Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Auckland Museum coin theft of 1895

"The Auckland Museum and Institute on the corner of Princes Street and Eden Crescent, Auckland Central,"  
reference 4 -RIC99, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

“Public institutions,” according to the Auckland Star in 1895, “appear to be so seldom made the subject of robberies and burglaries, at any rate in this colony, that they are not uncommonly looked upon as enjoying an immunity in that respect as any of us.” This was written, however, at the head of a report on a heist at the Auckland Museum, then located in Princes Street.

On the night of 25-26 March 1895, Robert (aka George) Levett (aka Lovett) , aged “considerably over 50 years,” broke into the museum and stole a coin collection valued at £125. A crack in the window already there was the way in; Levitt later denied breaking the window to flip the catch, but as it was doubted that someone else conveniently left an arm-sized hole there, he was the one who was blamed.

The coins were displayed in two glass cases on the upper floor. Levett easily cracked the cases open, and scooped up the entire contents, including the cloth lining of one of the case. The Auckland Star report presumed that the cloth was to serve as a bag for the loot.
The collection was one of the most valuable in New Zealand. It contained a large number of very early English and Roman coins, such as are very rarely seen in most collections, and was a most valuable collection, as far as the Museum was concerned as well as from a coin-collector's point of view.

The following day, it all came unstuck for the thief.

Last night, George Levett was arrested on a charge of being concerned in the robbery at the Museum. He attempted to change one of the old coins— a half crown of the period of George II — in a hotel. The barmaid noticed the coin, and telephoned for the police. When the man was searched, eight coins were found on him answering to the description of the missing coins. The police have ascertained that some coins were disposed of on Tuesday morning to jewellers and others before the robbery was publicly known. The accused is well known to the police as an old offender … Chief Detective Grace has recovered some more coins of the Museum robbery at the pawnbrokers establishments. Levett states that he bought them from another man.

Wanganui Herald 29 March 1895

Levett was indicted before the Supreme Court on 3 June 1895. In the testimony, it was reported that he had lived a “long time” in Auckland, but had travelled to Sydney in 1891, where he served two sentences totalling three years. Robert Benjamin Levett appears to have been a marble mason working in Auckland in the early 1880s. In 1883, he prepared a marble mantelpiece of the Imperial Hotel. Then, in 1887, things seemed to have come adrift in his life. In February that year, he was before the Police Court charged with intent to defraud. That case was later dismissed, but then in May 1887 he was charged with assaulting his wife, Catherine. In November he was charged with stealing a shovel from T & S Morrin, but that charge was also dismissed. In January 1890 he broke into a jewellers’ and stole five silver watches, one case of carving knives, one gold necklet and locket, one double-barrelled gun, two saloon guns and six gold brooches, all up valued at £20 17s. For that, Levett was sentenced to nine month’s hard labour. After that – he crossed the Tasman.

He’d only just returned to Auckland in early March in 1895, three weeks before he robbed the museum. For the museum heist, he was sentenced to nine months hard labour.

In June 1896, Levett was at it again – this time sentenced to three months’ hard labour for stealing an overcoat valued at 30s. A theft (with an accomplice) of six pairs of boots followed in October that year, then another robbery involving trousers and serge coats in 1898.

In May 1898, a bit of a change of pace for the old lag.

MALINGERING.
A PRISONER PUNISHED.
A CURIOUS CASE.
At the Police Court this morning, an elderly prisoner named Robert Levett, at present “doing" two years in Mount Eden Gaol, was charged with pretending illness. He pleaded not guilty. Chief Gaoler Reston said that the prisoner had begun the day after he entered gaol last March. The doctor could see nothing the matter with the man. He had been under treatment at the infirmary. Dr. Philson, the gaol surgeon, said that Levett had complained of his head and back, and had declared that he was unable to work. Witness would not say that there was nothing the matter, but he could not find anything wrong with the man, after examining him. "There were no symptoms,” said the doctor.
"Nothing wrong," exclaimed the prisoner, "is it likely a man who has nothing wrong with him would go for thirty-three days on three pounds of bread?" The question remaining unanswered, he went one better: "For fourteen days," he declared, “I never broke my fast."
The surgeon's orderly stated that the prisoner used to change the expression of his face when he found he was being watched, and relax when he was unaware of the survey. In the same way he could scarcely speak when questioned, but if he thought none of the officials were about he talked easily enough.
"Any questions?" said the magistrate to the prisoner. The latter declined to cross-examine, and raised a laugh by declaring that "them two have dished it all up together."
A prisoner named Dawber mentioned that Levett had told him several times that he did not intend to work, and another witness deposed to a remark the accused had made while in gaol, that "a man must be a blanky fool to work here." Levett had told him that he intended "to sleep his time out." The accused never starved himself at all.
Levett elected to give evidence, and began in this fashion: "Gentlemen of the Court, I trust you will listen to what I am going to say."
"Address yourself to me," said the Magistrate.
“Sir," replied the old man in the dock, “I am addressing the gentlemen of the Court,” and he went on to tell how he had laid in his cell and "felt bad", been examined by the doctor, and fasted for 14 days, and other things more or less irrelevant.
The Magistrate said he was satisfied that the accused was guilty of malingering, and sentenced him to be kept in close confinement for a week, without irons. "And that's getting justice," sneered the old fellow, as he was removed.
Auckland Star 20 May 1898


Searching for McVay's Freemans Bay tannery

Someone came up to me earlier this month, just after a talk I gave at the Central Library, about the McVay family tannery at Freeman's Bay. I see on the blog statistics that someone recently has been doing a bit of a search into tanneries there in the old bay -- so here's what I know to date.

George and John McVay are recorded as carpenters in the 1842 Jury List for Auckland.
...The large importations of stock, during the last 2 years, have not only supplied tho settlers with beef and mutton at moderate prices, but also with hides and skins. The numerous forests abound likewise with barks, peculiarly adapted for tanning : — and now, Auckland possesses a tanyard in which is produced leather of quality that will vie with European manufacture. The bark used in the tanyard of Mr. McVay is that of the native tree Towai, which is to be found all over New Zealand. ... The whole processes of tanning and currying are completely carried through by Mr. McVay, so that leather of every description, for the boot and shoe-maker as well as for the harness-maker, can now be purchased in Auckland, and at much cheaper prices than they can be imported ...

Southern Cross 19 April 1845

John McVay's enterprise was known as the Auckland Tanyard. So he operated possibly the earliest tannery in Auckland.

