Past events

This page lists the events we have done since the website was set up in 2015 (see our newsletters for earlier events).

Sunday 23 April at 2pm.  Alan Olliver of the Mt. Victoria Historical Society led 14 of us on a fascinating walk around part of Mt Victoria to hear the stories and see the sites of vicious murders, raging fires, a tram tragedy, and much more. Beginning near St Gerard’s Church and ending in Pirie Street at the house where a ‘justifiable homicide’ took place – that is, murder in self-defence – with a connection to Val Sanderson, the founder of what became Forest and Bird Society.


Sunday 12 February (postponed from 29 January) 2023, 2pm: CBD historic walk (part 2): Committee member Vivienne Morrell led a walk in Wellington’s CBD to look at historic buildings.

On 16 October we did part 1: Old St Paul’s to the BNZ centre. This walk started opposite the Old Government Buildings and finished in Willis Street, following a different route and looked at different buildings from part 1. This walk was mainly on land reclaimed from the harbour (until Willis St).

Old Government Buildings, 1876 from ‘Old Shoreline’ WCC heritage trail ( p. 54. Credited to Wellington Museum

For a number of years (2015 to 2019) Vivienne taught an evening class on Wellington’s architectural heritage at Wellington High School. At the end of each course, she would lead the group on a walk, similar to these two.


Sunday 16 October 2022, 2pmCBD historic walk: Committee member Vivienne Morrell led 14 members on a walk in Wellington’s CBD looking at historic buildings and signs. We began at the 1866 Old St Paul’s church and finished at the 1885-1904 BNZ complex on the corner of Lambton Quay and Customhouse Quay, thus mostly following the original 1840 shoreline.


On Sunday 14 August 2pm, at St Peter’s Church, 211 Willis Street, Garden Room 22 members attended our AGM, followed by speaker Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett. Iona reflected on her life as an advocate for Wellington’s heritage and discussed the importance of history and keeping our wooden buildings as a sustainable housing option (updating and making more comfortable when necessary!) This was followed by refreshments.

(Image: Iona Pannett speaking. Taken by Deb Cranko).


Sunday 3 July 2pm – 4pm. Visit to the Wellesley Boutique Hotel. 2- 8 Maginnity Street, Stout Street precinct.

Over 40 members attended a visit to the Wellesley Hotel, with talks and a walk through, followed by afternoon tea. The Wellesley hotel is a 1920s neo-Georgian Style Heritage Category One building, designed by architect William Gray Young (1885-1962), with historical connections to Wellington’s founding. It was built between 1925-27 for the Wellesley Club, established in 1891 as a ‘junior club’ offshoot of the Wellington Club, founded in the 1840s. Wellesley was the family name for the Duke of Wellington, and both the Wellington and Wellesley clubs were established to be the equivalents of London gentlemen’s clubs – places to “socialise, drink, dine, relax and occasionally reside.”

In the 1990s a majority shareholding was sold by the Club and the building became a heritage hotel / function centre. Since 2009 it has been owned by a group of private investors associated with the Westminster Lodge of Freemasons. The remaining part of the second-floor billiard room is now the Freemason’s meeting room. Further significant renovations are planned during the next 18 months.  See the Wellesley website for more information.

Stuart Brooker and architect Warwick Bell discussed their long-standing commitment to preserving and renewing this significant building and provided an opportunity to visit parts of the building not normally open to the public.


Sunday 1 May, 2pm. About 25 members and guests heard two presentations with a Newtown theme:

First, Mary O’Keeffe gave a lively presentation called “Gowns, streams and essence of filth – an archaeological view of life in Newtown, Wellington.”

Mary is a consultant archaeologist who has been lurking around Wellington archaeology for about 35 years.  Some of that time spent lurking was for DoC and Heritage New Zealand, but since 1996 she has run her consultancy, Heritage Solutions.

In her work Mary has investigated some fantastic and fascinating sites, which all contribute to the story of what it means to be a New Zealander today, and how archaeology shows us how we got here.

Next, continuing the focus on Newtown, Emelie Clarke and Martin Hanley provided an update on their computer supported design about how the main roads of Newtown could house more residents while retaining heritage. Emelie, a Masters student at Victoria University’s School of Architecture, is working with Martin Hanley of Red Design architects. Martin is one of the founders of the Newtown festival, which he is planning to bring back next year after Covid prompted cancellations.  

Historic Places Wellington is supporting the design to show creative alternatives to the blanket ‘upzoning’ of much of pre 1930s Newtown (and all inner city suburbs), which is a serious threat to wooden Victorian and Edwardian houses which are a distinctive feature of Wellington. The aim is to show visually how more houses can be created by targeting ‘brown fields’ sites close to public transport. The latest HPW newsletter describes the project in more detail  – it is part of the work of the campaigning group LiveWELLington in response to Wellington City Council’s draft district plan changes.


Sunday 27 Feb 2022 at 2pm – Working Class Early Mt Victoria: a guided walk

Jo Newman from the Mt Victoria Historical Society led 20 of us on a fascinating tour of some of the 19th and early 20th century homes of the working classes who helped build our city and keep its cogs turning. Many of the houses they once lived in in Mt Victoria look almost the same today, and with help from photos that Jo showed, we were able to imagine their lives behind those walls.

