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How Mt. Albert Grammar School Came To Have A Farm

 

Mount Albert Grammar School opened in 1922 on a 16 ½ acre (6.7357 ha.) site in Alberton Avenue (then known as Rob Roy Street) which had been acquired by the Crown from Sophia Louisa Kerr Taylor in 1920.

By 1932, efforts by the Auckland District Council of the New Zealand Institute of Horticulture to have an Agricultural and Horticultural course included in a secondary school curriculum had "gone back many years". There had been a proposal to establish such a course at a new secondary school at Glen Eden. But by July 1931 it had become evident that "with a falling off of the student population and tightening up of the regulations for free places" an additional secondary school would not be required for several years. Undeterred by the failure of the Glen Eden proposal, in 1932 representatives of that Council approached the Director of Education and the Headmaster of Mount Albert Grammar School suggesting that the course should become established at that school. It seems that investigations had already been carried out as to the suitability and availability of the adjoining 20 acres (8 hectares) owned by Winifred Mabel Kerr Taylor.

 As a result, the Headmaster of the school, Mr. F. W. Gamble, wrote to the Secretary of the Board of Governors on 20th June 1932 stating that he was "in complete sympathy with that suggestion". The letter mentioned that the writer had had a short talk with the Chairman of the Board of Governors, and that the writer felt that the Chairman's "full knowledge of the history of the matter would be of value to the Board".

There was immediate action by the Board of Governors. On 22nd June, the Board "approved the proposal to establish an Agricultural Course in connection with the school". The Auckland Council of the N.Z. Institute of Horticulture was keeping a close interest in the proposal. On 18th July its Secretary reported to that Council:
(a) that the proposal had been submitted in detail to the Director of Eduction for his formal approval, (indicating that the Kerr Taylor property was available for sale or lease); and 
(b) that the approval would be given "subject to the proviso that the establishment involves the department in no cost other than that ancillary to the ordinary Science allowances."

That report also recorded that the Kerr Taylor property had been inspected and approved of by the experts of the Department of Education and Agriculture and of the Institute of Horticulture. The report estimated the likely setting up costs as £1200 (including £300 for rents and rates for 3 years). [It assumed that the Kerr Taylor property would be leased.]

On 15th July 1932, the Headmaster, Mr. F.W. Gamble, wrote a 3 page Memorandum giving full details of the proposal, the proposed courses (with subjects and times), the likely number of classes which would be involved, and the likely additional staffing and accommodation requirements. He mentioned that Miss Kerr Taylor had offered to sell the 20 acres at £135 per acre or to lease it for £50 per annum with annual increments of £10 for 5 years. But as a long lease was seen as essential, "further efforts will be made in order to secure a satisfactory arrangement".

He submitted that Memorandum to the school's Board of Governors under cover of a letter dated 21st July 1932. In his letter he emphasised the 2 great difficulties facing the proposal, namely the terms of lease of the Kerr Taylor property, and the finance required for buildings and materials. He went on to say that the Institute of Horticulture "who have been acting in these matters" found it difficult to make headway without an assurance from the Department of Education of their approval of the general scheme. 

It appears that the Secretary of the Institute had ‘jumped the gun' in a report 3 days earlier by assuming that approval had been given. However, there was no further delay in giving that approval. By 2nd August 1932, the Secretary of the Institute was able to write to the President of the Auckland Savings Bank with details of the proposal, seeking financial assistance, and saying that the Minister of Education had given his approval; but that the Minister had also written that: "In this connection I have to say that the Government is not in a position to assist the scheme financially, and dependence must therefore be placed upon local support."

The letter to the President of the Bank is reproduced in full:

   

mtalbertgrammar1.JPG 

 

It is apparent that after the Trustees of the Bank had considered the representations made to them, they were prepared to entertain the Mount Albert proposal. There must have been further discussions and negotiations between the parties (including the Kerr Taylors). For by December that year, the Trustees had considered the matter on the basis of a purchase of the Kerr Taylor property, and were prepared to make the sum of £2000 available. £1600 was to be for the purchase of the 20 acre block of land and £400 for equipment.