It is too commonly the practice, especially in the Colonies, to puff the qualities of any new ingredient or production, used in the arts of manufacture, or connected with the interests of commerce, before the intrinsic excellence of the commodity itself is fairly tested. We cannot, however, fall into this error, in extolling the qualities of the Towhai bark ; its excellent properties have been proved in a manner that leaves no room for doubt by our industrious townsman, Mr. McVay. The specimens of sole leather which he has produced, are even superior to much of of that which is imported from the neighbouring Colonies; and could he but obtain a sufficient quantity of hides, the capital now expended in the importation of leather would be saved and devoted to other purposes affecting the interests of the Colony.
New Zealander 25 July 1846

But the question I was asked was -- where was the tannery? It wouldn't have been far from one of the streams draining into the bay, for it required running water.

(By the way, there was a small tannery in O'Connell Street, connected possibly with the nearby boot making business of William Sansom, from c.1846 but out of business by c.1848. When that began isn't certain, but the McVay tannery still seems to predate it. Just.)

I started looking through the land advertisements.

CONNELL & RIDINGS
Will Sell by Public Auction, on the premises, O'Connell-street, at 1/4 before 11 o'clock, on Wednesday next, 14th inst., MATERIALS of a Store and Dwelling House, adjoining the Tannery of Mr.
McVay, and at present in his occupation. The Building is about 46 feet in length, by about 21 feet wide, and consists of eight rooms, and a two roomed loft. The materials consist of weather-boarding, scantling, floor and ceiling joists, boarded partitions, glazed sashes, doors, &c, &c.
New Zealander 10 May 1851

Well, that's not much help. We'll move on.

John McVay died in 1852.

New Zealander 11 December 1852

George McVay advertised his tannery at Freemans Bay from December 1852.
ROBERT SCHULTZ & CO. are prepared to Sell by Private Sale the following valuable Town Properties at the 
Lot No. 1—22 feet frontage to Union-street, depth 91 feet, upset price £33. 
Lot No 2—22 ft. frontage to Union-st., depth 85 ft 2 in., upset price £32. 
Lot No. 3—22 ft. frontage to Union-st., depth 79 ft. 3 in., upset price £33. 
Lot No. 4— 33 ft. frontage to Union-st., depth 72 ft. 9 in., upset pace £35. 
Lot No. 5—335 — 33 ft. frontage to Union-st,, depth 63 ft. 6 in , upset price £33. 
Lot No. 6—35 ft. frontage to Napier-st., depth 63 ft. 6 in , upset price £25. 
Lot No 7—337 — 33 ft. frontage to Napier-St , depth 72 ft. 9 in , upset price £25. 
Lot No. 8—228 — 22 ft. frontage to Napier-st., depth 79 ft. 3 in , upset price £17. 
Lot No. 9—22 ft. frontage to Napier-st., depth 85 ft. 2 in., upset price £20.j 
Lot No. 10 — 22 ft. frontage to Napier-st , depth 91 ft., upset price £24. 
Lot No. 11 — 55 ft. 9 in frontage to Napier-st., depth 106 ft. 3x9, upset price £42. 

The above Lots are subdivisions of allotments No. 30 & 31 of Section 43, and immediately adjoin Mr. McVay's residence, in Freeman's Bay. Lots No 1, 2, 3, 9, 10 & 11 are all at present under clover. A good substantial fence runs through No. 8& 9. No. 3& 4 are also fenced on one side. 

Southern Cross 8 May 1855

Now, this looks interesting. What we have is the legal description "30 and 31 of Section 43" adjoining McVay's residence. So, I turn to the 1866 Vercoe and Harding map of Auckland (reference NZ Map 18, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries).


The land being sold in 1855 was between Union and Napier Streets, and right at the corner of those streets, so I suspect the tannery was close by. Much of it is under the Northern Motorway today, or is in grassed and vegetated reserve.

A George McVay turns up on Wellesley Street as a tanner in the 1856-57 jury list. John McVay isn't on that list at all. George McVay advertised that he was in Freemans Bay as well -- if he was on Wellesley Street, this was probably at the Victoria Park end of that long road. But when he died 24 August 1863, it was at his home on Union Street, aged just 42.

A house in Union Street occupied by a Mrs McVay was struck by lightning later that year.
It appears that during the storm a cottage in Union-street, Freeman's Bay, occupied by Mrs. McVay, was struck with the electric fluid, which split and splintered one of the verandah posts in front of the house, shattered the weather-boarding in the end of the cottage, broke through the roof by the side of the chimney, and burst a large stone ink bottle, the fragments of which broke several pieces of crockery. A lamp and other articles were thrown from the shelves ; the kitchen utensils, which were of tin, were thrown off the nails on which they were suspended ; and the clock was stopped at the same time (nine o'clock). Seven of the family were in the house, and the effect of the shock deprived Mrs. McVay of hearing for about a quarter of an hour, leaving a ringing sound in her ears. The remainder of the family experienced a similar sensation. The shock appears to have been felt by other persons residing near, but providentially no one was seriously injured. Mr. Hunt, living next door to Mrs. McVay, had his arm paralysed for some time. 
 Southern Cross 21 December 1863
Finally, this last note from the 1890s.

An old colonist, Mrs John McVay, widow of the founder of the first tannery in Auckland, died at Napier on Monday. She arrived with her family in Sydney in 1837, and four years after came to Auckland in the schooner Shamrock, commanded by Captain Daldy.
Auckland Star 1 November 1892

There passed peacefully from our midst at an early hour yesterday morning, at the age of sixty-nine years, a very old colonist in the person of Mrs McVay, after an illness resulting from an attack of bronchitis of over four months. In 1837 she, with her father, Mr George Deuchar, and a sister, arrived in Sydney, her mother having died on the passage from Home. Mr Deuchar intended settling in New South Wales, but after experiencing several dry seasons, followed by a disastrous flood on the Hunter river, decided to leave for Auckland, subsequently farming land at Epsom, near the city of Auckland. Capt. Daldy, who is still resident in Auckland, is we believe, the only survivor in the colony of all those twenty-nine passengers and crew who made that first trip to Auckland in the brig Shamrock, reaching port after a long and tempestuous passage on the 1st day of July, 1841, about fifteen months before the arrival in Auckland of the first emigrant ship, the Jane Gifford and Duchess of Argyle, whose jubilee has just been celebrated. 

Over a year afterwards Miss Deuchar was married to Mr John McVay, who was a fellow passenger from Sydney in the Shamrock. Mr McVay subsequently established a tannery in the middle of what is now the city of Auckland. About fifteen years ago Mrs McVay came to reside in Napier. She leaves a family of five sons, two of whom are Messrs George and John McVay of this town, and one daughter, Mrs D. Miller, residing is Christchurch.
Daily Telegraph 31 October 1892

It looks like Sandy, regular reader and commenter on this blog, has already spotted and photographed the Deuchar/McVay gravestone in Grafton Cemetery. John McVay, according to what Sandy found on the gravestone, died in 1852, aged 39. When George McVay died in 1863, that was virtually the end of the McVay's tannery business in Auckland. By that stage, Benjamin Gittos in Avondale, along with the Ireland Brothers at Mechanics Bay and later Panmure, would have dominated the market, until the Garrett Brothers in the mid 1870s.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Queens Hotel site, Eden Terrace

Of the Eden Terrace pubs of old, there's the Edinburgh Castle of 1864 (still existing today), the Eden Vine of 1866 (first building gone, second building now retail) -- and third the Queens Hotel of 1867. Of the three, this is one whose traces are completely wiped out.

