Self Directed Tour of Historical Grafton

Volcanic History in Grafton

Grafton lies completely within the Domain Volcano zone which is one of the oldest in Auckland.

Around 50,000 years ago, a massive explosion blew most of the original Volcanic Cone away. The Domain cricket field sits in the centre while The Auckland Museum and Auckland Hospital mark the outer edges of the crater.

To the south, Mt Eden erupted around 20,000 years ago, producing a great lava flow which was cut through at great expense and effort to form Khyber Pass in 1845.

Maori History in Grafton

Tradition tells that Maungawhau (Mt Eden) in early times was the home of Ngati Kahua, a sub tribe of Wai-o-Hua. People of the Tainui canoe became dominant and many families of these parts trace their lineage to them.

After warfare in the 17th and 18th centuries Ngati Whatua from the Kaipara defeated the Wai-o-Hua in a great battle near Mt Albert (Owairaka) and settled in the area.

Musket raids in the 1820’s by the Nga Puhi from the North ended in peace in 1828.

This was concluded on a site of an old Pa, Pukekaroa, the central scoria cone in The Domain, now marked by a Palisade to commemorate the one time residence by the Waikato (Tainui) Chef, Te Wherewhero. In 1840, Ngati Whatua and their chiefs signed the deed f purchase for the sale of Auckland (Tamaki-makaurau).

European Settlement in Grafton

This began in the early 1840’s with a Crown Grant to European Settlers of an area bounded by the present streets of Grafton Road, Park Road and Khyber Pass Road and named “Grafton” in honour of Governor Fitzroys’ grandfather, the 3rd Duke of Grafton, a supporter of the Evangelical Movement.

Perhaps this influenced Fitzroy’s 1844 sixe acre grant to the Methodists for a “native training institute” on a site later occupied by churches, Trinity College and the present Grafton Hall.

Early residents were prosperous people. Walter Brodie built Carlton Gore – home to Hugh Carlton, then to the Lawry family and demolished in 1957, Huntly House was one of the many Stone family residences and Outhwaite Park memoralises the Outhwaite family.

A significant military presence included Captain Beckham and in lower Grafton, General Sir Trevor Chute and Major von Tempsky.

More modest housing appeared in the 1850’s-60’s when worker’s cottages – a few still standing – were built on the newly formed Seafield View Road.

A map drawn by Rev. John Kinder in 1857 shows this subdivision was fully built by this time which valuation records in the 1880’s reveal a wide range of occupations. This was the beginning of the “diversification” of Grafton.

When the Lawry Estate was sub-divided in 1880 there was eager competition for sections and renewed building activity – the Keesing family built Fern Nook (now demolished) on Park Road but many of the Kauri Villas from the end of the century and elegant bungalows built between 1910-1940 still remain.

A school appeared in 1877 and  a footbridge across the deep, bush clad Grafton Gully was built in 1880 in a first attempt to connect Grafton more directly to the other settlements on central Auckland’s ridge top.

In 1910, the Grafton Bridge was opened to the public – at the time, this was the world’s longest Concrete Span and still one of New Zealand’s most famous engineering feats.

The Grafton Bridge opened the suburb up to development and very quickly, a bustling shopping centre on Park Road had formed to meet the needs of the growing population.

In the 1960’s, the Grafton Gully – a large stretch of virgin native bush and haven for birdlife – was destroyed completely to build the Southern Motorway.

At the same time, vast numbers of original homes were destroyed on Grafton Road for Commercial Developments and on Park Road, many heritage properties demolished to build The University of Auckland Medical School.

The sole remaining surviving grand home in the direct vacinity is No. 123 Grafton Road which stands as a reminder of what we’ve lost in the name of “progress”.

We’re fortunate that some Auckland Councillors in the 1800’s had the foresight to protect the green spaces of our city, otherwise The Domain would more than likely not exist today.

Suggested Walking Route

If you’d like to follow our recommended route, you’ll need to allow 1hr – 1.5hrs, depending on your walking pace and the number of stops you choose to take.

Grafton is easily reached by public transport if you live in the outer suburbs, or on foot or by bicycle if you are staying in central Auckland.

This map will help direct you to the key landmarks in the historic part of our suburb:


View Grafton Heritage Trail in a larger map