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Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Kaue of Ngati Tamahoa Waiohua,

Early Days … Te Tinana and Tamaki Rewiti. This
1840 - 1870 was later brought under dispute in
1840, as it had been made prior to
the Treaty of Waitangi, and not
approved by government land
The district we now call Avondale commissioners. [Cornwallis, John
Lifton, 2002, p. 16-17]
was principally known as “the
Whau” until 1882. This term
extended to cover New Lynn (until 1841
1880), Blockhouse Bay, and
Waterview areas. Prior to around Ngati Whatua Land Sale to the
1870, it was also used to cover the Crown: Some sources say that the
area of Glen Eden, Henderson, Ngati Whatua had just been
Titirangi and the Waitakeres. through a conflict with the Nga Puhi
from the North, and were relatively
There is still some doubt among few in numbers (having also come
local historians as to the origin of through two epidemics), though the
“Te Whau” – whether, as some Nga Puhi had not yet moved onto
early settlers believed, it meant Tamaki Makaurau (the Auckland
“wilderness” or “desolation”, due to isthmus). This meant that the Ngati
the thick scrub and ti-tree Whatua were still Auckland’s
landscape, virtually impassable in tangata whenua, and as such
the early days (so much so that signed the land deeds to follow
New Lynn was originally avoided (1841 to 1848) to ensure a buffer of
altogether), or after the “whau tree”. settlers between themselves and
the Nga Puhi.
“Whau (Entelea arborescens) is a
small tree which occurs in coastal 29 June 1841 – Sale of Land Deed
forests, and can be seen today in signed in Auckland between Ngati
the bush along the coastal edges of Whatua and the Crown, which
the Waitakere Ranges. Prior to the included the much of the Whau
arrival of the Europeans, the area.
Maoris valued the wood of the
Whau tree because of its low 1842
specific gravity, and used it for
fishing floats and for the framework Local Government: Governor
of small boats.” [From Maungawhau/ Hobson proclaimed the creation of
Mt Eden Management plan web page, the County of Eden (including the
Auckland City Council’s web site.] Whau) in 1842. However, before
any framework of authority could
The lands which we now know as be established, Hobson died.
Avondale, Waterview and Nothing further was done in the
Blockhouse Bay had been included way of establishing territorial
in a sales deed dated 11th January authority over the landowners until
1836 between Thomas Mitchel an the establishment of the Hundreds.
entrepreneur originally from New [Janice C Mogford, Onehunga, a brief
South Wales but based in the history, 1977]
Hokianga, and Apihai Te Kawau of
Ngati Whatua Nga Oho, Wetere Te 1843

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

question the amount of time the

In 1843, John Shedden Adam above arrangements would have
(1822-1906) was granted Allotment taken. Adam most likely had a
85 in the Whau in return for his small, colonial-style house,
land shares in the failed Cornwallis perhaps similar to Acacia Cottage
settlement. He arrived from (presently in Cornwall Park, the
Scotland with his sister on the dwelling built by Campbell and
Brilliant at Cornwallis, on Puponga Brown). After all, in other notes
Point by the Manukau Heads on 27 found in the T. Lowe papers from 9
October 1841. Acton Place, it is said that John
Adam “had a powerful lobby of
As the land ownership was in doubt friends” which included John Logan
at Cornwallis, the settlement (once Campbell, the builder of Acacia
promised to be the main city on the Cottage. It is said that the building
isthmus) didn’t take hold. In 1843, had 3 fireplaces, timber-beamed
the immigrants were offered an floors and “an overall feeling of
acre of Crown “waste land” for homely elegance”. This would have
every 4 acres they held in been Adam putting his skills to
Cornwallis. John S Adam took up work – as he was “a skilled
the offer, and was granted surveyor and architect of
Allotment 85 in the Parish of considerable wealth”.
Titirangi, in the Whau District. This
is a remarkable fact, in that On 1 December 1845, his father
previously the earliest known wrote to him from Edinburgh:
settlement of the Whau District,
which included modern day I am glad to see that you
Avondale, had been after the are at work with potatoes
Auckland Land Sales of 1844, and pumpkins. I wish I had
waiting for 1845 before men such the opportunity of giving
as Henry Walton and Daniel Pollen you lessons on farming.
started building their homesteads in I do not think the place you
the district. But, it would seem, due have chosen is as
to the connections of either Adams, pleasant as one would be
the rest of the Cornwallis settlers, with plenty of water.
or both – the government of the I think if you decide on
day gave part of their “waste land” remaining in New Zealand
area as a grant ahead of schedule. at all, you should look out
for a pleasant situation of
It has been theorised that this about 50-100 acres near
original house on the site was a kit the seaside, and having a
house, with kauri beams having stream of water, and
been shipped to England, dressed purchase it and sell your
to size, roofing and other items ownership.
added and then everything shipped
right back to New Zealand, with a As it was, John Adam felt his
design close to that of Australian talents were wasted as a “yeoman
styles of the era, with deep farmer”. In 1846, he settled up his
verandahs. However, considering affairs in New Zealand, and moved
that the Adam family were “well- to Sydney, never to return.
established” by 1844/1845, I However, his allotments, now

