Early Reminiscences of Auckland by Mrs E. Bartley
Compiled & transcribed by M.W.Bartley

Elizabeth HANNKEN - Mrs E Bartley image BFA 

It was in the year 1840, I being then two years of age, when my mother, my grandmother and myself journeyed from Sydney in the ship “Diana” to join my father in Auckland, he having preceded us some twelve months previously and settled at Coromandel.
Father chose Coromandel as it was then spoken of as being the intended capital of New Zealand, and he there opened a store, the Maoris being his only customers.
At the same time Father went into the timber-cutting business, but also for the supply of split shingles, and for this purpose he acquired the timber cutting rights from the native owners of the different blocks of land.
I have in my possession an agreement dated 16th October 1840, in which Father purchased the whole of the standing timber on Blocks Kopouri, Kopare, Karaka and Koranuinui and the consideration embodied in the agreement is as follows:
Two boxes of Cartridges; ten Blankets; twenty Gowns; ten Waistcoats; three Coats; Two Cloaks; three Muskets; twenty pounds of Soap; six Garden Hoes and Ten pounds of Tobacco – the total value being set down at 48 pounds 6 shillings.
This agreement is signed and witnessed, the owners each affixing their mark X and being Tako; Horaka; Ora Bette and Rangate Boo.
It was very difficult in those days whether to understand the natives or to make yourself understood, and in this respect I have recollection of an incident which nearly led to serious trouble. Father remarked to an old chief that his head was as white as a bag of flour, which remark the native took to mean that his head was fit to be eaten like flour. So vexed did the old chief become that he brought the whole of his tribe, who danced a war dance and threatened to kill Father and burn the store.
The trouble was only quelled by Father handing over to the Maoris all kinds of produce and goods as “utu” or payment for the insult.

The only means Father had of conveying his goods from Auckland was by a whale boat and on one occasion he was overtaken by a gale and had to run up the Thames for safety and landed at night on what proved to be a Burial Ground, for which offence more “utu” was demanded. For this Father was compelled to hand over the entire contents of the boat, and he and his mates were glad to get away with their lives and their boat.

We lived at Coromandel for about five years, during which time Father purchased certain lands from the natives, but when Governor Hobson selected Auckland as the Capital, Father exchanged his Coromandel properties for three pieces of land he received from the Governments, namely, two pieces near Freeman’s Bay and six acres in Khyber Pass, now the site of the Great Northern Brewery Co.

I recollect when for quite a long while Queen St was simply a track along the banks of a creek known as “Ligar’s Canal”, but more frequently “Ligar’s Gully”.
The principal street in those days was Shortland St but then known only as the Crescent, and Mrs Henderson ( Henderson & McFarlane) kept an hotel on the same corner now occupied by the Commercial Hotel.

Outside this Hotel I have witnessed many dreadful riots between sailors and returned soldiers back from the Bay of Islands war; all having their liberty for two or three days at a time, and of course all having plenty of drink in the meantime.
When such rows occurred it was frequently necessary for all shopkeepers in the vicinity to put up their shutters and bolt the shop doors.
I remember on one of such occasions when Mrs Henderson was endeavouring to close the Hotel doors against the drunken crowd she was so severely injured that she almost lost her life.
In a like manner probably others will remember, as I do, the incident whereby a chemist in West Queen St (now Swanson St) was nearly killed by one of these drunken mobs.

While speaking of some of the undesirable features of early Auckland I am reminded of the old gaol which was situated at the corner of Queen St and Victoria St on the site now occupied by the City Chambers. I can clearly remember the Guard Room on the corner and the Supreme Court House on the same site fronting Queen Street, the stocks where the inebriates were punished were on the footpath next to the Guard Room, and I’ve seen drunks of both sexes with their legs in the stocks and they thus forming amusement to all passers by, and also good targets at which the boys pelted rubbish.
Sketch from memory by Edward Bartley, BFA

The gallows for the execution of murderers was erected in Victoria Street outside the boundary of the gaol property in a conspicuous place where it could be viewed by anybody from the street. I remember seeing the gallows, but I never saw an execution, although it was customary for such events to attract large crowds of both sexes. I remember the murder at Devonport, when Captain Snow, his wife and daughter were murdered at his home at the corner of Beach Road and Grey Street. BURNS the murderer was conveyed from the goal to the boat in a cart, he sitting on his own coffin, and sitting by him was the Rev Churton. The murderer was taken to Devonport and hanged on the site of the tragedy.
Murders and crime generally were very common in the early days, and in some respects the early pioneers of Auckland had some black experiences in addition to distressing bad times. However, there were other sides to the picture, and many enjoyable experiences, which made life worth living and having left happy recollections.

I often allow my thoughts to dwell on the memory of some of the past enjoyable times, there being always an abundance of amusements, especially during the holiday seasons. Oh those happy Christmas times, when everybody abandoned care and strove to make everybody else enjoy themselves. Every shop would be one mass of decoration of Punga fern and Pohutakawa bloom.
And those good old-time picnics down by the Harbour when the influential business man did not consider it below his dignity to assume the role of a clown to assist in creating fun.
I remember on the occasion of one of these jolly gatherings when we were dancing the old-fashioned country dances to the music of a violin played by Father, who asked us how we enjoyed the apple pie at lunch, which we all agreed was lovely. “I had a job to make it spin out”, said Father, “for that clumsy Maori there put his foot in it”
I derived a deal of pleasure in the early days from music, all our family were fond of it and all could play some instrument and were fairly good vocalists. I was a member of the Auckland Choral Society when I was only a growing girl, and continued my membership long after I was married.

After a few years in Auckland Father opened a business in Queen Street on a portion of the site now occupied by the Bank of New Zealand, and as the nature of his business brought us in close touch with the Maoris, we all became good native scholars, which added greatly to the success of the business.
Lower Queen St, Auckland, the wooden building nearest the new BNZ was formerly Hannken's drapery

Father used to employ many of the soldier’s wives sewing and making gowns for the Maori women and as the soldier’s pay was very small, the women were glad of the opportunity of earning a little, although they only received sixpence per gown for their labour.
I am now seventy-eight years of age, therefore I have been in Auckland 76 years and I have never been out of New Zealand since my arrival.

I often reflect on the past days, and wonder at the great changes that have come to pass and the rapid progress the City of Auckland has made, and I think it is a blessing that the present generation are not called upon to endure the hardships of the early settler.
I have never had any desire to leave New Zealand and especially Auckland. I think it is a lovely country and in it no one should ever starve.
This is a grand thing to be able to say of any country and it more than compensates for the hardships and trials of the early settler.
God Bless New Zealand.

Signed Elizabeth Bartley

At Devonport August 16th, 1916