Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From Stoneleigh to Methuen Hamlet

(Image from NA 1/103, LINZ records)

I live on part of what was once a farm known as Stoneleigh. It lies between Blockhouse Bay Road, New Windsor Road, a line to the Oakley Creek, the creek itself, and finally the last part of New North Road. In the earliest days of European settlement, it was just part of the Parish of Titirangi (Allotment 65), then became associated with Mt Albert district, and gained the name Stoneleigh, and along with the rest of the Whau formed part of the Mt Albert Highway District Board in 1867. Only to split away and be part of the Whau District from 1868 before, from 1901, it became known as the Methuen Hamlet.

George Gimbell had the original crown grant in November 1845. Back then, New North Road didn’t exist. He hasn’t got much of a part in this story at all: a month later, he sold the property to Frederick Hannken, who probably used the section to graze cattle. In 1852, Clement Partridge bought Allotment 65, and sold bits of the farm to others further along New Windsor Road. In June 1858, Partridge sold the remainder to Josiah Buttress.

Not a lot is known about Buttress. He was in Auckland in 1854, living in Durham Street and working as a clerk, but keen to join other settlers in the city at the time, such as Benjamin Gittos, in opposing a licence for an inn named “Bunch of Grapes” which would have set up near the Albert Barracks. In May 1859, he had a rather violent difference of opinion over caps with one George McCaul.
“MONDAY, MAY 16.

Josiah Buttress was charged with assaulting George McCaul, at the Registrar of Deeds office, by taking his cap off and shaking him by the head.

George McCaul, articled clerk to Mr. Marston, solicitor, said: Last Friday I went to the Registration office. I had transacted some business with Capt. Kelly, and was leaving that officer’s room when defendant laid hold of me by the head and shook me violently, and pitched my cap across the room, and said, take off your cap in this office. I said to him, what do you mean, and came away. I was in the middle of the room walking out when this took place. I had my cap off when in Captain Kelly’s room, and when I came out I put it on again.

Cross examined: The defendant had his hat on. He did not tell me on this occasion to take my hat off. He told me once before Friday last to take my cap off; but on that day he seized me violently by the head and shook it, and did not ask me to take off my cap until he caught hold of it and threw it across the room.”
The case was eventually withdrawn and costs divided. (Southern Cross, 24 May 1859)

In September 1864, the Avondale end of New North Road was dedicated, and cut through Buttress’ property. At this time, Benjamin Gittos was setting up his tannery, and it is likely that along with the land split away from Buttress’ property by the new road, Gittos took out at least a lease on the southeast corner (site of today’s Avondale Baptist Church and fire station.) The agreement was formalized as a sale to Gittos later in the decade, c.1868, around the same time as Josiah Buttress married Marian March on 6 May 1868.

While Buttress was one of those, along with Gittos, to sign a petition in 1866 to the Provincial Superintendent for a Mt Albert Highway District, in 1868 he apparently signed a memorial for the Whau District to break away, even though his property at Stoneleigh was vacant at that stage. A daughter was born to the Butresses in March 1869 at Stoneleigh; in August 1869, he put his farm up for sale, “fenced and under cultivation, with a good Dwellinghouse and suitable Outbuildings thereon erected.” The buyer was apparently Buttress’ mortgagee – but it was back on the sales lists in December that year.

Josiah Buttress and his family moved to Nelson, where, perhaps, he died in September 1898 and lies buried in Motueka Cemetery without a headstone. This is the only burial record found for anyone by that name.

The New North Road corner was transferred by Benjamin Gittos to his son Francis in November 1881.

“At the eastern angle of the junction of the two roads, and opposite the Whau tannery, Mr. F. Gittos has fenced in, cleared, and laid afresh in grass a ten-acre section which under other ownership had lain desolate for a quarter of a century. On this he has built a six-roomed residence for himself, and another dwelling for letting. It was regarded by many practical farmers utter folly to expend money on such soil – the “cold clay soil of the Whau”, as the phrase goes – but the result was not only satisfactory to himself, but proved a stimulus to others to take up the back sections on the same line of road southward of his neighbour, Mr. Gallagher, the owner of one of the finest estates in the district.”
(NZ Herald, 24 June 1882)

In May 1893, Francis Gittos sold his Avondale property and moved to a house in what is now Blockhouse Bay, where he operated a small tannery for a time on the Avondale South Domain.

Meanwhile, the main farm of Stoneleigh came to be owned by Henry Lees, who kept the farm’s name, from 1871 until 1878. In June 1874 Lees, along with John Bollard and J. Owen, were appointed the first Anglican church committee for the Whau district, as regular services were inaugurated and fundraising began for the building of St Jude’s Church.

Then, in 1878, Lees sold the farm to Patrick Gallagher. Gallagher by 1884 had grand schemes for his property:
“It is stated that Mr. P Gallagher contemplates starting another Brick and Tile Works in the district on his fine estate, and running a railway siding down to the Avondale railway station. There are some fine clay seams on the property, but it seems something approaching vandalism to commence the manufacture of bricks on one of the prettiest properties in the district, and on aesthetic grounds, the project should be eschewed. It may be, however, that Mr. Gallagher, like his property, is but clay when a fat dividend is looming in the distance.”
(NZ Herald, 2 February 1884)

Neither the brickyard, nor the rail siding came to pass.

Gallagher died in April 1901; his land was transferred to John Bollard as estate administrator, and he duly transferred the property to the Crown for use as a workmen’s settlement known as Methuen Hamlet. Gallagher’s homestead (possibly the original Stoneleigh) may have survived well into the 20th century, used by the Bollard Girl’s Home until replaced by a modern building. The site is now that of Odyssey House.

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