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

including much of allotments 83, 84

and 13 (much of New Windsor and And finally, just before 1865, James
Avondale Central bought during the Palmer (future owner of the Whau
actual land sales of 1845), still Hotel) came to the site
remained in the combined
ownership of himself and his [Main sources were the T. Lowe
sisters. documents, his researches from 1981
regarding the history of 9 Acton Place and
its occupants. The documents included
In the Lowe papers, there is a brief Man of Many Parts by Graeme Adam;
reference to the house being copies of land deeds and grant
removed and sent to a Mr Russell, documents; notes made from Registry of
apparently a business partner of Births, Deaths and Marriages; copies of
old maps held in Auckland City Libraries
Adam, perhaps in Australia. If so, and Department of Land Information; and
then Allotment 85 holds no real diagrams of “Banwell”.]
remnant of that early 2 year
occupancy of J. S. Adam. 1844-45
From 1849 to 1865 apparently Land Subdivisions: The original
came a succession of occupiers of land sales of “waste land” at the
the land at Allotment 85 who, unlike Whau. The first purchaser of land
John S Adam, certainly made their that was to become the Avondale
mark on the history of the district. Shopping Centre were:
There was first Mr James Comrie
(in whose home the first Allotment 63
Presbyterian services in the district From Henry St to Rosebank Road,
are said to have been held, prior to east side of Great North Rd:
the construction of the Church in Henry Walton (1844)
1860). Later, another elder of
the Church, Mr John Buchanan, Allotment 64
who ran a warehousing business From Rosebank Road to Chalmers
on Karangahape Road and Queen St, east side of Great North Rd and
Street in the city, is listed as having St Georges Rd: Mr Florence
been a tenant of Adam on the (1844). Much of this later
allotment. From 1863, he was on purchased by Michael Wood in the
the Whau School Committee. He late 1850s to early 1860s, and
was later the first Chairman of the offered for auction in 1863 as
Mt Albert Highways District (1867) “Greytown”.
and on the Whau Highways District Allotment 13
Board from 1868. Along with an Great North Rd (west) from the site
elder from Riverhead, he is said to of the future Avondale Hotel to
have donated land to the halfway between St Georges Rd
Presbyterian Church, in order that and Rosebank Road: Mr J S Adam
the present-day St Ninians Hall (1844)
could be built for services.
Allotment 12
Part of Allotment 85, Sections 5, 6 Great North Road (from Allotment
and 7 were sold by John Adam to 13) and down Rosebank Road,
Buchanan on 2 July 1866. These west side: Messrs Mariner and
were the central portions of the Bower (1845)

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Allotment 7 the growth of settlement in the

Part of Rosebank Road, Great western districts, a wooden bridge
North Road towards Avondale was built across the Whau Creek
Bowling Club. Mr Poynton (1844). downstream from the present one
Later purchased by Robert [Great North Road]. [John T Diamond,
Chisholm, as part of his greater Once The Wilderness, Lodestar Press,
estate until 1882. 1977]

Of these purchasers, only Henry

Walton was still a registered
landowner in the Whau District in 1845
1868 when the Highway District
was created. [1868 Assessment Roll].
His land began to be subdivided in
1883, after he had earlier retired to First New Zealand War. A scare
England in 1866. swept Auckland that Hone Heke of
Nga Puhi was about to invade. Dr
It is likely that the lots would have Pollen, according to Avondale lore,
first been used for cattle and goat put a gate across the Whau creek
grazing, as it was felt those animals beside his property at the end of
had a better chance of coping with Rosebank Peninsula to prevent
the dense scrub covering much of Maori warriors from coming up the
the Whau district. creek.

Whau Creek Bridge: In the The Great North Road is worked

earliest days, Great North Road out, initially leading along the New
was merely a narrow dirt track North Road line to Rocky Nook,
through the wilderness, and the then along Western Springs Road
main form of transport to the to the present Great North Road
country areas from Auckland was (this route used to avoid swamps).
by boat. Around this time, the bridge across
Oakley’s Creek (near where the
“The development of North-Western Motorway crosses
communication was the key to the today) may have been first built, if
development of both suburbs and not before.
the hinterland … Most of the early
settlements beyond Auckland were 1848-53
in fact sites on navigable creeks.”
[Auckland Boom or Bust, Auckland
Local Authority: Short-lived
Museum, 2000, p.7]
“Hundreds” system of local
authority, with the County of Eden
“From the early 1840s the road to being split into six parts, with a
Titirangi was via Blockhouse Bay hundred families each, with a
across the upper reaches of the warden overseeing them, instituted
Whau Creek, along the ridge 1850. (In 1851, the Borough of
(which is now Golf Road) across Auckland was formed, but lasted
the present Titirangi Road and only a year.) “Governor Grey
down to Atkinson Valley then up believed that the Hundreds would
the hill to Titirangi. However, with ultimately develop into ‘important
municipalities’. Landholders within

