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The Aramoho Zoo

The Aramoho Zoo

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Published by Lisa Truttman
Story of the Aramoho Zoo near Wanganui (1908-1916), operated by J. J. Boyd, New Zealand's first private zoo. Also, some information as to J. J. Boyd's earlier career in Wellington.
Story of the Aramoho Zoo near Wanganui (1908-1916), operated by J. J. Boyd, New Zealand's first private zoo. Also, some information as to J. J. Boyd's earlier career in Wellington.

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Published by: Lisa Truttman on Dec 23, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 Excerpt from “The Zoo War” (2008). This chapter revised July 2012.
The Aramoho Zoo (1908-1916)Lisa J Truttman
The Tea Garden by the river
It began with a very Victorian/Edwardian pastime families, friends and loversenjoying blissful summer days strolling through immaculate gardens, listening to music beside one of the North Island’s mightiest rivers. Around 1891, a Mrs Haywood cameto New Zealand and settled in Wanganui on account of her husband’s ill-health. She issaid to have worked on laundry until she had saved enough money to set up a teagarden on land said to be formerly part of a farm owned by a Mr. Murray, part of section 22 on the right bank of the Wanganui River at Aramoho. On 29 September 1898, her Aramoho Tea Gardens was officially opened by Mr F. M. Spurdle (in theabsence of the intended officiator, the Mayor of Wanganui.) The occasion was cappedoff by a concert and dance for ticket holders.
 By 1901, Mrs Haywood was able to promote a number of attractions to encouragevisitors to the Wanganui district to while away time at the three-and-a-half acres or sowhich was her tea gardens, including tennis courts, a pavilion, lovers walks, summer houses, shooting saloon, swing boats, orchard etc. A bus link direct to the gardens musthave been of great assistance to help attract the crowds.
For a time from late 1901 toDecember 1902, a Mrs Joseph Brown operated the gardens,
but Mrs Haywood thenreturned.
 By September 1905, however, the gardens belonged to Mr. J. Shelley wholeased them to others to operate.
Two years later, the site was on the market again,
followed by the contents of the house and tea rooms in February 1908.
 By early April 1908, a retired builder from Kilburnie in Wellington, John James Boyd,was the new proprietor of the Aramoho Tea Gardens, shipping his motor launch(perhaps the
up via the Stormbird to the Wanganui River.
Before the end of the year, he placed advertisements in the local Wanganui Herald for the purchase of “oppossums and other wild animals”
as Boyd reopened the tea garden – and so, bythe beginning of 1909, the first of Boyd’s zoos began.
The Rise of John James Boyd
John James Boyd (1850-1928), of Scots descent, came from Hull, Yorkshire.
Hearrived in New Zealand around 1873 as ship’s carpenter on the
, standingonly 4' 11''
with £25 in his pocket. By 1898, he had a sizeable portfolio of rental properties, built by his firm, from which he had made a reasonably-sized fortune, judging by the fact that between 1885 and 1898 he had been able to travel to Englandthree times. By 1917, he had an annual income of £7000.
“Without in any way attempting to establish a record, Mr. J J Boyd, a Wellingtonian,who returned last week from a 4½ months trip abroad, saw probably more than most  people would do under similar circumstances. After completing the business which took him to England, Mr Boyd went for a jaunt over the Island and neighbouring Isles of Wight and Man, then across to Paris, where he saw the preparations being made for 
the great Exposition of 1900. Back again to England, he caught the steamer for  America, dashed through the States, including California, then away to the South Seas,and back to Wellington via Auckland. Mr. Boyd happened to be in America at the timeof the arrival of the first contingent of troops returning from Santiago, and hedescribed the condition of some of them as pitiable in the extreme, many being hardlyable to stand. Short as was his visit to the States, the New Zealander found time to look about him, and in his own particular trade, that of building, he learned that the Yankeetradesman was being rapidly forced out by cheap foreign labour, principally exper Japanese, who are as good carpenters as they were cabinet-makers, and work for wages that a European could not exist upon.” 
From 1896, J J Boyd pops up from time to time in the pages of the Wellingtonnewspaper the
 Evening Post 
. He was one of the nominators of a Council candidate for the Cook Ward in 1896. 
 He joined those disputing with the Council over the width of footpaths in Adelaide Road, Newtown (where he lived at the time).
The followingyear, he complained to the Council about a shed he had erected “to help a poor man” being demolished by the Council due to the lack of a building permit.
His first knownappearance before the courts (court appearances in Auckland would become part of hislegend in the following century) when he was assaulted by a Mrs. Thacker, came thatyear in 1897.
In 1898, he was fined 1/- with 7/- cost for allowing a horse to wander inBritomart Street.
