found; Mr. Castle, who gave evidence as to her state of mind, and Mr. and Mrs. Sansom, who gave corroborative evidence as to the recovery of the body. No additional facts were elicited to those given above. The jury returned an open verdict of "Found drowned."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please, sir, may I borrow your books?

The following is a gem found initially in the newspaper cuttings collection at Auckland City Archives. It comes from the NZ Herald, 14 June 1889.

"A COOL REQUEST.

Mr Arthur Desmond wrote from Otorohanga, asking the city to send him up a parcel of books from the Free Library by "parcel post or as a railway package, and to be returned in the same manner." He also asked for a catalogue.

A reply was sent that no such arrangement could be made.

Another letter in answer to this reply was received. It was as follows :— " Your reply to hand. Am very much disappointed thereby. I am unable to buy certain books which I daresay are rotting on your library shelves ; yet you distinctly state that 'no such arrangement could be made' as would enable me to utilise these works. Now, what is a Free Public Library for ? Is it to be a close monopoly for the use of those who reside in the city alone, or are its beneficial influences to be extended as far into the interior as possible? I judge that it is for use, not merely to be looked at, or to be kept in a glass case like Egyptian mummies or moa bones. Hoping that the enlightened gentlemen who guide the destinies of the Auckland City Council, &c., will give the subject further consideration. I am, &c. , Arthur Desmond. "

He concludes his letter with the following reference to the Town Clerk's signature : — " P.S. — I may say that your signature is, to your humble servant, little better than the monograph of Pharaoh on an obelisk. I can't make it out."

It was decided to reply that the Council had no intention at present of allowing books to leave the Library."
Arthur Desmond was certainly an intriguing character in NZ history. More on him at the link.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New lease on life for an old lady

The NZ Historic Places Trust are doing up Alberton in Mt. Albert so that the old mansion continues her journey through time, according to today's NZ Herald.

The Trust are staging a fundraising appeal right now. The following is from their August newsletter:
"Our fundraising appeal was launched recently and we are happy to reassure everyone that all income received from donations goes towards our critically important work of identifying, protecting, preserving and conserving the historic and cultural heritage of New Zealand.

In the letter we sent out, we explained how important it is that we make sure our past is protected, and we highlighted the substantial work being done at Alberton (rotten veranda post pictured).

To say thank you to donors who support our cause by 30 August 2009, we will send a free entrance voucher for two people to one of 14 New Zealand Historic Places Trust Properties.

If you haven’t received an appeal letter and would like to donate, you can do so on our website at www.historic.org.nz; or by ringing 0800 802 010 to make a telephone donation; or else post your donation to Freepost 3206, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, PO Box 2629, Wellington."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Destitute cast-offs: supporting women and children in early New Zealand

It’s odd, sometimes, how in looking for one thing, other things crop up as well. I didn’t know I’d uncover the severe marital problems between engineer and architect Charles Sanderson, and his wife Catherine Francis Sanderson.

They were married at Camberwell Church near London on 16 September 1846 (according to evidence brought up in a later court hearing (Southern Cross, 2 May 1870). They apparently separated once in Auckland around 1864. Exactly why isn’t all that clear. Sanderson seems to have thought that Mrs. Sanderson was holding back £1000 which he was entitled to. It sounds almost as if he expected a dowry of £2000 to be part of the marriage, and he’d received only half the amount. From that point on, the situation came under the Destitute Persons Relief Ordinance.

The Destitute Persons Relief Ordinance had been on the books for decades before the Sanderson case. 1846 is the earliest reference I’ve found so far.

“LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL. Thursday, October 15. Present. — All the members. The Council resumed in committee on the Destitute Persons Relief Bill. The Attorney-General suggested that a minimum as well as a maximum sum should be fixed to be paid by fathers for the support of their illegitimate children, and he proposed three shillings for the former and ten shillings for the latter sum. The Governor thought that three shillings was too much; the sum should not be higher than was charged at the Bishop's school, or at the Wesleyan Native Institution. The sums of two shillings and sixpence, and ten shillings were agreed to.”
(New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, 16 December 1846)

It was passed 20 October 1846. It allowed for the state to enforce support of destitute persons from near relatives, and wives/partners and children (legitimate or not) to be provided for by husbands where they had been abandoned illegally. It was probably New Zealand’s first legislation putting down the regulations for child support. It wasn’t a hard-and-fast means of obtaining financial support for cast-off women and children. Cases of co-habitation before separation had to be proved, marriage certificates (often expensively obtainable only from Britain or elsewhere) produced – and if the man concerned had legged it to somewhere overseas, there was no recourse. Women were also charged under the act, just in case you may think that it was only one gender specific, especially if they’d left their children to their own devices.

Gradually, the incoming social welfare period from the late 19th century would have taken over from the ordinance, but the spirit of the law can still be found in more recent legislation.

Back to the 1860s.

There may have been rumours going around the town about the separated Sandersons. Some in 1866 must have added to the gossip suggestions that a Henry Burwood Saunders from New Zealand who had fathered a child out of wedlock in Australia, only to order the mother to deny it breast milk and let it die (Southern Cross 24 May 1866), was really Charles Sanderson.

