Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

22 August 2009

Who Stole the Chimney Pots off Albert Park Lodge?

No. 33 Princes Street is the keeper’s lodge in Auckland’s Albert Park. It was built in 1882, at the same time as the park was laid out. It was deemed necessary to the well-being and upkeep of the park that a full time keeper should not only be in attendance at the park but should also be accommodated there because, at the time of the park’s inception, the area was subject to the delinquencies of prowling ‘larrikins’ and the depredations of roaming horses and cattle; also, according to contemporary reports in the New Zealand Herald, it was ill-used by people who would clamber over its railings rather than walk to its gates, who lay drunk under its trees, and who repeatedly stole the flowers.

One notable prosecution was that of Sir Charles Burdett, a military baronet from England, convicted of theft and imprisoned for fourteen days with hard labour. O, the joys of zero tolerance!

Some occupants of the lodge were: the City Librarian from 1886; the family of George Fillmore, Auckland City Council’s Superintendent of Parks and Reserves from 1930-1951, and Frank Fillmore, Assistant Director of Parks and Reserves. Indeed, the Fillmore family lived there for 35 years.

The ‘carpenter gothic’ cottage was designed by Auckland architect Henry Greensmith Wade and built by Wrigley and Hancock. It comprises a parlour, two bedrooms, kitchen, pantry and scullery and was, until, perhaps twenty years ago, graced by two elegant, moulded clay chimney pots of neo-Elizabethan design, probably sourced from a standard Victorian builders’ supply catalogue of the mid-nineteenth century.

The pots in place before they disappeared

Fortunately I photographed the lodge before these distinctive pots disappeared from the house. Despite my approaches to the Auckland City Council, the Historic Places Trust and the New Zealand Herald, I have been unable find out whether they were deliberately removed for safe-keeping or, perhaps stolen in a prank by students of the nearby Auckland university; I suspect the latter.

Or, perhaps, they were souvenired by the ghost of Sir Charles Burdett - who knows? If anybody does know I’d be pleased to hear from them.


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By Don Donovan