Saturday, September 19, 2020

A timeline history of the Kosy at Blockhouse Bay

The Kosy, Donovan Street, Blockhouse Bay, from Jan Grefstad collection, Auckland Libraries

From 1926 to 1973, Blockhouse bay had a hall/dance hall, and later cinema, on the site currently part of the carpark in front of Countdown Supermarket, off Donovan Street. Back in 2017, I gave a talk about it at the Blockhouse Bay Library. Here are the notes.

The northern half of Allotment 269, at the corner of Blockhouse Bay Road (Wynyard St) and Donovan Street, was one of three lots bought under Crown Grant in Whau South in September 1859 by Jerome Cadman, a builder living in Chapel Street (now Federal Street), then later Albert St, in the city. Cadman was also a warden at St Matthews Church, and later a member of the Auckland Provincial Council. After he died, the land was assigned to his widow, Ann, and then transferred to the legal firm of Dignan & Armstrong. Mrs Catherine Armstrong came to own the land outright from 1882. 

1885 (from NA 42/230, LINZ records)

 Ole (oo-luh) August Guttormsen was born in South Shields from a Norwegian family, at the mouth of the River Tyne in England. He worked as a house joiner in 1911, and his two sisters were music teachers.

Back in Blockhouse Bay, Arthur Decimus Sheffield, a farmer from Titirangi, owned the corner property (now including part of 295) from 1907. It looks like he retired to the Blockhouse Bay site, and had the house built on Blockhouse Bay Road where the Guttormsens later lived (today, this is about where the north-west corner of Countdown’s building is.) Sheffield’s father served with the East India Company.

The site was owned by Percy Fowler from 1919-1921 (who also seems to have used the house) , then retired farmer John Walker from 1921-1925.

Guttormsen came to New Zealand with his sisters Helga and Annie.

Avondale Borough Council reject Avondale South residents’ request for a public hall in their area. December Ole Guttormsen buys the Wynyard Road-Donovan St 1.25 acres section from retired farmer John Walker.

Annie and Helga advertise music lessons from their home on Wynyard Road, “Margate Villa”. Ole advertises a four room house, close to beach and bus.


Ole advertises wanting 50 Bentwood chairs and 40 forms with backs (must be cheap).

June 12 1926
Blockhouse Bay Hall opens, ceremony by HGR Mason, MP. Admission Gents 2/-, Ladies 1/6, Refreshments provided. It had a stage (described in a report from 1930), tables, and attached supper room. The hall was 30’ x 100’ in size. Later that month, Kalee projectors on display at Harringtons of Queen Street. A special notice for “showmen” to check out their Show Stand at the shop. Guttormsen advertises that both learners and advanced dancers welcome on his “excellent floor”.

Called the Blockhouse Bay Lecture Hall in one ad. May have had the projector installed at this point.

Referred to as Blockhouse Bay Picture Hall. Still mainly used for the weekly dances. Jan Grefstad wrote that Guttormsen was a projectionist, with his sister Annie selling tickets, and Helga playing the piano for accompaniment for the silent movies. He also thought that they held dances after the movies – but this is probably not correct. The advertisements do not mention movie shows at all while promoting the dances, and the hall seems to have been geared to the latter in the first years.

Reliant on the GOC buses leaving the city 7.30pm and 8pm, conveying dancers to BHB, then taking them back to the city from the hall at 11pm. Bus links with the city and with Avondale were important, as they were for many of the dance halls scattered around the isthmus. From late 1925 however, the BHB Hall faced direct competition from the Dixieland at Pt Chevalier (which remained until 1935), Waikowhai Hall from 1930 (buses leaving from Avondale Fire Station via Blockhouse Bay) then the El Rey Club at Hillsborough from 1934. There were dances held at church halls as well, such as St Judes in Avondale and St Thomas in New Lynn.

Jacob Kohala appeared to be the manager at BHB, 1927-1928. He started on the circuit in Auckland with a Hawaiian band, then switched to jazz, waltz and foxtrot. He moved on in 1928 to the Ponsonby Hall.

Avondale South Womens Club began holding their meetings in the hall (the club started in 1925), one of the members being one of the Guttormsen sisters.

The hall and supper room up for sale. Also “Cinema plant (Kalee Indomitable Projector Machine) patent screen, tip-up chairs.” It wouldn’t be until 1935 that Guttormsen sold his property, however.

Sir James Gunson used the hall for a political meeting. It would be so used through to the 1940s. Leo M Sayers now the manager. He advertised the “Seattle Snappy Six, Auckland’s Melody Sheiks,” who provided “the peppiest of dance music.” Prices were ladies 1s, gents 1/6. The bus to the dance came from the Mt Albert tram terminus now, and left the hall “after the dance.” “Get Out and Get Under the Moon.”

The Aloha Quartet, for “Monte Carlo and Spot Waltzing”, on “the perfect floor.” Monte Carlo and spot dancing was a method of gambling for prizes.

The Blue Bell Serenaders, and Jake’s Versatile Trio, with Sayers offering “balloons, streamers, competitions”.

The Melody Boys Jazz Orchestra June – A children’s fancy dress dance in aid of the St Saviours Church.

A benefit picture entertainment held in the hall in aid of victims of the Murchison Earthquake. First reported instance of the hall used as a cinema (although that was likely happening off and on from late 1926.)

Skip Whiting and his Merry Jesters Jazz Band (with 6 instrumentalists)

Grand orchestra, dancing from 8 to 12, with chocolates and cigarettes. Waikowhai Hall opens.

BHB hall under new management (possible A Miller), re-opened 24 January. Jazz Dances every Saturday night.

Gaiety Dance Band.

No advertisements until December, for New Years Eve. Hall used during the year for charity events.

No advertisements.

Old Time Dancing at BHB Hall. Monte Carlo, light supper, admission 6d.


At some point during winter that year, an unknown manager reorganised the hall to show talkies.
October – 20 October, reopening with “excellent talkie programme,” 8pm.

Sale of the site to Alfred Clarence Stanbridge, picture theatre proprietor, £600.

Showing “Grand Canary” at BHB, under new management. Start of regular small ads for movies. 230 seats.

Additions to the hall. At front, to the left of the entrance an office space. To the right, a lobby, and toilet space. Outside, a lean-to for an additional toilet.

After subdivision, the hall site bought by Douglas and Sadie Elizabeth Fleming for £1150. Formal transfer in July.

The hall is licensed by Council for public meetings.

Children’s fancy dress party at the Beverley Theatre. Named after one of their daughters. “There were wooden steps leading up to the front entrance and on the left side of the entrance was the small ticket office window where Mrs Fleming sold the tickets. Adults were 1/6 in the back stalls and 1/3 for the front stalls and 1/- for children in 1948. As well as tickets Mrs Fleming had a small range of confectionery to sell to the sweet toothed. There was no interior foyer and after you bought your ticket you went to the left or right of the entrance and you were in the cinema. The back few rows were raised about 18 inches so those people could see over the heads of the people in front of you. The ladies’ toilet was on the left-hand side of the cinema next to the ticket seller’s office and the men’s toilet was on the right hand side of the hall.