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

the Hundred were to elect Wardens areas) until later in the 1860s, and
by a rather curious franchise based Daniel Pollen (who died in the
on how many ‘great cattle’ (horses, 1890s) had settled in the Whau
oxen, bulls, dairy cows, heifers and district.
asses) and ‘small cattle’ (sheep
and goats) they held. The wardens 1853
duties were the supervision and
construction of roads and other Auckland Provincial Council
public works and the administration formed. This lasted until 1875.
of the “wasteland”. Matters were addressed to the
Superintendent. Funding for
“The so-called ‘wasteland’ was community projects such as
what we now call Crown Land and libraries and public schools would
had been acquired by various come from the Provincial Council,
means by the Government, either until “they got hard up”, to quote Mr
by direct purchase from the Maoris John Bollard later in the century.
or by the simple expedient of The Council were also the
declaring to importunate land instigators of the tollgates at Great
claimants that ‘the land is required North Road and Mt Eden-New
for military purposes and defence North intersection in the city, which
requirements are paramount’. In controlled traffic moving from the
this way a large acreage of land in suburbs to the city, and generated
and around the town was vested in funds for road maintenance and
the Crown. Stockholders who bridge-building..
needed extra grazing were required
to buy a licence and pay so much a
head to pasture their cattle. The
income the Wardens gained from 1854
this was small … within its limits the
Hundred system worked
reasonably well. [Janice C Mogford,
Onehunga, a brief history, 1977] First bridge over Oakley Creek
from Mt Albert built, by the
At some point in the 1850s, two Provincial Council. The road from
future settlements were mapped Mt Albert westward is known as
out for the district: “Whau The Whau Highway, or “Wahu
Township, North” (Avondale) and Road”, the name for the district at
“Whau Township, South” the time. Alternate spelling was
(Blockhouse Bay). It is likely they “Wao”, hence the pronunciation
were meant to compliment the “Wow” or “Way-o” used by
Whau Canal being discussed at the European settlers. [Auckland
Provincial Gazette, 25/4/1854]
This bridge was later called the
Around 5 or 6 settler families are Gittos Bridge, after the Gittos family
believed to have been in the area who had land (and a tannery) to the
by this time. By now it is believed north of the New North road,
that Henry Walton (who would bordering on the Whau.
remain as a listed land owner, but
mainly having connections with 1856
North Auckland and Whangarei

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Mr J Comrie lived at the Whau, and North Road.” [New Zealander, 14 April
his brother was among those 1860].
Presbyterian ministers holding
monthly services at his house until It was believed, based on a history
the church was built in 1859-1860. of the church drawn up at the time
of its centenniel, that the land was
donated by church elders of the
time John Buchanan (Whau) and
John Lamb (Riverhead). However,
Benjamin Gittos established his
the New Zealander stated that the
tanning business, known as B.
land was instead “a liberal gift of
Gittos and Sons. Soon after, he
John S. Adams [sic], Esq. Of
purchased land in Avondale along
Sydney, and his sister, who resides
the Oakley Creek and is one of the
at Edinburgh.” Possibly, though,
two original industries in
Buchanan and Lamb arranged the
Avondale’s history (the other, pre-
transfer to the church.
dating by a few years, was Dr.
Pollen’s brickyard at the end of
“High winds and slashing
Rosebank peninsula.
rainstorms drove the carpenters
from the job in the first week of
From now on, settlement in the
December 1859, causing delays.”
area by labourers is encouraged by [Peter Buffett, Western Leader, 30/5/87]
the existence of work in the area.
Great North Road/ Whau
Auction of “Waste Lands” in the Highway: On March 2 1860 a
Whau District, 5 August 1859 by petition was received by the
the Provincial Council. Provincial Council regarding the
line of road from “Whao Bridge to
65 Lots were auctioned in “Whau Auckland” (this was via Mt Albert
Township, North”, averaging half and Cabbage Tree Swamp – the
an acre each, at £5 per quarter- Whau Highway or as it is now the
acre, and more than 200 more in New North Road).
“Whau Township, South”
(Blockhouse Bay, Green Bay etc.). A counter-petition was received,
This could have assisted asking that the road from
settlement of the area, although Karangahape to the Whau not be
Whau South remained largely forgotten (Great North Road).
wilderness up to the 1880s. Settlers along this road were
concerned about access to their
farms if the highway was to be
November 14th, 1859 work began along the New North Rd route.
on the Presbyterian Church, Among the petitioners were 11 men
reported at the time of its opening from the Whau, 2 of whom
in 1860 as being “on about three (Thomas Cragot and Frederick L
acres of land”, in a “very central Prince) termed themselves as
position, occupying the corner coming from the “Whau Township”.
formed by the junction of the road [Provincial Council papers, 1860]
to the Lower Whau with the great

