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Avondale Historical Journal No. 58

Avondale Historical Journal No. 58

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Published by Lisa Truttman
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand

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Published by: Lisa Truttman on Feb 28, 2011
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01/11/2013

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The AvondaleHistorical Journal
 
MarchApril 2011
Volume 10 Issue 58
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated 
 
In 2010, Peter McCurdy, a resident of Waterview at the end of Cowley Street (and living in direct line of the northern entry/ exit point for the Waterview tunnel for State Highway 20)made a submission to the Auckland City Council Joint RCAand Transport Committee. His submission was to do with his-torical findings as to the land usage history of the northernbend and mouth of Oakley Creek, on behalf of a new groupcalled Star Mills Preservation Group.
 
He referred to 2009 being the 150th anniversary of the appear-ance of John Thomas' Star Mill close to the end of Cowley Street -- then went on to say: "... Edwin Oakley -- engineer,entrepreneur and violinist -- had a dam, a water-wheel and a mill on the Creek named after him. That is, by 1845." Thesubmission seemed to imply that Oakley's mill was on the Star Mill site: "there was a working mill here some fifteen yearsearlier."
 
Trouble is, the Blue Books, the NZ Government statistics collection of the day, do not list a flax mill among Auckland'splaces of manufacturing for the years 1844, 1845 or 1847. The only flax mill mentioned is one in Nelson. Yet, yes --Edwin Oakley did write a petition to the Colonial Secretary in 1844, asking for a squatting license and to purchase iron toerect a flax mill, and the following year asked for a renewal and extension of land into Allotment 61 for access to thewaterfall for power.
 
In 1843, Oakley was in partnership, one of many during his entrepreneurial career, with a Mr Smithson. Together, theydeveloped an improved method of processing flax for export. By 1844, Oakley was advertising that he was “willing tocontract for the Erection of Mills and Machinery for Dressing Flax in any quantity, not less than one ton per week, andwill guarantee the quality suitable for the English market. “
 
But, did this piano-forte salesman actually build an operating mill on the steep slopes of or near the Oakley Creek water-fall? As I said earlier, the Blue Books indicate otherwise, and I could find no newspaper references to its operation (andbelieve me, the newspapers were
very
interested in ideas and developments when it came to the flax industry back then.)But, the records remaining from his three petitions in 1844 and 1845 indicate that he had a mill of some sort, a waterwheel, and a number of ineffective dams which were washed away in floodsbefore he could use them.
  
44/1037 3.5.44 Edwin Oakley Petition for Squatting License and to Pur-chase Iron to erect a Flax Mill.
 
To His Excellency Robert FitzRoy Esquire Captain in the Royal Navy Gover-nor and Commander in Chief of the Territory of New Zealand and its depend-encies. Vice Admiral of the Same,The Petition of Edwin Oakley of Wyndham Street Auckland, Carpenter and Joiner Humbly ShewethThat Your Petitioner has been some time passed been occupied in adaptingmachinery to the purpose of dressing the native flax in quantities for 
 
Next meeting of theAvondale-WaterviewHistorical Society:
 
Saturday, 2 April 2011,2.30 pm
St Ninian’s Church
St Georges Road, Avondale(opp. Hollywood Cinema)
 
 
Edwin Oakley, and hisfailed mill by the creek
Continued next page
 
The Avondale Historical Journal  
Volume 10 Issue 58
Page 2
aforesaid – That Petitioner proposes to cut a Mill Racefrom the Upper Water Fall on the said Reserve 61 to theWater Wheel above mentioned and for the purpose of aflour mill.
 
Your Excellency’s humble Petitioner therefore prays that the License already mentioned as granted to your Excel-lency’s humble Petitioner be renewed and also that your Excellency will be pleased to grant your Petitioner afurther license of the Government Reserve No 61 in theParish of Titirangi for the purposes of the Flax Wheel and Flour Mill aforesaid and your Excellency’s humble Peti-tioner as in duty bound will ever pray …
 
(Written across the page):
There is no objection to thePetitioner’s obtaining a squatting license of No. 61 under the Act. I visited his works on Saturday the 28th inst and found that he had been at much trouble in erecting damsacross the stream, which are, I find, quite useless for thepurpose he requires. The Water Fall to which he alludesand from which a race can be cut is the best water power within 15 miles of Auckland.C W Liger, Surveyor General
 
The Northern War came along in 1844/1845, causinganxiety in early Auckland. Oakley's scheme may havecome adrift at that point. Indeed, in October 1845 and oninto 1846, Auckland farmers lamented that there was noother flour mill, other than those at Epsom and Mechanic'sBay.
(Letter from "A Farmer", New Zealander, 2 August 1845).
 
