Friday, 3 May 2019

The Yorkshire Grey Hotel

The Yorkshire Grey Hotel, Cameron Road (looking south), Tauranga
Auckland Library Sir George Grey Collection Ref. 3-Album-45-27
The recent discovery of a photograph in the Auckland Libraries collection by Steve Vergeest and Fiona Kean is a windfall for local Tauranga history. Local historians had been under the impression that there were no photographs of the hotel that stood on the west side of Cameron road on the corner of 6th Avenue. In fact A C Bellamy, editor of "Tauranga 1882-1982: The Centennial of Gazetting Tauranga as a Borough," wrote that in the book as did the late Jinty Rorke, an authority on Tauranga history. B S Corlett designed the hotel and David Lundon built it. The original building that had additions made within a few years was two storied with bar facilities and parlour on the ground floor, and bedrooms and bath upstairs. The Cameron Road frontage measured 55 feet, and 66 feet on 6th Avenue. It was connected to Piercy’s house that had several more rooms and there was a brick cellar on 6th Avenue side where the land sloped away. The stables stood back at the rear.

The owner Mr Hartis Piercy and licensee John Daniel Faulkner, Piercy’s son-in-law, saw the hotel opened on 1 January 1882. The name of the hotel remembered the home county of Hartis Piercy.

A financially secure position for the Yorkshire Grey was never reached and the ownership of the building and the licences frequently changed. Familiar names in early Tauranga followed Piercy and Faulkner: Menzies, Peter Grant, Timothy Kenealy, Thomas Tanner, James Taylor, AB and W Griffiths, John Johnson, and Hancock & Co.  It was Johnson who took the licence to Rotorua to the existing Palace Hotel, and the Yorkshire Grey, Cameron Road, Tauranga ceased to function as a hotel in 1895.

However, during its day the hotel saw a variety of events from accident victims brought in to await the doctor’s visit, attempted suicide, theft of guests’ property and a small fire, perhaps a warning of things to come. Another function of the hotel, this time the stables, was the presentation of stallions for stud purposes. These horses visited all the local towns and stables and the Bay of Plenty Times advertised their presence at the stables of the Yorkshire Grey.

Cameron Road (corner 6th Avenue, looking south), April 2019
Photograph courtesy of Fiona Kean
A race, described as a “match” in the Bay of Plenty Times between Alfred Clayton, a surveyor and Billy Duncan was to be run between Ohinemutu to the Yorkshire Grey “go-as-you-please-“for £50. The betting favoured Duncan and he won half an hour ahead of Clayton. Duncan covered 42 miles in 6 hours 23 minutes. A horse race took place between Mr Harley’s mare ‘Winnie” and Mr John Kennedy’s “Prince” for £20. The horses would leave the Waihi Hotel at 7 a.m. and the winning post was the Yorkshire Grey. It was to be held on the day before the Tauranga races and several coaches were to follow.

The Hospital and Charitable Aid Board proposed to buy the premises to become the Victoria Hospital in 1898, it having stood empty for some years except for its use as venues for various community meetings. However, opposition came from Whakatane and Opotiki who believed that Tauranga would use more than their share of the Board’s funds. There was also talk of removing the building to the hospital reserve. It was, however, only used briefly as a “fever hospital”.

A small private school, Queen’s College, moved into the building in 1898, with the headmaster Mr Jeremiah Murphy and among his pupils Elva Phoebe Brain, who later become a generous benefactor to the Tauranga Historical Society. Mr Murphy died following a fall from the balcony of the building where he resided, most likely the Yorkshire Grey, in 1903. Arthur M Coles succeeded Murphy but he too suffered a sudden death.  While successfully rescuing nine year old Arthur David Padlie from the Waikareao Estuary Coles died in the water. The end came for the Yorkshire Grey when a member of the Fire Brigade set fire to the building. Eighteen year old Arthur David Padlie pleaded guilty setting fire to the Yorkshire Grey in January 1918.

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