Timeline history of Ponsonby, Three Lamps and Freemans Bay

Timeline history of Ponsonby, Three Lamps and Freemans Bay

This article is a timeline history of the Ponsonby, Three Lamps and Freemans Bay area of Auckland, New Zealand


1840 September 18 The founding of Auckland. Acting on behalf of the Lieutenant Governor, Captain William Hobson, Captain William Cornwallis-Symonds took possession of the 3000 acres (12 km²). A ceremony was held on Point Britomart: Auckland established as the Capital of New Zealand. The city boundary line ran from Cox's Creek along the shoreline to Hobson Bay, where it turned inland to Mount Eden and thence back to Cox's Creek.

1841 March 14 Acting Governor Hobson arrives in Auckland.

1841 Jane Griffin (Lady Franklin), the wife of Sir John Franklin the Governor of Tasmania visits Auckland. During her time in Auckland she walked up a track in the Ponsonby area subsequently named for her as Franklin road.

mid1840s Governor Hobson's secretary James Stuart Freeman lives in the area subsequently known as "Freemans Bay".

mid1840s George Scott farms the land where 3 Lamps is now.

1848 Ponsonby is included in the "Hundred of Auckland".

1849 Freeman's Hotel is built [this first wooden structure is constructed on the shore of Freemans Bay]


1851 NZ's first Steamship the Governor Wynyard is launched at Freemans bay Christmas 1851

1851 Ponsonby becomes part of the "Suburban West Ward"

1853 For £1100 Catholic Bishop Pompallier purchases 19ha in the area between 3 lamps and the shoreline from James O'Neill christening it Mount St. Mary. Jean-Baptiste Francois Pompallier [1801-1871] First Bishop of New Zealand and the South Pacific celebrated the first RC Mass in Nz in Northland in 1836.

1854 O'Neill's house becomes St. Anne's School for Maori Girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. Responding to a Maori request for holy women to teach the children, the sisters of Mercy arrived in Auckland from Ireland in 1850 already fluent in the Maori language. Their first school & orphanage was situated near St Patrick's Cathedral.

1854 St Mary's College for Catechists on the North Shore is transferred to Ponsonby, St. Marys School for Boys & a Seminary are built on convert|5|acre|m2 of Crown Grant land at the end of Waitemata St.

1858 "The Church of the Immaculate Conception" is built [demolished 1869 – 70, present site of the Ponsonby Tennis Club]

1859 "New Street" is put through the middle of the St Mary Mount estate and Bishop Pompallier presents land on the eastern side of the street for the creation of St. Mary's College. Almost unaided the sisters erect a three story convent building and open it in 1861. The only surviving building from this period is the Kauri St Mary's Chapel constructed in 1865 by Edward Mahoney for £1100.


1860s Many Roman Catholics buy land in the new Subdivisions in order to be near the Catholic centre with its Church, Convent & Schools. Names such as "Dublin" & "Green" reflect this development.

1860 Bishop Pompallier returns from Europe with a group of French nuns. They form under his direction, the Congregation of the Holy Family, which concentrated on teaching Maori girls.

1861 St. Anne's boarding school occupies O'Neill's former house.

1862 The Convent is completed. The new order of the Holy Family takes over teaching at the school. The order now consists of Maori as well as French Sisters.

1862 The Bishop takes over O'Neill's former house as his official residence.

1863 The Bishop sells more land, retaining the convert|4|acre|m2 with the Bishop's House, The Church of the Holy Family and the Convent of the Holy Family. The Nazareth Institute for Maori and Half-Caste Girls is founded.

1863 The 1863 map of Auckland shows the road from Karangahape Rd to Franklin Rd labelled as Ponsonby Rd. At this time Jervois Rd is also called Ponsonby Rd. The map doesn't show the piece of road from Franklin Rd to College Hill that is called Vandeleur Rd.

