Mount Cook Police Station (Former)

13 Buckle Street And Tasman Street, Mt Cook, Wellington

  • Mount Cook Police Station (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Helen McCracken. Date: 1/07/2008.
  • Mount Cook Police Station (Former). Station yard.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Helen McCracken. Date: 1/06/2008.
  • Mount Cook Police Station Former). Station yard, view of original cell (far left) and 1903 cell block.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Helen McCracken. Date: 1/06/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1408 Date Entered 21st September 1989 Date of Effect 21st September 1989


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 87064, Wellington Land District and the buildings and structures known as Mount Cook Police Station (Former), and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the Information Upgrade Report for further information).

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 87064 (RT WN54D/135), Wellington Land District


The Mount Cook Police Station (Former), constructed in 1894 is one of New Zealand's most historic police buildings. The plan to construct a police station on Mount Cook originated as early as 1887. In the latter half of the nineteenth century Te Aro (over which Mount Cook looks) was Wellington City's fastest growing suburb. Many of its inhabitants were recent immigrants. With the increased population (and often overcrowding) came an increase in crime and the need for more police.

The Mount Cook Police Station was designed by a Mr Weyburne. Unlike most public buildings, which were built by the Public Works Department, the Prison Department undertook the construction of the new police station. The latter supplied the prison labour from the nearby Mount Cook and Terrace Gaols. In addition the Mount Cook Gaol (located on the hill above the new police station) supplied the bricks to build the building. The arrow marks that commonly adorned prison bricks can still be seen in the outside walls of the building and associated boundary wall on Tasman Street today (Tasman Street Wall, Category II historic place #7758).

The building was handed over to the Police Department in December 1893, and officially opened on 10 April 1894. The station was essentially a two-storey rectangular building built of polychrome glazed brick. A particular feature of the design was the black and white glazed brick banding above and between the heads of the arched windows and main entrance door. Inside the lower floor contained the public office, the office of the sergeant in charge, men's dining room, library, kitchen and scullery. On the second floor were bathroom facilities and four bedrooms. Outside was a bricked yard with two cells. At the time of opening five constables and one sergeant were based at the station, and was the largest station next to the main city station.

In 1898 a Royal Commission into allegations of police corruption and inadequate service recommended that a central depot be established in Wellington to train new police recruits. Reluctant to spend any money building a new facility, the government decided to make use of the new Mount Cook Station and the first recruits were received in December 1898. In 1905 another Royal Commission into the police force found that the conditions at Mount Cook for recruits and duty men were far from ideal. A new purpose built training facility was constructed in Newtown and Mount Cook police station was last used to train new recruits in 1910.

In 1903 a single storey detached addition was added to increase accommodation. In 1912 a larger two-storey extension was built requiring the removal of the original stable, part of the brick wall and back porch. This new addition included a billiard room on the ground floor and more sleeping accommodation above. There may also have been a structure built to house a motorcar.

During the 1930s the site occupied by the Mount Cook Police Station was earmarked as part of the development of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum (Category I historic place, #1409) which was being constructed on the old Mount Cook prison site. In 1936 an agreement was reached whereby the land was transferred to the Board and Trustees of the Museum on the condition that the Police Department could vacate the building at its discretion when a replacement had been constructed elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Museum the alternative site offered to the Police proved unsuitable and the station remained in use for another twenty years.

In May 1956 the occupants of the Mount Cook Police Station were relocated to a new barracks in Vivian Street. In the following month the decision was made to close the Mount Cook Station and the personnel were shifted to the Taranaki Street Station. The Mount Cook Police Station closed at 5pm on Monday 9 July 1956. The Police Department retained the building as its clothing store although it was soon used for other stores as well. In 1959 the first floor bathroom was removed in order to make more storage and a year later an electric hoist was installed. In 1967 the Police Department moved out and the building was handed over to the now National Museum and Art Gallery.

In 1978 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, in recognition of the historic importance of the building and with the consent of the Museum, undertook a 'restoration' of the building. During this work the 1912 extension was demolished. During the 1980s the Ministry of Works undertook earthquake strengthening of the building and removed some of the internal walls on the second storey. The Museum remained in the building until Te Papa opened in 1998. The building was then transferred to the Wellington Tenths Trust as part of the main Museum land. The area containing the police station was then subdivided from the main part of this site and sold to Bernard and Milvia Hannah, who remain the owners today. The building is currently used as office space by a number of small businesses. The cellblocks and other outside structures are mainly unused.

The Mount Cook Police Station has outstanding historical value as one of New Zealand's most important police buildings. It is one of New Zealand's oldest purpose built police stations and for a period of twelve years, 1898-1910, it was the national police training facility as well as a working station. It has technical value in that it is one of the few buildings remaining for which it is possible to see prison bricks in situ. It has considerable aesthetic value, with its decorative polychromatic brickwork. The Mount Cook Police Station also occupies a key corner on Buckle Street (State Highway One) and as one of Wellington's most distinctive buildings it is an important city landmark.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Mt Cook Police Barracks was one of eight police stations opened in 1894 (three of them being in Wellington) to serve the rapidly growing towns of New Zealand. The early 1890s were years of economic crisis with much poverty due to recessions in both Australia and New Zealand. The Te Aro Flat area became thickly populated and was a particularly difficult part of town in which to maintain law, so a substantial police station which overlooked much of the area under its control was considered necessary.

