Devonport is located a ferry ride across the Waitemata Harbour from Auckland city. It was originally established as a naval base during the early days of Auckland and, as a result, a township grew up around it to service its needs.
When the fleet was in, rival crews would often come ashore to play games against each other. The local community would watch these contests with curiosity and eventually they challenged the crews to a game. Devonport became known as the cradle of New Zealand sport as many top athletes from cricket, rugby, league, yachting and horse racing, all had their early beginnings there.
The North Shore Cricket Club was established in 1864, primarily by military and civil officers who brought the love of game with them from England. The first club captain was Captain G. Wynyard of the 68th Regiment. The first recorded inter-club game was in 1867 against a city club called Blackstones, which was made up of lawyers and law clerks.
A return game was played at Auckland Domain the following year with the North Shore players travelling across the harbour in rowboats. Unfortunately, it rained and a soggy North Shore team had to row home again, the game abandoned.
It was not until 1870 that another inter-club game was played, as the owner of the land where the club's pitch was laid wanted it for hay. Forced to move, the club laid a new pitch on the Cheltenham Flat, a popular sporting area just to the east of where Tainui Road is today, behind the sandhills, which then skirted Cheltenham Beach. Here matches were played every Saturday during the summer months.
The pitch was watered from a well dug about 500 metres away, local boys were employed at the rate of a penny a bucket to carry the water. Through the 1880s the land was being sold for private housing and the club went into a period of inactivity.
In 1890, the newly formed Devonport Borough Council met with the club and agreed that a pitch would be laid on a reclaimed mangrove swamp nestled between three extinct volcanoes, if the club matched its commitment to forward fifty pounds to the project.
The minutes of the meeting record several conditions. One was that the club would have "just claim on the ground for 100 years and that no other games which will damage the ground be played thereon". Apart from ensuring that public would have free access, no heavy stock were to be grazed on the prepared ground for at least 100 years. In the end not one but two pitches were laid, both of which are still in use today and are stand-alone (they do not have winter sport played over them).
The ground was for many years known simply as "the cricket ground" but was named the Devonport Domain sometime later. It wasn't long before two more grass wickets were laid.
There are many colourful stories recorded - like the time the club decided it needed a new roller and, having seen one parked in Albert Park in the city, decided to "borrow" it. The club members commissioned to perform the task found that while rolling it down the hill from Albert Park to the Devonport ferry was not a problem, getting it onto the ferry was. It is said that the ferry listed severely to starboard all the way across the Waitemata Harbour to Devonport. However, the roller eventually resided for many years at Devonport Domain, providing good service to the club, without anyone coming to reclaim it.
The current clubrooms, which were built in the 1960s, are the second to be built on the Domain.