1864 The wooden gothic Anglican Church of All Saints at 3 Lamps is built.

1866 All Saints Parish is formed and a Sunday School opened.

1866 St. Mary's Convent, with its dormitories and Chapel is built. 1865-68 The Suffolk Hotel is built on College Hill [now the Cavalier Tavern]

1865 Gas street lights are installed along Ponsonby / Vandeleur road.

1869 -70 The Convent of the Holy Family is destroyed by fire. The Catholic Bishop is forced by his mortgagee to sell his remaining land, including the Bishop's House. The buyer is a Mr. Bennett who demolishes the Church of the Immaculate Conception. [Now the Ponsonby Tennis Club] The Bishop resigns and leaves, leading to the dissolution of the order he had formed; the Order of the Holy Family. St. Mary's Convent remains.


1870s The reclaimation of Freeman's bay begins and is complete by 1901. The infill consists of earth, building debris, rubbish and "night soil". Every week during the 1870s 50 tons of "night soil" is spread over the ground in what will be Grey Lynn.

1871 On 24th of April 1871 Auckland is proclaimed a Borough. There is now a City Council again for the first time since 1852.

1871 The Ponsonby and Dedwood Highway District is formed.

1871 Dedwood Post office is opened.

1872 The Anglican parish of All Saints is officially defined.

1872 The Ponsonby Anglican householders meet with local Education Board. The schoolroom of All Saints Church is rented at 30 per year to house Dedwood School. In 1874 Dedwood School is attended by 100 girls and 74 boys.

1873 The name of the area is changed from Dedwood to Ponsonby. A farm in Shelly beach road was called Dedwood – named after a Captain in the NZ army.

1873 Bishop Croke, the second Catholic Bishop of Auckland buys back the land with the Bishop's House on it. In 1874 the wooden house is moved to its present location at 57 St. Mary's Bay Road.

1873 A contest for the design of Western Park [originally known as City Park] is held. Sir George Grey and Judge Thomas Gillies donate specimen trees.

1876 Ponsonby becomes part of the Newton Constituency.

1876 St Stephens Presbyterian Church in Jervois Rd is built [Thomas Mahoney architect]

1877 St Johns Church, Ponsonby Road is built. This handsome wooden Gothic church is still a landmark of the area.

1877 After years of inactivity the development of Western Park is restarted.

1879 Western Park opens. However work on the project will continue for several decades.

1879 A school opens in Beresford St known as Harrison's School named after its headmaster.

1880 St Stephens Presbyterian Church opens a Sunday School.

1880 LeQuesnes Pharmacy opens on what is now Jervois Road.


early 1880s the plane trees in Franklin road are planted.

1880s Vandeleur Road is called Ponsonby road along its whole length, what will be Jervois Road is still called Ponsonby Road as well.

1880s Three Lamps gets its name from the large Gas lamp standard at the intersection of College Hill Ponsonby & Jervois roads. This was altered in 1902 and removed in 1951. In the 1970s it was recreated at the side of the intersection. 1882 Ponsonby is amalgamated with the Auckland City Council area.

1883 Lieutenant-General Sir William Jervois becomes Governor of New Zealand [1883-1889] Jervois Road is named after him.

1884 The first Horse Tram service from Queen Street to Ponsonby is started. The route is from 3 Lamps to Queen St via K'Rd, Pitt St, & Grey St. The fare is threepence. Trams ran every 15 minutes from 6.30am to 10.30pm at an average speed of convert|5|mi|km an hour.

1884 The Rob Roy Pub is built. It was named after a ship. The first proprietor William Regan is a teetotaler.

1884 A Hand Reel Fire Station is built at 3 Lamps, in 1889 a new station is built in St Mary's Bay Road.

1884 Richmond Road Primary School first opened with Emma Fletcher as principal. She had the added distinction of being the first female principal in the Auckland Education Board area

1885 to 1890 An Economic slump follows the stock market crash. " whole streets such as John Street and Clarence Street had not a soul living in them. Workmen's cottages handy to Queen Street brought half a crown per week: further out, say Ponsonby, such cottages were gladly let free of rent"

1886 The water reservoir at the corner of K'Rd & Ponsonby road is built. [extant]

1886 The Ponsonby Baptist Church is built. The 1778 Avery pipe organ is said to be originally from Windsor Castle, a gift from Queen Victoria to Old St. Pauls, Emily Place which had been demolished the previous year]

1886 - 1887 The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart is built on the corner of O'Neill St and Ponsonby Road. This takes over the role of Parish Church from St Mary's Chapel.

