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Elihu Shaw's Streets, plus Leslie and Kenneth

As a teenager living in Shaw Street in the late 50's I had no idea that there was any connection between the names of the above streets. Trying to be a cool teen, I was just glad I didn't live in a street called Ethel.

Elihu Shaw came to Auckland in the 1840's driven out from Hokianga by Heke's war in the north. At that time he bought 16 and a half acres, acquiring more as he prospered. In 1907 Leslie Ave and Kenneth Avenue were included in an approved subdivision for S.L. Hirst.

The 1911 Auckland Directory notes dwellings on almost half of the 42 sections available in Leslie Ave, and by 1919, with one or two exceptions, all the sections had been built on, 90% of them transitional villas, as well as the Morningside Presbyterian Church at no 46. These days no 42 is the Morningside Church of Christ and there is no Presbyterian church at 46.In 1919 the house numbers ran from no's 3-47 on the right hand side and 2 -46 on the left. I'm not sure what date the numbers from 27 on became light industrial but it already was so when I arrived in Leslie Avenue in 1976.

The subdivision plan for Kenneth Avenue shows sections fully available for purchase on numbers 14, 16 & 18. However these have never been built on and are part of Gribblehirst Park. I am presuming the Mt Albert Borough purchased these for this park access.

The properties were slower to be built on in Kenneth than Leslie and as a result there is a greater variety of style of house there than in Leslie. 


In 1921 Fosters Adhesive Kiln was on the corner section of Aroha and Kenneth (no's 38 & 40 ) This changed to the Edendale Case Timber yard in 1931 and continued in some form or another as a timber yard until the 1980's when townhouses were built. Kenneth Ave has always been home to the Sandringham Kindergarten. I had always assumed it to have been a house that was converted but Auckland City Archives show that it was purpose built in the 1940's. This in turn was demolished and rebuilt in the 1990's.

Flooding was a major problem for Leslie and Kenneth in the early years.

"We need a ferry service not a tram service said one complainant." (2)
"A section with a nice water frontage is not properly appreciated by Kingsland residents another report said."(2)

"In winter a large area was flooded. The area below Leslie was the deepest. Boys made small craft with pieces of corrugated iron. The low lying properties on the other side of the road were often flooded in winter."(3)

For Leslie Avenue it wasn't just the poor drainage that was a problem. The contours of the road were so deep it exacerbated the drainage problem. The 1919 plan for cut and fill in Leslie Ave shows clearly just how bad it was. Fortunately and finally the situation was resolved by this and a drainage loan obtained by the Mt Albert Borough Council over the next couple of years.

In 1909 Shaw, Collins and part of Ethel (the remainder was still owned by Mrs Taylor)were part of a subdivision for a Mr. McDonald (McDonald St) Mr. McDonald, gardener, was the only 1911 listing in the Auckland Directory for Shaw Street. By 1925 the majority of homes had been built in Shaw Street. The right hand side i.e. 1-19 was all villas and this is the same today except that 23 is now a light industry site. McDonald and Collins were the names of Elihu's sons in law.

Collins Street was first mentioned in 1915 as having 3 dwellings on the left hand side which later, as numbers came in, translated to numbers 4-12 by 1930. Today the numbers are 2, 6,8,10 and are all light industry. No 5 is the solitary residence in the street.

In the 1950's the rear of Lynn Laces factory stood at the bottom of Shaw/Collins Streets. It's entry on the lower level of McDonald Street. Previous to the factory, "The property between Shaw and McDonalds St up to the mid 1940's was covered with long grass, large pine trees at the Shaw Street end and willows on a soggy part of the property. In the centre was a large pit about 10 mtrs in diameter and 2.5 mtrs deep. It was a volcanic chalk pit (pure white) I have been told it was used in the early days for cosmetic manufacture."(4) "This pit would fill up with water after the water level at Cabbage St Swamp would reach a certain height. The water could be seen bubbling out of cracks in the rock. I also used this whiting as we called it, to clean spoons and forks."(2)

There was supposedly another chalk pit in Taylors Rd. However, speleologist Peter Crossley from Auckland University School of Geography has since mentioned that it is unlikely there are any chalk deposits in New Zealand. It was probably diatomaceous earth.

1 Ethel Street is an early 1860's farmhouse which was listed on the Mt Albert City Council register of places of historical, architectural or community significance, albeit in the councils lowest grading. It is not on the Auckland City Council's heritage register. It has survived in mutilated form and continues to look as dilapidated now as it did when I was a teenager, much to my sorrow. This is one house which I wish the Auckland City council would cherish. How many simple working class farmhouses do we have to spare in Mt Albert that we can afford to let this rot away. 1 Ethel Street is just as much, if not more than Alberton or Ferndale, a part of our heritage!

Ethel St, like Shaw, Collins and Leslie has been affected by misjudged building zones. From no's 1 to 42 in 1932 it is now all light industrial after no 26.

The shops that served these streets are still there though not in the form they were in the 50's. I still remember the double bookshop, the hairdresser, the haberdashery, Mr. Spooner the butcher on the corner of Shaw and Sandringham and the dairy next to him.

As I have written this story I have found more questions than answers.

What happened to the Morningside Presbyterian Church?
Was there another chalk pit in Taylors Road?
What other shops were in that block during the 50's?

We'd love to hear from you, not only if you know the answers to my questions but any memories, records, photographs etc you have, of living in Morningside/Sandringham.

Mary Inomata 2012


John Davenport, Street Names of Auckland
Dick Scott, In Old Mt Albert 
Joan Coles, Vol 1 Memories of Mt Albert
Colin Joseph Clark, Vol 2 Memories of Mt Albert