History

Horse town

Horse town

Here is early Wel­ling­ton on a good day, look­ing north down Lamb­ton Quay. On the left, with the ver­anda, is Barrett’s Hotel, the social hub for many. On the right is John Plimmer’s ware­house, known as ‘Plimmer’s Ark’, built on top of an old hulk. You can still see the remains of it under­neath the […]

The richest man in Wellington

The richest man in Wellington

Here is Wil­li­am Barn­ard Rhodes (1807–78), the richest man in early Wel­ling­ton, pho­to­graphed in 1858 with his first wife Sarah, and Mary­ann, his Māori daugh­ter from an earli­er rela­tion­ship. It is also one of Wellington’s earli­est pho­to­graph­ic por­traits — a hand-tin­ted ambro­type, an early form of pho­to­graphy pop­u­lar in the 1850s. The sit­ting was probably […]

Moonlight Geography: Wellington’s secret sexual history

Moonlight Geography: Wellington’s secret sexual history

Wel­ling­to­ni­ans carry a sense of place every­where we go. Our streets are dot­ted with loc­a­tions of sig­ni­fic­ance: hal­lowed Basin, gleam­ing Golden Mile. And then there are spots we leave off the maps: places where private pas­sion runs as deep as any pub­lic sen­ti­ment. Pur­chased sex is an irre­du­cible com­pon­ent of cap­it­al life. It was here […]

The fastest woman in the world

The fastest woman in the world

Few places in Wel­ling­ton are as rich in social his­tory as the Basin Reserve. Nowadays, it is regarded inter­na­tion­ally as one of the world’s old­est and best crick­et grounds. Since the 1860s crick­et has always been its main pur­pose, but for much of last cen­tury it doubled as a ven­ue for all kinds of other […]

Agnes Bennett, motorist

Agnes Bennett, motorist

Here is Dr Agnes Ben­nett (1872–1960), pho­to­graphed with friends on a sum­mer driv­ing exped­i­tion in her new car. It was on the eve of World War I and they were off to climb Mt Tarana­ki. That is her on the right grin­ning at the cam­era. Ben­nett was born in Aus­tralia and trained as a doctor […]

How to do Swedish drill

How to do Swedish drill

Here we are at the Wel­ling­ton Girls’ Col­lege in Thorndon. It is Par­ents’ Day, 1927, and the girls are demon­strat­ing their skill at Swedish drill. This par­tic­u­lar move was called the halfway side fall­ing pos­i­tion and was designed to strengthen the side muscles. An instruc­tion book­let of the time stresses that it should be done […]

The Wilson house, 1967

The Wilson house, 1967

Through the 1960s, pho­to­graph­er and archi­tec­ture research­er Duncan Winder had a mis­sion. He was an enthu­si­ast for good archi­tec­ture and set him­self the task of doc­u­ment­ing it, all around Wel­ling­ton and in oth­er cit­ies. It is a fas­cin­at­ing archive of over 5,000 pho­to­graphs, most of which can be seen on the Nation­al Lib­rary web­site This […]

Sharp suits, 1960

Sharp suits, 1960

 It is always good to cel­eb­rate a suc­cess­ful Wel­ling­ton busi­ness. Vance Vivi­an, Wellington’s very own top-of-the-range spe­cialty men’s cloth­ing store, has just turned 90. The com­pany is still going strong, set­ting the stand­ards for sharp suits and oth­er fine male fash­ion. The firm was begun by George Vance and Har­old Vivi­an in 1924. Vivi­an was […]

Rugby in the rain, 1921

Rugby in the rain, 1921

This month the All Blacks take on the South Afric­ans at the Cake Tin. They are always our toughest rugby foes. This pho­to­graph is from the final test of the 1921 series against South Africa at Ath­let­ic Park in Ber­ham­pore. The series was locked, with one win each. This was the decid­ing game, and the […]

Wellington goes to war, August 1914

Wellington goes to war, August 1914

A hun­dred years ago, on 4 August 1914, Bri­tain declared war on Ger­many. The fol­low­ing day, a hast­ily con­vened New Zea­l­and Par­lia­ment pledged to help defend the Empire. Out on the Wel­ling­ton streets there were spon­tan­eous pat­ri­ot­ic parades. Over the fol­low­ing weeks, thou­sands volun­teered for mil­it­ary ser­vice at the Buckle Street mil­it­ary bar­racks. This photograph […]