“CONTRADICTION OF SCANDAL.
To the Editor of the Daily Southern Cross.
Sir, — I shall be exceedingly obliged to any of your readers who will give me such information as may lead to the exposure of those persons who are so industriously manufacturing lies, which they miscall "facts," to bolster up a piece of scandal, set afloat by some very malicious persons, connecting myself with the paragraph in your issue of the 24th May last. There being not the slightest evidence to support the story, which betrayed an utter ignorance of my movements, I contented myself with contradicting it privately. Many persons, not having heard of my contradiction, are under the impression that it is true. May I trespass in your space to say — 1st. That I was not staying at the place named during any portion of April last. 2nd. That I never at any time changed my name or went by the name of Saunders. 3rd. That, if I wanted to change, I should have taken some name less suggestive of that of yours, truly, Charles Sanderson, C.E.
Upper Symonds-street, July 17, 1866.”
(Southern Cross, 17 July 1866)


[Advertisement.] ,
To the Editor of the Daily Southern Cross.
SIR, — I am sorry to be compelled to answer the letter of Charles Sanderson, C.E., which appeared in your issue of to-day, but I have been so unjustly used by him and my family, as having raised this scandal. I publicly deny having done so. On his return from Sydney, instead of paying me justly what he owed me, he said if I did not leave Auckland he should deduct 10s. from my weekly allowance, which he has accordingly done, because the law in New Zealand only allows a maintenance of £1 per week to a wife. I have a letter from Mrs. Agnes McGrath, of Burwood, which I do not wish to publicly put in the newspapers, with the true identity of the parties.
CATHERINE FRANCES SANDERSON,
Hobson-street, Auckland, July 17, 1866.
(Southern Cross, 18 July 1866)

[Advertisement.]
To the Editor of the Daily Southern Cross.
SIR, — Referring to the advertisement which Catherine Frances Sanderson was indiscreet enough to insert in your issue of to-day's date, allow me to say that I have always been perfectly ready to meet her before her solicitors, or any respectable person she may choose to appoint, provided she will abide by their decision.
As she will not agree to do this, I must decline a discussion in the public papers, which can serve no good end.
With regard to the last part of her letter, I refer to mine of yesterday's date.
I remain, Sir.
Your obedient servant,
CHARLES SANDERSON, C.E;
Upper Symonds-street, July 18, 1866.
(Southern Cross, 19 July 1866)


[Advertisement. ]
To the Editor of the Daily Southern Cross.
SIR, — I beg to give a positive and ultimate denial to the letter of my husband, Charles Sanderson, in your issue of this morning. I have begged of him and his mother to be reconciled, and, for the sake of our children, to live quietly and respectably together. "Forgive and forget" is my motto, and my most sincere wish — not revenge and exposure of my husband but if he will not agree to my proposition, I should be glad to have a sufficient maintenance secured to me for my life.
CATHERINE FRANCES SANDERSON.
Hobson-street, July 19, 1866.
(Southern Cross, 20 July 1866)

In November 1866, Sanderson had to cough up to merchants owed money by his wife, and made to pay 30s. per week to her in maintenance. In January 1870, Sanderson was charged with wife desertion, but the case was dismissed due to informality of the charges. (Southern Cross, 26 January 1870)

Mrs. Sanderson responded by charging him with a breach of the Destitute Persons Relief Ordinance in April that year, and in May the Magistrates imposed a fine of £5 and costs on Charles Sanderson, and made an order for the payment of 20s. per week to his wife.(a reduction from 1866). Still, he was arrested for not paying Mrs Sanderson her due maintenance in July 1870, and sentenced to two month’s gaol, without hard labour. (Southern Cross, 28 July 1870)

According to a website, Catherine Francis Sanderson outlived her estranged husband by 24 years, never re-marrying after his death, and died of influenza and chronic heart disease in 1895 at the age of 75.


Waterview's first nightsoil spat, 1874

In November 1874, a stink was being kicked up in the night soil disposal business in Auckland.

In August , the City Council reported that they had acquired several allotments at Waterview (actually, as more information came to light later, it seems they'd merely obtained permission, via their contractor, to use farmland in Waterview which was leased out by someone else. Very messy business), and the contractor Able Fletcher was instructed to start using them. (Southern Cross, 27 August 1874) This option didn’t work, as the charges were higher due to the increased distance from the city. The Waterview site hadn’t been used by early November.

At that time another nightsoil man, Thomas Faulder, also had a contract to collect from the city’s closets and dispose of same on an open area of land he owned, today's Chinaman's Hill in Grey Lynn. This was a large paddock in Arch Hill, fronting Great North Road. But complaints had come in that the refuse wasn’t being plowed in, that it hadn’t been deodorised, and liquid seeped from the property, raising anxieties all around. Folks had to either hold their noses as they rode or drove past, or call on their horses for more speed. The concerns had been simmering for months.

John Bollard of Avondale stepped in, and offered his 150 acre farm on Rosebank for the Council to use instead. It was considered that having the Whau River as a drain for the nasty overflows was better than Arch Hill. (Southern Cross, 17 November 1874) That offer doesn't appear to have been taken up. at least not then.

Then, the Waterview argument began.

On 18 November, Waterview resident John S. L. Cox wrote a letter to the City Mayor which was published in the Southern Cross:

To P. A. Philips, Esq. :
"Sir, — Knowing the interest you take in all matters pertaining to the public health, I beg to call your attention to the following particulars relative to the night-soil depot, Water View, Parish of Titirangi. Some few months ago Mr. Fletcher came into the district and called upon some few of the settlers to enquire whether they would allow him to bring a certain quantity of night-soil on their land as manure. These names were presented to the Highway Board to show that they were willing to have the public depot.

A counter petition was signed and also presented to the board. The result was the board refused his request to make Water View the site of said depot. These names were again used as though no such action had been taken.

When the settlers heard that the Council were about to grant a licence to bring it to Water View, another meeting was called when it was resolved : — 'That if the Council could force them to have it in opposition to their wishes (and not unless) they would recommend that a portion of section 17 or 18 be fixed as the site. Also that every load be first deodorised, then properly buried; that it so remain until the inspector declare it proper to be removed, and the whole to be managed to the satisfaction of the public health officer.’

