LOCAL HISTORY

A HISTORY OF OUR AREA BIRKENHEAD, BIRKDALE, BEACH HAVEN

The following information about our local history was researched by our students. The students used the Action Learning processes to locate the information and the key questions they formed are included. We hope that future classes will add more information to these pages in the course of their studies. Our thanks to Birkenhead Historical Society for their invaluable help and assistance with our research.

Fruit Growers
What were some of the main fruits grown in the local area?
Strawberries, apples, pears, grapes, peaches. These were the main fruits but also there were some other fruits grown in the local area. Settlers grew quinces, medlars, gooseberries, passionfruits, rock melon and walnuts. Women and their daughters made jam and jelly from the fruit they grew.
The larger orchardists built small jetties on Hellyer’s Creek below the orchards, and used their own boats to transport fruit. Most strawberry growers divided their land and planted orchard trees as well. The largest orchards were owned by the first people here. An orchard was set up by Herbert and Jane Jones. But the Jones had no experience and found it hard for years until he cut back 34 apple varieties to the two most common and a few years later they were exporting fruit to Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Fiji.

What did they have to do to keep their orchards and strawberry field in order to grow successfully?
• They had to clear the land, plough and drain.
• They had to kill all the weeds and spray to kill the bugs.
• They had to fertilise the soil with manure.
• Tried to scare the birds away with scarecrows and guns.
• The strawberries needed sun and water.
For old men and women today the memories are of childhood times of feet freezing in the early morning dew, and working most of Sundays. They remember being whipped for dawdling home from Sunday school in the afternoon heat and wasting precious picking time. Birkdale school demanded no homework in the picking season and they closed school half an hour earlier, so that the children who had been up at dawn for three hours picking before school could return home early to help again picking strawberries.
The are of Birkdale and Birkenhead was originally covered in tea-tree and many farmers didn’t know that this had made the soil good to grow strawberries in.
When everyone was planting their fruit trees in straight rows, Henry Hawkins did the opposite and when everyone else was using pine trees for their shelter belts, Henry planted nuts and filberts instead. He always had good reasons for doing things differently and as a result he became respected as one of the top nurserymen in Auckland.

Why did the orchards, vineyards and strawberry field disappear?
• The main reason was that land became very expensive. A lot of farm land was
sold to build houses.
• Land got very scarce. Most of the land on the North Shore is now taken over by houses, shops and buildings.
• Also the population is growing very fast and we need more space for new houses.

Bridget, Mariska, Christina
Room 11,

2001The Harbour Bridge
How much did it cost and how many men did it take to build it?
The Harbour Bridge cost a little over 7 million dollars with employment for 200-300 men and later 1000. During the construction of the bridge three men lost their lives. For several years after the bridge was built, motorists had to pay a toll (payment) when crossing the bridge. This money went towards to cost of building the bridge and also towards the cost of the extra lanes that had to be added on at a later date because there was so much traffic.

How and when was the Harbour Bridge built and how long did it take?
The Harbour Bridge was finally opened on the 30 May 1959. It took 99 years of hopes, plans and many rejections before the dream of a bridge across the harbour to connect the North Shore with Auckland finally came about.

What was the purpose of it being built?
The bridge was built so that people didn’t have to catch the ferry. It was cheaper and quicker to cross the bridge by vehicle than to catch the ferry across the harbour as people had to do for so many years. The opening of the bridge brought many more people to live on the North Shore, especially to the Birkenhead, Birkdale and Beach Haven areas.

What affect did the Harbour Bridge have on people living on the North Shore?
It brought a lot of work to the North Shore and the area developed and grew very rapidly. It also made it much easier for people on the North Shore to get to the city. In the early days it used to be a day’s walk and a boat crossing to get to Auckland city. Because the local area developed so rapidly, more people wanted to live on the North Shore because it was now so much easier to get to the city.

Matthew, Ben, Oliver, Jesse, Dylan
Room 11, 2001

The World Wars!
How were the local women affected during the two World Wars?
When the men left to go to war, the women were left home with the children and the old people. They were affected greatly by the loss of husbands, brothers, fathers, sons and family members.
The women found it hard because they had to go out and do jobs normally done by the men, as well as clean the house and look after their children.

What affect did the two World Wars have on the people in the local area?
Three hundred and thirty two soldiers and one nurse went from Birkenhead to Europe for the second World War. The families of the 29 who had died by the war’s end felt its tragedies as did the families of the hundreds who were injured. World War 1 saw 31 of Birkenhead’s soldiers killed and many more were injured in both wars. Birkenhead families were pleased to send their sons into battle during World War 1. They thought it was an honour. The soldiers were farewelled at Foresters Hall on Hinemoa Street and for those who returned, a great welcome home party was held at the same venue with bonfires, parades and street decorations. For people who farmed in the local area during World War 2, the arrival of the American troops to Auckland created a huge demand for fresh fruit and bouquets of flowers. The increase in their business during the war years brought more money to the local area.

What did the Home Guard do to protect the area?
With so many men away fighting in Europe during the war, those who were left behind felt worried about New Zealand’s ability to defend itself. The men in the Home Guard were men who were either too old to go to war or those who suffered from an illness. They dug trenches high on Glenfield and Albany ridges, built barbed wire fences on Browns Bay beach and carried out rifle practice by aiming at targets painted on the walls of Birkenhead School.

Eloise, Shannon and Margaret
Room 11, 2001

December 3, 2012 |

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