Oral History

Avondale Oral History Project 1990

Here are some memories of what life was like in Avondale during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Courtesy of the Avondale Oral History project.

Late 1800s

“Exler’s pottery works in New Windsor Road were started in 1877 and the old house was built in 1879 from bricks made on the site. In the early days of Avondale they used to have dances in the big shed on the property. The kiln, I remember, was coal-fired. Smoke used to blow right across the road.”
“The market gardens in Rosebank Road were in being before I was born. I was told that they began when Epsom and Remuera were developed for housing round about 1890. It would be mainly grain growing before then. For instance a man called Watson was a brewer and he grew barley around here.”

“In 1895 the Government gave Best’s Varnish Factory a grant to expand their business. As children we saw them stirring the gum in a big cast-iron cauldron. The factory had gratings right across one part of it and the fires were down below.”

“There was a big round horse trough where the roundabout is now, with a steel pole with three or four gas lamps at the top. I will never forget it because when I was going to school I climbed it one day, fell off into the horse trough, and split open my head. They rushed me up to Joe Allely, the chemist, and he stitched me up.”

“The only horse bus I can remember was the one that Tommy Gaulton used to run between Blockhouse Bay and the Avondale Station. Sometimes if Tommy got stuck in the Billiard Room playing, people would come home on the 6 o’clock train and have to wait until 8 o’clock to get a ride home. ”

“It was always a sight in the winter to see the Chinese carts coming back from the railway station with stable manure. It came from Craig’s and Winstone’s. Steam would be rising from their loads as they went back through the village.”

“There were quite a number of streams coming down from Station Hill. I think they must have come from springs or something. A creek came down through where the National Bank is now. There was good watercress in it. There was a frog pond where the pensioners’ flats are now, next to the Library. We used to catch taddies there.”

Early 1900s

“At school Miss Newton taught us to knit. We knitted socks for soldiers in the First World War. We used to knit under the desk.”
“I used to dread the school song because when it ended Nurse Scott came in with a list of victims for the foot-pedalled drilling machine established in the ex-Avondale Roads Board building in St Jude’s Street. It was a long walk to that dentist’s chair.”

“The Hotel was made into the Post Office. It was a beautiful looking place inside. All the counter was polished and done with brass – that must have been where the bar used to be. The Post Office was also the manual exchange. In the early 1930’s it was a toll call to Auckland City.”

“Where the Avondale Library is today there was a wooden store with two shop fronts. This was the Rosebank General Store. It was occupied at the start of the Depression by a family called Fisher. The sons later went into the refrigeration business. That business is now Fisher and Paykel.”

“During the Second World War you had the Americans at what is now Avondale College, and you had the sailors on the racecourse, and further down were the Japanese prisoners of war. The sailors at the racecourse and the Americans in MOB 4, I think it was, were always fighting.”

“I lived in Rifle Range Road. (It is now Holly Street.) It only went down as far as the first straight, and then dropped into a gully. On our side was the old rifle range. They used to fire across to the next ridge and into the water.”

“We all used to make tin canoes. We would scrounge down at the old tips and dig up an old bit of roofing iron and nail a bit of 3×2 at each end and plug it all up with pitch from the road. We’d paddle right down to the mouth of the Whau Creek and catch a few fish and cook them.”