Friday, October 31, 2008

NZHPT registration submissions for North Island Main Trunk Line landmarks

I've just had an email from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, pointing toward a page on their site regarding public submissions regarding items they propose to register. Apart from the chance to comment on whether or not they should register the Ohakune Station, Makatote Viaduct and Mangaturuturu Viaduct, for a limited time, until 13 November, you have a chance to view the .pdfs of their registration reports for these structures online. Some wonderful heritage photos and images in their reports.

Avondale Railway Station: Crayford Street work

For now, until they've completed sorting out stormwater and sewage lines at Crayford Street rail crossing, it's a case of tip-toe gingerly over the temporary tarseal and ballast rocks. Work at Crayford Street is underway, though, you have to admit that. Even the pine trees, probably around 20-30 years old (although they have have been younger, and I just didn't notice) are gone (see Scribd document for after and before shots).

For those of you out there unfamiliar with my favourite suburb, in the distance of the photo to the right is Avondale's racecourse, a favourite recreation spot for over 100 years. Beyond that, the Waitakere Ranges. Hopefully, we still get to keep that view (well, I don't know what's the future of the racecourse, unfortunately) once all the work for the new station is finished.

Amateur Minstrel Performance at the Whau -- 1867

From the Southern Cross, 18 March 1867, written by "A Correspondent".

On Friday last there was some excitement in our usually very quiet village. A number of young men, who have formed a music class here, provided an evening's entertainment for the settlers, for which invitations were issued to the residents generally. A tent was erected near the church, and decorated externally with the national flag. Within the tent, evergreens, peculiar to the colony, were very tastefully arranged, and varied with dahlias and other flowers. The Union Jack formed the background of the platform, while a little in front the neat banner of the Whau Amateur Minstrels was displayed. The tent was brilliantly lighted by three chandeliers.

There were about three hundred ladies and gentlemen assembled, and, amongst them, we observed some of the good citizens of Auckland. Exactly at half-pa«t 7, the amateur minstrels appeared on the platform, in character, and opened with "Negro selections" by the company. The opening chorus, "Happy are we," was well rendered by Mr. Barraclough; "The Old Folks are gone," by Mr. Bell. "Ring, ring the Banjo," was sustained with admirable spirit by Mr. Cooke. "Away to Dixey" was given by Mr. Gittos, whose voice wanted strength and compass for the solo. "Carry me 'long" was given, with very considerable taste, by Mr. Barraclough. "The Whau" was sung by Mr. Holloway; "Ladies, won't you marry?" by Mr. Bell; "The Little Log Hut,"- by Mr. Cooke; and "Negro Quadrilles," by the company, closed the first part.

An interval of ten minutes here ensued, after which the second part was opened with the country dance "Triumph". The song, "Nelly was a Lady" was sung with great pathos by Mr. Barraolough; "Ellen Bayne," by Mr. Bell; "Bob Bidley," by Mr. Bacon. The humorous song of "The Hat and Feather," was well rendered by Mr. Cooke; "Gone are the days," by Mr. Barraclough; " Massa's in the cold ground", Mr. Gittos; "Cornelia Cob," Mr. Holloway. "Not to be sneezed at," was very effectively rendered by Mr. Bell; and " The Hen Convention," by Mr. Barraclough.

The entertainment was terminated by the singing of the National Anthem, in which the audience joined. The choruses were rendered with excellent effect. The following were the instrumentalists:— Violin and conductor, Mr. Barralough; concertinas, Messers Holloway and Walker; banjo, Mr. Bell; tambourine, Mr. Gittos; Broder Bones, Mr. Cooke; triangle, Mr. Bacon. Mr. Henderson supplied the refreshments.

On the whole the entertainment reflected great credit on the taste, liberality, and public spirit of the Whau amateur minstrels, and, at the conclusion, Dr. Aickin called for three cheers for these gentlemen, which was responded to until the welkin rang again.

It was announced, before the departure of the audience, that another entertainment would shortly be given, for admission, to which a charge would be made, for the purpose of contributing toward the erection of a public hall which is much wanted in the district.

Photos of early New Lynn & Green Bay

A few years ago, Mr. H. Batley of New Lynn gave me a disc of images scanned from an old photo book on New Lynn and surrounds. They date from the 1920s or so, judging by the cars, the swimming costumes, and the state of the roads.

More here.

The building of the Avondale Railway Bridge

The image above, taken 5 October this year, is of the present (second) bridge. The original wooden and concrete one was a great place to stop, and watch the trains arrive underneath your feet as they came in from Mt Albert, usually with their exhausts pumping up heaps of dark smoke and heat. They replaced the bridge in 1990.

Notes from the minutes Books of Avondale Road Board, 1911 to 1913 (held at Auckland City Archives).

16 August 1911
Railway Bridge at Avondale Station
The clerk was instructed to write to Mr. Jn Bollard MP referring to previous applications & ask him to see into the matter and advise the Board what steps to take to further obtaining the bridge over the railway.

20 September 1911
Bollard advises work on railway bridge under consideration when finance was available.

1 November 1911
Minister promises to get plans & specs prepared for reinforced concrete bridge at Avondale station.

11 June 1913
The Government to be urged to proceed with work on building the railway bridge.

18 June 1913
District engineer NZ Govt. Railways: department about to proceed with erection of Overhead Bridge at Station & asks for cross section of proposed approaches to be provided by the Board. Increase in width from 30 to 40 feet meant large increase in cost, asked if Board would pay additional sum required.

Resolved that department be informed that as Board provided approaches, could not pay for extra width. Bridge largely for use and convenience of rail passengers. Letter to Bollard asking for help on increased width.

16 July 1913
Work on Railway Bridge (30ft wide) to be started in 3 weeks.

5 November 1913
North pier of overhead Railway Bridge completed, Board’s work on approaches to commence.

22 April 1914
Railway Dept notifies that level crossing rendered unnecessary by Overhead Bridge now fenced across.

Wairaka's Waters

I have a soft spot still for Wairaka's Waters. I was very surprised to see how many people asked for copies -- like A Doctor in the Whau and The Zoo War, Wairaka's Waters is part of my hobby stuff. I seek out the information, find answers to my questions, write it up, then publish.

Wairaka's Waters was my first departure from Avondale-Waterview themed stuff, yet it really was just about what was happening next door, on the Auckland Asylum farm bordering Waterview, just across the Oakley Creek. Like A Doctor in the Whau, Wairaka's Waters sprang from the same overall "umbrella" research -- into the story of the mouth of the Oakley Creek which, hopefully, I'll get tidied up soon, and publish straight to Scribd. That one, for the first time, will be digital primarily, hardcopy only for certain libraries and archives. May be a lot cheaper for me as well, in these uncertain times!

Anyway, here's Wairaka's Waters. I still have a few hardcopies left, if anyone wants one, by the way.

"A Doctor in the Whau" - Thomas Aickin (1814-1897)

A biography I did early last year on Dr. Thomas Aickin, first medical practitioner in Avondale, second superintendent of the Auckland Asylum, agricultural experimenter, inventor, poet.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Using the horse plough in Avondale, 1933



A member of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Tricia Norton, very kindly sent this photo this year, and it was published in the Avondale historical Journal. I thought I'd share it here -- Tricia wrote that it was taken in May 1933, somewhere near the corner of Avondale and Rosebank Roads, an area leased by her family (the Shersons) where they grew vegetables.

Avondale Letters 3

The 1912 Avondale Roads Debacle, continued.

AVONDALE ROADS

(To the Editor, Auckland Star. Published 13 August 1912)

Sir, -- It was indeed refreshing to read in your issue of Friday night's "Star" a thrilling and true account of "A Visitor's" experience of trying to get through the district of Avondale without the assistance of a flying machine. And as roads are a favourite topic, it may be interesting to briefly describe how the Avondale Road Board make their roads ...

Blockhouse Bay is 2½ miles south of Avondale station, and at this point operations were commenced by taking up the old metal, and removing it to (perhaps the Board knows where?). Ploughs and scoops were got to work; hills and gullies were left to match other roads in the district. Scoria boulders were deposited along the route, and men with axes were splitting these as thin as possible and laying them flat in order to cover a greater surface. What a foundation! Then mud and metal scattered over thinly, and made to go as far as possible. And, would you and your readers really believe it! -- the Board commanded 6 inches of sticky clay to be put over the metal to cover up all defects, and make it that neither horses, vehicles, nor pedestrians could pass over their new roads without walking on stilts of clay and metal mixture.

