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March—April 2011 Volume 10 Issue 58

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

Edwin Oakley, and his
failed mill by the creek
In 2010, Peter McCurdy, a resident of Waterview at the end of
Cowley Street (and living in direct line of the northern entry/
exit point for the Waterview tunnel for State Highway 20)
made a submission to the Auckland City Council Joint RCA
and Transport Committee. His submission was to do with his-
torical findings as to the land usage history of the northern
bend and mouth of Oakley Creek, on behalf of a new group
called Star Mills Preservation Group.
He referred to 2009 being the 150th anniversary of the appear-
ance of John Thomas' Star Mill close to the end of Cowley Street -- then went on to say: "... Edwin Oakley -- engineer,
entrepreneur and violinist -- had a dam, a water-wheel and a mill on the Creek named after him. That is, by 1845." The
submission seemed to imply that Oakley's mill was on the Star Mill site: "there was a working mill here some fifteen years
earlier."

Trouble is, the Blue Books, the NZ Government statistics collection of the day, do not list a flax mill among Auckland's
places of manufacturing for the years 1844, 1845 or 1847. The only flax mill mentioned is one in Nelson. Yet, yes --
Edwin Oakley did write a petition to the Colonial Secretary in 1844, asking for a squatting license and to purchase iron to
erect a flax mill, and the following year asked for a renewal and extension of land into Allotment 61 for access to the
waterfall for power.
In 1843, Oakley was in partnership, one of many during his entrepreneurial career, with a Mr Smithson. Together, they
developed an improved method of processing flax for export. By 1844, Oakley was advertising that he was “willing to
contract for the Erection of Mills and Machinery for Dressing Flax in any quantity, not less than one ton per week, and
will guarantee the quality suitable for the English market. “
But, did this piano-forte salesman actually build an operating mill on the steep slopes of or near the Oakley Creek water-
fall? As I said earlier, the Blue Books indicate otherwise, and I could find no newspaper references to its operation (and
believe me, the newspapers were very interested in ideas and developments when it came to the flax industry back then.)
But, the records remaining from his three petitions in 1844 and 1845 indicate that he had a mill of some sort, a water
wheel, and a number of ineffective dams which were washed away in floods
Next meeting of the before he could use them.
Avondale-Waterview 44/1037 3.5.44 Edwin Oakley Petition for Squatting License and to Pur-
Historical Society: chase Iron to erect a Flax Mill.
To His Excellency Robert FitzRoy Esquire Captain in the Royal Navy Gover-
Saturday, 2 April 2011, nor and Commander in Chief of the Territory of New Zealand and its depend-
encies. Vice Admiral of the Same,
2.30 pm The Petition of Edwin Oakley of Wyndham Street Auckland, Carpenter and
St Ninian’s Church Joiner
St Georges Road, Avondale Humbly Sheweth
That Your Petitioner has been some time passed been occupied in adapting
(opp. Hollywood Cinema)
machinery to the purpose of dressing the native flax in quantities for

