Wellington Rowing Club Building

Taranaki Street Wharf, Wellington

  • Wellington Rowing Club.
    Copyright: Wellington Waterfront Limited.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chloe Searle. Date: 1/09/2008.
  • Wellington Rowing Club.
    Copyright: www.cepolina.com.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1453 Date Entered 21st September 1989


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 363596(CT WN258480), Wellington Land District and the building known as the Wellington Rowing Club thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. Extent of registration excludes the Star Boating Club building (Record no. 1431) and the shared boatshed connecting the Star Boating Club and Wellington Rowing Club buildings and the shared launching areas. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the Information Upgrade Report for further information).

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 363596 (CT WN258480), Wellington Land District

Location description

The building is located at the end of the Taranaki Street Wharf. It is situated between the harbour and the lagoon adjacent to Frank Kitts Park. This building is connected to the Star Boating Club building by an infill construction and is the southernmost of the buildings.


Originally built as a boat-house for the Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteers in 1894, the Wellington Rowing Club building is a prominent feature of Wellington's waterfront.

The Wellington Naval Artillery was formed in March 1879. It was one of a number of Naval Artillery Volunteer Corps throughout New Zealand at the time. These groups consisted of men who provided their own uniforms and weapons and carried out military training of their own free will. The Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteer Corps were present at the 1880 Parihaka occupation. Levels of volunteer activity fluctuated throughout the 1880s; the 'Russian Scare' of the early 1880s boosted numbers while the depression conditions of the late 1880s led to a decrease in volunteer activity. A report on defence issued in 1894 recommended the strengthening of harbour defences. This led to the construction of the boat-house.

The building was designed by architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. He was responsible for the design of numerous churches, as well as another notable building on Wellington's waterfront, the Bond Store (Record no. 234). The two-storeyed building was constructed from timber with a corrugated iron roof, and includes features such as a tower and the use of decorative timber bracing on some of the external walls. The ground floor was designed to house two naval cutters on issue from the government, while the first floor was used as a social hall by the volunteers. The building was originally sited on reclaimed land on the waterfront. At the time of construction the building was located on Jervois Quay and was situated between the Municipal Fish Market, also erected in 1894, and the then recently relocated Star Boating Club Building (Record no. 1431).

By 1921 the Naval Artillery volunteers had become part of the fifteenth Coastal Battery at Fort Dorset, and had vacated the building on the Wellington waterfront. The building then became the Wellington Free Ambulance's first ambulance station in 1927. The building was adapted to house four cars, a casualty room was built and the upper floor was converted into accommodation for the superintendent and his family. The Wellington Free Ambulance moved out of the building and into their new depot in 1931.

The Wellington Rowing Club, which had formed in 1871 and was reorganised in 1885, then moved into the former Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteers Hall, and on the 28th of November 1931 the building was officially opened by Mayor Hislop as the clubrooms of the Wellington Rowing Club. The club continues to occupy this building today.

Aside from the building's long association with the Wellington Rowing Club, it has also been used by numerous sporting and cultural clubs such as the Irish National Club, the Wellington Operatic Society, the Mazda Club and the Wellington Winemakers Society. During the early 1970s a joiner operated a factory from the upper floor of the building, making women's wooden shoes and joinery. Dances held in the building during the 1950s, by groups including Bill Crowe and his orchestra, attracted the attention of the Wellington City Council who were concerned that the building was a fire risk and that it might collapse. By the 1970s discussions were underway between the Wellington Rowing Club, the neighbouring Star Boating Club (Record Number 1431) and the Council, who advised that buildings should be demolished and the Clubs re-sited. The two clubhouses, which had been joined by an infill addition since 1931, were deemed to be in poor repair and were referred to as 'an eyesore in the centre of the Capital city'. The Wellington Rowing Club was issued with an eviction notice in 1972 which was later cancelled. Instead, the Wellington Rowing Club building was extensively renovated during 1974-5, including replacing weatherboards, a new roof and the restoration of the balcony. In 1989, as part of the redevelopment of the harbour, both the Wellington Rowing Club building and the Star Boating Club building were relocated 100 metres north and rotated 180 degrees so that they faced the city rather than the harbour, providing access to the harbour through a more sheltered lagoon. At this time both buildings were also extensively restored and a shared single-storeyed structure, for housing additional boats, was built connecting the two buildings and continuing the longstanding relationship between the two clubs. The Wellington Rowing Club building was also restored in 1998.

The Wellington Rowing Club building continues to serve as the club's premises, as well as a function centre. As an example of prominent architect Frederick de Jersey Clere's work, the building is of architectural significance. It is also of historical significance due to its longstanding association with the Wellington Rowing Club, as well as its early history with the Wellington Naval Artillery and then the Wellington Free Ambulance. Along with the neighbouring Star Boating Club, the building is a notable part of the Wellington waterfront. Together they provide a tangible reminder of Wellington's long standing connections with the harbour.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Clere, Frederick De Jersey

Clere (1856-1952) was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to R J Withers, a London architect. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Feilding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church; he designed more than 100 churches while he held this position. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction; the outstanding example of his work with this material is the Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), Wellington.

As well as being pre-eminent in church design, Clere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including Wellington's Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store (1891) and Overton in Marton. Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years. He was a member of the Wellington City Council until 1895, and from 1900 a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1894 -

1995 -
Ergo extension on city side

Fire protection improvements
2015 - 2018
Seismic strengthening internally with new sprinkler fire protection system.

2016 -
Replacement of exisitng roofing.

1906 -
Modifications- new dressing room and ante room

1927 - 1931
Modifications- to accommodate Wellington Free Ambulance including adapting the building to house four cars, a casualty room was built and the upper floor was converted into accommodation for the superintendent and his family

1931 - 1932
Modifications-to accommodate Wellington Rowing Club

1974 - 1975
Modifications-extensive renovations including replacing weatherboards, a new roof and the restoration of the balcony

1989 -

1989 -
Modifications-building renovated and shed built between the Star Boating Club and the Wellington Rowing Club.

1998 -
Modifications-building renovated

Completion Date

3rd March 2009

Report Written By

Chloe Searle

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

Proposed boat-house for the Wellington Naval Artillery, 1894, plans-80-1229, Clere, Fitzgerald & Richmond, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Papers regarding Lambton Harbour Development, 1971-75, 1974, 2002-277-08/09, MS-Group 1130, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Loose notes on a variety of historical topics, undated, 2002-277-05/04, Wellington Rowing Club records, MS-group 1130, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Annual Report Wellington Rowing Club, 1931/2, 89-129-3, & Wellington Rowing Club Minute Books, 1946-83, 2002-277-01/4 & 2002-277-03/1MS-Group 1130, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Beasley, 1995

A. Beasley, 'Borne Free; the Wellington Free Ambulance 1927-1994,' Wellington, 1995

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.1, Wellington, 1897

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

File 12009-191

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Notes on Wellington Rowing Club and Star Boating Club, 1931-91, 00009:103:6/487 pt1 & pt2, Wellington City Council Archives

Jervois Quay, additions to building, 1906, 00053:131:7340, Wellington City Council Archives.

Re Te Aro reclamation triangular piece of land Star Boating Club, 1905, 00233:118:1905/1362, Wellington City Council Archives.

O'Brien, 2002

Rebecca O'Brien, Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store, 2002, URL: http://www.historic.org.nz/Register/ListingDetail.asp?RID=234&sm

Other Information

A fully referenced Upgrade report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.