Thursday, January 22, 2009

No. 153 Blockhouse Bay Road

The house is nearing completion with restoration and renovation work underway by the new owners. It's almost always intrigued me, and I have wondered about its history all my life. I have to say, however, that its story remains inconclusive.

I had wondered whether this was associated with the McLiver clan, going by the name E. E. McLiver which I had on subdivision plans including this site dating back to the early 1920s. It took a while, especially as the Land Information volumes holding the deeds index pages for this part of Avondale are missing, long presumed lost -- however, the staff at the Auckland office of Land Information NZ were tremendously helpful, did one last special search for a set of application papers covering details about the site, and they struck gold.

Going back to Michael Wood's sale of land he had in turn purchased from Thomas Russell during the first "Greytown" sale here in Avondale. He sold much of it to David Nathan (who effectively bailed him out of financial trouble at the time.) By 1869, Nathan had sold this part (as well as the St Judes Street lots) to James Palmer.

In 1874, the government survey for the Kaipara line came through. Palmer's steep farmland was now not only cut up by the new line of road we now have as upper St Judes Street, but a railway line ran through it too. Palmer organised a resurvey of his land, called it "Greytown" as well (I look on it as more "Greytown II"), and sold the odd triangular and steepest part of the property between St Judes Street and Blockhouse Bay Road to Joseph Craig in 1879.

Now, that name may sound familiar to some readers of this post. It should -- Joseph Craig was the father of Joseph James Craig, the quarry owner, ship owner, and (from the 1890s) owner of the Hunt Brickworks, later Glenburn. His father was a forwarding agent, wholesale and retail, as well as a coal and firewood merchant, in Fort Street in the city. He lived at Symonds Street, however, and had a lot of land scattered all over Auckland at the time of his death. If the house at 153 Blockhouse Bay Road existed before 1885, it may simply have been built by a tenant of his. Chances are high that it wasn't there.

His sons Joseph James and Thomas John inherited his estate. After a flurry of bank transactions, a Mr. Malcolm sold the property in 1898 to Edmund Fitzgerald Moriarty.

Mr. Moriarty is a man of mystery (then again, a lot of the personalities in Avondale's past are exactly that -- mysterious. Part of the charm.) This was not the first of his purchases of pieces of the Palmer estate. In 1884, he bought a set of adjoining sections at the northern corner of the railway line and Crayford Street East -- and it is likely that he is the Mr. Moriarty who lost his six-roomed home to fire in September 1886. That Mr. Moriarty was described in the papers at the time as a warder at the Asylum.

How long he stuck around in Avondale after that is unknown, but he certainly still kept those corner sections, house or not. In 1897, he pops up again, this time as the publican of the Pahi Hotel. Both he and his wife Mary Agatha Moriarty appear on the electoral roll for Marsden (Pahi's electorate at the time). In September that year, the hotel burned down. When he died in 1911, he was described still as a hotelkeeper "late of Frankton Junction". It isn't very likely that he and his family lived in Avondale.

He had three daughters: Mary Agatha, Kathleen and Eileen Elizabeth. The family had a connection with a long-term settler in Avondale, Thomas O'Sullivan (who owned the south side of Crayford Street East, and land stretching back to Layard Street.) When O'Sullivan died in Ponsonby in 1910 (probably at the then-home of the Moriarty clan on Shelly Beach Road), Edmund and his wife inherited O'Sullivan's estate.

Although the Moriartys probably didn't live in Avondale after that 1886 fire -- they did give land to the Roman Catholic diocese in order that the first Catholic church in the district could be built, at Church Street (now Chalmers Street). See Jack Dragicevich's history. Staunch Roman Catholics, Edmund is buried beside his wife in the RC section at Waikumete Cemetery, with Thomas O'Sullivan just across the gap in the rows from them. Their daughter Mary was taught at St Mary's Convent in Ponsonby; Eileen Elizabeth went to St Benedict's school.

When Edmund died, his wife Mary inherited Edmund's by then substantial Avondale landholdings. When Mary died, Kathleen inherited, only to die the following year. The last heir was Eileen Elizabeth McLiver, married to solicitor Finlay Donald McLiver (his father was Finlay McLiver, Captain John McLiver's brother, and the one who narrowly avoided prosecution on charges of kidnapping and blackbirding on the South Seas in the early 1870s.) In 1931, Finlay Donald McLiver committed suicide by poisoning himself. Like a few others in his family line from Lachlan McLiver back in the 1860s, he suffered from a weak heart, and two weeks before his death had come down with a bout of influenza. Apart from that, he had no financial worries, so witnesses at the inquest were mystified as to why he took his own life. He and his father are buried at Waikaraka Cemetery.

The picture above shows part of the Blockhouse Bay Road property owned by Eileen Elizabeth McLiver as at 1927. It is possible that after her survey and subdivision, she possibly rented out the sites, while still retaining ownership. She finally sold the Avondale properties she inherited in 1933.

As for the house at No. 153 -- its age remains unknown, as do its original associations. It may have even been a dwelling shifted here from elsewhere. Whatever its true story may turn out to be, it is certainly an intriguing part of our local heritage.


  1. Stop in and see us some time. We are the curret owners and have found out a few things about the house during renovation. rgds Steve 820 1993

  2. I'll do that, Steve, thanks! I'll give you a call soon. Cheers!

  3. Lisa guess what I know what happened to Mr Moriarty. It's amazing that two years after you wrote this post here is I rereading it and realising the very person I have been digging into is the one and the same person you've written about. Edmund (also spelt as Edmond in some references) was a hotel keeper by trade. He died in 1911 aged 55. I first came across him other than this post when I was researching the Pahi Hotel. Moriarty was the publican there until 1898 when he then took over the Kaihu Hotel (Central Hotel from around 1903 onwards) in Dargaville until around 1904. In 1905 he took over the Paeroa Hotel and had also registered a claim to to with a mine (I'm still looking into that) by 1908 it looks like he had sold the Paeroa Hotel to another person (a lady) and ended up at Frankton Junction which I still have to locate. I got that information off Archway to do with his probate file held in Auckland National Archives

  4. Hey, cool, Liz! That's the beauty of these blog posts -- things can hang around, waiting for the truth or more info to catch up. Cheers!

  5. It's really cool! Strange thing is where the mention of fires goes he was publican of the Pahi Hotel when it burned down in September 1897 and of the Kaihu Hotel (Central Hotel) when that burned down in February 1901. I'd say coincidence. Digging further he definitely registered a claim under the mines act in 1905 and had purchased the Paeroa hotel later selling it. Fascinating man indeed.