7 Parliament Street Auckland, New Zealand
100+ Years Old
5 Rooms, 10 Guests
The name “Braemar” is a nostalgic reference to Braemar in Scotland where, in September every year, the clans meet for the gathering of The Braemar Royal Highland Society in a century old tradition.
The house was named by the first owner, Mr. John Russell Gray, who came to New Zealand from Rutherglen, Scotland. More about the Gray family later.
It was 1989 when my husband John and I first became involved with the Courtville project, as we called it. An action group had been formed some years before by the tenants of the day and the battle to save the Courtville buildings had been waging since the first indications in 1972 by the Government that they intended to demolish the lovely old buildings to make way for a new High Court. John had moved into Courtville in 1988 and I followed when we were married in 1989. From that time on, we were hooked.
We didn’t know much about old buildings but we knew that Courtville was special. We had read about the “Courtville battle” in the papers, in fact over the years there had been a lot of publicity on TV and in the print media. It seemed to us that “putting our money where our mouth was” by investing our savings and preserving the buildings was the right thing to do. So, by joining up with 13 other investors, Courtville Apartments Ltd was born and it purchased Corner, Middle and Little Courtvilles from the government and (so far) saved them from the demolition men.
It wasn’t until late 1994, when Braemar (Little Courtville) was offered for sale to the general public, that John and I decided we wanted to take on the preservation project by ourselves, and bid successfully at the auction to become the proud owners of Braemar.
The preservation project that we have undertaken consumes heaps of time and energy, but the rewards are there to see. To all the doubters who said how “brave” we were taking on this project, (and we just knew you were horrified), thanks for making us all the more determined to succeed. To all those who saw the potential in this lovely old building, thanks for your encouragement. To all those who were involved in the “save the Courtville campaigns” in one way or another over the years, thank you for your vision and persistence.
Braemar had a life of its own before Courtville came into existence, but it is doubtful whether it would have survived as a stand-alone building. Without the support that was engendered by the residents of all the Courtville buildings it is highly likely that this house would have gone the way of No.1 Parliament Street and now be a carpark.
This document has been put together as a record of the history of the house. There are large gaps – we still don’t know if there was an architect involved in the design – but we felt we had to start somewhere and this is, after all a Work in Progress. We will add to it if and when we find out significant facts or we do significant restoration on the house.
I was surprised that when I started researching the house I discovered that just about everything that had ever been written about the house was incorrect. Arthur Sinclair O’Connor did not design Braemar, and it was not built in the 1880’s for a Mr Wrightson. Arthur Sinclair O’Connor was born in Freemantle in 1884 and was only 16 when the house was built in 1901. There is no record of a Mr Wrightson in any of the land valuation or land transfer records. His name appears to have been an error made in reading the name Bridson.
Most of the information that is included has been gleaned from public records, but there are some personal documents included from people now deceased. Thanks to the Ziman family for making so many documents available. In particular I would also like to thank Graham Burgess, Courtville’s conservation architect, who assisted with all the technical stuff to do with the fabric of the building. Thanks to the Auckland City Council who have now included Braemar as a listed building and as part of the Historic Residential 1 Precinct; grateful thanks to the library staff at the Auckland Public Library, the Auckland Institute and Museum Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library and the National Archives in Mt Wellington. Lastly, I would like to thank all those people who answered questions, helped with research or pointed me in the right direction.
The area now occupied by the High Court was once the site of Te Reuroa (the longer outer palisade) pa(1). Purchased by Governor Hobson in 1840 from the Ngati Whatua, the land was then sold under Crown Grant and divided up for housing and commerce. The following outline shows the use and ownership of the land occupied by Braemar, in context with the events of the times, from the Crown Grant up to the present day.
|4th May 1844
a.Crown Grant 1G 437
Deeds bk 1A 71, 284
|Crown grant to James Coates of Allot 11 Sec 7
|13th May 1844
|Deeds bk 2D 294 , 285
|Coates to Lawry
|20th Feb 1857
|Deeds Bk 8D 119, 13542
|Lawry to Williamson
|4th April 1859
|Deeds bk 8D 241, 14008
|Williamson to Aitken & ors
|1856: Parliament sits for first time in Auckland, in Eden Street buildings .
|c.Transferred to 9A 693
|4th Oct 1845
b.Crown Grant 1G 2970
Deeds bk 1A 70 ,13539
|Crown grant to Richard Gorges Foote of Allot 10 Sec 7
|3rd July 1847
|Deeds bk 8D 118, 13541
|Foote to Lawry
|4th Apr 1859
|Deeds bk 8D 241, 14008
|Williamson to Aitken & ors
|c.Transferred to 9A 693
|24th Nov 1859
|Deeds bk 8D 635 , 15458
|William Aitken to Thomas Russell
|25th June 1860
|Deeds bk 11D 111, 16892
|Thomas Russell to David Nathan
|NZ Land wars.
|23rd Mar 1865
|Deeds bk 19D 173,28990
|David Nathan to Thomas Brutton KENDERDINE. Dr Kenderdine builds a wooden house.
1865: Capital moved to Wellington
1871: Albert Barracks handed to City
1875: City buys Western Springs for water supply
1876: Ak Institute Museum opens in Princes St
|Auckland City Valuation roll
|Stables are added to the house
|Alexander Turnbull Library
|George Tracey Stevens includes Kenderdine house in his picture
|Cleaves Auckland directory
|Thomas Brutton Kenderdine in residence
|14 May 1894
|DP 1343 issued
|Land now known as Pts 10 & 11 Sec 7
|1 Dec 1894
|Ak Weekly News 6 Dec
|Dr Kenderdine deceased
|15 Jan 1900
|Ak City Valuation roll
|Executors of Kenderdine estate now shown as owners; value amended to twenty pounds.
|13 March 1900
|NZ Herald, page 5
|Article “Fire in Waterloo Quadrant” records Kenderdine house burning down.
|15 Jan 1901
|Akld City Valuation roll
|Entry amended to show J R Gray, Dental importer, as owner. Description of improvement gone from roll and property described as “Allot”
|Death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Architectural styles become “Edwardian”.
|15 Jan 1902
|Akld City Valuation roll
|Improvements recorded as “Brick building”
|BRAEMAR built sometime between 15/1/1901 and 15/1/1902 .
|Wises NZPO Directory, page 1341
|Occupier Jno R (Gray Bros)
|2 August 1906
|Transfer Gray to William John Bridson for ₤ 2100.0.0.
|15 Jan 1907
|Akld City Valuation roll
|Owner W J Bridson; lease to Jacob Ziman, gentleman; details of lease recorded in letters now held in the Alexander Turnbull Library.
|Wises NZPO directories
|Jacob Ziman resident
|NZ at war in Europe, WW1
|Wises NZPO directory
|Jacob Ziman no longer resident in Eden Street
|11 Sep 1917
|Transfer Bridson to Ernest Herbert Potter & William Walter Stanton
|The Courtville Apartment buildings built 1914 & 1918. Braemar is annexed and converted into 5 apartments (Nos. 16-20) as part of the apartment complex.
