Remuera Historic Heritage Sites

 

SIGN UP FOR PLACES BLOG UPDATES
SIGN UP FOR ENEWS

Places

Wilson's Beach and Jetty

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Wilson’s Jetty is located on Wilson’s Beach at the northern end of Victoria Avenue. Extending north into Hobson Bay, the jetty (or pier) is a timber structure built on a series of piles, with a boardwalk edged by braced posts and rails. Currently the jetty is inaccessible from the beach. 

Hobson Bay and Wilson’s Beach was a popular spot for watersports and recreation, with the highly-attended ‘Hobson’s Bay (‘Remuera’) Regatta’ being held in the mid-1880s. Organised by the Morrin, Mitchelson, Wilson, Carr and Tilly families who lived at the northern end of Victoria Avenue, the event was initiated ‘for the purpose of affording the resident boys and girls an afternoon’s amusement, and to encourage the taste for healthy recreation on the part of young people’. [1] 

Wilson’s Beach itself was also a popular place for swimming and boating, evidenced in contemporary newspaper articles, local histories, early twentieth century photographs and the existence of boat sheds along its shore. [2] 

The earliest reference to a jetty was found in an 1881 newspaper article documenting the request by the Remuera Land and Building Company for such a structure. It is unclear whether this work was ever implemented. [3] The great grandfather of Bruce Renshaw, a current local resident, was Captain Thomas Capel Tilly, R.N. who was a past local resident at 'Tremough' which bordered Wilson's beach from c.1870 until his death in 1900. A Lieutenant navigator in the Royal Navy, he was commander of the Melanesian Mission schooner "Southern Cross II' and oversaw the construction of sailing ships. With his strong association with sea-faring, the location of his property, coupled with family history that he built the jetty in the 19th century, it is feasible that he was involved in the construction of a jetty at the beach. 

Contemporary photographs of the construction of the Hobson Bay main sewer line in 1910-11 reveal that the existing jetty on Wilson’s Beach was not in place at that time. A newspaper article from 1913, however, documents a proposal for a ‘wharf’ at the foot of Victoria Avenue. The deputation from the Remuera Ratepayers’ Association spoke of what an “advantage a wharf would be to the whole district. The article goes on to explain that the wharf would connect the end of Victoria Avenue and the sewer from which it was proposed to start the wharf. 

 Photographic records 

The earliest ‘dated’ photograph showing a jetty in the current location is from 1918, followed by several others dating from the 1920s and 1930s. These photographs show the jetty extending north from Wilson’s Beach, up and over the sewer line, providing access into Hobson Bay. Some of these images also show people ‘promenading’ along the jetty and the sewer line. 

The location and proportions of the jetty appear consistent in these early photographs and are similarly conveyed in a series of aerial photographs dating from 1940. However, in preparation of the demolition of the main sewer line, the northern portion of the jetty together with the access ramp that extended up and over the sewer, had been removed by 2010-2011. It is this shortened version of the jetty that exists today. 

Physical fabric of jetty 

Based on photographic evidence, the jetty was built as a modest timber structure on piles, with what appears to be a single-handrail. Aerial images indicate that its two-dimensional measurements remained relatively constant between 1940 and the present day, with only a shortening of the jetty’s length occurring in 2010-11. Unsurprisingly, however, its physical fabric changed during this time. 

When comparing the height and configuration of the present-day jetty with earlier images, it appears that the piles of the original structure were taller and more slender, suggesting that the supporting timbers were shortened or replaced. It is also apparent that additional handrails and supports have been added. 

In such an exposed location, it can be expected that materials would have required replacing over the years, which, based on visual observations, appears to have been the case. The modern appearance of timbers and fixings is particularly apparent, suggesting that much of the historic fabric has been replaced. 

Archival records reveal that repair works have occurred since at least the 1930s. A letter dated 1934 highlights that “the planking leading out to the sewer from Wilson’s Beach is in a very unsafe condition in places. The boards are loose in places, while in others new boards are required. In more recent years, further work has been carried out to the jetty. As part of general maintenance works by the Orakei Local Board, the jetty was repaired in 2012, and again in 2018. However, storm damage in 2018 compromised several of its piles, which resulted in restricted access onto the jetty for safety reasons. 

