The Knox Memorial Park is named after the Knox family who ran a general store on the opposite corner for over 50 years. Robert Knox had brought the business from James Patterson Sinclair who had set it up in about 1886.
In January 1889 James Sinclair added a bakery and confectionary. The district’s bread was previously brought by train from Auckland. In February 1893 the business was extended to supply stores in Henderson, Taupaki, Kumeu and Brighams Creek. NZ Post records show that in March 1889 Mr J P Sinclair obtained the postal agency at £8 per annum, taking over from Mr Letts who had left the district.
Scottish-born Robert Knox (1964-1943) arrived in Swanson in the early 1900s via the Hokianga where he owned a pub. He took over Sinclair’s general store and added a small butchery section and obtained a license to buy and sell kauri gum. He obtained meat for the butchery from Binsteads of Avondale and from Sintons of Brighams Creek. Twice a week, Mr Knox’s cards went to Sinton’s Store and returned with meat. The clay roads made the horse and cart journeys a hazardous task with wheels in mud and clay up to their axles.
His granddaughter, Joan Lupton remembers:
“Half a bullock carcass arrived every week from Brighams Creek. My Aunt Isabella was up really early chopping up the meat for the orders and my uncle would trip over grandfather to get to the phone to take orders. There was just one horse with a cart, and later a red van to deliver everything around the area.”
In 1911, Robert Knox was licensed to dig kauri gum in Waitemata County. An astute businessman, he also ran tea rooms and hired out horses for the profitable tourist trade to the Cascades and Waitakere Falls.
Robert Knox travelled into town every Tuesday to do the banking (there were no facilities in Henderson), and he would have “a few” whiskies. He could never resist attending the auctions but often fell asleep during the proceedings. That was his explanation the day he came home with an organ and a dozen laying hens.
Joan remembers there was nowhere to keep the hens, so they went in the orchard with the damson plums. It was the children’s job to listen for the cackles so the eggs had a chance to be recovered from the many unlikely places where they had been laid.
His marvelously cluttered “auction” room was famous in Swanson, filled with the results of his weekly auction purchases. He stipulated that his estate be retained in public ownership but this was not completely successful and today only the small Robert Knox Memorial Park remains accessible to all.
Over the years, the store changed hands several times until it was closed in 1958. In 1960 it was bought by Mr H G Kilmister who operated a bottle and scrap metal business. By 1970 Mr Kilmister had converted the old store within its shell into a bungalow.
Rugged Determination, p75