|22 March 1939
|Name Eden St changed to Parliament Street
|NZ at war in Europe, WW2
|5 Dec 1972
|Executors of Potter & Stanton transfer title to Topper Buildings Limited
|24 April 1974
|City News Pg 15
|Headline “City Flats to be abolished”
|12 Sep 1974
|Gazette 307712.1; land taken for “public buildings of the General Government”; CT 102/83 cancelled.
|14 June 1978
|Letter to Courtville Association from Vera Ziman describing Braemar
|3 July 1986
|Declares land now Crown land
|7 August 1987
|Auckland City District Scheme
|Zoning changed to allow only residences to a height of 49 metres.
|14 Sep 1987
|Courtville Association formed ” to preserve, protect, and enhance the Courtville Apartment Buildings, Parliament Street including the “Courtville Annex”
|4 Oct 1989
|Transfer from Crown to Courtville Apartments Limited; description now Section 4 Survey Office plan 62300
|9 Feb 1995
|Transfer Courtville Apartments Ltd to John and Susan Sweetman
|BRAEMAR converted back to being a single dwelling again.
The “future-proofing” of the house has meant the installation of computer and telephone cabling, television and audiovisual cabling, gas installation, and fire protection. We are still considering upgrading heating, internal intercom and security system. It may also include the restoration of previously used facilities in the house, eg the dumb waiter, coal range, bell pulls, passive ventilation system and fire places. In addition, the service areas of the house required upgrading to more modern standards of hygiene and sanitation, whilst still maintaining and preserving the original fabric of the house. The main kitchen downstairs has now been renovated with new fittings, but maintaining the original timber joinery.
At the front of the house the drainage was inadequate to prevent dampness entering the house. It was necessary to have adequate drainage at the front and along the sides of the house so that water does not pool and seep into the walls and basement. Also we required the Middle Courtville Body Corporate to reroute the stormwater from the roof of their building so that it did not race down the side of and under our house.
We also removed the old wooden ladder at the front of the house and will re-instate the parapet.
Our moment of revelation came when John removed the wooden mantle and fireplace surround in our bedroom to have the fireplace restored. When he leaned the wooden mantle up against the wall, we noticed that the name “W E Hutchinson” was written in lead pencil on the reverse. Given the total lack of evidence anywhere else about a builder or architect called W E Hutchinson, and that includes where we looked at the City Council, Library, School of Architecture, Museum Library etc (basically everywhere), we had decided that if we were patient the house might reveal the builder to us, and that is what has happened. So we looked in the Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, and sure enough,a W.E. Hutchison was most certainly a builder in 1901, and he specialised in private residences. The Cyclopedia even has a photograph of him, looking very smart in a bow tie!.(3)Auckland Star , December 21 1918, “Passed Away – Mr W E Hutchison” In all likelihood a fireplace specialist made the mantle for W.E.Hutchison, and wrote the name of the builder on it for identification or delivery purposes. We don’t know whether the house was designed and built, or just built, by Hutchison. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand has this to say about him:
HUTCHISON , WILLIAM E., Builder and Contractor, Jervois Rd, Ponsonby. Mr Hutchison was born in Derry, Ireland in 1858 and educated at the Model School in that town. He arrived in Auckland on the 1st of September., 1875, by the ship “Dover Castle, ” and finished his time as a builder under Major Skinner. Mr Hutchison then joined his father in partnership, and the firm was known as Hutchison and Son. A large number of private residences and buildings were erected by the firm, but upon the breaking out of the “boom” in Melbourne, the junior partner went across to that city, and acted as foreman for a Melbourne firm for some time. One his return to New Zealand he rejoined his father and has since been engaged in carrying out large contracts, such as Hellaby’s store and freezing works, Shortland Street; factory at Richmond and shop in Karangahape Road; Huntly Hotel; the large brick additions to Messrs L.D. Nathan and Co.’s bonded store in Customs Street East; the Albert Brewery in Elliot Street, and other buildings too numerous to mention. The firm recently finished erecting the D.S.C. Block of Buildings, including additions to the Central Hotel, Queen and Victoria Streets. It also makes a specialty of private residences and villas. The firm’s steam joinery works are in Lower Hobson Street, where the shop is fitted up with all the latest woodworking machines. Mr Hutchison has acted for some time as secretary of the Ponsonby Lodge of Freemasons, and is secretary of St John’s Wesleyan Church. He is also a member of the Ponsonby Bowling Club, and is a member of the council of the Auckland Technical Schools’ Association.
Unfortunately, William Hutchison died on 20th December 1918 after sustaining head injuries in a motor accident. His obituary was printed in the Auckland Star, 21st Dec 1918:
When (his father) retired he entered into partnership with his brother, Mr. James Hutchison, and carried on a successful business for a number of years. The firm erected many large blocks of buildings in Auckland.
Mr W.E. Hutchison also took an interest in public affairs. He was a member of the City Council for many years, his practical knowledge being of great value when a member of the Works Committee. Mt Hutchison also served on the Harbour Board for a number of years, and officiated for a time as deputy chairman. Deceased was an enthusiastic bowler, being a member of the Carlton Club. He was also a prominent Freemason.
He was survived by his wife Rachel, and their children William, Isabella, Olive and Douglas.(4)
(3) Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1901 Vol 2., Auckland Star, December 21 1918, ‘Passed Away’ Mr W E Hutchinson
(4) Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1901 Vol 2., Auckland Star, December 21 1918, ‘Passed Away’ Mr W E Hutchinson
Courtville Apartments Limited was formed principally for the purposes of purchasing and preserving the three buildings comprising the Courtville complex. This purpose was achieved in 1989 for a total cost of $1,450,000. The fifteen original members of the company were Stephen Ballantyne, Franz Broswimmer, Duncan Campbell, Grant Chilcott, Madeline Cox, Jane David, Daren Day, Sheila McCabe, Vicki Pomeroy, Susan (Oliver) Sweetman, John Sweetman, Peter Urlich, Melvin Webb, Rob Weir, Clare Zhang. By 1993 Madeline Cox had left the company and Anna-Mae Chilcott had joined.
We spent a lot of time in working bees in that first year. There was always a lot to do and we were proud of finding ourselves owners of these beautiful old buildings.(84)
During the period that Braemar was owned by Courtville Apartments Limited it continued to be rented out to tenants. Some deferred maintenance was undertaken by the Company, notably the repairs to the Marseilles tiled roof, spouting and bargeboards.(85) The upstairs linen-room was converted into a shower-room and its windows glazed with Georgian wired glass, Similarly reglazed were the windows in the downstairs cellar (located underneath the front entrance), the downstairs bathroom and the basement toilet. Over recent years modifications to the house have included a hatch cover to the coal cellar and the amalgamation of apartments 19 and 20. The backyard to the house was filled with soil excavated from underneath Middle Courtville, and tenants planted lawns and a vegetable garden. Also during this period the Fisher Trust rented out and tarsealed the carpark area to the rear of the house. These repairs and modifications were largely done to maintain the rental income.
It was always intended that the Corner and Middle Courtvilles be unit titled so as to prevent the ownership of the buildings by any one person.(86) During the years 1989 to 1994 the Courtville apartments were upgraded and converted into unit titles for individual sale. The sale of Braemar and some of the apartments in Middle Courtville was required in 1994 to generate the money for that upgrade to be completed. All properties were to be sold with heritage restrictions registered on their titles.
Courtville Apartments Limited sold Braemar at auction in December 1994, with settlement 27 th January 1995, to the present owners.(87)
(84) NZ Herald September 21 1989 “The Sweet Taste of Victory”
(85) MacMillan Slaters & Tilers Ltd Invoice 7038 dated 20 th January 1994.
(86) Metro Pg 105
(87) Susan Sweetman, owner.
- General Government – Dept. of Justice – Landcorp
- The Ziman Family
- Topper Buildings Ltd. – Courtville Flats Ltd.
- Other Tenants
In 1978, Radnor in Waterloo Quadrant was demolished after having been condemned by the City Council. The tenants of Courtville were fearful that the Courtville buildings would also suffer the same fate.(57) The Auckland City Council Development Committee then issued an invitation to the Minister of Housing Mr Holland, to come and have a first hand look at Auckland’s housing problems.(58) By this time, the owners of (now) Westminster Court (then part of Courtville) were concerned that being associated by name to the “condemned buildings” had given a stigma to their building.(59)
Meanwhile the City Community Committee was assisting the “save Courtville” campaign by organising a street festival in Parliament Street.(60) The Auckland University Students Association magazine, Craccum quoted The Auckland City Council’s Community Development, Housing and Property Committee chairman, Mr Gordon Barnaby, as saying “objections to the designation on the Courtville site as reviewed in the district scheme may make it more difficult for the Government to demolish the flats”(61) Public feeling was also with the tenants. As Dinah Holman of the Auckland Star wrote in June 1978, “The Courtville buildings have historic value and architectural merit – a grandiose way of saying they’ve been there a long time, we like them, let’s keep them.”(62)
The Justice Department was approached by the leader of the city community committee, Mrs Linda Daly-Peoples, who suggested two alternative sites for the Supreme Court extensions(63) and the response came back that other sites could be considered.(64)(65)Meanwhile, the buildings continued to decay for lack of repairs and maintenance, with a decision on the fate of the buildings likely to take another five years.(66) In a submission to the Auckland City Council, residents said “ Courtville is a highly successful, integrated community of students, retired folk and workers on a historical site surrounded by the old Governor-General’s house, Constitution Hill and the University ”(67) and that “ the demolition of the Courtville Buildings would leave many people homeless and remove one of the remaining cultural assets of the city ”.(68)The City Community Committee continued to object to the demolition on two counts “ the social loss of 33 badly needed inner city units, which they claim would cost $1,500,000 to replace, and the architectural value of the buildings, for the committee believes that to provide apartments of a comparable standard and elegance would never again be possible ”(69)
In John Stacpoole’s papers lodged with the Auckland Institute and Museum Library is a report from the Ministry of Works and Development to ‘ALL MEMBERS OF THE MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE” dated 12 th Nov 1980 which advises that the Minister had agreed to uplift the designation of Supreme Court purposes on the Courtville land and allow it to revert to the underlying zone. The Minister also agreed that the land be kept for the present and future uses of the High Court. The Ministerial Advisory Committee had recommended that the land be retained for High Court carparking.
A “confidential” letter dated 5 th February 1980 from the Auckland City Council Dept of Works to the Acting Director of Planning and Social Development had this to say about Braemar:
At your request, the City Building Surveyor and Design Engineer – Structural, have investigated this complex of buildings in relation to fire and egress requirements and structural upgrading in terms of Section 301A of the Municipal Corporations Act. The following is a précis of the reports prepared.
It should be noted that the reports are based on visual surveys of the buildings only, and that the exact extent to which upgrading would be necessary can only be determined after extensive testing and analysis. No detailed plans are held by Council.
At the time the Justice Department took over the buildings comprising this complex – Courtville 1, 2 and 3, viz 7,9 and 15 Parliament Street, there were outstanding requisitions to upgrade them. Because of the temporary life expectancy, prior to Supreme Court development, it was agreed that the existing situation could continue with some upgrading being carried out by the Ministry of Works and Development. If building life is to be further extended, and if the buildings require licensing under the Act by the local authority, the present standard is not considered acceptable.
Building No. 3 – Courtville Annex : 15 Parliament Street
This is a two and three storeyed apartment building with timber floors of unknown fire rating, supported on masonry walls, and built in the late 1800’s.
Apart from a settlement crack at the back, this appears to be in a reasonable condition although the mortar joints would probably be weak due to age.
Timber floors have unknown fire rating with two apartments per floor. Each apartment has alternate egress which made these acceptable.
A visual classification indicates that these buildings are subject to the requirements of Section 301A of the Act with a life evaluation of 14 years.
Strengthening would probably consist of converting the floors and roof to effective diaphragms by the addition of a plywood layer and shear connections to the walls. The walls would probably also require strengthening, and the foundations should be tied together.
Particular hazards which require early removal or strengthening are the chimneys and the front gable.
The survey has not included access to each flat to survey any substandard feature within a flat or its service facilities or any maintenance upgrading that may be required.(70)
Of course, there were differing points of view from those who wanted to retain the three Courtville buildings. The judiciary were very keen to demolish the old court building and so were anxious for the matter to go ahead quickly, and it didn’t matter to them if the Courtvilles were a casualty in the process. The Auckland City Councils designation of the land as solely residential was not universally popular. In the law magazine Northern News it was quoted “ This move caused considerable dissatisfaction within the profession. The NZ Herald’s editorial comment in July 1979 was to the point: whether the Government – and, for that matter, the City of Auckland – likes it or not, the work of the Supreme Court has vastly outgrown its accommodation to a point where overcrowding and physical disorganisation challenge its very efficiency.”(71)
Still the issue removed unresolved and the Courtville tenants continued to feel anxious about losing their lifestyle. An article in the New Zealand Womens’ Weekly of December 22 nd 1986 interviewed a tenant in “ Courtville House – the smallest building – fashion editor Sandra Peacock lives there with daughter Tammy….Sandra, who loves the Courtville character and atmosphere, says “ This is a beautiful street to live on….we should keep the heart of the city alive…rather than making it purely commercial. I don’t think inner city accommodation should be expensive ”.(72)
A group of interested tenants at Courtville had by this time already formed themselves into an action group called the Courtville Association, for the purposes of saving the buildings from demolition. Successful lobbying by a number of groups had the effect of the Historic Places Trust placing a protection order on the Corner and Middle Courtville buildings and the City Council changed the zoning to allow only residential development on any of the Courtville sites. The zoning change meant that the site was no longer useful to the Justice Department for court extensions and in 1986 the Department declared the land surplus to requirements and requested that the buildings be sold. In 1987 the then Minister of Conservation, Helen Clark, issued a protection order for the two larger Courtville buildings.(73) The buildings could not be knocked down, however the Justice Department was still keen to be rid of them and requested Landcorp to auction them off.(74)(75)
Fundraising efforts continued by the Courtville Association to find money to fund the battle, and a major contribution to funds was made as a result of an auction of 27 donated art works. All the works were impressions by the artists of the Courtville buildings, by artists such as Don Binney and Pat Hanley!(76) Meanwhile, the Historic Places Trust upgraded their classification on Corner and Middle Courtvilles to “B ”(77)This was not much consolation to the tenants and admirers of Braemar but at least in was some support. Landcorp was still determined to sell the buildings. The branch manager was quoted as saying the property was “ with us for the purpose of selling”(78) and the property was advertised for sale by auction to be held 2pm Wednesday 21 st October 1987.(79)
The Courtville Association took Landcorp to the High Court to hold the Government to its written assurances that tenants of more than 12 months standing could have first option to buy their apartments. The High Court took two days to decide in favour of the tenants and negotiations with Landcorp began.(80) The costs of fighting to save the buildings were high. In November 1987 the residents were reported as being $8000 out of pocket in their courtroom fight to stop the buildings being sold.(81) The protection notice taken out by the Historic Places Trust for the two larger Courtvilles prompted them to interview Helen Clark (now Prime Minister of NZ) for the March 1988 issue of their monthly magazine . “ Helen Clark ..can see the value of preserving historic sites and buildings for ..intangible benefits… those interested in saving NZs historic heritage should justify public spending on historic preservation on the grounds that preserved sites, buildings and precincts will make New Zealand a more attractive destination for tourists”(82) The campaign to save the Courtvilles was entirely privately funded.
In May 1989, Courtville Apartments Limited was formed by those members of the Courtville Association who wished to purchase their apartments and several other investors who were invited to join. In September 1989 Courtville Apartments Limited purchased Corner Courtville, Middle Courtville and Braemar from the Government.(83)
(51) Auckland Star September 11 th a975, “Courts will “destroy” unique city building”
(52) NZ Herald, September 11 th 1975, “Architects Plead to Save Flats”
(53) New Zealand Herald , March 7 th 1978. “Wanted :Pied Piper for Block of Flats”.
(54) NZ Herald, April 4 th 1978, “Moral Obligation Over Flats”
(55) NZ Herald , April 7 th 1978 “Courtville Appeal by Council”
(56) NZ Herald, May 14 th 1978, “Green Ban Pleas for Flats”
(57) NZ Herald, May 13 th 1978, “Demolition Move Prompts Fears”
(58) NZ Herald, May 18 th 1978, “Come and See Invitation”
(59) NZ Herald, May 24 th 1978, “Real Courtville Here to Stay”
(60) Auckland Star, May 27 th 1978 “Festivities in Parliament Street” NZ Herald May 29 th 1978 ’Dancing In Street to Push Case”
(61) Craccum June 12 th 1978 “ Court Courts Courtville”
(62) Auckland Star June 9 th 1978 “Just Solution Wanted for Supreme Court Site”
(63) Auckland Star, May 16 th 1978, “ Battle of the Courts”.
(64) Auckland Star July 7 th 1978 “Saving Courtville’s up to Council Now”
(65) 8 O’Clock July 15 th 1978 “Planners to Discuss Courtville”
(66) NZ Herald July 18 th 1978 “Courtville Flat Residents Fear Decay”
(67) Auckland Star October 30 th 1978 “Resident Battle for Courtville”
(68) NZ Herald October 30 th 1978 ‘Bid to Keep Courtville”
(69) NZ Listener January 26 th 1980 “ No, justice” v (70) A confidential letter from the Auckland City Council Department of Works to The Acting Director of Planning and Social Development dated February 5 th 1980. Copy of the letter in file MS1633 John Stacpoole papers at the Auckland Institute and Museum Library.
(71) Northern News No 7 1982 “Where and When?”
(72) NZ Womens Weekly December 22 nd 1986 “ Courtville Under Threat..Again”
(73) Auckland Star, “Historic Buildings Can Only be Preserved by Money”.
(74) NZ Herald January 27 th 1987 “No Directive On Sale of Courtville”
(75) Metro No.68 Feb 1987 “Dwelling on the Past”
(76) NZ Womans Weekly March 9 th 1987 “Scene and Heard”
(77) Auckland Star March 27 th 1987 “Courtville Reassured”
(78) NZ Herald June 18 th 1987 “Future of Old Apartments Still Uncertain”
(79) NZ Herald September 26 th 1987 “On behalf of Land Corporation Limited………”
(80) NZ Herald October 17 th 1987 “Judge Stops Sale of Courtville”
(81) Sunday Star November 8 th 1987 COURTVILLE Progress threatens dignified elegance”
(82) Historic Places March 1988 “A ‘New Deal’ for Historic Preservation in NZ”
(83) NZ Herald ,September 21 st 1989 , “The Sweet Taste of Victory”
On 14 th June 1978 Vera Ziman wrote of Braemar: (40)
The smallest Courtville was certainly the home of the Jacob Ziman family…However the house was not built by my family…we filled the spacious home..2 storeyed in the front and 4 at the back comprising 6 bedrooms, dining room, drawing room, study, breakfast room, kitchen (as large as most modern flats, complete with gas range, coal range, to which was attached a large boiler providing gallons of hot water, which was piped throughout the house) maid’s room, walk-in pantry, storeroom, 2 bathrooms, linen room. As the diningroom was on the floor at Eden St level and the kitchen and breakfast room (same size as the room above it) there was a lift (hydraulic) between the kitchen and 2nd pantry. There was a system of speaking tubes between all floors to avoid calling & running up & down stairs… In retrospect I realise Braemar was indeed a spacious late Victorian home. In latter years, when I had a flat in the “Large Courtville” I visited friends in the “Annexe” and laughingly compared the 1960s-70s with my girlhood days.
Vera Ziman took over the running of her father’s jewellery business. She retired as a jeweller in 1970 and was made an Honorary Life Member by the Jewellers Association. In 1985 she completed 50 years as a Justice of the Peace and was actively involved for many years with the Womens’ International Organisation. She was the youngest of the six children and cared for her father after her mother died. Vera Ziman died in 1984 at the age of 92.(41) Ralph Ziman was still a practising lawyer at the age of 87. Solomon Ziman was Auckland’s first Rhodes scholar, entered the Indian Civil Service and later, as Secretary of the Government of Bombay, sat in its Legislative Assembly.(42) By 1971 Sol’s oldest son John was professor of Physics at Bristol University and a member of the Royal Society in London. Timothy Ziman, younger son of Harold Ziman, became the third of his name to win academic honours when he scored more than 700 marks to gain a University Scholarship.
After his death, the family of Jacob Ziman donated his manuscripts and letters to the Alexander Turnbull Library where they are retained in the Rare Manuscripts room. Mr Peter Ziman, son of Ralph, lives in Papatoetoe with his wife and kindly provided some of the information to assist this project. (43)On 21 st January 1996 Timothy Ziman, visited Braemar with his French wife Lamya and wrote in the visitors book “ my father lived here from age 0 to 10 “.(44)
(38) Register of Naturalised Persons to 1949, file 1880/1154; held at the Auckland Public Library
(39) Obituary NZ Herald 27 th April 1942 (with photograph)
(40) Letter Vera Ziman to Mr Williams dated 14 th June 1978.
(41) Various clippings from file Z2 : Ziman , Miss Vera , held at the Auckland Institute and Museum Library. (NZ Jewish Chronicle Sep 1993, Hashofar Sep 1962, Auckland Star 16 th March 1971.)
(42) Goldman , L.M.,The History of Jews in New Zealand (A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1958)
(43) Photograph taken by John Sweetman at Braemar 17 th May 1995: Susan Sweetman and Peter Ziman.
(44) Photograph taken by John Sweetman at Braemar 21 st January 1996: (left to right) Timothy Ziman, his wife Lamya and Timothy’s uncle , Peter Ziman.
On 30 th March 1973 the shareholders of Topper Buildings Limited resolved to change the name of the company to COURTVILLE FLATS LIMITED and gave as their reason ” That the Company has purchased the property known as Courtville Flats and desires and deems it appropriate to identify itself with the property concerned .”(48) At the same time as the name change, the company moved its registered offices to Parliament Street.
Moves were afoot during this period to have the Supreme Court extended onto the site occupied by the three Courtville buildings and the adjacent Radnor building in Waterloo Quadrant. Mr George Johnson of Topper Buildings Ltd was quoted at the time as saying ” All my long-term tenants have known about the Government proposal for 12 months already – and they still have another two years to find flats. The others are temporary tenants who were told about the demolition possibility when they inquired about a flat. So far as I’m concerned my tenants have all had ample notice to find alternative accommodation .”(49)
On 22 nd August 1974 Braemar was taken for the “ public buildings of the General Government .”(50)
(48) National Archives Auckland, Company file A1966/1406 (Co-A1: 21590 Box 2216)
(49) City News, April 24 th 1974 pg 15. “City Flats to be Demolished”.
(50) Certificate of title 102/83 held at the Land Transfer Office , Auckland.
Retired GP Deryck Gallagher, who had lived with his parents in Apartment 19, wrote to me with his recollections of life in the “Courtville Annex in the 1930s………….
I have had it in mind for far too long to tell you some
Courtville tales of my primary school years when I lived in the entry level
rooms with my mother and father probably sharing kitchen and bathroom with
“father” Fred Batten dentist who had his own rooms up the stairs from the
hall. I can remember the hall quite clearly with its settee where I would
entertain my unusual pet white rabbit with carrots and sweets, his name was
Fred, also next door was a grander corner block of flats where a playmate
had a marvellous meccano set housed in a cabinet with drawers for a generous
array of gears-I think it was a number 10! Immediately next door was a
vacant section of summer perfumed fennel and loquat trees with summer fruit
accessible to a 10 year old Also up Waterloo Quadrant lived a boy Milsom who
had a pet tortoise who lived among his father’s prize dahlias. I think at
this time I was at Miss. Louche’s primary school just down the road behind
St. Andrews church. Fred Batten was a shadowy figure who lived a bachelor’s
life apart from his wife, but became a key person when my mother was taken
to bed with a mysterious illness incorrectly attributed to a gastric upset
by a Symonds Street doctor, Fred suggested another opinion from a respected
surgeon named Casement Aicken to my father. Mr. Aicken, a relation of Ken
Aicken from All Saints parish (Ponsonby) correctly diagnosed a life threatening
peritonitis from a ruptured appendix, admitted her to Mt. Pleasant Private
Hospital in Princes St. and saved her life by pre antibiotic surgical
drainage. My father, a pharmacist, nevertheless needed a year to meet the
medical expenses. As a small child I was only just aware of what was
happening at this time. Fred Batten’s two adult children, Jean the pioneer
aviator I remember as an occasional visitor of unusual beauty, and of
course her welcome at Mangere in 1936 at the end of her first ever flight
from England to New Zealand. I last saw Jean Batten in 1977 when she came to
visit her old music teacher in a hospital ward at Selwyn Village. John
Batten was as handsome as his sister was beautiful, remembered as a dental
mechanic on the Achilles who survived a direct hit on a gun turret above
the dental surgery, an actor in the Noel Coward war time film “In Which We
Serve”, as a newly briefly married visitor to his father with his bride, a
beautiful English author of romantic novels named Madeline Murat ,and in
later years as a radio announcer on station 1ZB until he left New Zealand to
live the rest of his life in England. Parliament Street was a fun place for
small boys, with lots of small parks for cowboys and indians, a villainous
bully, Lloyd Pritchard, who appropriately owned a pet white rat, a biscuit
factory where a penny would buy enough broken biscuits to ruin young teeth
forever, a fizzy drinks factory, and up the hill in Parnell, Heard’s lolly
factory. Life was good for a small boy.
The numbers 16 to 20 were painted on the entrance to indicate which apartments were in the house. These numbers continued on from the Middle Courtville apartments, which were numbered 1 to 15. In 1918, the Corner Courtville was built and the apartments in that building numbered 21 to 35.
During the time Braemar was owned by Potter and Stanton it was known variously as: “ The Annexe “ in Wises Post Street Directory
“ Courtville 3 “ in Potter & Stantons rent books
“ No 3 House ” also by Potter & Stanton
“ Courtville Mansions ” in “Jean Batten – Garbo of the skies”
and at other times as
“ Courtville House “ see Womans Weekly December 1986
and “ Little Courtville “ see NZ Herald ,Sep 21 1989.
I spent quite a long time researching for the first owner of the house. There had been so much information published as to who built Braemar and when, I was astonished to find that all of it was incorrect. In fact because of the number of discrepancies to earlier published “information” I checked and rechecked all my sources to corroborate what I had found.
John Russell GRAY was the Scotsman for whom Braemar was built. John Russell Gray was born in Lanark, Scotland, on 20th November 1836 of parents Andrew Gray and Margaret Russel(5). He married Annie Kempt and together they brought their seven children from Rutherglen to New Zealand, on the Patrick Henderson ship “ Canterbury”, leaving Clyde on September 28 th 1877 and arriving at Port Chalmers on December 29 th 1877. The paying passengers list of the ” Canterbury” in September 1877 (6) lists the family together with their servant (dates of birth from the International Genealogical Index):
Index of Ships, Index of Passengers, compiled by the NZ Society of Genealogists , on microfiche at the Auckland Public Library.
The Canterbury was an iron passenger clipper(7), first launched May 1874, and was the last word in emigrant accommodation, the settler with a little money also given much better quarters. By all accounts shipboard life was made very pleasant and the food much improved from earlier times,(8)
The Otago Witness of Jan 5 th 1878 records the arrival on Dec 30 th 1877 of the Gray family as saloon passengers on the ship “Canterbury” and the issue of Jan 12 th records their departure on Jan 7 th 1878 to Auckland on the steamship “Wanaka”.
EXTRACTS FROM THE “OTAGO WITNESS”
January 5 th 1878
Shipping Arrivals Port Chalmers ( Dunedin) December 30 th 1877
Canterbury , ship,1250 tons, Leslie, from Glasgow, Russell, Ritchie & Co, agents.
Passengers, saloon – Mr and Mrs J R Gray, Mr and Mrs H S Melville, Mr and Mrs McAuley, Mesdames F F Colson and Grant, Gibson and servant, Misses Gray (2) Masters Gray (4), Melville (2), Messrs R G Walker; A Gray, and 279 nominated and assisted immigrants.
January 12 th 1878
Shipping Departures Port Chalmers ( Dunedin) January 7 th 1878
Wanaka, s.s. 277 tons, McGilivray, for Auckland, via the East Coast. Union Company, agents. Passengers: For Lyttelton – Mesdames Tracey and child, Reid and son, Mr and Mrs Smith and 2 children, Mr and Mrs Piggott, Mr and Mrs Hanmer, Mr and Mrs Elmes and family, Messrs Jso&son, Jamieson, H J Ainger C Davis. For Wellington – Mr and Mrs Burcher and 3 children, Messes Limber, Nancarrow. For Picton – Misses Watts, Kerr. For Auckland – Mr and Mrs Gray and family (5), Mr and Mrs E Sanders, Dr Scott, Messrs J Bathgate, jun, Norman, Gittens, and 10 steerage.
The New Zealand Herald of Jan 14 th 1878 reports that on January 13 th 1878 the s.s. Wanaka arrived in Auckland.
Wanaka, s.s., McGillivray, from East Coast and Southern Ports. Passengers: – Saloon: from Dunedin – Mrs Gray and 7 children, Messrs Bathgate, Gitern, Robinson, Scott, Gray. From Lyttelton – Mrs Sheath, Messrs Overton, Lilly. From Wellington – Mr Gossel, Signor Nobili. From Napier – Misses Elliott, Symonds, Harris (2), Mease, Messrs Dyer, Nealem Jerrome, Kinsell. Rev Mr Marshall. From Gisborne – Mrs and Miss Crawford, Mr and Mrs Hargreaves, Master Browne. From Tauranga – Mrs Lee, Mrs Griffiths, Messrs Edgcumb, Hall, Brown. Six in steerage. – Henderson and MacFarlane, agents.
Mr Gray set up in business in Auckland as a dental importer,(9) and in 1882 his business was located High Street(10) , but by 1898 his business had moved to 63 Shortland Street.(11) . His private residence at that time was in Arney Road, Remuera and his children were educated at the Remuera School, where in 1888 George Gray aged 11, William Gray aged 13yrs 1mth and John Gray aged 14yrs 8mths all passed their school examinations.(12) In 1882 his land holdings were valued at ₤2020, comprising ₤1800 for land in Eden and ₤220 for land in the Bay of Islands (13)
In March 1898 he sold his business to Charles Robert Chapman (a solicitor and former Mayor of Dunedin)(14) on behalf of a company to be formed known as The New Zealand Consolidated Dental Company Limited for a sale price of ¦ 9,000.0.0.(15) In March 1901 certificate of title 102/83 was issued to Mr Gray on an application made by the Kenderdine estate.(16) The consideration for the purchase was ¦ 475.0.0. According to the Auckland City Valuation rolls, Braemar was built during the year of 1901(17). Although the Valuation rolls are sometimes incorrect, this date ties in with the NZ Herald article of March 13 th, 1900, which reported the burning down of the old wooden Kenderdine residence on the site.(18) This is also in contradiction of many references I have found to the house being built in the 1880s for a Mr Wrightson. Photographic evidence also shows the wooden Kenderdine house on the site in the 1880s and as it wasn’t burnt down till 1900, its patently obvious that Braemar couldn’t have been built until after that. The mythical Mr Wrightson has had me foxed, but I think it’s a misreading of the name of the second owner, Mr Bridson, that is mentioned in Vera Ziman’s letter. (see later).
An advertisement in the Medical Directory of the NZ Post Office Directory of 1902 lists GRAY BROS., Wyndham Street as Auckland Agents for the NZ Consolidated Dental Co Ltd and successors to John R. Gray.(19) In the same directory, John R Gray (Gray Bros) is listed as resident in Grafton Rd, Auckland, however by 1903 the listing changes to Jno R Gray (G Bros), Eden St, Auckland.(20) The New Zealand Observer records the change of the business from John R Gray to Gray Bros in November 1900.
New Zealand Observer, Sat Nov 3 rd 1900 P.4
|New Zealand Observer, Sat Nov 10 th 1900 P.10
The death of Andrew GRAY on 21 st August 1937 was recorded thus in the (?):
The death has occurred of Mr. Andrew Gray, aged 72, a well-known resident of Auckland and a prominent member of the business community. He was born in Rutherglen, Scotland, and came to New Zealand at the age of 13 with his parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. John R Gray. He began his career in the business founded by his father, probably the pioneer company in the Dominion specialising in supplying dental goods, and was managing-director from about 1900 until 1912, when he became a partner of the late Mr.R.H.P.Cockroft in a brokerage firm. He was a director of several firms.
Mr Gray took an active interest in politics and was for many years a member of the head executive of the Reform Party. He was also treasurer of the Auckland Branch. In his younger days Mr. Gray was an enthusiastic yachtsman, and with this younger brothers, Messrs J.R. and D.K. Gray, who now live in Vancouver, owned the well-known yachts Coterie and Rainbow. He is survived by his wife and two sons, Messrs. J.R. and A.C.Gray, of Auckland.(29)
One thought on “The Gray Family”
1. Pingback: Local Emergency Dentist Clinic Auckland | Cloud PBN Bonus
William John Bridson and Agnes Gordon had not been married for long at the time when they purchased Braemar as their family home. He was a successful ironmonger(32) in Auckland and after a short time they shifted to Wellington where he was employed as the manager of Briscoes.(33)
Although Mr W J Bridson owned Braemar from 2 nd August 1906 till 11 th September 1917, for most of the time the property was leased to the Ziman family. Previous published references to Braemar as “ the townhouse of the Ziman family “(34) have however been based on the incorrect assumption that Braemar was owned by the Ziman family. A title search shows that the Ziman family have never been registered owners of Braemar.
By the time Mr Bridson sold Braemar to Potter and Stanton, Middle Courtville had been built. The construction of that apartment building so close to the western boundary of the property and to the house, must have had an adverse effect on Braemar’s resale value. (In fact Middle Courtville has been built so close to Braemar it is actually over the boundary, giving rise to the easement that now exists on the title for Braemar to give the Middle Courtville Body Corporate access rights.) However, Potter and Stanton purchased the property for a net figure of ¦ 1,500.0.0 and took over the remaining balance of the mortgage of ¦ 1,400.0.0, a total consideration of ¦ 2,900.0.0.