Conclusion 

Based on the findings summarised above, documentary evidence suggests that the subject of a jetty at Wilson’s Beach had been raised as early as 1881, and given the popularity of the beach for swimming and boating during this time, it is entirely possible that one was built before 1900. Furthermore, with Captain Tilly’s strong association with sea-faring, the location of his property adjacent to Wilson’s Beach, reinforced by the family history that has endured for over 120 years, it is also feasible that he may have been involved with the construction of a jetty at the beach. At this stage, however, the existence of a jetty at Wilson’s Beach prior to 1900 has not been confirmed. 

Records indicate that a jetty was constructed sometime between 1913 and 1918, and despite the shortening of its length before the removal of the main sewer line in 2010-11, its location and two-dimensional proportions over the years appear consistent. Whilst minor changes to the structure’s configuration and the replacement of historic fabric have occurred, the jetty continues to reflect the structure that was built in the early decades of the twentieth century. With this in mind, it is most likely that the jetty has been subject to large-scale repairs and replacement of fabric over the years, rather than wholesale reconstruction at any one time. 

Research has indicated that the jetty has long been considered a valuable public amenity. Located at Wilson’s Beach, a place of local recreation since at least the 1880s, the jetty is strongly associated with Remuera’s social history and community infrastructure. With a jetty having existed on the site for over 100 years and with many of the earlier boat and bathing sheds now gone, the structure remains a tangible reminder of the area’s recreational past and positively contributes to its coastal landscape. 

References and Images 

[1] Hobson Bay Regatta. Auckland Star 29 January 1885. 

[2] A Fine Prospect: a history of Remuera, Meadowbank and St John's. Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow, 2011.

[3] Harbour Board. Jetty at Remuera. Paperspast, Auckland Star, 26 July 1881. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS18810726.2.26.3 Auckland Star, Volume XII, Issue 3425, 26 July 1881 

[4] Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. Images: Hobson Bay sewer line. Photographer J D Richardson. 24 May 1931. 4-4498, 4-4499, 4-5685. Wilsons Beach. Wilson Photos. 1918. 7-11230 

[5] REMUERA BOATS SHOOTING THE SHUTE, WILSONS BEACH. REAL PHOTO POSTCARD Published by Wilson Photos 4917 [6] Wilson's Beach. Sewer pipe on left. Unknown photographer, 1920s. AWMM. PH-CNEG-C26980 


HOBSON'S BAY REGATTA. 

This little suburban event took place yesterday afternoon, and afforded considerable sport to several hundreds of onlookers. The results of the races are as under:— 

Pair Oared Skiff Race, for boys under 13. Prize, silver medal.—Buttercup: Joe Bennett (stroke), Bertie Hume, J. Tilly (cox). 

Pair oared Skiff Race, for girls under 13. Prize silver medal.—Buttercup: Adrian Brookes (stroke), Florence Mitchelson, Cecil Tilly (cox). 

Pair oared Outrigger Skiff Rack, for boys over 13. Prize, silver medal— Liston Wilson was the winner. 

Pair-oared Skiff Race, for girls over 13. Prize, silver medal.—Buttercup: Ella Carr (stroke), Minnie Wilson, L. Wilson (cox). 

Pair-oared Skiff Race, for boys under 10. Prize, silver medal. — Buttercup: Edwin Mitchelson (stroke), Fred. Bennett, Cecil Tilly (cox). 

Pair-oared Skiff Rack, for boys over 13). Prize, silver medal.—Buttercup: J. Tilly (stroke), A. Carr, S. Somerfield (cox.) 

Ladies' Race. Prize, 2 handsome bronze vases.—Daisy: Mrs T. Morrin (stroke), Mrs J.L. Wilson, L. Wilson (cox). 

Walking the Greasy Boom. Prize, a pig.—L. Wilson was the winner. 

Tub race; prize, value 10s.—J. Tilly. 

Duck Hunt; prize, value 10s.—J. Tilly officiated as duck, and A. Wilson as drake. Tilly having evaded capture, carried off the prize. 

Pair-oared Skiff Rack, open to all-comers. Prize, bronze vases.—Daisy: Mr Dacre (stroke), Mr Carrick, C. Somerfield (cox). 

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS18850129.2.31 Auckland Star, Volume XXVI, Issue 5469, 29 January 1885