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January - February 2010 Volume 9 Issue 51

The Avondale
Historical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical
Society Incorporated

Arthur Athelstan
of New Windsor

From a letter to Auckland City Council, by Don
Currey. Published with permission.
My father Arthur Currey purchased this prop-
erty in 1919 when he returned from WW1, and
developed the area into the largest glasshouse
tomato growing property in the Southern Hemi-
sphere during the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. On the
accompanying photo which was taken in 1950
you can see the 2- 1/2 acres of glasshouses and
surrounding land of 6 acres which was sold to
the Auckland City Council in the 1970s and
was developed by the Council as an 'old age
pensioner village'. That has subsequently been
removed and now has Housing NZ single unit
rental buildings on it. The Currey family home is still in use and is the one surrounded by palm trees on the left.
My father emigrated to NZ as a young 23 year old man and arrived in Wellington in 1908. He was a trained horticulturist
as was indeed his father in the UK. In 1911 he enlisted with the National Military Reserve and became a bombardier. At
the outbreak of the first world war he enlisted at Wellington – # 2/494 -and left NZ for Egypt with the NZEF, and contin-
ued on to fight at Gallipoli, particularly at the Battle of Lone Pine. After the ending of this misadventure he then fought in
Europe particularly at the Battle of Messines Ridge, Somme, and Passchendaele finally being wounded one month before
the ceasefire in early October 1918. He was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in 1917. He returned to NZ in 1919
and after recovery from his injuries he purchased # 53 New Windsor Rd, and proceeded to develop it as described above.
He lived on the property all his adult life until he died in 1981 at the age of 96.
The military, after the first world war became his 'hobby', and he was on the national military reserve until 1944 when he
retired as a Major in the army. During WW2 he trained young men in trench mortars and machine guns at Motuihe, and
Whangaparaoa peninsula for many weekends over a 5 year period. During the 1920,and 30's he was commander of the
College Rifles and was commanding officer of D Company. From 1939-44 he Commanded the 4th Field Artillery based in
Auckland. During the depression of the 1930s he was a large employer of local people who were unable to get a job else-
He was a strong advocate of both local and national grower or-
ganisations, serving for many years finally being awarded Life
Next meeting of the
Membership of NZ Vegetable and Produce Growers Assoc, as Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:
well as the Auckland division of the NZVPG Ass. He was a Di- Saturday, 6 February 2010, 2.30 pm
rector of Turners and Growers for over 25 years and was very Lion’s Hall,
involved in the development of the market buildings in that time
corner Blockhouse Bay Road and Great
North Road
I believe that some recognition needs to be made of a strong local
The Avondale Historical Journal Volume 9 Issue 51
Page 2
identity who was a major force within his chosen profes-
viticulture in the district. He had also used glasshouses to
sion, who led the industry for over 50 years with innova-
grow grapes at his previous orchard and garden, in Mt
tive ideas that are still used today. He was very much a
pioneer both in his industry, as well as the local district,
ably assisted by Gwen Currey his wife who was born in In May 1898, fruitgrower Frederick Bluck purchased the
New Windsor Rd New Windsor property for £1200 from Sophia, now a
widow. Bluck subdivided the property in 1911.
Another 'old family' who lived further up New Windsor
Rd the Dickey family have had recognition by both a
Frederick Bluck (d. 1941) arrived with his family in Auck-
street name and the Dickey Reserve named after them on