A letter from the Alexander Turnbull Library confirmed that they held journals that had belonged to Jacob Ziman. A trip down to Wellington was in order. John and I went down the weekend of the Mobil road races; he was keen to see the road races and I was keen to visit the library.
The Alexander Turnbull Library is housed within the National Library of New Zealand , and the journals were in the Rare Manuscripts room, where everything is precious and gets the “white glove” treatment. I spent several hours going through the fragile papers, which had been meticulously compiled and indexed by Jacob Ziman. Each journal was a book of sequentially numbered pages of very fine paper, carbon copies of letters that he had written. Many of the letters were to family members; to his son Sol, who was embarking on a trip to London; to his brother David in London about the business deals together in the gold mining industry. The letters I hoped I would find were those he may have written to Mr Bridson regarding the lease of the property. I didn’t know if any such letters existed, so it was with great excitement that I found a series of letters setting out the terms of the lease.
On May 13th 1907 Jacob Ziman wrote the following letter to Mr Bridson:
c/o Briscoe & Co
With response to my offer to rent your house as wired to you by Mrs Bridson.
I saw Captain Frater, and he was not sure of the length of lease you are prepared to give. He also seemed unwilling to wire my offer to you, why I cannot understand, and am therefore communicating with you direct.
I am prepared to lease your house for (3) three years with the right of renewal for a further term of 2 or 3 years at a rental of one hundred pounds (100) per annum and pay all rates and insurance against fire. Payment can be arranged quarterly by cheque direct to you thus saving you 5% for collecting.
Mrs Bridson told me you wished to sell the linoleums the which I would be prepared to purchase at the prices mentioned by her.
As I am leaving here for Melbourne today will you please wire to Mrs Ziman Newmarket if you accept my offer, as I have to give notice to my landlady. I would ask you to reply by Thursday. I understand you will occupy the house for about a month, thus giving me time to give notice on return from Melbourne.(35)
The lease was renewed for a further period and the Bridsons do not appear to have returned to live in Braemar. In March 1910 Mr Bridson received the following letter from Mr Ziman:
Please take notice, that in terms of my lease of “Braemar” I desire a renewal of the lease for three (3) years from the end of the present term.
Your acknowledgment in due course will oblige and will I take it, be sufficient to constitute a renewal without going to the trouble of having a formal lease drawn up.
and a further letter dated 19th December 1911
As you have no doubt seen in the newspapers Auckland was yesterday visited by a very severe storm. As a result part of the old wooden fence at the lower end of the boundary of “Braemar” nearest the harbour has been blown over leaving a wide opening leading into the yard of the next-door property. The portion blown over was simply torn out bodily and laid flat on the concrete. The whole of the wooden part of the fence on that boundary from the end of the iron fence to the fernery – a distance of about 25 or 30ft – is old and shaky and it might be worthwhile for you to arrange with the adjoining owner to replace it. It is of course a matter for you and the adjoining owner to arrange whether you will do this or simply repair the part actually blown over. Please let me know what you decide to do. Trusting that Mrs Bridson and yourself are well and with kind regards,
p.s. The planks of the wooden part of the fence are for the most part fairly sound and the part remaining upstanding is propped up from next door, so that the same trouble is liable to occur again. That is why I suggest replacing that part of the fence. For that purpose most of the present planks could be used: but it would be necessary to have new posts and crossbeams.
There are no photographs of the garden as it was, but it is easy to imagine the fernery at the bottom of the garden, lush and green.
William and Agnes Bridson were the parents of Lieutenant-Commander Gordon Bridson, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for outstanding work in command of the HMNZS Kiwi in the English Channel in WWII.(36)
William John Bridson died on 15 th September 1942 at the age of 74.(37)
(30) Letter Rae Bridson to S Sweetman dated 29 th April 1995
(31) Methodist Times Vol XI – No. 15 , November 20 1920.
(32) Valuation List for East Ward of the City of Auckland for the years 1907 , Auckland City Archives, Auckland Public Library
(33) NZ Post Office Directory 1909 , Pg 1106.
(34) Courtville in Context, under-graduate thesis Julie Stout (Auckland University School of Architecture Library)
(35) MS-Papers-1648-1 Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts of Jacob Ziman
(36) The Dominion ,7 th December 1972, “Little ship Captain dies in Cambridge”
(37) Death notice NZ Herald 15 th September 1942 ; as for 28 above
Ernest Herbert POTTER (b.1866 d.1951)(45)
William Stanton and Ernest Potter were prominent Auckland businessmen and building developers.
The china and cutlery merchants Boyle and Tanfield opened their shop at 142 Queen Street in 1861. In 1895 Potter bought the shop, and by 1912 Stanton was not only the shop’s manager but also a shareholder.
The shop, known since 1895 as Tanfield Potter & Co, was in 1995 Queen Street’s oldest surviving merchant. The business moved to the old Queen Street address in 1929 but is now housed on the corner of Elliot and Darby Streets and more recently was managed by Potter’s grandson Rowland Potter.
Potter and Stanton’s business association dated from around 1912. Companies in which the partners were associated included (dates approximate):
Tanfield Potter & Co. 1912
Courtville Securities Limited 1914
Civic House Ltd. 1928
Courtville Limited 1935
The long-term relationship of the two men was complex – Potter was a public figure heavily involved in local government, while Stanton appears to have managed their various enterprises.
William Stanton’s parents came out from England on the Lancaster Witch in 1865. William was born in 1872 in Alten Road in central Auckland. The death of his father at the early age of 46 obliged Stanton to provide for his family; for the rest of his life hard work and devotion to his family characterised his behaviour.
In 1898 Stanton married Elizabeth Jane McIntosh (born 1873 in Arch Hill, died 6 th October 1966). The couple produced six children, Ivy, Rhena, William Laurence (Laurie), Edna, Vida and John Rowland (Jack). The family home was 47 Pleasant St, Onehunga. In 1928 a new five double bedroom, rimu-panelled bungalow was built to Sinclair O’Connor’s design. The house (since demolished) stood in 5 acre grounds, and had garages, stables, a tennis court (in which a small aeroplane once landed) and extensive gardens.
In Jack Stanton’s recollection his father was “short and stout and always in a hurry. He liked jokes and loved flowers.” Every morning he would awake at 5 o’clock, take a cup of tea to the children, and sit on the verandah until dawn. Then he would tend to his flower garden until it was time to take the train to work. He would first go to Courtville to collect rents and meet with Miss Annie Clements, the manageress. From 10am to 5pm he worked in the china shop.
William Stanton was a close friend of Arthur Sinclair O’Connor (the architect of Middle and Corner Courtvilles). In later years they lunched together daily, either at Cookes Restaurant or John Courts. They often lunched with their friend and solicitor George Sanders, of the firm Jackson Russell. Years later Stanton arranged a flat in Courtville for Sanders whose health had deteriorated. After William Stanton’s death on 12 December 1944, the friendship was maintained by his son Jack,(by then a director of Courtville Securities Ltd), who would visit Sanders every Friday, both for company and to discuss business.
