The Glen District of East Auckland, from 1843

Taylor Family. General Taylor and his 4 eldest sons

Glen Innes Homestead, West Tamaki Road, Glendowie

Taylor Farms in the 1800s

At a Remuera Heritage event on 9 September 2022 Vivienne Wilson spoke about her Taylor ancestor Lieutenant General William Taylor and the houses he and his family built in Auckland.  This is Vivienne’s story of the Glens.

Glen Taylor, Glen Innes, Glendowie , Glen Orchard, Glen Oaks & Glenbrae.

Have you ever wondered why so many places in East Auckland (and also in the Waikato and Rodney areas) have the word “Glen” in their names?

My ancestors are responsible for this, by naming their properties with a Scottish theme, as they were the off-spring of Scottish parents, and were all educated in Edinburgh. However, their lives before coming to New Zealand were quite exotic. Let me tell you therefore some history today about my forebears, the Taylors of Tamaki, a Scottish family who played an important part in Auckland’s early history.

To begin, we venture back to Scotland six generations from myself, to the early 1700’s, to John Taylor, a wealthy merchant of Crieff, whose eldest and very intelligent son William (1748-1825), was sent to study at Glasgow University where he gained a Doctorate in Theology and became a Presbyterian Minister, first preaching at Baldernock Parish Church where he met his future wife Christian Allan whose wealthy family owned an estate in Bardowie. On the edge of this estate was a very pretty vale and walking path named Glen Orchard which is still there today, now containing a first class golf course.

Rev Dr William Taylor & his wife Christian had 4 sons and a daughter. William was later appointed by the Scottish General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church as Moderator of all the Glasgow Presbyterian churches, at a time when major changes were taking place within Protestant churches; one example of change was music and hymns were being introduced which older members of the church did not agree with! In 1812, William was appointed as King’s Chaplain by King George III which added to his standing within the wider Church throughout Scotland and he could now wear a scarlet cassock. This no doubt pleased him as he had often bemoaned the fact that his previous black cassock became dusty when he was controlling the Stirling Library in earlier times. He gained a good reputation for lengthy but very intelligent sermons. He was based at St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, and owned quite a few rental properties within the city.

He and his wife Christian were extremely good parents to their 5 children, and instilled in their children the importance of a first class education, and empathy and commitment to the wider community. These traits have amazingly been passed down through the generations of my family since then. Their children spent many happy times on holidays at their Allan grandparent’s estate in Bardowie, which had been their mother’s childhood home. They loved walking and playing in the nearby Glen Orchard vale so had very fond memories of it, which would last a lifetime. Oldest son John Taylor, in 1817 after finishing his education, sailed to live and buy land in Jamaica, where their neighbours the Buchanans had gone to settle. He set up a coffee plantation there which he named Bardowie. It still has that name today. Later generations would repeat that name on properties at Cambridge and also on a beach house at Milford.

Over the 18th and 19th centuries thousands of Scots left their homeland for overseas destinations, where they believed better opportunities awaited.

William and Christian’s third child was also named William, born in 1790, who joined the Army Training College for the British East India Company in England at 15 years of age, after completing an excellent school education.

After nearly 2 years training, William sailed for India. Thence began a long association of over 55 years with the country of India. In his employment in the east Indian Army he began working as an army officer under the command of Major General James Innes, who would later become his father-in law. William married James Innes’s daughter Barbara Innes whose mother was Persian. We believe she was quite a beauty. (As an aside, we have since traced her lineage back through 44 generations and she has a better lineage than our present Queen!! Through Sir James Stewart, Queen Joan of Scotland, William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine, John of Gaunt, King Edwards III, II and I, Kings Henry III, II and I , Richard II and I, William Longsword to Viking Kings and Kings & Queens of Scandinavia. Quite a lineage!)

William married Barbara Innes in Secunderabad, India in 1820. In 1821, their eldest son William Innes Taylor, who named Glen Innes, was born, followed by sisters Christiana (1823) and Barbara (1824).

The family had a trip back to Scotland for 18 months when Rev. Dr. William Taylor fell ill and died. The family travelled back to India in 1826. But with diseases rife in India at the time, many wives of soldiers died at young ages, including Barbara. After giving birth to Charles John, (1826), Mary (1827), Richard (1829), Allan (1832) George (1835), and John (1836), sadly Barbara died upon the birth of John.

