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Auckland Brick and Tile Company

Location and Duration

  • Site is located in Auckland.
  • Dated to 1881-1886 (1895)
  • NZAA designation R11/1724
<googlemap lat="-36.858116" lon="174.65646" zoom="15" width="200" height="200" selector="no" controls="small"></googlemap>


Information from Best and Clough (2000)[1]

On 5 September 1883 the Auckland Brick & Tile Company was formed as a limited liability company.  One of the objects of the new company was:

The purchase for One Thousand Pounds from Mr. Robert Charles Greenwood of Fifty Acres of land situated in the Parish of Waipareira and being part of Lot number Twenty . . . And all the machinery plant and utensils now owned by Mr. Robert Charles Greenwood as follows namely: One Button’s patent dry brick machine moulded spur wheel for driving cross-head duplicate one first motion pinion duplicate one second motion pinion duplicate one duplicate crank pin finished complete eighteen yards of four fly hose [2]

The land mentioned was on the Whau River at Te Atatu.  It was part of a Crown grant of 123 acres made to Samuel Elliot in 1854.  It was subsequently sold to Thomas Henderson and Thomas McFarlane in 1882.<a href="#_ftn2" name="_ftnref2" title="">[2]</a>

The land and had all the requirements for a pottery.  Clay was accessible, wares could be easily transported to the Auckland market, and by the 1880s the banks of the Whau were a well established area of pottery manufacturing.<a href="#_ftn3" name="_ftnref3" title="">[3]</a>  Recent completion of the Auckland-Kaipara railway meant that this area was connected to the Auckland market by rail as well as sea and road transport.<a href="#_ftn4" name="_ftnref4" title="">[4]</a>

While the Auckland Brick & Tile Company clearly had the intention of purchasing land at Te Atatu, this did not eventuate for some months.  It seems that events out at Hobsonville caused a change of plan for the company. 

On 15 August 1883 Hobsonville potter Thomas Cater was declared bankrupt.<a href="#_ftn5" name="_ftnref5" title="">[5]</a>  Cater had a well established pottery which was sold to pay his debts.

The pottery was purchased by the Auckland Brick & Tile Company for £1250 and included in this price were 40 acres of land, buildings thereon and ‘machinery fittings and gear and tools . . . and all other the [sic] appliances’.<a href="#_ftn6" name="_ftnref6" title="">[6]</a>

Hobsonville, like Te Atatu, had good supplies of clay and access to markets over water.  Pottery had been produced at Hobsonville from the 1860s and the success of the neighbouring pottery, R.O. Clark, must have given the Auckland Brick & Tile Company cause for optimism.<a href="#_ftn7" name="_ftnref7" title="">[7]</a>

James Black, shareholder of the company and evidently a gentleman of some means, financed the purchase of the Hobsonville pottery.<a href="#_ftn8" name="_ftnref8" title="">[8]</a>

In December 1884 the company increased its assets, purchasing 50 acres of land at Te Atatu from Thomas Henderson and Thomas McFarlane.  This was part of a larger block which was subdivided and a portion sold to R. C. Greenwood, Secretary of the Auckland Brick & Tile Company.<a href="#_ftn9" name="_ftnref9" title="">[9]</a>  However, it seems that the company had been operating a pottery from this site prior to its purchase.<a href="#_ftn10" name="_ftnref10" title="">[10]</a>  The company also had a depot at the railway wharf and an office in Auckland.<a href="#_ftn11" name="_ftnref11" title="">[11]</a>

In 1885 the company exhibited its wares at the New Zealand Industrial Exhibition in Wellington.  On show were:

 ‘bricks made by the patent double-press dry process, the clay being taken from the bank into press, then straight into kiln and burnt without any further drying.  The company also show a collection of drain-pipes both glazed and plain largely manufactured from sea-beach clay.’<a href="#_ftn12" name="_ftnref12" title="">[12]</a>

By 1885 serious financial troubles had set in for the company.  Not only were they unable to honour the terms of the mortgage advanced by James Black on the Hobsonville property, but they had also mortgaged the property at Te Atatu.<a href="#_ftn13" name="_ftnref13" title="">[13]</a> 

On 11 October 1886 an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Auckland Brick & Tile Company was held.  The shareholders resolved:

