Hokitika township, ca 1870s Original print Reference No. PA7-51-05-1 Photographic Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. Sourced via Wikipedia.
Back in August last year, I came across a report of the death of Ellen Castle in 1889, and posted it here.
True to the “research lab” aim of Timespanner, I now have further info on the family, and where they lived (in Waterview), thanks to a chance contact by someone who had an interest in the family.
Family tradition for the Castles apparently had it that George Castle (a) owned the farm at the back of the main Auckland Asylum buildings at Pt Chevalier, and (b) owned the first hotel in Avondale. Hence why I was contacted. Both memories passed down through the family were slightly distorted. I knew the owners of the farm at the back of the Asylum before the government bought it (see Wairaka’s Waters) and the name Castle didn’t feature. Neither was Castle the name of the first hoteliers – they were the Priestley Brothers. But, I was intrigued enough to look further.
George Castle arrived in New Zealand possibly in the mid to late 1860s. The first newspaper reference I found for him was as a store owner at Blue Spur, down near Hokitika on the South Island in 1868. The family apparently lived at Hau Hau. His wife was Ellen née Kershaw, and there were five children: Rose (1867-1883), May (1868-1949), Giles Alfred (1870-1939), Florence Victoria (b.1872, in Richmond, Victoria, the only one born in Australia), and Grace (b. 1874). In September 1869, George Castle purchased the Hau Hau Station Hotel for £90, also known as the Terminus Hotel (site for election meetings from 1870). Castle was a man of some means. In 1875, he was on a list of provisional directors of the Old Lead Sluicing Company, Hau Hau. We know that his Station Hotel was on a five-acre site, “securely fenced, including half-an-acre of Orchard in full profit,” by 1880, because Castle was attempting to either lease it out or sell it by then. By January 1881, he was trying to sell not just the Station Hotel, but another called the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, in Hampden Street, Hokitika – the reason given in his advertisements was “leaving on account of sickness in family.” He seems to have kept the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, renewing his licence in mid 1882, and adding onto his cottage in Hampden Street in March 1883. But in April, tragedy struck, when his daughter Rose died, aged 15 years and 10 months. The last sentence in the death notice, “Her end was peace,” gives us a clue that it may have been Rose’s illness which made her father try to move away from Hokitika a few years earlier.
In May 1886, the Marquis of Lorne Hotel was finally sold to a William Pearson, and the West Coast Times published this farewell in the 28th of that month:
“Another old resident, Mr George Castle, will shortly be taking his departure from amongst us. During the twenty years of his sojourn at Hau Hau, Blue Spur, and Hokitika he has been highly respected and esteemed and his loss will be greatly felt by friends scattered throughout the district. Mr Castle intends residing in Auckland, being attracted to the northern city by its mild sunny climate.”
They came to settle on a 3-acre property, set between Great North Road and the Oakley Creek (just across from the asylum farm), what equates today to 1582-1598 Great North Road, with their house likely to have been situated at 1594 Great North Road. All vastly changed now, of course – it was subdivided in the 1920s. George Castle formally obtained title on 16th February 1887, described as a gentleman, from Auckland. The house at Waterview was named Cheltenham Villa.
And then, in 1889, came the tragic death of his wife Ellen.
George Castle didn’t long outlive her. Less than a year after her death, George Castle, aged 65, died on 16 May 1890,
“somewhat suddenly owing to the bursting of a blood vessel. Dr. Bakewell was summoned by telephone when Mr Castle took ill, as he had known him for many years on the West Coast, but on arrival he found that death had taken place. Mr Castle leaves three daughters (one of whom is married) and a son. Dr. Bakewell stated that he would give a certificate of death as, although he had not been consulted by the deceased for many months, he knew that he was in a bad state of health.”
The Public Trustee administered the estate until January 1899, when the Waterview property was sold to James Neville Newbold.
So no, George Castle wasn’t Avondale's first hotelier –but he was definitely part of Hokitika’s heritage with not just one, but two hotels down there. And he didn’t own the asylum farm, but a much smaller landholding just across the creek. But, the family’s tragic story does belong as part of Waterview’s history.
West Coast Times via Papers Past
NZ Herald, Weekly News & Auckland Star
LINZ records: NA 36/36, and DP 20645