Instead of carrying out these regulations, Mr Fletcher has deposited a quantity on a dedicated street, which by the order of chairman of highway board, has been removed. Since then he has brought it on to private property and is still doing so. In the one case there is only a street between this land and my own, the other is only a few chains distant. Another party can if he w ill, bring it up to my fence. To have a public depot is bad enough, but to have one on each side of you is intolerable. If these things are to be allowed, the hitherto healthy district of Water View is condemned. With these facts before me and then terrible consequences, I most earnestly entreat your interference. I am, &c,
John S. L Cox, Settler, Water View.
November 18, 1874.
(Southern Cross, 19 November 1874)

A week later, William Thomas wrote to the Mayor via the Southern Cross. William was one of the sons of John Thomas, the builder of the first Star Mill. As I covered in Terminus, he entered into partnership with his brother John and Thomas Barraclough in 1870, until selling his stake back to the others in July 1874. Perhaps, at that time, he had a lease on the farm next door, later known as Oakleigh Park, until the Garrett Brothers took over the lot later in the decade. At least, this seem to be what the following exchange may imply.

“TO P. A. PHILIPS, ESQ.
Per favour of Daily Southern Cross.
Sir,— ln last Thursday's issue of the Cross I noticed a letter signed John S. L. Cox, settler, Waterview, in reference to Mr. Fletcher and the nightsoil, and I think Mr. Cox is going far out of his way and taking a deal of trouble to try and injure Mr. Fletcher, and to keep the district back, as we all know that it is the want of manure that is the great drawback to settlers.

I notice that he has given (what he says) the decision of a meeting held at Mr. Sansom's house in Waterview, respecting the depositing of nightsoil in the district, but I think he has willfully mis-stated what took place, as I was at the meeting. He says that it was resolved at that meeting that if the Council could force them to have it in opposition to their wishes (and not unless) they would recommend that a portion of section 17 or 18 be fixed as the site. Also that every load be first deodorised, then properly buried, that it so remain until an inspector declare it proper to be removed, and the whole to be managed to the satisfaction of the Public Health Officer." That is not like the resolution sent to the Council as the result of the meeting.

Now what factually took place at that meeting, was as follows : -After talking the matter over calmly for some time (respecting the depot, and the settlers receiving the nightsoil on their properties as manure, and properly deodorising it) at the suggestion of Mr. Bollard, chairman of the Whau Highway District, who was present, the whole of the settlers who were at the meeting, went down towards the beach to select a site for a depot for the balance, and they selected a portion of section 17, and resolved that if the Council did not agree to the position suggested, and selected any other site nearer to any settler, and he should suffer from the effects, that he (the settler) should receive compensation to remove from his property.

Now, that is the sum and substance of the meeting; the compensation portion of it emanated from Mr. Cox himself. He seems to have a great aversion to the nightsoil being deposited on his neighbour’s property around him as a manure. All the nightsoil that has been brought out as yet has been properly deodorised, and is no nuisance whatever, the truth of which can be vouched for, by all the settlers about. I may add, that the inspector has been to see the deposits, and he says it is properly attended to and he can find no fault — I am, &c.,
William Thomas.
(Southern Cross, 26 November 1874)

A REPLY TO MR . THOMAS.
To the Editor:
Sir, —I am sorry to call your attention to the unpleasant subject of "Night Soil Nuisance," and positively would not do so, only that Mr. Thomas, in his letter inserted in the Cross, November 26th, attempts to show that I have " willfully misstated what took place at a meeting hold at Mr. Sansom’s Waterview." —I thank Mr. Thomas most sincerely for the letter he sent for publication, inasmuch as his own account of it most certainly confirms the truth of my assertions; but I do not thank him for the charitable view he takes of my sayings and doings.

Mr. Thomas in his letter acknowledges that the “results" of that meeting were reduced to the form of a resolution, and sent to the City Council :-- With such a resolution before him, it is most apparent that Mr. Philips knew he was not publishing a falsehood, when he used my letter in conjunction with his reply to 'Citizen.' As to the charge of 'going about to injure Mr. Fletcher,' I would say Mr. Fletcher, has, I believe, placed certain propositions before the Council, and entered into an agreement to carry them out on a given section of land.

Is it right, then, for Mr. Thomas to say I am trying to injure Mr. Fletcher because I use my utmost endeavour to induce him to fulfill his own conditions? When Mr. Fletcher brought the first load of night soil on to Mr. William Thomas’ ground, I told him he was not taking it to the place of appointment. He said he should take it where he pleased. I have yet to learn that a carter's will is law in this matter. To say the settlers met to select a site for a depĂ´t on their own lands, and take all the contractor could bring it is evident there could be no balance and therefore no sum required. “The compensation portion of it” did not emanate from me.

It was Mr Bollard who suggested that Mr. Thomas and myself should have compensation if a nuisance was created near our houses, it being supposed the Council had approved a site nearest to us, a condition Mr. Thomas fully agreed to. If the Council had formed a depot near to him, he would have thought it right to receive compensation, but seeing as he has consented to have the nightsoil deposited on his own ground and therefore could not make such an application he expects public sympathy. When Mr. Thomas and his family have passed through as much affliction, caused by offensive odours as we have, he too will have an “aversion” to the loathsome refuse, and will use his utmost influence to prevent it coming near his dwelling. It requires no very great discernment, to perceive the reason why Mr. W. Thomas has given such a favourable report as to its proper management; when he is allowing Mr. Fletcher to deposit nightsoil on his land, contrary to the express orders of the “Board of Health”. In the small village of Waterview, Mr. Fletcher has already deposited nightsoil on three separate properties. I am, &c., John S. Cox, Waterview.
(Southern Cross, 1 December 1874)

In January 1875, the City Council decided not to renew Fletcher’s licence to collect nightsoil from the city. The Council fell back on using Faulder’s Arch Hill depot instead, until they could get a permanent depot – somewhere … anywhere …

Waterview wasn't considered again until much, much later. The more notable protest happened in the 20th century.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Knox Presbyterian Church, Parnell


I joined Parnell Heritage this afternoon to listen in on a show-and-tell event they held in Knox Presbyterian Church in Birdwood Crescent.


