Heritage: Partingtons Mill

PARTINGTON'S MILL

View circa 1880 east up Mill lane with Lewis Eady house on right.


.

Partington's windmill was an Auckland landmark for the first century of the city's history. Built in 1850 it was demolished in 1950.

From it's founding in 1840 until 1864 Auckland was the Capital of the new Colony of New Zealand. For the first few decades the urban area of the town extended little beyond where the Town Hall stands today. There were small hamlets at Panmure, Howick and Onehunga with all three being active ports but the isthmus of Auckland was largely empty farmland. In those days the Greenwoods Corner/GreenLane/Epsom area was notable for fields of wheat, as the soil was free draining and devoid of trees.


.

Charles Partington:

.

In 1847 the newly arrived Charles Partington ventured into partnership with John Bycroft and together they took over the Epsom Mill that stood in St Andrews Road. The partnership lasted until December 1849 and in May 1850, for £200, Partington purchased two sections on Symonds Street near the intersection with Karangahape Road, adding a third property three years later.

On this site he had the builder Henry White build a 6 story high windmill, made of bricks using clay dug from the site at a cost of £2000. The walls were 27 inches thick and constructed using special wedge shaped bricks. In August 1851 the first flour was advertised for sale.

.


View up Queen Street circa 1852 In the centre of this view is the Windmill on the Karangahape Rd ridge.


The Symonds Street Windmill:

..

The Mill stood on the Karangahape Ridge on the outskirts of town. The windmill's rotating top enabled the sails to gather the prevailing wind from the Waitakere ranges in the west or the occasional breeze up from the harbour.

The height of the structure, it's distinctive shape and prominent position made it quite a land mark and throughout its life it was used as a navigation device by shipping.

As early as 1898, George E Bentley, in his book The Story of the Old Windmill, noted that both amateur and professional photographers used the top of the mill as their vantage point. There are certainly many panoramic views in public collections of the city taken from the Windmill.

.


Early Biscuit Label


The Victoria Flourmill & Steam Biscuit Factory:

..

Initially Partington's business was grinding other people grain for their use, eventually he began buying grain in order to sell flour under his own label. In 1851 steam flour milling equipment was installed and the company advertised as the Victoria Flour Mills and Steam Biscuit Factory. Being able to produce large amounts of baked goods established Partinton's as a major firm.

During the Land Wars of the 1860s this technology enabled Partington to secure a very lucrative contract to supply government troops with biscuits. In the late 1860s he had built a watermill at Riverhead.

.


Telescopic View from about 1920 showing the Windmill


.

This period also saw Partington getting involved with gold mining and other business interests in the Coromandel. These may not have gone well, certainly when the gold and silver began to run out many people were hit badly by the subsequent slump.

By 1873 the biscuit making machinery had been relocated to the Riverhead mill and much of the land around the Symonds Street mill was sold off as building sites.

Charles Partington died in 1877, possibly leaving his business affairs in disarray. after a set of legal skirmishes his sons divided parts of the business empire between them; eventually the Symonds Street Windmill ended up being owned by Joseph Partington.

The business did not prosper however and through a series of events by the late 1880s Partington had ended up bankrupt and the tenant of of a man called James Wilkinson (it is possible that only part of the Symonds street property had passed out of Partington's hands).

.


The Libellous Pamphlet:

Partington involved a New Plymouth journalist called George Bentley to write “The Story of the Old Windmill", of which 1000 copies were printed by Albert Spencer.

.

The Story of the Old Windmill: 1898 George Bentley - Gross Negligence Or Rank Favouritism on the Part of the City Council : One of Auckland's Oldest Landmarks in Danger of Disappearing.

.

Bentley was subsequently convicted of publishing a libellous pamphlet in September 1898, and imprisioned. Partington was sued by Wilkinson for libel and had to pay £200 in damages with a further £100 awarded plus costs in December 1898. Joseph Partington was once again bankrupt.

Over the remaining forty years of his life Joseph Partington operated the Windmill and the Bakery, at least intermittently. It is unclear whether he ever regained any of the land that was transferred to Wilkinson or sold to others by the Banks during the crisis in the 1880s.

.


View of Grafton Bridge: This shows it being finished in 1910, with Partington's Windmill in background standing without its sails.

.



Rebuilding the Mill:

.

