William Bramley Drive  1920
William Bramley

Served 1870 - 1889

Version 2  Major update July 2016
Photo taken by son approximately 1903, when William was aged 84
with wife Annie aged 67.
Not a lot of information on Bramley has been available in the past. Recently, however, Cheryl Styles, great-great grand daughter of William Bramley, has made available an extensive 58 page history of his work and achievements, and that study is the basis of this section, with only some small additions. It well provides an insight to his challenges during this period of our  history, which are often not immediately obvious 

David Hall, owner of the cottage built on Wesleyan land and sold to the Garden to be occupied by the Bramley's, offered himself as keeper to the Botanic Garden in 1869, and acted as such in a caretaker role until William Bramley was appointed, serving for approximately 1 year.


William Bramley played a key role in the establishment of this garden. Appointed in September 1870 aged 51, he served as keeper or head gardener for 19 years, retiring at age 70. There were many challenges, but fortunately the leadership of James Hector was decisive, but others also played significant roles during the formative years, among them John Buchanan, Alfred Ludlam and Thomas Mason who could provide scientific and technical support. Both Ludlam and Mason had established extensive gardens already, and would have provided much needed local information as well as many plants and trees. His challenges were not just horticultural, but his duty enforcing Victorian rules created many additional problems for him. In all this for most of the time he had the services of only one labourer, although his sons assisted at times as they grew up.


Early life

Life for William Bramley probably began in the first half of 1819 in the small village of West Leake in southern Nottinghamshire where he was baptised on 20 June 1819. His parents were Thomas and Mary Bramley who had married on in 1812 at Papplewick, which is located in Robin Hood country, Sherwood Forest, nine miles north of Nottingham. Nothing is known about his early years, although between 1824 and 1832 his parents were probably living in Hucknall Torkar and between 1837 and 1842 in Burton-Joyce, both in Nottinghamshire.

On 18 April 1842 William, aged 23, married Eliza Needham, giving his occupation as labourer and Eliza as dressmaker. In 1851 when he was living at Tarncote in the parish Radcliff, Nottingham, in the home of George, a merchant, and Mary Bacon, and was employed as a coachman

Later he was employed by land owner Thomas N. Champney, a 72 year old widower. Bramley's first wife Eliza died between the 1861 census and William’s marriage to Ann Maria Glover in 1863. Annie was a kitchen maid in the household of Hugh G. Robinson and his wife, Emma Robinson, a Church of England Clergyman. The family story goes that in 1863 William eloped to Gretna Green in Scotland to marry Annie. It is not clear why they felt the need to elope as although Annie was some 14 years younger than William, she was about 30 years old when they married and therefore she would not have required parental consent. However, it is possible that the master and his wife did not approve of her marriage, especially if William had just become a widower.

Ann (known generally as Annie) was baptised on 3 April 1833 at Walton-on-the-Wolds, Leicestershire and was the illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Glover

William is believed to have learnt his trade as a gardener on the estate of Lord Fitzmaurice in Yorkshire although nothing has been found giving details of his training or experience.

Life in Dunedin

Annie and William came to New Zealand in 1863 and lived in Dunedin for 7 years. Between 1864 and 1868 they were living in Leith Street in Dunedin with William working as a gardener. Later William farmed at Green Island south of Dunedin. Unfortunately the farming venture failed and in 1870 he and Annie decided to head north to try their luck elsewhere. William and Annie’s arrival in Dunedin appears to have been marked by the death of their first child, a daughter Elizabeth. She had been born at sea probably around the-beginning of 1863. Elizabeth died at the age of six weeks and was buried at Port Chalmers 1863. Annie must have fallen pregnant again shortly after Elizabeth’s death, as their first son, William Henry Glover, was born on Christmas day that year. A further four children were added to their family while in Dunedin. Their second son, Alfred, was born 1865 . A second daughter, also called Elizabeth, was born in 1866 but she, like her elder sister, died young and was buried 1866 in Dunedin. Their next child was a son, John, born in 1867 but he faired no better than his two sisters and was buried 1868. The following year William and Annie had another daughter whom they also called Elizabeth. Annie was obviously determined to name a daughter after her mother. The early death of three of their first five children must have been a sad blow for William and Annie’s new life in New Zealand but infant mortality in the 19th century was far greater than is experienced today.

During his service in England William saved at least £300 and in 1868 he sunk his savings into a farming venture at Green Island. However, this was not enough to set himself up as a farmer on the 50 acres he leased for an annual rent £2 per acre and the other heavy outlays of stocking the farm with animals and buying plant. One creditor to whom William owed £170 obtained judgement against him in 1870 and sold off his stock including some 19 cows which sold for an average of £4 10s. Some of the cows had cost William £20 so someone got a very good bargain. When adjudged bankrupt in early 1870 his only assets were a chaff cutter valued at £38 and some poultry. However, he had debts of £253. It had probably taken William the best part of 20 years to save his initial capital of £300 so the failure of his farming venture must have been extremely humiliating for William and Annie. It is understandable that they wanted to make a fresh start elsewhere, but at the age of 50, it was not going to be easy for William to start again.

William Bramley Drive in the Main Garden, named in his honour.  1880  View top
1912 view centre
Modern view bottom

William and Annie decided to leave Green Island and Dunedin and head north. On 21 June 1870 William, Annie (over 8 months pregnant with their fourth child, John) and their three children boarded the 286 ton vessel Airedale at Port Chalmers for the journey to Wellington. A month earlier William Carr Young wrote to Dr Hector of the New Zealand Institute (forerunner of the Royal Society of New Zealand) requesting him, for the sake of ‘auld lang syne’, to find a position for William in Wellington.

Carr Young wrote:

Dear Hector,

The bearer of this, Wm. Bramley, our old servant has been very unfortunate in his farm at Green Island and has been obliged to go through the Court. His is anxious to clear out of the province and try his fortune elsewhere. If you can find him employment in Wellington I am sure you will do so for “auld lang syne”and you will confer a great benefit on himself and his family – I know you can well recommend him as an invaluable servant without any testimonial from me, and I shall be very pleased to hear that he gets a good place in the service of a gentlemen who, I feel sure will appreciate him.

William Carr Young".

By the time William arrived in Wellington Hector had received Young’s letter and was able to offer William the job of the Head Gardener and Keeper of the Botanic Garden.

Life in Wellington

Just five days after William, Annie and the children arrived in Wellington, the Wellington City Council held its first meeting. It was also the beginning of a twenty year growth spurt for the city for in 1874 the population of Wellington was 10,500 but by 1891 it had grown to just over 31,000. William began his new role on 23 September 1870 for the princely salary of £80 per annum. He and Annie with their four children took up residence in a cottage within the garden. William had the right to keep one cow within the reserve provided it was not allowed to roam free. He could also, if he wished, cut the grass within the garden to feed the cow. Given his track record with dairy cows, William more than likely exercised his right and kept a cow near the cottage. Interestingly the right of the head gardener to tether a cow in the Gardens remains to this day. In 1872 William received a 25% salary increase to £100 per annum. It looked like William had landed on his feet again although he was still a servant and not his own boss which clearly had been his ambition in Dunedin.

The cottage was regularly maintained and kept freshly painted. However, after ten years living in the cottage, William reported the roof was leaking badly and requested it be repaired. At the same time he requested the addition of a small room to accommodate his growing family. By then William and Annie had six children, including Thomas born in 1872 and their youngest son and last child, Walter, born in 1876. “The house was not altogether of white pine, a few boards worm-eaten, shingle generally sound but want of a little zinc here and there. New lead gutters required between roofs, ground around house required lowering, a new bedroom absolutely necessary at most convenient place – to be rough lined, totara plates, remainder timber rimu and shingled".

