21 October 2017
Descendants of Devonport pioneers Richard and Robert Duder were thrilled to take a tour of the former R & R Brickworks site this week, which is now destined to be Ryman Healthcare's 35th retirement village.
Parts of the site at Ngataringa Road in Narrow Neck are being carefully excavated by archaeologists in accordance with Heritage New Zealand requirements.
This work will enable the recovery of any remnants of the brickworks, which operated between 1875-1936.
Robert and Richard Duder's great-nephews John Duder and his brother Ross were joined by their cousin Nelson Webster, his wife Fran and daughter Susan for a tour of the site which has seen various reincarnations in the past century or so.
Before the brickworks were built, the land was used to graze stock. The twin Duder brothers originally leased it to another manufacturer before taking over the enterprise and building new facilities in 1890.
John said there had been a great fire in 1888 which had destroyed many of the wooden buildings in Devonport's Victoria Road. As a result, the council decreed that buildings in the main shopping area were to be built using brick only and demand subsequently rocketed.
The brothers were involved in various local enterprises which ranged from running the general store in King Edward Parade; they were also coal and firewood merchants and had interests in real estate, land sales and fire insurance.
"Much of the inner North Shore was built off this site," John said. "It was key to the way the area developed at that time.
"We want to celebrate that," Ross added.
The brickworks ran on and off until 1936 after which they became derelict and were then demolished some time in the 1950s.
According to reports, part of the 30-metre chimney fell over in a storm between 1934-1936 before being later demolished.
Patriarch of the family Nelson Webster said he remembered the kiln being there before he went to sea in 1956 and when he came back the Navy had built naval accommodation there. The Naval accommodation buildings were then demolished in 2003.
Also in attendance was Trish Deans from the Devonport Heritage Society who said laws to protect historical sites weren't in place when the Navy built their accommodation.
Trish said the Duder family had been pivotal in Devonport's history, with one of them even becoming the subject of a book and later a play called A Tangled Web.
The book detailed how the first member of the family to settle in New Zealand, Thomas Duder, who was father to Richard and Robert, was falsely implicated in the brutal murder of the Devonport signalman and his wife and child.
Fortunately, the common-law wife of the actual murderer Joseph Burns, revealed his crime and he became the first pakeha to be hanged in New Zealand.
The current excavation is taking place before the major earthworks for the first two blocks of the village begins.
Charlotte Judge is a Senior Archaeologist from Clough & Associates, which has been commissioned by Ryman to carry out the excavations. Fellow Senior Archaeologist Adina Brown is the Field Supervisor running the project.
She said so far a foundation section of a structural wall had been revealed, indicated by the compacted charcoal stained soil. The late 19th century roadway leading from Lake Road to the brickworks had also been uncovered, revealing a surface made of broken brick, glazed terracotta pipe and by-products of the brick-making process.
The team is now in the process of uncovering what appears to be the remnant base of a kiln used for firing bricks, Charlotte said.
"Unfortunately, when the Navy built their accommodation buildings the work destroyed a lot of what was here," she said.
"All the drainage pipes we've found here were from the Navy buildings and they just cut straight through the remnant foundations (of the brickworks)."
The brickworks site has been described as being a sizeable operation and was one of eight brickworks around the coastline.
"As well as bricks, the Duders made pipework, garden urns and decorative plant holders. Many of these products were shipped out of the area."
While the archaeological team agree that only a very small percentage of the site remains intact, they said valuable information relating to the history of the site and brick manufacture in the 19th and early 20th century could still be recovered.
One exciting find was a near-complete brick with the distinctive R & R Duder stamp marked on it.
John said: "It's been wonderful to come and see the site today and to hear all the information from Charlotte has been fascinating."
Ryman Healthcare's Group Sales and Community Relations Manager Debbie McClure told attendees at a recent public information meeting on the village plans that special measures would be taken to preserve any historical finds.
"We want to ensure that nothing of historic value is lost and we will be installing interpretation panels explaining the history of the site in the village," she said.
An open day is being held on 29 October at the site for members of the public to view the findings. The Duder family has also offered to lend their mementoes from the brickworks to display on the day too.
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About Ryman Healthcare:
Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns 31 villages which are home to more than 10,000 residents in New Zealand and Australia. Each village offers a combination of retirement living and aged care.
For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602.