A cutting at Burton's Hill has produced half-a-mile of mud, through which tradesmen's vehicles, residents, and school children were expected to travel. Strong protests have at last resulted in half-a-mile of 9in. x 3in. planks being placed on top of this huge treacherous bog. On these the public are expected to walk, and in the dark this is a feat requiring great skill.

For eleven months the people of Avondale South have struggled knee-deep in mud, and have patiently endured all kinds of discomfort, such as deep ditches, loads of metal and scoria, pipes etc., and yet never a light to shine on these dangers (which is contrary to law). This is the present condition of Manukau Road, the main outlet to Blockhouse Bay.

So the Board decided to open another outlet, namely Taylor Street (the residents foolishly finding half the money). This was ploughed up and graded. Not one ounce of metal or scoria was put on, and the result is that now it is disgustingly filthy and impassable.

Now we come to the last and worst of the outlets of this marine suburb, namely White Swan Road. [Note: in 1912, this included present-day Donovan St. It is the latter where the debacle occurred.] The condition of this bog was so ably described by "A Visitor" ...

During the past month two horses had to be shot, having broken their legs on these roads, another pony has been crippled, vehicles and harness smashed, and wagons, carts, motor cars, etc., are constantly being buried in these "bogs". The contractor and men working on these roads are not to blame, as they have been acting under instructions received from a Board. I am, etc.,

WM. PENDLEBURY,
Blockhouse Bay.

There ensued a series of sniping letters between Pendlebury and D. Campbell in the press for much of the rest of the month. The debacle eventually fizzled out when everyone got tired of talking about muddy roads for a while.

Avondale Letters 2

The 1912 Avondale (specifically, Blockhouse Bay) Roads Debacle. 50 ratepayers signed a petition, presented to the Avondale Road Board in August 1912 by Mr. William Pendlebury (a draper by trade who lived in Blockhouse Bay and who would later, in 1927, support the last borough mayor Herbert Tiarks) "drawing attention to what was termed the disgraceful condition of every road in the district, and hinting at incompetency on the part of those responsible for the management of the affairs of the district ... THe Chairman of the Board replied at length to the criticism levelled at the Board, and said that the loan money authorised was not nearly sufficient to carry out the work satisfactorily. The state of the weather had been a considerable factor in preventing the completion of the work in the time specified in the contract. Until the weather modified he did not see how the work on the roads could be expedited. The chairman's remarks were interrupted by frequent interjections." (NZ Herald, 9 August 1912)

THE PLEASURES OF MOTORING

(To the Editor, Auckland Star,published 9 August 1912)

Sir, -- With grim satisfaction I read in last night's "Star" the report of the meeting of Avondale ratepayers. I not only endorse Messrs. Pendlebury and Gittos' opinion, but think they were far too polite, and if I had been at the meeting as a ratepayer, after the experience I had yesterday afternoon on one of these famous roads, I fear my language would have been even more sulphurious than that used by the two gentlemen mentioned. Just allow me space to relate the story, and I leave it to you to judge if I have not good reason to be on the side of Messrs. Gittos and Pendlebury.

Yesterday, being a fine day, I ventured to invite my wife, a friend of mine, and his wife, to a motor trip round the suburbs, and as I am a stranger in Auckland, I asked my friend to take the lead. We started at 2 o'clock, and we spun merrily along, and my friend suggested to go over Avondale to Onehunga, and from there to One-tree Hill for tea, and from there I do not remember where to, but it was a fine programme, and the beginning was exceedingly pleasant.

We went through Avondale, passed the brickworks, and then intended to strike off for the Manukau Harbour. The road was not too inviting, but did not look treacherous, and as there were no danger signals, we ventured along. All of a sudden our car stopped and would not budge.

The ton and a-half steel and wood had buried itself in mud of such a tenacious, sticky nature, that extrication -- notwithstanding the heroic efforts of the mechanism -- seemed hopeless. Every trial got us deeper into the mire. The chauffeur and myself went to the nearest house, which happened to be Mr. Gittos' house, to ask for assistance. Mr. Gittos gave us boards and sacks, a spade, a rope and other paraphernalia, which under such circumstances are useful. We denuded the surrounding country of its ti-tree and put the branches in front of the wheels, to give them -- as our chauffeur said -- a "grip", but the car did not budge. One of the wheels went round like the fly-wheel of an engine, throwing up a tone of Avondale mud, and embedding itself deeper and deeper.

Then comes a man with a cart full of sacks of shells. "What is the market price of shells?" "A shilling a sack." I bought the load. The car was jacked up first on one side, and shells put under the wheel, then the other side. The car was then raised a little more, and a sack of shells was placed under each wheel. A few hundred-weights of ti-tree branches, gathered meanwhile by the ladies and some of the rising generation of South Avondale, were spread in front of the wheels. A rope was fastened to the car, and about half the population of South Avondale pulled as if life depended on it. The engine snorted and heaved, and -- Oh, delight! moved -- a yard, and then sank helplessly into some more Avondale mud.

The experiment was repeated, and though the rope broke and most of the pullers made a still closer acquaintance with the mire, the car was at last pulled on to high land. We had strenuously worked for fully two and a half-hours. The sun was setting when we returned from our excursion.

The only pleasant moment we experienced during our trials was when Mrs. Gittos brought us a welcome cup of tea and bread and butter.

This was the end of an outing which, but for the callousness of the Avondale Road Board, could have been most delightful.

My advice to motorists is: Shun the Avondale district until the Road Board has "mended its ways." In the meantime I would suggest to the Road Board to put up danger signals on the bogs which are called roads. -- I am, etc.,

A VISITOR.

The debacle continues here.

Avondale Letters 1

In 1909, the Avondale Hotel lost its licence when a vote for the Eden electorate to go dry was passed by a majority. (Before 1870 by the way, our electorate was called Raglan, for reasons I've yet to fathom). On 30 June 1910, at 10 o'clock in the evening, the doors were closed by the publican on the drinkers of the district. Negotiations ensued between the building's owners and the Post Office, and after nearly 32 years Avondale's post and telegraph office shifted from the railway station to the former hotel. Apparently, according to this letter writer, without much hoop-la at all. At the time (1912) a number of new post offices were being built around New Zealand, and all were opened by politicians and leaders of the community. Sir Joseph Ward was at a number of them in the Auckland district. But not, apparently, at Avondale.

THE PROGRESS OF AVONDALE

(To the Editor, Auckland Star. Published 19 February 1912)

Sir, -- No fuss, no gathering of the leading lights of the neighbourhood to meet and greet a Minister of the Crown and rhapsodise on the benefits to accrue to our district from the opening of our new post office! Where and oh, where, were those choice spirits, or chosen spirits, who look after the welfare of Avondale? What a splendid opportunity lost of bringing the advancement and progress of the district before the people of the Dominion, and thereby attract population to its vacant allotments! Other districts manage things better, get hold of a Minister, or, at least, an M.P., and make capital out of such an important event: for, Mr. Editor, it is an important one, and although not announced with a flourish of trumpets, or, shall I say, a number of laboured speeches? proves that the district is advancing rapidly in importance.

Do you think, Mr. Editor, that the reason was that the memories of other days, and of the merry meetings of choice spirits held in the building, when it was known far and wide as the Avondale Hotel, had anything to do with the failure of the good people of Avondale to inaugurate the opening of the post office with a gathering of the residents? Would it, do you suppose, have had a too saddening effect on their sensitive spirits, the memories of those other spirits in the merry days of old? -- I am, etc,

A DISAPPOINTED ONE.

The Sad Death of Maggie Jane Cowen

On the 9th of February 1880, 8-year-old Maggie Cowen died by drowning in the Oakley Creek, somewhere close to the line of the current railway. These reports came from the NZ Herald of 12 February 1880.