After Barbara’s death , William sent the children back to Edinburgh, Scotland to be educated, to be looked after by a Mrs Jane Pirie, who ran a boarding establishment in Edinburgh, for children of East Indian Army personnel. The children all received an excellent education, all the while receiving regular correspondence from their father in India. In their holidays the children spent many happy hours also on the property at Bardowie where their father had spent many happy times and with their father’s brother Richard, an advocate, who was their official guardian whilst the children were in Scotland.

General William Taylor remained in India for 55 years, rising through the ranks to become Major General of the British East Indian Army. His work covered most of India, as well as Singapore and China, in his army career of many travels, especially around India.

When nearing retirement, and looking for futures for his children, and not wanting to return to the cold of Scotland, General William Taylor bought a land package, sight unseen, from his previous Colonel, Colonel Thomas Bunbury, who had visited New Zealand and purchased land in St. Heliers. This land had only a basic small raupo cottage on it.

General Taylor then wrote to his eldest son William Innes Taylor (23 years) who was learning farming on a large estate in Scotland, and instructed him to sail for New Zealand forthwith, with funds supplied by his father (2000 pounds) to purchase more land so that his siblings could also come out and settle in later years as they left school. William Innes met a young man by the name of James Cawkwell on the sailing ship and the two set up camp on the shores of the Tamaki Estuary after their arrival in Auckland in 1843. Over the next two years they built scoria walls and cleared pasture. Over the next 7 years other Taylor siblings arrived.

William Innes Taylor named his farm Glen Innes after his mother Barbara. When Richard arrived in 1846, he named his property Glendowie. Both brothers built large two storied houses on their farms after they married. The site of Glen Innes homestead is now Glen Taylor School and is marked by the very large Morton Bay Fig tree today. The Glendowie homestead was moved out to the Franklin area and the land is now the site of the Roman Catholic Church in Maskell Street, St. Heliers. The portion of land originally bought by their father had a large house built on it in time for the General’s retirement at 65 years, and was named Glen Orchard. That house still stands today on the rise above St. Heliers Bay and is at 91 St Heliers Bay Road. At a later time it had a second story added to it. Allan Kerr-Taylor arrived as a 16 year old in 1849 and bought land at Mt. Albert which he named Alberton but which his brothers jokingly named Morningside after the lunatic assylum in Edinburgh, as they thought him completely mad to buy such poor, swampy land covered in scoria. At the corner of his 550 acres was Cabbage Tree Swamp where family members would go canoeing after church on Sunday and is now the site of Eden Park. His home was built in an Indian palace style in 1863.

George and John arrived in 1850. They went to Whangarei and built a house which became the signal station for sailing ships entering the early port, as it was built on the Orini point above the water. The second son Charles spent some time in India as an advocate after schooling and then followed his siblings to New Zealand arriving in 1851. He did not fancy farming, although he dealt in land purchases, so bought a house in Symonds Street, becoming a business man and being on many boards of early colonial companies set up by William Innes, including BNZ (1861) and founding boards of South British Insurance, N.Z. Loan and Mercantile, N.Z Insurance, NZ shipping Co, and dealing in land transactions. All of the brothers were on the boards and shareholders of these companies. William Innes purchased 1000 shares in BNZ for 10 pound a share and did very well from this investment. All brothers were title holders of Auckland Racing Club and bred horses. They founded the Pakuranga Hunt and often held the hunt on their lands. Several of the brothers were on the Auckland Roads Board and acted as advocates and Justices of the Peace in the early Magistrate’s Court. Charles later was on the Legislative Council as an early Member of Parliament. He later returned to England where he also became a Member of Parliament at Westminster.

The farms were well set up. The houses were all large two storied buildings with verandas. They were described as being extremely attractive farms with scoria rock walls and neat farm buildings. There was also a cowman’s single storied house on the corner where Elstree and West Tamaki Road is today.