“To reach the projection booth, which was above the entrance on the roof, the projectionist had to take the reels of inflammable film up a small wooden ladder on the side of the Men’s cloakroom next to the toilet. There were even hooks for you to hang up your coat and hat. Inside the cramped space of the booth two ancient Kalee projectors provided the screen magic. In 1944 the light source came from lamps costing £6 for two. The projectionists wages was 17s per performance and he paid a tax of 4s for two screenings. Some of the projectionists who worked there in the 1940s were a Mr Roper who started there in May 1944 and stayed until June 1945. Then there was young Doug Harley who came from the St James in the City where he had learned his trade and stayed for a few months …

“For years Mr and Mrs Fleming used to travel from Three Kings where they lived to Blockhouse Bay by car to show the movies.” [Jan Grefstad, Auckland Cinemas Vol 2] The movies were held on Wednesday nights.

Thirty-nine seats @ 12/6 each obtained NZ Theatre Chair Co. September – newer seats purchased from His Majesty’s for £18. The front seats were said to be wooden ones salvaged from the tram fleet, but that remains unsubstantiated.

May 10 
Third birthday for the Beverley, free ice creams provided. The Beverley showed serials and newsreels, although likely the last on the circuit to receive these.

Attendances ranged from 69 people to over 200.

Council sends notice that no hand basins were installed in the ladies and men’s toilets, that a 8’ x 10’ addition to the side of the building in order to sell soft drinks had no building permit, and that the front six rows of seats, being loose and not fixed to the floor, were a hazard in the event of fire. Fleming responded that a rough lean-to had always existed on the eastern side, used to store timber and odd rows of seats, and he simply moved it closer to the kitchen. The City Engineer advised battening together the loose seats in groups of six. Fleming replied that he battened them together in groups of four. City Engineer not happy, he wrote back suggesting groups of eight.

Application by Fleming to Council for permit to reface the front of the hall, £300. This would have provided for a semi-circular front landing with steps and flower beds, and Spanish-style curved front with tiles. Seems to have been withdrawn.

Jan Grefstad thought the Flemings sold the cinema so that they could go on a trip to Europe and see the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (June 1953).

Frederick Ofsoske of Hamilton buys theatre £2600 (including chattels)

Frederick Ofsoske in charge of the theatre (Council writing to him). 

Renamed Kosy Theatre. Managed by local Mrs Griffiths.

Formal transfer to Frederick Ofsoske

Application to Council to build three lock-up shops attached to the cinema.

Ofsoske applies for permit to extend the hall for larger screen, and increase capacity to 100 seats and this extension to include space for a TAB office at the rear. However, with no guarantees of long-term off-street parking, Council agreed only to the cinema extensions, not the TAB. The old stage was removed, old curtains removed, flowerpots at each end disposed of. The new screen was lit up instead of having curtains pulled back.

Cinemascope at the Kosy. The month the cinema officially reopened again, this time with more viewing days.

New owner, Blockhouse Bay Properties Ltd (Kenneth G McKerras, partner with P James Marquet). Application to Council for extension to the rear of the theatre in brick & concrete, increase seating by 84 (not Ofoske’s 100). “We are finding difficulty in seating all who wish to attend the better class of programme we are now screening. With one exception we have turned away from 20 to 40 people each Saturday night and in the case of a fortnight ago we had a full house on three sessions.” [Jan Grefstad] Application approved, without requirement for off-street parking. – Kosy Theatre Blockhouse Bay Ltd formed as a private company, with shareholders Ken McKerras, Peter Brandt (McKerras’ son-in-law), Jim and Yvonne Marquet.

Formal transfer to Blockhouse Bay Properties Ltd (£9850). Ofsoske died 1960.

April to May
Operating box extended and seating altered - £4000. The foyer was altered, with office, ticket booth and storeroom now facing the front entrance, and two entries to the hall proper with upward ramps leading to the stalls at front, then steps up and back towards the further seats up to just beneath the projection and power rooms. The existing projection room which jutted out the front was removed and the roof altered as the space was enclosed.

Via Avondale Advance. “At last the carpenters have gone and the painting completed in the offices and toilets. Unfortunately we do not have the Reserve Bank of New Zealand behind us and there are some further projects ahead when finance permits such as Electric curtains, new linoleum, front of house lighting and other items. However we are showing first rate films and sincerely trust that you will be well pleased with the titles we have selected. The Housewife’s sessions have started once again and taking the atrocious weather into consideration we have been having very good attendances especially as we show the films back to front, that is we screen the main feature first then the short subjects so that mothers may leave early if need be to meet children after school. These sessions never come out later than 2.30 pm. We are now running special programmes for the kiddies each Saturday and we always have one or more cartoons. You can be assured that your child is in good hands at the Kosy. We will not stand any nonsense from the children and we have over the last 12 months weeded out the troublemakers and have banned them from this cinema. These last remarks apply equally as well to the teenagers and by virtue of our smallness we can keep a sharp lookout for any louts who may try to get in undetected. Call in at any time, rest in the lounge whilst waiting for your bus, use our phone, it’s cheaper than the one along the road and generally make yourself at home in your home of entertainment, the KOSY!”

Marquet organised a bus trip for children that left the Kosy, visited the Aulsebrooks factory at Mt Roskill, then headed across the harbour bridge to Waiwera where they showed “Fury At Smuggler’s Rock” at the Waiwera Hall (film brought over from BHB on the bus). Then back to BHB by 5pm. Children at Kosy screenings were bribed to have the cleanest row, those there being allowed to stay back at the end of the session for an extra cartoon.

Cinema begins to show special fortnightly Sunday screenings, half proceeds going to Kelston School for the Deaf. Advertisement – prices 1/9 or ¾ “Why not reserve a seat tonight for a two-hour (or more) appointment with pleasurable entertainment provided by the leading motion picture producers of the world? “Our theatre chair will transport you to the four corners of the world in the breath-taking beauty of colourful Cinemascope; you will be thrilled to see the year’s best selling novels unfold before your very eyes; love and adventure films will enthrall you in their foreign settings, providing you, your family and friends with a few hours of very pleasant relaxation. “Special Saturday sessions for children, when only ‘G’ and ‘S’ certificate films are shown. Children’s parties specially catered for – ring up and discuss your next party booking.”

Council refuses to allow cinema screenings for the Dear School charity on each Sunday. The cinema then licensed only to show movies once a fortnight on Sundays. A deputation protested, stating that half the net proceeds from the Sunday screenings went to the Kelston School for the Deaf. The Council consulted the churches. Archbishop Liston was opposed to the idea. The Anglican Bishop’s representative said that the locals should be approached, and that the Anglicans had no objections to Sunday evening entertainment as they felt they couldn’t compel people to attend their services, and asked that the screenings not start until 8.15pm. Blockhouse Bay Baptist were opposed. They felt that Sunday nights should be for attending church, then a quiet night at home. The Avondale Ministers Association were also opposed. The Avondale Presbyterians were opposed, thinking it was purely for financial gain. Blockhouse Bay’s Iona Church were opposed, feeling that Sunday pictures for profit could threaten the upbuilding of Christian life and character. August – Council reverses their decision, allowing screenings each Sunday night.

Trying to attract customers with ads advertising “wall-to-wall cinemascope screen,” “specially selected programmes from the leading film studios of the world,” “no parking problems”, and “sick of TV?” Screenings were on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday matinee and evening. By now, the Sunday screenings had ceased, but Marquet held benefit evenings for the local Labour party, scouts, schools and ladies’ clubs.

Cinema now under Ray Melrose management, “New Associated Independent Cinemas,” Glenn Parker as manager. New projectors were installed, replacing Guttormsen’s Kalee projectors from back in 1926. However, this couldn’t help the cinema’s profitability.

