Avondale, early 1884

(Re-published in the News, Avondale, c.1916, originally from NZ Herald, 2 February 1884. From the “Harry March Memories” collection, courtesy of Ray Kealey of Blockhouse Bay History Group. Names and landmarks have been bolded by myself – LJT.)

(The following account of a reporter’s visit to Avondale in the early 80’s was found among the papers of the late Mr John Bollard recently and is of particular interest to that fast dwindling band of early Avondale settlers.)

Some eighteen months ago, we devoted a day to a ramble through the Avondale district, to see the changes, and improvements going on, and improvements going on, and the local industries established in that rapidly-improving suburb of Auckland, for such it has now practically become. On Saturday we again made a similar journey, and, noting the old landmarks, could appreciate the alterations that had been effected in the above brief space of time. Beginning with   


some 400 acres, which formerly lay a waste of tea-tree fern and furze, but cut up and brought into the market, we noticed considerable improvements effected, both as regards cultivations and buildings, by purchasers of sections. Messrs. Gittos and Sons have some ten acres in oats out of their 30-acre section; it was light fern land, and put down in oats. The crop is an excellent one, and is now in stook.

Further westward, Mr. F. Gittos has also a fine crop of oats on the section purchased by him, and which will be cut down by Mr. Bollard this week with his combined reaping and mowing machine. Opposite Mr. Bollard’s farm are two nice paddocks of oats on sections which were purchased by Mr. F. G. Ewington. The first was in furze and the second in tea-tree and fern. After being broken up they were let to Mr. Bollard for the purpose of taking off a crop of oats. Mr. Bollard used 3cwt of superphosphate to the acre, and the crop is one of the finest in the district, and estimated at 3 tons of oaten hay to the acre.

Further on we noticed a large 20-acre paddock, belonging to Messrs. Harper and Coupland, fenced, ploughed up, and lying in fallow, with the intention of putting it down in grass during the present autumn. At the back of this block Mr. Johnston has 9 acres ploughed up, and in oats and potatoes, which are looking exceedingly well. Further on towards Dr. Pollen’s farm, Mr. Hazard has fenced in his 20 acres, and is ploughing it up, preparatory to building a large residence and laying off plantations during the next planting season. Mr. Thompson has also built a neat cottage on his section, on the site of the one burned down, and has also commenced ploughing up his land.  

Great improvements has been effected on Mr. Althorpe’s section, situate in the very centre of the Rosebank Estate.  Mr. Webb, junr., has built a neat cottage on his section, and planted it with fruit trees, and set out a vegetable garden

On the north-eastern side of the estate, Mr. Stallard has erected a very handsome six-roomed residence on his block, laid it down in grass, and planted it with ornamental shrubs. Adjacent thereto a large dwelling has been erected by Mr. Woolgar. On the portion of Rosebank adjoining Waterview, Mrs. C. Major has effected extensive improvements, having built two handsome residences, with stable, coach-house, etc.


Beyond Rosebank, but still in the Avondale district, the Messrs. Garrett Brothers have brought a considerable breadth of land into grass, and also built a fine residence for the resident manager of their tannery, Mr. Robert Garrett.

Mr. Bollard, one of the pioneer settlers of the district, is still carrying on farming extensively. We noticed on his well-kept farm, a 16-acre paddock containing one of the finest crops of oats we have seen this season, and which would gladden the hearts of some of our agriculturalists to look at who have have heard of “the cold clay land of the Whau.” It was in process of being stooked, and it was amusing to notice the clouds of sparrows, yellow hammers, starlings, and almost every variety of small bird, carefully shepherding the men engaged in the work, for the purpose of securing the caterpillars, like rooks following the plough. They devoted their attention solely to this portion of the field, leaving the stooked grain alone. Mr. Bollard, while admitting that in small plantations near the bush the birds are troublesome, holds that in open fern lands they are the farmer’s friend. In rear of this paddock he has a fine 30-acre paddock of potatoes.

In looking at his chaff machine, we noticed that it was one of the best of its kind we had seen, having a double riddle of sheet copper. Any of the long straws that get end on through the first are speedily caught by the second riddle, and the result is that the stuff is thoroughly and evenly cut. In the remaining portioin of the farm were some splendid grass paddocks trending towards the Avondale River. We were not surprised at seeing this farm in so high a state of cultivation, as during the last 20 years the improvement of it has been a speciality with the proprietor, who has expended a large sum in bone dust and manures of various descriptions. The time was when it was jocosely said that Mr. Bollard grew as much produce as the whole district put together, but that day has gone by, as clearing and cultivation is going on, on every hand, and down the valley, and across the fern plains right away past Henderson, on the one side, and towards the Manukau on the other, could be seen on Saturday the smoke of clearings.

Adjacent to Mr. Bollard’s farm are some nice grass paddocks belonging to Mr. Burke.


Further on, on the opposite side of the road, beyond the Avondale Hotel, we noticed that Mr. John Buchanan has got a large portion of his land surveyed, and brought into the market as a township, in from quarter-acre to two-acre sections



It is stated that the Survey Department has received instructions from the Government to re-survey the Government townships of Whau North and Whau South, and that they will be shortly brought into the market. The last-named is at the southern end of the Canal reserve line, where it strikes the deep-water frontage of the Manukau harbour, and the first is situate at the northern end of the same line. There are many enquiries being made by speculative parties for sections in these townships, and when they are put up to auction will doubtless realise good prices.


