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May-June 2012

Volume 11 Issue 65

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

No 7 Henry Street: “Avonlea”

Back in February this year, the owner of 7 Henry Street, also known as “Avonlea”, invited me to come around and view her house, a transitional villa, then about to come up for sale. This house had intrigued those of us in the Society who were out completing the Roberton Study in the middle of the last decade. I was delighted to take up the owner’s offer of a look inside.

Next meeting of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society: Saturday, 2 June 2012, 2.30 pm St Ninian’s Church
St Georges Road, Avondale (opp. Hollywood Cinema)

To me, this house remains a bit of a mystery. Sale advertisements dated it to 1910 (there is dark panelling in one of the rooms) — yet the ceilings inside have the criss-crossed beam ceilings of the bungalow style from the 1920s. Some of the architraves and even the framing around the front leadlight decoration (see next page) is made from Douglas Fir timber according to the owner, which apparently didn't come into common use until the 1940s. Why, also, would a double-bay with return verandah villa be placed on a strip property in the middle of a residential block, with one bay always facing a hedge?
continued overleaf

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The property was once part of Henry Walton’s farm estate, subdivided originally in the 1880s, but sold by his agent John Roberton with some difficulty. Section 27 of that estate was sold eventually in 1901 to the Davis family. In 1911, Miss Magdalen Davis, who apparently lived at No. 15 Henry Street, subdivided the remainder of the section into strips. Two of the strips eventually became Henry Street Reserve (see next page) from the early 1950s (Arthur Hadley Button, Avondale postman, had one which appears to have been used for two glasshouses by 1940). These parts of the Davis subdivision were never residential. 7 Henry Street, however, was different. Magdalen Davis sold the site (Lot 4 of 27) to a boilermaker in Avondale named Matthew William Neville for £100. This price doesn’t look like enough to include both a quarter-acre section and a fine doublebay transitional villa. Determining any rateable value indicators to try to determine when the value of the property may have moved upward after the building of a residence isn’t helped by the Avondale Road Board’s valuer becoming confused as to the legal description (Lot 4, now 7 Henry Street, often referred to in the rates records as Lot 1, which was Miss Davis’ property). In 1913, Neville is recorded in the Board’s rates list as having “Lot 1” of 27 with a rateable value of £120. Still not much — it may have been either bare land, or with a small structure on it. In 1916, Neville, by then living in New Lynn, entered into a sale agreement with engineer Richard Cooke for £135. Still not a lot of money, but the agreement does

state “in the event of any of the buildings upon the said land being damaged or destroyed by fire prior to the completion of the purchase the amount receivable under any policy of insurance on the said buildings shall be applied as part payment of the purchase money or in reinstating the buildings at the option of the Vendor.” Later that year, in December, Cooke purchased another piece of land elsewhere for £305 plus the land at Henry Street, transferring the remainder of the sales agreement balance owed to Neville (£75) to a boot clicker named Leonard James Gribble. Gribble was, at the time, serving as a Corporal with the NZ Expeditionary Force, and had already left the country in July that year. He died in Ypres, Belgium, 4 October 1917, aged 32. His estate passed almost immediately to the Public Trust.

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Council wished to acquire the site, and then transferred the land to the Council in November 1948. Lot 3 (No 9 Henry Street, where the glasshouses once stood) in 1947 was owned by a widow named Margaret Catherine Jones, who with her husband James Alfred Fisher Jones had owned a small goods business in Avondale. She was extremely upset at the news of the pending compulsory acquisition of her property, and expressed this through a letter from her lawyer to the Town Clerk. But, the City Engineer at the time was adamant: the area was required for a children’s playground “of which there are none in this part of the district.” O’Sullivan’s strip would not be enough. Mrs Jones’ land was thus gazetted by proclamation to be taken as a recreation ground on 31 August 1950. Lisa J Truttman

