An Introduction to Upper Hutt Blockhouse
The Upper Hutt Blockhouse is one of the few remaining buildings associated with the New Zealand wars, as well as a monument to Pākehā settler anxiety, built in fear of an attack by Māori that never came. Visit today and you’ll get a sense of the defensive ‘last stand’ mindset. On both floors you’ll find a series of balistraria, tightly angled gun slots through which members of the militia would defend their posts. Keep an eye out, too, for an exposed panel where you can see the fine gravel that was packed between the exterior weatherboards and inch-thick interior boards to absorb the impact of answering gunfire. Don’t be fooled by the windows – they were added later. Originally, the loop holes you’ll spy on the walls were the only way to see out.
The blockhouse was one of a pair built in the Hutt area in 1860 in response to an outbreak of hostilities in Taranaki. Colonel Thomas Mould of the Royal Engineers drew up the plans for the L-shaped refuge, which was originally in the centre of Upper Hutt and formed the corner of a three-metre high stockade atop defensive earthworks. Members of the Hutt Battalion of the Wellington Militia occupied it for six months, but when the sense of a threat fizzled out it was turned over to the local constabulary. In following years it was used as a courthouse then occupied by Lands and Survey. In 1916, it was given legal protection as a historic building, one of the first cases of its type in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Now bordered by Heretaunga College’s playing fields, the Blockhouse was used for years by local boy scouts and girl guides and is still used for meetings of the Upper Hutt Round Table. Upstairs there’s a display about the service club, while the ground floor is devoted to a permanent exhibition about the history of the Blockhouse.
When you’ve finished, head along Fergusson Drive to Golders Cottage. Built in 1876 by John Golder, it’s one of the earliest houses in the area and contains furniture and artefacts that give a vivid sense of life in the Hutt in the pioneering days. As it’s managed by volunteers, opening hours are restricted to Saturdays and public holidays. Then head to Upper Hutt’s terrific art space and museum Whirinaki Whare Taonga. A recent $9m extension and revamp included three new galleries, one of which, the Gillies Gallery, is dedicated to showcasing the city’s rich history.