Hutt City Libraries Online Heritage Collection > Texts

Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)



Had you seen these roads before they were made
You would lift up your hands and bless General Wade.
As the construction of roads roughly coincides with the settlement of any area, the following brief survey will give an idea of how the Valley was opened up in the early days.
Prior to the construction by the New Zealand Company of the Hutt Road from Wellington to Petone, completed in March, 1841, communication between the two points was by whale-boat or canoe, the passenger fare being 2/6 and the freight rate £1 per ton. The famous Sam Phelp's bullock waggon was the first wheeled vehicle to go over this new twelve-foot road, and from Petone a track led along the beach to the original settlement of Britannia. This track, and the other old roads referred to, are shown on the historical plan published with this booklet.
From the northern end of Britannia, at White's Line, as Wakefield Street was then called, a track led up the western bank of the river as far as the old cemetery site near the bridge, and branched off to the westward to Normandale, from where there was a track to Porirua. On a plan dated 1843 tracks are clearly shown on the eastern side of the river leading to Molesworth's house and barn, further to the north up to Captain Compton's, and through what is now Riddiford Park as far as Laing's Road.
In the New Zealand Gazette dated 25th April, 1840, reference is made to contracts being let to George White and Mr. Deans for cutting roads six feet wide through the Valley.
Early in 1842 the main road from Petone to the Hutt, on the western side of the Valley, was under construction, and later this extended eastward along a survey line to the bridge site. This extension is now Railway Avenue. From the north side of the bridge the main road was surveyed to the first gorge at Taita—so named from the Maori word meaning logs or snags. The road, however, did not follow the present route, but from about Waterloo Road proceeded straight to Connolly Street, previously known as Camp Road, and northwards to the top of Old Military Road, where a detour was made round the river roughly to Naenae Lane; then it followed the present road north. A road was cut as far as Stokes Valley by December, 1843, to Upper Hutt by August, 1844, and on to the Wairarapa in 1847.
page thumbnail

The Main Road at Taita About 1847.

(From a painting by Sir Francis Bell, Snr.
—Courtesy Wellington Provincial Centennial Committee.
In March, 1847, "The Spectator" records, a new road was constructed from about Waterloo Road to Naenae Lane "to avoid going round the old road near Mr. Boulcott's." This is the present main road, and although it is believed that the settlers agreed to the cutting of this new road at the time, it was nearly fifty years later that the Borough Council established title to the land taken.
In 1847 further reference is made to the Taita Gorge Road "that the making of a new road at the foot of the hills instead of over them was a great improvement."
At this time there were many settlers at Waiwhetu, and access was usually made by water. "The Spectator," in 1847, commenting on the new road (now Woburn Road and Ludlam Crescent) to Waiwhetu, states that "hitherto the settlers had been obliged to bring their produce in punts to the mouth of the river, a dangerous practice."
On a plan dated 1852 the following roads appear, in addition to the main road (their present names are given here):—Woburn Road, Ludlam Crescent, White's Line, Richmond Road, Hinemoa Street, Wainui Road, (back) Waiwhetu Road, Western Hutt Road (Parliament Street).
Along the Western Hutt Road there was a track as far as Belmont, and this extended to a ford, near Mr. T. Mason's house, on the eastern side of the river.
page thumbnail

Lower Hutt, From the Western Hutt Hills About 1910.