Images: houses in Pirie Street, the yellow house is the former Rev Moir’s house on the corner of Moir and Brougham Streets, the 1884 photo shows Rev Moir’s house in the yellow circle and early Moir Street in red line.  The group on the corner of Moir and Brougham. 1884 photo credit – detail of Moir Street, Mt Victoria, c. 1884.  Overlooking Wellington City Burton Bros. Ref: BB-2235-1/1-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.  /records/22742427


Sunday 21 November 2021, 2:30pm: ‘Ministerial Residence’ visit

About 28 members had an enjoyable visit to the Category 2 listed Ministerial Residence (Former) located in Thorndon, Wellington. The building has historic significance as the ‘unofficial’ prime ministerial residence of Prime Ministers Sidney Holland, Walter Nash and Keith Holyoake and residence of a number of cabinet ministers from various parties.

Built for Robert Westley Bothamley (1888-1967) in 1927 the house has architectural significance as a design by the architect Stanley Walter Fearn (1887-1976), who was the inaugural winner of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1928 for his design of the William Booth Memorial College building (now Philosophy House) in Aro Street.

The ‘Friends of National House’ put on a delicious afternoon tea for us.


About 50 people came to the public talk by Brenda and Robert Vale that we hosted as part of Wellington Heritage Week called: Old or Green? Is the Greenest Building an Old Building? It was held at the Architecture School,139 Vivian Street, on Wednesday 27 October, 5:30pm 2021.

You can watch a 10 minute highlights version here.

Brenda and Robert illustrated with many slides their argument that wooden buildings are more environmentally sustainable than concrete ones and we would have more available land in inner cities if we gave less priority to cars. Clearly, while some of our older houses do need improving to gain the environmental, health and comfort benefits it is often more sustainable to do so than to demolish and rebuild.

Brenda and Robert Vale are internationally renowned architects, writers, and thinkers. Winners of the United Nations Global 500 Award for Environmental Achievement in 1994, they are authors of numerous books including The Autonomous House, Green Architecture, The New Autonomous House, and Time to Eat the Dog?


We had two events on Sunday 10 October 2021.

Sunday 10 October, 2:30pm: Heritage buildings in the Sub-Antarctic. A talk by Paul Cummack

Paul Cummack, a conservation architect, gave an entertaining talk about the challenges of trying to maintain old structures in the sub-Antarctic islands, particularly on Campbell Island.  This includes the challenges of getting there!

Paul has been an important figure in preservation of many of the city’s heritage buildings, including Government House and the former Farmers’ Building in Cuba Street. Paul’s topic highlighted the links between natural and cultural heritage in one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s three World Heritage sites.

This talk was postponed from our AGM in August. It was held in the Garden Room behind St Peter’s Church, 211 Willis Street (access from Ghuznee Street). Following Paul’s talk, those interested in our second event walked to the Wellington Trades Hall.

Sunday 10 October 3:30pm: Wellington Trades Hall visit, 124-128 Vivian Street

We were met by Graeme Clarke who told us about the building and some of the important events that happened there. Wellington Trades Hall on Vivian Street was designed by noted Wellington architect William Fielding (1875-1946) and opened in 1929. It is a Category 1 listed historic building; the listing notes: “it has outstanding historical significance for its connections with the union movement in Aotearoa New Zealand, with the lives of ordinary working people and well-known union figures, organisations like the Labour Party and Federation of Labour, and major events such as the 1951 waterfront dispute.” Graeme and others are making various displays in the foyer that tell these stories.


On Sunday 19 September 3pm, Richard Norman spoke about ‘Wellington’s Roaring Twenties’: During the 1920s, Wellington grew rapidly as a result of the new technologies of the motor car, electricity, films, broadcasting and aviation and services such as rail, insurance, finance, road construction and government support for farm exports and research. Richard discussed leaders of the 1920s and illustrated with heritage buildings they created, and other buildings from this ‘boom’ period. This talk draws on research for a recently published centennial history of Rotary in New Zealand, founded in June 1921 in Wellington and Auckland. Despite level 2 Covid alert restrictions at least 35 people came.


27 June 2021: About 30 members enjoyed an event in the Wellington suburb of Northland, including refreshments, and talks about the Platt family design and building firm of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, followed by a visit to two of their houses.

With Wellington at Covid-19 alert level 2 (events of up to 100 people allowed) and heavy rain in the morning, it wasn’t looking very promising. However, we got a few hours of dry weather in the afternoon, and everyone enjoyed the well organised programme.

Christina Mackay, architect and adjunct research fellow at the Wellington School of Architecture and HPW committee member, organised the day and gave an illustrated presentation about Edmund Platt and his sons. This presentation was shared with Alan Jones, an owner of one of the Platt houses. And Kay Poynton shared lively anecdotes about the family. Kay also brought in a small table connected with the family and photographs. Her grandparents were good friends of the Platt family and lived in houses built by the Platts.

The talks and visits reminded us about the enduring quality of early Wellington architecture and housing for its people.  The stories were about families, fun, work, active political life, beauty, lasting materials and a sense of local community.

Edmund Platt was born in London, England in 1850 and emigrated to New Zealand with his wife and two children in 1876. By 1880 Edmund had a steady job as a plasterer with Burton & Sons, owned a property in Mount Victoria and had four children; his first job was plastering the columns and capitals for the old Supreme Court building. By 1884 Edmund was made a partner in Burton & Sons and had six children. He worked on the National Mutual Life Building on the corner of Customhouse Quay and Hunter Street. (It is listed as the BNZ No. 3 building.)

By 1890 the family had moved to a new suburb in the north west of Wellington called ‘Creswick’ – now part of Northland. They were living at 73 Creswick Terrace – the date and builder of the home has not been confirmed. In 1890 Edmund set up his own business in Molesworth Street. Another heritage-listed building he worked on was the Bond Store (now the Wellington Museum.)

