Wednesday, 20 February 2019

"Brock's Folly" - the mansion that never was.

The Dunedin suburb of Brockville has had a mixed reputation over the years.  Its name comes from Frederick Brock-Hollinshead who bought the land, began the building of a large and impressive house suitable for a Gentleman, and then left.  The foundations and cellar of his house sat on the land for years after, becoming known as "Brock's Folly."

The family are connected with another abandoned property, back home in Lancashire.  Hollinshead Hall was an 18th century manor house, built on a site used since the 14th century, the setting of "many parties and merry revels" according to the sign at the ruins.  In the mid-18th century the manor was inherited by a nephew of the owner and the Brock family hyphenated its name with that of Hollinshead.

It was sold by the Brock-Hollinshead family in 1845 - so it is possible that Frederick arrived in Dunedin seven years later, with his share of the proceeds, to invest in a new life as a gentleman farmer in the small colony of Otago.

Shipping News.

ARRIVED. June 13, the schooner Twins, 41 tons, Sharpe, master, from Pott Victoria. Passengers — Mr. and Mrs. Hollingshead, and 4 servants — Master, agent. 15th, the Government brig Victoria, 200 tons, Captain Deck, from Wellington, with despatches. 17th, the barque Louisa, 306 tons, Plant, master, from Sydney. Passenger — Alex. Stuart, Esq. — Stuart & Robison, agents. 
IMPORTS. In the Twins: — the personal effects, agricultural implements, and daily utensils of Brock Hollingshead, Esq. -Otago Witness, 19/6/1852.

About six months ago a gentleman arrived here, a settler, named F. Broke Holinshead. [Frederick Brock-Hollinshead, of the 17th Lancers, brought £20,000 with him, and commenced to build a mansion in a part of Halfway Bush to which he gave the name of Brockville. Hocken says: "The name and extensive foundations remain to this day." (1898). Brock-Hollinshead was one of Cargill’s nominators for the Superintendency. He soon returned to England.] He has chosen eight sections in our neighbourhood, and is preparing to build a fine house. He has already formed a fine road to the place at his own expense. It has already cost him £200. He pays about £25 in wages weekly, and seems to be doing good in the place.  -The Journal of George Hepburn.

A reference exists in "Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List and Imperial Yeomanry List" to a Fred. Brock Hollinshead, gazetted Cornet in 9/10/1846.  He had two years' service.  Twenty thousand pounds at today's valuation is roughly two and a half million dollars.

The following is rather dry reading but it does contain a telling aspect of the character of a man like Frederick Brock-Hollinshead.  In his dealings with the agent who let him his house, Brock-Hollinshead states that he supposed he was "dealing with a gentleman."  As such, he took him at his word.  Mundane details such as signatures on paper were no more than formalities in such cases.