—From a photograph by A. Aldersley.
Te Mome can be seen in the foreground; also the old Central Hutt School. To the extreme right is the Drill Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1924.
What is now Tama Street was then a private road leading to White's Line.
The first track to Wainui, about 1845, commenced near the end of Rossiter Avenue, and until the present road was built, about 1860, access was gained through Lowry Bay.
On a plan dated 1860, Naenae Lane, Naenae Road and Cemetery Road, giving access to the Eastern Taita district, Waterloo Road—then known as Chinaman's Lane—Brunswick Street (Parker's Lane), and King's Crescent (Orr's Lane and Heke Street), are shown. Victoria Street, so named in 1897, was previously known as Johnson's Track.
In the centre of the Epuni Hamlet, Porutu Street was put through in the 1890's when the Premier, the Rt. Hon. R. J. Seddon, developed a scheme for establishing seasonal workers on two-acre blocks, so that they could cultivate the land during the off-season.
There were, of course, numerous tracks giving access to farms, and, in fact, many of the roads at that time were little better than tracks and usually had an open drain at one side. Some of them, particularly Waterloo Road, were corduroyed for considerable stretches. In the early days it was the practice to build roads above the level of the surrounding country, while today the reverse is the case, to improve the drainage.
One of the first tasks of the newly-formed Borough Council in 1891 was to improve the roads and drainage of the land, but this portion of the story is told elsewhere.
page thumbnail

Naenae Lane, 1940.

One of the few remaining picturesque old thoroughfares.
Lower Hutt could hardly have attained its present size and future prospects, linked as these are with Wellington, if traffic between the two had had to rely mainly upon the railway. The road which runs parallel with the railway, and which is, of course, much the older, is equally important, if not more so; but it was a burdensome way, while it was narrow, winding, and rough, and subject to plagues of dust and mud. Reconstruction and widening were carried out by the Hutt Road Board (established in 1915), and the road was thus greatly improved. But the board had no continuing source of revenue, and there was much difficulty over allocating the cost of maintenance, which suffered accordingly. In 1917 special taxation was imposed on motor-cars (30/- a year) and motor-cycles (10/- a year) for the purpose.
This provided more than ample revenue, and in 1924 the Wellington City and Suburban Highways Board was established and took over the funds. It proceeded to lay a sound bitumen pavement from the City through Petone and along the main road north, and eventually this was extended to Upper Hutt. Park Road east of the Pipe Bridge, Lowry Bay Road, and the road to Eastbourne were also paved.
The taxes were abolished in 1928 and in 1939 the City and Suburban Highways Board went out of office. The extra-urban parts of the road came under the control of the Main Highways Board, which has since carried out major improvement work along the Wellington-Petone section of the main road.
page thumbnail

Lower Hutt's War Memorial.

—Courtesy Tanner Bros.
Erected at the Eastern end of the Hutt Recreation
Ground, and unveiled on Anzac Day, 1923.
An Honours Board bearing the names of those Hutt men who went to the Great War in 1914-1918 was presented by the Mayor, Mr. H. Baldwin, and this now adorns a wall of She Borough Council Chamber.


The New Zealand railways were launched as part of the famous public works policy of Sir Julius Vogel in 1869, when the Colony was in the throes of the Maori troubles and worried about their cost. With the hope of bringing about an era of peaceful endeavour, Mr. Vogel designed a scheme to cost £10,000,000 over a period of ten years—a scheme of public works on the one hand and of immigration to help execute them on the other. He visited England to obtain the loan, and while there not only made new arrangements with the Army and Navy authorities, but initiated the San Francisco mail service. Under his Maori war policy the Imperial troops (of whom there were 10,000 in 1865) were withdrawn, and their duties were taken over by the Militia.
Returning to the Colony in 1871, Vogel devoted his energies to his works policy; and in his own words, "New Zealand advanced with leaps and bounds." There was a steady stream of new arrivals, both assisted immigrants and people of some means.
There were at that time only about sixty miles of railway in New Zealand —from Lyttelton to Christchurch, and from Christchurch north to Rangiora and south to Rakaia.
The line from Pipitea (Wellington) to Lower Hutt was the first railway undertaking in the Wellington Province, the intention being to extend the line over the Rimutaka Range to the Wairarapa. The prime motive for this line was not so much the development of trade from Wellington as to provide transport for goods and passengers from the Wairarapa to Wellington. The fertile plains east of the mountain range were attracting numerous settlers under the Small Farms Settlement Act, and the district was progressing.
John Brogden and Sons accepted the contract for the construction of the line to Lower Hutt (8 miles 2 chains) in August, 1872, and this section was opened for traffic on 14th April, 1874.
In the first 2 1/2 months of service (to 30th June) the passengers carried on the line numbered 23,398, the passenger revenue amounting to £1002/19/1. The goods revenue amounted to £61/6/8, besides £98/14/- credited for carriage of material for use in extending the line.
The cost of this section, including a fair proportion of the charges for the Wellington terminus was £49,713/9/7.
The Wellington-Hutt line was the second (Government railway completed in the North Island, and was operated, from its inception, by the General and not the Provincial Government.
Among the supplies imported in 1873 were girders for the original Silverstream bridge, and in 1874 six turntables for 20-ton locomotives arrived. Three "Fairlie" engines, long well known on the Hutt line, came later in the year, along with four "Fell" engines, fitted for climbing the Rimutaka incline by driving on the centre rail. These are hardy veterans, still in use along with the modern railcars which do not use the centre rail.
The single line originally laid followed fairly closely the easy line of the coastal shelf, between the road and the beach; but between 1902 and 1911 the line was duplicated and to a large extent straightened, between Lambton and Lower Hutt, a new station being built at Lower Hutt in 1905.

