March 25, 2015 … old Wellington

History in New Zealand tends to be much shorter than it is elsewhere.

Aro valley

Essex Street in the Aro Valley, with houses cascading over the hill in the background

As a town, Wellington didn’t exist prior to 1865. In its early days, prior to reclamation in the central city and the expansion to Northern Suburbs, dwellings were erected first in the places that were easiest to get to, nearest to the city centre. Anyone who wants to get a sense of old Wellington should read the various works of Pat Lawlor (1893 – 1979) who really brings the colonial town to life. He is to the literature of early Wellington as E.M. Blaicklock was to Auckland’s Western suburbs. Wonderful writers both.  But I digress. I went for a wander in the back streets of the Aro Valley yesterday, enjoying warm sunshine and relative stillness.

Aro St

Shoehorned together in old Wellington

Houses spread from the relative flatness of each valley floor up the steep sides. Houses of the working classes were built cheek by jowl, on increasingly difficult sections. In the first half of the twentieth century there was a tendency to larger sections and almost every new house had a quarter acre section in which families could raise children or vegetables as they chose. In its founding days, Wellington did not have the luxury of accessible flat land and houses were crammed close together.


This vertical retaining wall does not look as if it is up to the job. There is a house above it.

It seems a miracle that some of these houses have survived Wellington’s frequent storms and its susceptibility to significant earth tremors. There is visible evidence that things have moved or are moving.

Devon St

Nice paint jobs on Devon street, Wellington’s narrowest and twistiest street

Not all is decay, though, and there are some rather beautiful restorations to be seen. My main regret in these cases is that the electricity and telephone wires were not put underground. Perhaps precisely because of our seismicity, they clutter the landscape with unsightly webs of wire. And then of course there are the satellite dishes, one for each subscriber.


These rickety steps are the only access to three or four houses

My eldest son used to live in a student flat (US = apartment) in this area, and I did some nostalgic wandering, recalling being conscripted to help with relocations, and shuddering at the memory of lugging household appliances up or down the steep and ramshackle steps that characterize the area.

Good night all.


About wysiwygpurple

Retirement suits me well. I spend much of my time out making pictures, or at home organizing and refining my pictures. This blog provides me with a platform from which I can indulge my passion for improving my photography and at the same time analyze my thoughts about what I have seen, where I have been and what is happening in my life. My images set out to be honest, but that does not mean I have not adjusted them. I use software to display what I saw though the viewfinder to best advantage. My preference is for landscape and nature, and is mostly centred around my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand.
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