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

The Great North Road, originally Blockhouse Bay) was completed

formed to serve as a transport (July 1860), in response to fears of
route of sorts during the first scare an attack on Auckland from the
of war with the northern Maori Waikato tribes. The nearest source
tribes, by the 1860s was a disputed of provisions, over and above those
route (meetings were held, arguing purchased by government contract
whether the route should come for the regiments stationed there,
through Arch Hill (Grey Lynn) as it was the developing Whau
does today, or via the Newton gully Township.
(where today the North-Western
Motorway lies). It was also in a very 1861
bad condition, letters to the NZ
Herald in the 1860s complaining of Roads: “In 1861 when my
carts becoming stuck in the mud grandfather came to Avondale
along the road beside Waterview, there were of course no formed
while meetings were called at the roads. The settlers hauled to and
Whau Hotel in 1865 to call for fro along clay tracks in tea-tree
metalling of the road (the covered wilds.” [D Ringrose, 1940,
Superintendent of the Provincial Challenge of the Whau, p. 22]
Council reported he had no funds
for this). Horse buses: It is recorded on 20
March 1861 that a Mr W Young ran
The Presbyterian Church at St a regular coach omnibus service,
Georges Rd was completed by Auckland to Henderson Mill, via the
Easter 1860. Whau. [M Butler report, Heritage
“OPENING SERVICES AT WHAU. Planning, Auckland City Council, 2001]
The Whau Presbyterian Church
William J. Young started out by
and School will be opened on
running a horse bus service with a
Sabbath the 8th instant at three
partner between Auckland and
o’clock p.m. by the Rev. John
Drury in the late 1850s, then
Macky of Otahuhu.
branching out on his own for the
A collection will be made on behalf
Great North Road route. His
of the Building Fund.” [Southern
Cross, 6/4/1860] omnibus service made the journey
Over 60 people attended the daily, except on Sundays, starting
opening. “for the conveyance of passengers
and light goods between Auckland
and Henderson’s Mill, leaving Mr.
The church was used as a James’ Luncheon Larder,
school until the Public Hall was Shortland-street,” at 9 a.m,
built in 1867. “A hinged table returning from Henderson’s Mill at
fastened along the eastern side of 3 p.m. The fare from Auckland to
the Church was lowered against the Whau Township was 2 shillings
the wall out of the way for the – possibly the stop would have
Sabbath services.” [Our First Century, been close to where the first Whau
centenary booklet, St Ninians Church, Hotel would have been, in order to
1960]. take advantage of the stabling
facilities, and the chance of a
Also in 1860, the Whau tipple.
Blockhouse (in what is now

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Almost immediately after the Ash Street and Rosebank Road

inauguration of Young’s service, after Bollard’s death in 1915).
Michael Wood put his According to a relative, he drained
development along the Great North the raupo swamp on the land,
Route on the market, on 1 May which extended to Riversdale
1861, naming it “Waterview”. Had Road. In the late 1890s,
the development succeeded, the “Riversdale Estate” was a joint
growth of the Whau township to the development project of John
south might have been delayed Bollard and the Jockey Club,
significantly. However, Wood failed forming Wharf Road (now Ash
to sell much of the development at Street).
all, as with his later venture of
“Greytown” (see under 1863) Bollard’s “Whau Farm” was quite a
small business in its own right. Mr
John Bollard: In 1861, John Bollard’s account book (now held in
Bollard came to live in the Whau. the Auckland Museum library)
“For something like 30 years he shows accounts opened for many
farmed a considerable area, and of his neighbours, for items ranging
old retired farmers here to this day from providing potatoes, chaff, legs
hold him up as a model farmer, he of mutton, to hiring out grazing for
having been scientifically taught the horses and cattle, and on to selling
art at college in Ireland.” [The News, services by his bull for the
27/3/1915]. neighbours’ cows. It was described
in some detail by the NZ Herald in
John Bollard was born around 17 1884.
December 1839 near Coan, County
Wicklow, Ireland. He emigrated to The NZ Herald reported in October
New Zealand in 1860, and married 1861 that the Great North Road
Jane Ganley in St John’s College had been completed up to
Chapel, Tamaki. Mahurangi. Cattle were now being
driven into town along the road,
He brought back from Australia 200 and certainly through the Whau
horses for use of the Militia during Township, to Auckland.
the Waikato part of the New
Zealand Wars, and later joined the
militia, appointed Sergeant in
charge of the Blockhouse
overlooking the Manukau. Whau Bridge: In a letter to the
Provincial Council Supervisor, J
Settling on his farm in Avondale, Sanderson writes of the work at the
part of Allotment 12, he grew Whau Bridge: 650 feet of plankings
wheat, barley, oats and potatoes and handrail repairs, costing £9, 3
for troops engaged in the New /- [26/3/1862, Provincial Council papers]
Zealand Wars in the Waikato, and
also established his business as a As another indication of settlement,
land agent and valuer. 1862 was when Dr Thomas Aickin
dedicated an acre of his farm on
He owned the land which included Rosebank to the Anglican Church
part of the Avondale Racecourse for a cemetery – his son William
(his widow living on the corner of being the first burial there in August
of that year. The cemetery would

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

later be known as Rosebank 1863 however speak of the general

Cemetery, and now called the store being on the “town side” of
George Maxwell Memorial the hotel – which would mean it
Cemetery. was at or near the corner of
Rosebank Road and Great North
Dr. Aickin built his homestead close Road where the Fearons Building
to what is now Avondale Road in stands today.
1859 and was the district’s first
resident medical practitioner, being First Avondale Hotel: “The first
the one to be called upon when hotel – a wooden building – was
emergencies arose. He went on to built in the early sixties at the
work at the Lunatic Asylum from corner of Great North Road and
the mid 1860s. His house was Rosebank Roads.” [Events in the Early
enough of a landmark in 1861, that History of Avondale, author unknown, from
it could be seen from the Great 1920s/early 1930s, Auckland Public
North Road as horse buses
travelled along the Auckland to
This was on the south-west corner
Henderson’s Mill route.
of Great North and Rosebank
Roads. This was reportedly burned
1863 down a few years later, by 1870,
although no reference to this has
Post Office: “The first post office yet been found, aside from the
was at a store just round the corner following:
from the present one. It was ‘[The first hotel] was destroyed by
conducted by Mr Holloway. The fire early in the seventies. The
first store and a butcher’s shop in licence was then transferred to a
conjunction with it was opened on building at the corner where the
the corner of Rosebank Road and present post office stands
Princes Street [now Elm St]” [Events [Avondale Hotel] A new hotel was
in the Early History of Avondale, author afterwards built also of wood …”
unknown, from 1920s/early 1930s, [Events in the Early History of Avondale].
Auckland Public Library]