CHILD DROWNED AT THE WHAU

One of the most lamentable accidents which has taken place in the Whau district for some time past, occurred on Monday evening last, at the Whau Tannery, (Messrs. B. Gittos and Sons), by which a fine little girl, newly eight years of age, named Maggie Jane Cowen, the daughter of Mr. Francis Cowen, a workman at the tannery, lost her life by drowning, in the dam which supplies the factory with water. The circumstances under which the distressing event took place are as follows:-

On the day in question Mrs Cowen, who resides in one of the cottages erected on the estate for the accommodation of the workmen, went to town on business, leaving the eldest girl, of 9 years of age, in charge of the house. A little before 5 o’clock in the evening the girl sent Maggie Jane (the deceased) down to the tannery, about 100 yards distant across the creek, with a “billy” to her father according to her usage, for a workman named David Carr, who supplied the family with milk by return of “billy” every morning. On giving the vessel to her father he told her to get off home as soon as possible, and she left the tanyard to return across the creek the way she had come.

It was close on 5 o’clock; and was the last time at which she was seen alive. The men at the tannery left work at 5.30, and Mr Cowen proceeded homewards. On reaching home he could see no sign of his daughter, but, as she sometimes went into the house of their neighbour, he concluded that she was there;. Meanwhile Mrs Cowen had arrived from town by Quick’s 5.30 ‘bus, and as the child was invariably accustomed to meet her at the ‘bus and welcome her home, she at once noticed her absence, but accounted for the matter in the same way as her husband. After a few minutes’ delay, inquiry was made at Mrs. Brett’s, but the child had not been there, and the anxious mother at once started off to Mr. Carr’s house, in the hope that, as he had on the Sunday asked the little girl to go down to his place, she might be there. On arrival, Mrs Cowen found, to her distress, that her daughter had not been there, and a presentiment at once took possession of her mind that the child had met an untimely fate.

Returning home, she acquainted her husband with the facts. Up to this time he had not entertained any uneasiness, as one of his children a short time before had, tired out with play, fallen asleep in the paddock, and been found after some trouble and search. Mr. Cowen was now thoroughly aroused and alarmed, and at once started for the tannery, where he had parted with deceased. Information was sent to Mr. James Gittos, and he and one of his men, Mr. Chiswell, who resided near at hand, turned out and assisted in the search. They examined the scrub on the banks of the creek, the tanpits, wool-vats, and every possible nook and corner which could be thought of. It was now getting dark, and as a last resort, it was determined to drag the dam. Poles and hooks were obtained from the works, and Mr. Gittos commenced operations on the north bank, and Mr. Arthur Brett, one of the men at the tannery, on the south, while the father of the deceased held lights to enable the search to be carried on.

About 9 o’clock Mr. Brett was successful in hooking the clothes of the unfortunate child, and the body was speedily brought to the bank, and identified. An examination of the ground showed pretty conclusively how she had met her untimely fate. On leaving the tannery she had crossed the roadway at the bottom end of the dam. It is a dray road, about fourteen feet wide, and perfectly safe, the bank to the dam being formed of puddled clay, at an angle of rest. The child had evidently left the roadway on her return home, and gone down the slope to look at the fish and eels which swarm there, and are clearly visible on the yellow clay bottom near the sluice – a practice which, it transpired at the inquest, other children had been accustomed against repeated warnings to indulge in. To the left of the sluice there is a knoll about fourteen inches above the water, and it is conjectured that in looking over at the fish she over-balanced herself, and fell in head-foremost at a spot where the water is three to four feet deep. One of the men was working in the dyeing shop (the open dor of which abutted on the creek), some 60 feet distant from where she fell in, but never heard a single cry; and her father and some other men who were working in an open shed only 70 feet distant, did not hear anything either.

From the position in which the body was found, it is presumed that she never rose to the surface, but got stuck in the mud, as had she given the slightest alarm, it would have been heard by the men working adjacent, who were within easy reach, and would have been in time to save her. It was remembered afterwards by the tannery workmen, in the light of the sad event, that at a quarter past five o’clock, the tannery watchdog, posted about 100 feet up that cliff on the south side of the creek, jumped upon his kennel, and straining on the collar, commenced to bark furiously. As it was his custom to do so whenever anyone not connected with the works passed by, the circumstances did not attract any special notice, but there is little reason now to doubt that the dog (a Newfoundland) saw the child fall in, and was endeavouring to get off the chain to rescue her. Mr. and Mrs. Cowen lost a child four months old about a fortnight ago by sickness, and a very general sympathy is felt by the residents of the Whau district for them in their fresh affliction and bereavement.

THE INQUEST

The inquest was held yesterday, at Mr. Palmer’s hotel, Whau, before Dr. Philson, Coroner, and a respectable jury, of which Mr. James Owen was chosen foreman, to inquire into the circumstances attendant upon the drowning of the deceased Maggie Jane Cowen. Mounted Constable Bullen conducted the proceedings for the police. The evidence of Messrs. Arthur Brett, Francis Cowen, and James Gittos was taken. The Coroner, in his address to the jury, said, as it had been deposed to in evidence that the dam and approaches were on private property, and perfectly safe for the workmen employed thereof, and that a standing order had been issued by the proprietors of the tannery, prohibiting children from entering upon the works, no blame could attach to the Messrs. Gittos. The jury then returned a verdict of “Accidentally drowned.”

NZ Herald, Thursday 12 February 1880, p. 5, col. 3

A curious incident came out at the inquest held at the Whau yesterday, which goes far to show that the old exploded idea, that no one may touch or remove a dead body before the arrival of the police, has not wholly died out. The messenger sent from the Whau on Monday night to acquaint the police with the intelligence of the drowning of the child at the Whau tannery dam returned with a message that the child was not to be removed or touched until the arrival of the police. It is probable that the man misunderstood the instructions given to him, as it is scarcely possible that any intelligent police officer could have issued such instructions. Anyway, the body of the child was kept on a piece of bagging on the margin of the creek until the return of the messenger from Auckland, but the common sense of the father revolted against the new injunction, and, in accordance with his instincts as a parent, he removed the body of his child to his home. The Coroner, Dr. Philson. Pointed out to the jury yesterday, that the idea that a dead body may not be touched or removed before the arrival of the police or jury was a complete fallacy, and had no foundation in law. The probability was that the false impression created arose purely out of a misunderstanding.

It will be remembered that some time ago a constable in a rural district, who was made acquainted with the fact that a woman had committed suicide, by hanging, in the settlement, would not cut her down or permit anyone else to do so, pending an inquest, and was promptly dismissed the service for his simplicity. At Wellington a worse case occurred a year or two back. A child had fallen into the sea, and was drowning. It did not appear to be dead, as some convulsive motion was apparent, and a man went into the water to bring the body out, when a yell arose from the crowd, warning him not to touch it till the arrival of the police. The man hesitated and retired. It seems scarcely credible that such slavish superstition could exist in the nineteenth century, in an Anglo-Saxon community. In the face of these things, it is not to be wondered at that some ill-informed persons should permit themselves to be deterred from acting as their judgement and common sense would alike dictate. It cannot be to widely known that any one is at perfect liberty to use means to restore those apparently dead, or t0o remove the body to the nearest suitable dwelling. It is scarcely fair to the police to slavishly leave every responsibility on their shoulders, instead of cultivating habits of self-reliance. Some one, referring to this trait in an English community, wittily remarks, “that if the average Englishman met the devil, the first thing he would do would be to write a letter to the Times about it, and the next to send for a policeman!”
NZ Herald, Thursday 12 February 1880, p. 4, col. 5

Long and winding Methuen Road

I've lived all my life on Methuen Road, so I still refer to the two parts as the "old" (the western straight part laid down in 1901-1903 as the Methuen Hamlet subdivision, Allotment 65), and the "new" (that which winds its way through Allotment 66, starting at the bottom of the hill beyond Bollard Avenue.) This differentiation comes from my mother, who listened to theories in the early 1960s that the extension was formed in such a way as an old cattle track. Mum, while she was pregnant with me, would exercise walking the length of the "new" Methuen Road in 1963, watching the new housing and subdivisions go up.

I'm not sure about the "cattle track" theory, only because it would be hard determining exactly where it would have led to in the days before New North Road had been fully formed, pre-1863. However, we do have this, anonymous, written memory:
"In the sixties [1860s] there was no road from Harbutts Corner (Mt. Albert) to Avondale. To get to Avondale from Mt. Albert one had to go pass the mountain and Stewarts thence across Oakley Creek and from there through the scrub to to New Windsor Road, or go to the Great North Road running past the Auckland Mental Hospital."
("Events in the Early History of Avondale", c.1925, author unknown, from Auckland City Library collection)

So, perhaps there may have been something to the theory.

