By Lisa Truttman
Why is that suburb just north of Blockhouse Bay and east of Avondale called “New Windsor”? The name and the suburb’s boundaries were gazetted in 1984, New Windsor being one of the very few parts of Auckland with that formality.
But before 1984, there was the school of the same name from 1957, in the days when even the local post office was known as “Avondale East”. Before the school, there was the road, the name “New Windsor Road” settled on by the mid 1890s (with “Old Windsor Road” in Avondale becoming Wingate Street in the 1930s.) Before the road, there was “New Windsor, immediately at the back of Mt Albert” according to enthusiastic early 1880s land advertisements. Ultimately, though, there was the “Township of New Windsor”, offered for sale in 1865, also known just as the “Township of Windsor at Whau Bridge,” which happened to include part of what we know today as the south-western side of New Windsor, from Blockhouse Bay Road through to a line between Mulgan and Mary Dreaver Streets.
The name may have been chosen by the land owner at the time, John Shedden Adam, or by the auctioneers working for him, Mabin & Graham. The Royal associations of the choice of name are beyond doubt, and probably helped the success of Adam’s sale.
Most of what we know as New Windsor was sold by the Crown in the 1845-1848 period, with the exceptions of Allotments 82 (Tiverton St to Margate Road) and 78 (roughly Mary Dreaver to Terry Streets) which were sold in pieces in the 1880s.
John Shedden Adam – the man who named “New Windsor”
John S Adam arrived on the Jane Gifford in 1841 along with his sister Elizabeth, keen to take up the land promised to him at the township of Cornwallis by the Scottish and grandly-named New Zealand Manukau and Waitemata Land Company. But as it turned out Cornwallis wasn’t a township at all, and Adam along with many of his fellow immigrants who had been taken in by the scheme took up land elsewhere from the Crown in exchange for their useless acres. Adam ended up on St Georges Road in Avondale, and grew potatoes for a time until he decided he’d had enough and moved to Australia in 1845. There, he would remain for the rest of his days, pursuing a successful career as a draughtsman, involved with Presbyterian Church governance, and as a philanthropist.
Adam purchased his additional properties in Avondale and what would become New Windsor in October 1845, after he had already left this colony for Tasmania, quite likely just as an investment. Apart from perhaps approving the “New Windsor” name though, he had little to do with the area’s story.
Another land investor who came to be interested in the area was Dr Samuel Ford, who was in Kororareka (Russell) at the time of the Northern War of 1845. Taking refuge in Auckland, he purchased a considerable amount of the western isthmus of Auckland, including land on the eastern side of New Windsor Road, from Brydon Place to John Davis Road. His land, like that still owned by the Crown, was subdivided for sale into farmlets in the 1880s. This was when Wolseley (Wolverton) and Garnet (Tiverton) Streets were formed and named by the Avondale Road Board, after Sir Garnet Wolseley, one of the British Empire’s military heroes in Africa.
Elijah Astley’s grand house on the hill
In Chorley, Lancashire, towards the end of 1879, a tanner named Elijah Astley began to make plans for his family’s journey to the colony of New Zealand. Born in 1834, Astley ran a leather-making business which supplied the town’s bootmakers and belts for the local factories. He had married Cicely Whittle in 1858 (his second marriage), and they had had nine children by the time they boarded the ship to New Zealand; the tenth was born on the way. The family took up lodgings in Grafton Road, just off Symonds Street, but were only there two weeks before they attracted attention in the newspapers for a chimney fire which created such a blaze and cloud of smoke someone rang the Princes Street fire bell. This caused the Fire Brigade to spend quite some time trying to find the fire, looking all over Princes Street, Bowen Avenue and Symonds Street for it. Astley wasn’t aware how dirty the chimney had been, and later told the magistrate he contacted a chimney sweep immediately after he and neighbours put out the fire. He was let off all charges without penalty.
According to the family’s descendants, Astley and his sons worked first for the Ireland Brothers’ tannery at Panmure, then at the Gittos family tannery up until 1883 when that business had to shut down in Avondale, and took another 18 months to start operations again, this time at Westmere. In 1881-1882, Astley purchased land at New Windsor from Robert Greenwood in two transactions, fronting New Windsor Road from the corner with Maioro Street to just opposite the Tiverton Road junction. There the family commissioned builder Thomas Edward Greep and local farmer Benjamin Johnson to build the family’s new home which exists to this day. The two-storey English Colonial style building was the size it was, most likely, to accommodate the large Astley family.
Around 1888, Astley set up his own tannery business, with his sons, on Portage Road alongside the Whau Creek in New Lynn. The buildings were destroyed by fire in 1903, but were replaced quickly. However, Cicely Astley died in 1904, and Elijah passed away in 1905. The business Elijah Astley began in New Lynn, though, lasted through most of the rest of the century.
Robert Dickey from Penrose bought the house in 1918, and the Dickey family retained it until 1958, which is why many today associate the house with them, rather than the Astleys. These days, though, the Astley/Dickey house is mostly hidden behind trees and other structures.