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Lynfield: from coastal wilderness to modern suburbia

Text of a talk given at Blockhouse Bay Library, 9 October 2013, as part of Auckland Heritage Festival, by Lisa J Truttman

The Manukau Endowment land and its neighbours The earliest known map of what we know today as the main part of the suburb of Lynfield, from Wairaki Stream (“Duck Creek”) in the west to Wattle Bay in the east, dates from 1857. It shows basically a bare expanse of land, unoccupied, except for a small portion at the head of Wattle Bay used by Maori at the time, possibly in conjunction with the Wesley Mission School at Three Kings. Later, that part would be incorporated into the surveyed area of the future Lynfield in 1908. Further east, Cape Horn could well have been a Maori settlement site in the pre-colonial era. Of course, just to the west was Te Whau settlement at Blockhouse Bay.

Lynfield itself has waterways emptying into the Manukau Harbour, but from the high ground between White Swan and Boundary Roads, and from both the Maungakiekie Golf course and Margaret Griffen Park, the waters flow which lead west to form the Whau Stream, and further west to the Whau River itself. The part that became Lynfield comprised 336 acres, and from 1860 became part of the series of Manukau Harbour Endowment lands; there was another 1000 acres at the northern side of the entrance to the harbour (including Whatipu and Paratutai Wharf), land at Huia Bay, and another 208 acres at Awhitu. The Lynfield land, under the Provincial Government control before 1876, had remained vacant since 1860. From 1876 until 1908, the area was administered directly (on paper only) by the Marine Department. In 1884 came a Manukau Harbour Board Bill – a proposal to vest all the Manukau Harbour endowments with Onehunga Borough Council. This didn’t happen. The Secretary of the Marine Department expressed willingness for Auckland Harbour Board to control both harbours in 1887, but it took another 21 years for that to take place.

The government surveyed and subdivided the Lynfield land into 5-17 acre blocks in 1908, prior to the Auckland Harbour Board taking over control in 1911. From that point, 21 year leases were let by the Harbour Board, and at last they obtained income from the endowment lands. The main road through the subdivision was initially called Endowment Road until around 1917, when it was dubbed Halsey Drive.

Halsey Drive Primary School, at the moment, have on their website:

“Halsey Drive was named in honour of Vice-Admiral William Halsey, an admiral in the USA Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.”

Whereas, soon after the Auckland Harbour Board officially took over the endowment area, Captain Lionel Halsey took over command of the HMS New Zealand in 1912, took the ship on a world tour, was in command of HMS New Zealand at the Battles of the Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank during World War I, and was promoted to Rear-Admiral and Fourth Sea Lord in December 1916. In October 1918 he became commander-in-chief of the Australian navy. I’ve sent an email to the school to let them know.

What is now Sylvania Crescent Esplanade Reserve, Halsey Esplanade Reserve, Himalaya Reserve and Lynfield Cove Reserve were all surveyed as reserves back in 1908, although Himalaya Reserve was formally vested only in 1929, and became a recreation reserve in 1953. The Harbour Board vested a reserve on Halsey Drive in the Mt Roskill Road Board in 1929, which was formally named Manukau Domain in 1930.

Going up at the White Swan Road … The early 1857 map doesn’t show a direct link between Hillsborough Road and Richardson Road, but it does appear in a late 1840s plan of the nearby crown grants, although named much later. The original White Swan Road appears to have been what is Donovan Street today, right to the roundabout at Blockhouse Bay. The name first appears in sales ads for Allotment 76 at the Blockhouse Bay end in 1862. Three quarters of the property fronting White Swan from Hillsborough to Richardson Roads was first subdivided in 1884. Owing to the fact that this section of White Swan Road required at least two bridges, it probably was little more than a walking and light cart track until the early 20th century.

Bay of Islands doctor Samuel Hayward Ford (related by marriage to Hayward Wright of kiwifruit fame) bought the western side and part of the eastern side of White Swan Road, but never lived there. Residents don’t appear in the records until, at the earliest the turn of the 20th century, when it became practical to both live and farm in the district due to improved roads (and the Harbour Endowment subdivision).