Also, the meandering line of the road almost matches the line of the Oakley Creek -- but this could have simply come about from the subdivisions and the way the sections were surveyed.

Methuen Road, from Blockhouse Bay to Batkin Road, was formed from 1901 until c.1962, and done so in bits and pieces. The two oldest parts are the Methuen Hamlet portion (1901-1903) at the western end, and what was once called Nicholson Road just off Batkin Road from the 1950s at least. From around 1959, the subdivisions my mother recalled were taking place, and somehow, even though the snaking line of the road went through properties with different owners, it all matched up. Early town planning on the Council's part, possibly.

A tale of two Stewarts


I always tell myself "Never assume" when it comes to local historical research. Assumption is a mistake often made and has been made in the past by quite reputable researchers and historians. I class myself as still learning, though, and I learn best by experience, even in the heritage field. This has been one of those learning experiences.

From c.1880 to c.1887, just across the Oakley Creek from each other lived two families named Stewart.

John Stewart lived on Allotment 52 and part of 53, from his father-in-law Thomas Bray's landholdings. The part of Richardson Road immediately off New North Road was once called Stewart's Road in his honour, but the name was changed probably to match the rest of the road heading south. (The street names database on the Auckland City Libraries website has it that one possibility for the Richardson name is a "Brigadier General G.S. Richardson, Commandant of the New Zealand forces in the First World War.") This Stewart was born in Greenock, Scotland c.1833 and arrived in Auckland 1860 on the ship Avon. According to his obituary (NZ Herald, 24 June 1895):
"He was a practical farmer, and began work at Henderson, where he resided eight years. Coming into the town he carried on for some time a coal and firewood business in Victoria-street, near the Albert Park. For the past 20 years he has lived on his farm at Mount Albert, and only three days ago came to town, to be nearer medical assistance. Despite all that could be done, Mr. Stewart succumbed to an attack of inflammation of the lungs. He leaves a widow, three sons and three daughters, to mourn his departure. He was 62 years of age, and highly esteemed by all who knew him."
The Stewart farm was known as Green Lees or Greenlee. His widow Mary died in September 1914 at Greenlee, and both are buried at Waikumete Cemetery. Part of John Stewart's farm is now Murray Halberg Park, a bit of Alan Wood Reserve, and the site of Owairaka District School and Kindergarten.

On the other side of the water, a couple named James and Margaret Stewart purchased a fan-shaped wedge of land c.1884 from an auctioneer named Robert Charles Greenwood, 22 acres between New Windsor Road and the Oakley Creek. They were there until 1887 when their mortgage holders forced a sale.
"Taking the left side of the road above Mr. Gallagher’s farm, we came to the section lately purchased by Mr. Stewart, of the Thames Hotel, 25 acres in extent, taken up a couple of years ago, and laid down in grass ..."
(NZ Herald, 1882)
"Away to the south-east of the district, we noticed that settlement was progressing favourable. Mr. Stewart, of the Thames Hotel, has effected some extensive improvements on his block."
(NZ Herald, 1884)

I got confused between the two Stewarts, thinking they were one and the same -- until I noticed they had different wives, and different occupations. James Stewart was indeed, in the early 1880s, proprietor of the Thames Hotel in the city -- although the Southern Cross wasn't a great help in referring to him as "John" Stewart.

The New Windsor farm once owned by James Stewart the hotelier is now cut through by two roads: the start (western end) of the "new" Methuen Road from the late 1950s, and Bryden Place off New Windsor Road.

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.

Update on the Avondale Railway Station

Updated from here.

The goods platform bit the dust yesterday, and today the demolition continued. Despite a very strong wind, I managed to get some shots from the overhead bridge without losing camera, hat, bag, or me.

Two photos uploaded to Scribd.

Monday, October 27, 2008

George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery: Part 3 -- Other burials

Dr. Thomas Aickin and his family

First medical practitioner in the district, and second superintendent of the Auckland Asylum. More about Aickin here.

Capt. Robert David James

Captain James is discussed in detail in another post.

Thomas and Ann Fletcher Jackson

The Jacksons travelled all over New Zealand on ministry work for their Quaker faith in the late 19th century. From 1893 to 1899 they lived at “Meliora” in Avondale, a farm situated around present-day 103 Avondale Road (original house still standing, according to K. Brehmer.) In 1897 they helped found the Victoria Hall church opposite the cemetery. Thomas died in 1899, Ann Fletcher Jackson died in 1903.

Bollard family

John Bollard arrived in Avondale in 1861. From 1863 he was on the first committee for the Whau Public School (now Avondale Primary), was on the committee and later Trust for the Whau Public Hall from 1867, Chairman of the Whau Highway District Board (later Avondale Roads Board) from 1868 to 1896, when he stepped down to become MP for Eden until 1914. He was also a district coroner, land agent, farmer and roads engineer. He died in March 1915.

His son Richard Francis Bollard was a district valuer and rates collector for the Avondale Roads Board in the 1890s, and became an MP for Raglan, and later Minister of Internal Affairs, until his death in 1927. His remains are currently interred at Karori Cemetery.

Another son, Ben Bollard, was Avondale’s first postman (late 19th century) and then from 1906 until 1916 was part of the Bollard and Wood partnership with Edward Wood.

Henry Peck

From around 1870 until the early 20th century, Henry Peck’s Store next to the Avondale Hotel was the largest general store of its kind in West Auckland. Until his death in 1890, he served from time to time on the local Road Board.

Silva, Ringrose, Fremlin families

The cemetery is the resting place of many members of Avondale’s settler families. The Ringroses arrived in Auckland in 1859, the Silvas were a prominent family on the Rosebank peninsula in the 20th century, and Fremlin Place is named after the Fremlin family.

John and William John Tait

John Tait arrived in Avondale in 1864, working on John Bollard’s farm for 25 years, then running his own farm and market garden on a portion of the land. He died in 1916.

His son William John Tait served on the Avondale Roads Board, including as the last chairman in 1921-1922, and was the second mayor of Avondale Borough from 1923 to 1927. In 1937, he was one of the founders of the Avondale Businessmen’s Association, and was its first President. He was also a well-known land agent in the area. In 1932 the Unity Buildings was constructed on his property in central Avondale, and in 1940 he donated land to the Council for Avondale’s first public restroom. His widow transferred land in Blockhouse Bay Road to the Housing Corporation for the present-day Tait Village named (as is Tait Street) after her husband. He died in 1947.

Charles Theodore Pooley

From 1898 until the mid 20th century, “Charlie” Pooley was a roading contractor and transport provider for the district. He was engaged by the Roads Board to work on forming up what is now Bollard Avenue and Blockhouse Bay Road, amongst others. The stables he built on the burned out ruins of the Patterson Stables, just down Great North Road from the Avondale Hotel, was a landmark until 1924 when the stables burned down. In 1925 he gifted land along the Great North Road frontage of his property to the Avondale Borough Council (the Council bought additional adjoining land also) which was earmarked “with a view to making a civic square” (Roads Board minutes). Part of this land is the present-day site for Stage 1 of the Avondale Mainstreet Project.

Frances Gittos

Died 6 August 1924, aged 81.

Connected with the tannery company of the 19th century in Avondale and Blockhouse Bay, Benjamin Gittos and Sons. He came to Avondale around 1863, was on both the early committees for the Public School, and in November 1867, he proposed that “the members of the Committee procure as many books as possible for the formation of a library for the Hall.” Books were to be solicited to form a library for the Hall for the use of the public. (from Heart of the Whau)

He owned much of the land bounded by what is now Blockhouse Bay Road, New North Road, Bollard Avenue and New Windsor Road.

Charles Edgar Fearon

Died 31 October 1948, aged 68.

(from Heart of the Whau)
There were originally four brothers: Charles Edgar (always called Jack), Len, Cedric, and one other who was lost to the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

In 1920, Jack and Len started a butcher shop in Avondale, on the site which is now the Battersby carpark. The family had now moved to Station Road. Later, there was a fire which destroyed what had been the Thode Bros. store, then run by Mr MacKenzie. The Fearon brothers took over the land and remaining buildings, and built the Fearon Block by 1922.

