Historic Walk in Central Wellington
20 May 2015
I’m exhausted. I have just led a party of 25 around the streets of Wellington to show them some of the historic sites – Maori and European.
From the Wellington Bus Station we followed the old shoreline along Thorndon Quay, passing the current Pipitea Marae and the pouwhenua dedicated to the 28th Maori Battalion. Up the steps to the terrace above, where we passed early Pakeha buildings, such as Old St Paul’s and the Thistle Inn. Our first bonus for the trip was a chance to look at the early photos in the Thistle Inn and listen to a brief talk of its history. Do drop in to see the old cellar, photos of many of Wellington’s early hotels, and have a bite to eat or drink.
From here, along Kate Sheppard Place (formerly Sydney Street East – renamed in 1993, the100th anniversary of women’s suffrage) and down Molesworth St, keeping a look out for the “green lady” at each set of lights, we reached the waka landing site at the corner with Lambton Quay. At the redevelopment of the Cenotaph precinct we experienced our second bonus. As we followed the line of greenstone markers representing the route of the Wai Piro stream, we met the artist Joe Sheehan, who explained how the greenstone came from all over the world – pieces he had gathered on his travels. The technician with him was busy resetting the sound effects, which had been recorded at the headwaters of local streams. Listen out next time you’re in the area.
Crossing behind parliament we arrived at Tinakori Village where we were able to read some of the artist quotes set in the pavement and see one of the oldest cottages (No 251) in Thorndon, dating back to the 1850s. Some of the party walked up around Glenbervie Tce where they were able to see The Moorings and The Wedge – two well-known very early 20th century houses. Across the road we looked at the San Francisco-style “painted ladies”- tall, slender timber buildings. Ascot Tce with its19th century cottages including Granny Cooper’s(1862), Rita Angus’(1877) and Douglass Lilburn’s was an interesting detour en route to the Rose Garden for lunch. Did you know the figure on the top of the Seddon Memorial is a woman? She is said to represent the State mourning her dead, in one hand a wreath, in the other a scroll, while the windblown drapery fits the site.
A walking track, Tokyo Way, led us south parallel to the motorway, then we turned under the motorway to follow the route of the Kumototo Stream. The Kumototo Pa was between Woodward St. and Bowen St. Now the “Shells” sculpture marks the old seashore and further downstream the “Kina” rests at the current mouth of the stream. Here we found a quote by Elizabeth Knox.
Along the wharf passing the old wharf buildings - now with new lives as art galleries, museum or apartments - we turn back into the city to find the final resting place of the “Inconstant” which grounded in the harbour in 1849; remnants can now be seen under the floor at the lower level of the old Bank building. Wellington was the first city in NZ to have electric street lighting and on our way we pass an old lamp commemorating this.
As we walk across the Civic Square we have a quick look at the Anchor Stone marking the 100th anniversary of the Town Hall and a reminder that this was once an important fishing ground. We continue over the bridge and unbelievably there in front of us is a waka being paddled across the lagoon - perfect ending to our search for early life in Wellington.
Twelve of us did continue up Taranaki St to see the Whare Ponga, real remains from Te Aro Pa, which were discovered in 2005. I did enjoy finding these places and I hope others discovered places new and interesting to them. Thank you for coming.
- Party members
- Leader and scribe - Kath Kerr.