An amazing heritage in the heart of Auckland

Visitors to Sandringham in Central Auckland often say that the area should be called ‘Little India,’ since almost all retail outlets, restaurants and other shops are owned, managed, operated and franchised by people of Indian origin.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark (who is currently Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme based in New York City) was a regular visitor to some of the shops in Sandringham, which comes under the constituency of Mt Albert.

In terms of the Local Government, it is a part of Albert-Eden Local Board and the Auckland Council election due to be held on October 12, 2013 may witness a number of candidates of Indian origin evincing interest.

Although Indians are seen in large numbers in the shopping area of the suburb, they constitute less than 10% of Sandringham’s estimated population of 12,000.

Sandringham was named after the country house of Edward, Prince of Wales in Norfolk, England, which is still used by the present Royal Family.

South Indian flavour

Many believe that Sandringham should be called, ‘Little South India,’ since a large number of businesses and shoppers belong to South India, in addition to Sri Lankan Tamils, who have been in the suburb for more than 25 years. Among them are restaurants, takeaways, Halal butchers and dealers in South Indian groceries.

While some say that this suburb is an extension of the neighbouring Mt Roskill, which is also sometimes called, ‘Little India,’ residents and businesses would readily disagree, saying that Sandringham has its own character, special features and most important of all, a rich heritage.

The Village

As mentioned in many official documents and in Wikipedia, Sandringham is a Village, comprising a walk of a few blocks south along Sandringham Road from the Outer Link bus route Nearby are gentrified Mt Eden, Kingsland, and Chinese-influenced Balmoral. The village has a post office, chemists, medical and legal practices, real estate agencies and a Community Centre.

The village architecture is art deco influenced, most of which have survived, except the original village cinema. The surrounding streets are wooden villas and bungalows from the 1920s and 1930s.

The volcanic cone of Owairaka (Mt Albert) forms Sandringham’s view to the West, and the Roy Clements Treeway on Meola Creek leads from nearby Ferguson Avenue to Rocket Park and the Mt Albert Community Centre.

The main road is Sandringham Road which runs more or less North-South. At the Northern end, Kingsland is located near the Eden Park Stadium.

The Sandringham Village is located at the Southern end of Sandringham Road, just before it connects with Mount Albert Road.

Members of ‘Central United,’ New Zealand’s top football club play at the Kiwitea Street Stadium in Sandringham.

The beginning

The Sandringham suburb began as a small farming settlement known as ‘Cabbage Tree Swamp,’ named for the prevalence of ‘cordyline australis and the area’s predisposition to flooding.

The first European settlers in the area were mainly engaged in dairy farming or growing produce. By 1862, there were 16 properties along what was then Cabbage Tree Swamp Road. In 1877, Cabbage Tree Swamp residents successfully lobbied to have the road’s name changed to Kingsland Road. The road and the suburb were renamed Edendale in 1916 and as Sandringham in 1929.

Gradual growth

Through the 19th and early 20th Century, the suburb grew slowly and remained mostly farmland and scrub. There was no water supply in the district until 1900, while the area did not have gas or electricity until 1924.

Flooding was a major problem. Eden Park and Gribblehurst Park became lakes during heavy winter rain, as did the reserve land east of Sandringham shops.

After a heavy storm in 1919, locals recalled boating through the streets and floodwaters flowing through the bay windows of one low-lying house.

Substantial development came around 1925, with the construction of the tramline, resulting in the core of what is now the Sandringham Shopping Centre, with rows of evenly spaced streets spread on each side of Sandringham Road, lined with wooden Edwardian houses.

Large parts of the area remained undeveloped however, and services such as telephone, electricity and gas were only provided at a minimum level.

Retail buildings

Over the following decades, more retail buildings were constructed. Large-scale subdivision of farmland began in the 1920s, and Californian bungalows began to dominate the architecture of the area. Around 1927, the Mayfair Cinema was built, an elegant building in the Neo-Greek style; it was demolished in the early 1990s.

The Sandringham Service Station was first erected by Sydney Waring in 1929.

After the World War II, what little remained of the farmland was developed as state housing. Sandringham Village is a virtually intact example of an interwar suburban shopping precinct.

No License area

As part of the Eden electorate, Sandringham became a no-licence area from 1909 to 2000, meaning that alcohol could not be sold. As a result, there are no public houses in Sandringham. Plans to build a tavern at 597 Sandringham Road were successfully opposed by residents in 2001.

Community Centre

The Sandringham Community Centre is an important gathering place with an expanding range of classes and bookings for personal and community events. Located at 20 Kitchener Road, the Centre is gradually gaining popularity among the members of the Indian community.

Farmers Market

The Farmers Market is open every Second Saturday of the month from 9 am to 1230 pm at the Sandringham Community Centre.

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