(Before A. C. Strode, R.M.) J. S. Jeffreys v. F. Brock-Hollinshead. — This was a case in which the Plaintiff, described as a settler residing at the Half-way Bush, sought to recover from the Defendant, a gentleman residing in Dunedin, the sum of £10, being one quarter's rent of a house in Dunedin, occupied by him. 
The Plaintiff produced a written agreement, by which the Defendant agreed to pay the sum of £40 per annum, payable quarterly, as rent for the above mentioned premises. 
The Defendant stated — His ground for resisting payment was, that the agreement had been obtained from him under false pretences. When he came to the colony he had letters of introduction to Messrs. Macandrew & Co., whom he had employed as his agents. Mr. Reynolds (a partner in the firm of J. Macandrew & Co.) informed him that he had taken a house for him at £27 or £27 10s. per annum. Mr. Jeffreys subsequently called upon him, and said that he had been sent by Messrs. Macandrew & Co., and that there had been a mistake about the letting of the house, that the rent ought to have been £40 per annum. Supposing he was dealing with a gentleman, he of course believed Mr. Jeffreys' word, and signed the agreement to pay £40. He afterwards went to Messrs. Macandrew and complained of their treatment to him in not coming with Mr. Jeffreys, when they at once said they had not authorised Mr. Jeffreys to call on me. The Defendant further complained that the agreement, which was for a year and a half, had been hawked about the town and offered for sale at £40, although he had said to Mr. Jeffreys, that as they were strangers, he would pay him the £60 (U year's rent) on the following day. 
The Plaintiff said that he had received a letter from Mr. Harris, stating that he had let the house for £27 a year; that he called upon Mr. Reynolds, and told him he wished for a higher sum. Mr. Reynolds said he could say nothing on the subject, I had better see Mr. Hollinshead; and as the house was let by Mr. Harris to Mr. Hollinshead, subject to his (Mr. Jeffreys') approval, he did not consider himself bound by the agreement; the same house had been let to Mr. Macandrew for £60 a year. He denied that he had told Mr. Hollinshead that he was sent by his (Mr. Hollinshead's) agent. 
On the question being put to the Defendant by the Plaintiff, if he had said so? the Defendant replied, you said you were authorised by my agent to come to me. 
W. H. Reynolds stated: — About a week before Mr. Hollinshead's arrival Mr. Jeffreys called at our store. The subject of the house in question came up in the course of conversation. Mr. Jeffreys stated to me that, as we (the firm of J. Macandrew & Co.) were in the way of knowing the parties arriving here, we might have an opportunity of letting his house; and he authorised me to let it, if for 12 months, at £30 per annum, if for a shorter period, £40 per annum. When Mr. Hollinshead arrived, I understood that he (Mr. Jeffreys) had afterwards given Mr. Harris authority to let the house. I applied to him, and took the house at £27, or £27 10s., I am not sure which. I mentioned to Mr. Harris that the house was for Mr. Hollinshead. I did not mention this until after I had taken the house. I said to Mr. Harris that I would be responsible to him for the rent. I heard nothing more about the matter until such time as Mr. Hollinshead informed me that Mr. Jeffreys had stated, that "I had sent him to Mr. Hollinshead to arrange about the rent of the house, as there seemed to be some misunderstanding about it." I certainly did see Mr. Jeffreys; but I neither requested him to call on Mr. Hollinshead, nor by any remark that I made did I give him to understand that he had anything at all to do with Mr. Hollinshead as the tenant of the house. 
By the Plaintiff. — I cannot produce a lease. I supposed I was dealing with gentlemen, and that a lease, if necessary, would be prepared in a day or two. 
Mr. Harris stated: — On 28th May I received a letter from Mr. Jeffreys, requesting me to make enquiry for a tenant for his house; he said he was not particular as to the rental, he would let it for half the rent he formerly obtained, which was £60 per annum. I wrote to him, stating that I could not let the premises without more distinct instructions; in reply to which he called on me. In the course of conversation, I said I suppose I may let it for the same amount as it was offered to Mr. Gillon — £27. Mr. Jeffreys was desirous that I should take the house myself at that rent. Mr. Reynolds called upon me about taking the house. I asked £30 per annum, but ultimately agreed to take £27 10s. or £27. I wrote to Mr. Jeffreys, stating that I had let the house to Mr. Hollinshead, subject to his approval. I considered myself authorised to let the house, and my saying "subject to Mr. Jeffreys' approval" was only a matter of courtesy, which Mr. Jeffreys does not appear to appreciate. 
The Plaintiff contended that he never intended to let the house for so small a sum; that there were other terms in the letting to Mr. Gillon which made the bargain more advantageous to him (the Plaintiff), and that he had not authorised Mr. Reynolds to let the house, but only Mr. Harris. 
Several letters which had passed between Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Harris bearing upon the case, were handed to the Resident Magistrate. 
The Court, after having taken time to deliberate, delivered the following decision: — It appears to me, from the correspondence produced, and what has been stated to-day, that Mr. Harris was fully authorised to let the house in question, as the agent of the Complainant, at the rate of £27, or £27 10s. per annum; that after the house was so let by Mr. Harris on those terms, the Complainant was clearly bound by the act of his agent, and certainly, in my opinion, had no authority to demand a subsequent agreement from the Defendant. The Resident Magistrates' Court Ordinance, under which the case is decided, empowers me to give such a judgment between parties as I may "find to stand with equity and good conscience;" and I think the present case is especially one in which such power should be exercised. Under all the circumstances, therefore, and after mature consideration, I have come to the conclusion that this case should be dismissed. I shall accordingly dismiss the case with costs.  -Otago Witness, 13/11/1852.