The Public Trustee sold the Henry St property to a retired blacksmith living in Avondale’s New Windsor Road, John William Dickins, for £120 in October 1920. Dickins had run his business in Chancery Street in Auckland from c.1891, then at the corner of Albert and Durham Street from 1901, then Swanson Street from 1903. By c.1914 he was retired and living in Wolverton Street, then in New Windsor Road when the rates records for 1920 included him. By 1923 he owned land not only at 7 Henry Street, but also on Walsall, Roberton, Great North and St Georges Roads in the district. I would say it was Dickins who had “Avonlea” either built on the site — or (an idea that will probably remain unproven) shifted onto the site from another part of Auckland, converting it to transitional form. Backing this up is that Miss Davis’ property at Lot 1 (where she lived, and where a house did exist) had a rateable value of £340 in 1920, compared with Lot 4 at £125. If Dickins was the originator, he had the house on site and complete before the 1927 amalgamation of Avondale with Auckland City, as the valuers of that council noticed nothing added to the property up to at least 1945. In that year, they estimated the house’s age as being 28 years old (1917). I think they were out by around 3 years. Dickins died in 1939, and eventually the property was transferred to his widow, Mary Elizabeth. In 1941, she sold the property to retired farmers Alfred Joseph Monoyer and his wife Marie Louise. On the death of his wife, Alfred Monoyer sold the property to carpenter Robert Horace Weeks in 1945. The Weeks (Robert and his wife Anne Eileen) lived there together until 1963, then Anne Weeks remained there alone after his death until selling the property in 1989. So, if the Douglas fir interior timber work dates from the 1940s, Robert Weeks might have been responsible. Henry Street Reserve While I was looking into the records for 7 Henry Street, I came across information on the origins of the adjoining Henry Street Reserve. In 1946, Auckland City Council obtained a £145,000 loan to acquire and develop around 300 acres of land in total on which to develop parks and reserves in the city. One of these reserves is that at Henry Street, intended for a playground area, as part of a Council plan called “Area 32”. In order to do this, the council took over Lots 2 and 3 of Miss Magdalen Davis’ subdivision. Lot 2 (No 11 Henry Street) in 1931 was owned by a farmer in Opanake named Daniel Denis O’Sullivan, and hadn’t really been developed in any major way. When O’Sullivan died in 1947, the family asked if

Remnants of a Wolverine

HMS Wolverine in harbour. From Wikipedia.

Up until the late 1960s to early 1970s, part of the Avondale landscape included a wooden shed built by J J Craig in the late 1890s at his brickworks on St Georges Road, now known most commonly as Glenburn. In those days, if a supply of teak and oak timbers came floating into Auckland harbour and was there for the salvaging, why not take advantage of it, buy a stack of it, and then reuse it to increase output in what was then Auckland’s largest brick and pipe making operation? The timbers came from a Royal Navy full-rigged corvette named Wolverine, launched in 1863. It was built from a composite structure of teak and oak planking, and was launched right when steam was rapidly replacing sail as the motive power for ships. As such, although she was a sailing ship, she also had a steam engine aboard. The ship served in both the West Indies and Australasia. In 1893, the aged Wolverine was retired by the Royal Navy and sold for £2200 to one G Ellison. Under her new ownership, she was converted to a cargo ship, intended to convey coal, tallow and copra from Australia and the south

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HMS Wolverine at anchor, seen from Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney Harbour, ca. 1881-87. From Tyrell Collection, http://www.australiangeographic.com.au

seas. Her first voyage in her new role was to prove her last. Sailing from Sydney on 24 February 1895, a Tasman gale caused her to start leaking in more places than could be adequately repaired. The Wolverine was diverted to Auckland in distress, and limped into the Waitemata Harbour. The news here from the shipbuilders who inspected her was not good – the old lady was beyond repair. Ellison sold the hulk to Devonport shipbuilder George Niccol for £1000, and she was broken up for salvage. “The old hulk Wolverine (which was at one time a fine British warship) is now nearly demolished, and her remains are lying near Stanley Point, Brick Bay. All the copper and bolts have been taken, and the vessel is being gradually broken up.” (Auckland Star, 26 September 1899) “The remains of the old barque Wolverine, which have been on the beach in Stanley Bay for some time, were today blown up by dynamite, in accordance with

instructions for the removal of the vessel issued by the Harbour Board.” (Auckland Star, 11 September 1900) “The Most Rev the Primate, Bishop Cowie, held a confirmation service on Wednesday evening at the Holy Trinity Church, Devonport. There were eight young men and eight young women presented. The Bishop in a short address counselled the young people to show by their lives “in deed and truth" that they had consecrated their lives to Christ as their Master. The Primate also dedicated, a very beautiful Litany desk, the gift of the confirmed. Mr Geo. Niccol supplied the wood part of the old Wolverine, and Mr Oberg did the workmanship.” (Auckland Star, 13 December 1901) Along with J J Craig’s purchases for his Avondale brickyard, many of the ship’s girders were used in building the Shaw Savill & Albion woolstore close to The Strand in Parnell. Furniture and several small boats were built from her timbers as well. Once everything valuable had been stripped, the remains of the Wolverine were allowed to slowly decay into rust. Lisa J Truttman

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 email: historian@avondale.org.nz Society information: Website: http://sites.google.com/site/avondalehistory/ Subscriptions: $10 individual $15 couple/family $30 corporate

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