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Birkenhead 1790-1906 Timeline

Around 1790 Ngati Whata fought the Ngati Paoa at Narrow Neck, the winners, Ngati Paoa fortified North Head, Ngati Whatua returned and after a siege, the Ngati Paoa escaped to Waiheke. Ngati Whatu a briefly occupied the pa, before abandoning it. Later in the 1790’s Te Kawerau and Ngai Tai assisted Ngati Whatua in its attack on Ngapuhi, and thus for a time relied on the strength of Ngati Whatua in the Auckland area.

1820’s Ngapuhi, equipped with guns, returned to North Shore in 1821, having just defeated combined Hauraki and Waitemata area tribes at Panmure. Te Kawerau resisted at their pa on Kauri Point and Ngai Tai resisted at their pa at Greenhithe. Both pa were attacked, destroyed and abandoned. The North Shore was thus unpopulated for some years.

Mid 1830’s remnants of Ngai Tai re-emerged from the forests of the Kaipara and Waitakeres, and established Kainga (not pa) at Northcote Point and North Head. Te Kawerau returned to Kauri Point about the same time, and moved on to Mahurangi and the Kaipara around 1844. Ngai Tai appear to have left Northcote Point also in the 1840’s.

1841 - Mahurangi Purchase from Ngati Whatua, Ngati Paoa etc. Ngati Paoa were granted land to north of Mt Victoria and sold it in 1860. Ngati Tai leave hurriedly in 1863 from North Head. Patuone (Ngapuhi, but married into Ngati Paoa) kainga where Esmonde Road is now to late 1890’s. From 1890’s to 1925 Maori squatters" on Tank Farm. Thomas Hellyer, Brewer, died in 1841 - Hellyers Creek, and extensive Maori settlement previously.

1844 Following surveys, lots are put up for government auction for the Birkenhead, Northcote and coastal Birkdale areas. Large acreage to the NZ Company, who don’t exercise option (Auckland land too expensive) and land passes to Catholic Church in 1850, and leased to finance their school. William Crush Daldy takes over Hellyers Creek area.

1850’s Henry Hawkins commences nursery - first major farmer. By 1867 he and his son are farming the area from east of Birkenhead Avenue to Pupuke Road.

1854 - inland Birkdale lots up for sale. Many to absentee owners. Poorer land than on Takapuna side, noted also by Maori who restricted Birkenhead area land use to pa sites, fishing and foraging. Land sales in Devonport area.

1856 Major Collings de Jersey Grut buys and farms at Duck Creek - Chelsea. Unsuccessful. Edward Matthews later farmed in the area (1874).

1857 on - William Brassey farms in lower Birkenhead Point area - Brassey Road. Area later leased by Edward and William Tizard (1867, 1874).

1860 on - St John’s Anglican Church based in Northcote, serving both Northcote and Birkenhead. The main routes north were either from Devonport, or from Stokes Point - Northcote from 1880.

1863 on - Birkenhead and Balmain names first used in land sales. Charles Fitzpatrick lived and farmed on Kauri Point (1867), while George Henderson owned Lot 5 Balmain (part of 148) in 1874. Birkdale from 1889.

1868 - North Shore Road Board - very Northcote oriented.

By 1874 - Alexander Wilson farming east of Glenfield Road to Archers Road and William Thompson farming on south side of Onewa Road (opposite Northcote College).

1875 Census - 160 people in Birkenhead and Northcote combined, by 1878 there are 220. Cultivated land in 1876 only south of Pupuke and Ocean View Roads and east of Birkenhead Ave, exception is Wilson along Glenfield Rd.

1879 on - William Hammond (architect) household - Hammond Place.

1880 - Zion Hill Methodist Church opened.