Jack Stanton recalls being taken as a child from Onehunga to the Courtville site by gig and Euclid the pony, and paid 6d to cut thistles while his father cut firewood.
After leaving Grammar School, Jack became a ‘chinaman’ at Tanfield Potter & Co. At this time, Jack and his brother Laurie, who was a carpenter, did all the routine maintenance on the buildings.
Jack tells of doing painting and papering upstairs in Braemar (or “Little Courtville” as it was known) for one of the tenants, Fred Batten, whose daughter Jean, the famous aviator, was coming to stay.
Ernest Potter was born in Hamilton in 1866, one of nine sons. He and two of his brothers are featured in the New Zealand Who’s Who of 1931; Colonel Harold Rowland Potter was commandant of Trentham Military Camp and Vivian Harold Potter was a Member of Parliament.
Ernest Potter was very active in civic life, in addition to being a director of the family business and being involved in a speculative partnership with Stanton. His association with local government dated from 1906. Potter was a member of the Mount Eden Borough Council from its formation, and mayor of Mount Eden from 1923-31. He was a member of the Auckland Electric Power Board from its inception, a member of the Auckland Hospital Board for 32 years, a member of the Transport Board, Chairman of the provisional committee of the Provincial Water Board, life member and past President of the Auckland Swimming Association and life member of the Auckland Sailor’s Home. His attempt to enter Parliament as Reform candidate for Mount Roskill was, however, unsuccessful.
In the recollection of his and Stanton’s sons Potter was always at meetings. However, every Saturday night he took his sons to the Astor Cinema, and on Sundays he took his family to the Mount Eden Congregational Church in Valley Rd. Potter went to church three times on Sundays. Sundays were a time of recreation for the family; in summer the whole family and a wide circle of friends would gather at the Potter house, Abley, in Valley Road, and play tennis. E.H., as he was known to his grand-children, would watch, wearing a three-piece suit with gold watch-chain and a homburg hat – the image of the Victorian patriarch.
Potter and Stanton speculated in building development for almost three decades. Their projects ranged from single house to land subdivisions, but they specialised in multistorey inner-city housing. The inter-war period saw great changes in the nature of New Zealand society. According to researcher Peter Shaw, increased demand for office workers and a need to house single people led to the construction of apartments to provide dwellings close to the workplace. Potter and Stanton recognised the opportunity and were in the forefront of the developments. They were successful enough to remain in business throughout the depression; unlike modern developers, Stanton and Potter often retained ownership of the buildings and set up management companies to administer their properties.
They acquired the land for Middle Courtville in 1914 and completed the building in 1915. In 1917 they purchased Braemar, converting it into apartments, removing the plaster name and painting “Courtville” in its place. At some stage a design for a 20-apartment building on the site was considered but this project never went ahead. In 1919 they commenced building the Corner Courtville and in the mid 30′s the final Courtville (now known as Westminster Court) was built.
The Potter and Stanton families owned and administered the Courtville complex until 1972. In this year Philip Potter had a heart attack. On recovering from this his attitude to Courtville had changed: until this time he had believed in maintaining the family assets, but after this illness it became imperative for him to sell. Both his brothers and the Stanton family agreed to sell, and the long association of the two families with the Courtville buildings ended.
Some of the tenants during the Courtville years have provided colourful recollections of a time long since past. One of those tenants was Bill Sanders of Milford who on 19 th January 1987 wrote this letter to the Courtville Residents Association:
Dear Mr Burgess,
It was with great interest and some nostalgia that I read about Courtville in recent articles in the NZ Women’s Weekly and the NZ Herald.
I lived in the old Courtville House in 1916 at the age of two until we moved to Remuera in 1923. My sister was born there in 1920. My parents , Mr and Mrs S Franklin Sanders lived in the back flat on the ground floor and an aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs P Bruford occupied the basement flat. We shared a bathroom on that floor and one of my childhood delights was to watch my mother light a huge hot water gas califont over the bath. Invariably this contraption went off with a loud bang that could be heard throughout the building.
In those days the tenants of Courtville were mostly professional people with offices in the City and naturally all walked to work down Shortland St. or Bowen Ave. They looked rather an elegant lot in their bowler hats and walking canes. There were very few children in the flats and my playmates were Mary and Coates Milsom, whose father Dr Milsom, resided around the corner in Waterloo Quadrant. We children attended Miss Partridge’s kindergarten in Parnell and were met each morning at the bottom of Constitution Hill and were taken by tram up Parnell rise to the old St Mary’s church hall. After returning from kindergarten our only play area was in the Supreme Court grounds or the small park opposite and outside the fence of Government House on the corner of Waterloo Quadrant and Symonds St. It was here that I was taught to ride a bike. Another vivid memory of that time was of Mrs Radcliffe who was the efficient caretaker of the buildings and she lived on the ground floor of the new Corner Courtville. The entrance halls of the building all had brass footplates which she kept brilliantly polished and anyone, particularly children , was severely punished if they dared to put a footprint on her gleaming doorsteps.
It was a pleasant and peaceful area in which to live and as a schoolboy everything seemed to be there. A well stocked little shop on the corner of Princes St and Waterloo Quadrant where the Hotel International now stands and further along opposite the Grand Hotel and next to Whites Services cars was the Auckland Museum. I knew that museum backwards as it was a good and free place to go on wet days. I remember spending hours staring at a fierce Island warrior bedecked in coconut matting armour with a spiny shell helmet. A chilling sight which I had the pleasure of seeing again last year at the War Memorial Museum in the Domain. After 70 years he is still looking as fierce as ever in his glass box.
Saturday mornings offered a rewarding interlude as this was when Bycroft’s Biscuit factory in Shortland St would sell you a sugar sack full of broken biscuits for six pence.
Many an interesting dessert my mother would serve made from these as the main ingredients.
Both my father and uncle had motor cars and ours was a 1914 Hupmobile with 3 bucket seats. It had an old gate gear box change and this required a lot of skill to engage the hole in the gear handle with the right stud in the gear box. The handbrake was on the outside. The cars were garaged in some wood sheds, the access being a driveway running past Grey & Menzies soft drink factory in Eden Crescent.
Another uncle of mine, Mr George Sanders of Jackson Russell Tunks & West lived as a widower for many years in the fourth Courtville building where he died some years before Mainzeal purchased the block.
Last year my wife and I seriously considered an apartment in Westminster Court but for various reasons decided against it. One of these reasons was that to my mind the new refurbishment set up seemed to sit most uncomfortably in surroundings so steeped in early Auckland history.
(45) Extracted from “Corner Courtville Conservation Plan” , prepared at the request of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust for Courtville Apartments Limited by Graeme Burgess. Copies held by Courtville Apartments Limited and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
(46) Transcription of a letter written by Bill Sanders of Milford 19 th January 1987. Copy held by author.