In an advertisement from the News of 4 June 1921, the Fearon Bros. butchers said they were in Avondale and Ponsonby. “Patronise the Small Butcher -- No connection with the other Firm”, and asked: “Have you tried ‘Avon’ Sausages – made with specially prepared Sausage meal and clean fresh meat. ‘Avon’ Sausages are right”. They stocked “Primest Beef and Mutton, Dairy-fed Pork, Milk-fed Veal, Mild-cured Beef, Corned Pork and Ox Tongue. Our Quick-Lunch Pressed Beef is Delicious. Home-made Luncheon Sausage.”

“Avon Sausage” was apparently mixed in the Fearon’s own small factory they had built out the back the shop, using salt, pepper, mace and sage, although only a little of this was put in the mix.

Arthur John and Adelaide Annie Morrish

Arthur Morrish died 6 November 1949, aged 80, his wife Adelaide died 1 August 1941, aged 70.

(from Heart of the Whau)
Sometime in 1913-14, Arthur Morrish (1869-1949) printed the first issue of his weekly publication for Avondale, New Lynn, Waikumete, Henderson, and Swanson, called simply The News. Morrish, originally emigrating from the English county Devon in 1894 when he was 25, married and settled in Princess Street (Elm St), where he set up his business before shifting first to Great North Road (just down from the 1938 Post Office), and then to Rosebank Road. Copies of The News are rare, and photocopies sought after these days. No one knows when the newspaper ceased publication, but Arthur Morrish died in 1949, aged 80.

His wife Adelaide Annie Morrish (c.1871-1941) ran her own business in Rosebank Road alongside her husband’s printing works.

Dr. Daniel Pollen

Died 18 May 1899, aged 82.

Born 1813, Dublin, Ireland. Died 1896, New Zealand, aged 82
Premier from 6 July 1875 to 15 February 1876 Daniel Pollen was born in Dublin, Ireland on 2 June 1813. Many details of his early life are unknown but he studied medicine and graduated with an MD. He moved to New South Wales and then North Auckland in the late 1830s. He was a witness to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Pollen was appointed Coroner for Parnell in 1844 and on 18 May 1846 married Jane Henderson. He later became medical officer at the mining town of Kawau. In 1856 he was elected a member of the Provincial Council representing Auckland Suburbs and later Auckland East until 1865. In 1858 he was appointed commissioner of crown lands for Auckland. Then in 1861 he became a member of the Legislative Council on and off for the next few years.

In 1873 he was appointed by Vogel to both the Legislative Council and the Executive, becoming Colonial Secretary. After Vogel was delayed while overseas Pollen became Premier in July 1875 and relinquished the job back to Vogel on Vogel's return in February 1876. He remained Colonial Secretary until October 1877.
Pollen then spent the next 19 years as a member of the Legislative Council until he died on 18 May 1896.

Dr. Pollen was also another of Avondale’s early settlers, purchasing land in the initial sales of 1844 at the end of the Rosebank peninsula, and in the mid 1850s starting a brickworks on the Whau Creek, celebrated as the earliest of many brickworks later to start up all over West Auckland on the clay seams. Pollen Island Motu Manawa) is named after him, as is a street in Ponsonby.

Binsted family

John Binsted died 8 March 1900 aged 78, Henry Binsted died 3 September 1895 aged 44, James Binsted died 28 October 1920, plus seven other family members in Rosebank Cemetery.

(from Heart of the Whau)

In 1886 Henry and James Binsted opened a butchery on the corner of St Georges Rd and Great North Rd. Also built an abattoir on the present site of Rewa Park in New Lynn. Cattle for the yards were driven across the city from Remuera via Avondale to the yards.

According to Binsted family descendents, the parents of James Binsted, John and May, came to New Zealand in 1873, with six children. The started a butchery business in Drake St, Freeman’s Bay “before the reclamation in 1879, when Drake St ran along and parallel with the foreshore of the Waitemata Harbour.”

James Binsted is said to have been a small-built man, who wore a bowler hat most of the time (some have said he was balding). His shop would have a cashier, where you would pay for the meat, and a counter where the meat was served. Binsted’s delivered to a wide area, and were known to “dress-up” cuts of meat for those who couldn’t afford the more expensive cuts.

By October 1888, “Binsted’s corner” had become an Avondale landmark. In 1895, Henry Binsted, James’ brother and partner, died of typhoid fever, and their father John died on 8 March 1900. In 1902, James Binsted bought the Avondale shop from his family, and had a new shop in Mt Albert, corner of Mt Albert and New North Roads, by 1911.

In 1920, James Binsted died. The Avondale shop was sold to R&W Hellaby’s for £3090, and from then onwards, James’ son John Claude Binsted became manager of the Avondale R & W Hellaby’s shop.

Robert Dakin, John Rubbick Stych

Robert Dakin died 27 June 1894, aged 58.
John Rubbick Stych died 20 December 1898, aged 53.

Both of these men were licensees of the Avondale Hotel during the 19th century, Robert Dakin from March 1879 through possibly to the late 1880s, and John Stych from 1896 to his death in 1898.

Robert Dakin was originally licensee of the Suffolk Hotel in Ponsonby, and purchased the (then) Whau Hotel from its rebuilder and owner, James Palmer, in March 1879 for £2,400. “The new landlord at the Whau Hotel,” according to the New Zealand Herald of March 22, 1879, “has the reputation of being a suitable and obliging.” In 1879, he was one of the signatories to the application for incorporation of the Whau Public Library.

(from Heart of the Whau)
John R Stych, (1845-1898) committed suicide on 20 December, shooting himself in the head with a shot-gun in the cellar of the Avondale Hotel. He was apparently in financial difficulties, and after being approached that afternoon by a Mr. Boylan and Mr Abbott, he went to get a revolver and shot-gun, and ended his life. The suicide, and resulting inquest presided over by John Bollard as district coroner, was quite a sensation in Avondale at the time, so much so that it went into “Avondale lore” as the suicide of the last publican after losing the hotel licence in 1909. Only after I interviewed Mrs Vera Crawford, and she mentioned the name “Mr Stych”, was I able to put Mr Stych’s death together with the suicide story – a part of Avondale lore which turned out to have more than a grain of truth to it. His widow Emma took over the licence for 5 years.

“The deceased was very popular in the Avondale district and was not supposed a likely man to commit suicide. He had many friends in Auckland, where fore many years he was employed in Messrs Bycroft and Co.’s mills. As a horticulturalist Mr Stych used to carry off prizes year after year at the local flower shows and was an enthusiastic gardener. He leaves a wife and three sons.” [Auckland Star, 21/12/1898] See appendix.

John Stych was buried in the Rosebank Cemetery, his headstone giving no indication of the cause of his demise.

Exler family

Moses Exler, died 12 August 1900, plus 8 family members.

Moses Exler started the family pottery business in the late-1870s in New Windsor. Bricks made at that site were used, according to Challenge of the Whau, as part of Bunsted’s butchery, the horse bus stables and St Jude’s Church. Neville Exler, his descendent, was part of the Avondale History Group who worked to put together Challenge of the Whau in 1994.

William and Thomas Myers

William Myers died 2 October 1927, aged 75. His son Thomas died 16 August 1967, aged 79.

(from Heart of the Whau)
Thomas Myers (c.1881–1967), the blacksmith in Blake Street was the rival:
“Since we commenced business in Avondale we have built over one hundred carts and sulkies for the district.; We guarantee you better value than you can get elsewhere. Horse Shoeing, Ploughs made to order. All Kinds of Agricultural Implements Repaired.” [Advertisement in The News, 11/11/1916. Both examples from Challenge of the Whau, p. 73]

His father William Myers came to New Zealand c.1895, starting up the family blacksmith business in Avondale, while living in Avondale South (according to William’s grandson, Roger Myers, the family were the first ones on what was to become Myers Rd, later Margate St).

Thomas Myers went into the business with his father in 1908, and remained in business there until 1962-63. During that time, the original building was cut down, and part leased.

“I started work with my father, the blacksmith William Myers, in 1908. I had served my apprenticeship with Hughes and Donger in Eden Terrace.

