1865 - 1890

Early European history from 1865 to 1890.

Source: Alexander Turnbull Library. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Evening Post owner, Henry Blundell

1865: Evening Post established

Wellington's first major daily newspaper - The Evening Post - was established in 1865 by Irishman Henry Blundell. The first issue numbered four pages and cost one penny. It hit the dusty streets of the newly-appointed capital city on 8 February 1865.

Following Blundell's retirement in 1874, The Post was run by his three sons. It remained a Blundell family business until 1972.

In 2002, The Evening Post was amalgamated with Wellington's other longstanding daily newspaper The Dominion to create The Dominion Post.

Wellington became New Zealand's capital in 1865, with Parliament officially sitting in the city for the first time on 26 July 1865.

1865: Capital status secured

Wellington became New Zealand's capital in 1865, with Parliament officially sitting in the city for the first time on 26 July 1865.

The colony's capital was originally established by Governor William Hobson in the Bay of Islands. After 1841 it was sited in Auckland.

A panel of Australian-based commissioners later designated Wellington the seat of government due to its favourable geography, sheltered harbour and central location.

Destructor from Clyde Quay, circa 1890.
Destructor from Clyde Quay, circa 1890

1870: Wellington City Corporation formed

The Wellington City Corporation was formed in 1870 following the dis-establishment of the township's Board of Works. Former Town Board chairman Joseph Dransfield became the new Corporation's first elected mayor.

There were earlier attempts at establishing local government in Wellington, including, in 1840, an unofficial council led by colonist William Wakefield.

Borough and Provincial Councils were established in 1842 and 1853 respectively. The Borough Council was short lived and the Provincial Council struggled financially and had more of a regional focus.

Wellington waterworks, Karori Gully, 1901.
Wellington waterworks, Karori Gully, 1901

1879: Water supply completed

Water supply was a priority for city councillors. An inspection in 1871 by Government scientist James Hector found many inner-city wells were contaminated with human and animal faeces.

This spurred the municipality into action but it was only when the Karori Reservoir was opened in 1879 that residents began to have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Water shortages and drought plagued Wellington in the late 1870s and early 1880s. In 1884, the city's water supply was bolstered by supplies piped in from the Wainuiomata River in the Hutt Valley.

Wellington Harbour Board head office, Jervois Quay, 1890s.
Wellington Harbour Board head office, Jervois Quay, 1890s

1879: Harbour Board established

The Wellington Harbour Board was established in 1879 to develop the city's harbour facilities and manage its burgeoning port business - a role it took over from the Council.

The Council did, however, remain heavily involved in reclamation of the Te Aro foreshore throughout the 1880s, and with other wharf projects.

The Harbour Board continued to play a centre-stage role on Wellington's bustling waterfront for over a century before being disbanded in 1989.

Source: Wellington City Council Archives.
An early picture of Lambton Quay showing the South Sea Hotel, 1870s

1880 - 1895: Economic depression

Wellington gained formal 'city' status in 1881 as the non-Māori population topped 20,000. But, from the early 1880s to 1895, the new city was badly affected by a New Zealand-wide economic depression.

Land and commodity prices slumped, causing widespread unemployment, high debt levels and destitution among the working classes.

The tough times were not helped by continued immigration and rapid population growth; from 1881 to 1885, 1000 new arrivals a year had to be accommodated in the crowded city.

Queen Victoria's Jubilee Parade, Willis Street, 1887.
Queen Victoria's Jubilee Parade, Willis Street, 1887

1887: Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

On 20 June 1887, Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee was celebrated with a spectacular light show throughout the city. Thousands lined Wellington's streets to admire the coloured lights displayed about town.

Electric globes lit up Government House tower, and transparencies of the Queen were placed in shop windows.

The light show capped off months of celebratory events, which included promenade concerts, poetry competitions and military parades. The celebrations were seen as a good way to boost morale in tough economic times.

Terms and conditions

Permission of either the Wellington City Archives or Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of images.

For more information see our terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions