Parnell, New Zealand

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Basic information
Local authority Auckland
Date established 1840s
North Mechanics Bay
Northeast Judges Bay
East Hobson Bay
Southeast Broadway Park
South Newmarket
Southwest Grafton
West Auckland CBD
Northwest Auckland CBD
Looking north-north-west down Parnell Road, Ports of Auckland and Waitemata Harbour visible in the distance.
The Anglican Cathedral, with old St Mary's church behind it
Parnell Rose Gardens during the 2006 Rose Festival.

Parnell is a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. It is often billed as Auckland's "oldest suburb" since it dates from the earliest days of the European settlement of Auckland in 1841. To its west lies the Auckland Domain, to the south Newmarket, and to the north the commercial area of St Georges Bay with mainly office-space.

Parnell Rise and Parnell Road make up the main road through Parnell. Parnell Rise leads to the central business district to the west; Parnell Road runs from Parnell Rise uphill to the top of the suburb, and then bends almost 90 degrees and continues towards Newmarket in the south-east. Parnell Road ends at the intersection of George and Sarawia Streets, where it becomes Broadway. Early European settlers knew Parnell Road as "Manukau Road" until well after the formation of Khyber Pass (or Khyber Pass Road) in 1845.


Parnell was named after Samuel Duncan Parnell, who is credited with the establishment of the Eight hour day in New Zealand.[citation needed]

The Borough of Parnell, established in 1877, was amalgamated into the Auckland City Council area in 1913[1] or in 1915.[2] The Parnell Road Board administered the area before the Borough was established.[3]

While Parnell has so far never had a dedicated train station, it is planned to construct a new station near the Mainline Steam Depot at the west of the Parnell shops area, north of the Parnell Tunnel, which has been located under the suburbs since 1873.[4]

Notable buildings and landmarks[edit]

Lower Parnell Road

  • The Swan Hotel, 31-35 Parnell Rise. Constructed prior to 1856 and is one of the earliest timber public houses surviving in Auckland. Additions to the building date from the 1880s and were designed by Edward Bartley. This building originally stood directly on the foreshore. Historically this cove (now completely reclaimed) had been used by Maori to beach their waka; this usage continued after european settlement and part of the forehore was demarkated as a Maori hostel (currently used as a testing circuit for police cars).
  • Parnell Rail Bridge. 19th century metal rail bridge on massive volcanic basalt rock piers. This structure allows the railline to cross over Parnell Road without disrupting traffic.
  • Mayfair Apartments - 1930s brick Neo-Georgian highrise apartment block.
  • Windsor Castle Hotel - 144 Parnell Road. This hotel actually dates from the 1850s; behind the elaborate 1880s facade is a simple early Pub. The hotel was remodelled in the 1880s, when the architect, R. MacKay Fripp, was commissioned to create a large Victorian corner pub of urban type.
  • Former Heard Factory; Three storied art-deco style industrial building built for a Confectionery Manufacturer.
  • Church of St John the Baptist (Catholic), 204 Parnell Road. This church was designed by Edward Mahoney and formally instituted by Bishop Pompallier in 1861, it is the only Catholic church in Parnell and the oldest Catholic church in the city. The Sisters of Mercy had a convent here and a Catholic primary school ran for a century, until it closed due to falling rolls in the 1950s.

Parnell Road

  • Whitby Lodge - 330 Parnell Road. Erected by the early 1870s, Whitby Lodge is one of few surviving colonial dwellings in Auckland constructed of the local volcanic stone basalt. Possibly erected as early as 1848 or 1852. It is possible that Fraser erected a building on the site at the time of his purchase in 1864, or improved an existing structure. Interestingly the roof beams are not supported by the masonry walls, suggesting this is an earlier wooden structure which was subsequently clad in stone. The building was occupied by the Consulate General of the Cook Islands as an Embassy from 1978 until 1 December 1994.
  • Hulme Court - 350 Parnell Road. A stone-built, Regency-style house surrounded by trellised verandahs, was built in 1843 for Sir Fredrick Whitaker (lawyer destined to become Premier); it is the second oldest surviving house in Auckland and the oldest documented dwelling still standing on its original site, it was briefly Government House in the 1850s as well as being occupied by a succession of people including: Bishop Selwyn, Colonel Hulme - Commander of British Troops in New Zealand after whom the house is named, Governor Gore Browne who used it as a temporary Government House and later Sir Francis Dillon Bell - Minister of Native Affairs and advisor to Governor Grey.
  • Former Parnell Public Library. Cnr Parnell road and St Georges Bay Road. 1920s Neo-Classical building.

