Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store

2-3 Jervois Quay and Queens Wharf, WELLINGTON

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The Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store is a symbol of the successful development of Wellington's Port for almost a century. In 1880 the Harbour Board was established to ensure that profits made from shipping were channelled back into shipping through the development of Wellington's harbour facilities. Shipping was then the primary means of transporting goods to, from, and around the country, and trade depended on safe harbours that were well equipped for the loading, unloading and storage of freight. When the new Board acquired control of Queen's Wharf in 1882, it began erecting wharves and warehouses on reclaimed land that would accommodate the needs of the steamships docking at the harbour. By 1889 it had spent £217,975 on improvements and, despite the severe economic depression and a policy of keeping port charges low, in the following year the Board was able to commission the renowned, Wellington-based architect Frederick de Jersey Clere to design an impressive head office on the waterfront. Incorporated into the building would be a new, larger bond store, a stronghold where the goods transferred from the ships were stored until importers had paid a duty tax to the Harbour Board. The 'Bond Store' was completed for £11,264 in 1892 by Robert Carmichael and Son on land reclaimed from the harbour just three years earlier. Unlike most of the original wharf buildings, the Bond Store is made of concrete. This minimised the risk of fire and prevented enterprising thieves from drilling up into the floor to steal liquor, as had happened at the timber 'Queen's Bond' building that the new store was to replace. Clere's design for the building was inspired by the French Second Empire style then popular in Britain. The mansard roof typical of the style allowed the attic space of the Bond Store to be used as a third storey. The building lacks the lavish ornamentation commonly associated with the style, giving it the appearance of a more modern building. The Queen's Wharf end of the building was used as office space by the Harbour Board. Designed to give an appearance of strength and wealth, it includes an elegant entrance and a masterfully carved staircase. The bond store took up the remainder of the 57 metre (186 foot) long building. Goods were brought into the store through three large cart entrances and transported to various floors by hydraulic lifts and jiggers installed by the engineering company, Luke and Sons. At almost twice the size of the original Queen's Bond, the Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store demonstrated the extent to which trade had expanded under the Harbour Board's administration of the port. Wellington Harbour Board staff moved into the building in late 1892. The Board continued its reclamation of the harbour and commissioned numerous architecturally-designed warehouses along Wellington's prosperous waterfront. Following the completion of Queen's Wharf in 1925, the growing Board commissioned Chief Engineer James Marchbanks to design a larger, more imposing boardroom to replace the one designed by Clere. This was completed in 1926. Space was found for surplus bonded goods in other sheds on the waterfront. The importance of the Board was reflected in the highly influential men who both appointed and elected to serve upon it, including future prime ministers Peter Fraser (1884-1950) and Walter Nash (1882-1968). In 1951 the Board became involved in New Zealand's bitterest industrial dispute, the Watersiders' Strike, locking workers out of the port and banning overtime. The 'wharfies' were forced back to work after 151 days. Yet from the 1950s, the increasing use of container ships and competition with the road and rail lessened the commercial importance of Wellington's harbour. The Bond Store ceased to be used from 1954 and was eventually converted into a maritime museum. In 1989, the Harbour Board ceased to exist after a substantial restructuring of the local government. Their building was saved by the popularity of its museum. The Bond Store was reopened as Wellington's Museum of City and Sea in 1999 following careful restoration. The Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store is of historical significance as a symbol of success of the Wellington's Harbour Board. The Board was responsible for extensive development of the harbour at a time when shipping was crucial to trade and the building is a monument to them. The grandeur of the offices and boardroom indicates their former importance. The size of the Bond Store points to the extent to which the trade had expanded and its incorporation into the Head Office building highlights the Board's control over the goods coming into the Harbour. The building is also significant for its connection to eminent New Zealanders and events such as the 1951 Watersiders' Strike. The building is architecturally noteworthy as an example of the work of New Zealand architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction. Now the second oldest building on the waterfront, the building has immense cultural significance as a storehouse of Wellington City's history.

Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store - now called Wellington Museum was designed by Frederick de Jersey Clere. Image courtesy of Wellington Museum | 23/12/2015 | Wellington Museum
Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store - now called Wellington Museum. Interior showing former Board Room taken February 2013. Image courtesy of Wellington City and Sea and Pikitia | Wellington Museum
Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store - now called Wellington Museum. Drays waiting to unload, outside the Queen's Wharf gates, Jervois Quay, Wellington. Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-004031-G. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23211027. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image | John Dickie | 22/11/1913 | Alexander Turnbull Library Wellington



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

3rd March 1982

Date of Effect

3rd March 1982

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 207 DP 67374 (RT 36D/598), Wellington Land District

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