The original wooden Queens Hotel, at the northern corner of Symonds Street and Khyber Pass, was completed in May 1867 for Peter Robertson (Southern Cross 29 May 1867). He let it to one W H Ripley from around June that year, then took back the licence in March 1868.

Southern Cross 15 June 1867
A meeting of the residents in the Kyber Pass and Newmarket districts was held last evening at Robertson's Hotel, to consider whether the Newmarket portion of the district should be constituted a separate district. There were about thirty persons present ...
SC 23 September 1868

By around 1869, Joseph Rose appears to have both purchased the hotel, and was the publican.A bit more study into the land history would be needed to confirm this, but the Auckland City Council valuation records from as late as 1912 refer to the hotel as being owned by the Rose estate (ACC 213/171d, Auckland Council Archives). J Hanson was publican there for a time from 1877, then George J Panter, who transferred to the wonderfully named George Frederick Brimblecombe in September 1881.

Brimblecombe had arrived in Wellington just five months before, immediately meeting with a newsworthy mishap.

James West, seaman, was charged with stealing an umbrella, value 30s, the property of George Frederick Brimblecombe. Mr Brimblecombe, who arrived in Wellington by the s.s. Rotorua this morning, said he went into the Pier Hotel for refreshment shortly after his arrival, and left his umbrella on the counter in order to visit the back of the premises. On his return, two minutes afterwards, he found his umbrella had been stolen. Constable Laurie deposed that he succeeded in tracing the properly to the prisoner, who said he had taken it for a lark. The prisoner was evidently under the influence of drink, and his Worship considered him too "boozey" to know what he was about, and discharged him.
Evening Post 29 April 1881


Observer 22 September 1883

He seems to have quit the hotel a year after a disastrous fire along Khyber Pass and Symonds Street in September 1882 which missed destroying the hotel but still left a considerable amount in damage costs.

Next was Michael O'Connor, who in 1884 transferred his licence for the Queens Hotel  to James Hawkins. Hawkins seemed to have real trouble from those who reckoned he was trading on a Sunday -- and also due to his outdoor urinal.


Mr Cotter applied on behalf of Mr James Hawkins for a transfer of the license of the Queen's Hotel from Michael O'Connor.—Superintendent Thorn offered no objection to the applicant, who, he believed, had done his best. He might mention, however, that the granting of the extension of time until 11 o'clock had been somewhat inconvenient to the police, as it necessitated the placing of an extra constable there on Saturday evenings.—Mr Laver considered that an extra constable in the locality would be of greater service on Sunday nights, although Mr Hawkins had nothing to do with the drunkenness which prevailed on the Sunday. —Mr Aickin complained of the urinal by the side of the footpath, but which the applicant would remedy.—Mr Cotter suggested the propriety of extending licenses generally to 11 o'clock, which would remedy effects of which complaints had been made to Mr Thomson, —The Chairman did not agree with Mr Cotter's suggestion. The extension should only be granted where it was required.—The application was granted.
Auckland Star 8 September 1884

Queen's Hotel. Mr T. Cotter, on behalf of James Hawkins, applied for a renewal of the license of this hotel. The Chairman said that something had been said about additional stable accommodation required. Mr E. Cooper appeared on behalf of Mr W. H. Connell, the trustee of the premises, and said that the stable was not required. The Bench decided to grant the application and leave the other matters to be arranged. Mr D. Robertson testified to the excellent manner in which the hotel had been kept by the present licensee. He considered that the urinal required attention, and he thought for the sake of the hotel the stable accommodation ought to be improved. Mr Hawkins said that he had removed the urinal three times in five years. It was decided to leave these matters to be remedied by the licensee. Mr Cotter asked permission to extinguish the light in front of this hotel at 10 o'clock at night, which was granted. It was also decided that the urinal should be built of brick.
AS 8 June 1889

"Children standing on the pavement outside the Queens Hotel at the corner of Symonds Street (foreground) and Khyber Pass (right)", c1890s, reference 4-RIC347, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Hawkins transferred to George Symons Budge in 1895, and Budge in turn transferred yp Charles Reinhardt in 1898. In 1903, Victor Cornaga was the licensee. By 1912, it was George Henry H Foster, followed by Stuart Garland c.1925.

A forewarning of the ultimate fate of the hotels here on this site came in 1924, when the Council arranged for the dedication of part of the hotel's site as a road. But still, the site's owners at that stage forged ahead, and in 1929 built a brick hotel in place of the old wooden one for £24,000. Stuart Garland remained as publican when the hotel reopened as the Astor from 1930, but first Dominion Breweries in 1931, then NZ Breweries and Hancock & Co took over around 1939/1940.

I haven't really been able to find a shot of the Astor Hotel which I can use here. If any readers have one I could use, I'd appreciate it. But the end for the Astor, successor to the Queens Hotel, came in 1996. It was demolished for a Council planned revamp of the Upper Symonds Street area and to improve traffic flows.

Today, the site is that of the Citta Apartments of 2005, by McLeod Group. "Citta, on the corner of Khyber Pass and Symonds St, has 105 apartments and 90 car parks, as well as commercial premises on the ground floor." Most famous person connected with the building? Current leader of the Act party, Don Brash.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Vandalised sculptures at Mangere Bridge


Mangere Bridge township is a pleasant single-level shopping strip, once accessed directly by through-traffic from off the second (old) Mangere Bridge from Onehunga, but in the past few years, with traffic diverted via State Highway 20 and the two newer bridges, it is now a place to get slightly off the beaten track, stop, and relax for a bit over a coffee.


Seeing a bit of street art there on Saturday, and this being Timespanner, I decided to take a closer look.

Above is a piece by artist Gordon Toi Hadfield, installed February 2009. According to the interpretive plaque below it:

"The waka form of the carving symbolises the carrier in which people are transported and moved. This symbol embraces all the different people who settle in this place, Mangere Bridge.

"The tapatoru, the triangles, present a tanika / weaving design on the back of the carving representing the mountain of Te Pane O Mataho.

"The puhoro, surface design on the belly of the waka represent "nga hau o wha -- the four trade winds and the different cultures of Mangere Bridge.

"The pakati design, also on the belly, signifies the planting of crops, gardens and plantations that remain in this area to date.

"The carving on the top of the waka symbolises 'nga tangata whenua', the original occupants of this area, Whakatauki."