The site has two buildings -- the 1899 white wooden church, still basically the same as when R. W. de Montalk designed it, except that the northern pinnacles are now gone from the buttresses. Its foundation stone was laid on 29 November 1898 by Lord Ranfurly, the Governor of New Zealand.

The Knox Hall joined the church from 1906, also a design by de Montalk. The church complex is named after John Knox of the Scottish Presbyterian church, but Mrs. Elizabeth Knox was the one who laid the foundation stone for what was initially a Sunday School hall. Mrs. Knox is immortalised on one of the brass plaques that line the inner walls of the main church building. It was finally lined and finished inside during the First World War. From 1980 it was Knox Community Centre, then came to be used as a pre-school for the local Niuean congregation.



Falling numbers of European local parishioners meant integration of the remaining parishioners with the Niuean congregation in 1997.


The two buildings are quite close to each other, as you can see. The afternoon, by the way, was wonderful -- listening to stories of Parnell's past, and enjoying an afternoon tea of sandwiches and scones. I'm grateful for the kind invitation.

Charles Sanderson - an engineer and architect in early Auckland

Between 1947 until his death in 1949, F. W. Furkett prepared a monumental history of New Zealand engineering which was published after his death (in 1953) as Early New Zealand Engineers. Yesterday, I spied a copy in a secondhand bookshop, weakened, and bought same. I'm glad I did, because it really is a wee cracker of a reference gem.

Reading about some of the Auckland engineers cited, I found this entry for Charles Sanderson, another personality who keeps popping up here and there in references to Auckland of the 1850s-1860s.

"SANDERSON, Charles, was appointed first Provincial Engineer for Auckland, on 28th February, 1854, but had been acting prior to this as he was calling for tenders on 24th January, 1854. He appears in the burgesses roll of Auckland as a Civil Engineer in August, 1856, and was evidently also an Architect. There is no further record of him."
We are fortunate, at this point in the 21st century, that we can look back further, and in more detail sometimes, than those researchers who came before. Just sitting here and delving into Papers Past has come up with that further record Mr. Furkett missed out on 60 years ago.

These are my notes. "SC", of course, stands for "Southern Cross".

Charles Sanderson (1821 – 1871)

Arrived from London to Auckland 9 March 1852, with family: Charles, Fanney, Fanney, Mary Anne, and Susan (SC, 12 March 1852)

Letter to SC editor re his thoughts on steam communication (ships) – SC 9 November 1852

Letter suggesting a canal between Waitemata & Manukau, and a tramway from Auckland to Onehunga –
“A Tramway from Auckland to Onehunga, suited to a light class of locomotives, such as, those used on some of the branch lines at home, engine and carriage -all in one, and doing 30 miles per hour, would meet many of the requirements, and for so short a distance, a single line, with perhaps one siding, would be sufficient. Such a tramway might be constructed, exclusive of land and station, for £1,200 per mile, and would require to be about 8 miles in length. The goods traffic could be worked by horses, in which case the transit would take about an hour.” (SC 16 November 1852)

Letter regarding his thoughts (critical) on Queen St wharf (SC 7 January 1853)

Letter regarding the caloric engine. (SC 15 April 1853)

On committee for building of St Matthews Church (SC 26 July 1853)

Gave lecture on “The Electric Telegraph” at Mechanic’s Institute in August 1853 (SC 12 August 1853)

By October 1853, he was set up in business as a civil engineer and machinist.

Provincial Engineer by January 1854 (SC 13 January 1854)

Dismissed as provincial engineer by September 1855 (SC 18 September 1855) But, he may have been re-employed shortly afterwards. See further on.

By February 1856, he’d taken up as a house and estate agent in Wellesley Street (as well as engineer) (SC 22 February 1856)

June 1856 – possibly designed Rev. Purchas’ first school at Onehunga (SC 20 June 1856) and a new hall, plus alterations, for the Mechanic’s Institute (SC 24 June 1856)

October 1856 – alterations to St Matthews School House (SC 17 October 1856)

October 1857, moved to Hobson Street. (SC 16 October 1857)

December 1857 – St Matthews school house enlarged (SC 25 December 1857)

By June 1858, he advertised as an engineer and architect (after designing a number of dwellings in Queen Street, Remuera and Parnell). (SC 1 June 1858)

August 1858 – move to Queen Street. Advertised for carpenters and joiners for a scoria house at Parnell. (SC 20 August 1858)

October 1863 – Officially resigns as Provincial Engineer “after 6 years service”. (SC 10 October 1863) But the record in the newspapers isn't clear. The Provincial Council Superintendent apparently dismissed him, claiming Sanderson was incompetent. the Superintendent didn’t like how he carried out his work., or so the papers reckoned. (The Superintendent was Robert Graham who, as a Superintendent, had a questionable record himself. See Terminus Part 1). Updated, 12 September 2009: A descendant of Charles Sanderson has contacted me and put me straight on the dismissal incident.

June 1864 – Sanderson was a member of the provisional committee of the Albert Hall Company Ltd. (SC 18 June 1864)

Peter Grace was a contractor for the No. 1 section of the Auckland-Drury railway, Sanderson the engineer, from 1865.

February 1866 – sued for payment for his work on the railway bridge at Mechanics Bay.