land in 1866. Along with his brothers, he enrolled as a
land that they formerly owned.
volunteer militiaman in Drury, serving in the Pukekohe
I would really appreciate it if Council could allow my sug- and Tuakau Rifle Volunteers. Later he encouraged recruit-
gestion to go forward and that a name change be imple- ment in the Waitara district. Bluck took up a teaching po-
mented on property formerly owned by the Currey family, sition at West Tamaki, and served as secretary of the
so that there is recognition for our family name to honour Roads Board there. After leaving Cleveden, he moved to
all that my Father strove for in the past. the Thames goldfields, then to Waitara where he became
stationmaster for the opening of the New Plymouth line,
Editor’s notes: and later operated a general store. In 1898, he traveled
The reserve is part of what was once a larger site which back to the north, settling in Avondale, where he was to
stretched between New Windsor and Tiverton Road, be- become secretary to the Avondale Road Board and later a
longing to American-born Robert David James and his land agent in partnership with his son Frederick. Together,
wife Sophia from 1881. The NZ Herald in 1882 published they arranged for the construction of the Bluck Building
a detailed description of Captain James’ property: on upper Rosebank Road. He left Avondale to retire in
“Adjoining Mr. Matthews’ section is the homestead and
nursery grounds, near some 20 acres in extent, of Captain Before 1911, Bluck sold a 5 acre portion of James’ origi-
James, formerly of Mount Albert. No better illustration of nal 20 acres including the reserve site to a Mr Oldham.
what industry, practical skill, and capital can accomplish Eventually, from c.1919, this became the property of Ar-
can be found in the district than at this gentleman’s nurs- thur Athelstan Currey (1885-1981).
ery. He came to the place, a wilderness of fern, over a
Currey grew tomatoes and other crops. Between 1927 and
year ago. Commenced planting last August several thou-
1949, he added sev-
sand trees – peaches, apples, lemons, quinces, &c. Two
eral single and double
acres are laid out as a peach orchard, and another large
glasshouses as he
breadth planted out in strawberries. One of his specialties
extended his land-
is lemons, the Lisbon variety principally, and we have not
holdings, many quite
seen any trees so thriving as these for a long time. Of
massive (valued at
grapes, he is cultivating all the early and late varieties,
£1500), and remained
and has a number of vines of the black Hamburg variety.
as owner of the site
He has erected three greenhouses, each 50X24, teen feet
until 1975, when it
stud, with span roof, and 14 feet rafters. Another specialty
was transferred to
is the gooseberry, and he has set out 800 plants, as well as
Auckland City Coun-
prepared a bed of several hundred apple trees, all budded
and grafted. … Everything is turned to advantage by Cap-
tain James. The boundary fence is lined with passion fruit,
the prospective produce of which has already been se-
cured by a speculator. Inside the fence, some 10 feet or so,
flax plants are being set out to provide materials for put-
ting up fruit and for binding operations, instead of twine.
Adjoining the residence is a commodious stable, with ve-
hicles for transporting to and fro everything required, so
that from first to last everything is done within the re-
sources of the establishment. We left the place with a
wholesome respect for the energy and pluck of the man Arthur Currey’s
who, past the meridian of life, had, for the fifth time in a original land hold-
busy life, hewn out a fresh home for himself from the wil- ings, Oldham’s old
derness.” glasshouses and
Currey’s additions,
The James family was therefore Avondale’s earliest from DP 19654,
known orchardists, particularly on such a large scale, and 1926 (LINZ records)
also the earliest known users of a glasshouse system of
The Avondale Historical Journal Volume 9 Issue 51
Page 3