In 1900 The Township of Northland comprising 351 sections was established and the Platt family acquired a number of those sections. In 1901/02, 10 Farm Road was built for son Walter and his family and was occupied by his wife Emily until 1971. Alan Jones told us some of the distinguishing features of a Platt house – concrete foundations, which was unusual for that time, distinctive plastered chimneys, lath and plaster walls, fine interior joinery and (unless subsequently removed) they usually have a lot of decoration inside and out.

In 1905 factory production of plaster board and of decorative plaster ornaments threatened the viability of the Platts residential work so they began to build houses for others. Around this time Edmund provided land for and was active in designing, building and financing St Anne’s Church, 77 Northland Road (no longer a church) and a church school.

In 1907, 11 Farm Road was built for son Frederick and his family; Frederick lived there until 1946 when he died and Emma until 1966. In 1912 Edmund Platt & Sons closed its doors. By then, they had built a number of houses in Northland. Those listed by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga are: 82 Creswick Terrace; 5, 10, 11 and 13 Farm Road; 77 and 92 Northland Road. Other known houses (but not listed): 78 Creswick Terrace; 14, 26 and 35 Farm Road and 83 Harbour View Road.

Edmund Platt died on 9 August 1927 and is buried at the Bolton Street Cemetery. A selection of photos from the two houses:


Saturday 6 March 2021, visit to Ōtaki. About 17 members visited some historic places in Ōtaki. We began at the former Children’s Health Camp. Di Buchan and Anthony Dreaver of the Friends of Ōtaki Rotunda told us the history of the complex and then took us around the buildings. “Opened as New Zealand’s first permanent children’s health camp in 1932 and set among the sand dunes at Ōtaki Beach, Ōtaki Children’s Health Camp (Former) is a place of outstanding significance, featuring an integrated complex of play spaces, buildings and structures.” HNZPT Category 1 listing.

After lunch, we looked at an exhibition on the Ōtaki River at the Ōtaki Museum (housed in the 1918 former BNZ building). We then had a brief stop outside Rangiatea Church and then moved to St Mary’s Church, Pukekaraka for a talk and tour of the old (1859) and new (1992) churches. We also followed the Stations of the Cross up Pukekaraka hill to see the site of the earliest church. “St Mary’s Church, built in 1858-1859, is considered to be New Zealand’s oldest surviving Catholic Church still in use.” (From HNZPT Category 1 listing).

Thanks to Anthony Dreaver for organising the events, and to Di Buchan, Father Cody and the volunteers at the Ōtaki Museum for an enjoyable and informative day.


The group by the Band Rotunda in Shorland Park and by St Hilda’s Anglican Church (photos by Julie Middleton).

Saturday 30 January 2021, 10:30am: Island Bay history walk:  Committee member Vivienne Morrell led 17 people on a walk around some of the suburb of Island Bay (her local suburb). Island Bay was a “seaside resort” with a racecourse in the late 19th century. In 1900 the suburb was sparsely settled, but by 1910 had grown considerably. We saw some of the buildings from that decade, plus a few others. You can read information on some of the buildings and see relevant photos in this blog post on Vivienne’s personal website.

Image credit: Island Bay 1909: Part 3 of a 4 part panorama overlooking the suburb of Island Bay, Wellington. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/1-019854-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23195501


Saturday 5 December 2020, 2pm – A Mt Victoria House Restoration

Twenty-one members were fortunate to visit a 1906 Mt Victoria residence designed by Canterbury architect Samuel Hurst Seager and built by Walter Chapman-Taylor. For many years this had been divided into two flats and in the last few years current owner Richard Burrell has converted it back into a family residence.


Thursday 3 December 2020 at Antrim House, Wellington: Book launch for Geoff Mew’s book Architects at the Apex.

“A new look at New Zealand architecture through the lives and major works of the top 50 architects who practised here between 1840 and 1940. How they were selected. Why they were great. Family backgrounds are there too. Their noteworthy buildings are there in photographs, drawings, postcards and newspaper advertisements. Some of the architects are still famous; others, particularly from the early to mid-nineteenth century, are less known but still remarkable. Most were based in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington or Dunedin, but a few stood out in smaller centres.” You can order the book here.

Historic Places Wellington contributed $1000 to help with the publication costs of this book.

Image: Geoff Mew speaking at the book launch (photo by Deb Cranko)


Tuesday 1 December 2020 at 7:30pm – A Home Restorers Group for Wellington (workshop)

In July, Trevor Lord shared the experiences of the Canterbury Vintage Home Restorers Group with a Historic Places Wellington audience. HPW received interest from participants in forming a community support group for owners of older houses in the Wellington area.

The first meeting of a potential Home Restorers Group was a workshop to scope the needs of homeowners, seminar topics and group activities. Christina Mackay, Architect and Adjunct Research Fellow at School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington reported on VUW research into resources for caring for New Zealand older timber houses and convened the workshop.


Saturday 28 November 2020, 2pm (a walk) – Wellington’s 1920s motor town.

Tour leader Richard Norman led about 18 members and guests on a fascinating walk around Courtenay Place and Taranaki Street to see the reminders of the motor industry of the 1920s. Ford cars were assembled in a nine storey building built in 1922, now a hotel, and the success of that enterprise funded the Hope Gibbons building. Nearby were display centres for other American and British cars.

