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January — February 2016

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

From when there were once trolley buses ...

Photo from c.1975, sharted with permission from the
Old Auckland Buses Facebook page — always great
seeing images of the old trolley bus turnaround on upper Rosebank Road. Steele’s factory in the background, the old toilets/Plunket rooms at left.

Next meeting of the
Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:
at St Ninians, St Georges Road
SATURDAY, 6 February 2016, 2.00 pm
(Yes, even though that’s Waitangi Day)

Copies of Avondale Historical Journal and AWHS
Newsletter produced for us by
Words Incorporated, 557 Blockhouse Bay Road,
Blockhouse Bay.
The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank

Avondale Business
for their continued support and sponsorship of this

The Avondale Historical Journal

Page 2

Ben Copedo (1927-2015)
A remembrance, by Lisa J Truttman

Ben Copedo was one of the last gentlemen of West
Auckland heritage, and passed away towards the end
of 2015. He was a friend of the late, great John T
“Jack” Diamond. While I researched into the background of the Thomas Henderson story, I spent hours
chatting with Ben, sounding out ideas and theories,
running my understanding of Henderson’s distant history by him for comment and critique, sharing information and discoveries with him. The experience was a
joy, because here was a man passionate about local
heritage, deeply interested in the area, and always keen
to find out more. All the time, checking, rechecking,
and making sure the facts were as accurate as they
could be. I went down to the river bed of the Opanuku
with him, spotting old holes in the sandstone, pondering what they could mean in terms of the puzzle that
still exists – how many Henderson’s Mills were there?
(Answer: two, because a “fresh” or artificial water
surge to carry logs down towards Henderson nearly
wiped out the first mill, who was later shored up by
“Long” John McLeod as he built a new, second one,
likely on the other side of the river for safety).
One hot day in March 2010 he took me on a trek
through brush, grass and cutty grass to see the remains
of an old WWII brick petrol tank holder standing in
ruins near the rail line. He was 83 at the time. Ben was
a man who had the stamina for such treks through his
beloved area, and to take on Waitakere City Council
when they rather foolishly wanted to rename Henderson Train Station as Waitakere Central (to fit in with
their relabelled council offices and library. The library
still carries that on). Ben wouldn’t have a bar of it. He
wrote off to the Geographic Board, who supported his
firm contention that Henderson is Henderson, and
should not be renamed on a political whim. I still recall
being present at a meeting of the West Auckland Historical Society when he announced his victory, and
being cheered.
In the last years of his life, he became a member of the
Avondale-Waterview Historical Society. He didn’t
come to our meetings, he wasn’t well enough, so few
of you reading this will recall him. But – as one of
West Auckland’s great local heroes for heritage, I
think he deserves to be recognised on this side of the
Ben’s personal heritage with Auckland goes back from
both his father’s and his mother’s lineage. On his father’s side, grandfather Augustus Peter Copedo arrived

Ben Copedo, beside a display of his at Mill Cottage,
Henderson. From Western Leader 30 May 2009,
photo by Carolyn Thomas.

in Auckland around 1865 from an Adriatic seaside
village named San Vito Chietino in Italy. He had a job
working on the Novelty, sailing between Auckland
and Sydney on a regular basis, until he had a series of
fallings-out with the captain, one Joseph Burgess, who
claimed in court in 1870 that Copedo repeatedly defied
his orders regarding the loading of the goods the boat
Augustus Copedo next appears in 1876, master of his
own craft the Hero, plying the waters near Helenville.
In the interim, it seems, he had returned to Italy, found
that his sweetheart was now with another, travelled to
England, met Ann Elizabeth New, married her, and
returned to New Zealand. The Copedo family settled at
Poutu and Red Hill in the Northern Wairoa, Augustus
dying there in 1902. One of his sons Benjamin, born at
Tokatoka in 1878, would marry Martha May Sisam –
and among their children would be Ben, the subject of
this article. Ben’s father died in 1942, and owned land
near the Cascades area in the Waitakeres, after living
for a time in Waitakere and Swanson where he engaged in gumdigging before his brief enlistment during the First World War.
Martha Sisam’s father, Walter Henry Sisam, arrived at
Auckland with his brother Alfred John Sisam on the
Matilda Wattenbach in September 1862. They received
a joint crown grant for land by 1868, but Alfred’s career led him to the constabulary in the Bay of Plenty,
while Walter Henry took up land on lease adjoining

The Avondale Historical Journal

Page 3
the present day Cascades Reserve in the Waitakeres
(part of the golf course there today) from the early
1880s, gaining title in 1891. His wife Mary died in
1888, herself the daughter of a colporteur, a distributor
of books in Auckland and Thames. Walter Henry Sisam
worked as a rates collector and clerk for the Waitakerei
East Road District, until it merged with the Waitemata
County Council.
Ben’s bibliography of writing includes work on the story behind Henderson’s Mill and the Falls Hotel (1999),
The Empty Concrete House on Scenic Drive (1982), and
various articles in W est of Eden, published by the West
Auckland Historical Society.
Ben also gave permission for his recollections as a
worker in the seeds room of the company where he
worked in the city in the 1950s to be published in the
Avondale Historical Journal in 2009 (Vol 8 No 45).
Thank you Ben, for your contributions, your time, your
energy and your legacy.
The time is ten minutes past six on a calm, hot autumn
evening in the city of Auckland. The year is 1953. The
scene is the second floor of a Customs Street East warehouse where a young man in his mid twenties works at a
bench in the seed room of the company in which he is
employed. His companions and work mates of the day
have all left the building an hour past. Some will have
nearly reached their home. One or two may be sitting
down to the evening meal. Not a sound can be
heard throughout the building save those that he makes
The window is wide open allowing the warm air and the
confused chatter of the metropolis to enter and float
around the room.
Over the past seventy minutes since the fifth hour struck
on the Ferry Building clock on the waterfront of the
Waitemata Harbour the bustling activity of the city business world has slowly eased and now has almost faded
away. The distinctive mechanical sounds of the tram
cars that had been passing almost bumper to bumper
have now been reduced to a welcoming greeting every
seven to ten minutes. From the pavement below is heard
the quick tip, tip, tip made by the high heeled shoes of
shop and office girls as they head towards their chosen
transport. Occasionally is heard the clap, clap, clap of a
pair of wedge healed shoes. Remember the Wedgies?
At even rarer intervals comes the firm, manly tread of
solid leather on bitumen. In 1953 few shoes for men had
rubber or composition soles.
The Britomart Hotel, situated alongside the seed warehouse, has closed the bar room doors. Its "one for the
road" patrons have been obliged to leave. On the opposite side of the street the Britomart Service Station has
put up the safety gates, and the tall Arthur H. Nathan