Avondale Boy in World War Two Tragedy
by Tony Goodwin
Ken Button lived at 18 Henry Street, Avondale where For the next twelve months he served as a signalman on
his father Arthur was a popular local postman and Victory shore station and was then drafted to Chatham
tomato grower. Ken, Connie, and Marjorie were prior to joining one hundred and fifty other New Zea-
foundation scholars of the Avondale Baptist Sunday landers aboard the “Orion” class cruiser HMS Neptune
School which had opened in May 1926. Connie was a
The New Zealanders were ecstatic at joining Neptune
foundation teacher and the late Iris Fearon remembered
as she was destined to join the New Zealand station, but
her with affection, and how she received a penny from
on 31st May 1941 she sailed from the Clyde, not bound
“Miss Button” for being a good girl. A scroll with the
for New Zealand but for the Mediterranean where
names of all the foundation pupils and staff hung on the
Allied forces were being pummelled by the Germans
wall for many years but has now gone.
by land, sea, and air.
Ken was born on 22nd August 1918 at Auckland. He
British Naval forces had catastrophic losses in the
went to Avondale primary school and later attended
Mediterranean, the battleship Barham being torpedoed
Seddon Memorial Technical College, Wellesley Street,
and blowing up with no survivors. The remaining bat-
now a part of AUT. He was a sports loving boy and
tleships were disabled at Alexandria by Italian frog-
played rugby for Suburbs. Following his schooling he
became an electrical worker with the firm of Turnbull
and Jones who were prominent contractors at the time. Now it was Neptune’s turn. On 19th December 1941 at
He was proud of his little Austin seven car which cost 0106 hours while searching for an Italian convoy off
him the princely sum of twenty pounds. the coast of Tripoli, Neptune and the accompanying
destroyer force blundered into an Italian minefield.
In February 1938 he joined the “Royal Naval Volunteer
Neptune was badly damaged on the bow but two further
Reserve [New Zealand Division] Official Number
mines destroyed her stern. The Cruiser Aurora and the
A1778 and in December that year qualified as Ordinary
destroyers Penelope and Kandahar were also hit by
Signalman [visual, referred to as a ‘bunting tosser” due
mines, Kandahar being so badly damaged she had to
to the fact they used semaphore flags].
be scuttled. A fourth explosion ripped open the side of
With the outbreak of hostilities against Germany, Ken, Neptune and she lay on her side and sank at 0400
along with all Ngapona Reservists, was mobilised and hours. Those who survived the sinking quickly
prior to going overseas he served at the shore bases at succumbed to the heavy sea that was running and the
Philomel and the examination battery at Narrow Neck. intense cold. At sunrise on Christmas Eve 1941 AB
John Walton was picked out of the sea by an Italian
On the 2nd May 1940 in pouring rain, he sailed from
destroyer, the only survivor from Neptune. One hun-
Wellington along with the RNVR detachment on the
dred and fifty New Zealand sailors had gone down with
Troopship Aquitania. They formed part of the convoy
their ship, Ken Button amongst them.
of the second Echelon, which included the first of the
28 Maori Battalion men to serve overseas.
Photo: the cake shop on upper Rosebank Road built by the Collins family. One of those in the doorway is Doll
Webb neé Collins. Courtesy Cazna Lowen, Doll’s niece.
News came over the past two months of the deaths of two
of our Society’s members. Winifred Jessie “Doll” Webb
died 1 December 2009 in Auckland. Doll Webb, from the
Collins family who owned a large chunk of upper Rosebank
Road including the sites of the Post Office and ASB Bank
buildings, was a special lady who enthusiastically supported
the Society from afar. I’ll miss her bright and breezy voice
on the ‘phone.
Dorothy Chadwick Bagnall died on 4th September at Ross
Home, Dunedin. She was our southern-most member, and a
talented family historian, among many other skills.
Our sincere condolences to families and friends of both
Doll and Dorothy.
The Avondale Historical Journal Volume 9 Issue 51
Page 4

A wreck in the Whau

This photograph comes to us courtesy of the Waitakere City Libraries, published originally in the Western Leader, 8
October 2003, said to have been the Sea Lei, from 1967, at the Te Atatu end (and on the western side) of the river.

It does look very similar to a wreck visible from the end of Avondale Road, at the back of Cobham Road near
Kelston. I haven’t been able to find out any information on the Sea Lei at this stage, so I can’t say for certain if this
was a different wreck left lying in the river, or whether it was one and the same.

There was, from 1959 to c.1969, a shipbuilding yard on the Whau at Kelson called Dillingham Corporation (Western
Leader, 16 January 1969) which might explain the Cobham Road wreck (perhaps an unfinished work). That busi-
ness was owned by a Mr. L. Bryce, and included work on 70ft trawlers.

Any further information gratefully appreciated.

The Avondale Historical Journal
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