Home of Compassion Creche (Former)

18 Buckle Street, Mt Cook, WELLINGTON

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The Home of Compassion Crèche (Former) was constructed in 1914 and is one of New Zealand’s first dedicated child daycare buildings. This distinctive brick building at the northern tip of Wellington’s Basin Reserve was designed by prominent architect John Sydney Swan (1874-1936) so that the Sisters of Compassion could continue the pioneering crèche service begun by Mother Suzanne Aubert (1835-1926). After arriving in Auckland in 1860 as part of Bishop Pompallier’s last New Zealand Catholic mission, Aubert spent the next 40 years teaching and nursing in the North Island as well as founding the Sisters of Compassion and their institutions. At the urging of the Wellington Catholic community Aubert and her Sisters moved to Buckle Street in 1899 to begin their charitable works among the urban poor. Initial institutions here included a soup kitchen and ‘incurables’ home, as well as the founding of a crèche in 1903. This was a pioneering service catering for children of mothers forced to find employment to support their families. Earlier examples of daycare services in New Zealand had failed because they were seen as contrary to inherited British notions of the sanctity of motherhood and the role of women. It was not until the mid-late twentieth century that the state starting funding full-day child care services and the idea of working mothers became generally accepted. When the original crèche buildings were deemed structurally unsound the Sisters organised for the construction of a replacement in the absence of their leader Aubert because she was in Europe attaining Papal recognition for her congregation. The Home of Compassion Crèche opened in 1914 and housed the Sisters’ successful daycare service for nearly 60 years. The design of the Home of Compassion Crèche (Former) clearly illustrates the ecclesiastical-based management of the daycare service, and the domestic nature of the activity undertaken by the Sisters of Compassion. Constructed using reinforced concrete and brick, the Crèche is a solid structure with a distinctive crenelated entrance porch. The building’s potentially imposing appearance is softened through the use of Gothic tracery and the residential scale and features of the building. The Buckle Street institutions of the Sisters of Compassion, like the Crèche, were vital contributors to the social welfare of many disadvantaged Wellingtonians in a time when state social welfare was non-existent. The Home of Compassion Crèche (Former) has outstanding significance because it is one of the few remaining Sisters of Compassion buildings which were directly associated with the influential and important founder of the order, Mother Aubert. The crèche she established in 1903 was a novelty in New Zealand, and this pioneering institution continued in the Home of Compassion Crèche for 60 years, becoming a template and standard for other institutions when crèche services became more prevalent. This building is also special because it is a rare remnant of the intensive Catholic and ecclesiastical presence that was a feature of the Basin Reserve from the late nineteenth century. The Home of Compassion Crèche (Former) also has significance as one of the first, and the earliest remaining, purpose-built crèches in New Zealand.

Home of Compassion Creche (Former), Wellington | B Rouse | 18/04/2015 | Heritage New Zealand
Home of Compassion Crèche (Former), Wellington. The Creche was relocated a short distance up Buckle St to make way forthe Arras Tunnel and the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park which opened 29 September 2014 | B Rouse | 18/04/2015 | Heritage New Zealand
Home of Compassion Creche (Former), Wellington. Creche in original location on Buckle St. Image included in Field Record Form Collection | B Fill | 01/02/1984 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 1984

Date of Effect

6th June 1984

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Sec 263 TN of Wellington and the land described as Pt Lot 1 DP 4469 (New Zealand Gazette, 1974, p.1975), Wellington Land District, and the building known as Home of Compassion Creche (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Pt Sec 263 Town of Wellington; Pt Lot 1 DP 4469 (NZ Gazette, 1974, p.1975), Wellington Land District

Location Description

The Home of Compassion Crèche (Former) is situated opposite the Basin Reserve on Buckle Street at the point where this road branches northwest up to Mount Cook and north east down to Cambridge Terrace, where parking is available. Test

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