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Historic Place Category 1
Sec 723 Hutt District (Historic Reserve NZ Gazette 1980, p.2702), Wellington Land District
Upper Hutt City
This American-style blockhouse is one of very few of its type remaining in New Zealand. It was erected in 1860 in response to a fear held by local settlers that the conflict between Maori and the Crown over the disputed sale of land at Waitara, Taranaki, would escalate. Col. T. R. Mould, who was also responsible for building Fort Richmond in what is now Lower Hutt, designed the two-storey blockhouse. A double-skin timber-clad frame with shingle infill was constructed to provide protection against rifle fire. Loopholes were also built for defenders to return fire. The blockhouse was surrounded by a much larger defensive earthwork. (This earthwork was flattened to form part of the school playing fields that now surround the blockhouse.)
A small militia occupied the blockhouse. However, the feared attack never eventuated and they left the blockhouse in 1861. In 1867-1868 it was used as a police house, courthouse and residence, but by 1884 it was again empty. In 1916, following representations from local people interested in the preservation of the blockhouse, the land was reserved under the Scenery Preservation Act 1908. In 1927-1928 the building was substantially repaired and windows added on the inner side of the L-shaped structure. From 1953 until the late 1990s local boy scouts and girl guides used the building.
In 1980 the blockhouse and the accompanying land was classified as an historic reserve under the Reserves Act 1977. Soon after that the New Zealand Historic Places Trust was appointed to control and manage the blockhouse. The Upper Hutt Round Table has used the building for their meetings since 1991. Today the Department of Conservation administers the Reserves Act, but the control and management of the blockhouse remains vested in the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga.
The blockhouse has significance as a very rare type of defensive building in New Zealand. Its construction illustrates the deterioration in relations between Maori and Pakeha in the 1860s. The legal protection given to the building in 1916 is one of the first recorded examples of statutory protection of a historic building in New Zealand. Over the years the blockhouse has been has been used for a variety of purposes, including a venue for community organisations.
NZ Archaeological Association Site
- Original Construction: 1860 (circa)
- Modification: 1927 (circa) - 1928 (circa)
- Modification: 1989 (circa)
- M. E. Evans, 'Research Report on Upper Hutt Blockhouse', held on file, NZHPT, Wellington, 1975
- J. A. Kelleher, Upper Hutt: the history, Upper Hutt, 1991
- David Millar, Once Upon a Village, a History of Lower Hutt, 1819-1965, Wellington, 1972,pp. 68-69
- New Zealand Gazettes,1916, p. 3048. Reservation for historic purposes.
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