A toast to the Cell Bar
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Last month, the historic precinct on the corner of Middleton and Remuera Rds was finally closed, and all staff have moved to a new base in nearby Teed St, marking the next chapter in the area’s policing history stretching back to 1882.
The first station was a cottage in Manukau Rd, now known as Broadway. In 1909, the base moved to its corner site, home to the sergeant’s two-storey home and a brick station and lock-up area. In 1938, the brick station was replaced with a new brick building that, along with the sergeant’s villa, continued to be used until this year, though not for accommodation in recent years.
The station became the HQ for Auckland policing with dozens of officers, non-sworn staff and a large records office.
In 1989, the Cell Bar was opened, destined to became one of the most popular police bars in the country. John Palmer, who was area commander at Newmarket for 20 years, described it as “the beautiful Cell Bar”.
Gail FitzGerald, a transcription officer for Tāmaki Makaurau and a Police Association Holiday Home caretaker, who was a typist at Newmarket for 23 years, agrees. “Everyone who ever worked at Newmarket says the same – very fond memories, especially the social gatherings in the Cell Bar.”
Wendy Spillar, the first female senior sergeant at the station, says it was a “fantastic” place to work and, thanks to the “famous Cell Bar”, became a community hub. “Staff would often catch up there and even hold 21st birthdays there. It was a really social place.”
In 1992, with the amalgamation with Ministry of Transport staff, policing became centralised and the HQ moved to Greenlane and then to Glen Innes, considerably reducing the number of staff at the once bustling station.
It continues to hold a place in the hearts of many who have worked there and was the only station in the country to still have its original cell block, which is possibly why some say the place is haunted.
OC Sergeant Craig Fischer says there are plenty of ghost stories. “Often, when you’re there by yourself late at night there are some interesting noises coming from parts of the building. Sometimes you suddenly get chills down your spine, and there’s been stories of hearing someone knocking on the door but there’s no one there or lights suddenly turn on and off. It can get a little spooky.”