Here on Cheltenham Beach sits a building that was born amidst controversy but one which has weathered 100 years of social change, sun, storms and celebration.
Initially designed as tearooms and a changing facility for beach bathers, it has evolved into a reception lounge that hosts weddings and caters to a wide cross-section of functions.
Set in the most beautiful location you could imagine, it will continue to be a wonderful venue in which to enjoy great times and the best views Devonport, or indeed Auckland, has to offer.
At the turn of the 19th Century, Cheltenham Beach was the most favoured beach on the North Shore. Gardens established by William Cobley on 40 acres of land in the area were a great tourist attraction, and visitors travelled by ferry to enjoy the gardens and picnic on the beautiful beach. Previously known as Whites Beach, and later Cobley Beach, the name was changed again to Cheltenham Beach
by Mr Cobley’s gardeners who had worked on England’s Cheltenham Gardens. On the 2nd March 1912, a New Zealand Herald headline read, “The City Beautiful: How Cheltenham beach, Auckland’s most popular seaside resort, might appear under an up-to- date system of town planning”. The accompanying illustration (above) was, “intended to show what a vast improvement could be made by the application
of Continental, British and American ideas”. Luckily, no-one approved of the idea and it never went ahead.
Plans & Construction
In 1909, the manager of the Devonport Steam Ferry
Company, Alex Alison, proposed the erection of a kiosk and bathing facilities at Cheltenham Beach. However this was fiercely resisted by locals who did not want their rates spent on a facility for visitors. The Council
conducted a poll and the objectors were defeated by a mere 15 votes. By 1910, local architect, Edward Bartley, had prepared plans for a kiosk and bathing sheds (left).
In 1913, the Council built an adapted version for £1200 which included tearooms, bathing sheds and conveniences.
Mayor William Handley “cut the ribbon” on 13 August 1913 and the tearooms were opened for trade under the management of Mr S G Waters.
A newspaper report of the opening, praised the spacious dimensions of the tearoom and described its green
wallpaper with a seascape frieze, oak dado, and the green granite linoleum. The article went on to mention the “cosy room for private parties” which adjoined the tearooms, and the 16 cubicles for dressing and public conveniences. For sixpence, bathers would be provided with a bathing suit and towel, and one hour’s use of a cubicle, with deck chairs hired out at 6d a day.
By 1915, bathing at Cheltenham had become so popular that Council was obliged “to regulate the conduct of bathers . . .”. Sunbathing was actually illegal with one having to be either dressed or swimming! A newspaper report on January 11th 1916 described how five young men were charged with “remaining dressed in bathing costumes only on Cheltenham Beach”. The report further described a witness who said,
“. . . on the previous day he had seen three bathers lying on the beach and when he approached them they crawled down the beach to the water’s edge and each put one foot in the water and claimed that the bylaw was being complied with”. On hearing this and other equally absurd incidents, the magistrate declared the bylaw regarding sunbathing to be impossible to rule on In 1926, the bylaws were again reviewed with the inclusion of rules to shield kiosk users by restricting “any person or persons from loitering, standing, obstructing, or interfering with any person using the kiosk or bathing facilities”. Nor could any person under the influence of liquor, who was unclean in person or dress, or suffering from an infectious or offensive disease enter the kiosk. Bathing costumes were not permitted in the kiosk or
on the verandah, and there would be no smoking or expectorating in the kiosk!
During the 1920s, the popular teashop served “delicacies”
and the venue began to offer entertainment such as dancing and jazz bands. “Miss Beresford’s top class dancing school” regularly held dance nights at the kiosk and bands provided music for patrons to enjoy the latest dance crazes.
At that time, locals stayed in their own small communities so that those at the southern end of Cheltenham Beach rarely ventured to the northern end. Likewise, residents nearer Devonport stayed within their own domain, seldom visiting Cheltenham.
The beach continued to be very popular and Council tendered out the management of the kiosk every 12 months. Some managers were also appointed Constable and charged with keeping order around the kiosk area.
Ian Barlow recalls that, in 1931, his father, N Barlow, the then tenant, ran the shop selling ice cream and lollies. A fruit machine was later installed, much to the delight of young men, and Mr Barlow hired a silent film projector, showing penny pictures in the tearooms. Mrs Barlow provided morning and afternoon teas, and the venue hosted weddings, balls, dances and many a political meeting.
A storm in 1934 removed the tent used for men to undress for bathing and improvements were required to accommodate them. At that time, the shop section of the building was condemned due to its proximity to the gentlemen’s conveniences. By 1937, Council considered pulling the kiosk down but, instead, the floor of the tearoom was strengthened for dancing.
There is little record of the kiosk during the World War II years and into the early 1950s.
Business benefitted from being close to the army camp on North Head, but the artillery practice in the evenings was known to shatter windows. A blackout was in place for some time which meant keeping evening functions concealed. During the 1940s, others sought approval to establish tea rooms and other facilities along the beach but these were declined by Council.
Leaseholders during this period included:
E E Thomas 1939-40
Ida Cordelia Banfield 1941
Mrs. R W Harman 1944
William J Lee 1945
Mr & Mrs. G M Petty 1946
James and Mrs. Arbor 1946
With a move away from being a kiosk with changing sheds, more emphasis was placed on receptions and many wedding
functions and dances were held at the kiosk during the 40s and 50s
Cliff Trillo became manager at some time in the 1950s. He went on to establish Trillos Cabaret at Westhaven and, later, Trillos in downtown Auckland.
Mr Rees wanted to make further changes, so Council obtained a change in legislation which allowed Mr Rees to change the function of the kiosk from tearooms, which he claimed was no longer financially viable, to a reception room.
According to Mr Rees, the word ‘kiosk’ was misleading and no longer appropriate for a reception lounge, and the name was changed to Cheltenham Receptions in 1963.
Boundaries were adjusted to allow for a public road to be built, and a neighboring property owner agreed to the release of
land and the “extinguishment of all riparian rights and rights of water frontage to the said property” in order to improve access to the building.
Extensive alterations were carried out, including to the front of the building which acquired a brick facade. The old brick chimney was pulled down and the bakery extended towards the front of the building.
The lease was taken over in 1966 by Mr. Radaly who made further alterations to enlarge the reception room, and make it more attractive and convenient.
The family lived on the premises and, despite the long hours and hard work, they ran a successful business and thoroughly enjoyed their time there.
The rooms were used almost exclusively for weddings, balls and other functions, although Mrs. Radaly served afternoon teas most Sundays. Liquor licensing was not an issue at that time so clientele would either bring.their own alcohol
for weddings, or it was provided by the operators. Patrons were mostly locals, there being virtually no tourist trade at that time. 1973 saw the lease taken over by Michael Kessell John McHugh took over the lease of the building in 1981 and enamed it McHugh’s of Cheltenham. John refurbished the building and opened up the southern corner to take in the beautiful view of that end of Cheltenham Beach, and North Head. John is proud to have carried on the tradition of serving top class food at McHugh’s luncheon buffet to locals and tourists, and maintaining a superb venue for weddings and social occasions.