Albert Park and Barracks Wall

Princes St.
Auckland, Auckland
Whilst Governor Hobson may have moved New Zealand’s first capital from the Bay of Islands in 1841, his successors could not ignore the troubled North.

Eight-five metres of the Albert Barracks Wall survive from a wall begun in the new capital, Auckland, in 1846 and completed in 1851–52 to counter any raid by anti-government Maori. It used basalt quarried from Mt Eden and, ironically, relied heavily on Maori labour for its construction. When finished, the 3.6 metre-high walls covered 9.2 hectares and enclosed a large complex of buildings.

Never tested by hostile action, the barracks nevertheless played a big role in Auckland public life. Barracks Square and the buildings hosted balls, sports events and other social events.

There should be a plaque to heritage conservation’s first stuff-up here. It had been decided to preserve the grand north gate pillars, with their Maori inscription, but something went wrong and all but this stretch of wall fed the city’s public works.

Most of the walls came down in 1873 when the New Zealand Herald reported that ‘the monument to the Maoris’ industry is to be taken away on the shortest notice’.

This section consists of two straight lengths of masonry with a connecting flanking angle 4.7 metres long; the stub of another flanking angle survives at the southern end. You can see the rifle loops quite clearly. Occasionally this old symbol of Maori-Pakeha conflict has made the news.

You can no longer read the 1915 plaque whose wording sparked protests in the 1970s. The offending words, fixed by the Auckland Civil League in 1915, upon the remnant of the barrack wall built by friendly Maoris in 1848 after the burning of Kororareka, read; “to commemorate the union and comradeship of Pakeha and Maori during the Great European War.”

A decade later landscaping and development damaged some heritage fabric, but these days what is left of the wall is a much-loved part of the campus.

The park also hosts other historic features including an 1882 fountain and an 1899 statue of Queen Victoria.

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