‘that the company cannot by reason of its liabilities continue its business and that it is advisable to wind up the same and accordingly that the company be wound up voluntarily.’<a href="#_ftn14" name="_ftnref14" title="">[14]</a>

Following the demise of the Auckland Brick & Tile Company, the land, buildings and ‘machinery plant engines sails tramways implements fixtures and effects now standing’ were purchased by Pierce Lanigan, James Black and Daniel Fallon.<a href="#_ftn15" name="_ftnref15" title="">[15]</a> Lanigan, Black and Fallon were all former directors of the Auckland Brick & Tile Company who decided to continue the pottery trade under the name Auckland Brick & Pottery Company.  However, this enterprise was not a limited liability company as the Auckland Brick & Tile Company had been.<a href="#_ftn16" name="_ftnref16" title="">[16]</a>  It appears that the Auckland Brick & Pottery Company took over all the property of the Auckland Brick & Tile Company.  The company operated its brickworks at Te Atatu and pottery works at Hobsonville.  Like the Auckland Brick & Tile Company they had a depot at Breakwater Road and ran an office from the Victoria Arcade building in Queen Street.  The General Manager was Joseph Barber, former accountant and liquidator of the Auckland Brick & Tile Company.<a href="#_ftn17" name="_ftnref17" title="">[17]</a>

But the new business was no more successful than its predecessor.  By 1887 the New Zealand Herald lamented that the building trade was depressed.<a href="#_ftn18" name="_ftnref18" title="">[18]</a>  The market was flooded and prices for bricks were plummeting.<a href="#_ftn19" name="_ftnref19" title="">[19]</a>

In 1891 the financial situation had worsened.  The original mortgage of £1,200 raised by the Auckland Brick & Tile company in 1883 to purchase the pottery at Hobsonville remained unpaid.  John Black, who had purchased the mortgage from the recently bankrupted James Black, was now demanding the sale of the Hobsonville property.<a href="#_ftn20" name="_ftnref20" title="">[20]</a>  A public auction was held on 18 March 1891 and John Black purchased the property for £360 plus the unpaid mortgage.<a href="#_ftn21" name="_ftnref21" title="">[21]</a>  Later that year Black sold the property to the nearby pottery company R. O. Clark.<a href="#_ftn22" name="_ftnref22" title="">[22]</a>  This chain of events was repeated in Te Atatu.  Fallon was declared bankrupt in 1891.<a href="#_ftn23" name="_ftnref23" title="">[23]</a>  As Lanigan, Fallon and Black were unable to pay the mortgage on their property, ownership was transferred in 1893 to Walter Buller, to whom it had been mortgaged.<a href="#_ftn24" name="_ftnref24" title="">[24]</a> In 1895 the pottery was up for sale and in 1902 the machinery was removed with the kilns being demolished in 1906

Although the Auckland Brick & Tile Co. works was not one of the major players in the industry of the time, its historic interest lies in the attempt by the Company to employ a new technology. It was possibly the first to do so in the Auckland area. This was the use of the double-press dry process of brick manufacture, where the clay was neither mixed nor pugged prior to the production of the bricks, which themselves required no drying process before entering the kiln. Local tradition and archival research indicates that the venture was not a success, and that the works reverted to the more normal brickmaking procedures of the time, which featured the pug mill process and bricks that were extruded through a die and then wire cut. Such bricks are indeed found in the scatters along the shore, together with the pressed types. However, the kiln itself is built of this brick type, and it may be that the examples lying around the site are from the demolition of the kiln itself. The full physical layout of the site, and the technology or technologies used in the brick production process, can only be determined by archaeological excavation. Two other brickworks on the Whau River have been excavated: the Pollen works 2km upstream from the mouth (Best 1993) and the Burke's brickworks at the end of the arm by Avondale racecourse (Best and Clough 1998). The former started in the late 1850s, with first a clamp and then a Scotch kiln, using basic methods, which included preparing the clay with a horse drawn pug mill. The Burke brickworks was later, starting in the 1870s, and featured a large Hoffman kiln, possibly one of the earliest in the area. Archaeological examination, however, showed that this had subsequently been modified, and only a part of the 34 x 9.5 metre kiln was used, with a different firing regime to that originally employed.


<a href="#_ftnref1" name="_ftn1" title="">[1]</a>Companies Office file, Auckland Brick & Tile Company Limited, National Archives, Auckland, BADZ 5181 428 2445, Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association, p.3.

