History of Hamilton in New Zealand

Victoria Bridge in 1910

Hamilton is a city on the North Island of New Zealand. Situated on the Waikato River banks, it is the most populous city in the Waikato province. Hamilton is called Kirikiriroa in the Maori language.

Hamilton is a member of the more comprehensive Hamilton Urban Area, which encompasses Te Awamutu, Ngāruawāhia, and Cambridge.

The region now covered by the town was formerly the site of numerous Māori villages, including Kirikiriroa, from which the center takes its Māori name. Let’s explore the History of Hamilton in detail.


As mentioned above, Hamilton was a site of numerous Maori villages. Local Māori was the primate target of intensive raids by Ngapuhi during the infamous Musket Wars, and you can still find several pā sites from this era beside the Waikato River. In December 2011, archeologists found several food storage pits or Rua near the Waikato River bank, adjacent to the Waikato Museum.

In 1822 CE, Kirikiriroa Pa (hamilton) was temporarily abandoned to avoid the Musket Wars. However, by 1830 CE, Ngati Wairere’s central pa was Kirikiriroa, where the missionaries, who appeared at that time, 200 people lived permanently. A house and a chapel were constructed at Kirikiriroa for visiting clergy, likely after Benjamin Ashwell established his ruthless conversion mission near Taupiri.

Between 1845 CE and 1855 CE, potatoes, fruit, and wheat were vividly exported to Auckland, with up to 90 canoes exclusively serving Kirikiriroa. Imports included clothing, blankets, axes, rum, sugar, and medieval tobacco. Small millstones were acquired and an innovative water wheel built, though perhaps the flour mill wasn’t completed. However, one article said Kirikiriroa flour was famous in the region.

Magistrate Gorst concluded that Kirikiriroa had a calculated population of about 78 before the Waikato Invasion via the Waikato Wars of 1863CE. The government calculated the Waikato region had a Maori population of 3,400 at the same time. After the battle in the Waikato, vast areas of land (1.2 Million Acres), including the site of the present city of Hamilton, were brutally confiscated by the Crown under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 CE. By the time British settlers emerged after 1863 CE, most of these small villages had been sadly abandoned due to the unjust land confiscation, also known as Raupatu. After the Waikato Invasion and confiscation of the invaded land, militia-settlers were recruited in Sydney and Melbourne.

The wide road from Auckland joined Hamilton in 1867 CE and the railway in December 1877 CE. That same month, the cities of Hamilton East and Hamilton West merged under a single district council. The first traffic bridge between Hamilton East and Hamilton West, known as the Union Bridge, opened in 1879 CE. It was ultimately replaced by the Victoria Bridge in 1910 CE.

The first permanent railway bridge, the Claudelands Bridge, was inaugurated in 1884 CE. It was later converted to a road traffic bridge in 1965 CE. Hamilton reached 1,000 people in 1900 CE, and the city of Frankton merged with the Hamilton Borough in 1917 CE.

Between 1912 CE and 1936 CE, Hamilton evolved with new land in Maeroa (1925), Claudelands (1912), and Richmond, Northern Melville (1936), and present-day Waikato Hospital.

Hamilton in New Zealand was finally declared a city in 1945 CE.

Hamilton, in today’s time

On the Waikato River, Hamilton Central is a bustling retail area. The entertainment sector is considerably vibrant due to the international student population. The town’s main street has sprouted a vibrant and sophisticated stretch of restaurants and bars that, on the weekend, at least leave the popular Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour for dead in the boozy holiday stakes. Many of the town’s attractions and venues are situated on the old Town Belt, including Waikato Stadium, Hamilton Gardens, the Hamilton Lake Domain, Seddon Park.

Now You Know

Was it worth reading? Let us know.