Judging from the size of the

“[The First Post Office] was begun
present-day Public Hall, built in
in 1863 in a small store situated
1867 and still standing in St
near the corner of the present
George’s Road, reported to be the
Rosebank Road and Elm Street,
largest building constructed in the
and was conducted by the
district up to that time, the original
storekeeper, Mrs Myers. There
Whau Hotel must have been a
were then only five or six homes in
small affair; little more, possibly,
the district, and, with the exception
than a bar/counter plus storage
of a few clearings, Avondale was
covered with manuka” [Speech by
H.G.R. Mason, Minister of Justice, 19
August 1938] It might seem curious that the first
hotel was built where it was. After
This may have been Mrs T B all, Rosebank Road was barely a
Myers, running the Whau Store in dirt lane, and Brown Street had yet
1864. [Bollard papers, held in Auckland to start wending its way up Station
War Memorial Museum Library] Hill. But a stream ran down the hill,
Newspaper articles from October and a natural spring once bubbled

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

up under what is now the former Auckland War Memorial Museum

National Bank building on the Library Scrapbooks]
corner. The best way to make the
house ales was when you had a According to an early newspaper
supply of clear, free flowing water. the New Zealander, John Priestley
had a “10 pm closing” licence for
Also, the site where the later Hotels the Whau Hotel as at Tuesday, 4
were situated was in the 1860s a August 1863. By October 1863,
marshy raupo swamp, prone to Henry Denyer was the publican,
flooding. This latter site is still part while James Nugent Copland was
of a flood plain leading to the Flats the licensee in 1866. David
and the Whau Creek. Henderson had a “publican’s bush
licence” in 1867.
From the Scrapbooks kept at the [Jacqueline Walle’s New Zealand
Auckland War Memorial Museum Records,
Athens/Rhodes/5510/newzealand/ walles/]
Library, an unknown author
reminisced, possibly to the NZ
This was Central Avondale, in the
Herald in 1887 about hotels in
early days of the Whau District: a
general. He was referring
church, a general store, and a pub.
principally to the Auckland Central
The hotels were to be outshone by
hotels and pubs, but it reflects back
the Great Northern Hotel at
onto all the rest:
Western Springs (the Old Stone
“In the early days we had not quite
Jug) until that pub closed for
so much trouble over the licensing
business in 1886, as far as
question, and an hotel was a sure
travellers were concerned, but both
means of making money, but it is
the store and the pub served the
not everybody who likes to be at all
volunteer soldiers based at the
hours at the beck and call of the
Blockhouse just down the road at
public. It is true, a monopoly was
the bay.
made of the business at one time,
and I do not think there were many
A general description of pioneer
more drunkards on Monday
inns from the Auckland Historical
morning then there are now, having
Society’s newsletter of 1963:
regard, of course, to the
“Sometimes the inn was a
proportionate population.
tumbledown affair of rough logs or
“I was one day sympathising with
iron, affording little privacy or
my neighbour, who ‘ran’ a ‘pub’ on
comfort for the guests; sometimes
the new law [limiting the hours to
the bedrooms were of the poorest
Sunday closure 3 miles from the
type and there were no washing
city centre, not affecting Avondale]
facilities at all; often there was
coming into force to close the
drinking and roistering and at some
public houses on Sundays. He
places a very poisonous brew of
replied, ‘Oh, I like the closing
spirits was sold to the men who
system best. When you are open, a
came in from the bush to spend
man spends 3d, and hangs about
their pay, but also there was often
the place all the afternoon, but
much real hospitality and kindness
when there is a difficulty in getting
shown to travellers and many
the drink he will take three times as
stockmen and miners must have
much, and clear out quickly.” [p. 4,
been glad to see the signboard of
Vol 6, poss. from NZ Herald, 1887,
an inn, as they struggled against
Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

wind and weather on the rough History of Avondale, author unknown, from
roads so common in the last 1920s/early 1930s, Auckland Public
The only fire found to date that
The Whau School Committee
could be the one referred to above,
was formed in 1863, when new
was 5 February 1869, when “the
settler John Bollard as the
buildings in the Whau Road, near
chairman, a post he’d hold for the
Henderson’s Hotel, known as
next 52 years, until his death in
Clement Crispe’s Store, were
burned down” in the morning. “The
buildings, which include stores, a
As early as 1863, the Provincial
bakehouse and stable, were built in
Council is said to have designated
a quadrangular form, and were
the land on what was to be St
unoccupied, with the exception of
Georges Road, across from the
two rooms, which were inhabited
Presbyterian Church, as a “public
by a man named Robert Simmons
hall and community centre”.
[Report by Clinton Savage, Community
and his wife. Simmons worked at
Advisor, to Acting Community Mr Gittos’ tanyard.”
Development Officer, Auckland City,
21/9/88] Clement Crispe seemed to be an
interesting character in the district
during the 1860s. In July 1867,
“Greytown”: On 3 March 1863, an
premises he owned near the Whau
area of the present town centre
Blockhouse were raided for an illicit
was auctioned off, in the form of 48
still, which led to him losing his
approximately 1 acre lots, from
property in mortgagee sales.
Browne Street (Rosebank Road)
to the north, to the Government
Road (Chalmers Street) to the 1865
south, from the Great North Road
to Manukau Road (Blockhouse Bay The Titirangi Presbyterian parish
Road). splits from Onehunga, becoming
The auctioneer’s map, held now in separate, covering an area up to
the Special Collections section of Helensville, but based in the Whau
Auckland Public Library, shows district.
“Greytown Hotel” (the first Whau
Hotel), a store on what was to be From 1865 to 1873, John Shedden
Princess Street, and a “chapel” (the Adams and his three sisters sold
Presbyterian Church. (see map by pieces of Allotment 13 to buyers
title page). such as William Forsyth (builder of
the Public Hall, John Tait (father of
1864 WJ Tait) and James Palmer (owner
of the second and third Hotels).
“The first bakery was opened at [Challenge of the Whau].
the corner of Great North Road and
the road leading up past the school Adam is recorded as having
[Crayford St]. It was erected, also a ownership interests which he
shop, about the year 1864. About transferred to Palmer in Allotment
the year 1870 these buildings were 13 also around this time, possibly
destroyed by fire.” [Events in the Early including the site of the two hotels