Herbert William Brooks (c.1855-1931) purchased just over 23½ acres at the bend and going down the slope in 1911. According to Andrew Griffen, “After selecting the site for his home, [Brooks] pitched a tent there, living in it until he had put up a shack for temporary accommodation while the big house was being erected.” Possibly, this was just before World War I, and the big house is the landmark Turret House still there today. The Brooks farm, pigs and poultry, included the site of today’s Lynfield College.

Across from Brooks farm, in 1917 a strip was purchased by the government which became Griffen Park Road (created, according to Andrew Griffen, to ease access to the endowment lands. It became part of Endowment Road, then called Griffen Road, and finally the name it has today). On either side of the new road, the Griffen brothers set up their strawberry and milk supply business, Griffendale Farm. (Griffen was one of the early names proposed for Lynfield College). On retirement, A D Griffen bought back his brothers property at the corner of White Swan and Griffen Road, along with an adjoining property. The resulting 10½ acre block was given to the people of Mount Roskill as an athletic ground and playing area for the youth of the district, in tribute to the memory of A D Griffen’s late wife Margaret, and opened 9 February 1952, as Margaret Griffen Memorial Park.

To the east, backing onto the Griffen brothers’ farm, the Maungakiekie Golf Club found a new home in 1943, on land probably farmed from the late 19th century. Part of which was a raupo swamp which the club had to drain before forming the course we see there today.

The area known roughly as Halsey Drive Halsey Drive in the newspapers of the 1920s to 1940s would be described as being in Avondale South (now Blockhouse Bay) or Waikowhai Estate. Stories of the area’s early days seem to describe it as a place of transients. This wasn’t exactly the case – established dairy

and poultry farms, as well as strawberry growing went on there. Campaigns were organised to have the Mt Roskill Road Board extend water supply to the area. The residents of Halsey Drive were very active in the Roskill South Resident Association.

Strawberry growing in the area seems to have begun in the period immediately before and during the First World War. Ted Edwards had his plots on White Swan Road leading back to Boundary Road, taking his produce by wheelbarrow, so its said, all the way over rough roads to Avondale and the Bollard & Woods store (stories that he enjoyed a treat of a brew at the local pub there on completion of his journey, though, weren’t probably not true – during his time, the hotel was a Post Office). The Halsey Drive growers were Cranwell, McLennan, Vickers, Strickland, Kirker (Kirker said to have been the earliest settler on Halsey Drive, there until the 1930s), Woods, Brewin and J & H Kennedy.

In February 1938, James John Pender who lived on Halsey Road with his wife, was working on the Wairoa to Gisborne Railway. He and 21 others drowned in a destructive flash flood which destroyed No. 4 camp on the night of 19 February beside the Kopuawhara Stream.

Linfield to Lynfield Back in 1957, when a new college was about to open just off White Swan Road in Mt Roskill West, the parents and school board wanted to choose a name for the school to reflect its area. As previously mentioned, “Griffen” was one of the contenders for a name, but they chose “Lynfield”, saying that this was because of the name of a farm which occupied the site in earlier times. Peter McConnell in his book People and Progress (1983), elaborated that the school was named after “Lynfield Poultry Farm … owned by an Australian who named it after a town in his homeland.” Jade Reidy in Not Just Passing Through (2007), added more by recording that the college “had been named after Sir Alfred Bankhart’s poultry farm that had earlier overlooked the planned suburb [of Lynfield].”

Going back to the mid 1950s, before plans went ahead for the college, Andrew D Griffen’s series of recollections were reproduced by the Roskill Times, and among them, on 13 July 1955, this appeared, which probably influenced the decision:

“Another early resident of this area of Mount Roskill South, who led the way in homebuilding … was Mr (later Sir Alfred) Bankart. His property was further along White Swan Road, past Ridge Road, on the left hand side. It was a large block, in all just over 70 acres, extending along White Swan Road, past Ridge Road as far as the Mount Roskill boundary with Avondale. His back boundary was the Wairaki Stream, commonly known as Duck Creek.