The station was built on the corner of the Mt Cook Reserve which also housed the gaol designed by P.F.M. Burrows. It was built using prison labour to make the bricks and probably also to do the actual construction. Prisoners from the Terrace Gaol were marched to Mt Cook daily to man the brickmaking works at the gaol which produced the strongest and cheapest bricks in the area as well as drainage pipes.

The Mt Cook Police Barracks is a reminder of the early Police Force but is of primary importance as a legacy of the gaol.


The Mt Cook Police Barracks is rare in New Zealand in its use of polychrome brickwork for decoration of the facades. The designer may have been influenced by Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard built for the London police (1887-90).

The rosettes moulded in the richer red quoins are also rare in New Zealand and coupled with the polychrome bricks suggests considerable forethought on the part of the professional or tradespersons involved.

These individual features give the building an individuality and character which is quite remarkable.


Situated on the corner of Tasman and Buckle Streets, the Mt Cook Police Barracks stands uncompromisingly on its prominent site.

It is offset some 6 metres in relation to Tory Street giving a clear view down that street which would, no doubt, have been of great assistance in the policing of the rapidly increasing population of the Te Aro Flat. The site is also important as part of the original Mt Cook Reserve, which once housed the Mt Cook Gaol and its brickworks but is now the site of the National Museum and Art Gallery and the War Memorial and Carillion.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Unknown but F.G.F. Sheppard's notes suggest that A.E. King was the architect responsible, however, Pierre Finch Martineau Burrows who acted as Colonial Architect until 1884 has also been suggested


Designed in the classical revival of the period the only adornment of the

Mt Cook Police Barracks is the polychrome glazed brickwork and moulded quoins. The two storeyed building has a corrugated iron hipped roof, is rectangular in plan, to follow the line of the corner.

The north facade has nine windows each with alternating voussoirs of white and black. There are five windows on the top floor and four on the bottom with a central doorway adding to the symmetry. The ten arches are linked by horizontal ribbons of polychrome glazed bricks which also run around the east and west elevations of the building. These also have the polychrome arched window heads although the fenestrations are less regular.

Alternate rich red brick quoins have moulded rosettes of elegant proportions.


c.1903 Further cells added

1912 A two-storey extension (removed in 1979) was built on the southwest corner of the barracks. The stables were demolished to provide room for the new wing.

1979 The building was reduced to its 1894 dimensions.

1986 Major restoration of the building included the installation of a structural steel frame and the replacement of the internal brick partition walls with timber stud construction.

Notable Features

1. The quite rare polychrome brickwork.

2. The deep red quoins and proportional rosettes.

3. The interior, including Kauri staircase and turned newel post and the encaustic and geometric tiles in the entrance hall.

Construction Dates

1903 -
Single storey brick addition (containing three cells) to the southern elevation.

1912 -
Two storey brick addition to south elevation of building. Small addition made to 1903 cells to accommodate motor vehicle and horses. Existing stables removed to make way for extension.

1956 -
Alterations to accommodate police stores and repair damage as a result of vandalism

1959 -
Removal of upstairs bathroom

1960 -
Installation of electric hoist

1975 -
Possibly re-roofed

Demolished - Other
1979 -
1912 addition demolished

1986 -
Major restoration of the building included the installation of a structural steel frame and the replacement of the internal brick partition walls with timber stud construction.

Original Construction
1893 -
Building completed and opened 10 April 1894

Construction Details

Constructed of red brick laid in English bond (alternating rows of stretchers and headers). Each header brick is stamped with the distinctive broad arrow which marked all bricks made at the Mount Cook Gaol. The bricks were of a far superior quality and strength to those made by commercial brickworks. For this reason and because of their low price the bricks were used extensively in public buildings although often the headers were hidden so that the origin of the bricks did not show.

The Mt Cook Police barracks, and the adjacent brick retaining wall on Tasman Street, are now the only structures which openly display the arrow marked bricks.

The building stands on a plastered plinth which takes up the changes in road levels. Window and door is timber and the building has a hipped corrugated iron roof. The partitions are plastered brick (see modifications) with native timber, especially Kauri, used for finish.

Completion Date

10th September 2008

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)

Archives New Zealand (Wellington)

P1 10/2/769 Part 1, Mount Cook Police Station 1937-1960. Also see Reserves and other Land Disposal Act 1936, Sec 14.2.

Evening Post

Evening Post

11 April 1894, 28 February 1979

New Zealand Mail

New Zealand Mail

15 December 1893, 22 December 1893,

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Wellington Heritage Wellington Building Inventory, 2001.

Young, 1994

Sherwood Young, With Confidence and Pride; Policing the Wellington Region 1840-1992, Wellington Police Trust, Wellington, 1994

Other Information

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

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.