A pity, then, that this sculpture has been through the wars -- and not those of time. Some locals apparently don't like the top part of the carving -- and as can be seen in my photos, it's already seen more than a reasonable amount of necessary repair. It seems that some artwork in Mangere Bridge is not treated kindly at all.


Across the road, a serene patch of green, with gardens, trees, seats -- and another sculpture.


According to Val Payne in her book Celebrating Mangere Bridge (2005), local-born Bill Kirk worked at NAC (National Airways Corporation) when he met his wife Naomi, an air hostess with TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited, later Air New Zealand). They both became involved in local politics, and campaigned to have Mangere Bridge town centre returned to being a safe and pleasant place. Trees were planted on the roadside, ornamental lamps installed, and the area generally beautified. This park was named in their honour.


In 2008, local artist George Nuku prepared this sculpture, symbolising the birdlife of the Manukau Harbour. However -- the image above is the end result of vandalism over the past three years.

Vandals who hacked a new public sculpture have got right up the noses of Mangere Bridge residents and businesses. The stone piece in Naomi and Bill Kirk Park has been attacked with what appears to be a hacksaw. Sculpted by local artist George Nuku to represent the birdlife of Manukau Harbour, the piece has a New Zealand falcon at its top. But the bird likenesses below it are no longer identifiable now their beaks and heads have been sawn off. 

Mangere Bridge village manager Carol-Anne Armitage is "absolutely hopping mad" about the vandalism.
"It’s such disrespect for a local Maori artist’s work. It’s a real concern."


...Ms Armitage says the damage must have been done early in the week of November 19."Someone brought it up at the residents and ratepayers meeting last Wednesday and everybody’s furious. By far the majority of people really like it." She had heard criticisms from one or two people about the form of the sculpture but there had been no warning of vandalism. 

Kids enjoy the stone feel of the sculpture, particularly the beaks that have been cut off, Ms Armitage says.
The sculpture is carved from Oamaru stone and is of sentimental rather than material value. It is the first of three to be installed in the village surroundings.
 Manukau Courier, 2009


Now, only the falcon is identifiable, watching Ihumatao (correctly, Te Pane a Mataaho), Mangere Mountain, its companions now stone stumps around it. [Update 7 September 2011 -- I need to get this right. Mangere Mountain is the one in the photo. Ihumatao is, as Claire  corrected in the comments, further off. Something I've learned.]


Back in May 2008, George Toi Hadfield had some reservations about installing his work here at Mangere Bridge. In the end, as we see now, he was right. This from Waatea News Update blog, May 2008:

A leading Maori sculptor is wary of installing his work in Mangere Bridge after the destruction of a colleague's works.

Gordon Toi Hadfield and George Nuku were commissioned by the Mangere Bridge Business Association and Manukau City Council to produce works for their south Auckland suburb.

Mr Hadfield says Mr Nuku's two works have already been smashed.

He says it appears there are people who don't want the pieces with strong Maori themes on display.

“It really is just a small ngangara that’s chewing away at the core there so I think once these people can grow some nuts so we can talk to them and try and discuss some sort of outcome the better but as far as I know they’re quite happy to stay inside and voice their opinions in the darkness rather than come out in the light,” Mr Hadfield says.

His work is still sitting in his driveway ready for installation, and is attracting favourable interest from many non-Maori residents.
 Sadly, just a few vandals are spoiling things for the rest of those living at Mangere Bridge.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Painted sheep at Mangere


I was at Mangere Bridge today, attending an NZ Federation of Historical Societies meeting.  Afterwards, Val Payne from the Mangere Historical Society, our hosts, took us on a bit of a tour of site around the area. One of the places was the Villa Maria Estate.

There -- a group of painted sheep (very large sheep, so large they seemed more like cows, but Liz at Mad Bush Farm has rightly corrected me. The previous post was deleted), decorated with various aspects of Kiwiana, landscapes, native flora and fauna and other designs caught my eye. Given the opportunity to photograph them, I took it.


If you anywhere near Mangere and the Villa Maria Estate -- visit the sheep. These are just awesome. They're on display at the Memorial Gardens from 1 September to 5 October according to this.












A replica cannon in honour of the "Orpheus"


While being shown some of Mangere's sights, this was pointed out -- a half-scale replica cannon based  on the guns taken from the HMS Orpheus. It was unveiled 6 February 2007. The following comes from an article provided by the Mangere Historical Society, for New Zealands Legacy, Vol 19 No. 2 2007, p. 23.


6 February 2007 “… was the day a half-sized replica cannon was fired, one based on that which went down with the foundering of the steam corvette HMS Orpheus on the Manukau Bar, 7 February 1863. The replica had been commissioned by a couple living on Kiwi Esplanade, the road around the southern foreshore of Mangere Bridge.

“Local groups from the Bridge and around the Manukau were invited to take part in a parade to mark the occasion. The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, Mayor of Manukau, Sir Barry Curtis, Councillors, Community Board members, other dignitaries and representatives of various local groups were all there as invited guests and were entertained by the Sweet Adelines choir, and the City of Manukau Bands before the Orpheus Sea Scouts raised and unfurled the White Ensign. This was the flag that had been flown by the Orpheus on its journey to New Zealand. The bugler played God Save the Queen and then the public joined the National Anthem.



“Sir Barry Curtis welcomed the Prime Minister and all those gathered there. He spoke of the hazards undertaken by the early settlers and soldiers who travelled out to New Zealand in those days; of treacherous seas and very little in the way of aids to assist the navigators negotiating the dangers of the ever-changing sands of the Harbour Bar.

“The Prime Minister replied and they both uncovered the impressive cannon, mounted on a concrete platform beside the flagpole. The Prime Minister lit the wick and the cannon boomed out over the full tide of the Harbour. It seemed to echo on the water and several people who were taking photos with their digital cameras found they only had sky in their picture, as they had jumped so much as the pyrotechnics took effect.”


Graham Bourquin, the maker of the cannon, is known for his miniatures. But -- how on earth was this replica (non metal) able to fire? Amazing stuff.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

St Pauls' memorial tram shelter

The tram shelter in 1922. Reference 1-W1825, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

This was demolished during my lifetime, but I was too young to remember it, probably. At the point where Wellesley Street intersects with Symonds Street, beside St Pauls Church, there used to be a tram shelter, built by the parish as a war memorial in 1919, completed and opened in 1920.

A handsome stone tramway shelter, erected by the St Paul's Church authorities at Auckland as a war memorial, is rapidly nearing completion.
Poverty Bay Herald 11 March 1920

The Hon. J. G. Coates, Postmaster General, left to-day for Auckland, where he will open to-morrow a war memorial tram shelter erected by the parish of St. Paul's. He will return immediately to Wellington.
Evening Post 27 March 1920

According to the Historic Places Trust, the shelter was demolished in 1971. A real pity.