1887 The Ponsonby Seventh Day Adventist Church in McKelvie Street is opened.

1889 The Grey Lynn Borough Council Chambers & Volunteer Fire Station in Williamson Avenue is built John Mitchell architect] .


1890s The underground men's public toilets at 3 lamps are built- these are possibly the first such public utilities in Auckland.

1890s The "Surrey Hills" farm [owned jointly by Thomas Crummer & the Hon. James Williamson] is subdivided for building sections and renamed Surrey Crescent. 1893 The Ponsonby Catholic Parish School building in O'Neill St is opened, in 1913 when the school is moved to Vermont St the building became a hall.

1894 The New Bishop's Palace is constructed to the designs of Pugin & Pugin [sons of Augustus Welby Pugin, the Gothic Enthusiast responsible for much of the decorative work of the Palace of Westminster.] The Bishop's Palace was partly funded by donations from all over the world including 5000 schools in Europe & the USA, the Lord Mayor of London and an Archduchess of Austria. An imposing dark brick gothic pile, it is believed to be the first House in Auckland to have electric lighting.

1897 The Catholic Order of the Little Sisters of the Poor is established in NZ. They were first located in a two storied house in Hepburn St and from 1904 in Tweed St.


1902 Horse drawn trams are superseded by Electrified Trams. The speed limit for trams set at convert|9|mi|km [13.5 kilometres] an hour. Part of the contract to allow trams use the roadway is that the central section where the tramlines are laid is surfaced in asphalt. The lamp-post at Three Lamps was removed and the 3 gas lamps mounted on the new tram pole. These lights were electrified in 1920. The pole was removed in 1951, after which the lamps were attached to the façade of the nearby pub. In the 1970s a new Lamp-post was built with the same three circular steps as the original. 1902 The Ponsonby Fire Station in St Marys Bay Road is built. [Goldsbo'ro & Wade architects]

1903 The brick building housing the Auckland Gas Company in Beaumont St is constructed.

1903 December 3 after a blazing row the Ponsonby Yacht club take up residence at the Rob Roy Hotel.

1903 A monument to the soldiers who fell in the Boer War is erected at 3 lamps [corner of St Mary's Bay road & College Hill] this white marble monument disappears around 1927.

1904 The Catholic Order of the Little Sisters of the Poor moves to Tweed St.

1905 The Leys Institute at 3 lamps is established by brothers William Leys and Dr Thomas Leys. This includes a Public Library, Lecture Theatre & Gymnasium. 1905 A Black American named Edward James opens a roller skating rink at 3 lamps. In 1913 it is converted into a cinema designed by Frederic A. Browne. First called the Windsor then the Britannia it was owned by Thomas O'Brien [builder of the Civic Theatre ] It closed in 1969, after a time as a flooring showroom, and underwent a fairly sensitive renovation in the 1970s before reopening in 1982 as the Alhambra Shopping Mall.

1905 Victoria Park created. Sir Arthur Myers 1868–1926 (former Mayor of Auckland & Brewery Managing director) donates money for Playground equipment.

1905 Construction of the City Council Works Depot is started. [now Victoria Park Market]

1906 The Hydra Bacon factory is constructed on Tole's paddock at 3 Lamps.

1909 The kindergarten in Victoria Park is built. When it encounters financial difficulties in 1910, John Logan Campbell purchases it to rescue the institution.


1911 The Ponsonby Post Office is built. John Campbell - Government Architect [NZ Historic Places Listing]

1911 Point Erin is purchased for £19000 with another £3000 to develop it as a public park.

1912 Buildings are erected on Tole's paddock [cnr College Hill & Ponsonby road]

1913 Waterfront Strike meetings held in the Freeman's Hotel.

1914 The Auckland City Council allocates £3000 for six municipal houses in Clarence Street. This is the Council's first venture into public housing.