Wellington Botanic Garden


The 1870’s were a period of significant development within the Botanic Garden and William was kept very busy propagating and planting out new specimens. For most of the time he only had one full time assistant working for him, although as his sons got older they helped their father with some of his work. In August 1877 William wrote to Dr Hector of the Board acknowledging a letter from him that he was expected "to meet the cost of employing labour to help with work around the garden". The propagating of trees was one the key functions as they were used as the nursery of the New Zealand forestry industry. He was also involved in maintenance such as stream clearing, fencing, seating as well as developing new paths and fences along the Tinakori Road frontage. During 1871-1872 over 2,500 trees and shrubs were planted in the gardens. In the early years, William was also the constable ensuring law and order was maintained. In 1876 he asked the Board to supply him with field glasses so he could keep an eye on what was going on in the gardens and ensure the new by-laws introduced that year were being appropriately observed.

Throughout the 1870’s and 1880’s the budget for managing the Gardens was £300 per annum. This provided a real challenge. The economic potential of the plants that were being raised by William was recognised, but produced little meaningful revenue when sold by the garden.

In 1886 Dr Hector established a Teaching Garden on the site of the present Sound Shell Lawn. This was to show immigrants what plants could be successfully grown in this county, and positive and useful features of the native vegetation.

Early years in the garden

David Hall, owner of the cottage built on Wesleyan land and sold to the Garden to be occupied by the Bramley's, offered himself as keeper to the Botanic Garden in 1869, and acted as such until William Bramley was hired in September 1870. When William took up his post at the Garden it was largely unformed apart from nursery beds near the entrance and a few tracks running through the area. William was already 51 years old when he took up his appointment but his experience and passion for plants enabled him to contribute to the development of the garden over the next nineteen years. In the 1870’s, after William commenced work, the garden was extended to its current area and William had more than 25.5 hectares of garden and trees to care for. By 1875 127 species of conifers were recorded in the Garden although many of these were planted before 1871. William’s appointment coincided with major development of the Gardens and his first year was taken up with removing the scattered briars and replanting them along the roadside to form a hedge.

Some of William’s work no doubt made him unpopular with neighbouring residents. In 1876 during a particularly dry spell, the Board ordered William to fill in and destroy the spring to stop people taking a short cut through the fence to fill up their containers with water. Letters of complaint made to the Board and the Superintendent of Wellington no doubt had little effect. During William’s time the Gardens underwent extensive planting and many of the trees he planted are still there today. Among them are two Linden Limes planted in 1870. Many pines and conifers were planted during the 1870’s and it seems William and his boss, Dr James Hector (later Sir James), had a liking for these trees. So much so, that William called his home in Glenside, Pine House. William has been described as a practical gardener under the direction of very able scientific men. He was fortunate that Young Carr’s recommendation to Hector came at a time when the Board were planning to commence improvements to the Botanic Garden. Horses were used for the heavy work although these could be quite expensive items. In 1882 the Board paid £15 for one horse although a few years later one was purchased for only £8. Gorse was a big problem and considerable sums of money were spent in grubbing out this invasive plant. No doubt it caused William considerable work over the years as the records show that in 1882/83 £42 was spent in clearing 19 acres of gorse. Gorse in the surrounding farms re-infested the Gardens making its eradication an ongoing task.

William was involved with the introduction of Camellias to the Gardens as early as 1871/2. During this period 100 Camellia Japonicas were planted.

On occasions those living near the gardens complained about the rubbish that had been dumped in or near the gardens. In early 1880 William cleared away a stagnant pond inside the gate of the Sydney Street entrance. However, the stench of the rubbish heaped up against the fence directly outside the Garden was reported as being unbearable and likely to cause an outbreak of fever in the neighbourhood.

An excellent record was kept of the work William did in the Garden and evidence of the activities between August 1883 and July 1884 can be seen from the notes of the year’s works during this period. However, it is unlikely that William wrote the notes himself as his signature on his bankruptcy papers in 1870 and on his Will (1903) and Codicil (1906) show a less fluent hand.

In 1888 William and Annie came very close to losing their home. On 11 March a scrub fire broke out. Although the fire raged fiercely and came very close to the buildings, they suffered no damage thanks to the timely intervention of Constable Whelan. The cause of the fire was put down to some careless smoker dropping a match in the dry grass. The previous year a fire had destroyed many of the outbuildings and sheds in the Garden as well as many of the tools used by William in carrying out his duties. Many trees were also destroyed by the fire, especially the Camellias

William, as special constable.

Life in the gardens was not always a bed of roses. Victorians had the same urges as now, but different moral standards applied. In his role as special constable William was to ensure that the visitors to the Garden observed the rules and the standards of Victorian society. On several occasions he arrested courting couples whom he suspected were getting a little too amorous and not observing the Gardens rules for decent behaviour. This often resulted in an altercation with William being assaulted on several occasions.

1876 Rules imposed on visitors to garden
(Note rules 3 and 5)

In February 1875 George Quick was charged with assaulting and threatening William when asked him to remove his dog from the garden. Quick said the dog would go when he and his friend were ready to go and not before. After repeating the request several times, William caught hold of the dog and started to move away. The dog took exception and Quick jumped up and threatened William that if there were not so many witnesses present he would smash him. Fortunately, a passerby intervened and Quick with his two friends, one human and the other canine, left the gardens taking the longest route possible. When sentencing Quick the Magistrate fined the defendant 10 shillings plus costs.

Just over a year later William was back in the Magistrate’s Court, this time as a witness in the case against David Lister and Florence Bushett. William had arrested them when he observed them going in the bushes and saw them ‘behaving indecently". William’s evidence was corroborated by another witness and the couple were each convicted and sentenced to gaol for one calendar month. They, however, fled the capital before they had to serve their sentences.

In November 1874 William had attempted to arrest Robert Mackay for indecent conduct and was assaulted for his efforts. However, during his evidence William explained that he had seen Mackay and a young woman in the Gardens “in such a situation that he was justified in arresting him for a breach of the regulations”. The young woman ran away and Mackay resisted arrest. In the ensuing struggle, William was roughly handled and a quantity of his whiskers was torn out. While being conveyed to the lock-up Mackay managed to escape in Woodward Street and ran away and entered the Diamond Hotel. The local police sergeant said Mackay was well known and there was no need to lock him up. Mr Barton acted for Mackay and in his defence stated that Mackay was courting the young lady and there was no evidence that her dress was ‘disarranged’ and in any event, William could not have seen the couple at the distance he stated nor could he have seen what they were doing from the direction he approached them.The Magistrate said there was very little doubt that both an act of indecency and an assault had been committed. He therefore fined Mackay 50 shillings and costs, or in default 14 days in prison.

The behaviour of the visitors to the Gardens appears to have been more circumspect over the next few years, although it may have been a case of the courting couples being a bit more discreet. However, in 1880 William apprehended Edwin Bligh for being a rogue and a vagabond and wilfully exposing himself. Bligh ran off but William recaptured him. Bligh claimed that he used only sufficient force against William to give his female companion, who was in a good position in the city, time to run away. Bligh was fined 20 shillings plus costs.

After this last episode, 61 year old William advised the Governors of the New Zealand Institute and Botanic Garden Boards that he would not be able in future to act as a special constable in the Garden grounds. William was relieved of his duties and the Garden included in the beat of the City Police. A couple of month’s later Constable Campbell was appointed to the Garden. However, this did not end William’s visits to the Magistrate’s Court for in September 1880 he gave evidence against two lads, Charles Wilson and Donald Fry, who were charged with breaking down a Wattle tree causing damage to the value of 10 shillings. Having been caught red-handed, they pleaded guilty, but as it was their first offence, they were discharged on payment of costs. Although the Garden initially benefited from the presence of Constable Campbell with fewer complaints about decency (or indecency!), William still reported in September 1880 that a few of the best roses had been stolen.

Police problems

A letter to the paper complained that Constable Campbell had a weakness for public houses and the authorities should do something about this. William also had his disagreements with Campbell. One day while walking with his daughter, Elizabeth, (about 11 years old at the time) he stopped to complain to Campbell about the nuisance being caused by dogs. In response Campbell replied “What the B.H. are you bullying me at old man. I’ll make you keep your place and if don’t shut up old fellow, I will bring you before the Superintendent”. William replied, “I shall bring you there, I intend to do so”. By 1882 Campbell had been replaced by Constable James Gleeson.

In 1887. William was appointed as a ranger of the Botanical Gardens under The Protections of Animals Act, 1876. William’s first appearance in Court occurred in 1874. On this occasion he was a witness in a charge of cattle poisoning brought against James Wilkens, charged with poisoning the food given to cows belonging to Thomas Wray Hall. William stated in Court that he had heard Wilkens say that Hall should think himself lucky that he had not poisoned more of his cattle. Although totally denying the charge, Wilkins was committed to trial. As an aside, in 1887 William’s eldest son, William, married Agnes Lamerton Hall, the youngest daughter of Thomas Wray Hall.

Horticultural and agricultural interests

In Dunedin William exhibited his livestock at the third annual show of the Agricultural and Pastoral Society of Otago January 1868. It was here that his young Aryshire bull won first prize. At the same show he received an honourable mention for his entry of three pounds of fresh butter. William also took first prize in this show for his small breed sow of any age. The following month William entered produce in the Horticultural and Floriculture Exhibition. William took three second prizes for his gooseberries and first prize for a brace of cucumbers. The next year William was a member of the committee of the Horticultural Society of Otago.

He continued to exhibit and win prizes for plants and livestock for many years, continuing his interest in Wellington, where the Horticultural Society had been established in 1841, a year after the colony was formed. He developed an interest in dairying, breeding animals, and farmed them over the years, his sons continuing the interest later in Wellington. Over the years he was an exhibitor, prize winner, committee member and judge. In his obituary appearing in the Evening Post in 1908 it stated that William had helped resuscitate the Wellington Horticultural Society.

Retirement

William worked at the Gardens until he was 70 years old, well past the usual retirement age.

In his letter of resignation William wrote:

"I do so with much feeling and regret as I have been connected with the Gardens since the year 1869, close upon twenty years. My reasons for doing this is increasing years of infirmity. As an old servant I therefore beg your consideration of a retiring allowance. I need hardly say a great portion of my time has been occupied in nursery work for the benefit of the colony as both seeds and plants have been distributed far and wide as the instance in of the General Government.

William Bramley".

The Board accepted William’s resignation with regret and decided to put his request for a retiring allowance before the Government. It is not known whether this received a favourable response.

The annual report of the Board stated that it was through “the untiring and faithful services and economical management (of William) that the Board was able to effect such extensive improvements of a public property with very limited means at its disposal." In announcing his pending retirement the Evening Post reported on 19 October 1889 that “The Board has always found a faithful servant in Mr. Bramley, and while his health permitted he was indefatigable in his attention to the gardens".

Bramley lime, large tree on left,
and looking north across the Duck Pond along William Bramley Drive

There are lasting memorials to William and Annie in the Gardens. They include the many fine old trees he was responsible for planting, particularly the Linden Limes. In addition, the main entrance off Tinakori Road is called William Bramley Drive. A bench seat still stands on the spot where Annie used to spend quiet moments and is called "Annie’s Seat"

After the garden

William planned in advance for his life after the Botanic Gardens for on 12 January 1881 he purchased section 20 at Glenside (called The Halfway until 1928), just north of Johnsonville an area of some100 acres. The property was valued at the time between £700 and £800. Initially the property was leased to a Mr Taylor leased as a dairy farm. Bramley built a house on the property for himself and Annie, surrounded it with pines and called it “The Pines” or “Pine House”. They moved into the house after William’s retirement at the end of October in 1889. However, he was involved in the breeding of stock before he bought the farm at Glenside. In September 1880 William advertised for sale two good cows that had just calved. Any interested buyers were to apply to William at the Botanical Gardens. Every day, come rain, hail or shine, the cows needed to be milked. It is no wonder that in February 1884 William advertised for a “steady middle-aged man without encumbrances” to undertake farm work. He must also be able to milk well. William made it clear that anyone who did not have these qualities should not apply for the position. It is assumed that this person was required to work on the farm at Glenside.

In his 90th year, William died of ‘old age’ at Pine House on 21 July 1908. He was last seen by Dr Hector the day before he died. William’s funeral was held two days later leaving his home for the Johnsonville Cemetery.

William believed in upholding the law and may well have had a black and white view of the rights and wrongs of life. He was certainly conscientious in ensuring that the appropriate standards of behaviour were observed by those who frequented the Botanic Gardens and was not averse to suing those he felt had wronged him.

He was also a successful and respected breeder of high quality Ayrshire dairy cows and from the advertising blurb it seems he was known throughout the lower North Island as having a good eye for premium stock. Although not a trained dairy farmer, he clearly had significant success with his herd at Glenside supplying milk to Johnsonville and the City.

Annie survived for almost another five years, dying 6 May 1913. Although Annie had not been in the best of health for some years, her death was comparatively sudden. She was still living at Pine House at the time and her funeral left there on 9th May. Annie was also interred at the Johnsonville Cemetery. Annie was seen by Dr. Robertson on the day of her death and the cause of was given as senile decay and syncope (i.e. loss of consciousness from a fall in blood-pressure). Annie was survived by all of her children, William (Wellington), Alfred (Palmerston North), Elizabeth (Mrs Field, Paraparaumu), John (Wellington), Thomas and Walter (both of Johnsonville). She died intestate and the Public Trust filed for letters of administration of her estate on 21 June 1913

William Bramley Obituary

"A genial personality, well known to early settlers was that of Mr.William Bramley, whose funeral took place yesterday at Johnsonville. He arrived in Wellington from Dunedin in 1870, and he was then appointed the first custodian of the Botanical Gardens, which were started in that year by a grant from the Fox-Vogel Government. At that time the gardens were wild and uncultivated, and many of the rare trees now there were planted and raised by Mr. Bramley. The deceased also helped to resuscitate the old Wellington Horticultural Society, with which he was connected for many years. He was the only member of the old school left who took a prominent part in starting the Botanical Garden."

Evening Post newspaper 1908

As Carr Young predicted he "proved an invaluable servant" to the Wellington Botanic Garden.

Our thanks to Cheryl Styles for making this article available to the Friends


Nurseries

William Bramley was the first director of the garden, but the work establishing it started earlier.  He quickly established the nurseries in the Garden to propagate introduced plants and trees, but there was an earlier nursery. 

By 1860 an expanding population in Wellington meant a call for land close to the city, both for town milk supply and for grazing horses used in transport. The nearest vacant land was the Town Belt but this was still under Crown control. To meet this need Governor Gore-Brown acting on his Council's advice, granted the Basin and Town Belt Reserves to the Superintendent of Wellington to be held in trust "for the purposes of a public utility to the Town of Wellington and its inhabitants." The Botanic Garden Reserve, however, remained with the Crown. A map drawn up and issued in 1861 by the district surveyor, G.F. Swainson, shows the lands previously reserved as well as the Town Belt and Basin Reserve now available for public purposes. The Reserve for the Garden still showed an acreage of 12 acres 1 rood 19 perches.

