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Rare dry-dock photographs for sale

Flagstaff Team

Grand opening… the Calliope Dock unveiling in 1888 received national and international coverage

Rare photos of the opening of the Calliope Dock in February 1888 are up for auction this month.

The dry-dock opening day was such an important event in the life of Auckland, it was designated a public holiday, and was reported in newspapers around the world.

“Despite extensive research I can find no record of any photos of the opening of this famous dock being publicly offered before – unlike the works of Burton Brothers and other commercial photographers from that era being relatively common,” said Henry Newrick, of Whanganui Publishing, who is putting the photos up for sale.

The six photos for sale are expected to fetch $200-$250 per photo (framed) at the Webb’s auction.

Construction of the Calliope Dock was one of the largest and most difficult engi- neering works undertaken in New Zealand in the 19th century. The work took three years to complete.

The opening day began at 8am, with 150 Navy crew and officers setting off from Auckland in one of the ferry steamers that regularly plied the Auckland-North Shore route. An hour later, invited guests set off on the steamer Britannia, followed by members of the public who arrived by ferry and in all manner of craft, including yachts crewed by members of the Auckland Yacht Club.

At 9.30am, H.M.S. Calliope cut through the blue ribbon covering the entrance and edged into the dock. When she was safely berthed, Governor Sir William Jervois de- clared the dock formally open. Lunch was held dockside at midday, attended by all manner of officialdom along with leading citizens of the day.

It wasn’t just the good and the great who got to celebrate the occasion. Six casks of beer were provided for the refreshment of ships’ crews and dock guards. However, a brawl broke out and this brought proceed- ings to an end.

In 1889, an agreement was entered into between the Admiralty (Great Britain) and the Auckland Harbour Board whereby the Admiralty would have priority use of the dock for 30 years for repairs to Royal Navy ships.

The photos will be auctioned by Webb’s Auction House on 1-7 May.

They can be seen online in the auction catalogue at www:auctions.webbs.co.nz

This article originally appeared in the 8 May 2020 edition of the Flagstaff. Read online here.

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