Botanic Gardens

Glenmore Street
  • Land was set aside by the New Zealand Company for a public garden as part of its first plan for the city, but work was not begun in earnest until the intervention of noted scientist Sir James Hector in the late 1860s. The Garden was established in 1869 under the direction of the New Zealand Institute and, apart from its recreational role, it was used to research the economic potential of plants, to study and collect indigenous flora and to establish exotic plants. Later, after the Wellington City Council took it over, the Botanic Garden took on a broader public purpose and greater recreational use was encouraged. The maturing and development of the garden has resulted from a great deal of planning and hard work by generations of garden staff.

    Set on the open hills at the north end of Kelburn, the Botanic Garden Heritage Area encompasses a broad variety of terrain and plantings, buildings, structures and features. Because of the terrain, each of the principal garden areas and spaces has its own distinct setting; some carefully structured (such as the rose and herb gardens), others carefully managed in their informality. The area contains a great variety of plantings, from mature specimen trees to flower beds.

  • close Physical Description
    • Setting close

      The Wellington Botanic Garden is a large and essentially un-built, but heavily landscaped green area on the outer edge of Wellington City. It is situated on a north-facing slope on the side of a sharp spur of land that runs down to the east between Kelburn and Thorndon. The area, roughly triangular in shape, is constrained by dense urban development and busy roads on all its boundaries, but nevertheless blends almost seamlessly into what amounts to a very verdant wider setting, one that includes large sections of Town Belt on the hills above Thorndon (Te Ahumairangi, just on the other side of Glenmore Street), and the steep and leafy hillsides of Kelburn; this wider setting helps to create the impression of a very extensive green area throughout this part of the city.

      Within itself, the Garden area contains a diverse range of settings for its various functions, uses and planting areas, all of which contribute to its visual interest and well-established character. There is a mixture of the formal (the garden beds, duck pond, lawns and linear paths) and the informal (the meandering paths, the wooded areas and random plantings). The overall effect is of a highly manage landscape that has matured into a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing whole.  

    • Streetscape or Landscape close

      Not available

    • Contents and Extent close

      The Wellington Botanic Garden Heritage Area occupies approximately 25 hectares of the wider Wellington Botanic Garden . The area is bounded on the west by Glenmore Street, to the north by Anderson Park, to the east by Wesley Terrace, Salamanca Road, Upland Road, Rawhiti Terrace and some of the buildings inside the Garden alongside Rawhiti Terrace and Salamanca Road, and to the south by private properties on Main Road, Glen Road and North Terrace.

      There are a number of entrances, including the two entrances (including the Founders Entrance) at Glenmore Street, Salamanca Road, Upland Road, and Wesley Street and Kinross Street, the latter via the Bolton Street Memorial Park.

      The Botanic Garden is made up of a broad range of plantings and spaces, including native forest remnant, pine plantation, formal garden areas, and botanical collections. It is owned by the Wellington City Council and is designated as a Local Purpose (Public Gardens) Reserve.

    • Buildings close

      Overseer’s House

      The Overseer’s House is a modest timber cottage, made in a distinctive, although light-handed, Victorian Carpenter Gothic style, an architectural idiom quite popular around the time of its construction in 1876. In this case, the particular interpretation of the style gives it an elegant and formal character. The house has a simple rectilinear plan, oriented with the main elevation overlooking the Rose Garden to the north-east; this elevation, clad in rusticated weatherboards, has a distinctive double-gable roof, with fretted barge boards and double-hung timber windows. The roof is a U-shape in plan, with additional gables on the north-west and south-east that add visual interest to the two side elevations; there is a single-storey lean-to at the rear.

      Mess, Tool Shed, Stables

      Collectively known as the Gardener’s sheds, these three buildings are set in the hollow below the Treehouse and give a picturesque quality to the area alongside the camellia garden. The mess building is on the south side of the path, and the stables (now a tool-shed) and a utility building (the former tool shed) are on the north side.

      The three buildings are quite uniform in their design, being good examples of the Arts and Crafts style. Their materials are appropriate for the garden setting – walls consist of a brick plinth and unpainted

      roughcast stucco above, with broad gable-ended Marseille tile roofs with exposed rafter ends, and original timber windows and doors.

      The mess is L-shaped in plan, with the main door in the north elevation, a large window that lights the mess room on the west elevation, and a fireplace and chimney on the back (south) wall. It has been heavily modified internally over the years and includes a crude modern fireplace to the old chimney.

      The stable building is rectangular in plan, with a small lean-to on the back elevation. The east end has a loft door in the gable end with a lifting beam set in the wall above. One of the loose boxes retains its original clinker brick-on-edge flooring, while other floors are now concrete. It remains generally original in form and materials; new work is confined to modern internal partitioning.

      The utility building (former Tool Shed), similar to but smaller than the stables, appears unchanged from 1924.

      Gazebo/Summer House

      The Summer House is a small, light, airy and elegant timber structure, designed and built in an Edwardian version of the Carpenter Gothic style. It has a rectangular plan, a simple gable roof, and an exposed structure, with elegant curved brace members; it is otherwise decorated with variations of the Gothic foil motif.

      Begonia House

      Elevated slightly above the rose garden, the Begonia House is a substantial modern conservatory, consisting of a glass and steel superstructure set on a brick and concrete base. It has a Beaux-Arts-style Classically-formed symmetrical plan, aligned to the major axis of the formal rose garden. The building is long and narrow, with a central semi-circular bay containing the main entrance flanked by two equal wings, each terminated in a further semi-circular bay projecting towards the rose garden; the left-hand wing contains the cafe, the right-hand wing the fish pond. The plan is covered with a steeply-pitched gabled roof which returns along each of the bays, finishing at a conical end. A ventilation lantern runs along the ridge-line of the main part of the structure. The glass is whited-out, softly illuminating the interior; the steel and glass structure spans clear across the building, creating something of a church-like space. The principal features are the plants, an interesting collection that largely fills the interior; beyond the plants, other features are the steel and glass roof structure, the low brick planters and the slate paving.

      Main (Founders’) Gates

      The main gates are situated on Glenmore Street, just along from the main driveway entrance, and are a key element in the landscaping of the Glenmore Street edge of the Garden. To the north of the gates, a long brick retaining wall is a distinctive landscape feature. It is particularly interesting for the small telephone booth (now not in use) and the larger bus shelter (now superseded by changes to the forecourt area to the gates, and replaced by an anonymous modern shelter further to the north) that are built into it close to the gates. The telephone booth is a small ‘guard box’ style structure in brick, with a plastered gabled parapet and a glazed timber screen to the enclosed space, which is just big enough for one person to stand in. The bus shelter is a rectangular brick structure with an arched opening and slatted timber seats within. To the south of the gates, and running some distance beyond the end of Garden Road, is a long fence with brick piers and steel rod infill panels. The gates sit between these features. These are built in brick, in a simple but quite distinctive Stripped Classical style popular in the day. The gate structure is of four piers and three bays, with low arched pedestrian gates flanking the main opening. The gates themselves are decorative wrought iron work, painted black.

      Cable Car Winding House

      Now converted to use as the Cable Car Museum, the former winding house is a simple, if nicely finished, turn of the 20th century gabled timber industrial building, clad in rusticated weatherboards and finished with timber joinery. The gable is unequal, lower to the south and higher to the north side, where the second bay of the original building once stood. This shows prominently on the west elevation, which has a large window opening infilling the opening for the large double timber workshop doors (surmounted by a modern triangular window in the apex). The main entry is now to the east side, where it is relieved up out of the low roof and marked with a an intricate small modern mono-slope canopy. The building is single-storey on the three original elevations. The large modern addition to the north

      elevation doubles the size of the building, more or less replicating its original scale, and is a full two storeys in height, taking up the difference in level to the gully on the north side.

      The building now stands rather in the shadow of the new cable car terminus, which dominates the cable car area.

      Carter Observatory

      Situated at the west edge of the Observatory Reserve land near the apex of the Garden, the Carter Observatory is a large but simple and forthright brick building designed in a spare Moderne style, typical of the time it was designed. The brick is contrasted with a plaster band at the base and, on the main elevation, a relatively ornate plastered surround to the largest of the windows. A single storey high, the Observatory has a flat roof with a plain horizontal parapet, and a complicated rectilinear plan with many steps; the original building features two distinctive telescope domes; to the south is the large modern addition, comprising the main entry and planetarium dome.

      The interior has been greatly modified over time, although one of the two observatory spaces still houses its original telescope.

    • Structures and Features close

      Although the various plantings, paths and landscape features are the most relevant to the primary experiences of the area, the Botanic Garden contains a number of buildings and structures of particular interest for their links to the history of the place.

      There are a number of modern structures, including the Treehouse and modern greenhouses, that do not yet contribute to the heritage values of the area, and some older structures, like the restrooms, that are of only modest heritage value. A common feature of the garden is the significant number of seats used to mark the lives of otherwise ordinary Wellingtonians who felt a strong link or bond with the area.

    • Other Features close
      Other features of the Garden include:
      • Paths and steps, in a wide range of formations and finishes
      • Retaining walls
      • Fences and gates
      • Streams, fountains, ponds, culverts, low bridges
      • Formal garden and lawn areas
      • Seats (many with commemorative plaques afixed)
      • The Dell
      • The Soundshell
      • Buildings, including:

      -          Overseer’s House

      -          Begonia House

      -          Potting sheds and greenhouses

      -          Mess room, tool shed and stables

      -          Toilet facilities and restrooms

      -          Pergolas and gazebos

      -          Treehouse Visitor Centre

      -          Carter Observatory

      -          Cable Car Winding House

  • close Historic Context
    •  History of area

      Planning a botanic garden

      Maori occupied Wellington from the 13th century, although not continuously. However, by the time that European settlers arrived in the 19th century, Maori settlement was well established. The harbour edge was occupied by various Taranaki iwi who had arrived in the area from 1825 onwards and largely usurped the local Ngati Ira. These arrivals, like their predecessors, had extensively modified the landscape to suit their needs. Nevertheless, at the time of the arrival of the New Zealand Company’s advance ship, the Tory, in 1839, the harbour was still ringed by heavy vegetation and those parts not clad in forest were covered in ferns and scrub, or were being used for cultivations.

      In a highly controversial sale, the New Zealand Company’s principal agent, William Wakefield, purchased land around Wellington Harbour from local Maori. Settlement was firstly planned and attempted at Petone but after the area was repeatedly flooded out, the settlers moved south to Lambton Harbour in April 1840. Principal surveyor Captain William Mein Smith drew up a plan of the settlement for the new site. The new plan allotted settlers each one town acre and 100 country acres. The 1,100 town acres were situated at Thorndon and Te Aro and the slender piece of land between. The Company had its plan ready and available for public inspection by July 1840. Settlers commenced selecting their preferred sections on 28 July; by 14 August they were allocated, to local and absentee landlords alike.

      Presciently included in the plan were generous public reserves, collectively known as the Town Belt, which ringed the settlement and separated the country sections from the town sections. The adoption of these public spaces was evidence of evolving new concepts in town planning, aiming to avoid the kind of problems that had come to beset established cities in the United Kingdom, particularly the problem of intensely built slums. Cities were to be well spaced with parks and suburbs. It also served the interests of the New Zealand Company – the separation would help keep land prices high in the town acres, to provide returns for investors. Within this framework, the New Zealand Company instructed Mein Smith to set aside land (5.6 hectares) for a botanic garden, which he allocated to a hilly site alongside what was known as Karori Road, now Glenmore Street.

      Later, the garden was augmented by 21.3 hectares given to Kumototo Maori as compensation for the loss of their pa and cultivations during the 1840 survey and settlement. In 1851, they sold this block of land back to the Government for £159 in conjunction with a land exchange in the Hutt Valley. The following year, Governor George Grey gave the same block of land to the Wesleyan Church Misson for educational purposes, and it became known as the Wesleyan Reserve. However, by 1865, the Wesleyan Church had made little use of the land, and the Government authorised the Superintendent of Wellington Province to purchase the reserve for the development of a public park.

      Establishing the Botanic Garden

      Although the garden had been designated in the original Mein Smith survey plan, little occurred to develop the garden until the late 1860s. By 1867 Dr James Hector, who had recently moved to Wellington to become the Director of the New Zealand Geological Survey and the Colonial Museum, took interest in the site. Hector noted that the site was appropriate for a botanic garden, with plenty of still and running water, good soil, and good access and position. He also suggested that the Wesleyan land be added to the reserve, so that the botanic garden could be both a public park and ‘a Garden for botanical, horticultural, and acclimatisation purposes’. Hector estimated that it would cost £2,400 to establish the garden, including building greenhouses, potting sheds, a manager’s office, paths, bridges, and fences. He also estimated that it would cost approximately £1,000 per year to upkeep the garden.

      William Gisborne, the colonial undersecretary, agreed to Dr Hector’s suggestions and the year after Dr Hector had visited the proposed site for the garden, the Public Domain Act was passed, and the Botanic Garden Reserve became a Public Domain. In October 1868 Dr Hector was given authority over the reserve as the manager, and by February 1869, he had established a nursery.

      In 1869 the Wellington Botanic Garden Bill was introduced to parliament by MP Alfred Ludlam, a keen horticulturalist. The Bill was passed, and a Crown Grant was executed, giving control of the Botanic Garden to the Governors of the Botanic Garden (being the Governors of the New Zealand Institute). At the time £376.6 was held by the New Zealand Institute for the provision of a garden, which was then transferred to the Botanic Garden Board. The board was made up of influential leading politicians and scientists, including three ex officio members – the Wellington Superintendant, the Colonial Secretary, and the Governor – six nominated members, and three elected members (usually from the provinces). While the Governor chaired the Board, Hector remained the manager of the garden. As well as developing the garden, the board was also responsible for trialling the economic potential of plants for the benefit of the colony, and together with the Geological Survey, the Garden was pivotal in distributing seeds and plants (particularly conifers) throughout the colony.

      Work on developing the land began with the fencing off and mapping of the gardens, and the formation and naming of the main paths. The lawn in front of the Soundshell was levelled by hand and laid out as a teaching garden. Areas of native forest were encircled to provide shelter, and the ridges were planted with conifers. In 1870 William Bramley, a professional gardener from Yorkshire, was appointed the gardener/keeper of the Botanic Garden. In 1871, under the City Reserves Act, the land that was designated for the Wesleyan Church was officially transferred to the Botanic Garden, dramatically increasing the size of the garden and the cost of development.

      The Wellington City Council era

      The economic depression of the 1880s depression saw the Government withdraw financial support for the garden, and as a result there was no money for development, maintenance, repairs, or running expenses. William Bramley retired in 1889, and he was succeeded by George Gibb. The on-going lack of funding led to a significant change in the management of the garden; the Botanic Garden Board was disestablished under the 1891 Vesting Act, which transferred management of the garden to the Wellington City Corporation, on the condition that the original 5.6 hectare strip be maintained as a botanic garden in perpetuity. The original division between the Botanic Garden and Park was enshrined in the Vesting Act and continues today. Also under the Act, 2.43 hectares of the Wesleyan Block were set aside as an Observatory Reserve.

      Gibb remained the keeper of the garden through these changes and in 1891 he was also designated ‘Chief Horticultural Advisor to the Council’. He continued in this position until 1901, when as the result of an unfortunate accident in which he was hit by a train, both of his legs were amputated below the knee. Gibb was replaced by George Glen, who was professionally trained in Scotland. In 1904, Glen was appointed Superintendent of Baths and Reserves, and was the first horticultural officer to manage the botanic garden as well as the other city reserves.

      The Botanic Garden Board had long since been wary of placing management of the garden into the hands of the Wellington City Corporation; the Corporation had been managing the Town Belt since at least 1876 and had shown little dedication to the task, allowing tenants to neglect maintenance and allowing gorse to spread, and failing to maintain trees that had been planted in the reserves. However, by 1891 the Corporation was in a much better position to take over, having gained the necessary experience from dealing with the Town Belt, and it also inherited experienced staff to manage the garden on a day-to-day basis.

      The Corporation soon came to regard the Botanic Garden as the ‘jewel in the crown of Wellington’, and it was described in 1897 by the New Zealand Cyclopedia as the only redeeming feature of Wellington City. The Garden was also well established and running well by the time the Wellington City Corporation inherited them, and although there were the essential tasks of gorse management and fence repair, the Corporation maintained the garden as it was handed over; there were few changes made to its appearance until the early 1900s.

      In the final years of the 19th century, the intended purpose of the garden shifted somewhat from scientific research to a place for public recreation. The Corporation encouraged public access to the Garden, although the teaching and camelia gardens were restricted and visitors were expected to stay off the grass.

      Following the completion of the Cable Car at Kelburn in 1902, access to the upper reaches of the Garden became easier, and this area quickly became a more popular place to visit, enhanced by the opening of a tearoom and public conveniences at the top of the Cable Car in 1904. The opening of the electric tramway, also in 1904, allowed patrons to take the tram to the main gates of the Botanic Garden on Glenmore Street. The surge in public use saw new pedestrian and service routes opened up through the Garden.

      As the popularity of the Garden rose, organised events and activities became a feature. In particular music became a common element of Sunday activities at the Garden, and in 1907 a Band Rotunda was built.

      George Glen had progressively made a number of changes to the layout of the garden that lay in line with his subscription to the idea of establishing a ‘horticultural zoo’; many species were kept behind latticed fences or wire netting, and Glen also established popular bedding displays and events. In 1910, Glen supervised the formation, by hand, of Anderson Park, which was created by the partial filling of a gully with spoil from cutting down part of the spur that ran between Tinakori Road and the Garden.

      The next holder of the Superintendant position was the commercially trained J.G. McKenzie, formerly Curator of the Oamaru Public Garden, who was appointed to the role in 1918. McKenzie continued many of the changes that had been instigated by Glen. Under his direction, hand filling of the head of the gully head to the south of Anderson Park was finished in 1934. With the completion of the park, McKenzie turned his attention to the southern end of the Garden. The top of Magpie Hill was flattened to form a lawn (now the Magpie Lawn), and the spoil was used to fill in the gully below. The Pipitea Stream was culverted and the Glenmore Lawn and the west entrance to the Garden were formed. McKenzie worked in close partnership with influential botanist Dr Leonard Cockayne in gaining recognition for the native bush in the garden as well as supporting Cockayne in the establishment of the Open Air Plant Museum at Otari.

      In 1947 Edward Hutt succeeded McKenzie; under his direction the final landfills of the garden area were completed and the Rose Garden was formed. Sir Charles Norwood was a great benefactor of the Garden, and the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, which opened in 1953, was named after his wife. The rose garden was followed by the construction of the Norwood Begonia House and the Peace Garden. The year 1953 also saw the construction of the Soundshell, which quickly became a popular venue and a great visitor asset to the Garden. Hutt also worked towards beautifying the city by planting trees and introducing displays of bedding plants outside the Garden. Given city-wide responsibilities, the Director of the Gardens, as the title of the new role description, worked away from the Garden itself, and was in charge of a continually growing department. The Parks Department eventually became the best funded in the country and was the first employer to take on female horticultural apprentices.

      In 1968 the Garden was extensively damaged by the Wahine Storm, and many large old trees were destroyed and damaged, with many of the damaged trees having to be removed. There was a silver lining to this as it meant that a number of established old areas could be redeveloped and replanted.

      To reflect the changing role of the Parks department in the second half of the 20th century, it was renamed the Parks and Recreation Department. The Department was staffed by keenly motivated people and trained many, including its next director, Ian Galloway, who had been a Garden apprentice. In 1965 Galloway took up the position of Director of the Gardens, and due to his training there, took a great interest in the day-to-day running of the Garden, seeking out new ideas from staff, elaborating and enriching areas that had been unfinished or neglected, and improving the overall presentation of the garden – although he was against the labelling of plants. He encouraged the team at the Garden to push its development further; the results were the Herb Garden, the succulent garden, and the establishment of the dwarf conifer collection. Galloway is also credited with the idea of forming the outer town belt, and the establishment of the Wellington Summer City Festival in 1979, as well as putting in motion the resources needed to write an account of the Council’s management of the Garden since its takeover in 1891. Galloway died suddenly in 1987 and his deputy Richard Nanson succeeded him in February 1988.

      Nanson established the Environment Centre, built out over a steep slope facing Glenmore Street, which was opened by David Attenborough in 1991. This building, used as a visitor centre and administration facility is now known as the Tree House. This administrative centre highlighted the need for a curator, and Mike Oates was appointed to the position; it was not long before his responsibilities also included the Otari Native Botanic Garden, the Bolton Street Cemetery Memorial Park, and the Truby King Park. All these gardens were run professionally; plants were named and entered into a database, and plant collections were established (particularly native species).

      In September 1991, the Garden celebrated 100 years of management by the Wellington City Council, and the Founders of the Garden, the Early Settlers and Historical Association, and the Royal Society of New Zealand, donated a bronze armillary sundial, which was installed on the Sounshell lawn on 1993. To celebrate the centennial, the Mayor James Belich, with Peter Hector, and Alan Mason, unveiled plaques that recognised the place of the Founders of the Garden, which were installed at the entrance to the original reserve set aside in 1844.

      In 1992 Richard Nanson was replaced by Rosemary Barrington as the General Manager of Culture and Recreation. 

      In 1997 the Botanic Garden Advisory Board was established to advise on the development of the four gardens that are the Council’s responsibility – Wellington Botanic Garden, Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Truby King Park, and the Bolton Street Memorial Park. The board reviews proposals and works to support the Curator/Manager at each of the gardens. Under Mike Oates, new projects were underwent several redevelopments including the redevelopment of the Duck Pond and children’s play ground, the construction of the James Hector lookout, and the establishment of the James Hector Pinetum.

      David Sole was appointed Manager of Botanic Garden in 2003. The Botanic Garden remains a popular attraction for locals and visitors, and continues to promote the appreciation of plants, the conservation and interpretation of the historic and natural features of the garden, and providing a place for public recreation in a garden environment.

      1.1               History of key structures

      The Overseer’s House

      The Wellington Botanic Garden Overseer’s House, built in 1876, is the oldest building associated with the Garden and the only surviving building associated with the Botanic Garden Board.

      Keeper of the Garden William Bramley and his family lived initially in a cottage known as the Randall cottage. This cottage was already at least twenty years old in 1876 and it was decided it was not suitable accommodation. A sum of £150 was voted by the Botanic Garden Board for the construction of the Ranger’s cottage and a tender of £123.10 submitted by Douglas and Heder was accepted. A site on the hill overlooking Glenbervie Street (the precursor of Bowen Street) was selected as the site of the new cottage due to its commanding views.

      As well as upkeep of the Botanic Garden, Bramley had the responsibility for keeping law and order. Bramley was injured in an incident in 1880, so a police constable was appointed to the Botanic Garden to assist. Constable Campbell moved into the Ranger’s cottage which became known as the Constabulary or Constable’s Cottage. Other constables to reside there included Gleeson, who replaced Campbell in 1882 and Whelan who replaced Gleeson in 1890.

      The cottage remained a constable’s residence until 1896, when it was reclaimed by the Botanic Garden’s staff as the custodian’s cottage. It was then renamed the Overseer’s House. Horticultural staff and students have lived in the Overseer’s House from 1898 to the present day.

      The Gazebo/Summer House

      The Summer House was built as a trade exhibit representing the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners for the Labour Day celebrations held on the 26th of October 1914. Minutes from a Wellington District Council meeting held in September of 1914 note that a request had been made of the Society to provide three members to work with the Council in the preparation of a trade exhibit.

      On October 26 1914, the Summer House made its debut in the annual Labour Day procession. It was noted by the Evening Post that the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners had built a ‘large summer house with a trellised roof and diagonal braced sides ornamented with diamond shaped shields. The summerhouse was made of heart of Totara, the best that can be got for the purpose, and was certainly well made and nicely designed’.

      Following the Labour Day procession, the Wellington Town Clerk wrote to the then secretary of the Carpenters Union, Mr Blatherwick, stating that he had been ‘…directed by the Chairman of the Reserves Committee to inform you that he has consulted with the members of his committee regarding the summerhouse used in the Labour Day Celebrations, and to offer you the sum of £15 for the purchase of the house. The Committee in making this offer do not make any condition that the money shall be devoted to the Patriotic Fund’.The next correspondence between the two men is a letter again from the town clerk stating ‘Sir, I have to confirm my telephone message to you of yesterday afternoon informing you that the council have agreed to purchase the Summerhouse offered to them for the sum of £20, delivery to be given at the Botanical Garden’. It would appear that the Summer House was in its current position by 1 December 1914. According to a 1914 Wellington Carpenters Union Document, the Summer House was ‘erected near the main walk in the Botanic Gardens’.

      There has been some controversy over the identity of the builder of the Summer House, with three different people claiming that they know who constructed it. This potentially fits with the history of the building inasmuch as the minutes of a Wellington District Council meeting state that three men from the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners were to be chosen to construct a display for the Labour Day celebration.

      Correspondence files found by Wellington City Archive show that George Blatherwick was involved in the sale of the Summer House, and a letter from his daughter states that she remembers helping her father ‘spending many hours holding a light while he hammered and chiselled’. This story is echoed in the memory of another man, quoted in an article by David McGill, saying that ‘he had held the candle as a lad while his father built it to be put on a dray for the Labour Day procession’. A third story is also presented in the McGill article from a Mrs H. M. Smith, who says that it was erected by her great-grandfather William Mudge. It is extremely difficult to determine which of these stories is correct based on the information that has been found to date.

      It is difficult to piece together much of the history of this Summer House, as little information from its early years has survived. It is a popular and elegant structure that has long been associated with the Botanic Garden, and is still used as a shelter and lookout for garden visitors. There is a bench installed in the Summer House that records a memorial to William John Morris who lost his life while rescuing his younger brother, Joseph aged 8, from drowning in the harbour.

      The Founders Entrance/Main Entrance Gates

      The Founders’ entrance has always been the main entrance to the Wellington Botanic Garden, although it has not always been in the form that it is today.

      The entrance was established as early at 1878. The gates were not much more than a colonial style picket fence, and brick and concrete posts, which had been painted white. During the early 1910s a significant upgrade and renovation of the Garden were underway and it was decided that the old gates and fences should be replaced. In 1913 the Reserves Committee decided that the new gates should be similar to those found at Newtown Park, with brick piers; their construction cost was estimated to be £36. The First World War delayed further progress and nothing more happened until November 1917, when the City Council received a complaint from the Wellington South Progressive Society that the entrance to the Botanic Garden discredited the city and demanded that it be improved. As a result of this a request was made for the City Engineer to draw up new plans for the gates similar in nature to those asked for in 1913 by the Reserves Committee. Again the project did not go ahead, perhaps due to the increase in cost from £36 to £505.

      By 1920, J.G. MacKenzie, the new Director of Parks and Gardens, made the installation of new gates and fences part of his first large scale improvement of the garden. Tenders were called but unfortunately Council economising prevented further progression. When tenders were called again in 1924 MacKenzie was able to provide the Council with an incentive against cancelling the plans again. In November, the Hospital Board had offered for sale a set of iron gates, which he had purchased. On March 4th 1925 the tender of Messrs Hickmott and Sons was accepted for the construction of brick piers to support the gates. The brick bus/tram shelter was also constructed in 1925 by R.S. Anyon. By 1929 the adjoining ornamental brick wall had also been constructed, completing an arrangement that survives to this day.

      In 1991 the main gates were renamed the ‘Founders’ Gates’ as part of the centennial celebrations of the Vesting Act. Plaques were erected recognising the Garden Board and the work that was put into establishing the Garden. The plaques were unveiled by descendants of James Hector and Thomas Mason. At the same time the Wellington City Council crest was placed on the main gates.

      The Mess Room, Stables, and Tool Shed

      In the 19th century the only form of motive power for managing the Garden was the horse. Horses did heavy carrying and general work and had to be housed and fed. The first stable was located not far from the present stable, in what is known as the sunken gully. There were other gardening buildings nearby. It is not known exactly when they were built, though there was a building erected around 1893, when the Wellington City Council voted £5 to provide ‘shelter … for the horse at the Botanic Garden.’

      Even as late as the 1910s, horses were still considered to be important for work in the Garden. With the facilities dilapidated, new stables, tool sheds and mess were planned in 1911. Nothing happened immediately and it took a desperate plea three years later from Botanic Garden supervisor, George Glen, for any action to be taken. In 1914 the City Engineer, William Morton, drew up plans. Tenders were called and the successful bidders were Mitchelltown builders French and Hampton. The specification called for the reuse of existing joinery where possible.

      Work was completed in early 1915, at an estimated cost of £339. Within two months a urinal and flush toilet were added to the eastern wall of the stables. Horses remained in use in the Garden until the end of World War II and thereafter the stables were used for a variety of purposes, including a workshop. The mess, like the tool-shed, has always been used for the same purpose although, for the first few decades, gardeners were expected to stay on the job during lunch, not return to the mess.

      The interior fabric of the mess room has been modernised, while parts of the stable and tool house buildings have been converted into a staff toilet and hazardous chemicals store. However the buildings, particularly the tool shed and stable, are remarkably intact, given their utilitarian function. The buildings have always been in the public eye and have long been a feature of the Garden.

      Today they are very close to the entrance of the Treehouse building, a modern facility. The potting shed, a similar building designed by the City Engineer and constructed in 1924 by E.S Knight, can be found in the nursery behind the Treehouse and administrative buildings.

      Carter Observatory

      Carter Observatory is New Zealand's longest-serving national observatory. Its name commemorates Charles Rooking Carter (1822 – 1896), who emigrated to New Zealand in 1850, and gifted £2,240 from his estate to the Royal Society of New Zealand to establish an astronomical observatory in Wellington, for the benefit of the people of New Zealand. The Royal Society managed the gift in trust for many years and slowly accrued additional funds from other sources to establish the observatory. Parliament passed the Carter Observatory Act in 1938; the Act transferred some land from the Botanic Garden for the Observatory. The building, which also was a Centennial project, finally opened its doors in 1941.

      Carter soon became a critical base for astronomical research in New Zealand. Work began with solar investigations and when new staff joined during the 1970s it expanded to include variable stars, galaxies and asteroids. Carter Observatory became New Zealand's National Observatory in 1977

      Cable Car Winding House

      The former Cable Car Winding House is located at the northern end of Upland Road at the top entrance to the Botanic Garden, alongside the present cable car track and top terminus. Designed by engineer James Fulton, who also designed the entire cable car operation, the building was completed in 1902.

      The double-gabled two-storey building had two purposes. One wing housed the boiler and associated coal stores while the other housed the engine, winding gear and service pit for the cars. The winding gear was largely locally made and was driven by a steam engine through a pinion and spur gear on a common shaft with the traction wheel. Prior to 1974 the cable car operation had only one major change in its history, in 1933/34, when electricity replaced steam as the motive power. From then on two electric motors drove the winding gear. At the same time, nearly half the building, including the boiler and a large smokestack, was removed. In 1974 concerns about safety saw major changes to the winding gear and the removal of each car trailer from service. Finally, in 1978, the entire original system was retired. Following its replacement with a new Swiss system the original cars were removed for storage and the old winding gear sat unused.

      Public pressure to restore the cars and put them on display and to reuse the winding house gathered momentum in the 1990s. Volunteers spent some years restoring grip car 1 and a trailer to their appearance as it was the year they were decommissioned (1978). They were installed as the primary exhibit in the new Wellington Cable Car Museum, which opened in the Winding House in December 2000. Also restored for exhibition purposes was the original winding gear, which is still in full working order, although the cables no longer perform any function. An extension was built in 2006 to house grip car 3, which was restored to its 1905 appearance. The Cable Car Museum, hugely popular from the day it opened, is still one of the most visited tourist attractions in Wellington.

      Lady Norwood Begonia House

      The Begonia House – more correctly a conservatory – includes a wide range of plants, not just begonias, that are usually found in tropical countries but cannot grow unprotected in Wellington’s temperate climate. The building, which complements the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, is part of a broader landscape originally planned straight after World War II by Edward Hutt. In fact, J.G. McKenzie wanted to build a winter garden before World War II but never secured the funding.

      The Begonia House, which opened in 1960, was built and extended with significant donations from the Norwood family. Sir Charles Norwood was a successful businessman, philanthropist and Mayor of Wellington. The building was named for his wife Rosinna, who had donated substantial sums to the garden in the past. The couple were both keen supporters of the city’s parks and gardens. The rose garden that it forms the backdrop to was completed in the early 1950s and is also named after her. The fountain was also donated by Rosinna Norwood and was opened in 1956. This was replaced by a new fountain, donated by the Norwood children, in 1977.

      The Begonia House was extended with the addition of the café in 1980. The tropical water lily pond was added in 1989, funded by Sir Walter Norwood, while the rest of the building underwent extensive renovations, which were completed in 1990. The building has recently (2013) been upgraded for seismic purposes.

  • close Cultural Value
    • Significance Summary close
      • The Botanic Garden is a place of great importance to Wellington and a place of national heritage significance. The area has both evolved and been carefully developed by dedicated staff over many generations.
      • The Botanic Garden has been associated with nationally significant figures, including major politicians, such as Sir George Grey, and scientists
      • It contains a significant collection of plantings, buildings and objects that together perform a culturally important role, while the collection of spaces and features in the terrain creates an attractive and coherent whole.
      • It is a place highly regarded by the public and it is also a major tourist attraction.

    • Aesthetic Valueclose
      The combination of topography plantings, buildings and landscaping, – much of it formed or shaped by hand – gives the Wellington Botanic Garden very high aesthetic value. The transformation of what was unpromising ground at the edge of the city into a highly valued, integrated garden is the product of over 140 years of human endeavour, inspiration and design. The Botanic Garden plays a significant role in establishing the character and appearance of the surrounding area, particularly those parts of Thorndon and Kelburn that border it, in what is a very well established part of the city. It is also a large green space that has character all of its own and is a very well known and used corner of the city. The Botanic Garden has a significant sense of cohesiveness and character. The overall design of the Garden makes effective use of the terrain to establish the various distinct zones; but, managed in an integrated way for well over a century, and carefully tended, the distinct areas of the Garden blend gently into one another to create a coherent whole.
    • Historic Valueclose
      The Botanic Garden has been associated with a variety of important historical figures, including prominent scientist Sir James Hector, who had been Director of the Institute, the Colonial Museum and the Colonial Laboratory, whose vision drove the early development of the garden as an important scientific institution. The Botanic Garden Board included, at various points, leading politicians and scientists of the day, including Governors, Premiers and two Superintendents of Wellington. After the WCC took over the Garden, the focus shifted to its public role and a succession of long-serving managers – McKenzie, Glen, Hutt and Galloway – played a major role in establishing the mature landscape seen today. The provision of a public garden in Wellington City was a very early example of a new and aspirational kind of town planning and highly significant, even though it took some time for the garden to be developed. Its appropriation by central government under an Act of Parliament in 1869 for use as a place to introduce and develop plants gives the Botanic Garden national significance. The Botanic Garden has been a place of recreation for Wellingtonians for many generations and it is therefore historically important for the role it has played in enriching the lives of the city’s inhabitants.
    • Scientific Valueclose
      The Botanic Garden’s long occupation means that it is likely to contain places where archaeological values are present or archaeological techniques could be employed to reveal information about the past. The Botanic Garden contains features from most of the periods of its development, so it can tell us much about the planning, management and presentation of such places and the kind of influences that were brought to bear on it.
    • Social Valueclose
      The Botanic Garden is a much loved Wellington institution. Its botanical importance is indicated by its classification as a Garden of National Significance by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. The commemorative seats and plaques that can be found throughout the Garden indicate the attachment the public have to the place and its importance as a place of remembrance. The Botanic Garden’s age and the gentle rate of change it undergoes gives the place a constancy and sense of permanency that is harder to find in the wider city. The Botanic Garden is clearly a focus of community interest. Apart from its commemorative role and the significant amount of use the place receives, the Friends of the Botanic Garden is an active and dedicated group that strongly supports the work of staff and helps educate the public on the history and values of the place.
    • Level Of Cultural Heritage Significanceclose
      As arguably New Zealand’s most historic public garden and a de facto state nursery during the 19th century, the Botanic Garden is a place of great rarity. The Botanic Garden is one of the best-regarded public gardens in New Zealand, an excellent example of its kind. The Botanic Garden is notable for the retention of elements from most eras of its history. This extends to plantings, landscaping and a number of built structures. Is the area important for any of the above characteristics at a local, regional, national, or international level? Nationally, possibly internationally, significant. The Botanic Garden is, historically, one of the country’s most important public gardens, primarily for its role in the 19th century as a de facto state nursery. It is Wellington’s primary botanical nursery, a landscape of great beauty, and an object of civic pride. It is undoubtedly one of the most important public spaces in Wellington.
    • New Zealand Heritage Listclose
      Not assessed
  • close New Zealand Heritage List
  • close Additional Information

Last updated: 3/20/2020 1:52:03 AM