Glen Orchard was completely rebuilt into a much grander house after General William Taylor retired to New Zealand aged 65 years. He brought with him his 3 Indian servants who caused quite a stir in their turbans in colonial Auckland after their arrival. They had a small flat off the back of the house. The General became well-known and respected in early Auckland. When he died at age 77 years his funeral procession stretched 4 miles from St. Heliers down to St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church at Glen Innes, for which he had supplied the land and had had built, and he named it after his father’s church in Glasgow. His monument is the tallest in the graveyard there today, by the back wall of the now modern church occupied by the Pacific Island Church. There are around 50 members of the extended family interred there in the graveyard.

It is interesting to note that General Taylor remained a staunch Presbyterian to his dying day, but his sons all became Anglicans as no one could hold any public office in early Auckland unless they were of Anglican faith. As the brothers all became involved in many organisations, they changed their religion to Anglican. Allan gave the land for St Lukes Anglican Church in Mt. Albert and supplied money for the church building.

Glendowie farm and homestead, owned by Richard Taylor on Maskell Street, was purchased in the next century by the Roman Catholic Church and used as a priory for many years. When the church wished to build a new building the house was sold off and transported to a farm out at Port Waikato. The Catholic Church remains on the site today surrounded by the huge oak trees that were part of the original Glendowie garden. Nearby is a subdivision of land named Glen Oaks.

Glen Innes homestead was in West Tamaki Road where Glen Taylor Primary school is today, a site notable for the very large Morton Bay Fig tree on the front lawn. That tree was planted by William Innes Taylor in his garden. Another part of the original Glen Innes estate has the Glenbrae Primary School on it today.

A new Georgian mansion was built in the 1930’s on what was once Glen Innes Estate, but further towards the Tamaki Estuary at 268 West Tamaki Road. It was commissioned by Sir Kenneth Myers and also named Glen Innes. It is now owned by the School of Philosophy who have renamed it Glendowie. It has views over the Tamaki Estuary and also to Mount Taylor and adjoins Sacred Heart College. The adjoining suburb is named Glendowie also.

All brothers did extremely well financially, with investments in farming, banking, insurance, gold mining, shipping, kauri milling, and horse breeding. Allan as chair of the A&P association, became known as the best judge of horses in Auckland and sourced horses for many notable residents.

In 1889 the world experienced a financial collapse when the Bank of Scotland failed. This triggered a domino effect all around British colonies. It affected the Taylor family especially as they had investments in all aspects of Auckland’s economy and were large shareholders in the Bank of NZ. However, the Taylor brothers were lucky in that they all had large tracts of land to hold them solvent. (The sisters in the family were not so lucky, having their inheritances in investments only). Then began sales of family land in order to retrench. William Innes bought farms for his family in the Waikato named Bushy Park Gordonton, Glenfoyle outside of Hamilton, Bardowie at Cambridge, and Greenhill on Taylor’s Hill Te Awamutu. Richard’s family settled the Waiuku area. Allan’s family moved out to Kaipara to the family’s weekend estate now known as The Hunting Lodge but then named Glendale. This was subdivided for his sons into farms known as Ngaio Glen, Busholme , and Pine Lodge. Charles and family returned to Britain. Also John, the youngest Taylor brother, returned to Britain.  Charles later became a Member of Parliament in Westminster.

The Taylor family’s legacy lives on in the many names such as Glen Innes, Glendowie, Glen Taylor, Glen Orchard, Mount Taylor, Mt Taylor Drive, Taylors’ Road ( St. Lukes), Alberton Avenue, Kerr-Taylor Avenue (Mt Albert), Taylor Road Waimauku, Taylor Road Kingseat, Taylor Road Gordonton, Bardowie Estate Cambridge, and Taylor’s Hill Te Awamutu. The Scottish name Glen continued to feature in their daily lives and still lives on in the extended family today. All of these early settlers left quite a legacy, witnessed by the gift of the native bush reserves, one named after Millicent Kerr-Taylor (gifted to the Council by my cousin Verna Collins) and the Colin Kerr-Taylor Bush Reserve both in Taylor Road Waimauku, gifted to Forest and Bird NZ by my sister Yvonne Hollier and myself. Also the wonderful gift of Alberton, the first historic house totally gifted to the nation in 1972 by Muriel Kerr-Taylor, along with its furniture, to the Historic Places Trust, now known as Heritage NZ. This is a wonderful asset used in many ways for weddings, film and photo shoots, private parties, art exhibitions, concerts, Devonshire tea parties, and meetings and has been open to the public since 1973.