Sunday, 12 June 2016

Queen's Ferry Hotel Vulcan Lane Auckland - the early years

Queens Ferry Hotel Vulcan Lane Auckland Image R Crozier for BFA

In Auckland’s early days Vulcan Lane was steeper than it is today. Little better than a narrow track, it had one great advantage – it was on the high side of the 'Ligar Canal' which ran down Queen St.
In the early 1850s the lane boasted, amongst others, McLeod’s Forge, Hicks the watchmaker, Bain & Graham’s store and a tailor. All the buildings were timber, including the several cottages dotted amongst the commercial premises. On the seaward side of the lane, John Robertson had his sawyer’s shop.i
Robertson came to New Zealand with Governor Hobson’s party in 1840, first spending some time in the Bay of Islands. Business prospered for him in Auckland where he established the first timber yard about 1845. ii

Early in July 1863 fire swept through the wooden buildings in Queen St. In the attempt to create a fire break Robertson’s property suffered. The roof was destroyed and the building was damaged inside, though the fire was extinguished before it reached his side of the lane.iii  From the description it is likely his workshop was of by then of brick construction.

The earliest record of a further change of building use is March 1864.  Robertson advertised office space to let then and was operating a general goods store.iv  This was a much less arduous occupation than working in the timber industry, particularly for a man now turning seventy - though perhaps not without its own challenges:
Daily Southern Cross 27 July 1867

The final incarnation for the property occurred within the next six years. The name ‘Queen’s Ferry Hotel’ begins to appear in print from April 1870, though the hotel may have been operating  The name was a reference to his Scottish home. Robertson appears in the April 1870 list of those granted a full license for the sale of liquor. vii
Richard Keals was employed as architect for alterations to the building in March 1871. The new facilities included further accommodation on the second storey and a meeting room. The latter was definitely in operation by June of that year. viii

DSC 24 March 1871

 These new facilities now provided a popular meeting place for a more commercially oriented clientele:

NZH 24 June 1871

John Robertson died in October 1877 aged 85. His wife May took over the running of the hotel until her death in September 1880. Their son in law Walter Sloane then took the helm until the license was transferred to Charles Sutherland at the end of 1880.

NZH 23 Dec 1880

In 1882 further changes to the licensing legislation meant that the Queen’s Ferry was in line for another upgrade of facilities. This time Edward Bartley employed as the architect.
NZH 2 Sept 1882

His plans were for an increase to three storeys from Keal’s two. Alex McGuire the builder who made the successful tender for the contract.
The additions included further sleeping quarters and another sitting room, as part of an interior refit. Sanitary standards were generally improved to meet modern requirements. A guest bathroom was included. The whole tone of the Vulcan Lane front elevation was improved by realigning the entrance and stairway. A wash of lime cement and quality decorative treatment produced the Italianate frontage we see today.

Image R Crozier for BFA

The license has run continuously since Robertson's day, though the Hotel is now facing into a more salubrious Vulcan Lane.The Queens Ferry has a Category 1 rating with Historic Places Trust. Details here
For further information on the Robertson family see here
Research by M W Bartley

 i See Daily Southern Cross 11 Feb 1859; 5 April 1859 – part of allotment 3 sec 4
  ii Ibid 7 Feb 1860
  iiiIbid 3 July 1863
 iv Ibid 23 March 1864
  vIbid 27 July 1864
   viAuckland Star 5 April 1870
  viiNZH 20 April 1870
  viiiDSC 4 July 1871 venue for the Berkeley Castle Mining Co meeting of shareholders