Mr. Hollinshead said — No matter who was Governor or what Government might do for them, it was a maxim in all colonies to put your shoulder to the wheel, and he would recommend them to do so. Every producer of wool or grower of corn expected to realise money from them, whether as a farmer or as a gentleman; but how could he realise if he were unable to bring his wool or produce from want of roads? There must be roads to enable them to bring their produce to a market or to a port where it could be shipped. He had formed a road to the Half-Way Bush, which, as the "Witness" said, had been liberally subscribed (Since making the remark alluded to, we understand that the road in question cost about £200, and that Mr. Hollinshead's neighbours subscribed £4 towards it) to by his neighbours; it might be said to be only a bye-road. But there was another road in which they were all interested — he meant a road through the whole district from Dunedin to the Molineux. They must put their shoulders to the wheel; and he proposed that subscription lists should be opened at the various stores in the town, and he would be happy to head the list with a subscription of £20. (Cheers.)   -Otago Witness, 1/1/1853.

Frederick Brock-Hollinshead wasted no time in the important process of establishing his family home


On Tuesday last we had the pleasure of witnessing the laying of the foundation stone of the mansion house at Brockville, the intended residence of Frederick Brock Hollinshead, Esq. There were a number of gentlemen present on the occasion, and an elegant and substantial luncheon was provided in a tent erected for the purpose. We were struck with the marked improvement which has come over the aspect of the Wakari district; which must be attributed mainly to Mr. Hollinshead's operations, the effect of which, coupled with the road to Messrs. Macandrew & Co.'s Lime Work, will be to open up the whole of that fine district, which has hitherto been inaccessible, and consequently lying dormant. -Wellington Indepentdant, 19/2/1853.

During the year which followed the laying of the foundation stone, something drastic must have occurred to the family's finances.  The foundations, by all accounts, were completed but nothing more.  

Perhaps Frederick ran out of money.  Perhaps some social expectations on his part (and this is pure speculation on my part) of being upper class and rich (which might have made the less than ancient age of his hyphenated name - less than a century - more acceptable and not that of a social parvenu) were not fulfilled in the colony of egalitarian Scots where he found himself.

Whatever the reason, he attempted to call in his debtors.


ALL persons indebted to the Undersigned are hereby requested to settle their accounts within ten days from this date, or legal proceedings will be taken to recover the same. 

Frederick Brock-Hollinshead, Brockville, near Dunedin, February 18th, 1854.   -Otago Witness, 18/2/1854.

MESSRS. MACANDREW & Co. have to intimate, that in addition to the Effects already advertised, the following Articles will also be Sold at Brockville:- 

Nearly 400 volumes by Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Loudon, Stevens, Dickens, Thackeray, Lever, &c. &c. 
Scotch Coup Cart 
Force Pump 
A number of Pigs and Turkeys 
Iron Bedsteads and Bedding 
Cask of Saltpetre 
Patent Churn 

In the event of all the Articles not being disposed of on the Wednesday and Thursday, as advertised, the Sale will be continued on the following day (Friday), commencing at 10 o'clock.   -Otago Witness, 9/9/1854.

Another sale has a telling list of items - including many imported itmes essential for the building of a substantial house.

37 Casks Roman Cement 
1 Cask Plaster of Paris 
5 Cases Sherry 
3 Do. Port 
Scotch Coup Cart 
Force Pump, with 100 Feet Lead Piping 
Turning Lathe and 3 dozen Tools 
Box of Superior Water Colours, with Paten* Sketch Book
Set of Ornaments
Time Piece, by Dent 
Double-barrelled Gun, by Edge 
Sheet Lead 
Lead Piping 
Sporting Magazine, 9 vols. 
Pictorial Gallery of Race Horses,
1 vol. Blame's Encyclopedia of Rural Sports, 
1 vol. Drawings from Objects, 
1 vol. Childe Harold, by Lord Byron 
Spirit of Chambers's Journal
Puckle's Club 
Simson's Euclid 
Miles on the Horse's Foot 
3 Marble Chimney Pieces 
Papier Mache Moulding 
Fire Tiles, various patterns   -Otago Witness, 25/11/1854.