With these reserves now vested in the Provincial Council the Superintendent arranged for their administration by introducing "An Act to provide for the management of certain parcels of land in the settlement of Wellington." It provided for the appointment of a Board of six Commissioners to lay out the Town Belt except those areas reserved for specific purposes. Footpaths and roads could be formed and allotments leased for any terms not exceeding fourteen years with the proviso that only one house with outbuildings could be built on each allotment. The legislation also gave power to lay out, plant and enclose the Basin and to appropriate and preserve a portion of the Basin for a Cricket Ground.

In December 1862 the Commissioners were appointed and eight months later they informed the Superintendent that an accurate survey of the Town Belt's 1,200 acres was completed. These were divided into sixty-five allotments, the majority leased to thirty-one individuals for fourteen years at an annual rent of £600.3.9.

Although the Botanic Garden Reserve had in fact remained vested in the Crown the Commissioners let it to Mr David Robertson on the following terms:  "The reserve to be fenced, planted with a quick hedge and a belt of trees. To be given up at any time during the currency of the lease paying for improvements." ("Quicks" were hawthorns universally used at this time for hedges).

David Robertson was the sexton of the Bolton Street cemetery. He was an experienced gardener having learnt this trade at Bedwell Park in Hertfordshire before deciding to emigrate to New Zealand. His knowledge of plants expanded in his new country and in this he shared an interest with Sir George Grey. The two men together gathered ferns from the bush around Wellington to complete a collection Grey was to send to England. Robertson was also friendly with Mr R H Huntley, a teacher at St Mary's school.'

Bramley's nurseries shown dark green, from 1875 map of garden.
Dam for water at top of main nursery area in Nursery Glen.

  1910 nursery located on slope behind glasshouses, shown in  early photograph. One of Director George Glen's first installations was the Children's Play Area authorised in 1904, and built in 1905.  This occupied the area at the  bottom of Grass Way, in one of the older nursery areas.  It is possible that this 1910 nursery area between the glasshouses and up to Myrtle Way was established to replace the area used for the playground, and probably dates from several years earlier.

First planting in Garden a holly hedge, which still exists around current Fragrant Garden

First Nursery by Domains Supervisor Huntley was just inside Main Garden, exact location unknown,
was probably installed around 1867-69

In 1865 with the coming of Central Government to Wellington there was a need for the supervision and development of Government House Grounds and Domains. R.H. Huntley was appointed Domains Overseer. His views on his new position are revealed in a letter to his friend E.P. Ramsay in Australia. April 29, 1865

"I have left the school (St Mary's) after 20 years service as my health was failing fast. The General Governor wanted somebody having a little taste to undertake the management of the Domains and Gardens and thought I was just the boy so I accepted the place and am now installed as "Overseer" of the Domains and Gardens belonging to the General Governor of New Zealand in the Province of Wellington . . . Some miserable coon left a notice in one of our local papers to the effect that I had been appointed "Gardener to the General Governor". This gave me a good deal of trouble for the general run of gardeners here are of the worst possible quality. I have had not a little trouble to take up my proper station and have had to be very exacting in claiming my proper privilege as head of a Department . . . I am now preparing a place for the Governor at Lowry Bay (600) acres. Greenhouses are to be built and I shall be able to do any and everything as all the gardeners will be under my orders . . . The Government are likely to build me a house somewhere. When installed therein I shall be glad to receive you as a visitor."

It was not long before Huntley turned his attention to the Botanic Garden land, a Government Reserve. He was increasingly concerned at the damage being done by squatters who were not only removing trees but even building houses. He was anxious to find out who in fact did have jurisdiction over the Reserve.