By 1910 the windmill was devoid of its sails and stood over an increasingly urban landscape just yards from asphalted streets with electric trams and motorcars.

In 1911 Joseph travelled to England and there purchased a working windmill and had the machinery, stones, cap and sails shipped back to Auckland.

A gas engine was installed to supplement wind power but by 1916 it was found necessary to add 15 feet to the height of tower due to the increased height of the buildings now surrounding the mill.

.


The Windmill after 1916 when it was increased in height.


The 1931 Fire:

.

In 1924 terrible gales damaged the sails and on February the 16th 1931 the mill was gutted by fire.

The building was restored and it continued to grind grain shipped in from far outside Auckland, the wheat fields of Epsom having long disappeared (along with the Epsom Windmill itself which is remembered in the name of 'Windmill Rd'.

.


1920s view from the Symonds Street Park


.

Mid-20th century map showing Partington Street [formerly Mill Lane]

.


The 1920s and 1930s:

.

During the last twenty years of its life it is uncertain whether the Windmill was used to grind flour - it is possible that activity continued in the complex of buildings standing adjacent to the Windmill.

These included a set of buildings in which baked goods had been produced and stored before being delivered. There would also have been a stableblock and possibly a residence for the Manager.

For a number of years it seems the Windmill was apparently used as living accomodation. It is recorded that students from the nearby Elam School of Fine Arts resided in the tower-like structure and their parties were fully in the artistic bohemian tradition.

.

Advertisement from 1934

.

It also appears the premises were operated as a nightclub of sorts - advertisements appear throughout the 1930s.

It is likely that the now unused Steam Biscuit Factory buildings adjacent to the Windmill were used as a dance hall rather than the conical Mill itself.

.



A Landmark to be Preserved.

.

In 1936, the Metropolitan Fire Board was searching for the site of a new Central Fire Station and considered the mill site as eminently suitable.

The purchase of the site would have been carried out under the compulsary purchase rules laid out in the Public Works Act and probably would have resulted in the conical structure of he Windmill being demolished.

To counter this possiblity Joseph Partington publically announced that he had made out his will to bequeath the Windmill to the City Council for “the free enjoyment of the Citizens of Auckland for ever"

Statements to this effect were reported in the Newspapers of the period.

..

GIFT ASSURED

Famous Landmark Willed To City

..

“It is understood, of course," he stated, “that this intention has been fully provided for in my will and that until my death the windmill and my property remain absolutely my own. I had no thought of disclosing my intention until I was forced to do so by the attempt of the Auckland Metropolitan Fire Board to seize my land and windmill.

Ambition Fulfilled “It has been my ambition for years to see that when I am gone the old windmill is preserved and kept and worked as a windmill. I have bought up the surrounding land as opportunity offered to prevent the erection of large buildings which would block the wind and the view of the old windmill."

The Windmill was widely regarded as an important landmark, having stood on the skyline above the city for almost a century. The gift of the property would enable it's preservation and probable the creation of a public park of which it would be the focal point.

The City Council seemed willing to accept the gift and on September 21 1936 the Mayor, Sir Ernest Davis, announced this intention to the council, stating that the property was estimated to be worth £100,000.

The preservation of the Windmill seemed assured - things turned out differently however.

In 1939 War broke out and the the question of the Windmill, seemingly already sorted out, slipped from the mind of the newspapers, the City Council and the Auckland public.

.


.

Last photograph of Joseph Partington Taken on Queen St a few days before his death


SUDDEN COLLAPSE of Mr J. Partington.

MR. J. PARTINGTON

HOARD OF MONEY FOUND


.

When Partington died suddenly in 1941 the War was naturally occupying the attention of most people. A search was made for a Will which definately bequethed the property to the City Council.

As it happened several Wills were found - some of these were contradictory and apparently none specified the Bequest of the Symonds Street Windmill.

This led to a problematic legal situation which played out over the several years following Partington's death in 1941.

.

Search of Old Windmill

.

Despite Joseph Partington's very public statements that he wanted the City Council to recieve the property as a Public Facility the lack of a definate will complicated matters.

The “gift" came without any funds for upkeep and the Council, weary after a decade of the Great Depression was now involved in mobilising for the War Effort.

The City Council was far from enthusiastic about accepting a decaying structure which would be difficult to utalise.

