Nau mai ki (welcome to) Location #1 - The Cemetery
This commentary explores the history of…
- this old, secluded but treasured cemetery and some of its occupants
- the modest but beautiful church that stood here for 123 years
- adjacent properties and farming families; the Andersons and the Lawries
- the river looking north
- flat bottomed sailing scows; the Kaspers and the Jane Gifford
- the walk by ‘Linton’, one of Auckland City’s historic mansions
Read on to explore the history of the area you see from this vantage point. Use buttons below to navigate to individual stories
Kia mahara mai (please note): MERRA’s Historical Trail commentaries are draft working documents compiled by volunteers. They will be revised through on-going consultation and research and as feedback is received.
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This land was gifted to the Presbyterian Church in 1862 by early settler William Grant to become a Free Burial Ground. It is one of four small graveyards around the Mahurangi Harbour. The others are at Te Muri, Pukapuka and Te Kapa.
The graves and headstones before you are the final resting place of many early European settlers and local families. Farming, boat building and seafaring feature strongly in their family stories. The family plots include members of the Algie, Darrach, Darroch, Dawson, Kasper, Lawrie, Grant and Scott families… you will learn more about these families at other locations .
Donor William Grant’s tombstone reveals that he lived to the grand old age of 98. Others died much younger; some lost to drowning in the days when people and goods travelled by sea not road. The Auckland to Warkworth road was not formed until 1915 and until the late 1930s was impassible for much of the winter.
The cemetery seat was made possible by the generous donation of Stephanie Allison (formerly Stephanie Abbott), whose first husband, Tim Abbott, lies at rest in the cemetery. The Abbotts lived in Scotts Landing and Stephanie holds a strong relationship with the area – see the attached for Stephanie’s recollections of her family’s time on the peninsular in the 1980’s.
An elegantly simple wooden church was built here and opened on March 13 1864. It is thought that William Grant built the church largely single-handed from local kauri. The building was sited beyond the graveyard closer to the water and the southern (LHS) fence line.
The energetic Reverend McKinney rowed himself down the river from Warkworth each week to take Sunday evening services. His 1905 death notice from the New Zealand Herald (10 May 1905) is informative about his busy schedule (see below: note that Warkworth at the time was still referred to as Mahurangi as distinct from this area known then as Mahurangi Heads).
The church was at the heart of the community for 123 years. It hosted services, marriages and funerals along with soirees and other community events. The congregation would arrive on foot, by boat (and a steep trail up the hill) or by horse. By the 1950s summer services regularly overflowed the building. A team of volunteers completed a 3 metre addition to the building in 1956. The wooden belfry was replaced in 1948 by the stand-alone brick version that still stands. The large brass ship’s bell (originally donated by a local shipyard) was relocated to the brick belfry.
Sadly the church was blown off its foundations by Cyclone Bola in 1988.
Despite an eight month campaign by local residents who were passionate about saving and restoring the building, the Presbyterian authorities decided it must go. The building was broken apart and burned.
For more history and pictures of this location (and references/acknowledgements) see:
The Lawrie Family
The kauri-dotted farm north of here towards the top of the peninsular is home to the Lawrie family, residents here for six generations. Patriarch James Lawrie, one of many of his family buried here, arrived from Scotland in 1860 aboard the ‘Red Jacket’ and purchased the farm in 1863 from Messrs Daldy and Combes. James died aged 91 in 1922. His descendants still farm the beautiful property. Another early Lawrie home in Ngaio Bay features in the commentary at Location 5 in Ngaio Bay.
The Anderson Family
The farmland immediately to the south of the cemetery was purchased by the Andersons in 1903 at least in part from the Grants. Fred Anderson was one of the last sawyers in the area. He would row down the river to the head of the Pukapuka Inlet and from there walk up to the logging camps around Moirs Hill (near the Pohuehue viaduct on the Warkworth to Puhoi Road). he Anderson’s gradually acquired a sizeable land-holding on the peninsular. Much has now been on-sold. Joyce, widow of Fred’s grandson Graeme Anderson, still resides on the land, north of the sweeping bay that bears the family’s name.
The River Looking North
In past the Mahurangi (or Waihē) was a highway frequented by a wide range of vessels. (Pre European Māori presence on the river is discussed at Location 3) Traffic on the river included vessels in the firewood, fruit, market-garden, lime and cement trades. Māori traders were also prominent in 19th Century commerce, shipping commodities such as self-grown vegetables, livestock (especially pigs), and also flax and kaimoana for sale to European settlers and agents. Many of the sailing vessels built by the Mahurangi shipbuilders discussed at Location 2 were purchased by Māori traders for this purpose. The Ngati Manuhiri rangatira Te Kiri Kaiparaoa operated the coastal trading vessel Industry from 1858. His son in law Tenetahi Te Riringa was a renowned sailing captain, operating such vessels as the Rangatira (see https://www.govt.nz/assets/Documents/OTS/Ngati-Manuhiri/Ngati-Manuhiri-Deed-of-Settlement-Schedule-Documents-21-May-2011.pdf)
Other vessels serviced John Anderson Brown’s water-wheel powered sawmill (1844-65), flour and bone mills (1855-77) and Combes and Daldy’s lime works (1840s to 1880s). These industries were all in the Warkworth township area. From humble beginnings in 1866 until 1924 the Wilson Cement Works operated on the opposite bank south of the town. Increasingly up-scaled and mechanised it produced a peak of 20,000 tons of cement annually. The picture below is of these works in 1902. The clouds of coal smoke, steam and dust would have been clearly visible up the valley from this vantage point
Flat bottomed sailing scows, the Kaspers and the Jane Clifford
Scows were the heavy trucks of their time. Many were locally-built and a frequent sight on the harbour. The Kasper family owned many of the scows and steamers that frequented the Mahurangi. Some of their fleet is shown below anchored near here in the early 1900s. The Kasper’s home ‘Pine Grove’ was on this side of the river, north around the next point). It fronts the harbour where the river splits north towards Warkworth and East into the Dawsons Road inlet.