“SANDERSON V. GRACE.
Mr. Brookfield for plaintiff; Mr. MacCormick for defendant. Claim, £37 1s. 8d., for services rendered by plaintiff in connection with the railway works.
Defendant confessed judgment for £31 12s. 1d., and evidence was taken as to the remainder.
Mr. Sanderson, on being asked why he did not complete the work he had been engaged to superintend, deposed that Mr. Coolahan and Mr. Sheehan, members of the Railway Board, came up to him and complained of the way in which the works were being carried on, and said that they wanted a change. Mr. [Peter] Grace said the blame was with witness, who replied that Mr. Grace would not supply him with plant. Upon that witness left the employment of Mr. Grace. He now sued what was due to him on a specification he had drawn out as to timber to be supplied for the bridge at Mechanics' Bay. Defendant deposed that plaintiff was to have two per cent, on the money paid on the contract. There was never any agreement to prepare the specification charged for now; it was a part of Sanderson's regular duty. He had to dispense with Mr. Sanderson because he would not do the work, and for days was never near the line. The specification sued for was all wrong, and had had to be altered. Judgment was deferred.”
(SC, 9 February 1866)
November 1866 – Sanderson separates from his wife.
“WILSON AND MCLACHLAN V. C. SANDERSON.
Claim, £3 14s. 1d., for goods supplied to defendant's wife, and the defence was that she was living separately upon a sufficient allowance. Mrs. Sanderson deposed that she was now getting £1 a week, which was not sufficient for her maintenance. Her husband was a civil engineer. When witness was married £2,000 were settled upon her. Mr. Sanderson had received £1,000 of that sum. In cross-examination witness admitted that she had £28 a year by her mother's will. Charles Sanderson, defendant, deposed that his income for some years had been £400 a year, or above it. This year it had not been above half that sum. He had the interest of some money got by his wife. He had refused to let his wife live with him, and had put her out of his house when she came in. He had got £400 of his wife's money. It was agreed that Mr. Sanderson should pay in future 30s. a week, and the debt sued for.”
(SC 2 November 1866)

November 1866 – he resigns as trustee of St Matthews Church.

1869 – he owns a stamper battery at Tapu Creek, near Hastings (called Sanderson’s Mill). (SC 11 February 1869)

Still in practice, at Canada Buildings, 1869.

Died September 8 1871 at Tairua.
“Mr. Charles Sanderson, C.E, has met; with an untimely death at the saw-mill at Tairua. Mr. Sanderson was in charge of the works there, and on Thursday last, about eight o'clock in the morning, he was engaged in examination of the machinery, when his clothing was caught in the machinery and he was drawn in. His arms and legs were instantly broken, and he was otherwise fearfully injured. The machinery was stopped at once, but the injuries he received were fatal. He lingered until twelve o'clock, when death put an end to his suffering. The body was interred on the following day. No medical man being in the district of course, no aid of that kind was available, even if it would have been serviceable.”
(SC, 4 October 1871)


A sad way for a colonial career to end. Probably all that's left of Sanderson's accomplishments are a few buildings from the period (perhaps), and the railway bridge over the Strand at Mechanic's Bay.

Tsunami at Lyttleton, 15 August 1868


Lyttleton. Image from Wikipedia.

Following on from the post over at the OGSL blog, I noticed from Jayne's link that the New Zealand Maritime Record site said the tsunami at Lyttleton happened on August 16. Unfortunately, that's a day late. Te Ara has it right though, and has info on other tsunamis felt here in history.

The tsunami was the result of the 1868 Arica earthquake in Chile (but then, part of Peru), about magnitude 9.0 of the scale, so it was a bit of a monster. More info on the quake and it's effects here. The quake struck a day before Lyttleton got hit, so we may have any the effects of a rebounding slosh of the tides. It was bad enough, though.

From the Christchurch Star, 15 August 1868:

"EXTRAORDINARY TIDAL WAVE.

"The town of Lyttleton was this morning thrown into a state of the greatest excitement owing to a most extraordinary convulsion of nature. At present it is impossible to say what it is, whether a submarine eruption or a tidal wave, but the damage done to the vessels is considerable. We learn the following particulars from Mr Webb, nightwatchman on the railway.

"He states that at four this morning, on going his rounds, he noticed that the barque John Knox was lying on her starboard broadside, and her yards were nearly touching the screw-pile jetty alongside which she was discharging her cargo. He immediately gave an alarm, and aroused Captain Jenkins, who came on deck; he thought the coals in the vessel had shifted, but on looking over the side he saw that the harbour, from the wharf to Officers' Point, was quite dry, and that all the boats and vessels were high and dry; he called Webb's attention to this, and it was a fact that the harbour was empty.

"In a few minutes their attention was directed to a noise resembling thunder, coming from off Officers' Point. On looking, they saw an immense wave coming along the harbour with fearful velocity, and in a few minutes it was surging round tho vessels, tearing them from the different wharves and breaking the warps like twine. It caught the barque John Knox, and drove her against the screw-pile jetty, carrying away her starboard quarter, and snapping her mooring chain and hawsers which held her to the wharf. The ketch Margaret, lying on the beach, had her warps carried away. The wave caught her on the rebound, and she was.carried into the harbour, fouling the Annie Brown, schooner, and carrying away her bulwarks, stanchions, and mast, and doing damage to the schooner; she is in a sad state.

"The schooner Jeannie Duncan lying at the Hallway wharf recievcd serious damage; the Novelty, steamer, lying alongside of her carried away by collision, her bullwarks and stanchions from fore to main rigging, and her boat is broken in half.

"For some hours the tide kept rising and falling, sometimes three foot in five minutes. At half-past nine another small roller came in, and again caught the John Knox, which was at that time on the mud. In a few minutes the warps parted, and the vessel swung round fortunately clear of the wharf.

