View circa 1880 east up Mill lane with Lewis Eady house on right.

Partington's windmill was an Auckland landmark for the first century of the city's history. Built in 1850 it was demolished in 1950.

From it’s founding in 1840 until 1864 Auckland was the Capital of the new Colony of New Zealand.  For the first few decades the urban area of the town extended little beyond where the Town Hall stands today.


There were small hamlets at Panmure, Howick and Onehunga with all three being active ports but the isthmus of Auckland was largely empty farmland. In those days the Greenwoods Corner/GreenLane/Epsom area was notable for fields of wheat, as the soil was free draining and devoid of trees.


In 1847 the newly arrived Charles Partington ventured into partnership with John Bycroft and together they took over the Epsom Mill that stood in St Andrews Road.


The partnership lasted until December 1849 and in May 1850, for £200, Partington purchased two sections on Symonds Street near the intersection with Karangahape Road, adding a third property three years later.


On this site he had the builder Henry White build a 6 story high windmill, made of bricks using clay dug from the site at a cost of £2000. The walls were 27 inches thick and constructed using special wedge shaped bricks.

In August 1851 the first flour was advertised for sale.


 View up Queen Street circa 1852

In the centre of this view is the Windmill on the Karangahape Rd ridge.

The Mill stood on the Karangahape Ridge on the outskirts of town. The windmill’s rotating top enabled the sails to gather the prevailing wind from the Waitakere ranges in the west or the occasional breeze up from the harbour.

The height of the structure, it's distinctive shape and prominent position made it quite a land mark and throughout its life it was used as a navigation device by shipping.

As early as 1898, George E Bentley, in his book The Story of the Old Windmill, noted that both amateur and professional photographers used the top of the mill as their vantage point. There are certainly many panoramic views in public collections of the city taken from the Windmill.

Early Biscuit Label

Initially Partington's busness was grinding other people grain for their use, eventually he began buying grain in order to sell flour under his own label. In 1851 steam flour milling equipment was installed and the company advertised as the Victoria Flour Mills and Steam Biscuit Factory. Being able to produce large amounts of baked goods established Partinton's as a major firm.

During the Land Wars of the 1860s this technology enabled Partington to secure a very lucrative contract to supply government troops with biscuits. In the late 1860s he had built a watermill at Riverhead.
Telescopic View from about 1920 showing the Windmill
This period also saw Partington getting involved with gold mining and other business interests in the Coromandel. These may not have gone well, certainly when the gold and silver began to run out many people were hit badly by the subsequent slump.
By 1873 the biscuit making machinery had been relocated to the Riverhead mill and much of the land around the Symonds Street mill was sold off as building sites.

Charles Partington died in 1877, possibly leaving his business affairs in disarray. after a set of legal skirmishes his sons divided parts of the business empire between them; eventually the Symonds street Windmill ended up being owned by Joseph Partington.


The business did not prosper however and through a series of events by the late 1880s Partington had ended up bankrupt and the tenant of of a man called James Wilkinson (it is possible that only part of the Symonds street property had passed out of Partington's hands).

Partington involved a New Plymouth journalist called George Bentley to write "The Story of the Old Windmill", of which 1000 copies were printed by Albert Spencer. 


The Story of the Old Windmill: 1898

George Bentley

Gross Negligence Or Rank Favouritism on the Part of the City Council : One of Auckland's Oldest Landmarks in Danger of Disappearing

Bentley was subsequently convicted of publishing a libellous pamphlet in September 1898, and imprisioned. Partington was sued by Wilkinson for libel and had to pay £200 in damages with a further £100 awarded plus costs in December 1898. Joseph Partington was once again bankrupt.
Over the remaining forty years of his life Joseph Partington operated the Windmill and the Bakery, at least intermittently. It is unclear whether he ever regained any of the land that was transferred to Wilkinson or sold to others by the Banks during the crisis in the 1880s.
View of Grafton Bridge being finished in 1910, with  Partington's Windmill in background standing without its sails.
By 1910 the windmill was devoid of its sails and stood over an increasingly urban landscape just yards from asphalted streets with electric trams and motorcars.  

In 1911 Joseph travelled to England and there purchased a windmill and had the machinery, stones, cap and sails shipped back to Auckland.


A gas engine was installed to supplement wind power but by 1916 it was found necessary to add 15 feet to the height of tower due to the increased height of the buildings now surrounding the mill.

The Windmill after 1916 when it was increased in height.

In 1924 terrible gales damaged the sails and in 1931 the mill was gutted by fire but it was restored and continued to grind grain shipped in from far outside Auckland, the wheat fields of Epsom having long disappeared.  The Epsom Windmill is remembered in the name of ‘Windmill Rd’.

1920s view from the Symonds Street Park.