Away to the south-east of the district, we noticed that settlement was progressing favourable. Mr. Stewart, of the Thames Hotel, has effected some extensive improvements on his block. Adjoining Mr. Stewart’s land, Mr. Hiscock has built a good residence, on his section, and next to that, Dr. Hensen has purchased a block and is having it fenced, ploughed and planted, and we understand is going to build a handsome residence upon it.

Further on is the two-storey residence just built by Mr. Astley, on his section, while considerable improvements are being effected by Mr. Lynch, of the Occidental Hotel, and Mr. Brookes, of Queen Street, on their properties in the same locality. Some of the grandest building sites – for extensive landscape and water views – to be found in the Avondale district, are to be obtained along this line, as the spectator, standing midway on the Auckland isthmus, views at once the waters of the Manukau and Waitemata.


Land within the last eighteen months has been changing hands greatly, owing to land speculation, and the progress of settlement. As a proof of the growing value of land in the Avondale district, we may mention that the property of Mr. Thomas Young – some 12 acres – bought for about £350 a few years ago, was sold last week to Mr. Tucker for £1200.

The Northern Omnibus Company have also purchased during the past week a triangular allotment (three-quarters of an acre), opposite Donovan’s Hotel, Avondale, and at the junction of five roads, for £250. It is the intention of the company to put up shortly on it the necessary coaching accommodation, a twenty-stalled stable, and the requisite granaries, etc. By the way, it is not very creditable to the railway authorities that the company is carrying a larger number of people to and fro in the Avondale and Mount Albert districts than the railway itself, and at rates (with the exception of first-class fares) below the railway fares.


A meeting was held last week with regard to the erection of the new Anglican Church. It was resolved to give the vestry six weeks’ grace to collect the promised subscriptions, with a view of commencing building operations about the middle of March. The new church will seat 130, and the tenders submitted will enable the building to be erected at a cost of about £500. In all probability the fine public schoolhouse erected about two years ago, will shortly have to be enlarged, in view of the sitting accommodation being nearly absorbed, and owing to the growth of population in the district.


Mr. Hunt has now got fully in operation his new brickworks, the machinery of which will turn out about 16,000 compressed bricks per diem. He has ordered from Glasgow another machine – a die plastic machine – which will give an additional output of 25,000 bricks per day. Two kilns are in work. The clay is run into the works in trucks, by rail, working on an endless chain. Mr. Hunt has erected residences for his men, and put in a lengthy siding from his factory to the Kaipara Railway. His expenditure on buildings, machinery and improvements, has already amounted to many thousands of pounds, and it is to be hoped that he will reap the full reward of his enterprise.

Mr. Exler is also busily employed at his brick and tile manufactory, and has as many orders as he can well attend to, in addition to his manufacture of flower pots, etc., and other light ware.

It is stated that Mr. P Gallagher contemplates starting another Brick and Tile Works in the district on his fine estate, and running a railway siding down to the Avondale railway station. There are some fine clay seams on the property, but it seems something approaching vandalism to commence the manufacture of bricks on one of the prettiest properties in the district, and on aesthetic grounds, the project should be eschewed. It may be, however, that Mr. Gallagher, like his property, is but clay when a fat dividend is looming in the distance.

At the time of our visit, the old Whau tannery of Messrs. Gittos and Sons  was in process of being dismantled, the machinery being removed to the site selected for their new tannery at Richmond, next to the City Abattoirs. The Whau – we beg pardon, Avondale – has now become too high-toned to run a tannery in the centre of the district, and the block on which the tannery is situate will probably be brought into the market, and cut up for villa sites.

The Riversdale Tannery, situate on Mr. Buchanan’s estate farther westward, has been enlarged, and the machinery improved by the Riversdale Tannery Company. This factory is still on the fringe of the settled sections of the district, but if the Auckland suburban population pushes westward at the pace it has done of late years, it is only a question of time when the above institution will also be requested to “move on”.  


In travelling through the district we could not but notice that the Highway Board had made the most of the scanty funds at their disposal, when the extensive area of the district is taken into account. We often hear of the wretched squabbles and log-rolling in Highways Boards, which so embitter neighbours that some of our rural districts answer well to Roebuck’s definition of a British colony – “a place where everybody knows everybody and everybody’s business, and where everybody hates everybody.”

Avondale is unique in its history in that respect. Mr. Bollard has been Chairman of the Highway Board for 17 years, consecutively – a certificate of character in itself. The whole of the plans and specifications for the works have been made out by him gratuitously, and by that means a larger percentage of the rates has been expended upon the roads than would otherwise have been the case. If similar public spirit were more frequently shown in some of our Highway Boards, their districts would be spared the evil reputation they now enjoy, for bickerings and squabblings.

In one other respect the district gives a good example to its neighbours. Its Public Hall belongs to the people, not to shareholders, and every person in the district – whether freeholder, leaseholder, or householder – on payment of half-a-crown per annum, is eligible for office on the committee of management for the year; or, if his ambition does not soar so high, can claim to vote for those who may be willing to act. This is as it should be, and the result is to create a healthy interest in the management of an institution which is public in every sense of the term.

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