| The Streets of my city, Wellington New Zealand, |
by F. L. Irvine-Smith. (1948).
Part Two : Chapter Thirteen
|Contents: a letter | Part One chapters: 1 | 2 | Part Two chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 |
Part Three chapters: Intro | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Appendix
But little queer suburban streets.
IN COMMON with other parts of the city Thorndon has its little lanes and pockets which differ from those in the central city areas by being entirely residential, and since the exigencies of early pioneering did not make it possible to live far from one's work, Thorndon, as one of the oldest residential parts of the settlement, was soon intersected with numerous small byways which largely took the form of little terraces leading from an earlier branch street to the higher land behind. Nothing evaporated more speedily in Wellington air than the original town-acre sections.
It is interesting to ramble along Tinakori Road and turn back the pioneering pages of this old and somewhat faded part of the city's environs. Mounting the rise at the foot of this long undeviating road, a rise known to earlier residents as "Featherston Hill" in reminder of the near-by residence of Wellington's first superintendent, Cottleville Terrace branches off to the right. This takes its name from Charles Cottle, who at one time presided over a busy smithy in the locality and owned the whole block as far along as Newman Terrace and as far back as Grant Road. Before the opening of the Wellington-Manawatu Railway, Mr. Cottle, in anticipation of railways tenants (1) built sixteen cottages (2) (still standing) on the south side of the terrace, at a reported price per cottage that makes the present building contractor gasp - a lucrative investment, but plenty to share the dividends. Sixteen small Cottles sat round the daily board. Grant Road, running parallel to Tinakori Road, but nearer to the hills, is named after a former overseer of the roads. Its northern extension is now called Frandi Street.
Opposite the foot of Cottleville Terrace is a short pedestrian cut, the Zigzag, passing from lower Tinakori Road to Thorndon Quay, and next to the Zigzag, standing four square, is a solid-looking residence with its Romanesque windows and economy of space, built some fifty years ago by learned John Innes, M.A., LL.D., as a nest for his bride from Australia. It was down the Zigzag that the children raced in Katherine Mansfield's story, "The Wind Blows," "down the asphalt zigzag where the fennel grows wild on the Esplanade." (3)She herself was born at No. 11 Tinakori Road, close by. "The Esplanade," (4) a favourite promenade in the nineties for Thorndon residents, is long replaced by extended railway yards and additional wharves. Time marches on!
Close to Cottleville Terrace is also to be found Stowe Hill, one of the newest Thorndon streets, cut through the property of the late Leonard Stowe (1837-1920) for many years Clerk of Parliaments. In the sixties Mr. Stowe arrived in New Zealand and settled first at Nelson, where in 1871 he married Jane, daughter of Dr. Greenwood, the principal of Nelson Boys' College. Mrs. Stowe was a delightful watercolourist and at the age of ninety gave an exhibition of her pictures. Mr. Stowe was the inventor of "Stowe's Patent Calculating Machine."
Following along Tinakori Road, Newman Terrace commemorates a former mayor, Dr. Newman (1849-1924), M.P. for Wellington suburbs from 1884 to 1906. He was a citizen of wide interests, a medical graduate of London and Aberdeen, a bright little man with bright eyes and bright hair, popular with all ranks, especially with the footballing community who consistently selected him as President of the Rugby Union. Mrs. Newman, a daughter of Dr. Featherston, was one of the founders of the Convalescent Home in Oriental Bay, opened December, 1895, its first patroness being the Countess of Glasgow and the first committee Mesdames Newman, Bristowe, Joseph, Myers, T. C. Williams and A. Brandon, all philanthropically minded women of their day. The street was originally known as Featherston Terrace.
Continuing our way along, we pass the old homes of the Pharazyns, the Levins and the Claphams whose extensive grounds, now so overbuilt, once extended from Tinakori Road, right back to Grant Road. Into the Clapham property off Park Street (q.v.) now runs Burnell Avenue (q.v.) and still further on, off George Street, runs Goring Street, cut through the property of the late Walter Johnston and named after his father-in-law, Forster Goring. Mr. George Clapham grew exquisite flowers and is sometimes said to have been the first in Wellington to cultivate the "new" flower, the Cosmaea, white specimens of which adorned the bouquet of his bride, Miss Lilian Curtis, and pink specimens those of the bridesmaids at their wedding at St. Paul's ProCathedral in 1891. "And did you see the new flower?"
