There’s a hidden historical building in Upper Hutt tucked away down an alley. The Upper Hutt Blockhouse is the last remaining of three built in New Zealand. It was built in 1860 by the European settlers who were fearful of raids by the local Maori tribes. It was constructed with a double-skin timber frame of Totara and Matai which was milled at the nearby Cruickshank’s Mill. The infill of shingle between the timbers was to provide protection from rifle fire, and loopholes were incorporated at elbow height on all the walls for the defenders to return fire. For added protection, the blockhouse was surrounded by large defensive earthworks 30 yards square. 34 men joined the local militia and occupied the Blockhouse in readiness of the attacks, which never happened. Therefore, not a shot was fired in anger from this defensive building.
I arranged a tour of the Blockhouse on Sunday with out SLG friends, who were unaware that such a building existed. This building had piqued my interest and I was delighted to find out that tours could be arranged easily. Local volunteer Bruce told us the history of the building and related how it had fallen into disrepair for many years. The land was purchased under the Scenic Preservation Act in 1916 and was one of the first recorded examples of protection of an historic building in New Zealand. The loop holes have had mesh added to keep birds and mice from entering, and the bottom windows have now been boarded up because of repeated vandalism.
These days the local Girl Guides use the downstairs of the building, and the Upper Hutt Round Table service club have been meeting on the upper floor since 1982. This room is festooned with hundreds of flags from other Round Table clubs hanging from the ceiling and tacked on the walls. The service club has done a lot of work to keep this building in good repair.
The Blockhouse is managed by New Zealand Historic Places and there is the likelihood that the building will be restored to it’s former condition, and the current occupants will have to find alternative accommodation. It would be good to see the building as it was built, with dirt floors, and a parapet around the windows on the upper story. This building is such an important slice of the early history of Upper Hutt. However there is concern that the history of the local Round Table will be lost if it is all packed up and moved. After-all if the Round Table had not been in residence for so many years the building would of likely fallen into disrepair and lost for ever.
Plaque set outside the building