Mid-20th century map showing Partington Street [formerly Mill Lane]

During the last twenty years of its life the Windmill was apparently lived in by students from the Elam School of Fine Arts, whose parties were fully in the artistic bohemian tradition.
Advertisement from 1934
It also appears to have been operated as a nightclub of sorts but presumably the dancing was held in the adjoining factory buildings rather than the conical Mill itself. These advertisements appear throughout the 1930s.

In 1936, the Metropolitan Fire Board was searching for the site of a new Central Fire Station and considered the mill site as eminently suitable.

Joseph Partington publically announced that he had made out his will to bequeath the Windmill to the City Council for “the free enjoyment of the Citizens of Auckland for ever”



Famous Landmark Willed To City


"It is understood, of course," he stated, "that this intention has been fully provided for in my will and that until my death the windmill and my property remain absolutely my own. I had no thought of disclosing my intention until I was forced to do so by the attempt of the Auckland Metropolitan Fire Board to seize my land and windmill.

Ambition Fulfilled "It has been my ambition for years to see that when I am gone the old windmill is preserved and kept and worked as a windmill. I have bought up the surrounding land as opportunity offered to prevent the erection of large buildings which would block the wind and the view of the old windmill."

On September 21 the Mayor, Sir Ernest Davis, announced this intention to the council, stating that the property was estimated to be worth £100,000.

Last photograph of Joseph Partington
Taken on Queen St a few days before his death
However when Partington died in 1941 several Wills were found. Some of these were contradictory and apparently none specified the Bequest of the Symonds Street Windmill. This led to a problematic legal situation.                    Search of Old Windmill

Despite Joseph Partington's very public statements that he wanted the City Council to recieve the property as a Public Facility the Council was far from enthusiastic about accepting a decaying structure which would be difficult to utalise.

By this time the Fire Board had secured another site for its new Central Fire Station (opened on the corner of Pitt Street and Greys avenue in 1944) 

The "gift" came without any funds for upkeep and the Council, weary after a decade of the Great Depression was now involved in mobilising for the War Effort. The Council was unsurprisingly reluctant to commit public funds for any new project and so did not press it's legal possession of the site.

The property, optimistically valued at £100,000 was eventually divided and sold on behalf of the Partington beneficiaries. 

As one of the oldest landmarks in Auckland and arguably it's most prominent there was a great deal of concern about the eventual fate of the main structure. The 1940s saw continual efforts to secure it's future even if that mean dismantling the conical tower and re-erecting it elsewhere.

In 1939 the Windmill's military significance was pointed out by local Maori who recalled the famous Invasion of Auckland by the Ngatipaoa on April the 17th 1851.

Invasion of Auckland by the Ngatipaoa April the 17th 1851.

"At a time in recent date when the mill seemed in danger of demolition to make way for a new Central Fire Station Maoris joined in the pleas, for its preservation, and it was recalled by one old chief that his father had been a member of the war party that had come from Waiheke Island in 1851 with the intention of attacking the township.

They landed and danced a war haka on the beach at the foot of Parnell Kise, about where the Maori hostel now stands. The old mill and its outbuildings were hastily fortified and loopholed, and many women and children who lived nearer to the mill than to the Albert Barracks (where Albert Park is now laid out) took refuge there under the protection of a small body of soldiers. 

19th December 1945
A Preservation Society was formed to save this greatly loved landmark, but its members were unable to raise sufficient money to purchase the building and preserve it for posterity.

In May 1950, exactly 100 years after it had been built and amid a great deal of controversy, Partington’s Windmill was sadly demolished.

Demolition of the Widmill in 1950

Although the Preservation Society was unsuccessful it left a lasting legacy. From the efforts of the members of the Windmill Preservation Society can probably be traced the creation of the Museum of Transport & Technology, Howick Historical Village and the NZ Historic Places Trust.

Partington’s Windmill was one of the four key battles fought by the embryonic preservation movement during the early 1950s – the others were Christ Church Taita, Old St Paul’s (Wellington) and Bethune & Hunter’s counting house (Wellington).

These threats helped to forge the National (from 1963, New Zealand) Historic Places Trust.

Although it was intended that the unusual wedge shaped bricks would be saved in the hopes of re-erecting the Windmill the bricks vanished at some point and their fate has never been established. The Mill-Stones are preserved at the Howick Historic Village.
       Millstone from Partington's Mill at the Howick Historic Village.
The entire block between Liverpool Street and Symonds Street was redeveloped around 1980 when all the buildings were demolished and several large buildings arose, including the Sheraton Hotel [now the Langham Hotel].
From aerial photos taken in the 1940s it would appear that the brick tower of Partington’s Windmill was situated in what is now the courtyard to the west of the Hotel development. Access to the centre of the block still follows the course of the old Mill Lane.
Aerial view from the 1940s showing the Windmill

In 2005 a formal ceremony was held at the Langham Hotel to herald them as new owners and the re-naming of the hotel. This included a major acknowledgment in film and living diorama of the history of the site.  The Langham has kept the Partington legacy alive through the names of its restaurants; 'Partington’s Restaurant' and "The Steam Biscuit Factory".


