A bluestone masonry seawall encircles the island and a second wall of the same material retains the embankment which surrounds the parade ground and outbuildings. This wall is pierced by a single entrance at the west end of the island which opens off a drawbridge and jetty.
On the northern half of the island four gun pits built to house two eight inch and two six inch breech-loading hydro-pneumatic guns encompass an underground magazine and an upper level observation post. The gun pits are circular concrete structures with diameters of 12.2 and 10.5 metres respectively, which includes the thickness of the concrete walls around each gun. Recesses in each pit are for the placement of ammunition and the handling of ram rods and steps from each lead down into the magazine which is a largely symmetrical structure built of brick and concrete. Old railway iron dated 1874 reinforces the concrete ceilings within the fort.
Narrow lamp passages and small lamp rooms, designed to safeguard against the possibility of fire and explosion, flank the rooms in which the various components of the shells were stored. A gallery along the front of the magazine provides access to the central passage and to the six inch gun pits. The fort entrance opens into this gallery which is lined with red volcanic scoria. This local igneous rock is also used for the voussoirs of the arched door openings within the fort and the quoins and battlement copings of the external fort wall. The latter has shuttered windows and concrete loopholes set within a cladding of local bluestone. The entire magazine is covered with 4.5 metres of soil and both the concrete observation post and the gun pits are shielded by steel plates. Access to the observation post is provided by three steel ladders within the gallery and main passage of the magazine.
A watch-tower, built in the 1970s, stands to the east of the entrance gate. Next to it is a test pit, built as part of the submarine mining depot in 1886. An underground concrete and brick structure with a roof of concrete and railway iron, this small building was used for testing torpedo primers. A toilet block, also dating from the 1970s, is adjacent to the test pit on the east side of island. It was built by the Navy League to replace an ablution block built during the Second World War. Next to the toilets is a dormitory, moved from Godley Head by the Sea Cadets in 1961, which stands on top of the cable tank built for the mining depot. The building is a wooden structure, clad in horizontally laid corrugated iron with an iron roof. The cable tank is now used as a water reservoir and is covered with sheets of corrugated iron. Decking from the wharf rests between the tank and the dormitory on top of a brick rim around the former.
The former Whitehead torpedo store, also built in 1886, was converted to accommodate prisoners in 1889 and at that time the boiler and engine which stood upon a concrete floor in one half of the building were removed and the floor lined. This building is also clad in corrugated iron, and like the dormitory and former mine store building it has small, multi-panned windows covered with wire mesh grilles. Three-quarters of the shell traveller which was suspended from the ceiling in this building remains, although that in the mine store would appear to have been removed.
Adjoining the former torpedo store is the former mine store which is now used by the Navy League as an Officers' Club. Also converted in 1889, this building has a lower stud than the former but is of the same construction. The former mine store now connects with the mining depot workshop and officer building by way of an ante room built by the Navy League. The workshop is now used as a mess room and it runs perpendicular to the other mining depot buildings. Originally the office was a lean-to extension of the workshop, standing between the latter and the mine store building, but it has since been enlarged by the Navy League and an internal chimney has been removed to provide a communicating hatch between the two buildings. The office is the only building to have a weatherboard exterior and the former workshop is interesting for the fretted ventilation holes in the ceiling and the random rubble external chimney along one wall. Finally a second toilet block, built during the First World War with a modern addition, lies between the fort and the former workshop. Again corrugated iron is the principal construction material.
1889 Submarine mining depot building converted for use as prisoner accommodation.
Sir W C Armstrong and Co's hydro-pneumatic or 'disappearing' gun carriage, in which the energy of the gun's recoil is used to return the gun to the firing position, was first manufactured in 1883. Mounted with a heavy breech-loading gun, this carriage offered cheap and effective protection for the gun and its crew, and the two carriages which remain on Ripapa Island are the most valuable fittings on it.
Submarine mining depot building converted for use as prisoner accommodation
1886 - 1895
Bluestone, volcanic scoria, concrete, railway iron, brick, corrugated iron and timber.
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives
Extracts taken from 1880, 1883-1890, 1893, 1895
Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)
Archives New Zealand (Wellington)
Army Department Series 33/10: Harbour Defence - General Memorandum upon the Defence Works as at date 31 July 1881
Army Department Series 33/11: Annual Report 31 March 1892 by Engineer for Defence, Arthur Bell
Army Department Series 33/6: Harbour Defences - Inspectors' Reports, Lyttelton 1892-3
Army Department Series 57/1: Correspondence to Resident Engineer
Public Works Department Series 1 23/31, part 1:
Memoranda for Under-Secretary, Public Works Department, Wellington from Major-General, Commanding NZ Military Forces - 24 February 1914 and 11 April 1918
Memoranda from Resident Engineer to Officer-in-Command, NZ Defence Forces - 4 July 1924 and 23 January 1926, etc
Memorandum for Headquarters, Southern Military District, Christchurch from District Engineer - 21 February 1941
Public Works Department Series 17/36: Ripapa Island - Conversion of Sheds into Temporary [Gaol]
Public Works Department Series 32(i): New Zealand Defences - Fort Ripapa (Lyttelton Harbour) Magazine and Barracks Contract - General Specifications.
G Barrett, 'Russophobia in New Zealand 1838-1908', Palmerston North, 1981
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.1, Wellington, 1897
Frederick William Furkert, Early New Zealand Engineers, Wellington, 1953
11 January 1884, p.5
27 April 1885, p.5
1 May 1885, p.5
23 January 1886, p.6
4 October 1886, p.5
13 September 1886, p.6
31 January 1889, p.5
1 July 1889, p.4
12 September 1889, p.3
New Zealand Gazette
New Zealand Gazette
14 August 1873, p.463
10 June 1895, p.17
New Zealand Defences Lyttelton Harbour Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island; Drawing of Loopholes. Date 4 April 1887. Peter Wilkins, Christchurch.
New Zealand Defences - Lyttelton Harbour, Plan Shewing [sic] Position of Guns. Dated 6 July 1886. Public Works Department Series 15, No. 14084; National Archives, Wellington.
New Zealand Defences - Port Lyttelton, Quarantine Station Removal and Erection of New Buildings Contract. Public Works Department Series 15, No. 14145; National Archives, Wellington.
Ripapa Island: Fortifications, Buildings, Power, and Water Supply, etc 36 Army Troops Co. July 1945. Department of Conservation, Christchurch.
28 May 1872, p.1
Press, 30 April 1873, p.3
Press, 6 June 1873, p.3
Press, 19 August 1936, p.10
Press, 6 September 1945, p.6
Press, 12 May 1958, p.7
Press, 29 July 1961, p.13
Press, 28 October 1961, p.10
W.H. Scotter, A History of Port Lyttelton, Lyttelton Harbour Board, Christchurch, 1968
Padre L F Allison, An Introduction to Ripapa (Rhodes) Island, Christchurch, 1974
B Brailsford, The Tattooed Land - The Southern Frontiers of the Pa Maori, A H & A W Reed, Wellington 1981
S Eldred-Grigg, A New History of Canterbury, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1982
I Hogg, The History of Fortification, Orbis Publishing, London, 1981
E Ogilvie, Purau, Caxton Press, Christchurch, 1970
New Zealand Military Journal
New Zealand Military Journal
Colonel H Slater, 'The Fall of the Canterbury Pas', July 1912, pp. 214-219
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration
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.