An icon of Auckland’s industrial heritage is located on the north shore of the Waitemata Harbour at Birkenhead. Established in 1884, the New Zealand Sugar Company’s “Chelsea” sugar works has long been a notable Auckland landmark with its distinctive colonial architecture.
When I was a child our family used to travel by launch from the steps near Auckland’s Ferry Building to Herald Island in the upper reaches of the Waitemata Harbour to visit my grandparents. The launch would stop at all of the small wharves and landings along the northern side of the harbour. Soon after leaving the Birkenhead Wharf the launch would motor past the “Chelsea Sugar Works” where usually there was a “sugar boat” from Australia tied up to discharge its cargo. This was always a fascination to a young boy from the new suburbs of South Auckland.
Today the sugar works lie in a beautiful park that was once part of the refinery complex. Over the years the Victorian refinery has been added to and modernised, but the essence of the original architecture is still evident.