18 May
Last movie: “Fantastic Voyage”, Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch.

Transfer to Importers & Distributors Ltd.

End of the cinema 

Converted to a hire centre.

Transfer to Foodtown Supermarkets Ltd

Rented to Blockhouse Bay Hire Service Ltd, $18 per week.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Josiah C Firth, and the Mt Eden Rifle Range "rent"

Images: "Group portrait of sailors, marines, and other men in civilian clothes at the Mount Eden rifle range, with shooting targets visible in the distance (right)," 1890s-1900s, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-RIC210; "Half length copy portrait of Josiah Clifton Firth," 1888, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 34-130

Looking recently into the story of the Mt Eden rifle range (1872-1905), I came upon two conflicting bits of information. First, I had understood that the range was a nuisance to Josiah Clifton Firth, who had purchased John Ogilvie’s house on what is now Castle Drive in 1871 (although he’d leased it from 1868). [See red arrow on image]. Yet, right up to the early 1890s, he was one of its staunchest defenders against those of his neighbours campaigning in the newspapers and by petitions to Parliament to have it shut down. After successfully convincing the powers-that-be to leave the volunteers and their range alone in the mid 1880s, he received hearty cheers from the volunteers whenever he was spotted riding near the range.

Then, in 1892, he made a trip to Wellington, chatted with the Minister for Defence and other power brokers, and came away with a deal for the government to pay him “rent” for the next five years of £225 per annum, plus build a high wall between his house and the range because it was a “nuisance”. The nuisance bit I could understand, but the “rent” as the range wasn’t on his land at all seemed odd.

Firth’s back was put to the wall, however, when he went bankrupt in 1889. The noted mill owner, and founder of the Firth Estate in Matamata with its own tower, like the one he built in Auckland at his home, had built his empire on borrowed funds, and in the Long Depression of the late 19th century those he had borrowed from called in the debts. His business in Auckland was sold. Land everywhere was sold. The effects of the bankruptcy was felt even after his death in 1897, his widow Ann beginning the subdivision and sell-off of their vast Epsom estate and gardens through to her own death in the new century.

Then, he made that trip to Wellington, and secured a deal which no one in Auckland seemed to want to discuss in any detail, other than it was somehow “compensation,” or “rent”, linked with the rifle range and its continuation of use.Actually, according to Richard Seddon, answering a question in Parliament in 1892, it was money the Government felt they were forced to pay – or else Firth threatened to shut the rifle range down with a court injunction. At that point, the Government felt they were very much in a pressure situation between the volunteers who wanted to keep the range, and the neighbours at Epsom and Mt Eden who were sick and tired of cows being shot in the head, and bullets narrowly missing strollers walking up to the summit of Maungawhau. So, Firth received his more than £1000 “rent” from the government, paid judiciously to his wife, the government built a wall to protect his home (yes, just his), and that was that.

Eventually, it all shut down anyway when the Penrose range opened up in 1905. But I’m still amazed at this example of “pay up or else” – and that it worked.

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Glen Eden Strawberries and Cream scandal


(Left) Portrait of Christopher James Parr, former mayor of Auckland, and Reform Party candidate for Eden in the 1919 general elections, from Auckland Weekly News 30 October 1919, AWNS-19191030-39-9, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections; (Right) Image by Domdomegg, from Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.

Ah, that spring and summer wondrous treat – fresh strawberries with cream. A staple of pleasure gardens in and around Auckland since the 1860s, and a certain drawcard for the crowds, even now. Who would have thought that their presence in the early 1920s at a couple of advertised social functions at Glen Eden and Avondale would have resulted in a prominent politician of the day almost being hauled over the coals for illegal election practices? 

 The politician concerned was the Reform Party member the Hon. Christopher James Parr (1869-1941). At the time of the 1922 General Election, when he ran for the seat of Eden in Auckland (which included, then, Mt Albert, Avondale, and much of West Auckland) he was a minister holding the public health and education portfolios. Before the election campaign was over, eyebrows were raised and questions asked about events at Glen Eden on 25 November, and at Avondale on 30 November 1922. The Labour candidate for Eden, HG Rex Mason, had turned Parr's strawberry connection into political fodder at a rally meeting at Avondale: 

The candidate was also critical on the Minister's partiality for dispensing strawberries and cream to afternoon meetings of lady electors. The Minister, he said, objected to proportional representation on the ground of the greatly increased expense of the larger electorates. No wonder, in view of the horrifying prospect of having to supply strawberries and cream to the ladies of a large electorate. (Laughter and applause.)

(Auckland Star, 5 December 1922) 

In the eyes of Parr’s political opponents, the strawberries and cream amounted to the illegality of “treating”, the bribery of electors by the candidates in order to influence their vote. The practice of “treating” had been something of concern for Colonial administrations in New Zealand right from the 1850s. In 1855, the Auckland Provincial Council passed the Bribery and Treating Act: 

“that is to say giving or offering to give any money, or any liquor or refreshment, any article whatsoever to any Elector, or to any of his family or kindred, friends or dependants, with a view to influence his vote, or the holding out to him of any promise or expectation of profit, advancement, or enrichment to himself, or to any of his family or kindred, friends, or dependents in any shape in order to influence his vote, or making use of any threat to any Elector, or otherwise intimidating him in any manner with a view to influence his vote, the treating of any voter, or the supplying him with meat, drink, or lodging, horse or carriage hire, or conveyance whilst at such Election, or whilst engaged in coming to or going from such Election, the payment of any elector of any sum of money for acting in or joining in any procession during such Election or before or after the same, the keeping open or allowing to be kept open any public house, shop, booth, or tent, or place of entertainment of any kind, wherein liquor or refreshment of any kind be distributed or allowed at such place of entertainment of any kind, the giving of any dinner, supper, breakfast, or other entertainment at any place whatsoever, by any such Candidate to any Elector or number of Electors with a view to influence his or their votes … The commission of any of the above mentioned acts by any Candidate at any such Election, shall render such Candidate liable to a penalty of £100 …”
(Southern Cross, 23 January 1855) 

“Treating” at general elections was deemed an illegal electoral practice in 1858 by Parliament under the first Corrupt Practices Prevention Act and succeeding amendments. A candidate found guilty of paying, wholly or in part, for any meat, drink, or entertainment for electors on a polling day from 1858 risked being sued and paying a fine of £50 for each person taking suit against him, and being removed from the electoral roll. By 1881 the risk was a £400 fine, and exclusion from the electoral roll (and the right be elected) for five years. 

Just three years before the accusations against Parr, this legislation had been used in Stratford where Robert Masters (Liberal) was found, on petition from backers of John Bird Hine (Reform), to have broken the law during the 1919 general election by providing musical entertainment and a movie prior to one of his addresses. The election in that case had been judged void, but Masters easily won the replacement election. 

Within the statutory 28 day time limit after the 1922 election, John Pool of Mt Albert, backed by Labour Party interests, filed a petition in January 1923 “alleging corrupt or illegal practices” on Parr’s part. 

