|Local authority||Auckland City|
|Northwest||Saint Marys Bay|
Freemans Bay is the name of a former bay and now inner city suburb of Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand. The historical bay was filled in to a large extent, and lost its shoreline to reclamation works. Historically a poor and often disreputable quarter, it is now a wealthy neighbourhood known for its mix of heritage homes and more recent single-dwelling houses, as well as for its two large parks.
Since the turn of the 20th century, extensive land reclamation (partly using stone quarried from nearby headlands) has seen Freemans Bay itself disappear. The reclamation of the old bay was finished in 1901, and Victoria Park was created on most of the resulting flat area. It is still public land used mostly for sports purposes.
Waiatarau (or 'Reflecting Waters') was the Māori name for the bay that is now Victoria Park, although other names relate to the area; such as Wai Kōtota ('The place where the cockles are harvested') and Te Koranga ('The scaffolds', referring to the racks upon which fish would be hung to dry in the sun). A stream called Waikuta ('Waters of the reed') discharged into the south eastern corner of the bay (bottom of College Hill Road) while the Tunamau ('To catch eels') stream came down from what is now Western Park and met the bay at the bottom of what is now Franklin Road.
Freemans Bay is one of the earliest settled areas in Auckland, and was earmarked for development and land reclamation in the 1840s by Colonial Surveyor Felton Matthew who laid out the streets along the shores of the local bays. However, it would be some years yet before the reclamation was to occur.
Freemans Bay is probably named after Captain William Hobson’s secretary, James Stuart Freeman who apparently lived in the area. He was described by Logan Campbell in 1844 as "the most disgustingly immoral swindling scoundrel in town".
Local gossip had it that he was not actually married to the woman he was living with, or that there was something amiss in her past. She apparently had been on intimate terms with Mrs Hobson and others in the Government House circle but after William Hobson's death in 1842 and Mrs Hobson's return to Britain she found herself shut out of genteel society in Auckland. This pained Eleanor Freeman enormously and enraged her husband. Living in a workers cottage on the wrong side of town certainly couldn't have helped her social status. After her early death at the age of 26 on 17 December 1844 Freeman added to the wagging tongues by remarrying just six weeks later. After his marriage to Mary Ann Miller on 29 January 1845 the Freemans left New Zealand.
Industry and slums
While settled as one of the earliest parts of the country by Europeans, the area soon became unfashionable. From the 1850s on, here on the "wrong side of Queen Street" more and more industrial uses were located such as the abattoir and the gasworks of the Auckland Gas Company. By 1883 nine shipyards, three sawmills, a brass and iron foundry, a glassworks, an asphalt works as well as several coal and lime traders were present. Also found here were several public facilities like the city morgue, the night soil dump and from 1905 the city rubbish incinerator (known as the 'Destructor', now Victoria Park Market).
Around these occupations were gathered some of the more modest houses in 19th century Auckland. Two land auctions in 1864 in this area were the "Brookville" estate [121 sites] and "Alma Place" [152 sites] The large number of building sites are probably an indication of the small size of the building sections. These workers cottages were built very close together and often poorly constructed. The average house for sale on Franklin Road in 1910 was advertised for ₤736, while the average house in Victoria Road, Remuera, was considered worth ₤1279 at the time. By 1930, the percentage of unskilled workers amongst the male population of Freemans Bay had risen to 39%, whereas in affluent Remuera it was only 2%. Conversely, only 11% of all males of Freemans Bay worked in "white-collar" or "business and professional" roles, whereas in Remuera the same percentage had grown to 86% by that time, a sign of the increasing homogenification of Auckland suburbs.
In 1905 Victoria Park was created which included sports grounds, a sports pavilion and a children's playground. The playground equipment was donated by Mr John Court of the John Court Department Store. In 1909 a kindergarten for the local children was opened. It soon ran into financial problems, however, from which it was rescued by Logan Campbell. The original brick building which is now unused has been standing in a derelict condition for a number of years whilst awaiting restoration, though NZTA noted in 2010 that it would be restored as part of the works around the Victoria Park Tunnel. During the 1918 flu epidemic, the sports pavilion was used as a depot for corpses awaiting transportation by rail to the city cemeteries.
In the 1930s the Auckland City Council set up a committee called "The Decadent Areas Committee" (later renamed as the "Housing Committee") largely to deal with the area. Many Māori who had recently moved to the city for work would come to live in the cheap housing of the area during the next several decades.
When the motorway system was constructed from 1955 onwards it was an ideal excuse to demolish large areas of Freemans Bay in the name of slum clearance and progress. The motorway cut large swathes through Freemans Bay taking out good housing as well as slum-type buildings. It has been alleged by some critics that the decision to delay completion of the Western Ring Route (proposed for a long time before the motorway was built through Freemans Bay) was motivated by the fact that the new Auckland Harbour Bridge required higher toll revenues to repay its construction cost.
Council flats and townhouses were built in the area during the 1960s and 1970s - though a much more extensive 1950s plan, which would have seen most of Freemans Bays' houses levelled and replaced by medium-density housing blocks, did not come to pass. Only a few blocks were constructed along Whitson Terrace where they are still present today. Later, during the 1980s and 1990s, the remaining Victorian house stock was gentrified along with the neighbouring suburbs of Ponsonby and St Marys Bay and they are now some of Auckland's most fashionable and desirable residences.
Across the road from Victoria Park now stands Victoria Park Market, which occupies the buildings of the previous City Council Works Depot. Built between 1905 & 1915 and known as "the Destructor", this facility burnt a great deal of the city's rubbish for many years. It was closed in 1972, and in 1983 the brick industrial complex was converted into the market.
In recent years (2000–2003) the north-eastern part of Freemans Bay's original shoreline has been transformed into the Viaduct Basin, which served as a headquarters for the various yachting syndicates involved in the America's Cup campaigns of 2000 and 2003, and is now an upper-class (multi-story) residential area, which also includes some prestigious office blocks.
The suburb is now home to a much more affluent populace, with the 2006 median income at $41,400, much higher than the $26,800 average Auckland-wide. Around 32% of all residents live in single-person households, some in the many former Council flats still existing in the area, though the housing stock is quite varied.
The Ministry of Education operates state schools. Freemans Bay School is located in Freemans Bay. Close-by local State secondary schools are Auckland Girls Grammar School and St Mary's College, though the latter is outside the actual suburb's boundaries.
- Business History Project:Timeline (from the University of Auckland website. Retrieved 2007-12-05)
- Historical Background (from the Addendum 2 February 2006 of the Vic Park Tunnel project documentation, Transit New Zealand, Page 4. Accessed 2008-02-20.)
- Iconic Auckland market to be revamped - NZPA via 'infonews.co.nz', Friday 6 April 2007
- New Zealand Historical Atlas - McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 73
- Gibson, Anne (7 June 2010). "Old kindergarten to get new lease of life". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- Maori Community Centre Site Purchase (from a newsletter of the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board, Issue 16 September 2004. Accessed 2008-02-14.)
- "Michael Lee: Sins of the fathers - legacy of harbour bridge". The New Zealand Herald. 1 June 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- New Zealand Historical Atlas - McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 75
- Campbell, Ashley (11 September 2010). "So you want to live in Freeman's Bay?". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "What's New?" Freemans Bay School. Retrieved on 5 March 2010.
- "Freemans Bay School." Ministry of Education. Retrieved on 5 March 2010.
- Auckland's Original Shoreline - Campbell, Nerida; Heart of the City, 2005
- The Lively Capital, Auckland 1840-1865 - Platts, Una; Avon Fine Prints Limited, New Zealand 1971