His­toric Hawke’s Bay

Corn­wall Park has colour­ful his­tory

Hawke's Bay Today - - News - Michael Fowler His­toric Hawke’s Bay

Hast­ings was not a gov­ern­ment-planned town. It was cre­ated out of the fi­nan­cial mis­for­tune of Thomas Tan­ner, who in­tended his River­slea Es­tate, which com­prised about half of mod­ern Hast­ings, to be a sheep sta­tion.

Strug­gling to make his debt re­pay­ments to his fi­nanciers and on­go­ing pay­ments to Ma¯ori, he was forced to sell of part of River­slea in 100-acre (40ha) blocks.

When the rail­way line was an­nounced to route through Karamu¯ (Hast­ings) in 1873, one of the 100-acre block own­ers, Francis Hicks, gave land to the gov­ern­ment for free to place a sta­tion and goods shed. He then sub­di­vided his land, made a for­tune and dis­ap­peared to Waikato to farm there.

The other 100-acre block own­ers, see­ing the suc­cess of Hicks’ land sales, also broke their land up for sale.

West of the rail­way line was James Nel­son Wil­liams’ Frim­ley Es­tate. He too be­gan to sub­di­vide and made pro­vi­sion in 1898 for a 20-acre (8ha) park within his es­tate by gift­ing the land to the Hast­ings Bor­ough Coun­cil. The park would be called Corn­wall Park.

Though it might be hard to be­lieve to­day, coun­cils in those days could hardly spare any money to de­velop parks.

Over time as Hast­ings be­gan to pros­per from its ru­ral neigh­bours’ wealth, the coun­cil put money into Corn­wall Park by cre­at­ing sports grounds, plant­ings, build­ings — and even a zoo with mon­keys was added in the 1920s.

A pop­u­lar form of en­ter­tain­ment in the late 1800s and early 1900s was open air mu­sic per­formed from a band­stand. Corn­wall Park re­ceived a band­stand in the early 1920s, which con­sisted of a wooden dais. This was re­moved in 1927 when arte­sian wells were dug in that area.

Hast­ings ar­chi­tect Harold Davies de­signed a tea kiosk in “mod­ern re­nais­sance style”, and con­struc­tion be­gan in Novem­ber 1928. It would fea­ture Hawke’s Bay’s most novel band­stand.

The coun­cil de­cided to set up a sub­com­mit­tee to set rules for the kiosk’s op­er­a­tion and au­tho­rised the pur­chase of fix­tures and fit­tings by tak­ing £150 (2018: $14,600) from the Mu­nic­i­pal Theatre ac­count.

The to­tal cost of the kiosk was around £1225 ($120,000).

In­side, the build­ing con­tained a women’s re­stroom and a kitchen com­plete with gas rings for cook­ing. A servery opened out on to the seat­ing area un­der the cov­ered ve­randa. There were also toi­lets and a large in­side area for func­tions.

A fea­ture of the build­ing was a band ro­tunda on the roof that was il­lu­mi­nated by light pil­lars, which could be cov­ered by a can­vas awning in the case of rain. The roof band­stand was ac­cessed through an out­side door lead­ing to a stair­case.

To raise money for clean­ing and main­tain­ing the toi­lets, a penny-in-the-slot de­vice was to be placed in one of the doors.

In March 1929, the kiosk was ready for use, and a lessee was found — Mrs A Kirby. The coun­cil said in April 1929 the kiosk was be­ing suc­cess­fully run and pro­vid­ing a “most valu­able as­set to the park”.

Un­for­tu­nately, bur­glars tar­geted the kiosk with two break-ins oc­cur­ring by June 1929.

Busi­ness at the kiosk must have been sat­is­fac­tory, as in Novem­ber 1929 Mrs Kirby ap­plied for a re­newal of her lease. She had asked for the ren­tal to be halved over the win­ter months, but the coun­cil re­fused, threat­en­ing to call ten­ders. Mrs Kirby had sub­mit­ted an­other re­quest at the same time — to con­tinue the lease on the same terms as present, which was ac­cepted by the coun­cil.

When the Hawke’s Bay Earth­quake oc­curred in Fe­bru­ary 1931, Mrs Kirby re­ported that the kiosk was “not even cracked by the quake”.

The tea kiosk was man­aged in the 1950s by Val Cash for her father, who did all the cook­ing for the kiosk and other func­tions off­site, such as dances. He had taken over from Ge­orge Wool­ley.

Re­fresh­ments of­fered at the kiosk in­cluded ice­creams, milk shakes and sweets. The kiosk also sup­plied crick­eters at the nearby ground with af­ter­noon tea at 9 pence (65 cents).

Ac­cord­ing to Val Cash, a fire closed the tea rooms around 1957.

In 1967, a rough sketch over the orig­i­nal plans sug­gested al­ter­ations to the build­ing, to turn it once again into a tea kiosk or tea meet­ing room, and a dis­cus­sion was held with coun­cil of­fi­cers, but the idea got no fur­ther. It ap­peared the two open ve­ran­das had been closed in by ex­ter­nal walls at that stage.

The Hawke’s Bay Play­cen­tre As­so­ci­a­tion was given ten­ancy of the build­ing in 1970. They al­tered it dur­ing 1988, and the band­stand area was re­moved and re­placed with a cor­ru­gated iron pitched roof. The play­cen­tre also added an ad­ven­ture play­ground out­side over the years. In 2018 the Corn­wall Park Play­cen­tre oc­cu­pies the old tea kiosk.

I am tak­ing pre-or­ders for my His­toric Hawke’s Bay book due out in late Novem­ber, which is a col­lec­tion of my best HB To­day ar­ti­cles from 2016-2018, with ad­di­tional pho­tos and story ma­te­rial. The book has 160 pages with 26 in colour. Cheque to Michael Fowler Pub­lish­ing of $59.90 to PO Box 8947, Have­lock North or email be­low for bank de­tails. In­cludes free de­liv­ery in Hawke’s Bay. Please state if you want it signed. It will not be avail­able in book­shops.


The orig­i­nal tea kiosk build­ing in Corn­wall Park had a band­stand on the top roof ac­cessed by an out­side stair­case. It is now used as a play­cen­tre af­ter sig­nif­i­cant al­ter­ations over the years.

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