In a rationalisation of property, the site of the Rosebank Peninsula Church has been sold for intensive housing. Siteworks saw the felling of the mature trees and the removal of Victoria Hall. The building will be repurposed as part of the Communities Feeding Communities initiative on the former St Giles Church land in Roskill South.
The hall, including 12 seats, was purchased for £40 in 1897 through the contributions of around 90 Rosebank residents, keen to have a local venue for social as well as religious activity. According to The Challenge of the Whau (Ron Oates, Avondale History Group, 1994), the Victoria Hall was originally sited in Eden Terrace in Auckland Central and used as a Jewish synagogue. The church was hauled out by a team of horses to the corner of Orchard Street and Rosebank Road. However, this is disputed as it is difficult to find evidence that this building was in fact a synagogue.
Led by Quakers, the vision for the interdenominational use of the church came into reality. Over the decades, users included the Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Anglicans, and eventually a Union Parish Samoan congregation.
The venue was also used by other groups such as the Band of Hope, Avondale Road Board, Emergency Precaution Scheme (for World War II civil defence), Cadets, Life Boys, Avondale Kindergarten, Rosebank Plunket Group, Rosebank Play Centre, Avondale Citizens Advice Bureau Drop-in Centre, and for elections.
Now, Victoria Hall has been transported to Roskill South for the next phase of its life in a different community. There, the suburb has been rebuilt with hundreds of new homes as Kāinga Ora intensifies housing, replacing stock from the 1950s and 60s. To support the community initiative, the hall will be remodelled to accommodate a meeting space, a foodbank with a commercial kitchen, offices, and bathrooms.
Presbyterian Support Northern Community Relationship manager Anne Overton says moving Victoria Hall is a huge milestone for the initiative. “This grand old dame of a building has a lovely spirit and stood to be demolished before we claimed her. It’s going to be wonderful to see her brought back to life and be at the heart of what we want to do here.”
Northern Presbytery Reverend Fa’amanu Akeripa, who is based on site, says he hopes that the hall will help create a new community of faith. “It is exciting that the hall will be at the heart of the Roskill South community. For me, it is about building a sense of ownership for the people and that they will in the long term see this as their spiritual home for Roskill South.”
There will be fruit trees, urban gardens, and allotments for those living in apartments or homes without access to the space needed to grow fresh food. The site will also have a small basketball court, an interactive, sensory children’s play area, and a picnic area with a pizza oven for people to spend time and connect. “We realised that new pathways needed to be created that led to food security for these families and a more empowering way found for communities to access food with dignity, that was also more sustainable.” says Anne Overton.
Buildings need a purpose to have life. Victoria Hall has a new vision and purpose at the heart of a new community food security model.
Ann Fletcher Jackson - The woman behind Victoria Hall
Portrait of Ann Fletcher Jackson (1833-1903), Quaker evangelist, and her daughter Bertha Jackson, 1864-1936, taken ca 1890 by an unknown photographer. Ann Fletcher Jackson is seated on the right, holding a book on her lap. Credit: Weber, E Ruth: Photograph of Ann Fletcher Jackson, 1833-1903, and Bertha Jackson, 1864-1936. Ref: PA12-2291. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22543036
Victoria Hall and Avondale were the epicentre of Society of Friends (Quakers) in New Zealand. This was due to the work of Anne Fletcher Jackson (1833 – 1903).
At age 11 Ann was sent to a Society of Friends School (Quaker) at Ackworth, West Yorkshire, studying there for three years. She recalled later in life that once she had come home from the school, a ministry Friend paid a visit to her home and told her the following: “I hope dear thou wilt be faithful to the call of the Lord, for I believe He will call thee to special service for Him, to preach the Gospel in distant places and be a comfort to many far and near; only be faithful.” Ann was to remember this as a basis for her later ministry work in New Zealand and Australia.
Anne and her husband Thomas had seven children surviving from eleven, by the time they immigrated to New Zealand in 1879. They took up a 300-acre farm near Whangarei that was mostly in bush, and held regular Quaker Meetings for Worship at their home, inviting neighbours to join them. Anne became a speaker at many local church meetings and by 1885 her work to create a Quaker network had reached a rapidly growing Auckland. Working with local Friends, she worked tirelessly to establish a Meeting for Worship in Auckland, and by the end of the year this was achieved.
From 1886, Anne Fletcher Jackson travelled widely in New Zealand. She was usually accompanied by her husband or one of her sons as she undertook journeys by whatever means possible - on foot, by cart, or by coastal steamer. By the time of her death in 1903, through her efforts and supported by funding from English Quakers, a network of Friends had been established from Dunedin in the south to the far north.
A combination of the distance from Whangarei to Auckland, over often impassable roads, plus Ann’s increasing poor health, led the family to sell their farm in January 1893 and move to Avondale.
There, they saw the need for a place of worship in Rosebank, so they offered their home for that purpose. When the attendance grew too large, they initiated the purchase of Victoria Hall. This was obtained for the purpose of inter-denominational services, with the assistance of funds collected by English Friends. Over the following decades, many denominations used the church. This provided “a hall suitable for philanthropic, religious and temperance work,” the purpose stated in the address given at the opening of the hall in 1897.
According to Sarah Jane Lury, the first to write a brief biography on this hard-working woman, Ann Fletcher Jackson in her time living in New Zealand, had travelled over 50,000 miles in the colonies in religious service.
Ann Jackson’s story can be read in the twelve volumes of her journals recording her progress in the spiritual life and her service to the Society over a period of forty years. As does not seem unlikely for a mother who had borne eleven children in fourteen years, she suffered considerable bodily weakness, but regarded the desire for rest as a temptation. She was generally successful in resisting such temptations, often to the distress of her family. [West & Falwell]
Both Thomas and Ann are buried alongside their son Henry in George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery in Rosebank.
Article drawn from: The story of Victoria Hall, 2001-2002 compiled by Lisa Truttman