By this time the Fire Board had secured another site for its new Central Fire Station (opened on the corner of Pitt Street and Greys Avenue in 1944)

The Council was unsurprisingly reluctant to commit public funds for any new project and so did not press it's legal possession of the site.

The property, optimistically valued at £100,000 was eventually divided and sold on behalf of the Partington beneficiaries.

.

Sale at £20,000

.


.

This did not mean the immediate demolition of the Windmill however.

As one of the oldest landmarks in Auckland and arguably it's most prominent there was a great deal of concern about the eventual fate of the main structure.

The 1940s saw continual efforts to secure it's future even if that mean dismantling the conical tower and re-erecting it elsewhere.

In 1939 the Windmill's military significance was pointed out by local Maori who recalled the famous Invasion of Auckland by the Ngatipaoa on April the 17th 1851.

.

Auckland's Colourful Past

..

Invasion of Auckland by the Ngatipaoa April the 17th 1851.


.

“At a time in recent date when the mill seemed in danger of demolition to make way for a new Central Fire Station Maoris joined in the pleas, for its preservation, and it was recalled by one old chief that his father had been a member of the war party that had come from Waiheke Island in 1851 with the intention of attacking the township.

They landed and danced a war haka on the beach at the foot of Parnell Kise, about where the Maori hostel now stands. The old mill and its outbuildings were hastily fortified and loopholed, and many women and children who lived nearer to the mill than to the Albert Barracks (where Albert Park is now laid out) took refuge there under the protection of a small body of soldiers.

.


The Final Decision:

.

19th December 1945

.


The Windmill Preservation Society:


.

A Preservation Society was formed to save this greatly loved landmark, but its members were unable to raise sufficient money to purchase the building and preserve it for posterity.

.

The Windmill Preservation Society.

.

In May 1950, exactly 100 years after it had been built and amid a great deal of controversy, Partington's Windmill was sadly demolished.

.


Demolition of the Widmill in 1950


Demolition:

.

Although the Preservation Society was unsuccessful it left a lasting legacy. From the efforts of the members of the Windmill Preservation Society can probably be traced the creation of the Museum of Transport & Technology, Howick Historical Village and the NZ Historic Places Trust.

Partington's Windmill was one of the four key battles fought by the embryonic preservation movement during the early 1950s – the others were Christ Church Taita, Old St Paul's (Wellington) and Bethune & Hunter's counting house (Wellington). These threats helped to forge the National (from 1963, New Zealand) Historic Places Trust.

Although it was intended that the unusual wedge shaped bricks would be saved in the hopes of re-erecting the Windmill the bricks vanished at some point and their fate has never been established. The Mill-Stones are preserved at the Howick Historic Village.

.


Millstone from Partington's Mill at the Howick Historic Village.


Redevelopment:

.

The entire block between Liverpool Street and Symonds Street was redeveloped around 1980 when all the buildings were demolished and several large buildings arose, including the Sheraton Hotel (now the Langham Hotel).

From aerial photos taken in the 1940s it would appear that the brick tower of Partington's Windmill was situated in what is now the courtyard to the west of the Hotel development. Access to the centre of the block still follows the course of the old Mill Lane.

.


Aerial view from the 1940s showing the Windmill


Rememberance:

.

In 2005 a formal ceremony was held at the Langham Hotel to herald them as new owners and the re-naming of the hotel. This included a major acknowledgment in film and living diorama of the history of the site.

The Langham has kept the Partington legacy alive through the names of its restaurants; 'Partington's Restaurant' and “The Steam Biscuit Factory".

.


The LANGHAM HOTEL

.

Langham has a legendary hotel heritage dating back to 1865 when the Langham Hotel in London originally opened as Europe's first Grand Hotel.

For 140 years, this flagship hotel has been at the forefront of sophisticated and gracious hospitality.

Today, all Langham Hotels worldwide inherit the same philosophy that reflects elegance, continuous innovation and genuine hospitality creating a truly unique hotel experience.

Langham Hotels International (LHI) features six properties with over 2,700 rooms in five gateway cities across the four continents, namely, London, Boston, Hong Kong (2), Melbourne and Auckland.

In each city Langham Hotels is associated with the prestigious “The Leading Hotels of the World" group which represents some of the world's finest luxury hotels.

LHI is wholly owned by Great Eagle Holdings Limited, a publicly listed company (HKSE: 41) which was founded in 1963 and was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972.

www.langhamhotels.co.nz

.