TO LET, THE Commodious Cottage at Brockville, lately the residence of Frederick Brock Hollinshead, Esq. For particulars apply to Messrs. Harris & Gillies, Dunedin.   -Otago Witness, 23/12/1854.

This advertisement ran until June, 1855.  A Mr James Ford, watchmaker, seems to have taken up the lease.

Before long, Mr Brock-Hollinshead is calling in his debtors once more.

NOTICE, ALL PERSONS Indebted to the Undersigned are requested to Pay their several Amounts immediately, or legal proceedings will be taken to recover the same. 

FREDERICK BROCK-HOLLINSHEAD. Brockville, Feb. 4, 1857.   -Otago Witness, 7/2/1857.


MESSRS. W. C. YOUNG & Co. have received instructions from Messrs. Hollinshead and Laing to Sell by Auction at Brockville, on WEDNESDAY, February 10, about 

Also 3 WORKING BULLOCKS, Broken in to Harness. 
A Portable 3 Horse power Prize Thrashing Machine.
English and Scotch Ploughs 
Wood and Iron Harrows 
Steaming Apparatus 
Chaff Cutter 
Cheese Press
Force Pumps &c. 

Terms:— Under £10, Cash. £10 and under £50, Approved Bills at 3 months. £50 and upwards, Approved Bills at 3 and 6 months. Sale to commence at 11 a.m. precisely. 

LUNCHEON PROVIDED.  -Otago Witness, 30/1/1858.


MESSRS. W. C. YOUNG & CO. have been favoured with instructions from F. B. Hollinshead, Esq., to Sell by Auction, at Brockville, on TUESDAY, the 26th day of April instant, at Twelve o'clock, 


Catalogues to be had on Application at the Mart.

For Terms, See Catalogues.   -Otago Witness, 2/4/1859.

Fire. — We regret to state that a most destructive fire occurred at Brockville, the residence of Fredk. Brock-Hollingshead, Esq, on Wednesday last, between the hours of three and four in the morning, by which the house and the whole of the household property, of very considerable value, were destroyed. The progress of the flames was so rapid as to afford no opportunity of saving anything, the inmates having barely had time to escape in their night dresses. The origin of the fire cannot, from the complete destruction of the premises, be ascertained; but it is believed to have arisen from the servant having left some clolhes drying before the fire, which in the course of the night had fallen down, and thus caused the conflagration.  -Otago Witness, 21/6/1859.


MESSRS. YOUNG and McGLASHAN have been favoured with instructions from F. B. Hollinshead, Esq. (who is about to leave the Colony), to Sell by Auction, without reserve, at Brockville, on TUESDAY, the 6th day of November, the whole of his 


Catalogues will be issued a week previous to the sale. 
Sale to commence at 11 a.m. 

LUNCHEON PROVIDED. -Otago Witness, 20/10/1860.


On an Improving Lease, 

BROCKVILLE FARM, (part of the Brockville Estate, the property of F. B. Hollinshead, Esq.) comprising excellent Farm House, Labourer's Cottage, Steading, Barns, &c, together with 


including about 25 Acres Bush. Also— At an Annual Rental, Another portion of the same Estate, comprising substantial Brick House, Bakehouse, Washhouse, &c, with about 3 Acres Good Grass Land, and 1 Acre Garden, and right of bush for Firewood. The Garden contains upwards of 100 full grown choice Fruit Trees, and is otherwise well stocked. 

Apply to the Proprietor, on the premises; or to 

Messrs. YOUNG & McGLASHAN.  -Otago Witness, 20/10/1860.

The above advertisement continued to be published until December 1 of that year, after which -

CLEARED OUT (presumably cleared for sea)

December 5— Pioneer, Simpson, for Clutha, with stores and timber. Young and McGlashan agents. Same day— Lord Ashley, Kennedy, for Lyttelton, with original cargo from Sydney. Passengers— Mr. and Mrs. Hollinshead and family, Messrs. Peter and Dalgety. Young and McGlashan agents. -Otago Witness, 8/12/1860.



