The best schools, finest estates, hospitals and horse racing for the rich and famous – Epsom is an obvious choice
The best schools, finest estates, hospitals and horse racing for the rich and famous – Epsom is an obvious choice for the affluent.
Named after a town in England noted for its horse racing, Epsom is a key player on the racing calendar at Alexandra Park Raceway. But with numerous sought-after public and private schools in its fold, both secondary and primary, this central city suburb is more widely renowned for the accessibility and quality of its education – especially its free education.
A beautiful area in the centre of Auckland’s isthmus between One Tree Hill and Newmarket, about five kilometres from central Auckland, Epsom is a dignified older suburb, a magnet to education-aware parents who frequently move here as children approach secondary school age, because it’s never too far for the school drop off. The suburb is in the highly prized double Grammar Zone – that is Auckland Grammar for boys and Epsom Girls Grammar. Other top schools include the Catholic St Peter’s College and the private Dilworth School, St Cuthberts College and Diocesan School for Girls. There’s even a university campus at the Auckland College of Education.
With Newmarket right next door, locals want for nothing when it comes to retail therapy. But apart from a varied array of ethnic restaurants, it’s not known with the same proclivity for gastronomic gems as say, Ponsonby. Good cafes and ethic diners line the main arterial route of Manukau Road. There’s also Eve’s Pantry, a cakery institution and the recently re-opened Cornwall Park Café is already getting rave reviews. An enticing collection of small shops and eateries gathers at Greenwoods Corner including the enduring One Tree Grill restaurant and the more laid-back Little Jimmy is a more recent contribution to the social scene.
Next door to Cornwall Park and Greenlane Hospital, the ASB Showgrounds is Auckland’s premium events centre showcasing diverse exhibitions every week. Top medical clinics abound in Epsom and some of the country’s best specialists operate from Mercy Hospital.
Epsom’s abundant parks and reserves include the volcanic cone of Mount Saint John, Marivare Reserve, Eden Garden, the netball courts at Windmill Park and Melville Park. There are plenty of sports clubs for hockey, football, bowling, croquet, tennis and netball as well as the Auckland Trotting Club.
The beautifully refurbished Lido Cinema draws movie-buffs from wide and far and the Epsom Library keeps book lovers happy. In a historic building in Gillies Avenue, the Epsom Community Centre hosts a range of art, cultural and social activities including art to yoga, languages and bridge.
So central and blessed with some of the finest Auckland’s facilities, Epsom simply can’t provide enough homes for those who want to live here.
Noted for its rich pasture on level land that supported dairy herds and grain crops, Epsom was dotted with large country houses and farms from the 1840s to the 1890s. Most earlier houses dating from 1900 to 1930 were large wooden Californian bungalows or Stockbroker Tudor styles. Many have been renovated and still sit on expansive, tree-studded sections. Famously grand estates include Florence Court, an Edwardian mansion designed for wealthy businessmen Philip Seabrook and Rocklands Hall, in French Empire style was the home of home of Thomas Bannatyne Gillies, a farmer, politician and supreme court judge.
In the early 19th century the link to the Port of Onehunga meant Manukau Road was the main route to the CBD for horses, horse trams and after 1902, electric trams. Many original stores with their wide canopies built along the road remain in clutches alongside, suburban homes.
With its orderly tree-lined streets and parks, Epsom now has a great variety of architectural styles as century old villas and bungalows compete with modern units and townhomes. Most housing is low-rise. The exception is The Pines, a luxurious apartment building constructed in 1969 by special arrangement with the council. The developer had spent decades landscaping the 2.8ha site and felt an apartment building was the best way to protect the site forever.
Since the 1990s, a substantial amount of infill housing has altered the spacious streetscapes. In more recent years stricter zoning has limited the number of homes that can be built, creating a supply and demand situation that makes the suburb all the more desirable.
Epsom is one of Auckland's oldest suburbs. Being enclosed by volcanic mountains, its strategic location and rich soil made it much prized by the pre-European Maori. After Auckland's selection as the capital of the new British colony in 1840, both arable and pastoral farms starting dotting its landscape and it became the settlement's leading breadbasket. Rural Epsom prospered, but its close proximity to the developing central city eventually made it a target for suburbanisation.
At first there were elite farmlets, but in just 30 years (1900-30) Epsom's agricultural past was almost completely obliterated. In its conversion from farmsteads to family dwellings and more recently, townhouses, Epsom has become no mere dormitory suburb. It has notable medical and educational faces and proudly claims three of Auckland's greatest communal assets - Alexandra Park, the Auckland Showgrounds and Sir John Logan Campbell's Cornwall Park.
Since holding New Zealand’s first organised race meeting in 1842, this district has been a centre for horse racing. The Alexandra Park racecourse (Auckland’s home of trotting) and Ellerslie racecourse were developed on farmland sold by Robert Graham to the Auckland Racing Club in 1873.
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