George Street recalls Dr. Evans, a leading pioneer of the forties, and Little George Street, known to most Thorndon residents as "Saunders Lane," Mr. Joseph Saunders, a well-known contractor, who lived hard by in Tinakori Road. Here dwelt the carrier, "Scott," whose fatal accident inspired yet another story by Katherine Mansfield.
A few houses along is Drummond's Lane, now changed to Malcolm Lane, which runs through a two-acre block purchased by Mr. Peter Drummond after his arrival from England in 1869. Just beyond the opening of the lane lived Edward Tregear, F.R.G.S., P.R.H.S., F.R.A.S., etc., one of the century's most profound students and prolific writers on Polynesian ethnology and anthropology. Mrs. Tregear, a daughter of the artist, Mr. Hamar Arden, and the sister of another, was one of the loveliest Wellington women of her day.
Pause at the foot of the next little lane, Poplar Grove (so named from earliest days, but by whom only the fairies know) and you will see something unusual in a land as new as ours - a shop actually marked with a tablet recording past history.
It seems scarcely possible that any of her pupils should still be with us, but Mrs. Smyth (nee Toomath) who attended Mrs. Buxton's School in 1873 and 1874, now living with her son in Picton, can still chat and write about those days that seem to present folk like a chapter from Barrie or the Land-of-Make-Believe. Posterity is grateful to Mr. Henry Bodley who placed the tablet on the spot.
Torless Terrace, another Tinakori offshoot, if mis-spelt for Torlesse, is a Wakefield name, as Catherine, the only sister of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, married the Rev. Torlesse of Stoke Vicarage. Two of their sons came to New Zealand. Arthur Wakefield, the founder of Nelson, took to the Colony as surveyor his nephew Charles Torlesse, who subsequently purchased a sheep station in Canterbury, and Edward Gibbon Wakefield, when he landed in Wellington in 1852, brought with him Catherine's second son, Harry Torlesse.
This brings us to Harriett Street (q.v.) off which runs Pitarua Street, named after the two (Maori) brothers Pitt who owned the land. The hills now come nearer, and as a result, the little ways grow steeper. Upton Terrace, formed through the property of the late J. G. Holdsworth, and named by him after his home town in England, is a short but stiff pull up from the main road. Mr. Holdsworth arrived in Wellington in 1853 and for a year represented the city in the Provincial Council. In 1870 he was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands, a post he held until 1884. A son, Frank Holdsworth, was for many years one of the best cricketers in the Colony. Given a summer's day in the Basin Reserve with J. P. Firth and F. Holdsworth in top form, almost six and a half feet of each of them, the cricketing public hunched for sheer joy.
Barton Terrace is named for Richard Barton (q.v.), an early settler in the Wairarapa and Lewisville Terrace keeps alive the memory of Mr. Lewis, a city business man of the eighties, who resided here next to Mr. Truman of the Customs Department. A small pocket of smallish houses was Lewisville Terrace, from which emerged residents of no small ideas. Here lived for a while Thomas Bracken, who like many of his race, found an outlet for his activities in politics and poetry. Here with his mother lived Richard James Barnes, Chess champion of New Zealand 1890-91, and again in 1891-92. Two of the Terrace lads growing up to justify their existence were Benjamin Wilson, one day to be Head of the Tourist Department, and W. A. G. Skinner, a future Government Printer. Mr. Hughes, of "Patents" interests, resided in the only two-storey structure in the Terrace, and opposite, in a wee sma' hoose, was to be found Alexander McKay, the Government Geologist, the friend and colleague of Sir Julius von Haast, one of the Colony's most noted geologists. Mr. McKay laid claim to being the first to refrigerate meat in New Zealand, since, during his explorations in the Southern Alps, he frequently kept game and mutton for long -periods in the mountain ice. Like many a Scotchman then and now he was a Fellow of numerous learned societies, also a keen photographer, in fact, the inventor of the "Telephoto Lens."
