Ahuriri was once an industrial port town, until its transformation beginning in the 1990s to a very desirable residential location, complete with bars, cafes and quality accommodation.
Port Ahuriri, until the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake raised the sea floor, was the main port, and as the photo shows the entrance to the Iron Pot and West Quay in the background.
The building past the Iron Pot belonged to Murray Roberts & Co (shown) a company founded in 1868 in Dunedin as wool and skin merchants, scourers, classers, fellmongers and general merchants.
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This building was completed on West Quay when the company began its life in Hawke's Bay in 1877 as stock and station agents Murray Common & Company, from a firm set up of the same name in 1875 in Wellington.
The partners in this firm were Sanderson Murray, John Roberts and William Common. William Common was sent to open the branch in Napier.
Murray Common & Co's building was built on sections 588 to 591 on what European settlers called Gough Island but Māori knew as Te Koau.
In 1874 the Hawke's Bay Provincial Government allocated £5500 (2019: $738,000) to complete reclaiming land on Te Koau and to create a wharf which would be known as West Quay, as it is today and Railway Quay faced the Iron Pot (now Customs Quay). The total cost of the reclamation was £13,500 ($1.8 million).
Twelve quarter acre sections on the West Quay frontage on the reclaimed land on Gough Island and Māori Island (known as Te Pakake for Māori) went up for sale in October 1874 and ranged from £500 to £1000 ($67,000 to $134,000).
In April 1879, a notice appeared in the Hawke's Bay Herald stating the business would be carried on in Wellington and Napier as Murray Roberts & Co. William Common left the company, hence the removal of his name, and moved to Gisborne, where he set up a firm there.
Nathaniel Kettle, who with Fred Williams formed Hawke's Bay stock and station firm Williams & Kettle in 1885, had arrived in 1878 from Dunedin to work as an accountant for Murray Common. His sister had married John Roberts, part owner of Murray Common & Co.
Murray Roberts had decided in 1912 to build a new wool store and merchandise office was built in Waghorne St, and the 1877 premises (now dilapidated) were taken over by Barry Bros.
The Waghorne St wool store was built with a steel frame at cost of £12,000 ($2 million) by well-known firm at the time Bull Brothers.
Administration offices were also built in town, when a lease was signed for £300 ($48,000) per annum with Sidney Kirkcaldie (Kirkcaldie & Stains) for a section on the corner of Emerson St and Marine Parade (which is now the Dome, formerly known as the T & G, then A & B building). (This building was in the hands of the YMCA at the time of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake and destroyed.)
The Waghorne St wool store constructed in 1912 for Murray Roberts was badly damaged by fire in 1923, but worse would come during the February 3, 1931, 7.8 magnitude Hawke's Bay earthquake.
Murray Roberts' old wool store on West Quay, taken over by Barry Bros, escaped fires, but was almost "shaken down". Wool could be seen bulging out of the building.
The new building of Murray Roberts in Waghorne St was destroyed.
Next door was Robjohns Hindmarsh and Co, whose building caught on fire. A fire wall between them and Murray Roberts stopped the fire from entering the wool and merchandise stores. However, a northerly wind blew the flames across the street to catch these buildings on fire. A southerly change blew the flames across to Murray Roberts and all the contents in the buildings were lost.
Fortunately, one of the Roberts family, Alex Roberts, during his time in Napier in 1911 had experienced an earthquake, and took out full earthquake insurance, so all wool clients were reimbursed.
Murray Roberts rebuilt their wool store in Waghorne St which was designed by E A Williams and built by W M Angus in 1931.
In 1961 Murray Roberts was taken over by competitor National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Limited (N M A), which was formed in 1877. This company would merge with Wright Stephenson in 1972 to become NMA Wright Stephenson, becoming Challenge Corporation in 1973.
Most of the companies that had wool stores along West Quay, Ahuriri, since the 1880s now form part of PGG Wrightson. This includes Murray Roberts, Williams and Kettle, Dalgety's and Hawke's Bay Farmers' Co-operative.
- Michael Fowler has two of his books for sale at the Christmas Bazaar at Arts Heretaunga in Heretaunga St – Historic Hawke's Bay ($65) and From Disaster to Recovery: The Hastings CBD 1931-53 ($15).
- Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is contract history researcher and writer.