“And your petitioner says that:— (a) The said Christopher James Parr was, both by himself and by his agent, guilty of corrupt practices, in that on the 25th day of November 1922, at the Glen Eden Hall, within the said electorate, he did treat certain electors and provide the same with music and refreshments, to wit, strawberries and cream, for the purpose of influencing such electors to vote at the said election, and for that purpose did enter into a contract to pay for such strawberries and cream, and further, did engage and pay or contract to pay for a person to wash up and clean the necessary crockery used in providing such refreshment and entertainment, and further, did hire or contract to hire the Glen Eden Hall for this purpose of giving such refreshment and entertainment … 

And your petitioner says that:— (a) The said Christopher James Parr was, both by himself and by his agent, guilty of corrupt practices in that, on the 30th day of November, 1922, at the Avondale Hall, within the said electorate, he did treat certain electors and provide the same, with music and refreshments, to wit, strawberries and cream, for the purpose of influencing such electors to vote at the said election, and) for that purpose did enter Into a contract to pay for such strawberries and cream, and further, did engage and pay or contract to pay for a person to washup and clean the necessary crockery used in providing such refreshment and entertainment, and further, did hire or contract to hire the Avondale Hall for this purpose of giving such refreshment and entertainment. The said Christopher James Parr was, both by himself and by his agent, guilty of a corrupt practice, in that he gave valuable consideration, or agreed to give valuable consideration for the purpose of entertaining and treating certain electors as more particularly set out … hereof. And alternately your petitioner alleges that the facts as set out … hereof amount to an illegal practice. Therefore your petitioner prays that it may be determined that the said Christopher James Parr was not duly elected or returned, and that the election was void." 
 (Auckland Star 10 January 1923) 

By the time of the judicial enquiry (which started on 26 February 1923) the charge involving the Avondale meeting had been withdrawn, Pool claiming he now had no personal knowledge of what took place there, so the focus was now solely on Glen Eden. According to Pool’s counsel, Arthur Gilbert Quartley, Parr had advertised five weeks before the 1922 poll, on 3rd November, calling on all prepared to assist him in his candidature to meet in the Glen Eden district. Forty people attended the meeting, including William Henry Shepherd (orchardist who lived on Levy’s Road, Glen Eden), who became chairman of Parr’s election committee, and William Percival Levy (land agent and seed grower, Glen Eden), who became secretary. (Shepherd was at the time a leading light in the campaign to have Glen Eden break away from the Waitemata County Council.) 

Pool claimed that at a committee meeting on 18 November, Levy explained that if the women would provide afternoon tea Levy and Shepherd would provide strawberries and cream, and this they would do by obtaining them from three local suppliers. Invitations were issued, and the strawberries were ordered. The afternoon gathering at the Glen Eden Hall took place according to plan, apparently described by Parr later as just a social occasion, and not political in intent – a “conversazione” in effect, although as such events are usually defined as “a scholarly social gathering held for discussion of literature and the arts”, that seems a bit of a stretch. Shepherd introduced Parr as an election candidate, who proceeded to give a “general talk” of interest to women. After an address by Parr, afternoon tea was ordered, and those who wanted strawberries and cream partook of them. 

When challenged about the strawberries later at the main rally in the evening at the hall, Parr denied that they were paid for by him. Pool’s counsel contended that he had information that the strawberry suppliers had difficulty being paid for the fruit, Levy and Shepherd telling the suppliers they had to submit a single account, there would be no receipt, and they were to say that the strawberries were a gift. The suppliers were directed to send their bills to Mrs Erickson, the secretary of the ladies committee. Pool’s counsel contended that the treating took place in Parr’s presence, but admitted that possibly Parr may have had no prior knowledge that it was going to happen. 

Nina Routley, wife of Glen Eden grocer Abraham Routley, said: 

“she did not understand she was on Mr. Parr's political committee. She was present at the meeting when Mr Shepherd told the ladies that if they would take over the arrangements for the conversazione the gentlemen would retire. He suggested the provision of strawberries as it was the first season the fruit had been grown locally. It was naturally thought that the ladies would be paying the expenses. “Replying to Mr. Skerrett, witness said Mrs. Parr was very popular and the ladies discussed the question of holding a social in her honour. When they were discussing the details there was a difference of opinion as to the strawberries. There was no idea that Mr Parr should pay anything towards the expenses. It would have been an insult to invite Mrs Parr and then ask them to pay. Since the election the ladies had subscribed and paid for the strawberries.” 
(Auckland Star, 27 February 1923) 

Parr’s defence team argued against the ladies’ social being political or having any effect on the election.  
“We submit this was not for political purposes. We submit strongly the evidence will show it was not for that purpose at all. Was it suggested that the ladies were so glutted and so filled to repletion that they forgot all about the intellectual Mr. Mason and Mr. Morton, and thought only of the corrupt Mr Parr, and that they remained in that paralytic condition for twelve days?”
(Auckland Star 27 February 1923) 

In the end, Pool’s petition was dismissed. The justices found that Parr and his wife were ignorant of the intention of the women’s meeting took the form that it had until they’d arrived at the hall, and that there would be any kind of “entertainment” involved (the strawberries and cream). Parr had not been called upon to pay for any part of the function. Had it been “a lavish supply of tea and cakes” that might have warranted an inference of corruption, but the arrangements that afternoon had been quite modest. 

But, in any case, the justices went on:
“ ... to tender socials to a candidate, at which entertainment was provided, was an unwise act, because it was calculated, as instanced by the present case, to render those concerned in it, as well as an innocent candidate, subject to suspicion and litigation.” 
(Auckland Star, 5 March 1923) 

Surely a disappointing, not to mention court-cost expensive, time for those who must have been certain that they had smelled Parr's political blood in the water. Instead, all they got was simply the fragrant scent of Glen Eden strawberries ...

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Cardwell Street Murder, New Lynn, 1928

(left) 1st Viscount Cardwell, and (right) detail from 1865 map of New Lynn, 
NZ Map 4498-5, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

In a period where Aucklanders increasingly felt the effects of the recession of the late 1920s, one which gave a taste of what the coming Great Depression would be like just two years later, a woman in West Auckland lost her life in a brutal fashion, and a street’s name became so infamous that petitions were organised to change it forever. 

The street was once Cardwell Street in New Lynn, originating from the 1865 subdivision of the north-eastern portion of Allotment 257, likely named in honour of Edward Cardwell, 1st Viscount Cardwell, Secretary of State for the Colonies 1864-1866. Into the 20th century, it was part of the residential area of New Lynn which, from the post World War II period would be dramatically transformed into the more familiar commercial and light industrial area we know today.

The woman who was murdered in this ordinary New Lynn neighbourhood was Ernestina Mary Norgrove née Henderson who was born in what was then known as Waitakere South, 28 October 1888, the second eldest child of six, to William Thomas Maddocks Henderson and his wife Ernestina Mary née Bock. Her father William was born in Aberdeen, 18 April 1864. His father in turn was also named William Thomas Maddocks Henderson, a master hatter who married the likely pregnant Agnes Bruce in Aberdeen, Scotland, in August 1863. Ernestina Mary Bock was born in New South Wales in 1867, daughter to William and Mary Bock. She married William Henderson 18 April 1885 in Auckland. 

Young Ernestina wasn’t even five years old when disaster struck the family on Friday 4 August 1893. Her father William, employed as a carter by an Onehunga shipping agent named Cunningham, was driving a heavy two-horse dray from Onehunga to Auckland via Parnell. For some reason, he was standing on the shaft of the dray. A wheel hit a rut in the road, and Henderson slipped off, falling to the ground. The dray’s wheel passed over him, crushing his ribs, which in turn punctured his lungs. He coughed blood all the way to the hospital, and died in the early hours of 5 August. 

