(Extracts from an article by Mr. Elsdon Best, published in the Harbour Board's Year Books, 1919 and 1926. By courtesy of the Wellington Harbour Board.)
The history of the port as a shipping centre really dates from 1862, when the first pile of the Queen's wharf was driven. For over twenty years prior to that date, the work of the port was mainly carried on by means of lighters discharging and loading at small private jetties, which extended along the line of the then existing foreshore from Pipitea to Te Aro. The subjoined enumeration of these jetties, etc., in existence in Lambton Harbour, prior to any extensive reclamation, may be of interest; taking them from Pipitea Point southwards:—
Wharf or Jetty and Location, 1919.
Brown's, or German Brown's, Wharf, formerly Munn's Wharf (used by warships as a landing jetty).; opposite Royal, (now Cecil) Hotel.
Wallace's Wharf; opposite Wallace's shop, now Price's (auctioneer), Lambton Quay.
Levin's Wharf, also known as Baron Alzdorf's Wharf, and Taine's Wharf; now Hood Bros.' draper store, Lambton Quay.
Moore's Wharf; opposite Pringle's present shop.
Swinburne's Wharf, also known as Osgood's Wharf, or Bijou Theatre Wharf.page 422
Fig. 251.—Captain Amelius Morland Smith was born in London in 1845 and educated at King's School, Sherborne, Dorsetshire. He was a Commissioned Officer in the 18th Hussars, and stationed in India before he arrived in the ship “Bombay.” Shortly after his arrival, he became assistant private secretary to Sir George Grey (1866), and subsequently with Sir George Bowen; also an A.D.C. to the latter. He was elected Lieutenant of the D. Battery of Artillery on its first formation in the late sixties. Captain Smith lives (1929) at Island Bay. He was for many years a familiar figure at Parliament House.
Wharf or Jetty and Location, 1919—(Contd.).
Bowler's Wharf, then Pearce's Wharf.
Waitt's Wharf, then Fitzherbert's, or Nobby Crawford's Wharf, then Pilcher's Wharf; for bonded goods.
Bethune and Hunter's Wharf; for bonded goods.
Ridgway's Wharf, then Hickson's Wharf, then Wills' or Houghton's Wharf.
Other private wharves and jetties were afterwards erected. The best known structures were:—Mills' Wharf, Turnbull's Wharf, Compton's Wharf, Paddy Anderson's Landing Stage, Waring Taylor's Wharf, (David) Robertson's Wharf, Greenfield and Stewart's Wharf.
The chief lightermen of the early days were:—Messrs. Richard and William Haybittle, George Houghton, F. Wills, Tandy and Pressman. Of this small company, Mr. Richard Haybittle still (1919) survives, a hale old veteran of 96.
The Queen's Wharf was built by the Wellington Provincial Council, and managed by that body for a few years, Mr. William Spinks being first wharfinger. In 1871 the Corporation acquired the wharf, the lessee at that time being Mr. Wm. Tonks. The next lessees were Messrs. Jackson and Graham (1872–1875), after which Mr. W. Jackson held the lease for a year, till Feb. 9th, 1876.
In 1879 a movement was started for the establishment of a Harbour Board, which page 423 was constituted; its first meeting was held February 20th, 1880.
The Board acquired from the Railway Department the railway wharf and adjacent breastwork at Waterloo Quay. And on October 1st, 1881, the Queen's Wharf and Bonded Warehouse, and since that date has solely administered the affairs of the port.
The Year Book for 1919, pp. 28–43, gives an explanation of signals and wharf lights used, a table of distances, chairmen, past members of the Board, and principal officers of the staff, etc. The chairman for 1880 was Mr. W. H. Levin, and the secretaries were: Messrs. H. M. Lyon, 1880; W. Ferguson, 1884, and H. E. Nicholls, 1908.
The Board, which is a public body, constituted and empowered under Acts of Parliament, consists of 14 members elected by the electors of Wairarapa. Hutt, Makara, Manawatu and Wellington. The members for Wellington (1927): Col. G. Mitchell, Captain Macindoe, Messrs. C. J. B. Norwood and C. H. Chapman. The chairman is Mr. J. G. Cobbe, and the secretary Mr. A. G. Barnett. In 1862, the only wharf was without a shed; in 1919 there were 33 stores (8,587,111 capacity).
From Year Book, 1926:—
The Board has ten city wharves, and almost continuous breastworks, extending over nearly a mile and a half of waterfront, the total lineal berthage being 19,305 feet, with depths of water alongside varying from 16 to 46 feet, giving ample berthage accommodation to oversea and other vessels. Of this total, 6110 feet of berthage is linked up with the Dominion's railway system. The above is without taking into account the suburban wharves, six in number, and totalling 2925 lineal feet of berthage.
Conveniently placed on these wharves and adjacent breastworks are 35 stores with a gross capacity of 10,695,360 cubic feet.