“We did a lot of work then for Charlie Pooley, who was the contractor.
“There was always plenty of work at our smithy. I started work at 7.30 in the morning and we worked long hours especially in the summer.” [From Memories of early Avondale, by Tom Myers, Avondale Advance, 21/11/1960]

Myers’ was more than simply a farrier (Thomas wouldn’t do a lot of work for the Jockey Club, his son Roger told me, as he considered thoroughbreds as “too flighty, a young man’s job”) – he also did a lot of work for market gardeners, both in Avondale and as far afield as Oratia and Henderson. He’d do repairs to plows, disks, harrows. Farmers would bring up to the shed 3 or 4 spades at a time, to have handles repaired. Thomas Myers also made up wheelbarrows.

He also worked for Odlins timber at Karekare, a day’s work shoeing 8 to 10 horses.

Ernest Croft, Albert Edward Bailey

Ernest Croft, died 15 July 1968. Avondale Borough Councillor.

Albert Edward Bailey, died 15 November 1971. Auckland City Councillor.

(from Heart of the Whau)
The Croft family came to the district in 1920, Mr Ernest Croft, senior (1880-1968), taking a house in Waterview. Three years later the family moved to the corner of Riversdale and Rosebank road. Their house, according to Mr Croft’s son Ernie, was one which had belonged to the Bollards. Mr Croft was on the Avondale Borough Council from 1924 to 1927. He was also a builder by trade, and was employed by Charles Pooley to build his block of shops opposite the present-day Mobil service station after the destruction of the stables there in 1924.

Albert Bailey was an Auckland City Councillor from 1956 to 1959, and 1962 to 1965.

He bought the Avondale Hotel in 1940, and renamed it the Avoncourt. He sold it in 1967, when it was then demolished.

“Avon court is listed in the AA Hotel guide as “2027 Great North Road, Avondale, 30 Beds, B.B.” as Mr Bailey gave up the full board service in 1957. Up until it’s demolition in 1967, Avoncourt only hotel between Symonds Street and Henderson.” [Western Leader, 18/8/65]

Albert Bailey was also involved with the Avondale Businessmen’s Association as Secretary.

Sydney Margaret Hamilton

From this site:
“Before William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) had graduated from Trinity College Dublin, he was appointed in 1827 as Professor of Astronomy and Royal Astronomer of Ireland. He trained three of his many sisters to operate Dunsink Observatory for him, whilst he worked on his mathematics. His invention of quaternions in 1843 made him one of the most renowned mathematicians of the 19th century. His third sister Sydney Margaret Hamilton (1811-1889) administered the Observatory, did much of the observing and performed extensive computations to reduce the observational data to publishable form. Sydney lived in Nicaragua from 1863 to 1874.

“Her scientific friends tried twice to arrange a Civil List Pension for her from the British Government, but their appeals were rejected first by Disraeli and then by Gladstone. Accordingly, Sydney sailed from Dublin in 1875 to Auckland, to earn her living at the age of 64 as Matron of the Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Auckland. To her surprise, New Zealand's elder statesman Sir George Grey (1812-1896) was eager to meet her as sister of the great Hamilton. Grey had intense interest in science, he was a personal friend of many scientists, and at the age of 63 he was studying quaternions.

Grey's magnificent gifts to Auckland Public Library include many papers which Sydney presented to him, including manuscripts of William Rowan Hamilton and editions of two of his major books which are earlier than any listed in any of the biographies and bibliographies of Hamilton. Grey attended Sydney's funeral in 1889, when she was buried in Rosebank Road cemetery in Auckland, across the road from Avondale College.

Archdeacon Robert Perceval Graves, author of the 4-volume biography of William Rowan Hamilton, later arranged for a tombstone to be erected on Sydney's grave, with the (existing) inscription.”
At present, her grave is sadly neglected. The grave itself has been engulfed by a wild tree allowed to grow right in the grave area itself, and the headstone is being crowded out by the trunk of the tree. The remains of an old wooden pallet was leaning up against the tree next to her headstone when the cemetery was visited on 3 May 2002.

In the opinion of the author, the tree should be cut down and removed, and the grave resealed with a cement slab, so that Sydney Hamilton’s headstone can be seen clearly once more.

Update 6 February 2013: I've just received this link to a page on Miss Hamilton's life. Many thanks!

George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery: Part 2 -- Military Memorials

Wesley Neal Spragg

“In remembrance of Wesley Neal Spragg, Lieutenant Royal Flying Corps. The well beloved – last remaining son of Wesley and Ane Dearnly Spragg. Born 18th January 1894, killed, while on active service 1st January 1918. Buried in the Old Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt.” (from memorial, Rosebank Cemetery)
According to the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lieutenant Spragg was in the Special Reserve School of Aerial Gunnery with the Royal Flying Corps, and is now interred in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.

Stanley Howard Pilkington

“Second Lieutenant STANLEY HOWARD PILKINGTON 2nd Sqdn., Australian Flying Corps who died on Wednesday 24 October 1917.
Second Lieutenant PILKINGTON, Son of Edmund and Jane Pilkington. Native of Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.
Remembered with honour BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY”
(from Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.)
Stanley Pilkington is commemorated with his parents’ graves in Rosebank Cemetery.


George Child

“Sergeant GEORGE CHILD 425233, who died age 31 on Thursday 19 October 1944. Sergeant CHILD, Son of David Poulter Child and Annie Child; stepson of Mrs. S. Child, of Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.
Remembered with honour
HARROGATE (STONEFALL) CEMETERY.”
(from Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.)
Apparently, according to his memorial Sgt. Child was killed on active service in an aircraft accident in Yorkshire . According to the CWCG website: “Many airfields were established in Yorkshire during the Second World War, among them R.A.F. station at Harrogate, Linton-on-Ouse, Tockwith, Rufforth and Marston Moor. No. 6 (R.C.A.F.) Bomber Group, had their headquarters at Allerton Park near Knaresborough and all the stations controlled by this group were in the area north of Harrogate, the largest base having its headquarters at Linton-on-Ouse. Nearly all of the 987 Second World War burials in Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery are of airmen, two-thirds of them Canadian. Many of these men died in the military wing of Harrogate General Hospital.”

R V McVeigh

Buried in Rosebank Cemetary. Died 20 April 1934, aged 46.
The simple, very weathered headstone bears a fern leaf arched across the top of an Ionian cross-style circle within the cross, and seems to be regimental in type. However, to date, there is no further information on this person.

Ba Shaw

Died in Brussels, Belgium 8 February 1922, aged 40. “Late 10291 BEF Salonica”, according to his memorial, the son of Alice Emily Shaw who is buried with the memorial (died 1897). His father was William Shaw of Oakleigh Park, Avondale.

George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery (aka Rosebank / Orchard St Cemetery) : Part 1

This would appear to be Avondale’s oldest cemetery, the earliest burial in 1862. The cemetery was originally part of the farm of Dr Thomas Aickin from 1859, and it is a child of his, William Aickin, who is the first burial there (3 August 1862). Dr. Aickin, according to a memorial stone in the cemetery, “dedicated this land to the Church of England as a cemetery (in 1862)”. Dr Thomas Aickin was the first medical superintendent at the Auckland Lunatic Asylum in the 19th century, and was Avondale’s first available local physician. He is buried in the cemetery, along with members of his family and descendents.
 
The Avondale Anglican Cemetery Board recorded that on 12th July 1876 a Deed of Conveyance was registered, concerning “the piece of land containing one acre”, transferring ownership of the property From Dr. Thomas Aickin and a mortgagor William Earl to “Alan Kerr Taylor, John Bollard and Matthew Thomas Clayton upon trust for a cemetery and for religious charitable and educational purposes.”
The present address is 208-210 Rosebank Road, Avondale.

According to an undated history written by the Board, “Upon the deaths of the above persons, Harold Robertson Jecks, Frederick Harry Walker and Harold Anthony Valentine Bollard were appointed Trustees. On 30th May, 1958, Harold Bollard being the sole surviving Trustee appointed the General Trust Board of the Diocese of Auckland to be trustees of the said land.”

Responsibility was then handed over to the Parochial District of Avondale, the first meeting of the Avondale Anglican Cemetery Board was held 17th June 1959.

During the 1960s, sheep were kept on the cemetery grounds to maintain the lawn. One animal died and was buried in the cemetery. In 1991, the cemetery was named the George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery, after the caretaker of the cemetery.