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Palmer would erect in the village- maintaining the roads for

to-be. settlement of the area. The
Provincial Council brought in a
James Palmer (1819-1893) left Turnpike Act early in 1866 to help
Plymouth bound for New Zealand finance road works. “Three toll
on 4 December 1842 on the gates were erected in the western
Westminster, arriving 31 March area, one on the Great North Road,
1843. He gave his age as 22, and one leading to Mt Eden, and one …
that of a “Maria Palmer” as 18. near the New North Road – Mt
Before coming to the Whau in the Eden Road junction. ‘There is
mid 1860s, he was the keeper of considerable traffic on the roads
the Royal Hotel in Eden Terrace. leading to Cabbage Tree Swamp
He is more noted, however, as and the Whau,’ a daily paper
being the owner of two of the four remarked.” [Dick Scott, In Old Mt Albert,
Whau Hotels – one built in 1870 1961]
after the first one burned down, and
the third in 1873, after his had
followed the fate of its predecessor. February 22, 1866: 49 settlers in
Mt Albert and the Whau sign a
He would also be known as the declaration to the Superintendent
donor of land for the Whau Public of the Provincial Council that that
Hall (1867), and for St Jude’s they “are desirous that the said
Church (1884). Present-day district should be constituted in
Donegal Street was once called conformity with the Highways Act
Palmer Street after him. as therein provided, and to be
called the Mount Albert District.”

1866-67 Among them:

Postal service: “Mail despatched
from Whau Bridge weekly” [New Frederick Bacon “Windsor
Zealand Directory, 1866-67] Whau”
James Palmer “Royal Hotel”
From 1865 to 1871, there were 4 (owned land above Layard St, and
the Whau Hotel)
Whau district postmasters: Charles
Thomas Webb “Windsor
Cooper, L H Holloway, J Holloway,
and S McCallum. [Mike Butler
Benjamin Belsham “Windsor
report, Heritage Planning, Auckland
City, 2001]. It is likely that these
A. H. Spicer “Greytown”
were also the succeeding (Central Whau, the “Village”)
proprietors of the general store. Horatio Peatfield Whau

The Mount Albert Highway

1866 District was declared in October.

Quite a considerable amount of

effort was put into social
Turnpike Act: There were no gatherings in the mid-19th century.
property rates in these early days, At one such social held at the
so local authorities had to find Presbyterian Church in December
some other means of creating and 1866, the interior was described as

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

having “undergone a sort of floral John Buchanan became chairman

metamorphose being profusely and of the board.
withal tasteful decorated with
graceful festoons and wreaths of By late 1866, the Whau Minstrels
flowers pendant from the ceiling, had formed – a group of local men,
while branches of the fern tree and including several from the Gittos
nikau ornamented the walls.” [NZ Tannery over the ridge by New
Herald, 21 December 1866] North Road. Probably started as a
way to have a recreation activity
1867 after work, they included Mr
Barraclough (later member of the
January 8 1867 was the first Good Templars Lodge), Mr Bell
meeting of the Mt Albert Highway (later postmaster) and Mr Francis
District Board, and the start of the Gittos (later on the committees for
era of territorial authority for the the public hall and the school).
Whau District. However, it had not They may have been the local
been the desire of the settlers of Mt group mentioned in the NZ Herald
Albert to be joined with the Whau at of December 1866 as set up to sing
all. Mt Albert’s board members felt “sacred songs”. Dr Aicken told a
the district was too unwieldily to reporter from the New Zealand
administer properly, and had two Herald how the group came around
competing main roads (New North to the settler’s houses on New
and Great North Roads) vying for a Years Eve, 1866, “reminding him,
share of the toll monies, the only as it did, of by-gone years, and
source of funding for repairs and calling up kindly recollections of the
maintenance in those days. This old country and the ‘old folks at
issue would come to a head a year home’.”
The Minstrels were based on the
John Buchanan, a Central Christy’s Minstrels, started in
Auckland businessman of note, America in the mid 1840s, and then
and Whau landowner, was elected copied in England later (later the
unopposed to the board along with model of the Black and White
four others. Buchanan’s land (just Minstrel show, screened on
to the south-east of the present-day th
television in the late 20 century).
shopping centre) was valued in In early March, the Whau Minstrels
1866 as being worth £600, and performed for the first time to a
paid £2 10/- in land rates per mass audience of around 250
annum. people in a marquee building
constructed from tarpaulins (50 feet
The first year of the Board was long by 26 feet wide), “being the
stormy, in that a number of settlers largest building ever erected in the
called their own public protest Whau” up to that time, on land that
meetings (several chaired by Whau quite possibly was the same plot
resident Dr Thomas Aickin) donated by James Palmer to the
concerning the rates levied, and community to erect the Public Hall
the Board meetings themselves. later in the year. There was quite a
They resulted in the rate being fair amount of assistance from local
reduced to 1/2d in the £ at the first connections with the setting up of
annual meeting in October, when the stage area: “J. O. Hamley,