Auckland Heritage Festival 2011


For the first time, the Heritage Festival started by Auckland City (and the North Shore's own festival which used to run just a little after Auckland's) has now expanded with the Super City to encompass the whole of the region. Over 200 events are advertised. I'm taking part in five of them (and a sixth just outside the period).


The total list of events can be found here. Or, if you're real quick,you can pick up a booklet from your local library (Auckland region).

The events I'm involved with:

Puketapapa Heritage Exhibition and Talk
Date: 17 September
Time: 1.30-2pm
Venue: The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, 72 Hillsborough Rd, Auckland.
Cost: FREE
Booking required: No
Phone: 09 620 9257 or 0275 471 926

A photographic display of local heritage images will be set up from Monday 12 September in the photography gallery of the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, and an informative talk will be given by local history expert Lisa Truttman on our interesting local history.
(Here, I'm going to try to help give the Mt Roskill crew a hand in getting their new historical society going.)


Anglican Parish of St Judes – Another night with Avondale’s pioneers

Date: 17 September
Time: 7.30-9pm
Venue: George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery, cnr Rosebank Road and Orchard Street, Avondale
Cost: FREE
Booking required: No
Phone: 09 626 5381
A guided tour through Avondale's oldest cemetery, the George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery, with dramatic presentations from some of Avondale's pioneers. 
(I'll be Ann Fletcher Jackson).

Avondale Library: How to be a property detective - talk by Lisa Truttman
Date: 21 September
Time: 10.30am
Venue: Avondale Library, local history section, 93 Rosebank Road, Avondale
Cost: FREE
Booking required: No
Phone: 09 374 1310
How to find heritage information on your property. Lisa is an Avondale and Waterview local historian.
(I gave the same talk at Auckland Central Library on August 10. Apparently, according to the librarians, 38 turned up for that one. I think it went well.)

Avondale Library: Heritage walk conducted by Lisa Truttman
Date: 29 September
Time: 10.30am
Venue: Avondale Library, local history section, 93 Rosebank Road, Avondale
Cost: FREE
Booking required: No
Phone: 09 374 1310
Visit the heritage sites of Avondale.

Pt Chevalier Library: Local history talk
Date: 28 September
Time: 10.30am
Venue: Pt Chevalier Library, Cnr Great North and Pt Chevalier Roads
Cost: FREE
Booking required: No
Phone: 09 374 1322
Rifles and Targets: The Origins of Pt Chevalier.By Lisa Truttman. Editor of Pt Chevalier Times


and ... just outside the AHF period, another Avondale heritage walk on 5 October, same details as above.


So, if anyone wonders why the blog may be a little quieter than usual over the next month or so --- there's my excuse. Not dead -- just a wee touch frantic.

Flight Trainer for Albatross


Flight Trainer for Albatross is one of the best names I've come across for a public artwork. This 2004 sculpture by Greer Twiss  was donated by the Auckland City Sculpture Trust, and unveiled 9 August 2004 on Quay Street, by the harbour. From here:
The sculpture comprises three large albatross being supported in a flight frame and one at ground level. It is constructed of stainless steel and stands six metres high and three metres wide. Auckland-born artist Greer Twiss has designed the artwork to explore the relationship between land, sea and air and between man and nature. It is also a metaphor for the support needed for endangered birds like the albatross. The stainless steel structure will be robust enough for the waterfront environment and has links with the boats and activity in the area.






There are more images here, and more on the Waterfront Sculpture Trail here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The shifting story of Auckland's memorial beacon


While heading toward the Wynyard Quarter earlier this month, I stopped to take some photos of the waterfront between Albert Street and Te Wero. The Red Fence walk (.pdf file at link) is an interesting heritage walk in the area, for a bit of a taste of the history of Auckland's Waitemata dockland.


I also photographed the Auckland Harbour Board's war memorial beacon. I knew already that this wasn't the original site. But I had a feeling there was more to the story behind the monument.

The story goes back to the 1870s. The Auckland Harbour Board, intent on progressively adding to the facilities of the docklands under their administration, settled on the idea of establishing a graving, or dry, dock for repairs to boats and ships visiting or based on the harbour.
Captain Casey has given notice at a meeting of the Harbour Board held yesterday that at next sitting of the Board he will move that the Clerk of Works be instructed to draw up a plan of a graving dock to be cut out of the solid rock near Smales' Point.
Auckland Star 9 July 1872

Smale's Point wasn't to be the site eventually chosen, however. The plan headed west, to what was then called College Point, on the other side of lower Albert Street, beside an area already reclaimed from the sea by the Board. They approached Edward Orpen Moriarty in 1873, then Engineer of Harbours and Rivers in New South Wales, to put together plans for the proposed dry dock.
The plans and estimates of the proposed graving dock, were laid upon the table, and the report of the Engineer was read. This stated that the cost of constructing the dock would be £78,000 ...
AS 23 September 1873

All well and good -- but the lowest tender received far out-stripped the Harbour Board's available budget. The Moriarty plan was set aside, and a local, William Errington, fresh from success with the design of the pumphouse at Western Springs, was brought in instead.

THE GRAVING DOCK : MORIARTY THROWN OVERBOARD.
We have received from the Works Committee of the Harbour Board the following resolutions adopted at a meeting held yesterday afternoon, which will come before the Board at the next meeting to be held on Tuesday next : — 1. That your committee recommend to the Board the necessity of providing for this port a graving dock of the following dimensions, not less that 300ft. long, or 12ft. on the sill at ordinary tides, and that a wing be added if deemed expedient. 2. In order that no time may be lost in completing this dock, it is desirable that it should be carried out as a special work. 3. That Mr. W. Errington, City Waterworks Engineer, be requested to furnish without delay, the necessary plans and particulars, to be submitted in draft form for the Works Committee's consideration. 4. That a sub-committee be appointed to see the foregoing resolutions ...
SC 8 December 1875


THE GRAVING DOCK. 
The report of Mr. Errington, in reference to the proposed dock at College Point, was read to the meeting. The report concluded with the following remarks : — 
1st. That deep water can be reached at a short; distance from the bluff. 
2nd. That the site is fairly sheltered. 
3rd. That the foundations are apparently good. 
4th. That ample earth for filling reclamations are at hand. 
5th. That there is little possibility of the entrance silting up, or a necessity for dredging. 
6th. That independent of other considerations outside purely professional ones, it is not my province to enter upon...

AS 6 January 1876

After all the fuss, the meetings, the agonising over budgets and last minute alterations -- Auckland's graving dock was opened for business in August 1878 without any fanfare at all, charging boat and ship owners from £1 to £3 per day for the use of the facility.

