Friday, 23 August 2019

Mayor Lundon, auctioneer, and the Judea Sale Yards

The buying and selling of stock has been a significant enterprise in Tauranga well into the twentieth century.  The writer clearly remembers the excitement of sale day at the Judea stockyards, and is now grateful for the commuters’ corridor (Route J) created, in part, from stock paddocks where weary herds browsed overnight before the short push up and over the hill to be sorted and penned in wooden stockades at the corner of Waihi and Robins Road. Buyers and auctioneers had perches – narrow walkways, really – built as part of the fences so they could view the stock safely from above.  An elaborate system of gates and races, including sloped access ways (“loading races”) funnelled the sold yearlings, steers, heifers, milch cows and sheep into backed-up stock trucks. Unsold stock was the last to leave.

One of the last sales was caught on camera in 1982 [1] by my mother, Shirley Sparks. There was still keen interest in assessing quality, in noting prices, and in talking it over at the tea-table provided by the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers. The nearest pub was miles away, right in town, on the corner of Devonport Road and Spring Street.

A hundred years or so earlier, the Judea Sale Yards were new. Built about 1878 by the enterprising Jordan brothers, this important part of settler infrastructure went through a number of owners, including Messrs Paget and Hulme (1883) and W T Raymond (1899).  In 1889 they were being described proprietorially – “The undersigned will hold his next cattle sale at the Judea Sale Yards....” [2] - by Mr David Lundon, Auctioneer.

David Lundon (and here I am indebted to Debbie McCauley’s account of his life and multifarious activities [3]) had established himself as an auctioneer in 1888. Crucially to our story, he had been elected for the first time as Mayor of Tauranga in 1887, an office he held across three further elections, the last-occurring in 1892. In 1893 he successfully stood as County Chairman [4].

Not only were the Judea Sale Yards still quite new at the time of Mayor Lundon’s assumptions of high office. They were also outside the borough. He himself had business interests within the town as well as beyond it.  In the court case shortly to be described, the hapless County Clerk attested  that letters to the County Chairman were addressed, simply, “D. Lundon, Tauranga” and that Mr Lundon lived about  one and a half miles from the post office, in the County of Tauranga.

In the same case, the Tauranga Town Clerk deposed that, to his knowledge, Mr Lundon had a place of business in the borough, in a place then called the Haymarket, in Devonport Road. Since December 1892, Mr Lundon’s status as a licensed auctioneer [5] had been granted by the Borough Council. This happy arrangement had continued until 1894. But, in 1895, Mr Lundon – now Mayor of the County - sought to renew his auctioneer’s licence with the County Council. The fee for the licence, naturally, would therefore be lost to the Borough and payable to the County. The Borough sued.

The claim was substantial: £40; and was heard on 3 March 1896 before Lieutenant-Colonel Roberts, S.M. The question, which turned on where the would-be auctioneer had his place of business, was complicated not only by the fact that he ran sales at both the Haymarket, at Judea, and elsewhere in the Bay of Plenty; also, the Borough and County Council Chambers were at that time situated under the same roof. The Bay of Plenty Times reported at one stage that “Counsel [Mr Cotter, for the defendant County] and witness [J H McCaw, Town Clerk of Tauranga Borough] here had a long wrangle on the meaning of various words.”  [6]

There were other fine wrangles. Witnesses described more frequent sales at the Haymarket than at other places (Judea, occasionally Katikati and Te Puke), but larger monetary settlements at the Judea sales. Mr J Maxwell, storekeeper, also attested that if he wanted to do business with Mr Lundon he “generally found” him at the Haymarket. Wily Mr Cotter then elicited the information that Mr Maxwell “knew nothing of Mr Lundon’s business in the country as an auctioneer”.

This closed the case for the Borough. Mr Cotter, for the defendant County, took one last throw of the dice. He called Mr Lundon himself to the stand. David Lundon, practised as an auctioneer and politician, gave a dazzling display of portable efficiency: “always carried with him [his] auction book, cheque books, account forms and stamps for the purpose of carrying out the conditions of sale... always cleared up on the day of the sale”; a grasp of figures and percentages; and some special pleading: “[My] residence is in the County of Tauranga... [My] time when not employed as an auctioneer was devoted to other business at the Haymarket.” [Emphasis mine.]

Under cross-examination by the Borough’s counsel Mr Moss, he started well. “Considered Judea his principal place of business for four years and the business had grown enormously.  Took out his licence in 1892-3 and 4 in the Borough because he had not given it sufficient thought, had done wrong in that.”

But Mr Moss pursued the matter. Lundon’s story expanded. “Until [I] left the Mayoralty [of Tauranga Borough] never gave it sufficient thought, took the licence in the Borough as a matter of course.”  (We imagine Mr Cotter’s face falling.)  “In 1895 had no office in Judea, used the hedge as an office, at the other place[s] had an office in the hotels. Took [my] books always to Te Puke or Katikati for sales and afterwards took them back to the Haymarket. At a sale in Judea ... it is quite possible that a dozen [of about 50 purchasers] settled up on the ground but most of the purchasers would send their money by post to the Haymarket... ordinary billheads were marked Devonport Road and Grey Street.” (We imagine Mr Cotter’s face dropping into his hands.)

In a reserved decision, delivered at 10.30 am the following day, the Stipendiary Magistrate found that the usual place of business of the licensee David Lundon was at his auction mart in Devonport Road, Tauranga, and that the Borough Council was the proper authority to receive the license fee.  The County, in addition, had to pay costs of £7 19s 6d.

All photographs by and courtesy of Shirley Sparks.


[1]  Friday, 22 January 1982
[4]  For an example of the Chairman’s vigourous promotional gestures, see Stokes, A History of  Tauranga County, Dunmore Press 1980, p. 216
[5] The Auctioneers Act 1891 introduced the licensing system
[6]  All following quotes are from the same source.


  1. It would be great to identify the faces in Shirley's photographs! (We know two - the youth and the auctioneer.) Can anyone help with this?