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Esq., Military Superintendent of

Stores, kindly furnished the On Thursday March 21, they gave
tarpaulins for the pavilion, and … their second performance, with
Messrs Henderson & Macfarlane much the same programme, but
(owner/operators of the famous the primary purpose of this session
Henderson Mill, and accompanying was to fundraise for the future
shipping line) and Capt. Nearing for public hall. Afterwards, donations
the use of the bunting belonging to were asked for, and the first Public
the Alice Cameron.” The Hall Committee meeting
programme included 22 songs and announced for the Wednesday
dance numbers, including “The after.
Whau” by Mr Holloway (general [Quotes in italics above come from
store owner). During the interval Auckland War Memorial Museum Library
Scrapbook collection, Vol 22, pp. 143-148,
between the two parts to the out of NZ Herald , 1867]
programme, Mr Henderson of the
Whau Hotel “gave a very amusing First meeting in John Bollard’s
recitation in the broad Scotch Home of the Whau Public Hall
dialect, showing off his power to Committee, 27 March. By April,
please to great advantage.” James Palmer had donated land on
St Georges Rd, opposite land held
“At the conclusion Dr Aicken called by the Presbyterian Church, for the
for three cheers for the ‘Whau Public Hall. A tender from local
Minstrels’ which was suitably carpenter/builder Mr William
responded to. Mr Barraclough (the Forsyth of £97 to build the hall is
conductor), stating that it was a accepted, with building to be
matter of regret that a district so completed by September. With one
progressive and thriving on the thing and another, details not in the
Whau, should still be without its Committee minutes, the Whau
public hall, or even a reading Public Hall opened officially on 13
room, in which such entertainments November 1867, and was insured
could be given. The ‘Whau in November for £100. [Minutes of the
Minstrels’, either by their services Whau Public Hall Committee, 1867]
in the way of a musical
entertainment, or by pecuniary aid, The First Whau Library :
were ready to assist in the James Traue , in Once Upon a
accomplishment of so desirable an Time in New Zealand: Library
objective. Aspirations And Colonial Reality in
the Early Years of European
“We are glad to hear that already a Settlement (Stout Centre Review,
goodly amount of subscriptions March 1993), stated that settlers
have been promised, and that the ‘carried a virulent infection from
existence of a public hall at the nineteenth-century Britain in their
Whau is likely to become a ‘great trunks of books and it was not to be
fact’. The young men of the district subdued by distance, salt water, or
will find in such objects and duties the shock of immersion in colonial
a pleasurable recreation and life. After only some two decades of
amusement, all the more enjoyable experiment and failure they opted
in that such reminiscences leave to supplement self-help with state
no saddening traces on the aid in the provision of libraries…to
memory.” ensure their rights to books.’

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

Provincial Council, but split from Mt

In November 1867, Francis Gittos Albert District.
proposed that “the members of the
Committee procure as many books The Whau District appears to have
as possible for the formation of a split from Mt Albert for a number of
library for the Hall.” Books were to reasons. We previously seen the
be solicited to form a library for the dispute the Mt Albert District board
Hall for the use of the public. had with the Provincial Council
regarding boundaries and main
By 1868, about 130 volumes had road competition for funding (see
been collected on a list. The library under 1867). On September 16
was to start with the books in hand, 1868, a deputation from the Mt
with John Buchanan as the first Albert board, led by John
librarian. The subscription amount Buchanan, waited upon the
was 2/- per quarter. By December Provincial Council Superintendent
of that year, however, “on account to make a claim to have the Whau
of the decrease of the population of and Mt Albert districts split from
the District it is inexpedient at the each other, after having a meeting
present time to take action in the of (Mt Albert) ratepayers. The
matter of the Library.” [Minutes of Superintendent asked Buchanan
Whau Public Hall Committee, 1867-68] whether anyone from the other
district had attended the meeting,
“The population of Auckland to which Buchanan replied, “they
fluctuated as a result of external did not attend in any number. Only
influences eg. Gold rushes and a gentleman named Young had
troops leaving. Generally there attended, and in fact it appeared
were more men than women and that the people living in that
the population was youthful, with direction knew nothing about the
80% under 40 years old. It was connection with the Mount Albert
essentially a British Immigrant District.“ [Daily Southern Cross,
society.” [Auckland Boom or Bust, 17/9/1868] In the year before, the Mt
Auckland Museum, 2000, p. 8] Albert Highway District meetings
often ended in controversy, with
Depression: There was also a differences arising from the
depression hitting Auckland leadership of the board and the
Province, in the wake of the boom issues of road tolls. In the latter
during the Second New Zealand stages, the Provincial Government
War earlier that decade. The attempted to have the Newton
Provincial Government held onto District joined with the Whau, which
the toll gate monies collected was strenuously objected to by
during this time, despite appeals John Buchanan and John Bollard.
from Highway District Boards in its In the end, at a meeting held in the
area. Whau Hotel on 22 September, the
Whau residents considered that
1868 going it alone, and raising their own
monies through land rates, was the
Local Authority: Whau Highway best way to go.
District Board (5 October 1868).
This was still subservient to the It was not a smooth process. At an
acrimonious meeting (29