Opening of the Auckland Graving Dock.
THE lONA FLOATED IN,
The rumour that the Graving Dock would be opened this morning, and the s.s. Iona taken in, caused a large number of persons to assemble at the dock to witness the docking of the first vessel in Auckland. The owners of the steamer were successful in their endeavours to obtain the use of the dock, and therefore all due and necessary arrangements were made by the Harbour Board. The steamer was floated in at high tide by Captain Burgess, Dock-master, without any difficulty, and the dock was then pumped out, the machinery working smoothly. There was no ceremony of any kind on the occasion. The Iona is to undergo a thorough overhaul, and on completion of the same, several other vessels will be taken in rotation. Amongst these will probably be the Rotomahaua, the Wellington, and others.

AS 20 August 1878


"Auckland waterfront showing Customs Street West (foreground), Queen Street Wharf, Graving Dock and J Blaney's premises, Mount Victoria and Rangitoto (far right distance)." Reference 4-582, 1880s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.


"Graving docks showing the interior of dock with SS Young Bungaree on stocks and Customs Street West and Hobson Street Viaduct ( right background)", 1890. Reference 4-583, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.


"Looking west over the Auckland waterfront showing Graving dock, part of Hobson Wharf and St Marys Bay with Ponsonby in the background", 1908. Reference 4-645, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Swimming competitions were even held in the dock, a vast artificial pool formed there once filled. One of the last of these was in 1912.

CARNIVAL AT AUCKLAND. SWIMMING OF A HIGH STANDARD. RECORDS BEATEN
The final swimming carnival in connection with the Sydney team's visit to the Waitemata Club was held in the Auckland Graving Dock yesterday afternoon, before about 2500 spectators. The swimming was of a high standard, and several records were broken.

Evening Post 5 Dec 1912

But, times move on. The old dock wasn't all that big, and ships were getting bigger. As well, the Harbour Board had the Calliope Dock on the North Shore, and they wanted to extend their docklands in the vicinity of Hobson Street (ultimately creating Princes Wharf). Despite some grizzles in the press, and a bit of a protest from the NZ Shipowners' Federation, demolition of the old dock, retrieval of the valuable bluestone sides and base for sale by tender, and filling in of the remaining hole proceeded in 1915. It was all over by the end of September that year. The project was one of a number at the time under the direction of W H Hamer.

William Henry Hamer (1869-1940) was appointed engineer-in-chief at the Auckland Harbour Board's engineer in 1903. Born 5 September 1869 in Darwen, Lancashire, he worked as assistant to the chief engineer of the Hull docks and railways, also carrying out surveys and soundings for the Humber Conservancy from 1889-1894. He was appointed resident engineer at Tilbury Docks in 1895, then resident engineer at the Victoria and Albert Docks in London in 1898. His career in Auckland lasted from his appointment in 1903 until his retirement in 1925. Several Australian harbour authorities used him as a consultant, and during the First World War he served on a mission regarding bulk oil and coal supplies to Australasia from the United States and Canada. He died at Bridlington, 14 May 1940. (Obituary, Journal of the ICE - Institution of Civil Engineers - Vol. 15, Issue 1)

Aucklanders by 1914 were demanding more convenient access to launch landings on the city side of the harbour. Excursions around the Hauraki Gulf gained popularity from the 1870s, but their heyday was from the early 20th century. In response to public demand, the Harbour Board erected five launch landings off Quay Street by June 1915, and then added two shelter buildings, completed at the same time.



The eastern shelter is dwarfed today by the bulk of its neighbour, the Auckland Ferry Building.




The western shelter seems to be a favourite with the feathered crowd.

At the same time the Harbour Board decided that, instead of displaying a roll of honour in the public room of their offices, they would arrange to have a memorial erected, and place the names of those Harbour Board employees who went off to serve in the war on it for posterity. (NZ Herald, 15 September 1915)  Monumental mason John Bouskill prepared the beacon to Hamer's design, described thus by the Auckland Star, 18 December 1915:

Auckland Sailors Home, 1921, on the corner of Albert Street (left), and Sturdee Street (right), reference 1-W1770, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries; image of the memorial beacon pre-1969, taken from photo published in NZ Herald 24 April 1999.

The beacon takes the form of an obelisk erected on a base of five tiers of steps of unpolished Coromandel granite. This is surmounted by a square solid block of granite, polished, and above is a shaft of the same material beautifully finished. Above this is an artistic twisted metal support, on top of which is a red globe, which at night time will show a light. Under the regulations of the Harbour Board, launches coming to the landings have to sight this beacon and get in line with a white diamond affixed to the front of the Sailors' Home before they turn to run in. At night time there will be a red light on the beacon, and a green one above the diamond. The object of this regulation is to ensure the launches being well clear of the course of the ferry boats as they come out from the jetties.

The new beacon, which is a really artistic piece of work, has the additional merit of being all of local manufacture. On the face of the column fronting Quay Street is a long copper plate, bearing the names of forty of the employees of the Board who have gone to the front. Beneath this, on the solid block of granite, is a copper shield on which is the following inscription:

Replica shield, installed 1999-2000. Original lost.

"This beacon was erected by the Auckland Harbour Board to record the services of those members of its staff whose names are inscribed above, who voluntarily gave their all in the cause of liberty and freedom at the call of the Mother Country in the Great World War of 1914."

Underneath this is the quotation: "A country which defends its liberties in the face of tyranny, commands the respect of all; such a country does not perish." (King Albert of Belgium to his people).

Around the top of the solid block of granite is inscribed the following: - "Qui moruit ferat palmam." (Let him bear the palm who has deserved it.)
From between the two landing shelters, the beacon was first lit up on 17 December 1915, according to Hamer's annual report to the Harbour Board the following year. But there was no fanfare or official unveiling. Like the graving dock back in 1878 -- this was not just a piece of streetscape added for public memory and adulation. It was a working part of the port's regulatory operations.

The five-tiered steps at the base are now gone -- today's version of the memorial beacon seems to have a modern stone alternative as a simple base. The twisted metal support is also missing, disappearing sometime between 1969 and 2000 when the memorial was resurrected (see below). The 1915 article refers to 40 names on a single long copper plate facing Quay Street. There are three there today, the other two probably added during 1916-1918. Two of the plates have 40 names each, the third 36. Out of these 116 names, 15 have the additional notation "Killed", while one shows "Died".

Other bits were added, most likely c.1919 after the conclusion of the war. A similar bronze shield, listing the places New Zealand soldiers fought or were stationed during the war (this one is a replica, the original lost after 1969):



This shield (another 1999-2000 replica) must have been added after the end of the war: one of very few monuments in the country, if there are any others, noting the signing of the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919. Except -- the date on the shield is wrong, reading 26th instead of 28th.


Beneath the ball installed in 1999-2000 to replace the lost metalwork, it looks like the numerals "1918" on the left face in the above cropped shot may have been removed. If they had existed (but there are four marks in the stone in line, so -- something may have been there).