and A. J. Entrican Sims buildings show a light in one or
two windows indicating that, like the young man in the
seed warehouse, someone is working late.
From a distance, towards Queen Street, on the John
Burns corner can be heard the cry of the "Star" boy
selling the last of this evening’s Star newspaper. His
distinctive cry, "Stairrr eerrr fee-nal eedittonn", carries
through the air. From further afield comes the hoot of a
harbour ferry or the sharp, urgent warning toot of the
William C. Daldy, the harbour tug boat, as she goes
about her duties. Originating far out above the harbour
waters a gentle gust of clean air swirls and seeks its
way between the tall buildings, pauses at the open window of the seed warehouse before it drifts cool and
fresh across the face of the young man.
He is tired. The breeze, soft and mysterious as a baby's
breath, invigorates him. Arranged in nine neat rows on
the bench before him are the little manila satchels containing the seeds he has weighed out to the order of a
nurseryman whose business is out in the suburbs. He
reads the last item on the order sheet, a request for one
two hundred and fifty sixth of an ounce of Eucalyptus
seed. He carefully weighs out the minute quantity on a
set of fine scales with part of his mind marvelling at the
magic of the situation. Each one of these tiny, dust-like
seeds holds all that is required to grow into a mighty
tree, two hundred feet high and three feet in diameter. If
he now sneezed a hundred of the tiny seeds would be
swished away and lost forever. The words of a faintly
remembered poem come into his mind, "Here, in my
hand a forest lies asleep."
He smiles. Here, the big city is slowly closing its eyes.
Soon it will fall into a light slumber to awake to a new
dawn. The young man tidies up, switches off the lights,
walks downstairs and out under the shop night light,
opens the street door to the cool, fresh air of the night.
He locks the street door, turns and walks diagonally
across the street. He could not have done so had he
ceased work at 5 o'clock.
Gaining the north side of Customs Street East he walks
westwards and turns up Commerce Street to the bus
terminal where awaits the last vehicle but one this night,
to the distant suburb where he lives.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Page 4

Mr Roberton of Roberton
John Roberton (c.1829-1894) was a merchant who purchased a house along with just over an acre of land
bounded by Symonds, Basque and Dundonald Streets, in
1862, known as Cotele. But — he also had an Avondale
link, which survives in one of our street names.
Sometime from 1866 to the early 1870s, land owner and
farmer Henry Walton decided to retire and leave the
colony to return to England. He resigned from the
Legislative Council in 1866, but still retained land holdings which need a New Zealand resident agent to manage on his behalf. He appointed John Roberton as his
attorney, and part of the land Roberton was tasked to
administer was the Walton Estate in Avondale, today's Roberton area. After John Roberton died, Henry
Walton's family next appointed Roberton's son
Dr Ernest Roberton as attorney for the estate of the now
deceased Walton.
(From his obituary): John Roberton was born in
Glasgow c.1829 and arrived in Auckland in 1846. He
was in business first with his brother-in-law, then later
on his own account for many years in Queen-street, one
of the largest and most prosperous merchants in
Auckland. When his premises in Queen Street burned
down, he transferred his business to Durham Street, and
in 1872 he sold out and went to England. He returned,
but remained in semi-retirement.
He was for some years chairman of directors of the
Taupiri Coal Company. He was also one of the foremost
men in obtaining the San Francisco mail service. He was
formerly president of the Chamber of Commerce, and
was one of the small knot of gentlemen who started St.
Sepulchre's Church in Symonds-street, being for many
years a church warden.

The Avondale Historical Journal
Published by:
the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc.
Editor: Lisa J. Truttman
Society contact:
19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland 0600
Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804
Society information:
Subscriptions: $15 individual
$20 couple/family
$30 corporate

“1/4 length portrait of John Roberton (father of Dr Ernest
Roberton),” 1880s. 5-2203, Sir George Grey Special
Collections, Auckland Libraries. By kind permission.

During his lengthy residence in this city Mr Roberton in
all his transactions acted so as to leave behind him an
irreproachable character, while in his private life he
made numerous friends who will sincerely mourn his
loss. As a business man, he was successful in accumulating enough of this world's goods to enable him to pass
his later years in ease.
Some time ago, by the death of a relative, he had property left him in Sydney, and it was in connection with this
that Mr Roberton went to reside in New South Wales
with his wife. Latterly he had been in a weak state of
health. He leaves behind to mourn his death, the partner
of 35 years' married life, and also four sons, Dr E Roberton, Mr A B Roberton, Mr B H Roberton and Mr E B
Roberton, and three daughters, Mrs G Chamberlain, Mrs
D Wilkie and Mrs H D Heather.
Auckland Star 20 July 1894

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