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Newsletter for the Point Chevalier History Group No. 6 August 2009
Next meetings of the Pt Chevalier History Group
Thursday 13th August, Pt Chevalier Community Library 10.30 am (Show & Tell theme — bring along an item with a story to it. Please also bring along something in writing about the item, to share with the group.) September Meeting—Thursday 24th September, 10.30 am at the Library (Heritage Festival Walk after meeting at 11.45 am. November Meeting — Thursday 19th November, 10.30 am at the Library.
The Man Who Built the Old Stone Jug: William Edgecombe
William Edgecombe (1814-1895) was born and christened in the township of Milton Damerel, North Devon according to a family historian, Alan Taylor. He sailed to New Zealand with his wife Ann and arrived at New Plymouth in 1841. One of the obituaries for Edgecombe reads: “He arrived from Wellington in 1841, and was one of the party who proceeded in the Amelia Thompson to the site where New Plymouth stands, and assisted in founding it in 1841.” (Poverty Bay Herald, 13 December 1895) In 1846, the Edgecombes left New Plymouth for Auckland, where he set himself up first as a butcher at Mechanics Bay, then a storekeeper, then as a cattle owner. He left the colony for a time in 1850, heading to California, but was back by 1852. Around that time he may have taken out a lease on Allotment 10 of the Parish of Titirangi (part of Rosebank), which was to become his Whau Farm, purchasing it outright in 1856. In March 1854, he was successful in the election for the Wardens of Auckland (sharing the job with John Russell and Benjamin Turner). In that position, he administered the isthmus cattle runs, particularly those in the Whau district. In amongst his cattle-dealing and his warden duties, William Edgecombe found the time to grow some turnips and potatoes. "So what?" some today might say, but this was a very important thing back then, considering the Whau, along with much of West Auckland, was considered inhospitable to crop growing in any form back then, the soils declared to be "sour" and only good for grazing (hence the cattle and the sheep). Grazing may have been, ironically, the very system of agriculture which provided the start of the fertilisation and redevelopment of the Rosebank Peninsula into the later market gardening goldmine it became by the end of the 19th century. But, by 1858, Edgecombe had had another career change come to mind. Land at what would become Western Springs opposite Low and Motion's mill came onto the market, so he put his Whau Farm up for sale and purchased the site of his Great Northern Hotel. (The buyer of his Avondale land was Dr. Thomas Aickin, another experimenter in the agricultural field amongst others -- and in the 20th century, after subdivisions, Hayward Wright was to use 10 acres of the former Edgecombe land to develop new commercial
Next issue due out September 2009 Contact Lisa Truttman (editor) : 19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland 0600,phone (09) 828-8494 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
fruits and plants, including the Hayward cultivar of kiwifruit.) Edgecombe's story doesn't stop there, of course -- his fame hit even greater heights with his hotel, fondly known still as the Old Stone Jug. But even there, on the scoria outcrops of Western Springs, he never quite forgot about the Whau. The initial boundaries of the Whau Highway District in 1868, at his instigation, included his Western Springs land for a time. A furry story from the Old Stone Jug “Strange bedfellows are sometimes met with. This was exemplified the other night in the Northern Hotel. A son of Mr. Edgecombe, the proprietor, went to bed as usual in the upper story — three stairs up — but during the night, or early in the morning he was awakened by more than ordinary warmth on one side of his head and near his throat. He felt something unusual beside him and was slightly alarmed. However he got up and lighted a candle. On examining the bed he discovered an opossum lying coiled up in the bed, under the bed clothes. This is the first occasion on which such an animal has been seen in the neighbourhood, and how it got there, is at present a mystery. Some time ago, however, an animal having the appearance of a cross between an opossum and some other animal was shot amongst the scoria rocks near Mr. Edgecombe's hotel. Some people entertain the idea that opossums exist in the locality in a wild state, but this has not yet been proved. The animal was captured, and is being well cared for by Mr. Edgecombe. The family were once of opinion that the opossum found in bed may have been the one belonging to the Acclimatisation Society's gardens, but it is stated that they have since learned that such is not the case, and the whence of the opossum at Mr. Edgecombe's hotel still remains to be answered.” (Southern Cross, 16 August 1873, p. 2) The Acclimatisation Gardens were those at the Domain here in Auckland from the late 1860s to the early 1880s. This piece is interesting to me, in that it comes from a time when Aussie possums were seen as a curiosity and valuable commodity, rather than the out-and-out pest we know them as today. That, and the son was lucky not to have been clawed to ribbons ... The multiple spellings of his name William Edgecombe's surname, over the course of his lifetime, went through a variety of spellings. This may have been due to assumptions, or changes in style -- one version, in the 1881 Newton electoral roll, is simply a straight-out typo. Here's a brief list of the varieties: * Southern Cross, 8 March 1850, p. 2 (public notice inserted by him) - "Edgcombe" * In the deed between him and Dr. Aickin back in
1859, his name is spelled Edgecombe. * In the 3 May 1879 death notice for his son (also named William) (NZH), it's "Edgcumbe". * Boylan & Lundon's plan of the purchase of his property (waterworks reserve) - "Edgecombe" * 1881 Newton electoral roll: "Edgemnbe" * NZ Graphic 22 October 1892, p. 1046 -"Edgcombe" * His own death notice: "Edgcombe" * Auckland Provincial Index offers "Edgecombe" and "Edgcombe" Ah, the joys of historical / genealogical research ... His third marriage William Edgecombe survived two of his three wives. Ann died in 1875 and Edgecombe remarried in 1879 to Mary Tutty, a widow aged 65. She in turn passed away in July 1890, but in February 1891, Edgecombe had embarked on marriage number three, to Flora Turnbull. “A somewhat romantic wedding took place this morning shortly after ten, at St. James’, when Mr. W. Edgecombe, of Western Springs, was united to Miss Turnbull, of Devonport, North Shore. She is a lady of Scottish extraction, but has been settled in this country for some years. Considerable interest centred in the event from the fact that the bridegroom is one of the oldest New Zealand identities, being a man of some 80 years of age. The bride, too, was a lady of the mature age of some forty summers. Mr. King, of Queen-street, gave away the bride. The Rev. R. F. Macnicol performed the ceremony, after which a bridal party of about a dozen sat down to a most excellent wedding breakfast at the Star Hotel, at which various healths were proposed and drunk with enthusiasm. After the breakfast the bride and bridegroom took their departure for the [latter’s] residence at Western Springs amid the good wishes of all their friends.” (Auckland Star, 11 February 1891) The Observer commented: “Mr Edgecombe, a respected citizen of Auckland, is no believer in the modern outcry against the institution of marriage. He has had the mournful duty to discharge of burying two wives, but though he is now 81 years of age, he is not averse to making a third venture on the sea of matrimony. ... Both the bride and bridegroom are said to be in comfortable worldly circumstances. The lady, though little over half the age of her husband, is nevertheless of mature years. ... I suppose there will be no honeymoon trip— only giddy young things care for that lackadaisical enjoyment.” Flora outlived William, who became increasingly senile from 1893, and died in 1895. Flora lived on until 1907. — Lisa J. Truttman
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