History of Milford

The only Maori Pa on the North Shore was at Rahopara Point (above Castor Bay). It is believed the Kawerau people were living there as early as 1492. The bay's first European name was Castor Oil Bay after the castor oil trees planted there. There was also a pre-European Maori settlement at Takapuna. 

Milford Beach is known to Maori as Onemaewao. This name means the beach of the fairy people. These mysterious creatures appeared at night to look for food. One group is said to have perished at Onemaewao when they lingered too long and were caught by the rising sun. 

Milford TramwayMilford's first European name was Campbell's Bush, after John Logan Campbell, who had acquired the land on either side of what is now Kitchener Road. Logan Campbell was in Auckland in 1840 when it was named as the new capital. He subsequently proved himself to be an extremely astute businessman and speculator, going on to acquire extensive property holdings and business interests across Auckland.  There have been claims that this 'Campbell' land at Milford was owned by a local farmer, James Campbell, but this is incorrect. John Logan Campbell was the land owner.

Milford is generally thought to have been be named by Edwin Harrow who owned a grand 2 storey Edwardian hotel in Killarney Sreet, Takapuna, and originated from Milford on Sea in the south of England.

James Sheriff (after whom Sheriff's Hill was named )built and operated a house with store buying gum next to the bridge over Wairau Creek at the corner of Shakespeare and East Coast Roads.Through Sheriff, Milford played a role as cargo transfer point between Auckland and the North Shore farm and gumlands. Scows entered the creek via the estuary.

In 1908, the success of electric tramways in other parts of Auckland was noted by some North Shore entrepreneurs and speculators. The Takapuna Tramways and Ferry Company Ltd was formed to construct a tramway to take people from Bayswater wharf to Takapuna with a look around the lack to Milford, Takapuna and back to Bayswater. Electricity was still not available in Takapuna so the company decided on a steam tramway constructed in time for the 1910 summer season.The tramline took over the freight haulage and brought people to Milford as day trippers and for seaside holidays. The tramway was in competiton with the combined Devonport Steam Ferry and North Shore Transport bus companies, which had not previously serviced Milford. The Devonport company was prohibited from running a bus service in competition to the tram, but once the roads were concreted in 1924, they got around this restriction by running not buses but a fleet of super-comfortable seven-seater Hudson motorcars from Devonport - for less than the tram fare. The tramline closed in 1927 in the face of this competition; but it had already transformed Milford into a seaside holiday village.

Wairau Estuary BridgeDuring the 1920s, Milford became a leisure and entertainment magnet. In 1922, not one but two picture theatres were opened. The Bridgeway picture theatre (later renamed the Green Mill), owned by Mr Putty Brown, was built by the bridge at Wairau Creek; it was intended to harness the water flow for electricity to run the establishment. At the other end of the village in Milford Road, local surveyor and property developer, Laurie Speedy, later designated the 'Fun Merchant', opened the Milford Picture drome. On Saturday nights, the 'Drome offered both silent movies and dances, with a gang of youths employed to swiftly convert the theatre to a dance hall after the showing of the film. Laurie Speedy's son, Squire Speedy, has described how the 'picture finished at ten, a false ceiling was lowered and hundreds of lights and lanterns appeared, producing an effect like fairyland'. Speedy was a tireless and gifted promoter. In1927, the Picture drome was advertised as 'Takapuna's colossal joy dispenser'. In 1928, the advertising promised '4000 square feet of perfect floor with pretty decorations, hundreds of coloured lights and an air of gaiety such as your wildest imagination never dreamed existing in Milford'. People came from across the harbour, purchasing a combined ferry, bus, picture and dance ticket (see S Speedy, 'The Picture drome Fun Merchant' in Jean Bartlett (ed.), Takapuna: People and Places, Takapuna City Council & North Shore Historical Society, 1989, pp.86-94.

The Wairau Estuary bridge shown below, was built as a part requirement for the subdivision on land above the estuary and Beach Road.

Milford Pirate ShipYe 'Olde Pirate Shippe' was constructed by James Fletcherin 1928 and opened January 1929, and the Milford swimming pool was opened in 1936 and demolished in 1957.

Inga Road bridge was constructed in 1927. An 89-berth marina was constructed at Milford in 1968. A 1957 plan promoted a boating playground with ‘boatel’, a sound shell open theatre, an exhibition hall, a shopping complex and a marina. In 1960 a council scheme proposed turning the Estuary into a non-tidal lagoon by installing lock gates. In 1961 Milford Cruising Club moved 200 tons of concrete blocks from Tamaki River to form a groyne on the southern bank of Wairau creek mouth. In 1971 the 54 year old footbridge was demolished, with a promise that it would be reinstated, but this was blocked by the Milford Cruising Club and some Takapuna Community Board members (See-North Shore Times Advertiser June 18, 1973. P.39). The first part of Milford Marina consisting of 89 berths was constructed in 1968. In 1975, 112 berths were constructed. [See- Feasibility report to determine the economic and technical viability of upgrading and operating the Milford Marina: report / prepared by Mair & Associates (for the) North Shore City Council, 1991]. photo T7039 NS Local History collection.

After many proposals for renewal of a crossing, 2009 saw the swing bridge proposal which initially had agreement of all parties. Subsequently the Milford Cruising Club withdrew their support and in 2010 NSCC submitted the proposal for Resource Consent. This 2.7m wide footbridge will be closed for 2.5 hrs either side of high tide, but will be able to be crossed for the remainder of the time as part of the coastal walkway.