Lower Hutt to Upper Hutt.

An extension of the Hutt line to Silverstream (8 miles) was completed and taken over by the Railway Department on 15th December, 1875, and thence to Upper Hutt (3 miles 35 chains) on 1st February, 1876.
An official report says that the Upper Hutt extension was not ready at the time, but the public road having been washed away, the railway was opened to meet the urgency of the case.
The through line Wellington to Featherston was opened for traffic on 7th October, 1878.
page thumbnail

The Fairlie "E"-Class Double-Ended Engine.

—Photo W Stewart
Though four-wheeled construction engines were used on the Hutt line for a short while, the above engine depicts the class of locomotive used on the trains throughout the Valley from 1875 onwards.

Pioneer Rail Car Service.

In 1906 a "rail car" service between Lower and Upper Hutt was inaugurated. This comprised a "D" class steam engine with a 60-foot ear, and the service proved so popular that it became necessary to replace the car with a train.
The present petrol and Diesel rail car service commenced to run through the Valley on 7th September, 1936, leading to a much more general use of this class of railway vehicle.
The first automatic electric signalling system in New Zealand was put into operation on the Hutt line in 1922.
Most of the cost of the construction of the double track line to the present terminus at Waterloo, complete with ramps and overhead bridges, which was opened in May, 1927, was recovered by the sale of sections for dwellings and industrial purposes.
At the present time preparation work is in hand for the extension of the railway from Waterloo through the upper portion of the Valley.
An important event of 1927-28 was the taking over by the New Zealand Railways of the 'bus services established by private concerns as an outcome of the Railway strike in 1924. These have been developed into a highly efficient system reaching all parts of the Valley.
During 1928-29 the Hutt Railway Workshops at Woburn were built, replacing the works which for fifty years had been Petone's biggest industrial plant. The new workshops were the nucleus of a group of industries which has but begun its growth.
In his report (1940) on the future development of the Hutt Valley, Mr. J. W. Mawson, the Government Town Planner, showed that the trains on the Hutt railway made 78 trips and carried 12,560 passengers per day; and buses made 264 trips on the Wellington-Hutt Road and 110 local service trips, and carried 9985 passengers per day. The freight figures for one year were: Inwards, timber 6,654,100 feet, other goods 31,438 tons; outwards, timber 98,100 feet; other goods 63,916 tons. The area covered by the figures in this paragraph includes Petone.
page thumbnail

High Street, Lower Hutt, Looking South, 1941

—Photo, J. A. Shadlock
The Hutt River Board Offices are on the left. The Post Office is now being replaced.

All images and text on this website are for personal use only. No material may be reproduced, communicated or copied other than for the purposes of research or study, criticism or review, or reporting the news without the Library's permission. Use and referral of material for these purposes must include full and proper acknowledgement. Reproduction of material for other purposes may incur a fee. For more information see our contact details