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Avondale in 1882

"Progress of the Suburban Districts", from NZ Herald, 24 June 1882.

(Names and landmarks have been bolded by myself – LJT.)

Within the last eighteen months or two years a great impetus has been given to the spread of population from the city to the adjacent suburbs, and in many cases from these again to the districts beyond – the result being a general extension of settlement on all sides. This movement is completely revolutionising the old condition of things, and no intelligent observer of what is now going on in the way of speculation and interchange of property can fail to see that with the increased facilities of communication, St Helier’s on the east and the Whau district on the west, will at no distant date occupy the same relation to the city that Ponsonby, Newton and Parnell now do.

But it is westward that the greatest flow of population must take place from the city, owing to the configuration of the country. For twenty years Mr. Linsbury’s place, opposite Mason’s gardens, in the Ponsonby Road has, so to speak, been the outpost of civilisation in that direction, but the enterprising speculator has been about, and now far past his place the stretchers of fern are changing hands at increased rates. An indentation of the sea prevents much further progress in that direction, but when the road to Cox’s Creek bridge is made good, and the approaches to it completed, so that it can be utilised, another extensive tract of country will be brought within the region of speculation and building operations for suburban residences. Within the last year or two the adjacent district has undergone much improvement, paddock after paddock clothed in emerald green having replaced the dreary expanse of fern, and like its neighbour, the Whau, will become the seat of several important industries. One of these, the soap factory, of Messrs. Warnock Bros., is in full swing, and doing a large business; and there is every probability that another sister industry, that of sperm candle-making, will shortly be established in the district, which from various natural advantages is also admirably adapted as the seat of a great woolen manufacturing company.

Taking advantage of a trip to the Whau (now known as the Avondale district) to witness the opening of its new public school, we jotted down a few notes of the changes we noticed in that district since last visiting it. Passing on to the Whau district proper, we came to the extensive tannery of Messrs. Garrett Bros., on Oakley Creek, the establishment of which first gave an impetus to settlement in that direction. They have nearly 500 acres, part in gorse, part in cultivation, possessing a mile frontage to the old Great North Road, and running back to the sea. Some idea of the extent of the plant of the tannery may be gathered from the fact that the insurances are close on £9000, which, of course, does not nearly cover the whole risk. Beyond them, fronting the main road, property is fast changing hands on speculation, and only last week they were obliged to buy up a series of allotments to square their boundary, before the opportunity for doing so had gone beyond reach. On the north side of the road the Government have anticipated a similar contingency and will have to adopt similar measures if they would nor ultimately have villa residences erected in unpleasantly near proximity to the asylum exercise grounds. Within the last few days, they have entered into arrangements, it is stated, for securing 60 acres additional, which will thus secure the necessary isolation and privacy for the inmates of that institution.

At Waterview, a short distance further, on the western side of the road, speculation is now going on. This was one of the townships sold by the irrepressible Michael Wood, during the land mania, which succeeded the Waikato campaign of 1863. It has hitherto lain in embryo, but the spirit of speculation has again reached it, and it is now changing hands in quarter-acre sections, at the rate of £50 per acre.

Immediately adjacent is the Rosebank estate, of the late Mr. Robert Chisholm, stretching from the main road westward past the railway station and southward to the Waitemata Harbour, and as the pedestrian passes along the surveyor’s flag stations and trig. poles  indicate that subdivision and projected settlement are going on there. Standing at the Whau railway station and looking eastward across the country and also along the sides of the new Great North Road, can be seen evident signs of progress and prosperity in the numerous cosy villas nestled at the foot of Mount Albert, and now commencing to be built at its western slope.  Only a week or two ago an acre at Mount Albert, adjoining the Wesleyan Chapel, changed hands at auction at over £400 per acre.

Near to the Whau railway station is the pioneer tannery of the district – though it now boasts three – that of Messrs. Gittos and Sons, started 16 years ago, an enterprise which, at its establishment, in such a then sparsely settled district, was regarded as simple insanity; but as nothing succeeds like success, time has vindicated the commercial wisdom of the step. Among the other great industries of the future in the Whau will be those of the manufacture of bricks and pottery, all the elements of success being provided by Nature ready to hand, only awaiting the magic touch of capital – which the present local establishments do not possess to the large extent desired – to richly reward the investor.