The family had only recently shifted from where they had lived near Wasby’s Bush in the Waitakeres (near Nihotupu) into the city, living in Airedale Street at the time of the accident. William and Ernestina had five children at that point, the youngest fourteen months old, with Ernestina pregnant with number six; Annie Murdoch Henderson arrived into the world on the night of 5 August, the day her father died. The NZ Herald and Auckland Star both started fundraising subscription campaigns for the family. Goods were donated by grocers. Others gave clothing, as well as money. A special benefit concert was held on Sunday 13 August 1893 in the City Hall by the Suburban Popular Concert Company, under the auspices of the Mayor of Auckland William Crowther, as a fundraiser for the Hendersons. 

The family nearly had to split up. The Charitable Aid Board did consider the admission of four of the children, including the four-year-old Ernestina, into the Orphan Home in order for them to receive rations, but decided that Mrs Henderson and her children didn’t need the assistance, so the application was declined. 

Salvation though came from another source, when Ernestina Henderson married Terence Henderson (no relation to her late husband) on 9 February 1895. Terence was a labourer at the Chelsea Sugar Works near Birkenhead, and that’s where the family moved to. The youngest, Arthur (making the number of children seven), was born later that year. 

Into the new century, at some point the young 20 year old Ernestina met up with 23-year-old Clarence Norgrove, member of a well-known family involved with the butcher trade. She married him on 8 September 1909, just before she turned 21. In 1911 the couple were living at 20 Trinity Street, Herne Bay. Clarence likely worked for his uncle Charles, who had started his own business in 1896, first at Three Lamps in Ponsonby, before shifting to Richmond Road, Grey Lynn by 1907. In 1909, Charles Norgrove was established enough to run for political office, and stood for a seat on the Grey Lynn Borough Council that year. He won, and would remain on the Borough Council until 1913. He was made a Justice of the Peace in 1907, and retired from business in 1911. 

By 1914, Clarence Norgrove had found another job, working in New Lynn at the Binsted abattoir near the Whau Creek, today the site of Ken Maunder Park. Clarence and Ernestina relocated to Binsted’s Road. By that stage, the couple had had two children. Two years later, a fire at the slaughterhouse probably curtailed operations there, and Clarence found other work later, as a commercial driver, an echo of the occupation followed by Ernestina’s father. Three children more would be born during the family’s residence at New Lynn, with a move to Ward Street, the youngest born around 1924. 

Then, on 26 February 1925, Clarence died from pneumonia. He was only 38 years old. For the second time in her life, Ernestina was in a family cast into uncertainty and financial insecurity due to the death of the breadwinner – but this time, the risk was to her own welfare and that of her children. 

3 Cardwell Street, New Lynn. NZ Herald, 8 March 1928.

By 1928, Ernestina was living at 3 Cardwell Street, New Lynn, with her daughter Mavis aged 18 and son David William, aged 12. The younger three children were living in the Manurewa orphans home – unlike her mother, Ernestina had not been able to keep the family together, in the face of the recession. 

On 7 March that year, Ernestina Mary Norgrove was murdered. 

Articles of clothing checked later at the pathological department at Auckland Hospital were all stained with blood: a ladies dress, a man’s silk handkerchief, shirt, collar and tie. As well as a flat iron. 

Tranby House flat irons, 1800s. Photo by Gnangarra, via Wikipedia 

The 7th of March was to have been young Mavis’ wedding day. That morning at 6.30, Ernestina Norgrove left her house at 3 Cardwell Street, and headed across the road to No. 2, the Pirrit residence, where she did the washing for Mrs Frances May Pirrit. To help make ends meet, Ernestina did tasks like laundry for others. The night before, a pretty cinnamon-coloured dress had arrived at the Pirrits for Ernestina – while she was at their house, she pressed it. Mrs Pirritt left her house to travel to town at 10.30, and that was the last time she saw her neighbour alive. Mrs Pirrit saw the dress again, now blood-stained, once more at the inquest. 

According to Mavis, her mother headed into their house briefly to pick up some shoes and underclothing, before heading back to the Pirrits' to have a bath and put on the dress. Mavis headed off to have lunch with David at 11am, across the road at No. 3. 

While Mavis and David were there, Alan Norgrove turned up, demanding to know where Mavis and her husband-to-be were going to live, then demanding to know where Ernestina was. He told Mavis that her mother would not be going with them to the registry office. When Mavis protested that her mother had to go to the registry office, Norgrove then stated that he would come along, then bring Ernestina straight back home. After discussion around the wedding reception planned that evening at St Thomas’ Hall, where Norgrove apparently claimed Ernestina had deceived him, he then told Mavis to “get the hell out of it,” and she and David left the house. 

Olive White, another neighbour who lived at 1 Cardwell Street, watched Ernestina walk across the street just before noon, wearing the cinnamon-coloured dress, and carrying a pink hat. After Ernestina had gone back inside her house at 3 Cardwell Street, Mrs White heard raised voices. A window opened, and Mrs White saw Ernestina crying, then grasping the window ledge, as if she was trying to jump out and leave the house. Then Ernestina looked up, saw Mrs White watching, and let go of the ledge, backing away from the window and putting a hand up to her forehead. She said “I will,” twice, and from behind her saw Alan George Norgrove come into view. He said, “Well, I am going too.” Mrs White looked away – when she looked back, the window was closed. 

The next noise Mrs White heard was “a noise as if a chair was being pushed on the floor.” Then there came six “bumps” in succession, like muffled thuds. Some 15 to 20 minutes later, Mrs White saw Alan Norgrove leave the house, his hands in his trouser pockets, walking between No. 1 and No, 3 towards the road. 

Alan George Norgrove was 13 years younger than his brother Clarence, born in 1900, and lived at 13 Sussex Street, Grey Lynn with his father David and mother Martha. Like others in his family, he worked as a butcher at the time. From soon after Clarence’s death, he was a regular visitor at Ernestina’s home almost every weekend, and did share her bed. The couple’s relationship, though, was one blighted by domestic violence. Francis William George Postlewaight, who had known Clarence Norgrove, described at the inquest how one time Ernestina’s son David had fled the house, heading to where Postlewaight lived in nearby Binsted Road. 

When Postlewaight went over to investigate, he found Mavis hanging out of her bedroom window, and heard sounds “like someone was getting a hiding.” Ernestina was getting off the floor of another room, while Alan Norgrove “was trying to bash the door in to get to where Mavis was.” According to Mavis, the fight had started over Norgrove’s drunken demands that Ernestina return to town. When she said she couldn’t, she hadn’t the money, Norgrove punched her in the face, knocking her to the floor. He then pulled her up again, and punched her again, breaking her teeth. 

Postlewaight went round to the back, David in tow. Norgrove came out, and said to David, “I will kill you, you bastard.” He seemed intent on getting to David, but Postlewaight stopped him, asking what was going on, and telling him “not to fill the neighbours’ mouths.” Norgrove turned and asked Ernestina whether she was “his woman.” According to Postlewaight, she seemed disinclined to answer. 

Another quarrel, according to Mavis, had started over the wording Ernestina had penned for the memoriam she had sent to the Auckland Star for the third anniversary of Clarence’s death. It read: 

It isn’t known whether Ernestina would have seen the murder weapon, a flat iron, coming towards her face. There was a wound found on her right hand, two inches long, with an incised cut an inch long in the middle. On her face was a wound measuring three inches, from an inch above her right eyebrow, diagonally across to her left cheek. The wound gaped, so Dr Norman Douglas Watson Murray told the coroner’s inquest on examining her body. Shattered bone could be seen. The skull over the eyes was fractured, as was the right cheek bone. Blood issued from her right ear, which was bruised. Another large wound behind the ear measured 3 inches by 3½ inches. This wound had happened so violently, bone was missing due to being pushed into the brain. There was a star-shaped wound on the top of the skull, and another at the base of the head. Four distinct blows had led to fracture of the skull, laceration of the brain, and Ernestina’s death. Ernestina appears to have fallen against a chest of drawers – a corner had broken off, and was later found in a pool of blood. 