Continued next page
The Avondale Historical Journal Volume 10 Issue 58
Page 2
Edwin Oakley and his failed mill by the aforesaid – That Petitioner proposes to cut a Mill Race
from the Upper Water Fall on the said Reserve 61 to the
creek Water Wheel above mentioned and for the purpose of a
continued flour mill.
Your Excellency’s humble Petitioner therefore prays that
exportation and having at length succeeded is desirous the License already mentioned as granted to your Excel-
of building a water mill – lency’s humble Petitioner be renewed and also that your
That your Petitioner from want of capital is unable to Excellency will be pleased to grant your Petitioner a
purchase the large quantities of land, wood and flax further license of the Government Reserve No 61 in the
which would be required for the carrying on an Parish of Titirangi for the purposes of the Flax Wheel and
establishment of this nature and feeling convinced that Flour Mill aforesaid and your Excellency’s humble Peti-
your Excellency would look favourably on an effort to tioner as in duty bound will ever pray …
bring into use an article on which the future prosperity (Written across the page): There is no objection to the
of this Country so much depends has been induced to Petitioner’s obtaining a squatting license of No. 61 under
apply to your Excellency for your aid. the Act. I visited his works on Saturday the 28th inst and
Under the above circumstances your Petitioner humbly found that he had been at much trouble in erecting dams
prays that your Excellency will be pleased to grant him a across the stream, which are, I find, quite useless for the
Squatting License upon a creek with your Petitioner can purpose he requires. The Water Fall to which he alludes
describe to your Excellency no better at the present time and from which a race can be cut is the best water power
as situate between four and fives miles from Auckland on within 15 miles of Auckland.
the Road to the Wao and Karangahape District about C W Liger, Surveyor General
one mile from the River Waitemata with the use of the The Northern War came along in 1844/1845, causing
Creek and Liberty erect a dam across same – Your anxiety in early Auckland. Oakley's scheme may have
Petitioner would also wish to have a lease of about 2 come adrift at that point. Indeed, in October 1845 and on
acres of land for the erection of the buildings necessary into 1846, Auckland farmers lamented that there was no
and your Excellency’s consent to the loan or purchase of other flour mill, other than those at Epsom and Mechanic's
a piece of old Iron now lying near the old Market House Bay. (Letter from "A Farmer", New Zealander, 2 August
or Store on the Beach –Your Excellency’s petitioner en- 1845). In 1850, Oakley was in Hawaii for a time, then re-
gaging on his part to erect a water mill with machinery turned to Auckland later that decade to take up another
to dress the flax fit for exportation – And your Petitioner partnership, this time with carpenter/builder John C Jear-
will ever pray … rad at a Mechanics Bay sawmill. In 1859 Oakley took it
Oakley got his wish, his application being granted. The over (Southern Cross 11 March 1859) but it is unknown
location being “one mile from the River Waitemata” how long he remained involved there. The term
means a location considerably inland — perhaps more on "entrepreneur" suits him well -- trouble was, his ideas
today’s Unitec site? never seemed to stay the distance.
Then, the following year ... In 1861, he was one of a number writing reports as re-
quested by the Provincial Council as to Auckland's water
5/1018 24 June 1845 Edwin Oakley for renewal and needs and future supply. Tellingly, he did not refer to the
extension of squatting licence to Allot No. 61 creek that seems to bear his name as an option (perhaps
because it had cost him so dearly?) By 1862, he was living
…The Petition of Edwin Oakley of Auckland in the said in Mongonui, arguing over timber rights (Southern Cross,
colony, settler 5 September 1862), was an unsuccessful tenderer for the
Sheweth construction of an iron store at Queen Street wharf in 1864
That your Petitioner had an occupational License (Southern Cross, 29 September 1864), and ran for both the
granted to him by your Excellency of about three acres General Assembly and Provincial Council for Mongonui -
of land situate near Auckland about twelve months ago – - although he lived at Port Waikato -- in 1865. He pulled
That since that time your Petitioner has at considerable out just before the election, deeming it "prudent" to do so.
expense erected a water wheel and prepared machinery
for the dressing of flax. That your Petitioner has also At that point, I lost sight of him in Papers Past.
formed a mill dam but that a sufficient power cannot be Allotment 61 remained in Crown hands, passed to the
obtained without incurring the risk of great loss of prop- Auckland Provincial Council as a funding reserve in the
erty, the dam having already been carried away by a mid 1850s, leased by the Superintendent in 1874 to a man
Flood – That Petitioner is anxious to unite a Flour Mill named Howard (possibly Joseph Howard, who owned the
to the wheel already erected and for the purpose of pro- farm just across the creek at the time), and then assigned
pelling the water it will be necessary to have a still in- back to the Crown in 1882. This was a smaller version of
crease power – That on Government Reserve No. 61 in the original Allotment 61. Bits seem to have been carved
the Parish of Titirangi a little higher up than the present off it, at the Waterfall end, and initially passed to private
wheel is a good Fall of Water sufficient for the purposes hands, but eventually (Allotments 102-105) ending up
The Avondale Historical Journal Volume 10 Issue 58
Page 3
back in the hands of the government, and were traded be- a character and he would fool the kids with such a
tween education board and asylum authorities for the future straight face and they would believe him.
Fowlds Park site in the early 1890s.
There was a horse stabled not far away in St Georges Rd
So, was Edwin Oakley's flax mill at Waterview just another
one of his grand ideas for profit, or did it exist in any sort of
and the owner would exercise it along the road. The
functioning state? Contemporary records so far weigh horse would poke its head by the steps and George
against it, but -- hopefully the group researching him and would give it some peppermints. It got that way that the
his mill will provide further clues for public viewing as to horse would expect some when it was near the Dairy.
what went on alongside Oakley's Creek all those long years
Having always been a Westie this article brings back
ago. We have, anyway, another tantalising piece of infor-
mation as to how Oakley Creek was so-named. But if it was
memories which in later life is great to have.
indeed in honour of Edwin Oakley, perhaps it was with
irony in mind.

—Lisa J Truttman
Memories of Astrolabe Street,
Memories of the Grosvenor 1950s
Dairy by Marjorie Rogers
by Joe Robinson