Two and a-half miles from the Post office, on the Half-way Bush Road. 

Plans now in course of preparation. 


on an early day in sections from 10 TO 50 ACRES EACH. 

The Auctioneers feel great pleasure in bringing this Estate before the public. It is well known to be the most delightful locality round or about Dunedin, commanding the most magnificent views, completely sheltered with bush, and a plentiful supply of pure water. It is hardly necessary to say that several thousands of pounds have been expended on the property by the late proprietor, and the greater portion has been under crop. Plans and further information can be obtained from the Auctioneers 

R. B. MARTIN & CO.   -Otago Daily Times, 21/3/1862.

This nursery, which contains a very large and valuable collection of fruit trees and other stock, is situated in the Kaikorai Valley, Waikari District, about three miles from Dunedin. It is the property of Mr Charles Sonntag, who studied gardening in some of the best schools on the continent of Europe, and who has brought with him to this quarter of the world a large amount of valuable experience. He has carried on business quietly for the last six years, having principally in view the establishment of a first class collection of fruit trees of all kinds suitable to the climate. To enable him to carry out his experiments with all the varieties of fruits, a considerable expenditure of capital, time, and patience was necessary. To obtain the capital, he engaged in the cultivation of vegetables upon a large scale, and established a dairy, which supplies our market with the best of butter. His nursery, which is upon leased land, is 35 acres in extent; but he has a reserve of 35 acres of his own close by, and a farm of forty acres, laid down with English grass and clover.
There are in this nursery over one hundred and sixty varieties of apples, one hundred of pears, sixty of plums, and about forty of cherries, as well as vast quantities of other fruits, and fresh varieties expected from the latest graftings. When the land was taken by Mr Sonntag, there were upon it a few apple and other trees, which are now some fourteen or fifteen years old. Upon one of these old trees— a sour seedling — there are twenty-six different kinds of apples — each sort upon three separate branches. Some ripen early, others late. Some branches do not bear well, whilst others are bending down with a superabundance of fruit. This great difference is owing to the nature of the fruit, and nothing else, as the grafting was done in one day, about four years ago. This method of propagation was adopted by Mr Sonntag, for the purpose of preserving stock which he had obtained and of ascertaining as quickly as possible its real value. Although there are twenty-six sorts nourished through a single stem, still there is no difficulty in choosing six or eight which are best for profitable cultivation, and it is these alone that will be grafted in future.  -Otago Daily Times, 28/5/1870.
From the W T Neill map, published in 1922.  Sontag's Gardens within the curve of Brockville Rd.

AMONG BEES AND TREES.  by "I M I"  (excerpt)
A little further along the well-planted and kept fences, and the display of varied useful and ornamental fruit and forest trees and shrubs indicate the labour and care and taste of the nurseryman. These are the extensive grounds of Mr C. Sonntag, the Brockville nurseries. It is not our present intention to describe these gardens or their contents, but as we are now at our destination, it may be allowable, and in place, to give the origin of the name Brockville. Very early in the history of the Province an English gentleman possessed of considerable wealth and of high social position became one of our settlers and choose this locality as his selection. His name was Henry Brock Hollinshead, hence the name of the locality. He began the erection of a large mansion, the foundations of which may yet be seen within Mr Sonntag's grounds, but it was suddenly stopped from causes which need not be narrated, and after a short residence in our midst he returned to England. The choice of a site in such an out-of-the-way place as it then was for such a building is something inscrutable. At the present day, with good roads and clearings, it is difficult to get to; what it then was, without a road and through scrub and bush, may be imagined.  -Otago Witness, 7/4/1883.

"...causes which need not be narrated..." - a tantalising clue from "I M I," who was in Dunedin at a time when he might have had the story from an older resident who knew what had happened to "Brock's Folly."