The flat iron, according to Mavis, was kept in the bathroom. Alan Norgrove, enraged that Ernestina had plans that day that did not include him, that Mavis was marrying Robert Firth with whom he’d already had arguments, seems to have gone into the bathroom, picked up the flat iron, then followed Ernestina into the bedroom, where he struck her and killed her. Then, in the quiet aftermath, he straightened the cinnamon-coloured dress she wore, and set the pink hat down neatly beside her, before heading to the living room, dropping the bloodied flat iron on a settee. Then, with front door locked and blinds drawn down, he made sure the back door was locked as he left, and walked away. 

Norgrove travelled by bus to Ponsonby where, around 12.45 pm, he went to the Ponsonby Police Station, and gave himself up, telling the officers there he had killed a woman in New Lynn with a flat iron, and produced the key to the back door. He was described as being sober and rational, but agitated, as he gave a statement which was typed out, and he then signed. While Norgrove was giving his statement at Ponsonby, Constable Jeremiah Horan from Avondale turned up at the house in Cardwell Street at 12.55pm, after receiving a call from the Detective Office, that had been informed by Ponsonby station. He broke in by smashing a pane of glass at the front door. 

Mavis and Robert George Firth married the following day. Given what had happened, she said later, she wanted to have the comfort of her husband during the time of grief. 

1928 Police Gazette

At the Supreme Court trial which began 14 May 1928, Alan Norgrove pleaded not guilty to the charge of wilful murder. His defence was that he was insane at the time he killed Ernestina Norgrove. His counsel told the court that his client had been “abnormal from his infancy … a child of melancholy and moody disposition, subject to occasional outbursts of violent and uncontrollable temper.” He had to leave work a year before. Several members of his family, the counsel went on, had been inmates of mental hospitals, and one still was an inmate. 

Dr Robert Martin Beattie, formerly in charge of the Auckland Mental Hospital, felt that Alan Norgrove wasn’t “normal,” and suffered from “mental instability”, especially over the course of the previous three years. Beattie contended that, while Norgrove knew what he was doing when he picked up the flat iron, through “dementia precos” (a now obsolete term for schizophrenia) he wasn’t aware of what he was doing when he hit Ernestina and kept hitting her head with the iron. Dr. Henry Mallock Prins who was superintendent of the Auckland Mental Hospital at the time of the trial, however, disagreed with Beattie’s diagnosis, and said that Norgrove was quite capable of knowing what he was doing when he struck Ernestina with the flatiron. It was revealed during Prins’ statements in court that Ernestina herself had once been an inmate in a mental hospital. Dr Henry Douglas Hayes of Porirua Mental Hospital and Dr Tom William James Childs from Tokonui Mental Hospital both agreed with Dr Prins. 

His brother David claimed that he’d had to carry Alan Norgrove to school for three years because of “nervousness”. He said that his brother had “strained his heart” twice, so had to leave work. It was revealed, however, that in 1924 Alan Norgrove had lost his temper in a billiard room, smashed a pane of glass, and was convicted and fined £3. 

On 15 May 1928, Alan George Norgrove was found guilty, and sentenced to hang. In summing up, the judge pointed out that it was clearly a case of a murder which was at the culmination of a quarrel, rather than an act of momentary insanity. However, after strenuous representations made to Prime Minister Gordon Coates – in that year, seeking re-election – Norgrove’s sentence was commuted to “imprisonment with hard labour for the term of his natural life.” In this way, Coates seems to have wanted to appease both families, with Ernestina’s own family campaigning for the death sentence to have remained in force. 

As it turned out, “term of his natural life” proved to be either rather shorter than some probably imagined, or with a different definition. Norgrove was out of prison by 1941, after just 12 years at most, featuring on an Army ballot that year, once again living at 13 Sussex Street. By 1949 he was living in Mangere as a laundryman, got married in 1956, and died 11 December 1990 at the age of 90, having outlived at least four of Ernestina’s orphaned children. 

NZ Truth, 19 July 1928

In July 1928, Ernestina’s brother-in-law Edward Buchanan received a phone call from David Norgrove demanding that Ernestina be exhumed and removed from beside his brother Clarence Norgrove’s grave at Waikumete Cemetery. According to Buchanan, himself a monumental mason, Ernestina had been trying desperately to save up enough money to buy the plot and pay for a headstone. But, it turned out, Clarence’s plot had been purchased by the Norgroves in the intervening years between his death and hers, and so they now demanded that her body be removed. By August, after some hue and cry by the NZ Truth who broke the story, the demand was withdrawn by the Norgroves. But today, Clarence and Ernestina’s last resting place there at Waikumete remains unmarked by a memorial headstone. 

Auckland Star, 2 November 1929

The name Cardwell Street, by the end of the Norgrove trial, had become notorious. After a man named Edward Ryan tried poisoning himself there in 1929, the residents petitioned New Lynn Borough for a change of street name. And so, Veronica Street, named after a variety of tree, came into being. Today, the site where Ernestina met her untimely and brutal demise is just north-east of Great North Road, and very much obliterated by commercial land use, as with much of the old New Lynn these days. 

Auckland Star 7 March 1930

Fading memories of the Cardwell Street murder, and an unmarked burial plot at Waikumete Cemetery, are all that remains of a point where lives collided so fatally.

Photo courtesy Ruth and John Snashall, February 2020

Saturday, July 11, 2020

William Newell: the £22,000 man

On Tuesday 9 February 1943, the readers of the NZ Herald that morning would have found this bit of news as they sipped their tea and ate their toast.


By late June 1943, however, Newell’s posthumous generosity was put under the spotlight when members of his estranged family challenged the probate of his will through the courts, under the terms of the Family Protection Act.

So, who was William Newell, a man with so much money to give, but who had apparently left his own family out in the cold?

We need to reach back to the middle of the 19th century, when a couple living in Stalybridge, today part of Greater Manchester in England, were married in 1847: Mark Newell, a coal merchant, and Mary Farrow. Newell was originally from Drighlington, near Leeds in West Yorkshire, and by 1851 the family had set themselves up there. Our man William Newell was the seventh child of eight at that stage, born in 1857 in Drighlington. 

Mark Newell’s coal merchant business, in partnership with John Farrow (possibly his wife’s relative) was going well, employing 10 men. The partnership dissolved in 1863, however, and three years later in 1866 Mark Newell was dead, at the age of 51. By 1871, all bar one of Mary’s children were working for a living, including 14 year old William Newell, who was employed in one of the wool processing factories. Somehow, though, Mary later sorted out the finances, administered the estate, kept the family together, and took up dairy farming with them just outside Leeds by 1881. It could be speculated, perhaps, that the early brush with financial uncertainty left an impression on William Newell that he carried with him for the rest of his days. 

When Newell arrived in New Zealand isn’t known, but by 1885 he had set up his Sussex Square Dairy in Wellington. In March 1886 he married Lilly Amy Elizabeth Britland, and they would have five children: Florrie (1887), Frank (1890), George (1893), William Ralph (1896), and Horace Hilton (1900). Newell’s business continued to prosper. In 1887, he took over the Huntley Farm Dairy in Manners Street, Wellington, and apart from some court appearances for street skirmishes was elected Melrose Borough Councillor in 1898. 