“The land was all rough ti-tree when Mr Bankart took it over. He had it cleared, ploughed and put down in grass. This work was done under the supervision of Mr J Bollard, MP, known throughout the district as “Honest John”. When it came to building, Mr Bankart, whose chief interest was poultry-raising, did things in the grand manner.

“For himself he built a large modern home, and all the outbuildings necessary for the activities of a wealthy gentleman farmer. For his estate manager, Mr Irvine, there was a fine seven-roomed house, while the assistant manager, Mr Cooper, was provided with a fiveroomed dwelling. Another excellent building erected on the estate was a two-storey structure used to store grain for feeding the poultry, with an up-to-date cow-shed installed underneath.

“In addition to this were the first-class poultry and incubator houses, built with highest grade timber, and fitted with every labour-saving device available at the time. No expense was spared. Mr Irvine had been engaged as estate manager because he was then New Zealand’s outstanding authority regarding the white leghorn strain. At one period Mr Bankart’s stock of birds was little short of 10,000 …

“It is a sad thing to have to record that in later years fire destroyed Mr Bankart’s fine home [in 1929], and also the house he built for his estate manager.”

Bankart’s house was likely on the eastern side of the intersection of Gilletta and White Swan Road, while Irvine’s house was on the other.

So – what I’ve found out is this:

Alfred Seymour Bankart purchased Allotment 74, Parish of Titirangi, apparently from John Logan Campbell, in 1910. Griffen wrote of a brougham once belonging to Campbell stored in a granary on the farm – if so, this could mean that the farm was operational to some extent prior to Bankart’s ownership, probably as far back as 1852 when Campbell appears to have purchased it from his business partner William Brown. Bankart was at one time secretary of the brewery company of Campbell & Ehrenfried.

Bankart started to subdivide and sell the farm, called the Gilletta Estate, from 1919, and his ownership ceased in 1922.

According to the Irvine family, in an interview with the Auckland Star 31 May 1967, Albert William Irvine (1884-1967) arrived from Australia at the turn of the century (his marriage registration from 1908 says he was born in Queensland), initially seeking to make a living as an advertising and layout copy writer, then took up horse-tram driving before joining the Auckland Electric Tramways company as a tram driver on the Kingsland route (which would mean he was around in 1903). One of the witnesses to his later marriage in 1908 was Arthur Alfred Irvine, also a tram motorman, so he may not have immigrated here alone. At the time, he had a hobby of importing Leghorn chickens from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and breeding them. We know from the newspapers of the time that by 1908, he was over on Pah Road near Epsom, advertising grazing paddocks which he offered to rent out for 2/- per head per week for cattle and horses. On 19 May 1908, at St Andrews Church in Epsom, he married Lucia Olive Pickering from New South Wales. He came second for his Buff cockerel and first for a black Longshan pullet or hen at the July 1909 Auckland Poultry Show. By August 1909 though, he was promoting his Leghorn breed first and foremost.

His Pah Road farm became known as the Linfield Poultry Farm, as he advertised “Irvine’s Original American Standard Line Bred White Leghorns – The record layers of to-day; bred to prolific laying … Eggs or Birds shipped to any part of Australasia.” By January 1913, he advised the public he had 2000 birds “every one a typical breeder. "Highest Quality in Australasia" are Irvine Strain. Proved in public tests and exhibitions.” Every bird was guaranteed, and those who wrote in could order a 40-page catalogue.

Between January and March 1913, with at least one championship under his belt, he then shifted to White Swan Road to become Bankart’s estate manager, three years after Bankart had taken over title of the property from his employer Campbell. The “Linfield” name came with him, but he also kept the Pah Road farm going for a while. The White Swan Road farm had a telephone connection, and a telegram address for orders, both local and international: “Irvstan”.

Yesterday the delegates to the New Zealand Poultrymen's Conference paid a visit to Mr. A. W. Irvine's poultry farm at Mount Roskill, and last evening the conference was brought to a close with the reading of a paper by Mr. Irvine on “The Housing and Caring of Poultry." (Star 28 March 1913)

He took out a 21 year lease with the Harbour Board for 16 ½ acres of the endowment land, between today’s Caronia Crescent and Oriana Road, in December 1913 as well. Whether he intended starting another poultry farm there isn’t known. He transferred the lease to retired constable James Edward McLennan in October 1914.

