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Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)


The Services

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Orr's Windmill.

Built in 1885 and still in operation.

Water Supply

It is a recognised, indeed an obvious, fact that the size of a community is limited by the water supply available. It is also generally true (and Lower Hutt is an example) that a growing population is for ever pressing against the limits of the supply provision that has been made.
In the early decades, up to about 1880, water was procured from the river or various streams, or from open wells, and later tanks were used to collect rain water. About 1883, however, artesian wells were being driven, and one of the first to be put down was at Mr. C. Trevethick's place at the corner of White's Line and Randwick Road, where to-day the water rises several feet above the ground.
Water in varying degrees of purity is available near the surface of the level ground in the Valley, but for domestic use wells were driven to about 80 feet or 90 feet in the lower part of the Valley. In the higher parts it was necessary to pump the water, and this was effected by single lift pumps, or by force pumps manually operated, which delivered water into elevated tanks.
Numerous windmills, and where possible hydraulic rams, were also used for the same purpose. Each householder in the Borough had his own system until the Borough scheme was opened in 1908.
In 1899 the Hutt and Petone mayors were interested in a joint scheme for water supply from the Belmont Stream, but the proposal was dropped.
In 1908 several artesian wells were driven near the western end of the old Hutt bridge, and water was pumped by gas engines to a 500,000 gallon reservoir above Normandale, situated at an average height of 114 feet above Laing's Road and 78 feet above Park Avenue. The water consumption in the year of installation was 30,000 gallons per day. This figure has risen by leaps and bounds and to-day reaches million gallons per day.
This rapid expansion has called for additional wells, and increased plant and storage capacity. The reservoir at Normandale was increased to hold 730,000 gallons in 1912, and in 1926 the pumping station was changed over to electric power. During the same year a small pumping station and a reservoir of 18,000 gallons capacity were installed to serve the people on the western hills.
Between the years 1904 and 1929, over £50,000 was raised in loans for water supply.
In 1932 the Council undertook to supply the Eastbourne Borough with water, and three wells and two pumping units were installed at Seaview Road, and a 230,000-gallon reservoir was built on the hilt above Point Howard.
Proposals are in hand for the erection of a reservoir on the eastern hills at Naenae, with a capacity of 1,000,000 gallons, to serve the increasing population in this vicinity. Numerous boosting stations consisting of wells and pumps delivering direct into the mains have had to be installed to meet the growing demand and to maintain a satisfactory pressure for fire-fighting purposes.
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High Street, Looking South, About 1938.

—Photo by A. R. Hurst
The Lower Hutt Borough Council Offices are in the building in the centre of the picture.

Drainage and Sewerage System

In 1910 the sewerage system on the western side of the river was put into operation, and in the following year the eastern side was completed. On account of the relatively flat land served, several electric lifting stations have been installed. When the system was first installed sewers were laid in the streets. About fifteen years ago, however, they were laid near the back boundaries of adjoining properties and in easements, thus eliminating opening up the roads when repairs were necessary and providing a shorter run of pipes from each household.
Over £112,000 was raised between 1904 and 1929 for work in connection with storm water drains and sewerage.


For general use in public and private dwellings, candles and oil lamps using vegetable and animal oil were at first the principal means of artificial illumination. Kerosene was not available until about 1860.
The first lights in the streets were outside the public houses, and it was part of the terms of their licences that they should keep lights burning on each of their establishments from sunset to sunrise. These were the only street lights until after the Borough was established.
Tenders were first called for lamp lighting at the council meeting on 5th September, 1892. Two tenders were received, and that of Mr. J. Devine at 10d. per lamp per night, and his offer to find the oil and light the council office lamps on meeting nights free, was accepted.
In 1895 Mr. George Mcllvride offered to supply a lantern if the council would provide the necessary post. This was subsequently erected outside the Post Office.
After gas was introduced in 1900 a few more street lights were installed within the Borough, and by March, 1910, 83 gas lamps had been erected.


In 1887 the Wellington Gas Company was granted a concession to supply gas to the Hutt Valley. Watts also offered a water-gas plant, and an acetylene plant was proffered in May, 1897, but nothing tangible resulted until a Bill was promoted in 1898 to erect gas works at Petone to serve both boroughs.
In 1900 gas was made available at 10/- per 1,000 cubic feet.
The arrangements with Petone for the supply of gas were found by experience to be practically unworkable. Disputes frequently arose between the two councils concerning unlighted lamps and low pressure, and requests for extensions granted by the Lower Hutt Council were declared by the Petone Gas Board to be unpayable. Periodically feeling between the two communities ran high.
Several gas engines were installed for power purposes, and electricity for the two local moving picture houses was generated by dynamos driven by gas engines.
In 1921 a proposal was mooted for establishing a separate gas works at Lower Hutt, and resulted in the Hutt Mayoral election being fought on the issue of a separate gas works or a satisfactory arrangement with Petone, the result being in favour of the arrangement. Negotiations were at once instituted between the two boroughs, with the result that the Petone and Lower Hutt Gas Lighting Board, representative of both districts, took over all the assets.
Mr. W. G. Lodder was the first chairman of the Board, and occupied that position for 16 years. The present chairman is Mr. J. Cumming, and Mr. O. Silbery has been secretary of the board since its inception.
In 1939 an up-to-date "chamber oven" gas making plant was installed, and the consumption in 1940 is expected to exceed 180,000,000 cubic feet.