"At eleven o'clock, the steamer Taranaki came up harbour. As she stopped at the heads for some time it was feared there might be something wrong. It turned out however, she stopped to pick up part of a wreck of some vessel. The portion secured was a hatch covering, evidently belonging to a large vessel; she also passed a full-rigged mast outside the heads. Captain Francis informs us there were no signs of any eruption during the passage. We learn that the ketch Georgina has been wrecked in Rhodes' Bay.

"The following is Captain Jenkins' report;

"At 3.30 I heard a noise. The ship went down on her beam ends. I with difficulty got on deck and found tho ship lying with her yard-arm on the wharf. I could not conceive what was the matter, when I heard a noise like the rushing of a great body of water, or a strong wind. I looked out into the harbour. It was all dry as far as the breakwater, and a wave rolling in about 8 feet high; it came up against the ship with great force. A few minutes afterwards, it rebounded and caught tho ship's bow, carrying away two parts of an 8 inch warp and the best bower cable, which was shackled on to the wharf, dragging the anchor home with 60 fathoms cable. In 15 or 20 minutes after the wave came in, the water had been within three foot of the top of the wharf. In less than half an hour the ship was dry again. It rushed in and out at intervals until 10 a.m., when another rush ran out, and broke three parts of the stone warp, the ship swinging round again. Capt. Gibson sent his boat and crew and the Government warp, making it fast to the buoy and passing both ends on board ship; by so doing the ship was kept head and stern to the current as it ran in and out. Damage done -- Starboard quarter knocked in. She was bounded up against the wharf by the tidal wave."


It was reported that a 4 foot wave rushed up the Waimakariri River at Kaipoi, breaking the stern line of the S.S. Gazelle, shifting the schooner Challenge as well so the two ships collided. As happens with reports of tidal waves (human nature), a rush of sight-seers surged down to the harbour by 12.30 pm but, of course, by then it was all over (fortunately for them, and also fortunately it must have been a surge rather than a full tsunami.) Other areas from Bluff to Napier reported higher than normal tides during the period of the surge.

And ... what about Auckland?


"THE RECENT TIDAL PHENOMENA.— THE TAMAKI.

We have received the following communication from a gentleman resident at the Tamaki. It is of considerable importance, as showing that the tidal movement, which was so powerful further south, extended to this district :—

"At low water about 9.30 a.m., Saturday, 15th instant, my attention was drawn to an unusual noise in the creek (which is a branch of the Tamaki river, about nine miles from the Heads) as of the approach of a whirlwind. On looking down the river I perceived a crested wave, which caused the noise, rushing up ; it passed within a few feet below me, at the rate of from 10 to 12 knots, against the wind and current. I went into the house to note the time. On passing out again, I observed that the water was receding rapidly. The above phenomenon was repeated three several times at intervals of half-an-hour, but with less violence each successive time, when it ebbed and flowed repeatedly up to 12.30 p.m., sometimes to a depth of from four to five feet, but without the wave, when the tide flowed on to high water about 6 p.m."


(Southern Cross, 27 August 1868)

Update 18 March 2011: Chatham Island was affected worst of all the country at the time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The day Lorne Street and St James Theatre went American-style


Lorne Street between the central library and the St James theatre complex on Wednesday morning this week was the scene of filming with transformed the western side of the block. I have no idea what they were filming (the scene appeared to be that of a bloke dashing to catch a bus, over a large puddle, past an American cop writing a ticket and a construction crew, only to just miss the bus as it left. If anyone finds out what it was about, do let me know, please?


Anyway, seeing the rear entry of the St James with a temporary box office was interesting.


The American-style phone box near the corner of Lorne and Rutland Streets was something cool as well.


Update, 29 August 2009: It was a shoot for an advertisement for a hand-held Super Mario Brothers game. I've just seen the telly ad -- no wonder they had the American/New York themes!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Parliamentary Unions


Image from NZ Free Lance, 27 June 1908.

When I put together the much earlier post on Auckland merchant Yan Kew, the reference to the Auckland Parliamentary Union to which he belonged for a time intrigued me. It's still a bit difficult nailing down in my mind exactly what a parliamentary union was supposed to do, but the following from the Dunedin Herald, via the Wanganui Herald gives as good an indication as any as to their purpose.
"Parliamentary Unions afford to some persons an occasion for expressing their contempt. They sneer at them as a mimicry, and only that, of a real Parliament. But these Unions, if properly conducted, though their imitation of the real Parliament may excite a smile, must be looked upon as a powerful means of education. How often one hears a man put forth apologetically the mistake nature made at his birth in not giving him the "gift of his gab," as an excuse for not playing his part in those of a citizen's duties that call for the exercise of the art of speaking. One would imagine to hear some people talk that orators, like poets, are born, not made. No one, not physically disabled from speaking, who can join a Parliamentary Union, can give a valid excuse for not being able to speak. It has a great advantage over other debating societies, in that it offers so many inducements to would be speakers to begin by degrees to express their ideas.

"Members can get used to rising on their hind legs by putting questions, raising points of order, of personal explanation, &c. Anyone who does try this for a few nights will soon find himself trying his newly-fledged wings in oratorical flights during some debate. There is in ordinary debating societies too much tendency to discuss abstract questions, in preference to those of every day utility— such as, "Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all ?" or the deeply important question that is said to have lately stirred the breasts of the members of a German society, " Was Shakespeare drunk when he made his will ?"

