“General dissatisfaction was expressed by the public, and many people, after paying their money,were so disgusted that they retraced their steps and returned to town. How ever beautiful and interesting Messrs Stark and Quick intend to make their gardens, the grounds did not appear toadvantage on Saturday. Visitors paid their money at the gate, and were ushered into a bare and recently ploughed enclosure, surrounded by concrete walls. There was no sign of vegetationanywhere, and the only seats available for ladies were several dirty logs and a few planks onwhich the workmen had mixed their concrete in building the walls … Under these circumstances,it is not surprising that visitors were dissatisfied. Surprise was evinced at the indiscretion of Messrs Stark and Quick in allowing their grounds to be thrown open to the public before their proposed improvements had well been commenced, inasmuch as a false impression is liable tocirculate which even years hence may act to the detriment of the gardens.”
Given the lack of any mention in the media, whether by articles or advertisements, of a successfultea garden here, and the evident bareness we can see from photographs of the site from the mid tolate 1880s, the
reporter’s prediction seems to have come to pass.The
was just as scathing of the lack of facilities that day in March 1882, both for theperformers and the public, provided at the gardens. There was no platform for the bandsmen, whohad to contend with playing in the midst of a large crowd of 3000
. “On future occasions of thiskind,”
the reporter wrote,
“it will be necessary to have a place exclusively for the bands if theyare expected to do justice either to themselves or the public.”
were evenmore descriptive in their criticism.
“At present the gardens do not exist, and there were noadequate preparations made for the convenience of the public who were there to the number of two or three thousand. The beautiful parterres of flowers, the grassy lawns, smooth and level as abilliard-table, the comfortable garden-seats, the shady arbours, in which friends could do their billing and cooing, were all conspicuous by their absence.”
Undaunted, later that month Stark and Quick were at the inaugural meeting of the DevonportClub, with Stark as president, and Quick as vice-president.
This is the last reference found totheir association together. It is doubtful that the gardens progressed beyond the concrete wall, 6inches thick and at least 6 feet high in places, and a gatehouse with an ornamental tower on theBeach Road (now Queens Parade) frontage.
In March 1884, Stark (now by himself, havingbought out Quick’s interest by a mortgage which he had cleared by early 1884) leased theClarence & Anne Streets corner site (part 22A) to the Devonport Ferry Company,
of which bythat time he was a major shareholder and soon to be director of with Alison. The rest of theproperty was sold outright to George Holdship the following month.
George Holdship startedout selling firewood, timber, sashes and doors from his works on Customs Street in Auckland inthe 1860s,
before becoming manager of the Auckland Timber Company, which later mergedwith the Kauri Timber Company by the late 1880s.
The gardens weren’t known as the Bear Gardens at that point, however. None of the newspapersof the nineteenth century appear to have used the term until 1890, long after both Stark and Quick had left the story, when the grounds was called “Alison’s Bear-gardens”.
Apart from the 1890 reference, all others come from the 20
and this century. For me,researching the Bear Gardens of Devonport has been somewhat of a study in the construction of folklore (other examples are discussed later, concerning the Onehunga Zoo). In 1919, H. HectorBolitho wrote in his
Devonport on the Waitemata
“There is one part of Devonport which is often passed by the unknowing. It is the area enclosed by Garden Terrace, Kapai Road and a portion of the Queen’s Parade. This ground was once