Because the proposal involved the Bank purchasing land, and because the Bank's own powers were limited to the purchase of land for its own bank premises, it was necessary to obtain legislative authority to allow the Bank to make the purchase. On 5th December 1932 the Manager of the Small Farms Board (a government agency) wrote to the Prime Minister (The Right Honourable G.W. Forbes P.C.) outlining the proposal. He informed the Prime Minister that the Bank was prepared to make a grant of £2000 available, subject to legislative authority, of which £1600 would be used in acquiring the fee simple of 20 acres of the Kerr Taylor property and £400 used for equipment. The land would be leased to the School Board at a peppercorn rental. The purpose of his letter was to inquire whether there would be any difficulty in obtaining sanction for the payment.

Government approval of the proposal was granted on 1st February 1933, subject to the proviso that no Government expenditure was involved and on condition that title to the land must be held by the Bank. [It being in the depths of the Great Depression, the government did not want to accept any financial commitment, directly or indirectly, which could be borne by others.]

Empowering legislation was prepared. By Section 36 of the Finance (No.2) Act 1932-33, which became law on 10th March 1933, the necessary authority was given. A copy of that Section is set out as an Appendix. On 17th June 1933, Winifred Mabel Kerr Taylor duly transferred title to 20 acres 6.1 perches into the name of "THE HONOURABLE CHRISTOPHER JAMES PARR the President for the time being of the Auckland Savings Bank". The purchase price was One Thousand Six Hundred and Three Pounds and One Shilling (£1603.1.0d), that is, £80 per acre, which was a considerable reduction on the £135 per acre originally sought. The year 1932 marked the lowest year of the Great Depression; presumably land values had dropped substantially over the period of the negotiations, and/or Winifred was prepared to make a significant concession over the price in the light of the intended use of the land. John Stacpoole believes that the sale was of significant benefit to the Kerr Taylors, because it had the effect of preserving the rural aspect from their ‘Alberton' house.

Having been enabled to use the land, the school then appointed an agriculture master and introduced appropriate subjects and courses into its curriculum.

It is evident from the School's Jubilee History (1971) that the Bank trustees took an interest in the farm for a considerable time. To quote:

"Bank support and interest has not been inconsiderable, with donations being made for the more practical use of the scheme. (These were, April 1955, £500 tor general building improvements; August 1956, £l50 for dollying up the fences for the Duke of Edinburgh's visit; £400 to establish a modern piggery.) In August, 1960, Mr Faber, Mr Rice and the General Manager visited the Headmaster and reported favourably on the scheme .... Subsequent visits have been made by the Board."

At some later stage after 1933, but prior to 1971, the Bank's Property Officer had reported to the Bank's trustees that because Section 36 of the Finance (No.2) Act 1932-33 directed that title to the land be held in the name of the Bank, it would require further legislation should the question of disposal arise. 

The "question of disposal" has not arisen since. But in 1988 the Auckland Savings Bank ceased to exist as such. The effect of section 7 of the Trustee Banks Restructuring Act 1988 was to vest the ownership of the land in ‘ASB Bank Limited'. That Bank is still the legal owner of the land, and the school continues to farm the land. Indeed, a 99 year lease of the farm in favour of the Mount Albert Grammar School Board of Trustees is now in the course of being registered. In addition, the Bank has announced that an annual scholarship for an agricultural student to attend the Mount Albert Grammar School Hostel is to be funded by the Bank, thus cementing its ongoing support for the farm in a tangible way. 

 

 
Arnold R. Turner CMG March 2013  

 

Acknowledgements:

I was able to find Section 36 of the Finance (no. 2) Act 1932-33 because I spied reference to "an empowering Act passed in 1933" on page 77 of Dick Scott's book 'In Old Mt. Albert' (2nd edn.)
Lisa Truttman searched the Land Registry records for me and supplied photocopies of the title and Transfer.  She also supplied me with a copy of Chapter 8 of the School's Jubilee History (1971).

Appendix:

mtalbertgrammarappendix.JPG