At the foot of Lewisville Terrace was Leyden's Shoeing Forge, which attended to the footwear of most of the Karori horses. It is now replaced by the large block of Wilmor Flats, which carry our thoughts to Thomas Wilmor McKenzie, a city father of the forties.
Two more of the little ways to be found before reaching the Botanical Gardens are Kilmister Avenue (see First Arrivals) and Collins Terrace. The latter recalls Andrew Collins, J.P., for many years a prominent Wellington Labour Leader, who formed the Bakers' Union in 1888 and was its president for many years. In 1893 he was appointed by the Ballance Government a Justice of the Peace and was also a director of the "New Zealand Times" in the interests of Labour. Mr. Collins came to New Zealand in the "Halcione" in 1872. He died in 1937.
The Botanical Garden gates mark the end of the road. Cross over and wander back as far as the intersection of Hill Street. Off this street run several of Thorndon's little ways. First to the right is Parliament Street from which a good view may be obtained of the group of the Houses of Parliament. It is a characteristic little suburban street of these parts, running up steeply to a summit, thence making on the other side a descent so steep that it resolves itself into a series of steps (101 of them) leading by six flights to the street below. Poor postmen! From the opposite side of Hill Street branch three blind streetlets - Selwyn Terrace (q.v.) a distinguished name for an unpretentious way, Guildford Terrace (mis-spelt for Guilford) leading to St. Mary's Convent, and so named by Mr. Webb, one of the early surveyors of the Company, who had formerly been in the service of the Earl of Guilford, and Eccleston Hill, bearing the name of the English birthplace of the Colony's greatest Premier, Richard John Seddon.
A few more yards brings us to Molesworth Street where three small streets, Aitken Street, Guthrie Street and Wingfield Street, forming as it were the letter H, commemorate the Hon. John Guthrie Wood Aitken, a former Mayor, and Mr. J. R. Wingfield of the New Zealand Society. The two former represent a very successful slum clearance carried out by the City Council in 1903.
Continuing along Molesworth Street, a narrow entrance opposite Pipitea Street opens into what was long known as Park Terrace, now renamed Collina Terrace, from a former resident, Colonel Collins, C.M.G., I.S.O. (1848-1924) Controller and Auditor-General. Colonel Collins in 1874 was the champion shot of Taranaki and took a most active interest in volunteering matters all his life. He was also one of the founders of Rugby football in Taranaki which for so many years led the Dominion in this branch of sport. These were the palmy days of the Baylys, the Allens, the Semarks and the Stohrs, when, like Jacobites of old, Taranaki schoolboys were forbidden on Big Match days to wear "colours" within school precincts. From 1911 to 1921 Colonel Collins was aide-de-camp to the Governor. His son in 1939 followed in his father's footsteps and held the post of Auditor-General from 1939 to 1945. In January, 1947, he died suddenly at Taupo when on a fishing holiday.
Tucked away in the northern end of Molesworth Street is a little cul-de-sac, which from early days rejoiced in the name of Wesley Crescent, but which in 1911 was changed to Rossmore Crescent. One of its first residents was Henry William Curtis, who as a boy, together with his father, George Curtis, engineer, his mother and four brothers and sisters, after first taking passage in the "Martha Ridgway" and failing to embark, finally landed at Wellington from the good ship "London" on December 12th 1840.A younger brother, J. J. Curtis, born in Wellington, was destined to be the founder of the large transport firm of that name. Mr. Henry Curtis in due course married Miss Helena O'Dowd, who had spent her early life at Rosemore, in Ireland, a name subsequently given to the colonial home in the Crescent, and when it became necessary to find a new name for Wesley Crescent (because of Wesley Road, C.1) that of the Curtis home was considered, slightly altered, at the suggestion of a local medical practitioner, says Miss Frances Curtis, the last surviving child of Henry Curtis, to "Rossmore," as being more euphonious. Whereupon the Curtis house-name followed suit and likewise became Rossmore.