In 1903, Newell abruptly moved to Palmerston North, and took over the license of the Royal Hotel, until May 1904. It was in that year that Lilly and the four surviving children, young Frank had already died, left Newell. “We lived extremely unhappily together,” Lilly later stated in court documents. “One of the said children namely George is a complete cripple, occasioned by an attack of rheumatism when he was 3 years of age. The doctor who attended him desired the boy to go to Hospital but [William Newell] would not hear of this because of the expense involved. 

“[William] was utterly without affection for me or the children; he was domineering and totally obsessed in acquiring money, and provided the children and myself with barely necessary food and clothing; a factor which in my opinion contributed largely to the ill health of the children. 

“Just after my said son George was born, deceased’s sister [Mary Fredericksen] came to take charge of the household; during this period the then second youngest child Frank choked with diphtheria and [William] would not allow a doctor to be called in on account of the expense and the child died [1893] … 

“… I left [William] in the year 1904 and took the 4 children with me … [William] agreed to give me the sum of £2000, and I was to have the children and the responsibility of bringing them up.” 

In 1907, William Newell came to Auckland and purchased Allotment 18 in Waterview, adjoining Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek and the Waitemata Harbour, from Wilhelm Paganini Hoffmann and his wife Sophia. This was the former Oakleigh Farm formerly owned by the bootmaking Garratt Brothers from 1879. Newell had a registered interest in the land from two years before, and used that to enter into a lease with a tenant named Dyke (see below). Definite sightings of William Newell in the directories and electoral rolls is difficult to prove. He may have been the William Newell, farmer, living in Bellevue Road, Mt Eden in 1911. He could have been the farmer William Newell at Burrows Ave in Parnell also in 1911. There was a farmer named William Newell living in “Kings Norton”, 8 Lower Symonds Street, in 1919. 

He definitely reappears again in February 1920 when he sued Henry Vincent Dyke, to whom he leased the Oakleigh Farm in 1905. Dyke had used the land as a poultry farm, but Newell sued for £200 damages for failure to keep the farm clear of gorse and blackberry. Newell had

“…allowed the occupancy to continue until August 1918, when he gave six months' notice to terminate. He alleged that the defendant had broken up and cropped about 67 acres, but failed to comply with the terms of his agreement as to laying down that area in grass, and had also failed to cultivate, use, manure, and manage the land in a proper manner … [Newell] was a retired farmer, and lived on the income derived from letting the property, the defendant paying him a rent of £3 per week. Plaintiff had learned that the defendant had transferred his lease to another man, who now occupied the land, although plaintiff had refused to recognise him. In contravention of the lease the defendant had allowed blackberry and other weeds to flourish. … The defendant stated that he manured the property by running his poultry on it. There were never less than 12,000 to 13,000 fowls at one time, Dyke said. Practically all the ploughable area had been ploughed. In 1916 he’d laid down 47 acres in grass. When he left in 1917 a Chinese gardener was using about seven acres as a market garden. After further evidence judgment was given for the plaintiff, the amount of damages being assessed at £150, with costs.” (NZ Herald, 28 February 1920) 

 In 1921, Newell arranged for his Oakleigh Farm property to be subdivided; Oakley Avenue was dedicated as a public road that year. He sold the farm in sections from 1922 to 1927. By 1925, according to Newell himself in a letter to the NZ Herald, Oakley Ave had about 20 houses “and 44 ratepayers.” 

He had table mortgages with some of those who had purchased property from him. In 1941, there were still four of these outstanding. At the time of his death in 1943, around half of his estate, around £10,500, was made up of debentures from territorial authorities around the country (Auckland Harbour Board, councils like Waitomo, Napier, Eltham, Mt Albert, Hauraki Plains, Whangarei, Auckland City, Otahuhu, Mt Eden, Hawkes Bay Electric Power Board, the Auckland Transport Board) and shares in the likes of Auckland Gas Company and Amalgamated Brick and Pipe. 

From 1904 until 1927, Lilly raised the family. According to her statement, “I was able [with the £2000] and by small speculations in household property in Palmerston North to bring the children up. I did my best to see they all had a good education. I had my crippled son George taught music and for a period he was able to teach music himself but later on his complaint made him quite incapable of using his hands or arms. 

“[William Newell] … during this time … made 4 trips to England unaccompanied by any family members. He did stay at my house on 2 or 3 occasions when on his way to make these trips or on returning from them but marital relations between us were not resumed. [He] displayed no interest whatever in the children; he was always a hard, unsympathetic and avaricious man.” 

In 1927, William Newell was living in “Oakley House”, somewhere close to his subdivision on Great North Road. From 1930, when a couple to whom he had sold the property at 6 Oakley Ave defaulted on their mortgage with him, he moved in and lived there until his death. He asked Lilly to come live with him again to look after him – and she agreed. In her words,

“From then until the year 1942 when I again left [him] his attitude of mind and his dominating and penurious attributes made life extremely difficult. Finally my health was completely undermined and I was compelled to leave [him] … I returned to Palmerston North to live with and look after my crippled son George.” 

For his part, William Newell left a brief opinion on his wife from this time, in a letter written to Robert King, Trust Manager with NZ Insurance Company, September 1942. 

“It is with regret I write these few lines to say my wife and I has [sic] not been living happily and agreeably as husband and wife should live for many years. First, she is a fanatic on religion, very ill disposed, contrary by nature, very disagreeable on many questions. On many occasions she would raise an argument on trivial questions not worth notice, and very often would use offensive remarks in these arguments. Briefly we were badly suited to marry … what is here said is enough on our domestic troubles. She left me without any warning.” 

For a viewpoint from outside the family, we do have the recollections of Mrs Florence Little, a housekeeper Newell employed to look after him, and who was with him at the end of his life. She was a beneficiary in his last will, receiving the title to 6 Oakley Avenue. Newell described her (again, in a letter to King): “… the housekeeper I now have is a very sensible intelligent and most agreeable woman, a well educated person, a first class cook, and good house manager well experienced in house work. She is a widow who [sic] husband died comparatively young. She has moderate sensible views on religion. She is a great help to me in many ways, even in the garden work.” 

Florence’s own view, via her affidavit:

“I did everything about the house, inside and outside, including the lawns, garden and cutting the hedges … the last two weeks were particularly unpleasant. The last two weeks he was unable to move, and had no control over his bowels, and I had to do everything for him, carrying him from room to room about the house … 

“Shortly after the death … I had a nervous breakdown as a result of the strain of work and nursing and am now receiving medical attention.” 

In another statement, she wrote:

“I acted as the said deceased’s housekeeper from about the beginning of August 1942 until his death on the 4th January 1943 … he informed me that he had engaged two housekeepers since his wife had left him, but one had remained only two weeks and the other only one week.” 

In Newell’s original will, dated 7 November 1941, he allowed for Lilly Newell to have the house at 6 Oakley Avenue, the payments from the outstanding table mortgages he owned, £3 per week allowance, and allowances to be paid quarterly and in equal shares from all remaining income for fifteen years to his four children. After Lilly had died, everything was to be settled up and divided among the children. 

