Story: Taylor, Allan Kerr

Page 1 - Biography

Taylor, Allan Kerr

1832–1890

Landowner, businessman

This biography was written by John Stacpoole and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Allan Kerr Taylor was born on 30 December 1832 at Negapatam (Negapattinam) in the Madras Presidency, India, the seventh child of William Taylor and his wife, Barbara Innes. His father, a captain in the 39th Madras Native Infantry when Allan was born, retired in the 1850s as a lieutenant general in the Indian army.

Allan was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, in the mid 1840s. In 1848 he emigrated to New Zealand where his father had bought land at West Tamaki, near Auckland. Two brothers had preceded him, and by 1851 Allan had been joined by three more. The three eldest brothers became the owners of the Glen Orchard, Glen Innes and Glendowie estates, reaching from St Heliers Bay to the Tamaki River. Allan, at the age of 16, bought 270 acres at Mount Albert and subsequently added two adjoining blocks of 232 acres and 120 acres. He called the property Alberton. Parts were profitably subdivided in the 1860s, but it remained an unusually large holding so close to Auckland city.

In 1850 Taylor set out for California only to be marooned for a month on Pitcairn Island when storms forced the ship to sail without its passengers. In 1860 he went to England and there, on 3 June 1862, married Martha Meredith at Worfield, Shropshire. The house at Alberton was built for them in 1863, but Martha Taylor, who had already lost one child, died on 20 February 1864 three days after the birth of a second child, who also died. On 6 June 1865 at Auckland, Taylor married Sophia Louisa Davis. They were to have 10 children: six daughters and four sons.

Allan Taylor lived on his estate with all the pretensions of a local squire. He was active in many local organisations: trustee of the Mount Albert Highway District, chairman of the Eden County Council, a member of the Auckland Provincial Council, a justice of the peace, president of the Auckland Racing Club and a closely involved churchman and member of the Anglican diocesan synod. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1876.

As much as anything, Alberton became noted as a social centre, not only for the local community but for the élite of Auckland. There were 'at homes', garden parties, and archery, tennis and croquet parties. The Pakuranga Hunt Club met annually on the property and shooting parties also gathered. The first and perhaps the only county or riding ball in New Zealand was held in the barn, which had been built with such functions in mind. It was an amalgam of town and country such as might have been found near an English county town but which was seldom seen in New Zealand.

Taylor was much involved in various business ventures: as a director of the short-lived Bank of Auckland, an auditor of the Bank of New Zealand (of which his brothers William and Charles were at different times directors), and a director of the colonial board of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company. There were other involvements, but his most lasting investment was again in land: 1,000 acres at Waimauku. It was once milled for its kauri timber but is now picturesque farmland still owned by Taylor's descendants.

With the recession of the 1880s many of Taylor's investments failed to provide income, and worse, calls were made on partially paid-up shares. When he died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage at Auckland on 14 April 1890, his financial position was found to be less satisfactory than the family had supposed. The home farm was mortgaged and calls by the Loan Company embarrassed the estate.

Allan Kerr Taylor's funeral demonstrated his standing in the community. People on foot and more than 30 carriages (including the carriage of the governor, Lord Onslow) made their way down the long avenue to St Luke's Church, which he had so generously supported. Between the avenue and the church, villas flew flags at half-mast while the church bell tolled at intervals. He was laid to rest in the churchyard in the presence of his wife and family. The monument over the grave and the stained glass memorial windows in the church, like the big house on the hill, attest to the family's importance in the settlement of a significant part of Auckland.