By that time, between June and August 1914, he had left Bankart’s estate, heading for Boundary (now Landscape) Road and taking the “Linfield Poultry Farm” name with him. So, quite possibly, he may have had Bankart as a financial partner of sorts, but the company was his. He boasted in advertisements (probably that copywriting experience coming through): “IRVINE STRAIN World's Greatest Exhibition and Utility Strain. Winners everywhere. 1700 prize cups and trophies. Winners North Island Championship 1912, 1913, 1914, 3 years in succession. This proves my blood to be the supreme of all.”

By July 1916, this number of prizes had risen to a staggering 2300. According to his family “the young poultryman” travelled “throughout New Zealand, selling, exhibiting and later judging,”– but at a cost. He suffered a nervous breakdown, so his family says. “Owing to ill health, I am retiring from the Poultry. The Whole of My Stud is for Sale. The Largest Prizewinners in Australasia,” he advised through his advertisements at the time.

He also advertised that he was leaving the country – but instead he and his wife headed for Pahiatua. Their stay there, though, was brief. They ran a restaurant business (and Irvine occasionally judged at poultry shows). But a fire destroyed their restaurant in May 1918.

The family set up a home cookery in Hamilton, expanding to Morrinsville and Te Aroha. In 1923, Irvine was still into his hobby, winning first prize for his Leghorns at the Waikato Show. The Irvines eventually returned to Auckland, setting up a cake business at Onehunga just as the Great Depression hit. Irvine closed up at Onehunga, and started to bake and deliver bread from Remuera, eventually baking 5000 loaves a week, before shifting to Newmarket, on Broadway. At that time, 1939, the family dropped the bread business, and A W Irvine Ltd returned to cakes, becoming wholesale cake makers. They built a factory at Newmarket, then moved back to Onehunga during World War II. By 1949, they’d added frozen pastry to their products. At this point, Albert Irvine retired and handed the business over to his sons. Irvines Pastries merged with General Foods in 1961, and their Mt Wellington factory in the late 1960s made cakes, pies, pastry, milk bar syrup and cordials.

According to Garth Houltham of the Mt Roskill (Puketapapa) Historical Society, the Irvines died here in Auckland. After finally settling in Remuera, Albert Irvine died 3 May 1967, and his ashes were buried at Purewa. Did he know about the “Lynfield” version of the real name of his poultry farms used by the school, and later the suburb in the early 1960s? Perhaps he had forgotten, or didn’t particularly mind.

The May 1967 article said that the poultry farm was “Lynfield” (which we now know isn’t the right spelling), named “after Lynfield near Sydney where his wife had been born.”

Albert William Irvine’s wife was Lucia “Lucy” Olive Pickering, born 1882 to sawmill manager Frederick George Pickering, and his wife Phyllis Priscilla (nee Gawthorne). Albert married Lucy in 1908. She died 16 April 1961, and her ashes were buried at Purewa. This from an Ancestry.com page.

http://records.ancestry.com/Lucy_Olive_Pickering_records.ashx?pid=77215089

While such pages are only as good as the information that goes into them, a check for family notices on Trove shows that the Pickerings appear to have been central Sydney dwellers at the time of Lucy’s birth. At Bathurst Street, to be precise, near Darling Harbour.

18 September 1882, a daughter to Mrs F Pickering, at 54 Bathurst Street, Sydney (near Darling Harbour) 1887 Frederick George Pickering lived at Marrickville.

However, Frederick George Pickering died in 1898 (according to an Ancestry.com page, 11 April 1898, at his late residence Coffs Harbour), while his family were living at Lindfield, North Sydney later that year. This may be the source of the family tradition, slightly altered to Linfield by Irvine in 1909 (a year after he married Lucy). Indeed, there were places both called Linfield and Lynfield in Australia in the 19th century, but in Trove, the LIN spelling is more common in appearance that LYN by a ratio of around 7:1

So, it seems that Albert Irvine misspelled the place name when naming his farm, which was mis-spelled in turn by the good folks at Lynfield College and by Irvine’s family in the mid 20th century.

