Ella Greenwood Memories of Greenwoods Corner

by Ella Greenwood, granddaughter of the first owner.

Originally published in the Journal of the Auckland Historical Society, Vol.1, October 1962, pp.40-43.

William Greenwood, whose name is perpetuated in the Auck­land suburban area known as Greenwood’s Corner, was born at Brighton, England on 1 March 1807. His great-grandfather and his grandfather were master masons and builders in Bradford, taking large contracts, and his father Joseph, born in 1774, joined the family business after leaving school.

Later, when England was fighting for her existence in the war with France, every able-bodied man was required to help defend his country, so Joseph got leave of absence in order to join the Royal Horse Artillery. It turned out to be a long leave. His regiment was stationed at Brighton (where he married in 1797), Island Bridge and Ipswich. He gradually worked his way up from junior officer to senior rank, and on the field of Waterloo was made a temporary Colonel. Two of his sons, John and William, were born at Brighton but John died there in 1812. After Waterloo, with his wife and four children, Joseph returned to Bradford and re-entered the family business. He died there in 1832,

His son William, after leaving school, studied civil engineering for a time before learning the trade of a stonemason. Later, he became a member of the firm of Leach, Greenwood & Bray­shaw. In the winter of 1838 he retired at his own request, as it was his intention to emigrate to one of the colonies and he knew that the preparatory work required to be done before departure would take a great deal of time and thought. He was influenced to try his luck in New Zealand by the glowing accounts given of the colony in a paper published in London fortnightly by the New Zealand Land Company.

He left England in September 1840, in the ship Slains Castle for Wellington, where he intended to settle, and arrived there on 21 January 1841 with his wife and four children, the youngest of whom was born on the voyage. Soon after his arrival there was a severe earthquake which alarmed the residents greatly. He came to the conclusion that Wellington was not the place where a stonemason would have much business and decided to leave on the first favourable opportunity, which he did shortly afterwards, receiving an engagement as a  stonemason to proceed to Auckland under a twelve months’ contract to the Government.  He arrived in the struggling and straggling settlement on the southern shore of the Waitemata Harbour on 1 March 1841, on his 34th birthday. He lost no time in making himself acquainted with its environs.

Of the places he saw, the Epsom Valley with its lovely surrounding hills, its fertile soil and charming glimpses of the Manukau Harbour, appealed to him greatly. He said that was ­where he would like to live when the time came for him to retire from active business life. The opportunity to buy land there soon came, for in April of the following year (1842), a triangular sub­division was offered for sale by public auction, The boundaries of this block were: Manukau Road on the east, Pah Road on the west and Mt. Albert Road, its base, on the south.  At that time roads only appeared as such on maps and plans; in reality they were narrow dirt tracks through scrub and fern and none had received its official designation. The lots offered differed in size and increased in area as the triangle widened.

The section at the apex, comprising approximately six acres. was bought by William Greenwood for £43. 5s. 8d. The cost of clearing, fencing and ploughing brought his outlay up to nearly £300. While the section was being fenced, advantage was taken to straighten the southern boundary which was very much out of alignment towards the Manukau Road frontage. The result of that adjustment was a triangular piece of land large enough for a building site outside the boundary fence so that, ever after, the area of the holding was less the outside section.

Later my grandfather gave this to one of his daughters, who lived in the home erected thereon for many years. It was from there that two of her daughters went out daily to attend Mrs. Glover’s school, and her son walked down to Trollope’s school in Symonds Street, Onehunga.   The house is still in the same position but is now in a dilapidated condition and the section is smaller than formerly.

The Greenwood Corner property remained in the possession of my grandfather and the trustees of his estate until 1909, when it was sold to a syndicate for subdivision. As one of his sons purchased a property in Pah Road in 1884 and later, another one with frontages to both Manukau and Pah Roads,which washeld by him and members of his family until 1952, the total ownership of land by the Greenwoods. on the original triangle covered a period of 110 years and two months – a long time when one considers Auckland’s comparativelyshort life.

As already stated, my grandfather’s object in buying land in Epsom was to live there when the time came for his retirement, and this accounts for the long period which elapsed between the time he purchased the land and the time he went there to reside. In the meantime the section, fenced and grassed, was leased to Mr Thomas Cleghorn who used it for grazing purposes in conjunction with his farm on the west side of Pah Road. There was no length of tenure stated in the lease which was subject to three months’ notice on either side. (Incidentally, Mr. Cleghorn’s marriage to Miss Roseanne Powditch in July, 1848 was the first marriage solemnised in St. Andrew’s Church, Epsom, the officiating Clergy­man being the Rev. Dr Purchas).

By the time my grandparents went to live in Epsom, all sons and daughters were married and settled in homes of their own, with the exception of one son who never married, With adequate ­help both inside the houseand outside, they began a comfor­table and leisurely old age. My grandmother was at last able to indulge in her hobbies – reading and music – and my grandfather had plenty of time to enjoy gardening and to attend to his business affairs without undue haste. They were both deeply religious and each morning after breakfast everyone on the property assembled in the breakfast room for short prayers and Bible reading. They were regular attendees at the Sunday afternoon service at St. Andrew’s Church.