In 1850, Oakley was in Hawaii for a time, then re-turned to Auckland later that decade to take up anotherpartnership, this time with carpenter/builder John C Jear-rad at a Mechanics Bay sawmill. In 1859 Oakley took itover
(Southern Cross 11 March 1859)
but it is unknownhow long he remained involved there. The term"entrepreneur" suits him well -- trouble was, his ideasnever seemed to stay the distance.
 
In 1861, he was one of a number writing reports as re-quested by the Provincial Council as to Auckland's waterneeds and future supply. Tellingly, he did not refer to thecreek that seems to bear his name as an option (perhapsbecause it had cost him so dearly?) By 1862, he was livingin Mongonui, arguing over timber rights
(
Southern Cross,5 September 1862),
 
was an unsuccessful tenderer for theconstruction of an iron store at Queen Street wharf in 1864
(Southern Cross, 29 September 1864),
 
and ran for both theGeneral Assembly and Provincial Council for Mongonui -- although he lived at Port Waikato -- in 1865. He pulledout just before the election, deeming it "prudent" to do so
.
  
At that point, I lost sight of him in Papers Past.
 
Allotment 61 remained in Crown hands, passed to theAuckland Provincial Council as a funding reserve in themid 1850s, leased by the Superintendent in 1874 to a mannamed Howard (possibly Joseph Howard, who owned thefarm just across the creek at the time), and then assignedback to the Crown in 1882. This was a smaller version of the original Allotment 61. Bits seem to have been carvedoff it, at the Waterfall end, and initially passed to privatehands, but eventually (Allotments 102-105) ending up
exportation and having at length succeeded is desirousof building a water mill –
 
That your Petitioner from want of capital is unable topurchase the large quantities of land, wood and flaxwhich would be required for the carrying on anestablishment of this nature and feeling convinced that your Excellency would look favourably on an effort tobring into use an article on which the future prosperityof this Country so much depends has been induced toapply to your Excellency for your aid.
 
Under the above circumstances your Petitioner humblyprays that your Excellency will be pleased to grant him aSquatting License upon a creek with your Petitioner candescribe to your Excellency no better at the present timeas situate between four and fives miles from Auckland onthe Road to the Wao and Karangahape District about one mile from the River Waitemata with the use of theCreek and Liberty erect a dam across same – Your Petitioner would also wish to have a lease of about 2acres of land for the erection of the buildings necessaryand your Excellency’s consent to the loan or purchase of a piece of old Iron now lying near the old Market Houseor Store on the Beach –Your Excellency’s petitioner en-gaging on his part to erect a water mill with machineryto dress the flax fit for exportation – And your Petitioner will ever pray …
 
Oakley got his wish, his application being granted. Thelocation being “one mile from the River Waitemata”means a location considerably inland  perhaps more ontoday’s Unitec site?
 
Then, the following year ...
 
5/1018 24 June 1845 Edwin Oakley for renewal andextension of squatting licence to Allot No. 61
 
…The Petition of Edwin Oakley of Auckland in the said colony, settler ShewethThat your Petitioner had an occupational Licensegranted to him by your Excellency of about three acresof land situate near Auckland about twelve months ago –That since that time your Petitioner has at considerableexpense erected a water wheel and prepared machineryfor the dressing of flax. That your Petitioner has alsoformed a mill dam but that a sufficient power cannot beobtained without incurring the risk of great loss of prop-erty, the dam having already been carried away by aFlood – That Petitioner is anxious to unite a Flour Millto the wheel already erected and for the purpose of pro-pelling the water it will be necessary to have a still in-crease power – That on Government Reserve No. 61 inthe Parish of Titirangi a little higher up than the present wheel is a good Fall of Water sufficient for the purposes
Edwin Oakley and his failed mill by thecreek
continued 
 
The Avondale Historical Journal  
Volume 10 Issue 58
Page 3
Joe Robinson wrote in after reading of the demolition of the Grosvenor Dairy on St Georges Road last issue.
  Having just received the latest
Journal
of the Society Iwas saddened to read the article on the demolition of theGrosvenor Dairy.
  