1881 - Takapuna Public Cemetery opened - renamed Glenfield later. Census has 334 in Birkenhead and Northcote, with 13 at Duck Creek (Chelsea) and 16 at Kauri Point (Balmain). 1881 Electoral Roll lists 62 electors living in Northcote/Birkenhead, although they all referred to themselves as living in Northcote. 10 electors cited land ownership in Birkenhead or Balmain but only five stated they actually lived in the area: Joseph Barrett had 7.75 acres at Birkenhead, Joseph Berry had eight acres and a dwelling at Balmain, Samuel Hitchens had 17 acres and a dwelling at Birkenhead.

1882 - 15 May the telephone comes to the Nth Shore, bureaux at Devonport, Takapuna and Northcote only. Also, the first Birkenhead wharf built. In 1881 the Birkenhead and Northcote Ferries Syndicate formed, but Paddle Steamer Birkenhead built in 1884. The wharf at Birkenhead is added to substantially by the AHB in 1888, to take extra produce and commuters, with a coal berth and waiting room added in 1889. The present wharf opened 1910. Chelsea had its own private wharf, as did Birkdale from 1887/1902 (?). Other private jetties at Island Bay and on Hellyers Creek.

1883/4 - Chelsea Sugar works construction changes the Birkenhead v Northcote population, opens in September 1884.

1885 - St Peters Anglican Church opened at Chelsea, and moves to Birkdale in 1907. Note that All Saints dates from 1913, but services at the Foresters hall from 1908. St Andrews Presbyterian Church from 1914. Catholic from 1916.

1886 Census - 12 at Balmain (Kauri Point), 334 at Birkenhead alone, 189 at Chelsea and 21 at Roseberry (Avenue area).

1884 separate Birkenhead Road Board formed and a Borough from 11 April 1887. The first Mayor - Charles Edward Button arrived in Birkenhead in 1883, was a leading Auckland solicitor, and Mayor to 1901.

1887 - Birkenhead and Northcote Fruitgrowers Association (formed 1886) hold first produce show in the Zion Hill schoolroom, later in Northcote’s Gladstone Hall (built in 1880’s and the Catholic Church in 1916). They also used the paddock near the Birkenhead Wharf, and from 1902 the new Wesleyan Hall. In 1888 they exhibited apples, pears peaches, plums, grapes, water and rock melons, Cape gooseberries, lemons, quinces prunes, jams jellies, butter, pumpkins and into the twentieth century added flowers, other vegetable, poultry, hams, butter, horses, cattle and honey.

1894 - Birkdale School opens, while Birkenhead pupils go to Northcote until 1919.

1901 - 1087 people and 252 ratepayers. Chelsea - sugar, Birkdale - horticulture and Birkenhead Borough area (Point, Highbury, Onewa Road) - residential, included some substantial homes. 1919 Election 73% of voters in Birkenhead, 12% Birkdale, 15% Chelsea. 1949 Election : 69% Birkenhead, 14% Birkdale, 12% Beach Haven (1943 first), 5% Chelsea.

1902 - Auckland Orchardists Co-operative Fruit Preserving and Packing Co floated, with Mark Parrish as provisional director. However, lack of grower support saw this fail. Thompson and Hills (Oak Brand) factory operated in Freemans Bay from 1897, incorporated from 1911 - a major canning and packaging operation from fruit and jams. There were other small canning operations as well, including Hopkins on Hellyers Creek.

1903 - “prosperity greatly depends on the success of the strawberry crop” (NZ Farmer November 1903, p 829), while in January 1904 it notes over 80 strawberry growers in Birkenhead and Northcote (2 major ones in Northcote, one of whom the Tonar’s) and in April 1904 “there is no doubt that the strawberry crop is the most important one grown in the Birkenhead, Birkedale, Mayfield (Glenfield) and Northcote districts, and it is probable that there are more strawberries grown in those districts than in any other part of the colony. There are over 100 growers.

1905 - Charles Verran buys Mr Mckenzie’s carrying business and Post Office agency at the Point, moved to corner Brassey Road, later also at Verran’s corner (14 acres from Mr Bagot) - firewood, coal, Coromandel house moved 1908.

- David Verran


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