Langham has a legendary hotel heritage dating back to 1865 when the Langham Hotel in London originally opened as Europe’s first Grand Hotel. For 140 years, this flagship hotel has been at the forefront of sophisticated and gracious hospitality.

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Langham Hotels International (LHI) features six properties with over 2,700 rooms in five gateway cities across the four continents, namely, London, Boston, Hong Kong (2), Melbourne and Auckland. In each city Langham Hotels is associated with the prestigious “The Leading Hotels of the World” group which represents some of the world’s finest luxury hotels.

LHI is wholly owned by Great Eagle Holdings Limited, a publicly listed company (HKSE: 41) which was founded in 1963 and was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972.

Partington's Mill after 1916

Built in 1850,

Extra story added in 1916.

In operation until 1941.

Demolished in 1950.

Demolition in 1950
Charles Frederick Partington

Partington was from Oxford in England. He arrived in Sydney in August 1841 accompanied by his father George and two of his three brothers.

In Sydney Partington worked as a carpenter.

By the end of 1842 Partington had arrived in Auckland, and was living in Chancery Street. In sebsequent years the other members of his family joined him.

By 1845 Charles Partington was working as a carpenter in Mechanic's Bay which was also the location of Low & Motion's flour mill.

Joseph Low owned a windmill in Epsom which had been built for him in 1844 by the architect William Mason.

In June 1847 Charles Partington entered into a partnership with John Bycroft, taking over the Epsom Mill.


In 1850 he built the Symonds Street Windmill which remained in his possession until his death in January 1877 when his estate was inherited by his wife.

Charle Frederick Partington had married Francis Johnston in 1845; they had several children, many of whom are buried with them in the Symonds Street Cemetery:

Three brothers all died within one month of each other in 1854 -

William Partington 23-9-54 aged 4 yrs

Thomas Partington 15-10-54 aged 1 yr 8mths

Henry Partington 22-10-54 aged 3 yrs.

Joseph Partington who took over the business after his father's death and who died in 1941.

Maria Partington, (d 1938 aged 93) a skilled artist who married a kauri timber merchant David Goldie (three times Mayor of Auckland), their son Charles is the well known painter.

Edward Partington - Died in 1930 aged 74. Manager of the Morrinsville Creamery having previously run a Flour Mill at Te Rore, Piroungia.

William Henry Partington

(8th Dec 1854 - 22nd July 1940).

Now considered one of New Zealand's most interesting photographers noted for his images of Maori: His wife Mary Jane Goldie was the sister of David Goldie - she died in 1930 aged 81.


In August 1877, the remains of the Partington estate was transferred to two of the sons, Charles Frederick and Edward Partington.

Charles and Edward, trading as Partington Brothers, restarted the mill at Symonds Street sometime soon after August 1877. Eventually however Joseph took over the symonds Street business.

Joseph Partington

1851 - 1941

Joseph eventually took over the running of the Symonds Street Windmill after Charles Partingtons death in 1877 following a legal battle between him and his brothers.
In 1911 he travelled to Britain to buy replacement parts for the Mill.

However due to the increased height of the surrounding buildings the Windmill's sails could not receive enough wind so Joseph neede to install a Gas Engine to keep the machinery working.

In 1916 he was compelled to raise the height of the Windmill by an extra story to allow the sails to capture the wind.
In 1924 a tremendous storm damaged the sails and in 1931 the structure was gutted by fire.

In 1936, the Metropolitan Fire Board was searching for the site of a new Central Fire Station and considered the mill site as eminently suitable.

Joseph Partington announced that he had made out his will to bequeath the Windmill to the City Council for “the free enjoyment of the Citizens of Auckland for ever” but when he died in 1941 no will could be located and the site was eventually sold on behalf of the beneficiaries.

William Henry Thomas Partington
8 Dec 1854 - 22 Jul 1940.

24 Grey St, Auckland,

New Zealand

William Henry Thomas Partington was an excellent photographer but he was unknown to the art world until 2001.

A Bay of Plenty man found a suitcase in his garage filled with 235 glass plate negatives and 500 vintage prints. 

The suitcase had belonged to his wife's great-grandfather, photographer WHT Partington.

The collection featured mostly Maori, and people and scenery along the Whanganui River in the late 1800s.

He married Mary Jane Goldie in 1879, who was the sister of David Goldie who married WHT's sister Maria.