Updated 3 October 2012 -- discovered a coipy of the deed sent to me from Anglican Docese, correcting the date of the deed itself.

For the comfort of members – New Zealand’s Bellamy’s

This was first written to go straight onto a message board around 4 years ago. Now, it's on my own blog. Funny how life goes.

The House, an extremely good history of New Zealand’s House of Representatives from 1854-2004 published last year, is a record of our centralised form of government which at first started out alongside provincial councils, then from 1875 came into its own. Dotted in amongst the stories of parliamentarians and buildings past and present, is that of Parliament’s catering service, known as Bellamy’s. This is a place that’s always been mentioned when satirical comment is made on the foibles of our leading citizens down in Wellington, especially in the early 1980s when there was speculation that Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon had stopped off at Bellamy’s for a few before he called the snap election of 1984 (which he subsequently lost). Possibly drunk in charge of a country.

The first Bellamy’s was part of the British parliament, an idea started by Deputy Housekeeper John Bellamy in 1773. It was in response, some say, to the proliferation of taverns in London Town at the time (I hardly think 1773 was any different than other periods in that city’s long history, but that’s the story.) The purpose of the original Bellamy’s, as has been that of its New Zealand counterpart, was to provide “for the comfort of members”, supplying them with food and drink while parliament was in session. The food part of that arrangement has hardly ever been a problem, except in terms of public expenditure in this essentially private club. The raised eyebrows, especially in 19th century New Zealand, have always been over the booze.

According to Jim Sullivan in his 1977 article for the NZ Listener called “A few drinks at Bellamy’s”, the original British Bellamy’s was destroyed by fire in 1834, and when facilities were rebuilt there the catering services were taken over by a Kitchen Committee; the name “Bellamy’s” was officially dropped. But the colonials on the other side of the world in Auckland (our second capital, before Wellington), decided the name was good enough for them. Or, perhaps, they were good enough for the name.

The first Bellamy’s in 1854 was a simple affair – a lean-to attached to the rear of the General Assembly buildings on Eden Crescent, staffed by a woman employed as a housekeeper who also rented out rooms to members in her cottage to the back of the lean-to. Inside this Bellamy’s, the catering facilities were basic – the table consisted of a board supported by two trestles, a clean tablecloth, with cups, saucers, and a few plates of butter. I wonder if the name “Bellamy’s” was actually attached to this rudimentary set-up as a bit of joke.

A joke or not, this first Bellamy’s was the subject of the first Act under representative government in the colony, the Liquor Amendment Act (which was also the only Act passed in the first session). The sale of liquor at Bellamy’s was not only legal from that point, but retrospectively so. The parliament was mocked by newspapers of the time for this, with Frederick Whittaker of the Legislative Council accusing them of having set up “a grog shop for members.” By the early 1860s, Bellamy’s was enlarged, a proper caterer appointed (who had a wine shop of his own on Fort Street, where members of parliament tasted his wares while negotiating the scales of charges for Bellamy’s).

When Parliament moved to Wellington in 1865, Bellamy’s moved south with it. Towards the end of the 1860s, the temperance movement in the country began to gain ground. One of the targets for the ire of those opposed to the demon drink, of course, was Parliament’s own club. According to Jim Sullivan:
In 1869, the Member for the Bay of Islands, Hugh Carleton, moved that Bellamy’s be closed. He felt that the public had gained the impression that Members were too solicitous about their own comforts and, what was worse, the availability of liquor helped many debates to drag on far too long. His proposal failed, but he bounced back next year with the motion that no alcohol be served between one and two in the afternoon and five and seven in the evening. His main reason for the restrictions, he claimed, was the painful memory of a “disgusting scene” a couple of years earlier when some Members “forgot themselves” during an all-night sitting. The next speaker promptly accused Carleton of no sooner putting the motion on the notice paper than he was off to Bellamy’s to take his brandy and water.
Talk that much of the colony’s legislation of this period was “considered in a miasma of whiskey fumes” was widespread.

From nzhistory.net’s page on Bellamys:
”Bellamy's stocked the best liquor in the country and MPs did it proud. In 60 sitting days the short session of 1871 got through 50 dozen bottles of champagne, a hogshead and 72 bottles of claret, 4 casks of sherry, a cask of port, 4 casks of wine and £100 of spirits, to say nothing of the selection of ales, wines, and liqueurs. Bellamy's kept a cellar, tested the proof of imported spirits, and broke down and bottled spirits for sale both over the bar and by the bottle or case to MPs. Its own brand of liquor was exclusively for the parliamentarians.”
One notorious incident involved Edward Jerningham Wakefield who was, sadly, a renowned alcoholic. Sir William Fox’s government in 1872 desperately needed his vote, so the government whip locked him in a committee room (perhaps to keep him away from the opposition). However, when the opposition whip heard of this confinement, he climbed up onto the roof, and lowered a bottle of whiskey with the cork conveniently loosened down the chimney. By the time the government whip returned to collect his sure vote, said vote was “paralytic” under the table. The government whip tried plying Wakefield with even more alcohol, but Wakefield voted to throw out the Fox government anyway. No wonder that (and perhaps also with a touch of irony) Sir William Fox devoted much of the rest of his life to the cause of prohibition.

Belts were tightened at Parliament with the onset of the Long Depression (1879-1895). Bellamy’s was one of the targets of those who decried the ‘division of the House into “nobs” and “snobs”,’ and from 1880 while the liquor supply was assured, the cook was fired, subsidies removed, and prices increased. However, the atmosphere of economy didn’t last all that long. On the menu for Sir William Larnach’s farewell in 1887:
”… roast turkey, braised duck and olives, saddles of mutton, fillets of beef with Madeira sauce … (and) quail on toast were followed by nougat a la crème, Rhine wine jelly and diplomatique pudding.” The bar at the time still supplied “the finest liquor in the Empire City.”
Despite the cost-cutting and self-funding, Bellamy’s was still in financial strife by the early 1890s. The temperance movement by now was now in full cry. The bar was closed at 11 pm from 1893, the year anti-prohibitionist and former hotelkeeper Richard Seddon came to office as premier. The ascendency of Dick Seddon probably saved Bellamy’s from shutting completely as a liquor provider for the House. Despite the commotion when new member John McLachlan took a step too far off a pier while heading for home from The House while drunk in 1894, despite also the likes of the Otago Daily Times chiding that New Zealand might acquire “the reputation of a community which returns a Parliament which cannot be trusted in the presence of strong drink”, it was agreed to keep the liquor supply going at Bellamy’s as stocks for that session had already been ordered from Britain.

Given that breathing space, Seddon amended the legislation allowing for a poll to take place at the start of each Parliamentary session to determine whether liquor should continue to be supplied; such vote only needed a bare majority for prohibition. While on the surface it appeared he was siding with the temperance movement, he actually assured continuance in the House because while perhaps only half the lower House may support continuance, virtually all of the Legislative Council would vote with their glasses charged in toast. The restrictive laws as to hours and provision for a poll each session was repealed in 1960.

Bellamy’s has thus remained as an institution of the New Zealand Parliament. And so it remains; a connection between the need to find a better place to wet the whistles of eighteenth century British politicians, and one of the Empire’s distant colonies. If it was meant to be just a joke in 1854 -- that has been long forgotten.

World War I camps at Avondale Racecourse

A wonderful magazine called Forts and Works published two articles I'd written about World War I military camps at Avondale Racecourse: here they are:

"Waiatarua" about the Pioneer Maori Battalion, 1914-1915, and "The Avondale Tunnellers" about the Army Corps of Engineers, 1915-1916.

Index to Once the Wilderness

J. T. Diamond's classic Once the Wilderness is a wonderful book -- but I decided to compile an index to make it easier to use as a reference for West Auckland History. Here's the result.

Land History of New Windsor School site

The following was put together in response to a request for information on the history of the present day school site.

The original Crown Grantee for the land on which New Windsor School stands was one John Shedden Adam who originally came to Auckland as one of the settlers to Cornwallis, only to find that promises about a developed township there proved false (see Dick Scott’s Fire on the Clay, and John Lifton’s Cornwallis.) By the late 1840s, Adam had settled in Sydney with his sisters, but retained a large amount of property here in New Windsor and Avondale right through to the mid-1860s, stretching from Maioro Street area down to the present-day site of St Ninians church, part of the racecourse, and down to the Whau Bridge at Great North Road.