Leaving the railway station in rear, and passing along the road leading to the Three Kings, and which intersects the new Great North Road, we are struck with the manifold changes and improvements effected in this portion of the district within the last eighteen months or two years. At the eastern angle of the junction of the two roads, and opposite the Whau tannery, Mr. F. Gittos has fenced in, cleared, and laid afresh in grass a ten-acre section which under other ownership had lain desolate for a quarter of a century. On this he has built a six-roomed residence for himself, and another dwelling for letting. It was regarded by many practical farmers utter folly to expend money on such soil – the “cold clay soil of the Whau”, as the phrase goes – but the result was not only satisfactory to himself, but proved a stimulus to others to take up the back sections on the same line of road southward of his neighbour, Mr. Gallagher, the owner of one of the finest estates in the district.

Taking the left side of the road above Mr. Gallagher’s farm, we came to the section lately purchased by Mr. Stewart, of the Thames Hotel, 25 acres in extent, taken up a couple of years ago, and laid down in grass; adjoining is that of Mr. Beaumont, 15 or 20 acres, just ploughed, and beyond that again the section of Mr. Longuet, where clearing and fencing is going on, and then comes the extensive vineyard of M. Rayer, some 12 acres in extent, with as much more yet to bring under cultivation. Away to the right, in the distance, trending towards the Three Kings, could be seen another clearing of 30 acres, that of Mr. Pascoe, where the operations of fencing, ploughing up, and laying down in grass are being vigorously prosecuted. Retracing our steps, and turning our attention to the left (or westward) side of the road, we came to a villa residence in process of erection for a new settler, Mr. Matthews, of Northcote, who having sold his property there to the Sugar Refining Company, is making a new home here, with ample surroundings.

Adjoining Mr. Matthews’ section is the homestead and nursery grounds, near some 20 acres in extent, of Captain James, formerly of Mount Albert. No better illustration of what industry, practical skill, and capital can accomplish can be found in the district than at this gentleman’s nursery. He came to the place, a wilderness of fern, over a year ago. Commenced planting last August several thousand trees – peaches, apples, lemons, quinces, &c.  Two acres are laid out as a peach orchard, and another large breadth planted out in strawberries. One of his specialities is lemons, the Lisbon variety principally, and we have not seen any trees so thriving as these for a long time. Of grapes, he is cultivating all the early and late varieties, and has a number of vines of the black Hamburg variety. He has erected three greenhouses, each 50X24, teen feet stud, with span roof, and 14 feet rafters. Another speciality is the gooseberry, and he has set out 800 plants, as well as prepared a bed of several hundred apple trees, all budded and grafted. About 10 acres are at present in hand, around the boundary of which belts of shelter trees are being planted. Another breadth of several acres has been cleared adjoining, and ploughing will shortly be commenced. A plough and cultivator is used in the orchard as far as possible, to minimise hand labour, Captain James and his son doing all the labour with themselves. Headlands are left for the horses to turn without injuring the trees. Advantage is taken of the fall of the ground to carry all the sewage, slops &c., of the homestead by pipes to sewage tanks in the centre of the section, for irrigation purposes, so that everything is utilised. The soil is a black vegetable mould, easily worked. Some blue gums sown in a box ten months ago, and planted out, are now from six to eight feet high. Everything is turned to advantage by Captain James. The boundary fence is lined with passion fruit, the prospective produce of which has already been secured by a speculator. Inside the fence, some 10 feet or so, flax plants are being set out to provide materials for putting up fruit and for binding operations, instead of twine. Adjoining the residence is a commodious stable, with vehicles for transporting to and fro everything required, so that from first to last everything is done within the resources of the establishment. We left the place with a wholesome respect for the energy and pluck of the man who, past the meridian of life, had, for the fifth time in a busy life, hewn out a fresh home for himself from the wilderness.