Saint Stephen's Corner

  • The Anglican Cathedral, which stands at the top of the hill, is the most distinctive feature of Parnell. It replaced the old wooden St Mary's, demolished in 1888, having served the community for 28 years. The current building has two parts: the brick choir and body of the church date from about 1960 and represent a "modern" simplified version of Gothic. This closely resembles Guildford Cathedral, by Edward Maufe, completed in 1961. (Guildford exempllifies Municipal Gothic: one commentator[who?] described it as "the dying gasp of the Gothic Revival in England".) The massing of the forms, the detailing of the masonry and the smooth expanses of plain brick occur in both buildings. Over the transept entrance stands a bronze sculpture of the Archangel Michael defeating the Devil, very similar to the Epstein sculpture of the same subject on Coventry Cathedral (finished 1962). The front part of the church, built in the 1990s to the design of Professor Richard Toy and John Sinclair, recalls the new Coventry Cathedral built after World War II. It features large stained-glass windows, illuminated by the sunlight at certain times of the day. Māori motifs and symbols appear in the newer part of the building, which awaits a large spire to finish the composition.
  • Old Saint Marys - Next to this building stands the smaller wooden Gothic St Mary's. This dates from 1885 and served as the pro-cathedral after the demolition of the earlier St Mary's and until the building of the current cathedral. Designed by B.W Mountfort, it stood on the other side of Parnell Road until the 1980s.
  • Bishopscourt - St Stephens Avenue. Also known as Selwyn Court, this is the residence of the Anglican Bishop of Auckland. This wooden gothic house, designed by Frederick Thatcher, has a chapel and an octagonal turret. Bishop Selwyn and his wife moved here in May 1865.
  • Neligan House - St Stephens Avenue. Fine Arts & Crafts brick Residence built for Bishop Neligan in 1908 by Noel Bamford & Hector Pierce.
  • St Stephens House - St Stephens Avenue. Wooden Edwardian Mansion, now used for Anglican social services.
  • The Old Deanery - St Stephens Avenue - A Frederick Thatcher designed Neo-Tudor house with volcanic Scoria rock probably by Benjamin Strange.

Northern area of Parnell

  • Tower House - 33 St Stephen's Avenue. Landmark Brick mansion from 1904 with distinctive turret. The residence of A.E.T. Devore, Mayor of Auckland 1886-1889.
  • Parnell Rose Gardens Dove Myer Robinson Park 85 to 87 Gladstone Road, Parnell. Named after the popular and longest serving Mayor of Auckland, Dove Myer Robinson Park overlooks the beautiful Waitemata Harbour. This area consists of a number of different areas; the cottage style Nancy Stein Memorial Garden popular for wedding ceremonies; sweeping on down to Judges Bay and the salt water Parnell Baths. The Parnell Rose Garden is a major city attraction, containing beautifully maintained rose beds, and leads on to extended open spaces and areas with specimen trees. The park is also home to some remarkable native trees - the oldest manuka and largest Pohutukawa in Auckland. There are car parking facilities and nice artworks at the Fred Ambler Lookout, an open space that overlooks the container terminal.
  • Judges Bay So-called because in 1841 Judge Martin and Attorney General Swainson arrived in Auckland with houses in prefabricated sections. Swainson built on the west side and the Martins on the east of this bay. Known as Taurarua ‘the two ropes’ it is thought that this name referred to the two administrators of British justice. From here Martin and his neighbour Swainson would commute to work in Auckland by rowboat; they employed maori boatmen who were supplied with uniforms. Lady Martin taught English to the local maori and late in her life wrote of her experiences in early colonial New Zealand.
  • St Stephens Church and graveyard. Important early Anglican Chapel and cemetery.

Southern area of Parnell

  • Kinder House Scoria residence built for the Rev John Kinder (1819-1903)in 1857, of volcanic Scoria rock by Benjamin Strange. Now a museum, Kinder House is open to the public weekdays from 11am to 3pm. There is a modest entry charge. Various booklets and postcards are on sale.
  • Ewelme Cottage The kauri-constructed Ewelme Cottage has a link with the Anglican community in Auckland, the dwelling designed and built by the Reverend Vicesimus Lush (1817-1882) and his wife Blanche in 1863-64. Ewelme Cottage, after being extended 18 years after it was originally built, remained in family hands till 1968.
  • Jubilee Building - The New Zealand Jubilee Institute for the Blind was founded in 1890 by John Abbott, Merchant, who came to New Zealand in 1864. The Institute school had originally been established in an old boarding house in Parnell in 1889. A more permanent school was built in 1891 with money from a mayoralty fund set up to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, resulting in the name "Jubilee Institute". This building burnt down in 1897. Between 1907 and 1909, handsome new brick buildings were built for the Institute,designed by well-known architect Edward Bartley and built by W.Philcox and Sons. Additions in 1926 designed by Gummer and Ford provided for adult accommodation, a shop, workshops were the blind worked on various manufacturing projects, and a women's dormitory in 1927. The building is now an Auckland City community centre and library.

During the early 1970s the suburb became rather dilapidated. Les Harvey, a local businessman, created "Parnell Village" and revitalised the area as a week-end tourist shopping-destination. This involved Parnell re-inventing itself as a set of "Ye Olde Worlde Shoppes". As many other Victorian buildings underwent demolition in Auckland at the time, period materials became available cheaply, and the buildings of Parnell village emerged altered, extended and tarted up in a somewhat fanciful but fun ersatz Victorian style. Much of this restyling remains in evidence within Parnell Village and within the Parnell Road shopping area, under the ongoing ownership of the Harvey family's company, City Construction.

Along the upper part of Parnell Road stand a number of these houses, most of them now used by law firms, accountancy firms, shops, and a few restaurants.