The tour ended with afternoon tea in the building where Ford cars were assembled (now Oaks Hotel, 89 Courtenay Place). Richard Norman has explored this hidden history as a result of work for a centennial history of the founding of Rotary in New Zealand in Wellington in 1921. Key players in the motor industry were also founding members of Rotary.

We were fortunate to have two motor industry historians with us.


Wednesday 28 October 2020, 5.30pm: We hosted a public event at City Gallery as part of Wellington Heritage Week: ‘Is Wellington Modernism too Ugly to Love?’

Over 100 people attended the event, which featured two prominent New Zealand architects: Bill McKay and Ken Davis. Bill McKay gave a general overview of Modernism and Modernist buildings and Ken Davis followed with the Gordon Wilson Flats as a case study. Ken shared his ideas for how the building could be fixed, reused and be part of the gateway to the Kelburn campus that owner Victoria University wants. Bill mentioned that Auckland university has strengthened and used the Symonds St Flats for student accommodation. So why not Victoria University with the Gordon WIlson Flats! (Images from powerpoint slides)


Sunday 11 October 2020, 1pm at St Peter’s Church, Willis St (undercroft). 

We held our AGM on Sunday 30 August over Zoom. The speakers we were going to hear after the AGM were rescheduled to 11 October. About 30 members and friends heard from three speakers about recent heritage listings on the Heritage New Zealand List, covering 1860s Thorndon, early 1900s Newtown and the Modernist 1950s suburb of Naenae. Michael Kelly spoke about Cooper’s Cottage in Ascot Street, Thorndon. Jamie Jacobs talked about Ashleigh Court (formerly Langham Private Hotel) in Newtown. Ben Schrader spoke about the former Naenae Post Office.

And with the Wellington City Council’s “Planning for Growth” strategy and our meeting place at St Peter’s Church, we added another speaker to the line-up. Richard Norman spoke about “St Peter’s Church, Willis Street – from urban decline to rapid population growth.”

All speakers also commented on the WCC’s Draft Spatial Plan.


30 August 2020 at 2pm: We held our AGM online by Zoom, with about 16 members taking part. We rescheduled the speakers we were to hear from until we can meet in person.


17 July 2020 at 7pm. Public talk: Restoring old houses – do Wellingtonians need help?

About 50 people attended this illustrated talk. We heard from Trevor Lord, one of the founders of the Canterbury Vintage Home Restorers Group about some of the activities and buildings their group has been involved with. Although Wellington has many built heritage groups and associations, it has not had a group which focuses on supporting the ongoing care of its iconic old timber houses. Historic Places Wellington is interested to find out if there is support for such a group in Wellington.

The Canterbury Vintage Home Restorers Group has been providing support for 30 years. A March presentation on the work of the group by founders Trevor and Jill Lord was postponed because of the Covid 19 lockdown. The Canterbury Vintage Home Restorers Group featured in the Heritage New Zealand magazine, Winter 2019.  You can also read more about the group in this article:

Image: Trevor Lord outside the former power substation building he purchased in Kate Sheppard Place, Wellington and converted to apartments.  Credit: Supplied


2 February 2020 at 10:30am: Aro Valley walk. Vivienne Morrell led 24 members on a walk through Holloway Road and Aro Street, outlining the history of the area and looking at specific heritage listed buildings.

Images: Left – Emma and William Haines with their family, outside 41 Holloway Road, c. 1914. Te Papa Tongarewa collection. Middle: Holloway Road, Mitchelltown, J N Taylor, Early 1900s. Ref: 1/2-104809-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22307864. Right: Modern comparison by Vivienne Morrell.

Holloway Road and Aro Street between them have about 50 heritage places in the Wellington City Council’s heritage schedule (including most of the Aro Street shops). The area is known for its working class history and buildings.

For those not able to make the walk you might like to watch a 1993 television documentary available on the Nga Taonga (Film Archive) website called ‘The Gully-ites’ about the Swensson family who lived at no. 41 Holloway Road (and other ‘gully-ites’).

Photos by Johanna Nieuweveen and Deb Cranko.


25 January 2020 at 2:30pm, Visit to historic house at 186 Oriental Parade.  This event was only able to be organised at short notice and we apologise to any members who would have liked to attend but didn’t get sufficient notice. Fifteen guests visited and the owner gave them an interesting tour of the house. The house was designed by architect Joshua Charlesworth (who also designed Wellington’s Town Hall) as part of a development of nine houses in a row on Oriental Parade. No. 186, the ninth house in this subdivision, was not completed until 1909. You can read more about it in the WCC’s historic listing.

Photos by Felicity Wong and Deb Cranko.


3 November 2019, 3pm at Futuna Chapel, in Karori: Over 60 people listened to two interesting presentations. This event was co-sponsored by HPW and Futuna Trust. Our contribution was to provide the refreshments after the talks and we are pleased that many stayed to discuss the talks, socialise, meet new people and generally enjoy the Category 1 historic chapel.

Jamie Jacobs spoke on the limited support and broad ambivalence about the everyday architecture of mid-twentieth century suburban buildings, in America as well as New Zealand. (Photos by Vivienne Morrell – Jamie Jacobs; Sharon Jansen and Nick Bevin of Futuna Trust).

Jamie Jacobs is the Central Region Director for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, New Zealand’s leading historic preservation agency.  Jamie is currently researching the mid-twentieth-century destruction and rebuilding of Te Aro, one of Wellington’s earliest neighbourhoods.

Architect Sharon Jansen then spoke about a ‘Nelson House Alteration’. The rediscovery of an Ernst Plischke designed house from 1961. Sharon outlined the restoration of this relatively unknown house by Ernst Plischke, which was built in Nelson for the Griffin Family. Knowledge of the house only came to light in 2012, with the drawings found in the Nelson City Archives. The house was in a poor state, having had little maintenance over its years and an ungainly extension added to the face of the building in 1994. It has now been beautifully restored, but with some sympathetic updating.

(House photos by Paul McCredie.)


Our 2019 AGM was held on Thursday 15 August at St Andrew’s on the Terrace. After AGM business, we heard a lively presentation from Bee Dawson, author of a number of books including A history of Gardening in New Zealand, Puketiti Station: The story of an East Cape sheep station and the 180-year-old Williams legacy, Lady Travellers: the early tourists of New Zealand. Bee spoke about her most recent book: The Plimmer Legacy: A family story from early Wellington to modern farming in the Rangitikei.

Images: Plimmer Legacy book cover. Statue of John Plimmer with his dog Fritz at the bottom of Plimmer Steps, Lambton Quay, Wellington (photo by Vivienne Morrell).


Outside ‘Chevening’ (Photo by Julie Middleton)

Visit to ‘Chevening’ in Kelburn on 22 June 2019. About 25 members and friends visited the elegant 1929-built apartment block in Kelburn, designed by Llewellyn Williams for Emma Rainforth. Chevening was recently generously gifted by Susan Price to Heritage New Zealand. Susan and her mother Beverley Randall had bought period furnishings from second-hand shops in Wellington and Susan had the building earthquake strengthened to 100% of building code in 2011. Members enjoyed seeing all four floors (one flat per floor) before Heritage New Zealand decide how to utilise it.


Visits to Carillon, National War Memorial Park, 17 and 24 March 2019

We had two visits to the Carillon – Sundays 17 and 24 March 2019 at 1:30pm (prior to a Carillon recital at 2:30). The visits were strictly limited to 9 people per visit due to the narrow spaces and were fully booked. National Carillonist Timothy Hurd gave us a talk and then led us up the carillon to see the six largest bells and the room with the keyboard and a practice keyboard (plus stunning views of Wellington).

The carillon is part of the National War Memorial (a Category 1 complex). “The National War Memorial of New Zealand, consisting of a Carillon constructed in 1932, and a Hall of Memories completed 32 years later, is a solemn tribute to, and a commemoration of, the contribution of all those New Zealanders who have served and died in war.” (Heritage NZ List entry). Recently, the carillon tower and Hall of Memories were earthquake strengthened and cleaned as part of the construction of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

A carillon is a musical instrument – the largest musical instruments in the world. They consist of at least 23 bells, typically housed in a campanile (bell tower), which are tuned so they produce a melody when played. The NZ  carillon is the third largest in the world, both by number of bells (74) and their combined weight. You can read more on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website.

Photos from the first visit: National Carillonist Timothy Hurd demonstrated playing the Carillon. Also showing some of the six largest bells and the view from the Carillon.


Wednesday January 30th and Thursday February 21st 2019 : “Secret Art Walk”

About 15 members enjoyed exploring some of the art in foyers of central Wellington commercial buildings with Vivienne Morrell on a two-hour walking tour. There was also a heritage focus – beginning at the site of the former Wellington Hotel of Baron von Alzdorf who was killed in the 1855 earthquake (now the location of Bowen House, Lambton Quay).


Theosophical Society Hall built 1918

Saturday 17 November 2018, 2pm  – about 22 members and friends visited four historic buildings in the Wellington CBD beginning at the Christian Science Building, 285 Willis Street.

We visited:

  • Christian Science Building (architect Ian Athfield, 1983);
  • ‘The Manor’ (former Red Cross building) architect William Turnbull, 1908;#
  • St Peter’s Anglican Church (architect Thomas Turnbull, 1879); and
  • Theosophical Society Hall, 1918.

#The Manor received funding in the recent round of Heritage Equip for seismic strengthening. The Manor is a Category 1 historic place designed by William Turnbull and completed in 1908 as a residence and surgery for surgeon Sir Donald McGavin.

Photo: Theosophical Society president Sushma Webber with HPW chair Felicity Wong


Tuesday 25 September 2018 at 7pm. Lecture on ‘Exploring the Terawhiti Goldfields’ by Vivienne Morrell

This talk was given at the VUW School of Architecture, 139 Vivian St, Lecture Theatre 2.

Terawhiti is the mostly rural area to the west of Wellington that most Wellingtonians would only know by flying over it or seeing it from the Cook Strait ferry. Vivienne researched the history of this area for Heritage New Zealand (formerly Historic Places Trust) and wrote the report for the historic listing of the Albion Goldmining Company remains. At various times from the 1850s to the 1910s the area was a site for gold prospecting – it is the lower North Island’s only example of a large area that includes a range of gold-related sites. Vivienne gave a presentation on the history of the area and, in particular, the goldmining.

Vivienne is on the committee of Historic Places Wellington and once a year teaches an evening class at Wellington High School called ‘City Stories: Wellington’s Architectural Heritage’.

Image credit: Albion battery, Terawhiti. Ref: PA1-f-036-06. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23044048


Thursday 9 August 2018: Our AGM

Our 2018 AGM was held on Thursday 9 August at St Andrews on the Terrace. Following the business we heard an informative and entertaining talk by Barbara Mulligan on “Karori Cemetery and the 1918 flu epidemic”. This year is the centenary of the event. As the NZ History entry on the epidemic notes: “In two months New Zealand lost about half as many people to influenza as it had in the whole of the First World War. No event has killed so many New Zealanders in such a short time.”

Despite its enormous impact on New Zealand society, the centenary of the epidemic has not generated a lot of publicity. Barbara and a band of volunteers have identified the graves at Karori Cemetery of those who died from the influenza epidemic, have been cleaning them, researching some of the families and plan two open days of commemoration in November. The website is: and the commemoration programme is here.


Sunday 27 May 2018. Some members attended a screening of the very interesting film called ‘Test of Faith’ about St Mary of the Angel’s earthquake strengthening and refurbishment at the Embassy theatre as part of the Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival.


Sunday 15 April 2018, 1.00 pm to 3.30 pm in Carterton

(Photos by Nigel Isaacs.) A dozen or so members joined the newly incorporated Heritage Wairarapa, which held a public meeting at the old Carterton Court House, Holloway Street Carterton on Sunday 15 April 2018 at 2.00pm, with visits before to Wakelin’s Mill and Carterton Library.

The former Carterton Courthouse, once one of five courthouses in Wairarapa, is ready for new community uses again following extensive restoration work. Built in 1884 and designed by the Acting Colonial Architect, Pierre Finch Martineau Burrows (1842-1920), it resembles a style used for many small provincial courthouses. The Carterton library – believed to be the oldest purpose-built library in NZ – dates back to about 1881. It is a Category 2 historic building. Wakelin’s Mill  is a four-storeyed iron-clad former flour mill and believed to be the third oldest in NZ. It is a Category 1 historic building ( )


Saturday 17 February 2018 at 6pm and Saturday 10 March at 10am. Our first event for 2018 was a guided walk around the Wellington CBD with archaeologist Mary O’Keeffe. Mary did this walk during Heritage Week last October and it was booked out, so she offered it twice for HPW members.

Mary is a consultant archaeologist, who has been poking around bits of Wellington for the last 20 years. This guided walk looked at the archaeology of some of the projects she’s worked on, and what these sites and places can tell us about life as a Wellingtonian. Mary’s website:  

Here are some photos from the second walk (taken by Felicity Wong):


On Weds 15 November 2017 Dr Ben Schrader, historian, spoke to about 45 members and invited guests from the Thorndon Society on the topic: Residential E and the Saving of Thorndon.

Bens talk Nov 15 2017 2

“In 1977 Wellington City Council confirmed Thorndon’s Residential E ordinance: the first in New Zealand to give protection to an historic district. This talk examines the rationale for the measure; the people who promoted it, and its effects on Thorndon.” 

Photo by Nigel Isaacs. HPW chair Priscilla Williams introduces Ben.

Ben is currently working on a book with Michael Kelly on the history of historic preservation in New Zealand and Thorndon will be a case study. Thorndon is New Zealand’s oldest suburb.  By the 1950s much of the old housing in Thorndon was run down and talk of ‘urban renewal’ and the extension of urban motorways was common here and in many places overseas. Ben outlined the destruction the Wellington urban motorway caused through Thorndon and the response of residents and city council in setting up the Residential E district protection.

In keeping with the topic, the talk was held in the historic Thorndon School Hall.


Historic Places Wellington was lead organiser of the successful Wellington City Heritage Week (23 – 29 October 2017), which included talks, walks, and visits to historic buildings. Here is a selection of photos from some of the events.


Historic Places Wellington AGM, Thurs 10 August, 2017 5:30pm: Twenty-nine members came to the AGM. Unfortunately technology difficulties meant we did not hear from our scheduled speaker, historian Ben Schrader, author of The Big Smoke, an urban history of New Zealand 1840-1920, speaking on Thorndon (the talk was rescheduled to November).


On Thursday, 13 July, 2017 at Victoria University of Wellington, Schools of Architecture & Design, Julia Thompson gave a talk on “Wellington’s Grand Opera House.”

The Wellington Opera House at 109-­117 Manners Street (Category 1, List No. 1432) has a colourful history. Designed by an Australian architect, William Pitt, the building’s construction was overseen by his brother-­in-­law, Albert Liddy. The building featured natural ventilation as well as an innovative sliding roof and sliding ceiling system above the main seating area. Within 15 years of construction this system was no longer in use and the sliding roof was rumoured to have only ever opened once, although the mechanics remain. Structural renovations, including seismic strengthening in 1977-­1982, have blocked most of the original natural ventilation inlets but no new system has been added.

Julia Thompson is undertaking her doctorate in building science at the School of
Architecture Victoria University of Wellington. Her research is investigating the history of natural ventilation design in auditoria, and the feasibility of reintroducing such systems in the present day.


On a cold but clear Sunday, 21 May 2017, members took a bus trip to see some of the Hutt Valley’s earlier historic buildings.

We first visited Category 1 historic place Christ Church, Taita where Janice told us some of the history and stories from this very early church (1853/4). Christ Church is the oldest church still standing in Wellington; its first service was held on 1 January 1854. We also discovered that well known Wellington church architect Frederick de Jersey Clere was buried in the graveyard.

Our next visit was to The Blockhouse, Trentham (another Category 1 building).  Bruce spoke to us here. The Blockhouse was a defensive structure built in 1860, but never used in warfare. It is a very rare surviving example of this type of defensive building in New Zealand and is also historically significant as the legal protection given in 1916 is one of the first recorded examples of statutory protection of a historic building in New Zealand. Its most unusual feature was that the wall cavity between the exterior and interior was filled with fine gravel to absorb the impact of gunfire.

