Titirangi

Titirangi—a Maori word often translated as 'the fringe of heaven’—is situated  in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges and skirts the northern shore of the Manukau Harbour.

 

History of the Area

In the centuries prior to European settlement the area  was densely covered with rain forest, especially kauri, but also including rewarewa, rimu, puriri, taraire, pohutukawa, kahikatea, kowhai, mahoe, nikau, ponga and other trees of the New Zealand bush. However, within half a century from the 1830s the bush was rapidly removed, through milling of the giant kauri trees, burning of the bush, and the establishment of farms on the cleared land.

The Ranges were not ideally suited for farming purposes, however, and from the time of the First World War much of the cleared land began reverting to bush. In 1919 the 300 acre Atkinson Estate (the name is preserved in Mount Atkinson which McCahon painted in 1958), was subdivided, and marketed to Aucklanders as suitable for summer or weekend cottages close to the Manukau Harbour and the bush of the Waitakere Ranges. In the 1920s the Italian-styled Titirangi Hotel was opened nearby in the building now known as Lopdell House, though the fact that liquor could not be sold in the area restricted its potential as a social venue.

There were few roads in the area and the allotments were only slowly taken up. In the 1920s the remaining sites were further subdivided into sections measuring about quarter of an acre.

67 Otitori Bay Road

The site of the McCahon house in Otitori Bay Road was part of a 1923 subdivision and was eventually purchased in 1939 by Herbert Godfrey Harbour who built the bach at 67 Otitori Bay Road shortly afterwards. It had one further owner (a Mr and Mrs Mason) before it was purchased by the McCahons in 1953.

Writing in 1979 the historian Dick Scott said:

Thirty-five years ago [i.e. c. 1945] Titirangi was no more than a sprinkling of raffish cottages, the hideaway homes of society’s casualties and the weekend baches of city dwellers. As late as 1957 'sylvan slum' was historian E.H. McCormick’s description of this now expensive area .

Dick ScottFire on the Clay: The Pakeha Comes to West Auckland, Southern Cross Books, 1979) .

From the 1950s the area became increasingly popular with artists, writers, potters and others searching for alternatives to conventional suburbia. Apart from the McCahons, among those who lived in Titirangi were potters Jeff Scholes and Len Castle, writer Maurice Shadbolt, and poet John Caselberg.

Titirangi today

Nowadays Titirangi is a populous suburb and a highly desirable residential area. The village has expanded considerably from what it was in the 1950s, and now contains a supermarket, a petrol station, a library, a community hall, and several cafes and specialist shops. Weekend markets, often selling locally made crafts, are popular with visitors. Lopdell House has become a thriving art gallery operated by the Waitakere City Council.