"Not the least use of a Parliamentary Union will be found in its teaching persona how to conduct a public meeting. Other things being equal, a person who has attended regularly a session or two of one of these unions will assuredly conduct as chairman a public meeting with greater ease, quickness, and authority than one who has had no practical acquaintance with the forms in use in them. As a training school for future members of Parliament a Parliamentary Union is invaluable. No one who has been present at debates in the House of Assembly and observed our representatives rising to points of order instead of personal explanation, amongst other blunders made by members who are not always the youngest in the House, can doubt that, if they had had the advantage of belonging to a Parliamentary Union in their youth, much annoyance and confusion of mind would have been spared them. It is doubtful if a man who enters Parliament late in life ever thoroughly masters the forms of the House.

"Few, of course, of the members of a Parliamentary Union can hope to become members of the House of Assembly, but many will be members of County and Town Councils, of School Committees, and of Education Boards. We shall not then hear, as we occasionally do now, of such a display of inexcusable ignorance as a member moving a motion pro forma! But in its capability of inspiring men with confidence in expressing their thoughts in words a Parliamentary Union is of the greatest service. Many a member is forced into speaking in the excitement of party warfare —for the keenness of party strife imported into a debate there is thoroughly understood only by one who is a member of one of these Unions—who would very probably have possessed his soul in silence in an ordinary debating society. The unnatural timidity that an early training in speaking would have removed has turned aside many a young man from the pulpit, the forum, or the rostrum of the auctioneer."
(14 May 1886)

Parliamentary Unions in New Zealand began in Dunedin in 1884. Wanganui, Invercargill and Auckland followed later that year. They seem to have still continued, in places like Dunedin and Te Puke, into the early 1920s at least. I suppose Toastmasters might have picked up the mantle these days, along with debating clubs -- but it seems that parliamentary unions were something just that bit more. A cadet system for future real parliamentarians, perhaps, complete with someone even in the role of Speaker of the House, with casting vote. Auckland's parliamentary union had, in November 1884, 300 members. Currently, our real Parliament has 122 members. Egad, those union meetings must have been complex!

Domain stories - a note from John Adam

John Adam, a noted landscape and horticultural historian, and someone who has done considerable research over some years, emailed me today with the following information to add to the bits and pieces I've been able to piece together from the early newspapers. He's given me permission to post the following. Many thanks, John.

"Just a couple of points about the Auckland Domain history as it has received some bad press over the years including a recent University of Auckland Masters student who has written out the Auckland Domain Board (1860-1893) from the history and thus a key point that the place was Crown Land (and still is like Albert Park as against Western Park that in Municipal land) from 1840 with professional staff appointed to manage the place from that time onwards.

"These appointments were first recorded in the New Zealand Government ‘Blue Book’ (IA 12, 1841, P12. ANZ,W) with Alexander Dalziel (a flax merchant from the Manukau Harbour - and who had flax interests at Waiuku et al) first Superintendent of Domain followed in close succession by Edinburgh born and professional gardener, Thomas Cleghorn, (Appointed on September 1841 on 130 pounds 17 shillings and five pence. Architect William Mason was paid 180 pounds.) and who died at Honolulu in 1854 and was the ‘father in law’ of Princess Kaiulani. Thomas Cleghorn was the second and the last ‘Supt. of Domain’.

"There were three tiers of Domain land management. The high status ‘Superintendents' (1840-1843) (and again from 1893 to 1940s when Auckland City took control), a ‘government gardener’ [John Lynch (1842-1868)] and a Domain Ranger/Keeper - many in succession from 1840-1860s – the first was George Easton; then James Lochead; J. Shepherd and H Briggs, and they all looked after insitu and planted trees, animals and there containment and protection. The squared pattern the Government Gardens took was constructed about the western side of the Doman Ponds from 1840 and the garden contained a tree nursery, vegetable gardens and a public garden [hours of public access was controlled from late 1850s] that were called a ‘botanic garden’ from 1856 onwards. This is what the New Zealand Colonial Botanic Gardens were – they had a public recreation space with gardens and secure nurseries. Plants were dispersed from the Government Garden nurseries to the public from 1840 onwards and past 1868 and into 1890s.

"The Auckland Acclimatisation Society sought a place in the Domain as early as 1861 (being the first in New Zealand to be established) but the Colonial Government was not about to let them control a state activity while Auckland was the Capital and the plants were used by Colonial Government politicians for patronising friends in the same Colonial Government. After 1868 the political power moved to Wellington and Prime Minister Edward Stafford then allowed the Acclimatisation Society to occupy a small corner of the Domain – they sought the Government Gardens but Governor George Grey wasn’t about to give that site up and his Government Gardener John Lynch was not about to roll over and let the society take over his patch. Lynch wrote a series of letters to protect his job and garden that sit in IA 1 series (Archives New Zealand, Wellington). So by 1864-65 the aging Lynch, with son John Lynch Junior, taking over from retired father, was joined by a new appointment called John Chalmers as the energised Domain Board’s new ‘Domain Forester’. He had established additional nurseries near the Domain Ponds and near the new railway line near Parnell.

"So in 1868 there was the Acclimatisation Society, Domain Board and the Government Gardens lands that were leased to various individuals with ‘conservation’ policies written into the Deed for GG to preserve all the ornamental trees that had formed the ‘botanic gardens’ within the
Acclimatisation Society leased site. The 1890s square form garden drawn in historic plans was one of the last four squares that previously formed a large four square form garden. Basalt walls protected these gardens.

"Economic plants were being dispersed from the Wellington Colonial Botanic Gardens (established 1868) to and from those (managed at most times by the Crown) in Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Westport, New Plymouth and Nelson and the Auckland Government Gardens through to 1893 when Auckland City was given authority under Crown legislation and continued to grow a wide range of economic plants for a diverse range for public institutions that during the 1880s formed formal links to the agriculture/forestry nurseries about Whangarei called Maunu, Kioreoreroa and Kamo into the 1900s.

