Sunday, August 16, 2009

Charles Sanderson - an engineer and architect in early Auckland

Between 1947 until his death in 1949, F. W. Furkett prepared a monumental history of New Zealand engineering which was published after his death (in 1953) as Early New Zealand Engineers. Yesterday, I spied a copy in a secondhand bookshop, weakened, and bought same. I'm glad I did, because it really is a wee cracker of a reference gem.

Reading about some of the Auckland engineers cited, I found this entry for Charles Sanderson, another personality who keeps popping up here and there in references to Auckland of the 1850s-1860s.

"SANDERSON, Charles, was appointed first Provincial Engineer for Auckland, on 28th February, 1854, but had been acting prior to this as he was calling for tenders on 24th January, 1854. He appears in the burgesses roll of Auckland as a Civil Engineer in August, 1856, and was evidently also an Architect. There is no further record of him."
We are fortunate, at this point in the 21st century, that we can look back further, and in more detail sometimes, than those researchers who came before. Just sitting here and delving into Papers Past has come up with that further record Mr. Furkett missed out on 60 years ago.

These are my notes. "SC", of course, stands for "Southern Cross".

Charles Sanderson (1821 – 1871)

Arrived from London to Auckland 9 March 1852, with family: Charles, Fanney, Fanney, Mary Anne, and Susan (SC, 12 March 1852)

Letter to SC editor re his thoughts on steam communication (ships) – SC 9 November 1852

Letter suggesting a canal between Waitemata & Manukau, and a tramway from Auckland to Onehunga –
“A Tramway from Auckland to Onehunga, suited to a light class of locomotives, such as, those used on some of the branch lines at home, engine and carriage -all in one, and doing 30 miles per hour, would meet many of the requirements, and for so short a distance, a single line, with perhaps one siding, would be sufficient. Such a tramway might be constructed, exclusive of land and station, for £1,200 per mile, and would require to be about 8 miles in length. The goods traffic could be worked by horses, in which case the transit would take about an hour.” (SC 16 November 1852)

Letter regarding his thoughts (critical) on Queen St wharf (SC 7 January 1853)

Letter regarding the caloric engine. (SC 15 April 1853)

On committee for building of St Matthews Church (SC 26 July 1853)

Gave lecture on “The Electric Telegraph” at Mechanic’s Institute in August 1853 (SC 12 August 1853)

By October 1853, he was set up in business as a civil engineer and machinist.

Provincial Engineer by January 1854 (SC 13 January 1854)

Dismissed as provincial engineer by September 1855 (SC 18 September 1855) But, he may have been re-employed shortly afterwards. See further on.

By February 1856, he’d taken up as a house and estate agent in Wellesley Street (as well as engineer) (SC 22 February 1856)

June 1856 – possibly designed Rev. Purchas’ first school at Onehunga (SC 20 June 1856) and a new hall, plus alterations, for the Mechanic’s Institute (SC 24 June 1856)

October 1856 – alterations to St Matthews School House (SC 17 October 1856)

October 1857, moved to Hobson Street. (SC 16 October 1857)

December 1857 – St Matthews school house enlarged (SC 25 December 1857)

By June 1858, he advertised as an engineer and architect (after designing a number of dwellings in Queen Street, Remuera and Parnell). (SC 1 June 1858)

August 1858 – move to Queen Street. Advertised for carpenters and joiners for a scoria house at Parnell. (SC 20 August 1858)

October 1863 – Officially resigns as Provincial Engineer “after 6 years service”. (SC 10 October 1863) But the record in the newspapers isn't clear. The Provincial Council Superintendent apparently dismissed him, claiming Sanderson was incompetent. the Superintendent didn’t like how he carried out his work., or so the papers reckoned. (The Superintendent was Robert Graham who, as a Superintendent, had a questionable record himself. See Terminus Part 1). Updated, 12 September 2009: A descendant of Charles Sanderson has contacted me and put me straight on the dismissal incident.

June 1864 – Sanderson was a member of the provisional committee of the Albert Hall Company Ltd. (SC 18 June 1864)

Peter Grace was a contractor for the No. 1 section of the Auckland-Drury railway, Sanderson the engineer, from 1865.

February 1866 – sued for payment for his work on the railway bridge at Mechanics Bay.

Mr. Brookfield for plaintiff; Mr. MacCormick for defendant. Claim, £37 1s. 8d., for services rendered by plaintiff in connection with the railway works.
Defendant confessed judgment for £31 12s. 1d., and evidence was taken as to the remainder.
Mr. Sanderson, on being asked why he did not complete the work he had been engaged to superintend, deposed that Mr. Coolahan and Mr. Sheehan, members of the Railway Board, came up to him and complained of the way in which the works were being carried on, and said that they wanted a change. Mr. [Peter] Grace said the blame was with witness, who replied that Mr. Grace would not supply him with plant. Upon that witness left the employment of Mr. Grace. He now sued what was due to him on a specification he had drawn out as to timber to be supplied for the bridge at Mechanics' Bay. Defendant deposed that plaintiff was to have two per cent, on the money paid on the contract. There was never any agreement to prepare the specification charged for now; it was a part of Sanderson's regular duty. He had to dispense with Mr. Sanderson because he would not do the work, and for days was never near the line. The specification sued for was all wrong, and had had to be altered. Judgment was deferred.”
(SC, 9 February 1866)
November 1866 – Sanderson separates from his wife.
Claim, £3 14s. 1d., for goods supplied to defendant's wife, and the defence was that she was living separately upon a sufficient allowance. Mrs. Sanderson deposed that she was now getting £1 a week, which was not sufficient for her maintenance. Her husband was a civil engineer. When witness was married £2,000 were settled upon her. Mr. Sanderson had received £1,000 of that sum. In cross-examination witness admitted that she had £28 a year by her mother's will. Charles Sanderson, defendant, deposed that his income for some years had been £400 a year, or above it. This year it had not been above half that sum. He had the interest of some money got by his wife. He had refused to let his wife live with him, and had put her out of his house when she came in. He had got £400 of his wife's money. It was agreed that Mr. Sanderson should pay in future 30s. a week, and the debt sued for.”
(SC 2 November 1866)

November 1866 – he resigns as trustee of St Matthews Church.

1869 – he owns a stamper battery at Tapu Creek, near Hastings (called Sanderson’s Mill). (SC 11 February 1869)

Still in practice, at Canada Buildings, 1869.

Died September 8 1871 at Tairua.
“Mr. Charles Sanderson, C.E, has met; with an untimely death at the saw-mill at Tairua. Mr. Sanderson was in charge of the works there, and on Thursday last, about eight o'clock in the morning, he was engaged in examination of the machinery, when his clothing was caught in the machinery and he was drawn in. His arms and legs were instantly broken, and he was otherwise fearfully injured. The machinery was stopped at once, but the injuries he received were fatal. He lingered until twelve o'clock, when death put an end to his suffering. The body was interred on the following day. No medical man being in the district of course, no aid of that kind was available, even if it would have been serviceable.”
(SC, 4 October 1871)

A sad way for a colonial career to end. Probably all that's left of Sanderson's accomplishments are a few buildings from the period (perhaps), and the railway bridge over the Strand at Mechanic's Bay.

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