Wander down Pipitea Street as far as Murphy Street corner, and after turning into this thoroughfare, pause for a moment at No. 2, a solid unobtrusive two-storey house, for long the abode of the Parsons family who contributed so much to the musical pleasure of their day. A Nest of Linnets! Father, mother, six sons, five daughters! They all sang because they couldn't help it. On stare light summer evenings it was no uncommon sight to see a knot of rapt-eyed passers-by gathered on the pavement, while through open doors and windows, solos and choruses, madrigals and glees poured forth melodiously into the summer night.The outstanding voice of the family was that of Mrs. Parsons who enhanced the choir of St. Paul's until of advanced age. Could anyone in those days surpass her tender and beautiful singing of old songs and ballads? Those were the times when most of the adults of the community had known another birthplace than that of New Zealand, when many a heart must have had its home-sick hours for the Old Land.
Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,Mr. Parsons himself had come from Scotland, landing from the "Royal Stuart" in 1855, just a week after the Great Earthquake. He was a builder and contractor and carried out many important commissions in early city building.
How can ye bloom so fresh and fair,
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
An' I sae weary, fu o' care?
Another family of Wellington joymakers in this street were the Newtons, who specialised in dramatic work and light opera. When the "new" Government House was erected in 1871 the older Government House was demolished and re-erected in Murphy Street. Here it was for a while occupied by Sir Julius Vogel before becoming the residence of John Newton, an arrival from Glasgow in 1885, who called it "Ravenshall" after an old Newton home in Yorkshire. In 1932 it in turn was demolished to make way for No. 53. At his death in 1914 Mr. Newton left his adopted city greatly in his debt by the bequest of two hundred and fifty much appreciated roadside seats for weary pedestrians, each one labelled "Rest an' be thankful," in recollection of the donor's own experience in Scotland when making use of similar resting-places bequeathed by the Duke of Argyll. Many years later, in 1926, Mr. Jas. Stellin made a similar gift to the city.
Music was in the air in Murphy Street. At No. 7 lived Mrs. George Twiss, a very fine pianist, and a similarly gifted daughter, Mrs. Hedley Vickers, still presiding, at the age of eightysix, over one of Khandallah's most picturesque homes. Students of Chas. Kingsley and his times may remember his friendship for Captain Hedley Vickers, killed in the Crimean War, after which sundry members of the clan gathered together their diminishing possessions and migrated to the Antipodes. Others remained (Vickers, Armstrong) to help mechanise their green and pleasant land. Mrs. Twiss, born in 1840, lived to the venerable age of ninety-five, retaining an interest in matters musical to the end. At No. 63 lived the musical Maginnitys, whose youngest daughter won fame on the boards as the actress, Ethel Morrison, while nearby, in Turnbull Street, disported yet another musical family, the Bannisters.
Returning to the little ways of Murphy Street, branching to the left is Little Pipitea Street, known to most as "Craig's Lane," after an early resident. From Craig's Lane north extends for some distance the premises of New Zealand Breweries Ltd., known to earlier generations as the much smaller Staples Brewery. Across the road, still hale and hearty, stands No. 20, the old Staple's homestead.
Almost opposite Craig's Lane is Brook Street, a blind way leading to Thorndon School, which in the days of its notable (and musical) headmaster, William Mowbray, was regarded as one of the leading, if not the leading primary school of Wellington, a position possibly contested by the Terrace School under Mr. Macmorran. The name Brook is said to be that of an interpreter massacred by the Ngatitoa. At the foot of Brook Street the grounds of Thorndon School and those of the Wellington Girls' College (entered from Pipitea Street) now join, but time was when between the two stood a snug-looking residence embowered in a very lovely garden surrounded by an exceedingly high wall, though not too high for ranks of fragrant Devoniensis roses at times to peep tantalisingly over the top at groups of girls, divided between a last five minutes swot, and a desire to just gaze and drink in the beauty of the nodding rosebuds. This was the residence of Gerard de Thierry Sampson, a cousin by the way of the adventurous Baron de Thierry, who might have lorded it over much of New Zealand if things had gone otherwise - but didn't. Mr. Sampson's daughter married H. E. Nicholls, Secretary of the Wellington Harbour Board, one of the finest amateur actors and dramatic critics that Wellington has seen. He possessed a highly cultured taste in books and pictures and at his death his valuable dramatic library was presented to the Wellington Repertory Society, as a memorial to their father, by his son and daughter, Miss Phyllis and Mr. Gerald Nicholls. What delightful antiques nestled in corners of the old Nicholls home at Khandallah! One recollects a tapestried chair, worked in silks and wools by Lady Fergusson, wife of our seventh and step-mother of our nineteenth Governor, and presented by her on her departure from New Zealand in 1874 to the grandmother of the Nicholls household.