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

September), settlers of the Mt

Albert District found to their dismay Public Hall events: Soirees or
that while some settlers along the quadrillions became a regular
New North Road had chosen to fixture in the Public Hall. There was
stay with Mt Albert, others wished one held every year on the Hall’s
to be in the Whau District (including anniversary, and others to
their Chairman John Buchanan), fundraise for special events, the
which effectively meant that the school, the libraries etc. In
New North Road was under the December 1868, the tickets to that
maintenance budgets of two soiree cost 2/-, children half price,
separate territorial authorities (a and “the ladies are to provide the
situation which lasted for the next tea trays”. A soiree on 28
121 years). December 1870 was in aid of
building an ante-room at the back
Great North Road formed: The of the hall.
Great North Road was by now
looked on as the main route to 1869
settlement of the area. Previous
work on the main road by the Great North Road: The Auckland
Provincial Council had stopped Provincial Superintendent advised
abruptly, leaving the levels “four a deputation [of Board members]
feet” above the rest of the road, that “the Government considered
making it difficult to use, if not themselves to have special charge
dangerous. The Chairman [John of the making and maintaining of
Bollard] having read a letter from the Great North Road and also that
the Superintendent [of the it was probable that the Road from
Auckland Province] accompanying Thomas’ Mill [on Oakley Creek,
a copy of the Provincial Gazette near present North-Western
stated that the Business of the Motorway] to the Whau Church [St
Meeting was to consider the Ninians] would be extended if the
propriety of appointing a deputation sum required could be placed in
to wait upon the Superintendent to the estimates. [Minutes of Whau
ascertain what assistance if any the Highway District Board, 26/2/1869]
[Provincial] Government would give
to make the Great North Road. (As a note, the phrase “wait until
the estimates”, or the budgeting
Mr Buchanan thought that the round each year of the authorities
Trustees should first ascertain the referred to throughout this timeline,
position of the Government with would appear again and again in
relation to the road. Bollard, Avondale’s history of relations with
Thomas & Buchanan to visit first Provincial Government, then
Superintendent 1/11/1868 at 11.30 Central Government, and finally
a.m. The Chairman then submitted Auckland City Council in its various
the plan of the District when forms over the years. All requests
disappointment was generally for minor or major works had to be
expressed that the District budgeted for. Often, the queue of
comprised so few of the lands in needy projects was a long one
the direction of the Whau indeed, and Avondale authorities
Blockhouse. [Minutes of Whau and groups simply learned to stand
Highways District Board, 31/10/1868] and wait.)

Heart of the Whau – part 1 – Early Days 1841-1870

for 1868 had 56 landowners.

Whau Educational District was Afterward, the “Whau Assessment
established 2 June 1869, with a Rolll” for 1869 lists 121 landowners
public meeting at the Whau Hall for the entire Whau District from
taking place on 10 June “to appoint Waterview to Blockhouse Bay. The
a Chairman, elect a School rates were set at 6 pence per acre.
Committee, and for the other
purposes set forth in the Common The Board also referred to the
Schools Act 1869”. [Provincial extension of New North Road
Gazette, 1869] down Blake St [St Judes St],
meeting Blake St by way of the
It had already been decided by the diagonal extension. The whole road
Whau settlers that the Public Hall from the intersection of New North
was to be opened as a public and Manukau [Blockhouse Bay]
school in February 1868. [minutes of Roads down the hill to Great North
Whau Public Hall Committee, 1868] Road was to be called New North
District boundaries: [From Annual
Report of the Whau Highways Blake St, the straight downhill road
District Board, presented to through James Palmer’s land
gathered ratepayers in the Whau already, was closed off at the top to
Public Hall, 5/10/1869] make way for the diagonal cut
“In common with many of your through his land. But the name
number the Trustees were much Blake St was resurrected by the
disappointed at the smallness of 1890s, replacing “New North Road”
the District as originally proclaimed for the extension.
by the Superintendent. It only
comprised 1815 acres, and even This now unofficial road cut off from
although you levied the highest rate the remainder of Blake Street was
allowed by the Highways Act 1867 still a track through to the town
viz. 1/- per acre, the Rates used by people walking from
amounted only to the sum of £91, Manukau Road. Before gaslight
5/-. Your Trustees therefore took days, it was a dark, steep, and
measure to have the district perilously slippery route to take to
enlarged and were met in the best get to events in the Public Hall or
spirits by the Trustees of the the Presbyterian Church from the
adjoining districts. New Windsor area at night. It is
now totally built over, and has
Much land naturally belonging to vanished.
Whau was thrown in with Mt Roskill
[proclaimed as a Highway District
Board before the Whau, in 1867].
The effect of a larger area diffused
the rates burden, allowing lesser
rates to be levied per section.”

Before the alteration, the

“Assessment List On All Lands
Subject To The Highway Rates
Within The Whau Highway District”


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