Original fence as seen in 1989

In 1869, after the passing of the Crown Grant for the operation of the Garden, the first and immediate need was the construction of paths and a boundary fence. Early settlers were using the reserve to graze stock and removing timber and firewood from it. The construction of a suitable fence to restrict these activities was planned.

Original Obervatory Reserve area marked.
Location of historic fence remnant marked

4 bar fence, located only a short distance from the existing remnant,  erected as per the noted invoice.

A 1928 photo of the existing fence remnant.
The corner of the Scout Hall visible on the left

1928 photo (detail above)

The contract for fencing along Upland Road and the Wesleyan Reserve was given to Reed and Morris, the materials being supplied by Robinson of the Hutt. Some fencing existed along the road,and only needed repair. Some 46 acres was enclosed on the Wesleyan reserve by a substantial railed fence at a cost of £120 ($240), some $15,000 in today’s money. On checking the work, it was found that around 39 chains of fence had been constructed, using 297 black birch posts and 1184 rails of heart timber. By the end of 1876, £270 had been spent on fencing, partly replacing an early gorse hedge along part of the boundary. This equates to over $35,000 in current dollars.

The list of materials indicates that a 4 railed fence was erected under this contract. Sheppard notes that some fence “along the Upland Road frontage” already existed at the time the work was completed, and that this fence was just repaired. The remnant has only three rails, although the photo taken only a short distance from the remnant shows a 4 rail fence. The invoice shown tqat black birch posts were used. Some doubt has been raised that this timber would not have survived to this date, and that perhaps the posts were replaced with totara at a later date. Identification of the timber in the remnant is planned.

There is some uncertainty regarding the timber used. Totara was commonly and widely utilised for fencing, but the documentation indicates black beech was used. It is a good general building and furniture timber. True black beech is a very durable timber and was widely used for fence posts when and where available

The remnant fence has significant historic and social value. It marks part of the original boundary of the former Wesleyan Reserve block that were incorporated into the Wellington Botanic Gardens in 1874. The fence also has some technological value due to its being a remnant of early colonial post and rail fencing methods widely used in the colony at that time. It is constructed of native timbers which are seldom used for fencing today giving it rarity value. There would be few if any fences of this age, material or construction method still extant in the city giving the remnant fence has high rarity value.

Of this early fencing only a small section remains, as shown in the photograph.

.A close up image of a small section shows the method of construction of a three-rail section. The remaining portion is not in good condition, but does provide a very important link with the past, as this portion of the fence is probably the oldest structural improvement made to the garden.

Some effort has been made to preserve the remnant, and despite over 140 years of Wellington’s weather, this historic relic of the past deserves immediate conservation if it is not to be lost forever.

A good view of the remaining fence can be clearly seen from the Cable Car lookout..The conservation is being considered, with the /department of Conservation currently preparing a report on the options available, etc.

Recent (2011) phtographs of the fence are shown b elow.


The Botanic Garden Wellington A NZ History 1840 - 1987, by Winsome Shepherd and Walter Cook

Heritage Assessment WCC draft

Klein, Detlef. Botanic Garden Historic Post and Rail Fence Conservation Issues prepared for Neil Christensen, Operations and Assets Manager, Wellington Botanic Garden, Wellington City Council, April 2011

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