The lower part of Parnell has a larger concentration of Edwardian retail buildings, including a number of fashionable boutiques, nightclubs and bars. The streets to each side of Parnell Road remain mainly residential in character, with some townhouses and apartments, especially towards St Georges Bay Road.

At the bottom of Parnell Rise runs Beach Road, so called because it ran round the beach-front of the now-reclaimed Mechanics Bay and Official Bay. St Georges Bay disappeared at the same time. Here stands the former Auckland Railway Station, an impressive brick 1930s structure, designed by Gummer and Ford. The City Fathers relocated the Railway Station here from the bottom of Queen Street to become the centrepiece for the new downtown business area of Auckland.[citation needed] The plan did not prove successful; the station building has ceased to operate as a station and the Britomart Transport Centre has taken over the earlier location. This has started[citation needed] to prove a great success.


Parnell lies within easy reach of two universities (University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology) and of some significant State secondary schools: Auckland Grammar School, Epsom Girls Grammar School, St Peter's College and Baradene College of the Sacred Heart.

Other private educational institutions located in Parnell include ACG Parnell College (a secondary school), Euroasia and Kaplan International Colleges.

Parnell District School, which caters for Year 1-8 students is the second oldest school in Auckland.[citation needed]


Parnell has several parks.

  • Dove-Myer Robinson Park, more commonly known as the Parnell Rose Garden- this park enjoys views over the Waitemata Harbour. It was created by combining land belonging to several large houses, one of which (the home of the Gillies family) was retained as the tearooms. One of the other properties belonged to Sir John Logan Campbell whose house Killbryde was demolished in 1924. The park is distinguished by many mature trees which were planted by the previous private owners. The park is named after Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, the longest serving mayor of Auckland, who served for 18 years. The Rose Gardens are popular for weddings and each year in November, the park is host to the Parnell Festival of Roses, which showcases New Zealand craft stalls, art exhibitions, music, strolling performers and thousands of roses. One portion of the garden is a collection of heritage roses collected by the late Nancy Steen. Nancy Steen Rose Garden The entrance to the park is a War Memorial built of volcanic basalt composed of three massive arches.
  • Ayr Reserve Area of largely native bush accessible from Ayr Street.
  • Alberon Reserve Area of native bush accessible from Alberon Street and St Georges Bay Road.
  • Heard Park is located in the centre of Parnell Village. This land was donated to the city in 1953 by the Heard family, the owners of Heards Candy. The large Art-Deco Heards building is adjacent to the park, now no longer a working confectionery factory. [5]
  • Fraser Park is located at the western end of Parnell Road. This triangular piece of land was previously the location of Parnell School, its wooden school buildings were demolished in the 1950s. It is also apparently known by locals as "Mike Robinson Park".



The following served as Mayors of the Borough of Parnell until its incorporation into Auckland City:[6]

  • 1877–1877 Henry Matthew Nation
  • 1877–1878 J.W. Melton
  • 1878–1879 William Coleman
  • 1879–1880 J.W. Robinson
  • 1880–1881 J. Friar Clark
  • 1881–1883 Robert Walker
  • 1883–1885 D.H. McKenzie
  • 1885–1887 Jonathan Winks
  • 1887–1888 Seymour Thorne George
  • 1888–1891 H.B. Sealy
  • 1891–1892 Seymour Thorne George
  • 1892–1894 John McCabe
  • 1894–1895 George S. Kissling
  • 1895–1896 Spencer Von Sturmer
  • 1896–1897 Joseph Thornes
  • 1897–1898 N.W. Pollard
  • 1898–1903 Hugh Campbell
  • 1903–1906 John Fitt
  • 1906–1909 George W. Basley
  • 1909–1913 Richard Stevenson Briggs


Parnell forms part of the Epsom Electorate for Parliamentary representation, and of the Hobson Ward for council representation within Auckland City. Parnell represents approximately 20% of the population in each of these. The current Member of Parliament for Epsom, David Seymour, represents ACT New Zealand. The serving city councillors for the Hobson Ward all stood on the Citizens and Ratepayers Now ticket.

Notable residents[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • The Heart of Colonial Auckland, 1865-1910. Terence Hodgson. Random Century NZ Ltd 1992. ISBN 1-86941-148-X
  • 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.
  • Auckland's Original Shoreline. Dr Neride Campbell. Heart of the City 2005.
  • The Lively Capital, Auckland 1840-1865. Una Platts. Avon Fine Prints Limited New Zealand 1971.


  1. ^ Selected Auckland City chronology 1840-1998, retrieved 2008-02-23
  2. ^ G.W.A. Bush: "History of Auckland City", retrieved 2008-02-23
  3. ^ Parnell, The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District], pp. 509–515. The Cyclopedia Company, Ltd, 1902, Christchurch. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  4. ^ "ARC presses for Parnell train station". The New Zealand Herald. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Lists of Auckland area mayors, retrieved 2008-02-23
  7. ^ Lewis, Rebecca (16 November 2008). "And now John Key won't live here either". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°52′S 174°47′E / 36.867°S 174.783°E / -36.867; 174.783