1915 The City Council Works Depot completed. Known as "The Destructor" this facility burnt a great deal of the city's rubbish for many years. It was closed in 1972. In 1983 the brick industrial complex was converted into Victoria Park Market.

1915 Stitchbury terrace, a set of townhouses, is built [cnr of Curran St & Jervois Rd]

1918 The wooden grandstand in Victoria Park is used as a temporary morgue during the great influenza epidemic, from here the corpses are taken to the train station at the bottom of town and transported out to Waikamete cemetery in West Auckland. In Auckland almost 1700 people perish.


1920 Augustus Braithwaite, the Ponsonby Postmaster is murdered at his home in Shelly Beach Rd. The murderer Dennis Gunn was hung as a result of the first use of fingerprint evidence in a trial in New Zealand.

1928 The ASB Bank in Jervois Rd is built.

1929-1933 The Depression effects retail trade considerably.

1939 War declared.


1942-1945 WWII American Troops occupy Victoria Park. Air-raid drills and black outs impose themselves on everyday life in Auckland. Along with rationing most private transportation is hampered by restrictions resulting in public transport being overloaded. The crush usually encountered at rush hour is now usual all day.


1950 The End of rationing. The next ten years are a time of increased prosperity for NZ.

1950s The lure of the new suburbs and the greatly increased number of people able to own motorcars results in a general exodus of people from the inner-city. Throughout the western world this trend results in a downward spiral of old-fashioned inner city housing areas. The ethos of the 40s/50s and 60s with its obsession with newness & hygiene results in Victorian structures being regarded as little short of evil. Much of Auckland's inner city housing is denounced as "sustandard" The Auckland City Council embarks on a programme of "slum clearance" which results in the destruction of many Victorian houses in the inner city despite protests from long term residents. The effect of this is quite catastrophic.

1956 The electric Tram service is discontinued, the Tram tracks are torn up, the overhead wires continue to be used for the electric trolley buses.

1950s The foreshore of St. Mary's bay disappears under the approaches to the Harbour Bridge. Cut off from the sea a great number of small commercial boat-yards are forced to close and many private boat-slips which have been used for almost a century fall into disuse.The Auckland Harbour Board planned to fill in Westhaven completely, but a group of local residents including engineers and architects donated their services to create Westhaven Marina, now one of Auckland's greatest assets.

1959 The Auckland Harbour Bridge opens.


1960s The motorway viaduct over Victoria Park is constructed.

1960s The cutting of the motorway system through Freemans Bay combined with City Council's Clearance schemes exasperates the decline of the inner city suburbs. Property values plummet and the low rents means the area becomes home to a diverse set of people; migrant workers from the Pacific Islands, University students, homosexuals and sex workers.]

1960s The wooden Victorian Gothic All Saints Church at 3 Lamps is replaced by a new brick structure designed by Professor. R.H.Toy.

1969 The Britannia Picture theatre at 3 lamps closes. After a period as a flooring showroom it undergoes a fairly sensitive renovation in the 1970s and opens as the Alhambra Shopping Mall.


1970s The Ponsonby/Grey Lynn/Freemans Bay area is widely regarded as a slum. Large numbers of shops on Ponsonby road are second hand merchants and many premises.

1970s The electric trolley bus system is discontinued – the overhead wires are taken down. 1970s-80s Significant numbers of Gays & Lesbians begin to live in Grey Lynn/Freeman's Bay/St Mary's Bay and begin a process of gentrification. The presence of so many "creative" types, gay & straight creates a distinct culture in the area. [This set of affairs is mirrored in Parnell]

Late 1970s The Auckland City Council reuses the old Police Barracks as a community art centre called "Outreach".

1979 The New Zealand Muslim Association starts construction work on the first mosque in New Zealand at 17 Vermont Street, Ponsonby.


1980s Assembly of God Church is erected next to the Harbour Bridge approaches at Victoria Park.

1983 Inactive since 1972 the Destructor at Victoria Park [1915] is saved from demolition by being converted into use as Victoria Park Market.

~1984~ Ponsonby Shopping Village is established by Gene and Maneeka Campbell (founders of the Auckland Motor Show). New Zealand Herald's front page artical for the completion and opening of this building was titled, "Ponsonby's on the move again"."

mid 1980s The construction of two high rise apartment blocks on Jervois Rd leads to public outcry as it is discovered that the existing town planning rules allow for such developments. In the face of wide spread pressure from the residents of the Ponsonby area, the Auckland City Council swiftly amends the height restrictions to make it impossible for similar buildings to be erected in the future.

1980s The Gasholders at the bottom of College Hill are demolished.

Late 1980s The process of gentrification is quite perceivable. Ponsonby's villas have become desirable properties and the area is seen as a good place to live.


1990s The Queer presence in the Ponsonby area is expressed by various annual events Coming Out Day parades & The Hero Parade.

1990s Other festivals develop in the area: the Grey Lynn Festival & Pasifika.

1990s Ponsonby Road has become known as Restaurant mile. Amongst other things the liberalising of the liquor laws results in a large increase in small restaurants & bars. While the Auckland City Council's relaxation of bylaws prohibiting pavement cafes encourages large numbers of cafes to appear.

1990s The process of gentrification has resulted in Ponsonby becoming a very desirable place to live. The greatly increased property values begin to drive out the lower income people who rent accommodation in the area, while many families who bought property in the area during the 60s are tempted to capitalise on the increase in the value of their homes and sell up. Slowly the area begins to lose many of its Pacific Island inhabitants and its more colourful and raffish characters.

1990s Concerned with pressure of development in the Ponsonby area the Auckland City Council makes much of Grey Lynn a heritage area with building laws specifically designed to protect the character of the area. Grey Lynn is the largest concentration of wooden Victorian buildings in the world.

1990s The Gluepot Tavern at 3 Lamps closes and is renovated as retail shops and apartments.

1990s John Radford Sculptures installed in Western Park.

1996 A proposal is put to improve the viaduct basin to create the America's Cup village.

1990s the Link bus service commences.

2000 The side effects of the America's Cup are seen when restaurants along Ponsonby Road are empty while people crowd the venues surrounding the viaduct harbour. Some businesses find it difficult to weather the financial downturn during what should be their busiest season. Some are forced to downscale their staff numbers or even close shop.


2000s The gentrification process has led to such an increase in property values that many of those involved including Gays & Lesbians relocate further out beginning the gentrification process again in area like Kingsland, Point Chevalier, Mt Albert and even Onehunga. 2000s Concerns over Infill housing lead to new bylaws.

2000 A Supermarket is built on the site of the gasholders at the bottom of College Hill.

2000s A Mainstreet programme is initiated for Ponsonby Road.

2000s Improvements to Western Park, a mosaic pavement by Mark Davidson is installed.

2002 The Auckland Gas Company buildings in Beaumont street are converted into a retail & residential apartment complex.

2003 A project to widen the Victoria Park motorway viaduct threatens the Campbell free Kindergarten building and the Birdcage [formerly the Rob Roy] plans are laid in place to preserve the Rob Roy Building by moving it further up Franklin Road.

2005 Widening of Viaduct postponed


*"The Lively Capital, Auckland 1840-1865". Una Platts, Avon Fine Prints Limited New Zealand 1971.
*"The Heart of Colonial Auckland, 1865-1910". Terence Hodgson. Random Century NZ Ltd 1992.
*"Colonial Architecture In New Zealand". John Stacpoole. A.H & A.W Reed 1976
*"Decently And In Order, The Centennial History of the Auckland City Council". G.W.A Bush. Collins 1971.
*"Auckland Through A Victorian Lens". William Main. Millwood Press 1977.
*"Ponsonby Heritage Walks". Tania Mace. Ponsonby Road Productions 2005.

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