<a href="#_ftnref2" name="_ftn2" title="">[2]</a>Land Information New Zealand, Auckland, 9A, p.373,

<a href="#_ftnref3" name="_ftn3" title="">[3]</a>D. Goodall, ‘Manufacturing in the Western Districts of Auckland’, unpublished thesis, University of Auckland, 1965, p.64.

<a href="#_ftnref4" name="_ftn4" title="">[4]</a>Myfanwy Eaves, ‘The Heavy Clay Industry in Auckland’, unpublished thesis, University of Auckland, , 1990, p.17.

<a href="#_ftnref5" name="_ftn5" title="">[5]</a>New Zealand Herald, 16 August 1883, p.8.

<a href="#_ftnref6" name="_ftn6" title="">[6]</a>Land Information New Zealand, Auckland, R5, p.759.

<a href="#_ftnref7" name="_ftn7" title="">[7]</a>Dick Scott, Fire on the Clay, Auckland, 1979, p.103.

<a href="#_ftnref8" name="_ftn8" title="">[8]</a>Black owned several plots of land around Auckland and he later used these as security to raise loans for the company. Land Information New Zealand, Auckland, R5, p.759 and R15, p.748.

<a href="#_ftnref9" name="_ftn9" title="">[9]</a>Land Information New Zealand, R10, p.940.

<a href="#_ftnref10" name="_ftn10" title="">[10]</a>Companies Office file, Auckland Brick & Tile Company Limited, National Archives, Auckland, BADZ 5181 428 2445, Letter to Registrar of Public Companies, 2 July 1884.

<a href="#_ftnref11" name="_ftn11" title="">[11]</a>Ibid., Letter to Registrar of Public Companies, 2 July 1884.

<a href="#_ftnref12" name="_ftn12" title="">[12]</a>New Zealand Industrial Exhibition 1885, Wellington, 1886, p.46.

<a href="#_ftnref13" name="_ftn13" title="">[13]</a>Land Information New Zealand, Auckland, R25, p.208 and Vol 37, Folio 266.

<a href="#_ftnref14" name="_ftn14" title="">[14]</a>Companies Office file, Auckland Brick & Tile Company Limited, National Archives, Auckland, BADZ 5181 428 2445, Letter to Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, 23 March 1887.

<a href="#_ftnref15" name="_ftn15" title="">[15]</a>Land Information New Zealand, Auckland and Vol 37, Folio 266.

<a href="#_ftnref16" name="_ftn16" title="">[16]</a>There is no record of the Auckland Brick and Pottery Company being registered with the Companies Office. National Archives, Auckland, Index of New Zealand Companies.

<a href="#_ftnref17" name="_ftn17" title="">[17]</a>Companies Office file, Auckland Brick & Tile Company Limited, National Archives, Auckland, BADZ 5181 428 2445, Correspondence dated 23 March 1887 and Cleaves Auckland Directory, 1891, p.458.

<a href="#_ftnref18" name="_ftn18" title="">[18]</a>New Zealand Herald, 7 July 1887, p.6.

<a href="#_ftnref19" name="_ftn19" title="">[19]</a>Scott, p.106.

<a href="#_ftnref20" name="_ftn20" title="">[20]</a>New Zealand Herald, 7 February 1891, p.8 and Land Information New Zealand, Auckland, R38, p.835.

<a href="#_ftnref21" name="_ftn21" title="">[21]</a>Ibid., R38, p.835.

<a href="#_ftnref22" name="_ftn22" title="">[22]</a>Ibid., R38, p.836.

<a href="#_ftnref23" name="_ftn23" title="">[23]</a>New Zealand Herald, 14 September 1891, p.8.

<a href="#_ftnref24" name="_ftn24" title="">[24]</a>Land Information New Zealand, Auckland, Vol 37, Folio 266.



  • Preliminary investigation in 2000


  1. Best, S.B, Clough, R. E. 8 Mar 2000. The Auckland Brick and Tile Co. Site, Whau Creek, Te Atatu, Auckland (R11/1724): Section 18 Investigation. Unpublished report prepared for Waitakere Properties.
  2. Companies Office file, Auckland Brick & Tile Company Limited, National Archives, Auckland, BADZ 5181 428 2445, Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association, p.3