Then, after Lilly left him again, Newell changed his will. Now, he left each of the four surviving children just £1000. To his wife Lilly, an increased £4 per week lifetime payment as per a new will in May 1942 was reduced back to £3. He recorded in a handwritten note that he had already been sending a sum to her during his lifetime to cover her household expenses. After Lilly’s death, the estate would be realised and divided up between, not the children, but the NZ Institute for the Blind, the Wilson Home for Crippled Children and the Church of England Orphan Home Trust. 

Supreme Court Justice John Bartholomew Callan (1882-1951) made his ruling on 28 June 1944. “It is a fair inference,” Justice Callan wrote,

“that the testator changed his Will not out of any deep interest in any of the three charities, but in order to punish his wife and children for conduct as to which, upon the affadavits, they were not in the wrong. This however does not justify the making of orders which would go beyond the principles established by the decided cases.” 

Florence Little got to keep the house and the chattels. For George Newell, given his disabilities and quality of life, his inheritance was raised to £3000. Another of the children, Florrie Platt, received just the £1000 inheritance, but with the notation that should her financial situation worsen, she could apply to the three charities named in the will for assistance. William Ralph’s inheritance was increased to £2000. Horace Newell admitted in his statement to the court that his father on visiting the family would give him money, from 5/- to £1. He ran a pharmacy at Opotiki at the time of his father’s death. Justice Callan decided that his inheritance didn’t need to be raised. 

As for Lilly Newell, Justice Callan took into account that she already had a £3 per week income from the estate, plus assets worth more that £2000. The order raising George’s inheritance meant that he would be able to repay a debt to her, and she could realise her assets relatively easily. Like William, she had invested the £2000 he had given her in 1904 in property and mortgages in Palmerston North. She should therefore live in reasonable comfort from the income and realisation of her assets, with the open possibility that if her personal situation before her death required, she could apply for help from the three charities. 

Florence Little owned 6 Oakley Avenue only until 1948, when she sold it. The house still exists. 

Lilly Newell died in August 1958. She left £100 to the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the remainder to her four children equally, less £400 she had already given to William Ralph Newell in 1944. 

From that point, William Newell’s estate was likely wound up, and the remaining proceeds finally distributed to the charities.

Marriage registration and English census information from
Marriage registration, Newell-Britland, NZ BDM
Evening Post, NZ Times, NZ Herald, Auckland Star, Manawatu Standard, Manawatu Times via Papers Past
Land information via Land Information New Zealand
Wills for William and Lilly Newell, Archives New Zealand and Family Search
Archives New Zealand files on the the court hearing: R25924723 & R25925014

Smoothing Coburg Street in the late 1880s

Image from Webbs Auction site, accessed July 2020

The image above came online, and I found it intriguing.

The caption said it was the site of the "library and art gallery," and that it is -- it's where today's Auckland Art Gallery sits, just below Albert Park. It also provides an interesting view of how parts of central Auckland's hilly landscape was cut down for the formation of streets and (in this case) buildings in the late 19th century.

Before the 1870s, what is now Kitchener Street was then Coburg Street (the name of the Royal House  of Queen Victoria being Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). It was a straight paper road, running from Victoria Quadrant in the north to the termination of Wellesley Street East. See this detail from the 1866 Vercoe & Harding map.

Then, from 1873, came changes as the City Improvement Commissioners who regained control of Albert Park began to make changes in order to develop the fringes, providing income for the City Council's much needed infrastructural developments. This included extending Wellesley Street East up to Symonds Street, and altering the angle of Coburg Street where it joined the new extension.

“A correspondent writes : — " The contractor who has the making of the new street in continuation of Wellesley-street East appears to be progressing well with his work, but should he not he expected to protect the public in passing up or down the same— to pass into Coburg-street, or over the hill, as they may desire? Something should also be done to protect the tenants in the cottages next to the cutting. No lights have been affixed to the boundarv rail put across the cutting. The rail makes the danger worse than if there were none. A child leaning against the rail would push it down, and be precipitated eight or ten feet to the bottom of the cutting below. If the cutting is thus unprotected by a light, kept burning between sunset and sun up, the police authorities should pay attention to the matter without delay.” (Southern Cross, 1 March 1873, p. 2)

 “To enable the said Commissioners to stop Coburg-street, between the northerly boundary of Dr Philson's property and its junction with Wellesley-street East, and to enable the Governor to grant to the said Dr Philson a triangular piece of land adjoining his said property, at present part of Wellesley street, and to make the abandoned portion of Coburg street land subject to the control of the said Commissioners.” (Southern Cross, 21 April 1873, p. 1)
So, around 1874, Coburg Street suddenly looked like this (foreground, Albert Park left, looking toward Wellesley Street and Rutland Street junction just beyond, Avey's Park Hotel in the centre, site of today's AUT):

4-148, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

In 1876, it looked like this. View from a bit further north, looking toward Wellesley Street. Crowther's new stables now on today's Auckland Central Library site, corner Wellesley and Lorne Streets.

4-776, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

In 1882, with Hickson's map of the city, we see the way Coburg Street had been angled by the work of the Commissioners in the previous decade.

The City Council's Streets Committee  at the time weren't in a great hurry to sorting out the still-hilly nature of that end of Coburg Street.

“Streets Committee,— Re Mr. Graham's letter as to works in Coburg-street, the committee report that the Surveyor's report be adopted ; viz., that the cutting of Coburg-place and triangle should be dealt with at the same time, so that it would be better to leave it as it is for the present.” (NZ Herald, 16 June 1882, p.6)
Then -- along came the plans for the city's new public library and art gallery. Part of the site of which would be that hilly bit of Coburg Street.

“It may interest the public generally to know what and where this site is. It is on a long and very irregularly shaped triangular piece of ground between the footpath below Albert Park (or of what is now Coburg-street), Wellesley-street, and what is to be Coburg-street. The street along the Park is to be shut up, and a street opened up lower down, the present street being part, and the best part too, of the site. The extreme width of the ground, on the square, is only 137 feet from the footpath to the junction of Wellesley and Coburg Streets; at the other end it is about 80 feet on the square; and at the junction of Wellesley-street and the footpath it is simply a point. The base, or longest part of the triangle is next the footpath, and from about the middle of the site on this line to the junction of Wellesley and Coburg Streets there is a fall of about 24 feet. I believe my design covers more ground, and therefore has more accommodation than any of the others reported on; and I assure you it caused me a great deal of labour and study to find room for it on the site. The building is close to the base line, or footpath, is within ten feet of Wellesley-street, and touches Coburg-street, so where the waste comes in I do not know. If the ground were perfectly level there would be a considerable vacant space at the junction of the two streets in front, but seeing that there is a fall of over 20 feet there, this space is occupied by the steps and landings getting up to the floor level. I consider this anything but wasted, as it must be allowed that a noble flight of steps with terraces such as are shown would do more to give dignity to the building than any number of little pinnacles, turrets, and such like.” (Letter to the editor, NZ Herald 6 February 1884, p. 3, on plans for the Library & Art Gallery)

And so, we come to that image at the start of this article.

This must date from c.1886-1887, as the site for the new building was prepared by the cutting down of the Coburg Street hillock. What was then Coburg Street in the foreground is now part of the Art Gallery's site. This would be looking across to the junction of Wellesley and Lorne Streets.

Here's is part of a map from 1889, showing the new alignment, one that survives to today.

Map 2661, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

As it looked in 1900, looking up at the Art Gallery and Library.

Auckland Weekly News, 16 March 1900, AWNS-19000316-2-1, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

And in 1964, the empty ground all smoothed out by the contractors in the late 1880s, now site of more buildings.

7-A11013, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections