Onehunga Blockhouse

Quadrant Road, Grey Street And Jellicoe Park, Onehunga, Auckland

  • Blockhouse.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/12/2002.
  • Blockhouse door.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/12/2002.
  • Blockhouse wall.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/12/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 91 Date Entered 5th April 1984

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 14 Sec 36 Village of Onehunga, (NZ Gazette 1981 p.1753), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings and structures known as Onehunga Blockhouse, and their fittings and fixtures. The registration includes the Onehunga Blockhouse building, the Neilson Fountain and Journey's End, but excludes Laishley House.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allot 14 Sec 36 Village of Onehunga, (NZ Gazette 1981 p.1753), North Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

The following text is from an Upgrade Report 21 June 2010:

The Onehunga Blockhouse is a significant example of nineteenth-century colonial military architecture dating from the era of the 1860s New Zealand Wars. One of few surviving blockhouses nationally and possibly the only example constructed by a public body in brick, the Colonial-Georgian style building is the sole remaining blockhouse of twelve defence strongposts built in and around Auckland in 1860.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Onehunga was occupied by Maori tribes including Te Waiohua and Ngati Whatua. In 1847, following the founding of Auckland as colonial capital in 1840, Onehunga became the first of four military 'fencible' settlements established around the southern side of Auckland. As early as 1856 during the emergence of the Kingitangi movement, Governor Thomas Gore Brown (1807-1887) mooted the establishment of blockhouses around Auckland. Located between two important Maori portages to the Waikato, the west coast port of Onehunga was the main route for the transporting of colonial troops and supplies to New Plymouth during the New Zealand Wars of 1860 to 1865.

In April 1860 Colonel T. R. Mould (1805-1886), the Governor's deputy in the Auckland Province and formerly the Commanding Royal Engineer, issued a plan for the outer defence of Auckland proposing a series of strong points. Green Hill Reserve was identified as the defence position and rallying point for Onehunga. In New Zealand blockhouses - free-standing defensive structures erected to house guns and to protect gunners and ammunition from attack - were generally based on eighteenth-century North American designs of timber construction.

Of a Colonial-Georgian architectural style Onehunga Blockhouse was built with symmetrically located openings, basalt window sills, and classically derived architrave surrounds, suggesting a public structure of some importance. It was a comparatively early example of brick construction in colonial Auckland. Internally, the cruciform plan was divided into two by a partition wall and back to back fireplaces. Two smaller rooms provided covered entries. Relatively large sash windows were protected by iron shutters fastened from the inside.

The Onehunga Blockhouse was constructed by contactor John Redwood and was given into the custody of the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Militia on 6 December 1860. Linked with the Second New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-4), iron sheeting and heavy iron hinges were fixed to the plank doors in 1863. After 1865 the building - never the subject of armed attack - ceased to have military significance and was abandoned later that decade.

The blockhouse, which housed a private school for three years from 1870, was given to the Onehunga District Board in late 1875 and let for residential use after timber linings were added in 1877. The surrounding land was laid out as a reserve, and vested in the Board in 1881. In the 1880s it housed the family of the Green Hill Reserve caretaker, and from 1889 until 1892 was the Onehunga Borough Council office, at which time an addition was built. Returned to residential use after 1894, gun loopholes were bricked up early in the twentieth century. Green Hill Reserve became Jellicoe Park in 1921, a year before the Neilson drinking fountain was constructed in the Blockhouse grounds in memory of a local businessman. During the 1920s the place was known as Jellicoe Lodge, and a bathroom was added.

Having fallen vacant in 1956, the blockhouse underwent a refurbishment completed in 1966. The late nineteenth-century addition, internal partition walls introduced by various tenants and an outbuilding accommodating washhouse, tool shed and toilet were demolished. The walls were lined with gibraltar board and the floors and roof cladding were replaced. The blockhouse was used for meetings of the local Lions Club and the historical society. A replica fencible cottage (Journey's End) erected elsewhere in the town in 1959, was moved onto the site in 1969. In recognition of its historical significance, the blockhouse and part of its environs within Jellicoe Park was Gazetted as a historic reserve in 1981. Laishley House, a former Congregationalist manse constructed in Princes Street in 1859-60 was relocated to stand next to Journey's End in 1985. The blockhouse remains in use by the Onehunga Fencible and Historical Society, a tenant of over four decades.

The Onehunga Blockhouse has aesthetic value as a visually striking, simple symmetrical brick building on a hilltop setting overlooking Onehunga. It has outstanding architectural significance as a well-preserved 1860s military blockhouse of Colonial-Georgian design, as a rare example of a blockhouse of brick construction and as one of comparatively few early brick buildings constructed in colonial Onehunga. The place has special historical significance as the sole remaining blockhouse of twelve defensive strongposts planned in and around the colonial capital Auckland in 1860. The blockhouse reflects Onehunga's historical significance as an early settlement and its strategic importance as the west coast port serving the colonial capital. The blockhouse, including the associated structures reflects its function as a focus for civic pride and identity, and is of social and cultural significance to the community.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The Onehunga Blockhouse was designed by Col R Mould, Royal Engineers, and completed in 1860. W J Redward was contracted to build the Blockhouse, with the assistance of labour from the fencibles.

In anticipation of the rise of the Maori King movement in the Waikato, Col. Mould had devised a plan of strong outposts to defend Auckland. The plan included the Onehunga Blockhouse, situated on a lush green knoll called 'Green Hill' (formally a Maori kumara plantation). 'Green Hill' was strategically important, because it commanded views of the harbour and surrounding areas.

The Onehunga Blockhouse was designed to be cruciform in shape, with sturdy brick walls 11 inches in thickness. The heavy panel doors were plated with heavy gauge sheet iron to ensure protection and sash windows provided ample light. The only weak point in the building's defence protection was the roof constructed with Kauri shingles. However, sacks and barrels of water were held inside to be used in the case of fire. Originally, the Blockhouse had a wooden interior with lath and plaster internal linings, but the internal linings were later replaced with timber boarding.

From 1863 until 1865 the Blockhouse housed twelve militia. However, it was abandoned as an inadequate defensive structure as the population of the area grew.

From 1870 until 1873 it was rented to The Rev. G Brown, a Presbyterian minister, who used the building for a private school. The Borough Council occupied the building from 1889 until 1892 adding extra accommodation in 1889. In 1921 the reserve was re-named Jellicoe Park. The building was restored from 1962 until 1964 and the extension removed.

The Blockhouse is historically significant because it is the only survivor from the series of defence posts constructed around Auckland at that time.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Redwood, John

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1860 -

Modification
1863 -
Iron sheeting attached to exterior doors.

Modification
1877 -
Lining of interior

Addition
1888 - 1892
Within northwest angle of cruciform

Original Construction
-
Outbuilding

Modification
-
Rear door replaced, or iron sheeting removed; shingle roof replaced by iron

Modification
1907 - 1921
Loopholes bricked up

Original Construction
1922 -
Neilson Memorial drinking fountain

Modification
1962 - 1966
Blocking up of some window openings, replacement of floor and roof cladding, interior relined

Relocation
1969 -
Journey's End, a replica fencible cottage (1959), to Jellicoe Park

Relocation
1985 -
Laishley House (1859-60) to Jellicoe Park, from Princes Street

Completion Date

21st June 2010

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie

Information Sources

Mogford, 1989

J. Mogford, The Onehunga Heritage, Wellington, 1989.

Matthews and Matthews Architects Ltd, 2002

Matthews and Matthews Architects Ltd, 'Jellicoe Park Heritage Buildings Onehunga’, September 2002, Auckland

Ashe, 1981

Norine Ashe, The Families and the History of the Onehunga Blockhouse, Onehunga, 1981

Mitchell,1964

G.G.M Mitchell, The Blockhouse of Onehunga, Onehunga, 1964

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.