Joe Robinson wrote in after reading of the demolition of From a letter received recently.
the Grosvenor Dairy on St Georges Road last issue.
My name is Marjorie Rogers. I am 87 years old. My daugh-
ter bought a newsletter about the history of Avondale. I was
Having just received the latest Journal of the Society I very interested because my family was a big part of Avon-
was saddened to read the article on the demolition of the dale from the 1950s till 1985 and when my husband died I
Grosvenor Dairy. shifted to the North Shore … I have five children, they all
went to Rosebank School and Avondale College.
In 1936 at the ripe old age of 9 years the family moved
to Waterview. With my brothers we would walk to the In the 1950s my father-in-law bought land in Astrolabe
picture theatre each Saturday matinee to make sure we Street, where he had a garden and kept horses. It had been
would keep up with the serial. an orchard owned by Hayward [Wright]. There were all
sorts of trees on the property including kiwifruit which he
Mum would give us money to the pictures and a few packed and sent to market with help of all the family. In
pence to spend on lollies. Mr and Mrs Whales deserved a 1960 my husband and I had a house built on a section my
medal for their patience in dealing with all the chattering father-in-law gave us. That was No. 33. He and his daugh-
kids demanding attention all at once. With threepence to ter had a house moved from Rosebank Road next to a shop
spend one could get an ice cream and quite a few lollies to Astrolabe Street next door to us.
and their stock was quite varied. Changing Balls and We had a market garden at the end of the street. The
cough tablets would last a long time, so was good value. Cheong Bros. used that. [Possibly Chung Tak Ming from
In married life we built our first house in St Georges Rd 1953, and Chung Wing Chong and Chung Wing Wai, on
Astrolabe Street from c.1956 until the mid 1960s—editor]
and lived there for about 14 years. During that time my
The families that lived in our area was Mrs Petty who had
wife worked part time in the Dairy. It was operated by
glass houses, Mays had glass houses, Mr Gear lived a bit
Campbell Enterprises and was run by Mr and Mrs further along. There were Fremlins, Brights, Elsoms,
Prickett. It was always a popular place and the Pricketts Paynes, Connells. Air-Rest was at back of our house. The
were well thought of in the way the Dairy was run. street ended at the gate of the Chinese market garden. A
few years later the road was formed into Mead Street.
Thye Pricketts eventually moved on and the Dairy was
bought and run by George Sharman and his wife Joyce. The section in Mrs Petty’s property we planted potatoes and
They had one son (Grant) and he boarded at Kings Col- kumaras. We sent them to market — family helped.
lege. Unfortunately Grant was injured in a Rugby scrum
and hence confined to a wheelchair. Grant did a lot of My children had a wonderful time playing among the kiwi
mouth painting and was very good. He later coached the fruit vines and picking plums, apples etc. We had a lot of
Wheel Blacks. chickens at one stage. The hens would lay among the
bamboo grove. We would go looking for the eggs.
My wife also worked part time for the Sharmans and
sometimes I would help out. George Sharman was quite It was a lovely time of our lives.
The Avondale Historical Journal Volume 10 Issue 58
Page 4

Two more letters I used to visit the Bollard homestead on the Blockhouse Bay
Road. The Segedin family (Peter and Janice) lived there,
they may still do. It used to have the original stables out
Dear Lisa the back but it was pulled down about the 1974 or so and a
more modern building erected.
I thought it might be easier if I sent you an email about
my memories of the Transport Bus Services. There was an old villa house on Blockhouse Bay Road, on
We lived at 68 Taylor St, Avondale South. This name the right before Matata Street but a bit down from the corner
was later changed to Blockhouse Bay. We moved from a shops. It had a rooster, hens etc running around. My
rented house in Wolverton St, some time in late 1933 or children enjoyed them. The house was of course partially
early 1934. I was about 18 months old. hidden behind a hedge, it was just above the stream that
runs through the area. My children enjoyed going past this
We had two main means of transport --- by train or by old farmhouse etc. It was demolished and the Salvation
bus. T.B.S. seemed to have two sorts of buses; a flat- Army built retirement units there.
nosed Bedford and one with a very long bonnet fastened
with sort of clips on the side. The livery was red on the Then across the road but a little further up again an old villa
bottom and buff on the top, like the trams, with a narrow farmhouse was on a large section with a brown horse in the
panel separating the buff and red, with Transport Bus front paddock. It must have been the last horse on the
Services in black capitals. The drivers wore light brown Blockhouse Bay Road!!!! Again this was in the early
coats. 1970s.
There were two routes, one via Blockhouse Bay Rd and A man and a woman lived there, possibly brother and sis-
the other via Taylor St. These two routes alternated, so ter? They had an old Ford or similar, large and squarish,
you had to read the bus time-table. There were two they used to drive it out occasionally. I recall her dark long
sections from Avondale to Blockhouse Bay , both ending dresses/skirts. The house was demolished , the section sub-
on the corner of either Wolverton Rd and B.B.Rd or divided and a street was created off the Blockhouse Bay
Wolverton Rd and Taylor St. I can't remember the prices Road and brick units built on one corner of the
of fares now, but you could purchase School Concession street. Who were these people? Lots of folk must know of
Cards from the driver. them, possibly even you did....
We often had Mr Bonnet as driver on our route. He was
often very bad-tempered, but this could be due to war- And again ....who owned the land behind the dairy on
time shortages---necessities were in very short supply. Whitney Street that had the dairy cows on it....it was subdi-
vided and became Peter Buck Road and Trevola
Billy Bonnet. Mr Bonnet's son, was in the same class- Street...developed about 1972 part of Peter Buck Road was
room as me at Blockhouse Bay Primary School, in 1941. developed first ...then later Trevola street....I recall seeing
I think they lived in New Windsor Rd, on the left hand all the houses being built eventually filling the street right
side in the 1st block from BB Rd. down to the dairy.....no more cows. I knew most of the
people living in these streets because we all had young
I could write a lot more, but I think that's enough for children that went to the local New Windsor play centre
now. behind the primary school up on the hill.
Sincerely,
Robin Fazakerley. Gillian Dance

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