We were fortunate to be able to see a well presented exhibition on The Blockhouse at Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt. We next visited Golder’s House. The house was built in 1876-1877 by John Golder and is a Category 2 listed building. Golder’s House and outbuildings provide valuable insight into colonial domestic life. The various outbuildings, such as the laundry, a water pump, and food store (also registered as a Historic Place, Category 2) were fascinating and prompted many to comment on things they recognised or didn’t know what their purpose was.

Our last visit was to St John’s Anglican Church (a Category 2 historic place dating from 1863). Frederick Thatcher (1814-1890), at the time vicar of St Paul’s parish, and architect of (now Old) St Paul’s Cathedral, probably designed St John’s. Many of the stained glass windows were designed by Beverley Shore Bennett, a leading New Zealand stained glass artist.



Over 40 people went on a bus tour of the Paraparaumu and Waikanae areas on 26 March 2017. Led by local historian Anthony Dreaver and archaeologist Mary O’Keefe, the tour covered early settlement sites, urupa, viewing points and finished at the Waikanae museum. Anthony prepared a very interesting booklet for participants on the ‘four Waikanaes’ –  the different settlement phases and locations of Waikanae. After viewing Kapiti Island and hearing some of its history, we next went to the site of the main Te Ati Awa village from 1824 to the 1840s, Kenakena (or Waikanae) pa and site of the first church built in 1843.

Kapiti District Council’s Arts, Museums and Heritage Advisor, Jaenine Parkinson with Anthony Dreaver looking at the site of the first church, built in 1843.

The next stop was to view the Waikanae estuary, old Ferry Inn and Arapawaiti cemetery reserve, where the family of the first ferryman are buried. Mary O’Keefe who was the archaeologist for the expressway project also gave interesting information about some of the things she found – and didn’t find – during the building of the new expressway. From Takamore urupa we viewed the site of the second ‘Waikanae’, Tuku Rakau. There was no organised Pakeha settlement until the railway went through in 1886. The trip finished at the former Post Office – now the Kapiti Coast Museum.

You can download a copy of Anthony’s booklet here (higher resolution, 3.3 MB): Waikanae trip booklet. Or a lower resolution copy here (0.5 MB): Waikanae trip booklet 2


On 16 August 2016 we held our AGM. After, Wellington City Councillor Andy Foster gave us an informative talk on some of Wellington’s heritage buildings’ earthquake prone status, and work on remedying that, as well as issues facing resolving the earthquake prone status of  Wellington Town Hall.


On Saturday 25 June 2016, 25 members visited two historic Thorndon houses: ‘The Crescent’ in Goldies Brae, and the Italian Ambassador’s house in Grant Road.

Goldie’s Brae or The Crescent

The following is from the Heritage New Zealand listing – the house is a Category 1 place:

“Designed by its layman owner, Dr Alexander Johnston, and completed in early 1876 this house is remarkable for its eccentricity combined with innovation aspects. Dr Johnston as Provincial Surgeon in Wellington was an important early medical figure associated with Wellington Public Hospital for a lengthy period. His choice of a segmental plan form was intended to produce a ‘cosy feeling’ but its real interest lies in the use of a continuous glazed gallery (or conservatory) providing enclosed access to each of the ten rooms. This provided solar heat to the rest of the house which was of concrete.” This report appeared in the Evening Post on 4 Dec 1875 (and the advert on 8 November):

It was probably only the second house in Wellington to be built in concrete – the first being the house Government Architect William Clayton built for himself in Hobson Street (since demolished).

It is likely the architect Charles Tringham had some involvement as he placed an advertisement for tenders for various works in Nov 1875 and for “painting and glazing required at Dr Johnston’s new residence” – specifications at Charles Tringham’s office (Evening Post, 3 Jan 1876, p. 3).

Italian Ambassador’s House

The Italian Ambassador’s House, built in 1877, was designed by well-known architect Thomas Turnbull as his own house. Over the years the house was divided into two flats and rented out, until 1961 when it was purchased by the Italian Government for its ambassador. Thomas Turnbull (1824–1907) was an important architect in mid to late 19th century New Zealand. You can read more about this Category 2 listed building on the Heritage New Zealand website (click the link above).

The image below shows the house when it still belonged to Turnbull (he sold it in 1898) – this is a detail from the lithograph on the left.

Source: New Zealand Graphic and Star Printing Works. Artist unknown :Wellington, New Zealand, from Thorndon. Litho. at the N.Z. Graphic and Star Printing Works, from a photograph [1894]. Ref: A-385-023. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


On Sunday 13 March 2016 over 40 members visited Crofton in Ngaio, and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tea.


Built in 1857, Crofton is of special significance as one of the oldest surviving houses in Wellington and is a relatively rare remaining example of a house dating from the 1850s in New Zealand.  Four times Premier of New Zealand, Sir William Fox (1812?-1893) built the house as his Wellington country house early in his political career. It remained in his ownership when he became Premier in 1861. Crofton is an important link with Wellington’s colonial history and is a Category One historic place.


In 1862 Crofton was bought by Bishop Charles Abraham (1814–1903), the first Bishop of Wellington, who opened the Church of England Grammar School in it in 1863. Also known as Crofton College, Kaiwarra, it educated many of the sons of leading Anglican families and was one of Wellington’s early secondary schools. When the school closed around 1875, Crofton became a residence once again. Dormer windows were added to the first floor, sometime after 1895. The decorative barge boards on the front gable are no longer there, and the shingled roof is now corrugated iron. In the 1920s, the property was converted into flats, but was restored to a single house in 1980. Crofton remains a private family residence.


