Parnell's History

A short history of New Zealand's
oldest suburb from 1841 to today

How Parnell Got Its Name

Since 1841, there has been a lot of speculation about whom the central Auckland suburb of Parnell was named after. Several historic figures have incorrectly been credited including Charles Stewart Parnell (the Irish politician), Samuel Parnell (who instigated the eight-hour working day in New Zealand), Thomas Parnell (the poet) and Sir Henry Brooke Parnell (a prominent member of the British Parliament).

The full story of the naming of Parnell will be revealed in September, with the launch of the 2013 Issue of the Parnell Heritage Journal and at the Parnell Heritage AGM on 26 September at the Quality Inn in Gladstone Road, Parnell. Margaret Edgcumbe, who was born in Parnell and has been researching the early history of the suburb, will be speaking at the meeting, which commences at 7 pm.

The colourful personality behind the naming of Parnell was Robert Tod, a land speculator who purchased three acres in the second Auckland Land Sale on 1 September 1841, subdivided it into 36 small sections and several days later advertised them for sale as the ‘The Village of Parnell’. Born in Scotland, Tod had an adventurous career as a merchant in the Middle East and Adelaide (South Australia’s Tod River is named after him).

The Settlement of Parnell

The area now known as Parnell, situated within Auckland City, has very few traces of the original early Maori settlement. There are many Maori oral history accounts of the settlement and battles over ownership of the land. In approximately 1750 Ngati Whatua, from Riverhead, took possession of the area following a clash with Waiohua.

The most prominent early European explorer to visit the area was Captain D’Urville in 1827. In 1840 Ngati Whatua gifted 3,000 acres of their land to Captain Hobson to help with the establishment of the new capital of New Zealand. The land was then sold to help secure revenue for the new Government. The first land sale was in the downtown Auckland area in April 1841. The 119 lots sold very quickly.

Pressure from new immigrants wanting land resulted in the Government surveying and selling off “suburban”, “cultivation” and “small farms” sections on 1 September 1841. The “suburban” land of 25 lots encompassed the triangle of land between Manukau Road (now Parnell Road), St Stephen’s Avenue, and Conquest Place (now Gladstone Road). One of those 25 lots was purchased by Robert Tod.

By 4 September 1841 he had subdivided the three acres lot into 36 allotments which he advertised for sale as the “Village of Parnell”. So the name of Parnell and the first suburb in New Zealand were established. The name Parnell has since spread over an area of 200 acres where more than 10,000 people now live.

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