In 1936 at the ripe old age of 9 years the family movedto Waterview. With my brothers we would walk to thepicture theatre each Saturday matinee to make sure wewould keep up with the serial.
  
Mum would give us money to the pictures and a fewpence to spend on lollies. Mr and Mrs Whales deserved amedal for their patience in dealing with all the chatteringkids demanding attention all at once. With threepence tospend one could get an ice cream and quite a few lolliesand their stock was quite varied. Changing Balls andcough tablets would last a long time, so was good value.
  
In married life we built our first house in St Georges Rdand lived there for about 14 years. During that time mywife worked part time in the Dairy. It was operated byCampbell Enterprises and was run by Mr and MrsPrickett. It was always a popular place and the Prickettswere well thought of in the way the Dairy was run.
  
Thye Pricketts eventually moved on and the Dairy wasbought and run by George Sharman and his wife Joyce.They had one son (Grant) and he boarded at Kings Col-lege. Unfortunately Grant was injured in a Rugby scrumand hence confined to a wheelchair. Grant did a lot of mouth painting and was very good. He later coached theWheel Blacks.
  
My wife also worked part time for the Sharmans andsometimes I would help out. George Sharman was quite
back in the hands of the government, and were traded
be-
tween education board and asylum authorities for the futureFowlds Park site in the early 1890s.
  
So, was Edwin Oakley's flax mill at Waterview just anotherone of his grand ideas for profit, or did it exist in any sort of functioning state? Contemporary records so far weighagainst it, but -- hopefully the group researching him andhis mill will provide further clues for public viewing as towhat went on alongside Oakley's Creek all those long yearsago. We have, anyway, another tantalising piece of infor-mation as to how Oakley Creek was so-named. But if it wasindeed in honour of Edwin Oakley, perhaps it was withirony in mind.
 
Lisa J TruttmanFrom a letter received recently.
 
 
My name is Marjorie Rogers. I am 87 years old. My daugh-ter bought a newsletter about the history of Avondale. I wasvery interested because my family was a big part of Avon-dale from the 1950s till 1985 and when my husband died Ishifted to the North Shore … I have five children, they allwent to Rosebank School and Avondale College.
  
In the 1950s my father-in-law bought land in AstrolabeStreet, where he had a garden and kept horses. It had beenan orchard owned by Hayward [Wright]. There were allsorts of trees on the property including kiwifruit which hepacked and sent to market with help of all the family. In1960 my husband and I had a house built on a section myfather-in-law gave us. That was No. 33. He and his daugh-ter had a house moved from Rosebank Road next to a shopto Astrolabe Street next door to us.
  
We had a market garden at the end of the street. TheCheong Bros. used that.
[Possibly Chung Tak Ming from1953, and Chung Wing Chong and Chung Wing Wai, onAstrolabe Street from c.1956 until the mid 1960seditor]
The families that lived in our area was Mrs Petty who hadglass houses, Mays had glass houses, Mr Gear lived a bitfurther along. There were Fremlins, Brights, Elsoms,Paynes, Connells. Air-Rest was at back of our house. Thestreet ended at the gate of the Chinese market garden. Afew years later the road was formed into Mead Street.
  
The section in Mrs Petty’s property we planted potatoes andkumaras. We sent them to market  family helped. My children had a wonderful time playing among the kiwifruit vines and picking plums, apples etc.
We had a lot of chickens at one stage. The hens would lay among thebamboo grove. We would go looking for the eggs. It was a lovely time of our lives.
Memories of the GrosvenorDairy
by Joe Robinson
Memories of Astrolabe Street,1950s
  
by Marjorie Rogers
a character and he would fool the kids with such astraight face and they would believe him.
  
There was a horse stabled not far away in St Georges Rdand the owner would exercise it along the road. Thehorse would poke its head by the steps and Georgewould give it some peppermints. It got that way that thehorse would expect some when it was near the Dairy.
  
Having always been a Westie this article brings back memories which in later life is great to have.

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