Adjoining Captain James’ nursery is the Brick, Tile and Pottery Factory of Mr. Moses Exler, situate on a section of some six acres in extent. Mr Exler is a working man, and he and his two lads do all the work. Considering these circumstances, what he has accomplished by patient industry, in eighteen months, is something wonderful. Here are made drain and ornamental tiles, drain pipes, jars, bread-pans, and all kinds of brown ware, the latter class of goods having a glaze equal to that of similar ware turned out in the Staffordshire potteries. Had Mr. Exler looked the Province over he could not have got a piece of land with seams of clay better adapted for his purpose, and even Ingersoll would admit that this is not one of “Moses’ Mistakes.” In his kiln at the time of our visit were over 500 dozen of flower pots, drain tiles, and bricks. The flower pots, which are of excellent manufacture, are turned out in some cases as low as 4 ½ d. a dozen – about the English price. He has a good demand for all the bricks he can make, while his flower pots are furnished largely to the nurseries of Messrs. Wren, McDonald, Palmer and Green. Mr. Exler also exports flower pots to the South. He has a fine seam of white clay on his property, very suitable for the finer classes of houseware, but owing to lack of sufficient capital is unable to do much in that way. These valuable seams of clay seem to run down to the railway station, where in the face of the railway cutting they can be seen several feet thick.

All the land behind Messrs. Exler, James, and Matthews’ property, trending towards the Manukau blockhouse, was only recently brought into the market by the Government, although Crown land for many a year, at an upset price of £1 per acre. It is now changing hands at £5 to £7, and up to £15 per acre, while a block of 20 acres, not far from Mr. Exler’s, is stated to have been bought in the interest of some English and colonial capitalists, for the purpose of commencing a brick, tile and pottery factory, at as high a figure as £22 10s. per acre. A quantity held by a Sydney gentleman, Mr. Shedden Adams, is fast passing into the hands of resident settlers, who will not let it lie idle.

Along the whole of the country on the south side of the Great North Road, from the point above referred to, to the Titirangi Ranges, until within the last few years, nothing was to be seen but the dun-coloured interminable waste of fern, west and south for many miles the only indication of human industry and skill being the little pipe clay mounds which betokened the presence of the nomadic gum-digger. But the scene is fast chaining.

Mr. John Buchanan, on the south side of the Great North Road, is doing for that side of the district what that enterprising pioneer settler, Mr. Bollard, and some others, have done for the alluvial bottom lands of the Whau Flat, now clothed in emerald green. Mr. Buchanan has a farm of 350 acres, most of which is in cultivation, and the balance nearly all in grass. He has faith in the land, and is proving his faith by his works. Beyond this estate Mr. Hogg has 400 acres and Mr. Morrison 120 acres in hand, both settlers having homesteads erected, and hard at work clearing and ploughing the land, and getting it laid down in grass. On part of Mr. Buchanan’s estate, at the head of the Whau Creek, is the fellmongery and tanning establishment of Messrs. Bell and Gemmell, who, from small beginnings, have now succeeded in acquiring a business which is as large as their plant can overtake. They are now making additions to buildings and machinery with a view to an extension of their trade. Out of the 16 acres available they are about to plant a considerable breadth in wattle, so as to produce their own wattle bark at first hand, and save expense of importation.

Away to the south on the Whau Flat, near Dr. Pollen’s place, Mr. Allthorpe has taken up 30 acres, and although but some eighteen months there, has his farm partly cleared and a six-roomed house erected on it. Dr. Pollen’s brickyards are not in working operation at present, but across the creek the old-established factory of Mr. Archibald is in full swing. The spirit of improvement seems, in fact, to have infected the districts beyond, for a new brickfield has been started at Waikomiti, and at New Lynn Mr. Ramsden has erected a large hotel, which is held by some people to be the first premonitory symptom of the advance of civilisation in an out-settlement.

Standing upon the spur of Mount Albert, and looking eastward, westward, northward, and southward, upon the isthmus lying between the Waitemata and the Manukau, fast filling up with an energetic and prosperous population, one can well believe that within a generation the daydream of Governor Hobson will yet be realised, and Auckland city scarce find elbow room within her ancient boundaries of Eden – from the Whau Portage to the line of the Tamaki.

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