Observer 5 February 1916

Back to 1916. Auckland City now realised that it had a potential treasure on its front doorstep, in the form of the old dock site. The Town Planning League held meetings, calling for the site to be transformed into a public reserve. Mayor C J Parr appeared to back them strongly -- you'll see him in the above cartoon from the Observer as a municipal Pied Piper, while figures representing the Star and the Herald newspapers harangue the hen-pecked "husband", the Auckland Harbour Board.

Nothing more was done at that point, but another idea came to mind at the end of the war. It involved the old dock site, a proposed peace memorial, and three captured German field guns.
A proposal is before the Auckland Harbour Board that the triangular site lately occupied by the Auckland dock should be offered to the city and suburban bodies at a cost of £20,000 for the purposes of a peace memorial, the board to receive some compensation for the loss of the property. A condition, in the event of the proposal being approved, would be that the site should be made a rest place for the public, with a stand of captured guns at the apex of each triangle, and an obelisk with the fountain in the centre, having inscribed thereon the history of the reservation of the site, and the rest of the plot to be generally beautified, supplied with seats, and made an inviting air-space for the city. 
 Ashburton Guardian 20 December 1918
The Observer was quite scathing of the idea.
A PEACE MEMORIAL.
A Scrap Iron Suggestion.
A section of Auckland officials hope to fritter away £20,000 by erecting a "peace memorial" on the site once occupied for a useful purpose—a dock. Just when the dock was most useful it was destroyed for reasons no one yet has been able to ascertain, and shipping of the type for which the dock was a boon has been inconvenienced ever since. It is now proposed to make this dock site a park for decayed German guns, which, according to custom, will be in the way for fifty years, and will fall to pieces bit by bit. There is nothing significant in the display of captured guns. All nations engaged in the war have shiploads of them, and they will clutter up parks and museums and open spaces for generations to come.

One of the quaintest suggestions about this proposed gun park and "breathing space"—there is a mile and a half of windswept breathing space alongside this proposed scrap heap—is, "the Harbour Board would certainly be entitled to some compensation for the cost of reclamation and the loss of the dock"— Just as if the Harbour Board had been cruelly robbed of a dock it earnestly desired to keep instead of, as was the case, deliberately destroying a highly useful convenience for no reason that has been since discovered. The only reasonable use for the dock site is a dock. If the Harbour Board is entitled to compensation for having its own dock, a citizen who burns his own house down deliberately is entitled to be paid for it out of public funds. The misuse of the dock site as a storing place for lethal ironmongery—which everybody wants to forget—will at least give the Harbour Board a new chance to get its roll of members carved on something else.

The Harbour Board already has a war memorial on which is immortalised under the word "merit" the names of a transitory Board, together with a perfectly incomplete and relatively valueless roll of soldiers—a secondary matter. The idea of destroying something useful in order that something perfectly useless shall occupy its place will only appeal to the official mind, and the casting of twenty thousand pounds into the hole in order to make an official holiday is an absurdity. The waste of twenty thousand pounds in a city shrieking out for real human improvement is a crime. Let us cure the slums by sticking some old German guns on the waterfront; let us eradicate crowded conditions in Freeman's Bay by planting a bit of grass a mile away from it; let us fight poverty and help soldiers, care for influenza orphans, and teach maimed men new trades by gazing on a destroyed dock. Let us make way for the increase of shipping by placarding a Hun gun with the name of the place it was captured at; let us, in fact, be as silly as possible because there is plenty of official precedents for being as silly as possible.

You can't eat doves of peace or breakfast off statuary or dine on German guns, or bind up the brokenhearted with a list of names. The real things you can do with twenty thousand pounds are the things that will reduce the sum of misery—and Heaven knows there is misery to spare in any town of any size throughout the world.

The city has innumerable air spaces, and none of them is adequately used. The assumption that a tiny piece of ground that never ought to have been made solid is a necessity as a breathing space is unsound. There is real human work for every kind of body, philanthropic or business, in the streets of the city and the homes of the people. On the whole the memorials that are usually daubed about cities are not artistically beautiful. Relief to sufferers by the war, the care of the fatherless and the widow, the helping hand to the afflicted and distressed, the fight against dirt and disease and domestic airlessness, are all more worthy peace monuments than dabbing a bunch of Krupp hardware on a trifle of ground to remind us of the most hideous period in the history of the world. 

We have 15,000 reminders buried in Egypt, in Palestine, in Gallipoli, and France. Thousands of families in New Zealand do not want to see rusty guns to remind them how they lost their sons, nor does any war widow wish to examine the mechanism that projected the missile that killed her husband. A park of guns for a Peace Memorial is as sensible as a park of doves for a war memorial. The authorities having achieved an absurdity in making a piece of level ground out of an expensively constructed dock, wish to perpetuate the absurdity by useless and expensive procedure. Should they achieve this further absurdity no doubt large and lustrous brass plates commemorating the names of the persons who used twenty thousand pounds of the people's cash, will be the chief exhibit, so that when the "Peace" guns have rotted on their carriages future generations may read with awe the names of people who celebrated peace, in such an extraordinary fashion.

Observer 21 December 1918

The Auckland Harbour Board, however, remained warm to the idea of the 1 acre site of the old dock becoming a peace memorial. In March 1919, the Board's secretary wrote to the Council's Town Clerk, formally offering the site, hoping that everything could be in place ready for the expected visit of the Prince of Wales in 1921, so that he could lay the foundation stone. (Letter from Council files, 13 March 1919)

Something of some interest to me is that, up until this point Auckland didn't have any clear ideas as to what to have as a war memorial for the whole city. Even in 1917, when Thomas Cheeseman wrote to the Council advising them that the museum's governing committee felt that a site on Observatory Hill in the Domain would be ideal for a permanent museum, there wasn't a mention of such a museum having the words "war memorial" tacked onto the title. (Letter, 12 December 1917) The war, of course, was still going at that point, but it was later in March 1919, after the Harbour Board proposal for a peace memorial, that Cheeseman wrote on behalf of the committee, affirming "suitability of a Modern Museum as the selected form of War Memorial for the Auckland District." (Letter to Town Clerk, 28 March 1919) I can't say whether or not the museum administrators felt that going with the war memorial idea while it was something fresh and new and brought into the public mind by the dock site proposal was a good move on their part towards realising the dream of an enlarged museum on the Domain. But -- timing, especially in terms of history, is everything.

The Harbour Board's proposal though wasn't simply just to shift the memorial beacon to the Peace Memorial reserve at all. 
A design has been submitted to the Mayor of a Corinthian column a hundred feet in height, surmounted by the figure of a lion rampant, and standing on a granite base twenty feet square containing bronze tablets bearing suitable inscriptions ... the remainder of the land surrounding it is to be laid out with gardens and seats, while war trophies are to be placed at the apex of each triangle. The idea of the board is that this column shall be a perpetual reminder to the growing generations of the greatest victory known to the world -- in other words a Peace memorial pure and simple.