On 28 November 2015 members and guests visited three places in Island Bay. Beginning at the Home of Compassion, we saw the chapel, which was designed by Structon Group and built in 1990, with John Drawbridge designed windows and Stations of the Cross. We visited the Suzanne Aubert Visitor Centre which is an exhibition dedicated to telling the story of Suzanne Aubert and the Sisters of Compassion.

Our next visit was to the Serbian Orthodox Church – built in 1906 and enlarged in 1922, it was first the Catholic Church in Island Bay before being sold to the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1968. Our third visit was to St Francis de Sales Catholic Church – the foundation stone for this church was blessed by Archbishop McKeefry on May 16 1965. The architect for the new church was Jason Smith from the firm of King and Dawson (Smith was also the architect who designed the recently classified Category One historic building of Freyberg swimming pool). Several people finished the tour with a coffee at the recently strengthened and refurbished Empire Cinema and Cafe. This first opened as a cinema in 1925.

Other Island Bay historic buildings (not visited) include the Heritage New Zealand Category 1 listed former Erskine College, which has a beautiful neo-Gothic chapel – sadly ‘earthquake prone’ and not able to be visited. The Wellington City Council has also listed on its heritage schedule many of the Island Bay shops: “Island Bay Village Heritage Area, Shops and verandas 1905 – 1928”; a former Masonic Lodge at 221 Clyde Street; the Island Bay Band Rotunda (at Shorland Park); group of houses at 206-212 The Esplanade; and Erskine College Main Block and Chapel.


On 10 October 2015 members visited the Truby King House and garden in Melrose:

The house was designed by architect William Gray Young in 1923 for the founder of the Plunket Society, Frederic Truby King (1838-1938). Truby and Isabella King lived in the house, with their daughter Mary, between 1924 and 1932. The house, located on the top of a hilly section at Mount Melrose, was constructed by Wilson and Johnson of Kilbirnie, in 1924. The design of the single storey timber building shows influences of the American bungalow and colonial styles. The house included a formal public wing for entertaining dignitaries to the west, and private living spaces to the east. The geographic positioning and spatial layout of the house maximised sun and light exposure to the northern elevation, illustrating King’s ideas about the importance of the environment on people’s lives.It is a Category 1 listed building on Heritage New Zealand’s Heritage List. Click to read more.


raupo to deco

On 4 September 2015 Adrian Humphris, archivist,  gave HPW members and NZIA architects a fascinating account of how they went about researching architects who worked in the Wellington  area from 1840-1940. On behalf of his co-author  Geoff Mew, for the book, ‘From Raupo to Deco’, Adrian used five architects to illustrate the convoluted discoveries and fascinating stories they encountered.   They now have a rich data base of information which is searchable.

Frank Starck followed with a background of his previous career as CEO of the Film Archive and discussed publishing in the modern world – books still have their value.

Adrian and Geoff’s book is available through Wellington City Archives and is a well-illustrated resource, equally good for dipping into. The event was held at Foundation Architects, 8 Marion St, Te Aro,


After our AGM on Tuesday 18 August 2015 we heard an interesting talk from Nigel Isaacs. From February to June this year, Nigel (HPW committee member and Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington) was on sabbatical at The Bartlett School of Architecture, London. His travels in England and eastern USA took him to three outdoor museums, each with a wide range of local buildings:
* Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Sussex, England
* Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA
* Hancock Shaker Village, Massachusetts, USA.
These open-air museums are becoming increasingly popular and are a means of saving old and unusual buildings which may not otherwise be viable to keep.


Tour of the Paekakariki area, Sunday 31 May 2015.

Paekak trip 15 002

For our May event, we arranged a tour of the historic features of the southern Kapiti area centred around Paekakariki. We were fortunate in having as our guide Anthony Dreaver, well-known Kapiti historian.

The tour included Beach Road’s buildings (including St. Peter’s church), the Station precinct, (a listed heritage area) including signal box and museum, Steam Incorporated including the WW2 Marines goods shed, Queen Elizabeth Park, with Marines Memorial, the beach and Whareroa Pa, Whareroa Farm Park (Maori, Mackay’s and Marines interest) and Emerald Glen homestead. (Image: Members visiting St Peter’s Church, Paekakariki)

Paekak trip 15 007
Memorial to drowned US navy personnel in Queen Elizabeth Park. Local John Porter remembers the US presence from his childhood.


First State houses: Patrick Street, Petone walk, 8 March 2015.

Historic Places Wellington, with support from Patrick Street Heritage Group and Petone Historical Society, hosted a walk in Petone to see the first state houses built in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Richard Seddon’s Workers’ Dwellings Act in 1905 was followed by a competition for designs of high quality and artistic but low cost houses. Seven different designs were chosen from leading architects, and 33 houses were built in 1906 on the sand hills near Petone Beach. All except one are still standing and lived in. The Patrick Street Workers’ Dwellings Precinct, Petone, is listed as the Heretaunga Settlement Workers’ Dwellings Historic Area by Heritage New Zealand.

Members at the end of the walk looking at a sign installed in 2006 (street centenary)
Petone state houses

Historic image source: Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1909, H-11B. See: Te Ara, First state houses, Petone 

The April/May newsletter of the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council also has information about our Petone walk. You can download a PDF copy here: WRHPC Heritage Today Apr-May 2015. See also our own May newsletter on the Newsletters page.

For earlier events, see our newsletters.