The modern Lynfield The Auckland Harbour Board began their plans for the modern Lynfield we now know back in 1954, when they engaged consultants to prepare a subdivision plan for the whole area as a housing estate, allowing for 900 sections, with 100 opened up each year. This would start with 585 sections between Halsey Drive and Hillsborough Road. Housing for 3500 to 4000 people was the aim of the project. Negotiations began with existing leaseholders, while those leases coming up for renewal were not continued. In 1960, after discussions with town planners, it was decided to incorporate a shopping and service centre with direct access off Hillsborough Road.

The first blocks in the subdivision were prepared by late 1962 – and the Harbour Board returned to the maritime theme for the new streets, using the name of ships: Canberra, Caronia, Rangitiki, Oriana, Orcades, Orsova, Himalaya, Iberia, Mariposa, Rangitane, Rangitata, Wanganella, Strathnaver, Andes, Mauretania, Sylvania, Ascania, Alaunia, Niagara, Rotorua, Gothic, Athenic, Castel Felice and Fairsea.

It was reported that the Lynfield development was one of the first major developments of its kind in the country to include planning for utilities to be underground.

The first shop in the new shopping centre at the corner of The Avenue and Hillsborough Road was a New World supermarket by November 1965. The shopping centre was spread over 4 acres, and in the 1960s was intended to include 10 smaller shops, along with doctor’s rooms. There was talk of a possible department store on the site, but this didn’t eventuate.

Halsey Drive Primary School opened in 1968. According to their website: “The school was built in 1968 and has over the last few years grown in size. There are 20 classrooms and a hall that was constructed in 1998, a swimming pool complex which was heated in 2004 and a new library, which has recently been completed.”

By this time (late 1960s) 256 of the originally planned 900 sections had been serviced, with 220 offered, still on a 21-year leasehold basis. A residents group, the Lynfield Association, pressed the Harbour Board to provide opportunity for freehold titles, including starting a petition in late 1968, but this was turned down. By then nearly 400 sections had been leased. In 1970, however, the Harbour Board changed its mind, and agreed to give existing and future residents the option of buying their sections rather than leasing them. This was to help provide additional finance to continue opening up the area’s residential sections.

Land at Duck Creek was reclaimed in 1971, and the name changed to the more euphonious “Lynfield Cove”. The subdivision in that area in 1971, leading down from Halsey Drive, was said to have been the first large clifftop subdivision anywhere on the Manukau Harbour foreshore.

In 1988, Lynfield lost its post office, which operated from leased premises at the shopping centre from 1966. It was replaced by Postshop facilities.

Only the Strathnaver block was left for development and sale by 1989 when the Auckland Harbour Board ceased to exist in the amalgamation of that year.

In 1990, the New World supermarket in Lynfield closed its doors. The shopping centre then had a 3Guys store, then a Countdown which opened in an extended premises at the shopping centre.

There was more bad news for the Lynfield community when they lost the campaign to have a local community library in the shopping centre (losing to Blockhouse Bay in 1993), despite the much closer proximity of Lynfield College, and the possibility of the new library servicing much of the rest of Roskill South. Auckland City Councillors saw 130 people bussed in to their meeting from Blockhouse Bay, compared with only a few business owners from Lynfield, and so voted 19 to 4 for the $500,000 library to go over the hill to Blockhouse Bay.

But in 2002 the Lynfield residents won a two year campaign to convince Housing New Zealand to change its development plans from 40 terraced houses for low income earners to a pensioner unit development on Hillsborough Road.

And so we have today’s Lynfield – named after a bit of trans-Tasman confusion and quite a few chooks, and forming Mt Roskill’s south-western corner. With community buildings, schools, a renewed shopping centre and stunning views of the Manukau Harbour, though – the town planners’ dream still seems to be coming true. It’s certainly no longer an empty wilderness above the waters.