Industry in the West: Jack Diamond’s photographic record

Jack Diamond was a great explorer of the Waitākere Ranges, recording and reporting on historic sites for the Auckland Regional Authority, Auckland University and Waitematā City Council. Among the wonderful collection of images he took of archaeological remains in and around the Ranges is this one of the timber remains of a kauri dam on the south branch of the Piha Stream, showing the cill, main stringer and gate planks. You can see a model of this kind of dam in action at the West Auckland Historical Society’s premises in Henderson.

Dam remains on Piha Stream, 1955. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-04B-00068-2.

Jack Diamond often explored the West in the company of his wife and children. The J. T. Diamond Collection contains some delightful images of his patient wife Melville Diamond, here standing on an abandoned locomotive on the beach at Karekare. The remains of the train tracks were once visible, poking up through the sand.

Old engine at Karekare, 1953. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-05C-00705-1.

There is some information about this locomotive in John T. Diamond and Bruce W. Hayward's book, Waitakere Kauri

"This loco was used from 1873 to 1886 to haul timber from Pararaha Mill and later from Karekau Mill to Whatipu wharf. [] When the Karekau Mill closed it was offered for sale but with no buyers it was left on the line across the Karekare dunes and was gradually buried by sand." (Waitakere Kauri, 1980.)

Pit sawing in the bush up Huia Stream, 1922. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections,  JTD-07D-00329.

This log is 36 feet (10.97m) long and approximately four feet (1.22m) in diameter. Tom Higham, holding the saw, and Les Laing, with the timber jack, would have been cutting those huge planks by hand using a sawing pit. The timber was used to construct a punt (barge) which was built upside down on the east bank of the Huia. The punt was used on the harbour for transporting firewood from Huia and other places on the Manukau to Onehunga.

LynnMall opened in 1963. Co-owned by Farmers and Milne & Choice department stores, it was NZ’s first suburban shopping mall and was quite a novelty. Jack Diamond recorded the construction and opening of the mall, including images of the development of the enormously successful venture. This image shows two men at work concreting inside an extension to New Lynn's shopping mall, six years after it was first opened. The contractors are Wilson Rothery Ltd. of Ellerslie.

Additions to LynnMall, work in progress, 1969. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-11A-04016-1.

From its beginnings in 1905 to the end of the 1970s, Crum Brick, Tile and Pottery Company in New Lynn produced a variety of ceramic goods like roof and drain tiles, bricks, pipes, sanitary ware and… flower pots! Jack Diamond gathered ephemera, site plans, artefacts, stories and images of its long productive history, and also took a detailed series of images of the demolition of the buildings on the site in New Lynn between 1980 and 1982.

Flower pot machine at Crum Brick, Tile and Pottery Co. Ltd., New Lynn, 1966. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-11G-03196.

The “little red kiln” (J. T. Diamond) lay disused after a busy 30 years of baking bricks between 1926 and 1956, when it was closed down. The historic downdraught intermittent Hoffman kiln at the old Gardner Brothers and Parker’s Brickworks site is the only remaining downdraught kiln of its type in Auckland. Thanks to New Lynn Borough Council and local history enthusiasts it is now protected and its immediate area is a public reserve on Ambrico Place. The remains of the little kiln are protected from vandals and the elements and preserved for future generations thanks to conservation work which began in 1989.

View of the kiln in Gardner's yard, New Lynn, 1970. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-11G-04192.

In the 1970s it was still hot hard work loading and unloading bricks from the kiln’s wickets (opening) at the Amalgamated Brick and Tile Company's works at New Lynn. Amalgamated was exactly that, a number of brick and clay-work companies on sites around the west of Auckland, brought together under one name. Eventually it became part of Ceramco, one of New Zealand’s largest businesses, consisting of over 70 individual companies. It relied on manpower, even after the introduction of plant machinery in the 1960s, to produce the vast amount of clay products still in demand.

Wickets, Gardner's kiln, 1971. J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-11G-04688-3.

It's little wonder that Jack Diamond had such an extensive collection of material from clay industry companies. He looks very happy in this photo, searching through demolition debris at the brick and pottery works known as Glenburn in St Georges Road, Avondale. His collection, now an archive held at Research West at Waitākere Central Library in Henderson, is a wonder of meticulous research and documentation of West Auckland’s history, showing his undeniable passion for every aspect of the history of the West.

Demolition of Glenburn works, Avondale, 1969? Melville Diamond, J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-0043-T.

Author: Liz Bradley, Research West