Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Auckland Sailors Home 1887- designed by Edward Bartley

Auckland Sailors Home 1887 Image taken on completion by Richardson.From BFA collection

It is all about seafarers today.
The intention here to to answer some queries about the Auckland Sailors Home which used to stand at the bottom of Albert St. I confess to a second purpose though - to put in a plug for the Mission to Seafarers.
Marsden Point is our local port here in Ruakaka. It is growing at a tremendous rate with the opening of container facilities and increased shipping schedules. We have a seafarer's centre too, run by volunteers who also do ship visits. More help would be most appreciated - here and in all New Zealand ports.
The men and women who crew merchant ships ensure the transportation of fuels and goods which sustain our way of life -but they have a low profile. Their issues with working conditions and isolation seldom make the media.
On-board internet access while at sea is now available but it has brought about a lessening of actual engagement during voyages - according to the Crew Connectivity Report published this year.  Volunteer and community support from citizens of host ports is still essential to seamen. If you live in a port town anywhere in the world you have a Seafarer's Centre. Please consider how you may help out there. We are all international citizens aren't we?

Details of Seafarer's Centres in New Zealand today may be found here

Now let's take a look at a story of generosity to seafarers from the 1880's.

Edward Bartley designed the Sailors' Home in 1886 but a benefactor made it possible. This was Edward Costley who was a resident of Auckland. He had no dependants and lived very frugally. When he died in April 1883 the bulk of his estate was divided amongst seven public institutions: Auckland Hospital; the Old Peoples’ Home; the Parnell Orphan House; the Auckland Institute; the Auckland Free Public Library; the Sailors’ Home and the Boys Training Institute at Kohimarama.

Costley's memorial in Symond's St Cemetery erected by citizens of Auckland. Image BFA

The Government initially made a claim for the whole of the money left in the Costley legacy to be handed over. That  move met strong resistance. Both the Hospital Committee and the Trustees of Mr. Costley’s bequest knew local bodies would soon become responsible for the maintenance of their own hospitals and charitable institutions under the new Hospital and Charitable Boards Act. They fought hard and won. It took three years but at last the funds were paid out in  December 1886.

The bequest to the Sailors’ Home was £12,150 and, as a result of this gift, a non-profit making corporation was established to take over the functions of the Sailors’ Rest. 1
This new organisation was to erect the Auckland Sailors’ Home and to administer the funds supplied by the bequest. The Harbour Board granted a site at the foot of Albert St for the use of the new Home, in an exchange for the site of the old Sailors’ Rest.

Competitive designs were called for in April 1886, with Mr. Wade, president of the Institute of Architects appointed as judge.  Being successful, Edward prepared working plans in July for a three storey brick building with white stone facings. Tenders were called for in January 1887. The original design Edward  put forward was unacceptable on the grounds of expense. He was asked to rework his plans to meet the limit.

Following a fire testing demonstration, Edward argued strongly for a new product - Blaikie's fire resistant plastering system. He used his good rapport with the Press to emphasise the importance of fire safety. The Trustees accepted amended plans and the necessity for using the new system on the top two floors, bringing the total cost for building and foundations to £3135. Thomas Colebrook's was the winning tender for the work.2
The brief was to provide adequate accommodation and facilities for seamen without excessive expense or ornamentation. The result was a restrained and well-proportioned building on a corner site fronting both Albert and Quay Streets. It opened on 1 December 1887.3

The facilities included a social room, hall, dining room, library, chaplain’s room and management accommodation, apart from sleeping accommodation for seamen and officers. At the time the feature most commented on was the grand stairway to the upper floors. This rose from the centre of the building and was accessible from all parts. The most imposing view of the stairway was from the vestibule of the main Quay St entrance, giving a sense of heightened drama and upward movement as the centre of the building was approached.

This image from Auckland Museum's collection shows the lobby in the mid 20th century. Some remnants of the original architecture can still  be seen. 

A hall was later built alongside to seat 300 people. Religious services, musical evenings and socials attracted good attendance where mariners could mix comfortably with locals, supervised by an active management committee. A key philosophy of the institution was its 'open door' policy. All mariners were welcome regardless of race or creed. 
The building was demolished during the late 20th century redevelopment of Quay St.

This mid 20th century image shows the two frontages, here looking up Albert St from Quay St. Image APL 020-15

1. Refer NZH 5 April 1886 page 3
2. Ibid 7 April 1887 laying of the foundation stone, 1 Dec 1887 completion
3. Ibid 2 Dec 1887 opening ceremony