When the house was first built, southern Epsom was rural. On the left hand side of Pah Road from Greenwood’s Corner to Mt. Albert Road there was only one house and no road intersections. On the right hand side, for the same distance, there were four houses and two road intersections – Selwyn Road and Glasgow Lane.

On Manukau Road, on the right hand side going towards Royal Oak, there were five houses (three of them are still standing) and no road intersections. On the left hand side, for the same distance, there were three cottages belonging to the Wynyard family and no road intersections. One of these cottages is still standing.

Everywhere there were green fields with sleek cattle grazing in them, and this applies particularly to the Mears’ farm which extended from north of Golf Road to Ngaroma Road. The home­stead nestled under the lee of One Tree Hill, almost in line with Ngaroma Road, the entrance gate being at Golf Road. The private roadway followed the line of Golf Road but branched off to the right just below where Fern Avenue is today. When the property was first subdivided Golf and Ngaroma roads were formed.

The home of Mr. Robert Wynyard was up on the lower slopes of One Tree Hill. The Auckland Golf Club built its first club house, now a private residence, a little to the north but in close proximity to the Wynyard homestead. The Wynyards had two entrances to their property – the Mears’ entrance at Golf Road served both families and there was another entrance at Gladwin Road. When the property was subdivided Gladwin, Lewin and Tuperiri roads and Fern Avenue were formed.

On Manukau Road at Onslow Avenue, (formerly Onslow Road and named in honour of Lord Onslow who was Governor of New Zea­land from 1889 to 1892), there were buildings on both sides of the road – several houses, a general store, a butcher’s shop and in 1882 a hall and a library were added to the collection. These latter buildings were originally built in Wattie’s Lane (now Alba Road) by the Wesleyans of Epsom, who sold them in 1880 to a group of Presbyterians. In 1882, they were moved to a section on Manu­kau Road donated by Mr. Gardner of Emerald Hill.*

The library was a detached building at the back of the hall and was used for a number of years as a schoolroom by the Misses Kate and Martha Courtnay, who conducted a girls’ school, On Sunday mornings a Bible Class, under the leadership of Mr. John Burns, met there. The Epsom and One Tree Hill Road Boards held their monthly evening meetings in the library, and during the winter months there was a meeting, once a week, of the Mutual Improvement Society, or as some preferred to call it, the Debating Society, of which Mr W. N, McIntosh, one of the first headmasters of Epsom Public School, was president. There were several vice-­presidents but, as Mr. McIntosh was never absent from a meeting, none of them ever had the pleasure of presiding. Once a year the Society held a concert in the hall. On Sunday mornings, while Bible Class was being held in the library, Sunday School was con­ducted in the hall. On Sunday evenings a Presbyterian Service was held there, the preacher being the Rev. George Brown of Onehunga. Socials and dances were also held in the hall.

Next door to the hall was Jamieson’s store which was a favorite meeting place for the young men of the district. Seated on sacks of chaff and bags of potatoes, which were always very much in evidence at the side of the store opposite the counter, they dis­cussed all the weighty topics of the day, from football to politics. As there was no postal. delivery in those days, mail was collected at the store, so a young man always had a valid excuse for being there. There was no class distinction – gentlemen’s sons aired their views and so did those on a lower rung of the social ladder, but the arguments were always friendly.

All that was required to become a member of that exclusive society was a reputation of respectability coupled with fair-mindedness and amiability – that was democracy in its truest sense.

Before I close, I should like to quote a paragraph from an article on my grandfather’s life in New Zealand, which appeared in the NZ Herald on 21 July, 1894, a little more than a year before his death in September 1895:

He has endured all the hardships and vicissitudes of a pioneer colonist. By business integrity, industry and thrift, coupled with judicious investments in land in the early days, which he has held alike through depressions and booms, Mr. Greenwood has obtained a handsome competence. The octogenarian is now in ‘a green old age’, enjoying to the full a well-earned leisured ease and, looking at the outside world through ‘the loopholes of retreat’, is cheerfully awaiting that hour which comes to all, but which Mr. Greenwood’s friends hope is yet far distant.

(from A Biography of William Greenwood New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXI, Issue 9569, 21 July 1894, Page 1)

* The Epsom Hall was in fact built on land owned by William Gardner in 1881 with funds and labour donated by subscribers. The Epsom Hall Association administered the building. The small, disused Epsom Wesleyan Chapel was sold in 1871, passed through the hands of various owners until William Gardner purchased the land it stood on in 1878. It was moved from Watties Lane (Alba Road) to the back of the Hall late in 1882.

(see: Helen Laurenson, ‘A “Little Bethel” in Epsom, Auckland’, Wesley Historical Society (NZ) Journal, 79, July 2004, pp.23-42.

Graham Bush ed., The History of Epsom, Epsom & Eden District Historical Society, 2006.)

Read more…History of Greenwoods Corner

Death Notice, (New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXII, Issue 9939, 1 October 1895, Page 5)

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