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Saturday 25 March

“Te Toi Uku is a museum located in Ambrico Place, New Lynn, Auckland on the old Gardner Brothers & Parker brickworks site and next to their original brick kiln. The Museum opened in 2015 and holds a collection of about 6000 objects as well as an archive which includes photographs and designs. The collection mostly relates to Crown Lynn, but also the early brick and pipe industries of West Auckland.

“The museum has displays focusing on two areas. One tells the stories of the early brick, pipe and pottery companies that became the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company (Ambrico). The other celebrates Ambrico’s domestic arm Crown Lynn and the people who designed, shaped, decorated and manufactured New Zealand’s most popular tableware from 1948 to 1989. As well as finished pieces the collection contains tools and equipment used to make them.” c. Te Toi Uku website.

A beautiful clear sunny autumn morning. Members arrive by car, by train, by foot, and by charter bus, not without confusion as some emails appear to have not got through.

We meet Robyn Mason, of the Te Toi Uku Trust, a heritage consultant and writer, who skilfully guided our visit. Using the brick kiln as a meeting point we first ventured through to a nearby pocket park, the remnant of a residential garden where the founding families of the industry developed skills and pottery craft. Now surrounded by roads.

The transformation of New Lynn from earth industries to populated residential suburban transport hub and shopping precinct is staggering and almost overwhelming. The change of scale and material is huge and complete. There is no return. The museum tells the story. Bricks have gone to be replaced by concrete. The clay remains as a geological pan beneath. The stories of families and industry growing and competing over a long period enabling the development of greater Auckland. Eclipsed by business and asset stripping for the value of land. We looked in the kiln now the only one remaining. The tall chimney gone.

The Museum houses pottery and clay working machines with some extraordinary photographs of then compared to the now – the view out the window. The Crown Lynn collection is extensive and reflects colour and fashion change across decades.

A great visit with lunch at The Wardroom – recommended.

Photography and article by Bruce Wild

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