Personal notes from London
I am now able to furnish some further particulars of the tragic death of Mr. Brock-Hollinshead, who was recently killed in the United States, and who, it appears, is by birth a New Zealander, having been born at Brockville,Dunedin, where his parents resided in the early "sixties," and where they still have many friends. Mr. Brock-Hollinshead had entered upon a very successful career in America, where, in a public place, some insulting remark was made to him. He replied to the man who had made this remark, a merchant, "I will see you about I that to-morrow," and turned quietly away, to receive the next instant a revolver shot through the back, which penetrated into his heart. He fell dead without uttering a word or sound. Mrs. Brock-Hollinshead, who still retains great interest in all relating to New Zealanders or the colony, and who will be glad to hear from old acquaintances, has received from all parts of the world a large number of condolences in the loss of her son in this terrible manner.
Mrs. Brock-Hollinshead had, I gather, some time ago entertained the idea of reclaiming properties she once owned in New Zealand, which she now estimates as being worth over a million sterling. The ground of her claim would have been that the properties had been sold without her knowledge or consent. She writes to me that she communicated with Lord Glasgow, Sir Robert Stout, Mr. J. G. Ward, and others on the subject, but has now abandoned the project as impracticable.  -NZ Herald, 16/8/1899.

A further, tantalising few details come from part of a 1923 interview with Mr Robert Dalziel, by then one of the few survivors of the "Philip Laing," one of the first two ship which brought Scottish settlers to the colony of Dunedin.  Some of the details seem to have changed in his 78 year old memory but his personal experience is an interesting sketch of the time.
“On our return to Brockville from Waikouaiti we found that an English gentleman named Frederick Brock Hollinshead, a former captain in the 17th Lancers, had settled there. He was a man of considerable means and an enterprising disposition, and when he landed here in a ship which he had chartered he brought with him an outfit of farm machinery and a staff of servants. He acquired the property which is now known as the Brockville estate, and from which the district takes its name. There was no road to the place, but Mr Hollinshead made a road from the Kaikorai at his own expense, and built a fern-tree house on the right-hand side, half-way up the Brockville Hill. Half a mile further up the road he built a steading in the form of a large court with a stone wall right round it, a dwelling-house, a barn of stone and several other outhouses. These buildings must have cost him a great deal of money. After a time the fern-tree house in which he lived was burned down, and everything in it destroyed, the loss to the owner being estimated at about £500. About 50 yards from the house Mr Hollinshead had built a brick stable, and he also laid the foundation of a large residence which he intended to build, but it never got any further than the foundations. It was built with wine cellars underneath, and must have cost him over £300. Mr Brock-Hollinshead then lived in the house up at the steading, which had been built for his overseer, Mr Thomas Oliver, who afterwards became district road engineer. He worked his farm with bullocks, but the place never proved profitable, and about 1862 he disposed of it and returned to England. Among other property which he sold at the time of his departure was a section in Princes street, which was bought for £250 by Messrs Ross and Kilgour, who carried on business as grocers and general merchants. This section was at the corner where the Government Life Insurance buildings now are, and a good number of years after it was sold by Messrs Ross and Kilgour to the Stout-Vogel Government for the sum of £30,000. Mr Hollinshead also owned six sections in Dowling street, which he bought for £l2 and sold at about the same figure, as well as 400 acres at West Taieri, near the Lee Creek, which he sold for £400. He told my father that he had spent £9000 on the Brockville estate, and that when he parted with it all he got was £2200.
“In those early days the Good Samaritan always seemed to appear at the right time. One day when I was about 12 years old I was going to a neighbour's place for some milk which I intended to carry in one of the tins that were used on board ship for holding bully beef. While walking backwards I fell and cut my lip from the nose down, at the same time knocking out one of my teeth. When I reached home my lather set out in search of Dr Williams, who then lived somewhere about. Montecillo, but the doctor was not at home, and my father called at Mr Hollinshead's house, and asked for a fine needle and some silk thread, intending to insert the stitches himself. When Mrs Hollinshead learned what had happened she volunteered to go along with him and do the necessary surgical work herself. She promised to give me half a sovereign if I kept quiet, and of course I screwed up my courage and earned the half-sovereign. Just when she had finished Dr Williams arrived, and after inspecting the stitches he said they had been done as well as he could have done them himself. That seemed to be an ample reward for her kindness.   -Otago Daily Times, 23/3/1923.

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