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Some Interesting Occurrences in Early Auckland: City and Provinces

Chapter 21 — The Suburbs

Chapter 21
The Suburbs

I have not said much about the suburbs of Auckland in the olden days. They are now mostly incorporated in the City, and page 46 are all included in the Urban Area. I can well remember when the whole of Grey Lynn was in one dairy farm named Surrey Hills, with only one small house near the corner of Ponsonby and Great North Roads. When a boy I was often sent there for extra milk.

The greater part, if not the whole of this area, was owned by two men — the Hon. Jas. Williamson, who lived at “The Pa”, near Onehunga, and a Maori named Crummer, after whom Williamson Avenue and Crummer Road are named. This reminds me of the most curious insurance I ever effected. A lady came into my office at the head of about a dozen youngsters, and informed me that her husband had just died and left her the family to bring up and a considerable property in Grey Lynn to support them. She wanted all the money she could get on mortgage. I inspected the property, and made the loan. The lawyer, however, discovered that her husband had made a provision that, if she married again, she lost the property. This, of course, spoilt our security. When I told her of the trouble she exclaimed “Marry! Me many a man! !” Looking at her young tribe I remarked “Well, what else would you marry? Anyhow, you seem to have been fairly fond of your first”. It was suggested that she be insured against the risk of marriage. I saw the manager of a big accident insurance company. After discussion and deliberation he said “Yes, I'll do it at £1 per centum per annum”. I said “Come and have a look at the lady. You'll do it at half–a–crown”. To this he replied “I'm not going to marry her, but God knows what some other fool may do. £1 per cent or nothing”. Going back to my office I was terrified by the probable fury of a female insured against marriage; but a brain–wave struck me, so I said “This is a very difficult business, but if you will pay 6 per cent instead of 5 per cent as agreed, I will still grant the loan”. She jumped at this, and I was regarded as a benefactor instead of a malefactor.

The Arch Hill side of the Great North Road was occupied by one or two good houses, a few cottages, some brick and pottery works, and big Chinese market gardens — but Epsom and Tamaki were the principal areas for Chinamen' gardens. From the top of Mt. Eden looking south and west one saw suburban farms averaging about twenty–five acres, each with its little homestead. I have been informed that a suburban farm of ten acres, now part of the Borough of Newmarket, was offered to my grandfather and to Mr. Dingwall and doubtless to others, for £3 the lot, but not bought because it was a raupo swamp and page 47 not worth draining. There have been many other missed opportunities in and around Auckland, including Karangahape Road about 1890 at £20 a foot, with shops thereon yielding ten per cent per annum.

The suburbs on the North Shore have not made the progress which is the due of their merits, and cannot ever do so until proper access is provided by a toll–free bridge. Trans–harbour facilities have passed through many stages, from pulling boats and sailers to steamers, and the service from three trips each way per day to four trips each way per hour. Many people have joined in the effort, and the names of Alison and Holmes are prominent from very early times. The first service I can personally remember was run by people named Quick, and the Devon–port Steam Ferry Co. The wharf and business area were first located just inside the North Head; but after a while the Victoria Wharf and Flagstaff hotel area supplanted it.

At this time there were many toll bars on roads leading into the City, and they proved to be an infernal nuisance. We must be careful not to repeat this mistake on the Bridge.