Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rosebank School turns 50

 Updated: 19 February 2011

On 1 February, Rosebank School in Avondale (there's at least another in New Zealand, at Balclutha) inaugurated a year of celebration for their 50th anniversary. The school opened in  February, 1961, after being in the planning stages since the late 1950s.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Rosebank School, even though I actually attended Avondale Primary -- in part because Rosebank incorporate our district's heritage in their school shield: the rose for Rosebank, but even more cool, the Sandford-Miller bi-plane at the bottom. Recently, a class there went in for one of those Fair Go competitions for schools, and I was invited to sit in a room with the children involved with the project, bombarded with questions about Avondale's past, and what neat places there are to film here for their project. That was one of the most delightful afternoons I've experienced.

To cut the cake, the school had arranged two very special guests: Hone Harawira, MP (who attended Rosebank School when it opened in 1961), and Rosalina Kennach, who had a "first day at school" experience on Tuesday that I would lay odds few children would have this year! The centre of attention, she did remarkably well. Her uncle, Paul Hunter (also chairman of the school's jubilee committee), kept a close watch.

One of the school's murals on the grounds. If you look carefully, just between the two planes and a bit below, you'll see the school included on the Auckland landscape.

The school sits on part of Robert Chisholm's vast 19th century estate on the Rosebank Peninsula. In 1882, a farm of just over 20 acres was purchased by merchants Levi Coupland and George Harper. Two years later, they set up a tenants-in-common arrangement with Charles Henry Emmett and George Pearce Canning Wilkins. Emmett and Wilkins had their own titles for their half-share of the property. In 1889, Isaac and Elizabeth Ann Wymer purchased just over 13 acres of the farm. Some information on the Wymers, luckily enough, can be found here.

"Probably the largest market garden round Auckland is in this district, and Mr Whymer [sic], the owner, on account of his success, has been able to take a trip to the Old Country, where he is now enjoying a well earned rest after his years of toil, and the farming is now carried on by his sons."
Auckland Star, 28 August 1903

In 1904, the Wymers' land was sold to Auckland merchant Ah Chee, and became part of the Ah Chee family's market garden (and rabbit farm) holdings in Avondale. In the 1920s, Ah Chee's sons William and Clement had to let the land go, through the National Bank transferring the mortgage on the property to two firms, Radley and Company, and Turners and Growers Limited. In 1929, under power of sale, these firms transferred the property to the Rosebank Estate Limited. Around 10 acres was purchased by Ernest Ingledew Copsey and Alfred Farmer Copsey, Avondale growers on Rosebank since the late 1890s.

The Copseys' land at this site was taken by the Government for defence purposes in 1944, after initially serving as a market garden conveniently adjacent to the American military hospital constructed close by, the future Avondale College and Intermediate. After the war, the government then set about gazetting areas for housing purposes during the 1950s. One section, to become the school, was gazetted for that purpose in March 1957.

My thanks to Rosebank School for the kind invitation to their cake cutting ceremony. I'll include a link on the blog to the school's website, for those keen to register with the school for the November celebrations, or who have memories of the school to share.


  1. My MIL worked there and when she passed the staff and students were amazing to the family.
    From memory some of the murals on the outside buildings were painted by my BIL .
    A lovely school indeed.

  2. Maybe not so unusual in NZ, but interesting that you live in the suburb where you grew up.

  3. It probably is unusual, Andrew -- I do feel most times like I'm an odd acorn that didn't fall very far at all from the tree (just bounced around at the base of the trunk). Most of my former schoolmates, that I'm aware of, live miles away. Some in the other hemispheres.

    Cheers, Catherine. Yes, it is a very, very special school. I love many of my memories of the old Avondale Primary, but Rosebank would have been a neat place to go to as well back in th' day.

  4. I am a teacher at Rosebank Primary and the first school day of 2011 was my first day in 'Te Whanau', a group of two classes where Maori kaupapa is practised and Te Reo Maori and English are spoken. This is a very special place in its own right as I have learned as the year has progressed. Rosebank School is a special place also. Whaea Angela

  5. I totally agree -- if anyone would care to share Rosebank School's story with the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, we'd love to hear from you. Cheers!