On being told that ownership of the land remained with the Crown, Mr Huntley asked if a Crown Grant might be issued to the Superintendent of the Domain. Mr Huntley's involvement with the Garden continued until 1870 and he must be given full credit for his determination to see this Public Domain, as it then was, kept safe for the future.  He was involved in the establishment of the first nursery for the garden, located just inside the main entrance and the initial work was undertaken by Huntley before the appointment of Bramley . The arrival of a large parcel of seed from Kew Gardens in the UK prompted this decision.  After Bramley's arrival at the end of 1870, the nurseries were moved to the more convenient positions.

Early plant sales

Bramley played an central role in the propagation of trees and plants  donated or obtained by the garden.

In 1871-72 the Garden's share of the conifer seed was sown in the re-sited nurseries and with the exception of one species, germinated well. Seed was sown in pits with sod-sided walls and covered with manuka hurdles to keep off the sun. Water trickled gently on to the young plants. The construction of a dam at the end of 1870 made watering much easier. It was estimated that the sowing yielded 22,000 seedlings, but unfortunately magpies damaged over half of them. Seedlings pricked out into the nursery suffered most but those in pots escaped. As the problem was not a recurring one, Bramley must have devised some means of protecting the seedlings. Hector estimated there were about 1000 potted trees available for distribution from the sowings of 1871-72.

When the seedlings were large enough they were pricked out into nursery beds or into pots. Only the most valuable species or those intended for sending away were potted.  In 1871 the first clay pots to be used were ordered from George Matthews in Dunedin. The 36 dozen three-inch pots and 38 dozen four-inch pots cost l/5d and l/9d per dozen respectively. Shortly afterwards Hector found that pots made in Wellington were about the same price so the following year, an order was placed for 121 dozen four-inch pots from the local firm of Maslem and Company at a cost of 2/- per dozen.

When the young seedlings were lined out they were set in rows on the level spur between the keeper's house and were protected with brush. Six thousand of these young trees were estimated to be available for distribution in 1872-73. Each plant was lifted and balled, then packed in a case holding two to four dozen plants.

The financial return to the Garden for the plants raised and distributed was very low as seen from Hector's statement of accounts. Many recipients did not pay for their plants adding yet another strain on the financial problems that beset the Botanic Garden Board. A better return from plant sales might have gone a long way towards placing the Garden's finances on a more secure footing. Nor did Government receive much monetary return. Initially when seed distribution began, in order to cover costs, settlers, nurserymen and others were expected to pay for the seeds. Many took advantage of the scheme, but very few paid, so that most of the distributions were free.

However, at a Botanic Garden Board meeting in June 1877 Hector said the project was invaluable. Seed distributed in March 1877 cost £125 and was made up of forty-two species. It was distributed to major public gardens and 58 individuals in New Zealand, the share to the Wellington Botanic Garden being one-twelfth of the shipment. From this proportion 6000 trees valued at 6d each were raised. At this cost Hector considered that they were worth £150, so that the whole crop from the shipment was worth £1,800 in commercial terms.

Requests for plants came from many different sources not only close to the Garden but throughout New Zealand. Generally the pattern was similar to that for the seed distribution as plants were given to schools, churches, cemeteries, and Domains. The City Council asked for trees for planting the Town Belt and the Basin Reserve. The Provincial secretary wished to have trees for placing on the banks of the Hutt river and for the Asylum grounds [now Government House]. Trees were given to Wellington College and for the Town Belt behind it. Government required plants for the Domain [Government House], Government Building and the Gaol Reserve while the Customs Department required similar trees for the lighthouses at Pencarrow and Cape Farewell as well as for the Kaipara Reserve in Northland. Dr Truby King and Dr Bulmer requested trees and shrubs for the hospital grounds at Seacliff, Dunedin and Reefton respectively. Patea wanted Pinus radiata, P. maritima and Cupressus macrocarpa for the bleak public recreation ground and the Church of England Reserve, while the Masterton Domain asked for plants to initiate planting of their park. Members of Parliament and private individuals also sought plants.


The directors, keepers, managers, curators of the garden in order of appointment
Their titles have changed over the years


Directors and sources

David Sole   2003 -  Current manager