Erskine College (Former)

Erskine College complex seen from across the valley

The former Erskine College (a former girls’ college) located in Island Bay, Wellington, is a Category 1 listed place with Heritage New Zealand. HPW is following with interest developments concerning Erskine College . It is closed to the public as it needs earthquake strengthening and other repairs. A resource consent for ‘redevelopment’ was lodged with the Wellington City Council in August 2016. You can read a news item about it here: ‘Chapel restored as plans for $30m Island Bay housing project at heritage site unveiled‘. The latest development (Dec 2016: an interim order preventing work going ahead) is discussed in this article. Two members of our committee wrote an opinion piece on the potential threat to heritage buildings of Special Housing Areas. 22 Dec 2016: We were saddened and disappointed to read of the vandalism in the chapel. This blog post by heritage consultant Elizabeth Cox mentions some more recent developments (Jan 2017).

In November 2016 we wrote a letter to the Wellington City Council supporting retention of the chapel and former main classroom block (Click for PDF copy): erskine-letter-nov-2016

These are photographs of some of the plans and concept drawings. The proposals would see the Main Block demolished, retention of some of the Reverend Mother’s garden, and the chapel restored and strengthened.

This is a link to the January 2015 Conservation Plan prepared by Archifact Ltd for Wellington City Council.

The following information is from the Heritage New Zealand assessment  on Erskine College: The four-storey Gothic brick and reinforced concrete building was designed by noted Wellington architect John Sydney Swan, who was just then emerging from his partnership with Frederick de Jersey Clere. The building was ready for its first pupils at the start of 1907, and the roll steadily increased over the years. The original main convent building has been added to over the years, firstly in 1916 – but the most well-known addition was made in 1929-30 when a chapel was constructed to the side of the main block. As the heritage assessment noted: “The magnificent interior of the Chapel is one of the finest New Zealand spaces built in the Gothic tradition. It is remarkable for its windows and structural embellishments, its furniture, its acoustics, the quality of light and the soaring immensity, and the paradoxically intimate devotional space that has been formed.”

Chapel interior, altar end
Chapel interior
Detail on staircase newel posts

Photographs by Vivienne Morrell