The Story of Hamilton

​​​​Hamilton was originally known as Kirikiriroa.  It was a large Paa located on the western side of the Waikato River.  The establishment of Kirikiriroa was the outcome of the arrival, settlement, internal wars, loss and reclaiming of land before the occupation of British troops during 1863 and 1864-65 when the European settlement of Hamilton was officially established.​

The original people of Kirikiriroa arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand from Hawaiki on the waka Tainui at Kaawhia about 1300AD.  The six identified Haapu associated with Kirikiriroa are all linked to the waka Tainui:

  • Ngaati Hauaa
  • Ngaati Koroki Kahukura
  • Ngaati Maahanga
  • Ngaati Wairere
  • Ngaati Tamainupoo
  • Waikato Tainui

In the 1830s mission stations began to be established in the Waikato.  Although there was no station at Kirikiriroa, missionaries still married, baptised and administered communion regularly at Kirikiriroa Paa.  These stations allowed missionaries to introduce Christianity to the Maaori people of Waikato and try to influence inter-tribal conflicts.

Between 1830 and the late 1850s it is documented  that there was a peaceful period when Maaori and settlers (Paakehaa​) lived and traded with each other. Waikato tribes grew and shipped large amounts of produce (eg  wheat, pigs, maize, fruit and vegetables) as well as dressed flax to Auckland for both the local and international markets.

In 1858 the first Maaori King, Potatau Te Wherowhero was appointed.  This was the beginning of the King Movement and its centralisation within the Waikato.  The establishment of the King Movement concerned the British Government.

War between the British and Waikato tribes occurred during 1863 and 1864, starting near Mercer, with the final battle occurring near Te Awamutu.  The majority of land in the Waikato region was confiscated (Raupatu) by the British during 1863 and 1864, including all land within Hamilton city's boundaries.

By this time Kirikiriroa Paa had been abandoned.  It was selected for settlement by the 4th Waikato Regiment Militia settlement in 1864 and renamed Hamilton after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton who had been killed at the battle of Gate Pa in Tauranga. 

During 1865 and 1867 the areas of Hamilton East and Hamilton West (now the central city area) were surveyed and roads and buildings constructed. Military outposts were built on both sides of the river, now the sites of St Peter's Cathedral and the Hamilton East end of Anzac Parade.  There are at least three remaining buildings of that time, Beale Cottage, Nickisson House and Masonic Centre all located in Hamilton East. 

For many years contact between the two communities was by punt and each had its own town board. Conditions slowly began to improve and in 1867 the road was opened to Auckland and a regular coach service commenced, followed by the opening of the railway line to Auckland in 1868. The opening of the railway station at Frankton Junction in 1877 and the need to pool resources for a traffic bridge linking Hamilton West and Hamilton East led to the amalgamation of the town boards in the same year.

Hamilton was made the Borough of Hamilton in 1877 with a population of 1245 and an area of 752 hectares.   In 1945 the Hamilton Borough became a city with a population of 20,000.  The city's population now exceeds 150,000 and occupies approximately 9,860 hectares.

The following map shows the growth of Hamilton since 1877:

Hamilton City Council manages the City's heritage through the Museum​, Central Library​District Plan, Heritage PlanHeritage Fund.​

Page reviewed: 14 Jul 2021 2:13pm