"This political decision to supply ‘free’ trees began post Waitangi Treaty origin (before 1840 it was the Church Missionary Society (Marsden and Williams lot) and British Resident James Busby who had a brief in the 1830s with plants exchanged from Sydney, NSW, (to supply free plants to the New Zealand public) that was unbroken into the 1920s with the State Forestry nurseries in Rotorua (established in 1896) and the source of countless trees and professional advice for afforestation schemes in the Waitakere Ranges and the Waikumete Cemetery in 1920s, just two local examples."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Zealand Railway advice books

Back in June, the Pt Chevalier History Group held their meeting at the Walsh Memorial Library in MOTAT, Western Springs. During a talk given by one of the librarians there, mention was made of railway advice books held at the library. These are collections of carbon-copied memos from NZR’s administration to the various stations along the line. The library hold books from 1911 to 1939; they’re not complete (the really interesting one for 1918-1919, covering the influenza pandemic, isn’t there) but what they do hold is fascinating. Even if you’re not someone intrigued by rail history. I am intrigued by said history, so I went in today (free entry this month to Auckland City residents), sat down, and browsed.

Here are some snippets from the first two volumes.

18 January 1912

Concerns were expressed over children over the age of 3 years not being given “proper tickets.” The booking clerks were ordered to ask the age of children when issuing ½ tickets.

31 January 1912

Advance agents for Wirth Bros. Circus were supplied with a free bogie van for conveying their posters, bills, and posting-of-bills tools. When required, the van would be shunted off. This wasn’t a oncer – I saw two further instances, at least, where NZR helped out Wirth Bros. and other performing artists.


3 February 1912

NZR said that porters who worked regularly for any portion of the day as assistant shunters may be supplied with “Wide-Awake Hats”, on application for same.

The carriage of bananas was classified; a bunch to be charged at the same rate as if packed in cases, namely class “D”.

2 March 1912

Ladders, according to the memo, may be charged as class “A”, when this was cheaper than “K”.


11 April 1912

Looking at the books was like stepping back to the early 20th century era of regimented government bureaucracy. It all made sense though, I suppose. For one thing, losing track (excuse the pun) of your clocks was a serious thing. All clocks had to be labelled on the back as to the name of the station on which wall they were hung. If there was more than one clock in the station, then the label had to include the position as well; “Booking Office,” “Luggage Room,” etc.

23 April 1912

A parcel of second single tickets, for Newmarket to Remuera, 500 of them, went missing. The memo advised their serial numbers, and warned sternly of the measures that should be taken if the tickets were found in the wrong hands.

2 May 1912

First notation spotted regarding the issuing of footwarmers to stations at Taumarunui, Rotorua (an increase to 60 each), and 210 to Auckland. This appeared to be a regular thing – a memo at the beginning of winter telling the stations to get out the footwarmers, and a memo at the end telling them to put them away again.


30 October 1912

Carrying fresh fruit on the railway seemed to be a permanent issue. This is the memo from October 1912 – many more in a similar vein are sprinkled throughout the books.

“The attention of all concerned is directed to the Instruction (Appendix 58) in regard to the conveyance of fresh fruit. The fruit season will soon begin, and it is desirous that every care will be taken to obviate damage by careful handling of fruit in transit by rail, more especially to soft fruits such as strawberries, cherries &c. Most of the crates containing strawberries have a strong rope handle around them for the purpose of lifting and it is hoped that staff will bear this in mind and not dump crates down, but deal with them in a more careful manner. Stationmasters and Goods Agents will please take careful notice and report at once to this office every case of carelessness.”

8 January 1913

“Conveyance of Bodies of Deceased Natives.

“The conveyance of the bodies of natives some time deceased has caused complaint, and in the interests of Public Health stationmasters and others must refuse to accept such corpses unless enclosed in a properly hermetically sealed zinc-lined coffin.

“This instruction will not, of course, apply to corpses in a reasonable state of preservation.”

13 February 1913

Railway stationmasters used chloride of lime as a disinfectant, until Newmarket station reported that the stocks had run out. The staff were ordered to use carbolic powder instead.

23 May 1913

In the days before Accident Compo and the department of Occupational Safety and Health – if you worked on the railways and had a bad mishap (but, I gather, it wasn’t serious enough to merit immediate rushing to a hospital), you were allowed four hours off before deduction from your wages if the doctor was some distance away, or an hour if the nearest doctor lived close to the station, workshop, or wherever the accident occurred.

15 July 1913

During a smallpox epidemic, Maori and half-caste passengers needed to produce a certificate from the local health officer before being permitted to travel on NZ Rail.

9 August 1913

The destruction of the Palmerston North railway station gasworks meant that there was a call for conservation of gas used in railcars to the “smallest possible limit.”

It seems that about 5 days earlier, the storage shed used for storing cylinders of gas suddenly went boom, consuming 1500 cubic feet of gas, blowing the gas engineer James Gatfield clear out of the door, burning an arm and his face. (Poverty Bay Herald, 5 August 1913)

2 November 1914

The head office having become sick and tired about being mulcted by claims of lost dogs on the railways, ordered that any dog carried on the rails had to either be confined to a cage or container, or thoroughly leashed and secured.

13 January 1915

The war was on, and stocks of new NZR buttons from Britain had dried up due to the Home Country being just that bit more concerned about their own supplies at that time. So, NZR administration ordered stationmasters to forward as many collected buttons from cast off uniforms as they could. It didn’t matter how tarnished they were – head office intended to have them re-lacquered for re-use on new uniforms.

The fanciful image came to mind of NZ stationmasters hoarding up old buttons before this directive came out …

13 March 1915

Towels supplied for lavatories were being frequently found “in the possession of unauthorised persons … any person found in possession of one of these towels and using it for a purpose other than that for which it was intended, full particulars should be reported to this office.”

Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent would have been dobbed in for sure …