On 3 May 1866, two carpenters named Robert Laing and Frederick Davies purchased two large lots, totalling just over 10½ acres, fronting what was later to become Garnet Road (Tiverton from the 1930s) and New Windsor Road for £53. In February 1882, the two men in turn sold the land to accountant William Beaumont for £53 16/- (not a lot of profit made from the transaction there!) Beaumont may have worked for licensed victualler Dennis Lynch who took over the site a month after Beaumont’s purchase, and then transferred all of his property (the New Windsor farm was only one of many pieces of land he owned dotted around Auckland) to his wife Catherine in June 1882.

At this time, the New Windsor farm would probably have been leased out to tenant farmers for income.

In 1883, Catherine transferred the whole portfolio back to her husband, who passed it back again in 1885. By 1901, Catherine Lynch had remarried to commercial traveller George Maxwell Clarke, and was heavily mortgaged to the likes of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society and a solicitor. The property was sold for £149 10/- to Mrs. Christina Craig. In 1911, Mrs. Craig sold the site to Mrs. Mary Eliza Hoffman, wife of piano tuner William Frederick Hoffman for £150.

Charles Brooks and Mary Caple Murray inherited the property in 1937 and sold it a year later to farmer Walter Aldridge Gower and his wife Flora Farquharson Gower. It was sold again in 1940 to Nina Maud Dailey, who sold it in turn to a builder named George Robert Englefield. Finally, from 1947, the site was owned by retired draper Jessie Yates Oamaru Whyte for £2710. She subdivided the site in 1952, creating 17 residential sites fronting Tiverton and New Windsor Roads, leaving 6½ acres to the rear. Most of the New Windsor sites, plus that rear area, was transferred to the Crown in 1954 for a whopping £5900.

Auckland City Council valuation records for the site go back to 1927, when Avondale district amalgamated with the city. In 1945, the valuers estimated an old wooden villa then on the site to be around 70 years old – which would put it into the period of the two carpenters, Laing and Davies. Not much else is known about what the farm was used for. Gower in 1938 had 5 cows on the site, along with 4 fowls. By 1945, two sheds along with the house were noted, and that there were trees by the house. It is most likely then that the former farm was primarily grazing for most of its existence.

Compiled: 12 September 2007

Sources: Deeds Index 17A.762, CT 545/156, DP 40625, all LINZ records; Valuation field sheets, ACC 213/109b, Auckland City Archives

Two streets in New Windsor

Two streets in New Windsor, Ted William Street and Trevola Street, are named after members of one family.

Born 1911 in Wanganui, Mrs Ola Williams trained as a nurse in the Red Cross, and was in Napier during the famous February 1931 earthquake there. She and her fellow nurses experienced a hundred aftershocks there within 48 hours of the ‘quake, where there was one tap for 25,000 people, and no electricity.

Mrs Williams met her future husband Ted in 1932 and they married in 1935. At a station in Taihape called Ohinewairua where Ted Williams worked as head ploughman, Mrs Williams cooked for up to 10 men: the shepherds, ploughmen and rabbit inspectors in the area.

The Williams bought land in New Windsor in 1948 and remained there for the next twenty years. Their property was subdivided in 1960. She recalls New Windsor Road was just a straight street, part of her journey via Bollard Avenue to New North Road to catch the tram. The only phone was at the phoned box on New Windsor Road. The late 1940s was still the days with no sewer connection, and the regular visits by the night soil collection. Mrs Williams told me it was the last of the Green Belt, with only four houses from Richardson to New Windsor Road. Mrs. Williams campaigned and went to Court to have the first chemist shop in Stoddard Road licensed. In those days, she told me, chemist shops needed to have 3000 residents in a surrounding area before being licensed.

On the couple’s 10 acre section they grew vegetables, had a poultry farm, and milked Rosie the cow in the paddock (Mrs. Williams recalled the cats always around for the hot milk.)

Mrs. Williams was the first woman on the New Windsor School committee, and the first to start school lunches there, ready each day by 5 minutes to 12. Before New Windsor School was built, the nearest one was in Richardson Road. Mrs Williams recalled big tractors cutting up the section, with a fine spray from a water hose to get rid of the bees swarming nearby.

Ted Williams died in 1988, three years after he and Ola Williams celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Ted William Street is named after him, while Trevola Street is from the combination of the names Ola Williams and her son Trevor.

When the Lights came on in Avondale (1953)

I found this in the Auckland Scrapbook at the Research Centre, Central Library. From the NZ Herald, 28 November 1953:

“The Mayor of Auckland, Mr. Luxford, last night switched on community lighting systems for the shopping areas at Avondale and Remuera. At Avondale, hundreds packed the corner of Rosebank Road and the Great North Road, where two trucks parked end to end made an impromptu platform for the official party.

“Mr. A. E. Bailey, president of the Avondale Businessmen;s Associatio, introducing the Mayor, spoke of Avondale as the ‘Cinderella’ of the suburbs. Mr. Luxford said that as long as Avondale had no direct representation on the City Council, residents could have direct access to him on any problem to be dealt with on a civic basis.

“Other speakers were Mrs Mary Wright and the Western Suburbs Birthday Carnival queen, Miss Barbara Walmsley. The City Pipe Band led marching girls in a procession and a free ice cream stall did a brisk business.”
The Avondale Businessmen’s Association met together on 11 November 1937, those present that day resolving (a) to incorporate, and (b) that the aim of the association was to be: “That the businessmen of Avondale form an incorporated association for the purpose of installing a community system of electric lighting of shops …” Incorporation came in 1939, but apparently it took much longer to get those “community lights” in 1953, 126 years after that first meeting of Avondale’s business people.

Albert Bailey, by the way, was the owner of the Avoncourt Hotel, and became Avondale’s first City Councillor in the 1960s since Edward Copsey had a brief term in the late 1920s after amalgamation with the City. The site of the of the festivities in 1953 would have been that of the present-day Ray White’s building, then just an empty paddock before the National Bank bought the section (the Businessmen’s Association had a Christmas Tree on that site each year until then.)

Those community lights were to be Avondale Mainstreet’s main illumination until the 1990s and the installation of security lighting in 1996 (which was also inaugurated with a festival and parade). But, it can now be said that Avondale was well and truly “switched on” long before then!

No. 1 Station Road



A photo from way before the 1950s, when the rail line from Mt Albert end into Avondale was realigned (the curve that can be seen in the photo was eliminated. and the track raised, so that present-day Tait Street to the right of the shot, and out of the photo, now ends at a point below the level of the line. This is No. 1 Station Road, today the last house at the end of Trent Street (still exists behind tall impenetrable trees, and is part of an Auckland City Council massive road reserve).

In response to a request, I did some research into the land history of the property in 2005 (uploaded to Scribd here), and a pair of comparison photos of the rail line alignment from c.1915 (the photo above and one from 2005) are published here.

They used to cross the rails here before 1913-1914, before the overhead bridge was built linking Station Road directly with Manukau Road. It was once notorious for accidents, both close-calls and injurious.

Legend Maker: Rev. Alexander MacKenzie

In 2005-2006, starting with a speech before the NZ Pioneers & Descendants, I spoke to about 8 different groups on the "Danish Princess" legend. Jessie MacKenzie's grave is arguably the most famous in West Auckland -- many have come across the stories of royalty making unofficial visits to Avondale's St Ninians cemetery. In 1986 the Danish consul, when approached by some folk and advised that the 99th anniversary of Jessie's death was coming up, was unfortunately not aware of the decades of letter from Denmark (and Wales, and Scotland ...) denying all knowledge of a princess in the grave. He came out with staff dressed in Danish national costume to a service at the gravesite. As I said during the speeches, when I found this out, if he'd only waited for the 100th anniversary, he'd have found out all about the legend ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An early Rosebank industry: the Best family's varnish works

Back in 2005, I compiled a history of the Best family varnish works for an article in the Avondale Historical Journal. The embedded document is updated to include an account of the fire and destruction of the works in 1907 -- it was rebuilt, but on a vastly smaller scale amid the ruins, to continue producing varnish from kauri gum into the first three decades of the 20th century.