In September 1899, Boyd made his first foray into municipal matters, standing as acandidate for the Te Aro Ward. He stood on a number of platforms, amongst others: toget the streets in better order; not to borrow loans which raise rates to build up “whiteelephant” projects; he opposed the abolition of the wards and also the Council policyfor building workmen’s homes (this latter policy would have impacted on his ownincome). He also opposed “too many hard-and-fast bylaws and too many inspectors andengineers who are doing their best to kill the building trade with unnecessary expense.”
 He finished third in the poll.
In April 1900, his opinions were once again read by those receiving the
 Evening Post 
,this time to do with the Wellington City Council’s proposal to establish a plaguehospital in Berhampore. At a protest meeting, he stood up and made his views plainlyknown.
“Mr J J Boyd said he would rather see 10,000 Boers land in the city than havethe hospital located where it is, only one acre distant from his (the speaker’s) property. He had sixteen properties thereabouts, and his tenants were already giving notice toleave his houses. He would like to know who first suggested the site, and why hadn’t the hospital been taken to Karori? He would give £10 and more towards obtaining ahospital ship. Rats and rabbits infested the hills near the hospital, and would be a source of great danger.”
 Boyd was part of a deputation who waited upon the Hon. J.G. Ward, Colonial Secretary, to urge their objections to the City Council’s plans,
andthe issue went to the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeal found in favour of the CityCouncil, and the hospital went ahead.
Boyd next took the City Council to task in 1903, via a letter to the editor, over a proposal to lease the Town Belt for building purposes.
“When will the Council realisethat the heritage of this magnificent reserve, which we owe to the wise forethought of the old New Zealand Company that founded Wellington, is the inalienable right and 
 privilege of every citizen?”
he thundered.
“Councillors seem to regard the Town Belt merely as a means of raising revenue.“They cannot conceive that it is their duty to convert it into a thing of beauty a pleasure resort for the people which should and could be made one of the greatest attractions of the city, which would tempt people from their homes in their hours of leisure to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the crisp and healthful air which the belt  from many aspects commands.”
This battle was also lost, with leases signed later thatyear.In 1905, in opposition to the City Council’s “hard and fast bylaws”, Boyd defendedhimself against court action taken against him by the Council. He had proceeded toignore the City Surveyor’s instructions to increase the ceiling height as required whenhe submitted plans for an addition to one of his properties, choosing instead to followhis original plans. The court found in his favour this time, as the new bylaws the CitySurveyor followed applied only to new buildings, not additions to existing ones.
 Thiswas Boyd’s first known victory against the municipality and its bylaws. It mayhave given him inspiration to challenge his local Council further – and any others in thecountry.Business for Boyd continued to do well. He and his wife Ann Elizabeth made a six-month tour of England and the Continent in 1906,
and shortly after his return Boyd bought up large at property sales in Kilbirnie in 1907
. “Kilbirnie is Boyd up with hopesof being a city,”
mused the
 New Zealand Free Lance
“The great builder of that namehas bought most of the land recently offered there. He will shortly own the earth.”
 The Kilbirnie Tunnel led to Boyd’s last known major court case in his hometown of Wellington in 1908, just before he took the plunge and purchased a disused pleasuregarden in northern Wanganui. The case involved Boyd who, like several Kilbirnielandowners approached by the Hataitai Land Company, had been asked to contributetoward the cost of the tunnel to the tune of £27 9/- 7d. When the tunnel wascompleted, and the Hataitai Company came around to Boyd, he asked them where thefootpath with a rail was. They argued that the tunnel was meant for trams only, notfoot traffic, and Boyd responded by refusing to pay. Sticking to his guns, hewent through a Supreme Court hearing (which decided against him) through to theCourt of Appeal (where finally, he won.)
This case illustrates Boyd’s dogged naturewhen faced with a situation he felt was unfair, especially to him.From then on, however, J J Boyd would become best known for engaging in what the
Christchurch Press
would later term “his queer hobby of zoological gardens”:
“… it is his pastime”, he explained to the Press in April 1912, “and nothing more,though now and then he finds it profitable.”
The Aramoho Tea Gardens and Zoo
From August 1908 at least, J J Boyd began to revive the tea gardens. Advertisementsfor a truck of fence posts and a ton of “Turnips, Mangles or Pig Potatoes” were printed in the
Wanganui Herald 
that month.
The following month, Boyd travelledwith his wife and daughter to Sydney, possibly for the first consignment of animals,
and in October advertised for “a strong lad for jobbing work” at the gardens.

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