Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Crudge family of Mt Eden and Blockhouse Bay

Recently, Blockhouse Bay's Newstalk paper asked me to pull something together on the Crudge family who settled there early last century. The folllowing text is what I sent (all bar a small bit was published). Writing up local history is usually a three-stage thing, I find. Stage 1 is the research and gathering, followed by collating and seeing if all the pieces to the puzzle, or as many as can be found, are there. Next comes the writing, which tends to be a tad more screed than proper sentences and paragraphs. The stage after that, editing and proof reading, knocks it into shape. For wee pieces in newspapers, there's a further stage, and that is deciding which sentences are absolutely essential, which aren't, and how to limit the number of words used to a target figure. Newspaper pieces like this will almost always appear to be stilted and "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts," mainly because of that last restriction. Still, the editors published it (unfortunately, my name was left off the published version due to lack of space. That's how tight things can get.)

A mural at 1 Donovan Street, Blockhouse Bay features three people walking along Donovan Street from the area now occupied by the shopping centre some time in the early 20th century. Robert Henry Crudge (senior) and his wife Janet are shown, along with another man (the Blockhouse Bay Historical Society have identified him as Joseph Morey, but he has also been identified as Mr. Oxenham.)

Details on the life of R. H. Crudge remain sketchy. It appears that the Crudge family hailed from a town called Bampton, in the county of Devon, England. R. H. Crudge was born there c.1859, but by 1881 he was already living outside his home county, lodging at Lambeth, London, before boarding the Victory in 1884. He first arrived in New Zealand at Wellington on 25 May, and by 1887 he had reached Auckland, settling at Mt Eden. In 1887, he married Janet Whytock at Mt Eden Baptist Church. Janet had arrived in Auckland with her family on the Hermione in 1881. R. H. Crudge would come to serve on the Mt Eden Borough Council from 1906 (topping the first poll), while he was a saddler operating from Symonds Street.

The Crudge family had a holiday home at the top of Lewis Street in the early years of last century, and built the brick house at 102 Donovan Street a little later. R. H. Crudge himself lived at Mt Eden until after his wife's death in 1923. He died in 1937. His sons engaged in strawberry growing on their sizeable landholdings at the Bay after World War I.

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