Auckland Star, 11 March 1919



"A Suggested Peace Memorial: Monument on the Waterfront". Auckland Star 12 March 1919. Illustration prepared by Auckland Harbour Board's assistant-engineer, Drummond Holderness.

The newspaper editorials, with supporting letters from the likes of C J Parr, endorsed the joining together of both the old dock site Peace Memorial with a War Memorial Museum on the Domain, although the Star expressed reservations that the old dock site was suitably prominent enough for a proper memorial.

... the site is by no means the most suitable for a great war memorial. Auckland's two natural glories are the harbour and its hills, and we suggest that in looking for a site for our memorial we should keep these hills in mind.

Auckland Star, 20 March 1919

In April, the City Council set up a War Memorial Committee: Noel Bamford, H R MacKenzie, T W Leys, Mrs Jessie Gunson, Norman Wade, E Phelan and B Kent. By June, the combined plan to have both a Peace Memorial harbourside reserve and a War Memorial Museum was almost a done deal.

WAR MEMORIAL AT AUCKLAND
The erection of a museum on Observatory Hill, and a monument on a site offered by the Auckland Harbour Board was decided upon by the City Council tonight, as Auckland's memorial. It is proposed that the size of the museum should be 80,000 square feet, 50,000 square feet being for museum purposes, and 30,000 square feet for war exhibits. It is proposed to spend £80,000 on the museum and £20,000 on the monument.
Evening Post 27 June 1919


The reserve, at right of photo, c.1920, and the memorial beacon between the two Quay Street launch shelters (lower right corner) . Reference 4-652, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

But then in July 1919, the City Council wrote to every single territorial authority, both large and small, within the Auckland Province, seeking their help in funding such a project. The responses were neutral, but not really supportive. Avondale Road Board for example approved of the Domain idea, but not that of the dock: " ... the position of the site not being sufficiently prominent for any structure created thereon to be seen to advantage." (Letter, 24 July 1919) Others stated that they'd defer discussion, or advised that they already had their own war memorials in the planning stages.

Nothing further, until the Auckland Harbour Board asked the Council in February 1920 if they had come to a decision or not. (Letter to Town Clerk, 4 February 1920). The Council referred the matter to the War Memorial Committee -- and I couldn't find any further minutes from that committee at that time in the main records. I'd say that the old dock site Peace Memorial was simply an idea allowed to die a death and just fade away.



The memorial beacon (extreme right of photo) in December 1923, during work on straightening Quay Street. Reference 1-W614, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The Harbour Board's plans for improving their western port area continued. Quay Street was straightened during 1922-1923. The two launch landing shelters were shifted towards the north, and the memorial beacon, for a time, was sited in a fenced-in construction area which probably included the old dock site reserve. Princes Wharf was opened in 1924.

The old dock site, now including the memorial beacon and slightly enlarged due to the realigning of Quay Street, became like a number of other cleared empty spaces in and around Auckland's CBD, in that it became the site for a number of transitory amusement operators, such as circuses and, around 1930, a miniature golf course run by Pastimes Ltd.




March 1933. The memorial beacon has shifted once again, now surrounded by a garden at the eastern apex of the reserve triangle (right of centre of photo), beside the service station. Reference 4-5327, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

A wooden service station at the Sturdee-Quay Street corner flourished from c.1929, first owned by W E Johns, then leased to C W Swales, according to Council's valuation records. The valuers described it as a building "in a prominent position at the entrance to the City from the Harbour." So, the site wasn't prominent enough for a memorial park, but it was for a service station ... By 1961, the building was a sales kiosk.

Detail from 1940 aerial, from Auckland Council website. The site of the memorial beacon at that time circled in yellow.

During World War II, the Public Works Department took over the majority of the old dock site reserve in 1943 and built large concrete warehouse there, to store supplies for the US forces and to house the United States Joint Purchasing Board staff stationed in Auckland. The Harbour Board purchased the buildings from the Crown after March 1946 for £4400. These appear to have remained right down to the Downtown Centre redevelopment in the late 1960s.

Detail from 1959-1960 aerial, from Auckland Council website. The site of the memorial beacon at that time circled in yellow.



Quay Street West, November 1968. The memorial beacon can only just be seen, still at the corner of Sturdee and Quay Streets (left of photo). Reference 7-A5240, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Then, in 1969, the memorial beacon disappeared from public view.

In April 1999, following a tip-off, the NZ Herald tracked down the remains of the memorial in a secure Customs storage area in Shed 51 on Bledisloe Wharf.

The obelisk was lying on its side among piles of scrap metal, its large granite base sitting on an old packing crate. Four rolls of honour had broken off, but in the half-light of the shed the names of the soldiers could still be made out. An iron railing, which held in place an orb which burned bright red at night, was missing, as were bronze shields once attached to the base.
NZ Herald, 24 April 1999


An anonymous benefactor came forward in June 1999, concerned over the "sacrilege" of leaving the memorial beacon in pieces as it was in the storage shed, and offered to fund its restoration.
He said he was outraged when he read of the monument's fate, and was determined to see it returned to its full glory. The man said his mother had met a New Zealand soldier in 1918 while the New Zealand Division was occupying Cologne.He wrote his name in her autograph book. Seventeen years later, as Nazi persecution of German Jews intensified, his desperate mother wrote to the soldier in Auckland. The soldier arranged visas for the family to come to New Zealand. He was in the Home Guard during the Second World War and has since died.

The benefactor said he owed not just the soldier but the city of Auckland a debt of gratitude. "We certainly came to the right place -- it's a beautiful city." He said he was old fashioned and believed historical objects such as the Anzac monument should be preserved.

NZ Herald 20 April 2000

Detail from 2006 aerial, from Auckland Council website. The former site of the memorial beacon circled in yellow, today's site in red.


So, today a diminished version of the 1915 Auckland Harbour Board memorial beacon stands close to the entrance to the Maritime Museum. If the 1918-1919 proposal to have a Peace Memorial had succeeded, perhaps the beacon wouldn't have been so badly damaged. Perhaps we would have had an attractive civic park, right next to the Viaduct Harbour, and a short stroll away from the revamped Wynyard Quarter? Perhaps there would have been no need to shift the memorial at all, and it would still have been a beacon across the harbour?




Imagine: an intact memorial beacon, a civic resting spot among gardens and seats on the harbourside, and possibly something to mark the spot where there once was Auckland's first dry dock.

A pity the Peace Memorial idea was shelved in 1920 -- because it would have been nice.

Sources (other than those already referenced)
Auckland Council Archives: File ACC 275/19-200; valuation field sheet files for Sturdee Street (ACC 213/169a) and Quay Street (ACC 213/126h).
Auckland Harbour Board annual reports
Papers Past