Mr. Nicholl's talents passed to his younger daughter, Mrs. Jas. Hanna, whose tragic death in a street accident in 1930 was a loss to the dramatic art of the whole of New Zealand. The pretty garden too, like most of its city counterparts, has passed away. In 1922 the property was acquired by the Education Department and added to the much restricted area of the Girls' College grounds.
Mention of "chairs" recalls a handsome chair presented to the Right Rev. H. St. Barbe Holland, Bishop of Wellington, for his private chapel at his residence in Hill Street, by Lord Galway, Governor-General of the Dominion, on his departure from New Zealand in 1941. Another "episcopal" chair of historic interest is one at present reposing in the hall of a Kelburn residence. This is one of a pair of oak chairs made for the Right Reverend Thomas Wilson (1663-1755) Bishop of Sodor and Man, which, after his decease, passed into the possession of the Vaust family, and after the death in 1853 of Captain Charles Vaust, Harbour Master of Ramsey, on to the Christian family, and thence by purchase in 1870 to Thomas Corkill, banker, of Ramsey. In 1907 one of these chairs was presented by Thomas Corkill to his granddaughter, Constance Corkill of New Zealand, whence it has now passed to her daughter, Mrs. Wybrants Olphert of Kelburn.
In the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church of Khandallah may be seen a medieval-looking (one almost said, episcopal-looking) chair, designed and carved by Mr. Henry Norton, as a mark of appreciation to the Rev. Jas. Aitken, M.A., first resident minister of this parish from 1904 to 1907, and father of Professor Robert Aitken, formerly of Aberdeen University, but possibly the most impressive-looking chair in Khandallah is a handsome Jacobean oak structure, four and a half feet high, the former Mayoral Chair of the Onslow Borough which, upon the amalgamation in 1919 with Greater Wellington, was presented to the last of the Onslow Mayors, Mr. J. M. Dale, and which rumour says is destined for the "new" Khandallah kirk when it materialises. The most historic set of the city's "pioneering" seats however, are three handsome specimens made of teak-wood taken from the American vessel "Inconstant" which, after being wrecked on Point Inconstant at the harbour entrance, October 4th, 1849, ended its days as the unforgettable "Noah's Ark" (q.v.). The Ark in time outlived its usefulness and was demolished, but during excavations on the site for the erection of the present Bank of New Zealand (1901), some timbers were recovered and appropriately fashioned into the above chairs. Today one adorns the Turnbull Library, one the Bank of New Zealand, while the third lends dignity to the person of the Chairman of the Wellington Education Board when presiding at its monthly meetings.
Away along, and we pass Turnbull Street, which keeps in memory Walter Turnbull. Still further on is Halswell Street, a reminder, with Point Halswell, of E. S. Halswell, a legal pioneer of the forties. A few yards more and we turn into one of our prettiest "garden" streets, Fitzherbert Terrace, half way down which is Katherine Avenue commemorating our most gifted writer, Katherine Mansfield. Around the corner we come upon the Suspension Bridge over which we reach Tinakori Road, and a few paces on we reach the ZigZag whence we set forth. The sunlight of the day is almost over and the big shadows of the Tinakori Hills are fast creeping around. Up from the sea come the whisperings of the chill evening breeze, overhead the last straggling seagulls are hurrying seaward to their night's rest. Silently and softly the little ways of Thorndon are fading from view, wrapping themselves up in the mantle of Night, ready to sink once again into slumber until the dawn of another day.
1. The first sixteen miles of the railway as far as Paremata was opened September 21st. 1886, and the whole eighty-four miles to Longburn in 1886. The line from Wellington to the Hutt was opened in 1874.
2. These were not the earliest cottages to be erected in these parts.
3. The writer apparently means Thorndon Quay, at the foot of the zig-zag.
4. "The Esplanade" was east of Thorndon Quay, along the sea-front.
Part Two : Chapter Fourteen : Soldier Streets