The Darroch family were notable boat builders in the Mahurangi and later at Whangateau. George Darroch built the ‘Eagle’ slightly right across the river from here in 1852. At least 11 further vessels were built at his new home on the Te Kapa side of the peninsular (now Cantyre Estate… refer Location 2 commentary). His son James kept up the tradition. Grandson Davy Darroch built dozens of vessels at Whangateau including the sailing scow Jane Gifford in 1908.
The Jane Gifford under sail in her heyday (Acknowledgement: http://www.janegifford.org.nz/history.htm)
If you are lucky you may see the sailing scow Jane Gifford gliding up the harbour where she was once a common sight. Between 1921 until 1938 she transported shell from Miranda on the Firth of Thames past here to the cement works. She also carried granite from Coromandel and road metal from the quarry on Motutara Island for local road building. From 1937 to 1958 she was in the local fleet of the Kasper family. Later in Subritzky’s ownership (as a motor barge with a derrick on her sole remaining mast) she plodded back and forward on the Waiheke freight run out of the Tamaki Estuary. Returned to sail and offering historic excursions the Jane Gifford spent time on the Manukau based at Waiuku until failing survey due to rot in her hull. Thankfully a trust of local enthusiasts relocated her to Mahurangi in 2005 and embarked on a major re-build (see the above link for a photographic record).
Happily not only is ‘Pine Grove’ back in Kasper ownership; the 115+ year old Jane Gifford, now beautifully restored, once more plies the Mahurangi from her berth in the Warkworth town basin. She is worth a visit to see. Excursions and charters are offered (see http://www.janegifford.org.nz/index.htm)
Unfortunately development and deforestation over time silted up the river with the main channel becoming far shallower and navigable only at high tide. Dredging of the river, started in 2018 with a $250,000 Local Board grant. A $4m Government grant announced in July 2020 enabled the dredging to be completed by 2022. From the Warkworth town basin to Dawsons the channel is now far more navigable.
On the way at 137 Ridge Road you will pass one of Auckland’s early stately homes. Often referred to as ‘Pavlova Palace’ (including in recent real estate advertisements) the home has a history that rightly upstages its rather flippant nickname.
‘Linton’ (as the house was originally named) was designed by prominent architect Edward Mahoney (c.1825–1895, father of architect Thomas Mahoney) and built around the time of his death. Other buildings by Edward include Church of St John the Baptist, Parnell, St Mary’s Convent Chapel, Ponsonby (1866), St George’s Anglican Church, Thames (1871); St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Warkworth (1876); Holy Trinity Church, Dargaville (1878)
Complete with elegant turret above the front door ‘Linton’ graced the corner of Remuera and Bassett Roads for over a century. It was home to prosperous Auckland hardware merchant and lawyer James Hardie (no relation to the Australian fibre-board magnate), his wife Margaret and their six children.
James and Margaret Hardie’s ‘Linton’ on its original corner site in Remuera with its signature and beautifully proportioned turret in its original position above the front door. Notice the small boys on the upstairs balcony.
After James’ death in 1915 Margaret remained at ‘Linton’ until 1930 after which the home became the ‘Aroha’ convalescent hospital. By 1944 it was once again a private home; the residence of Mr. and Mrs. E. J. G. Rice and family. Sadly their son Pilot Officer Ken Rice was killed in active service with the NZRAF in World War Two. After time divided into flats, the property was bought by a development company associated with sportsman Matthew Ridge. To make way for the financially ill-fated development of the ‘Norfolk Manor’ apartments ‘Linton’ narrowly avoided demolition and was cut into ten separate sections and moved north.
A superb restoration was completed by local builders Brown Brothers. Sadly (given its architectural and historical significance), reinstatement of Linton’s signature turret to its original position above the front door apparently fell foul of Council red tape and height restrictions. Given Council’s original anti-demolition stance, failure to allow a height exemption for the turret’s reinstatement seems inexplicable. Some consolation is that the tower was carefully preserved and can still be seen, albeit in a new location on the seaward side of the house.
Pleasingly the home’s new owners have reinstated its original name: ‘Linton’.
For acknowledgements and further detail see http://www.mahurangi.org.nz/2017/05/21/gordon-
browne-spar-station/, https://teara.govt.nz/en/1966/browne-gordon-davies and