Lower Hutt is very thoroughly served with electric power—a development which dates from the extension of the Government electricity supply to the Valley in 1925. But ideas on the subject were launched very much earlier. Wellington was among the pioneer towns in adopting a public electric service, and in November 1889 the Gulcher Electric Company, which had installed a lighting system in the city the year before, offered a service to the Hutt district. Seven years later Mr. McDonald, of Masterton, also offered to provide electric lights in place of the oil lamps then in service.
About 1903 a scheme for harnessing the upper reaches of the Hutt River for generating electric power was submitted by the Public Works Department. A detailed survey was made in 1906 and in 1913 the matter was again raised. At that time it was estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 horsepower could be made available. This scheme, or a development of it, may yet be a welcome addition to the present hydro electric system.
Local power schemes became unnecessary when the Government hydroelectric system was developed. The first power available came from Mangahao, and the Hutt Valley Power Board was established to control the distribution of current in the district. The Board held its first meeting at the Town Board Chambers, Upper Hutt, on the 16th August, 1922. Those present were: Mr. W. H. P. Barber, representing the Upper Hutt Town District, Mr. F. E. Mather, representing the Eastbourne Borough, Mr. J. W. McEwan and Mr. H. C. Jay, representing the Petone Borough, Mr. A. J. Hobbs and Mr. W. T. Cotton, representing the Lower Hutt Borough, Mr. H. Foley, Mr. A. W. Press, and Mr. A. J. McCurdy, representing the Hutt County.
The Board acquired premises, which it still occupies, near the Hutt Railway Station, and in November of that year the consulting engineers, Messrs Templin and Toogood, presented estimates for the supply of electricity to 4650 consumers. The first agreement with the Government for the supply of power was for a period of five years with a maximum load of 30,000 K.V.A.
The installation of liberal street lighting and the brightening of shop fronts made an immediate change in the night atmosphere of the town. There was a prompt demand for domestic lighting; and as fast as appliances were available they came into use—electric cookers and water heaters, vacuum cleaners, sewing and washing machines, refrigerators, radio receivers, and a multitude of helps and comforts unknown twenty years ago. It was foreseen that electric power would not only be popular in the home but would stimulate the growth of industry; but the estimates were below the fact. The engineers' forecasts, which were considered ambitious in 1925, were actually exceeded in 1927; and the Valley has contributed its full share to the heavy load imposed on the linked system of North Island power stations.
The population served by the Board has roughly doubled during the last 15 years; but the number of units of electricity sold annually was risen from approximately 3,680,000. to over 53,000,000. The maximum load increased from 1,342 to 13,848 K.V.A. and the revenue from £24,400 to £151,600.

Parks And Reserves.

In 1844 mention is made of Ludlam's Gardens, later McNab's, which became a popular place for couples to spend their honeymoons fifty years ago. Later the property became the Bellevue Gardens—a favourite picnic resort. In the early days it had an excellent aviary and monkeys to amuse the children. The ground was cut up for building sites in 1923, despite earlier representations to have it set aside as a public park.
Before the great earthquake, which raised the floor of the Valley several feet in 1855, Hutt Park was practically under water, except for about four acres, known as Frethey's Island.
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The Recreation Ground at Night.

A recent Photo, showing the Flood-lighting.
In February, 1857, this land was declared a Public Park and Racecourse, and in 1861 the Wellington Jockey Club held its first race meeting there. The Park now occupies eighty-five acres and is used as a trotting course, sports ground, golf course, and motor camp.
In 1868 Mr. Thomas Mason, better known as "Quaker" Mason, started a garden at Taita, which became known as Mason's Gardens. This property, which contained some of the finest exotic trees in the Dominion, was unfortunately, cut up for building sites in 1923, and is now known as Avalon Park.
Another popular place in the 1870's was Peter Laing's Gardens, at the eastern end of Laing's Road.

Recreation Ground.

In 1898 a deputation requested the Borough Council to secure about ten acres of land, such as Crowe's paddock, for the purpose of a recreation reserve. However, nothing eventuated until 1904, when six acres at the north end of the present Recreation Ground were purchased, along with the section which is used as the entrance from Bellevue Road. This ground was officially opened in November, 1905. Various sports bodies, including the old Kia Ora Football Club, made good use of this ground, and in 1907 a pavilion and a band rotunda were erected near the northern boundary.
In 1914 a further loan of £2700 was raised and another 5 1/4 acres with a frontage to Woburn Road was acquired.
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Part of the Recreation Ground, 1941.

Photo, J. A. Shadlock
Depicting the Grandstand and two of the four Flood-lighting Towers.
The north and south areas of the ground were of two distinct levels, and the work of levelling the whole area, which necessitated the shifting of 28,000 cubic yards of soil, was completed in January, 1934, the year the grandstand, which seats 1300 persons, was opened. Commemorative oak trees were planted by the Mayor and all ex-Mayors of the Borough or their representatives on the occasion of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with bronze plaques showing the population.
In 1931 Mrs. A. T. Barthorpe presented the brick fence along the Woburn Road frontage and the Memorial Gates at the three entrances to the Recreation Ground, as well as another gate which was erected at the High Street entrance to Riddiford Park in 1933, in memory of her late husband.
The flood lamps, regarded as the most efficient in the Southern Hemisphere, were first used on the evening of Labour Day, 1939, and the Recreation Ground is now recognised as one of the best equipped and most attractive sports grounds in the Dominion.

Riddiford Park.

Riddiford Park, which is greatly admired by visitors, was formerly a rough paddock, where football and cricket were occasionally played, and narrowly escaped being roaded and cut up into small building allotments. In 1924 an option was secured by the Mayor, Mr. W. T. Strand, on behalf of the council, over this area and the adjacent business premises.
The proceeds of the sale of the buildings and sites enabled the Park area to be acquired without cost to the ratepayers, and it was largely through the efforts of the late Mrs. W. T. Strand, who was Mayoress at the time, that Riddiford Park came into being.
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Riddiford Park, 1940,

Showing part of the National Rock Garden of New Zealand.
The late Mr. G. H. Chapman voluntarily undertook the initial development of the Park, including the children's play-area, and, in 1928, Mr. E. Hutt, who had been appointed Superintendent of Parks and Reserves, prepared the plans for the Rock Garden, which is one of its main attractions.
The main construction work of the Park was completed in 1932, and it now embraces an extensive aviary, the Dental Clinic and Plunket Rooms, and the splendid baths, made possible by the generous gift of the Riddiford family, after whom the park is named.
The baths and the croquet greens have been the scenes of numerous Dominion and Provincial tournaments.
The fine Memorial Gates at the Laing's Road entrance were donated by Mrs. Fred Cooper in memory of her late husband, a well-known horticulturist.
Mr. D. A. Ewen donated equipment to the value of £200 for the children's play area.
The Naenae Reserve was acquired in 1925, but was not developed until 1934.
One of the more recently-constructed sports grounds is Strand Park, named after Mr. W. T. Strand, an ex-Mayor. This area of about 20 acres, bounded on one side by the river, was completed and available for football in 1940.
With the advent of town planning in the borough, when the Waiwhetu and Moera areas were developed, provision was made for reserves, children's play-areas, and open spaces for recreation.
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Riddiford Park and Baths.

The Fire Brigade Station, completed in 1925, is on the left.
These areas include Trafalgar Park, Bell Park, the Moera children's play area, Wilford Street tennis courts, Riverside Drive Reserve, and the gardens at Massey Avenue.
The development of these reserves during the depression period created useful employment and enhanced the amenities of the borough.
A great deal has been done in the planting and beautifying of streets, and since the revival of Arbor Day many hundreds of trees have been planted by school children. Many of these trees were raised at the Borough Council's own nursery in Birch Street, which has an annual output of over 200,000 trees, shrubs and plants.
For many years Gear Island, an open space of approximately 150 acres, has been used as a golf course as well as for farming.
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Gear Island—A Possible Development For Recreational Purposes.

—Prepared by Mr. E. Hutt.
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The Plunket Rooms and Dental Clinic, Riddiford Park.

—Photo A. R. Hurst

Jubilee Park.

One of the most recent acquisitions by the borough is Jubilee Park, an area of 13 acres at the foot of the Western Hills, which is being devoted exclusively to native flora.
Amidst these picturesque surroundings the historic pioneer hut has been re-erected and preserved for posterity by the generosity of Lady Roberts. This hut was originally built in the Centennial Exhibition from split totara slabs cut from the bush in the Trentham district for Mr. Barton's house nearly one hundred years ago.
An added attraction at this park, however, is the delightful fernery donated as a sanctuary for native ferns by His Worship the Mayor, Mr. J. W. Andrews, and it already houses a very comprehensive collection of ferns from all parts of the Dominion. This park, so named to commemorate the Jubilee of the Borough, will be opened on the 1st February, 1941.

Bands.—(See page 103).

For many years the Council subsidised a band.
In 1935, following a public meeting, the new Council decided to municipalise the band under the name "The Lower Hutt Civic Band." It was later equipped with new uniforms and instruments.
Other bands are the Municipal Band (Inc.), the Hutt Valley Pipes and Drums, the Hutt Valley High School Band, and the Salvation Army Band.
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Jubilee Park.

The Lake.
The Fernery—Photos "Evening Post.

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