Why we do have parks and reserves?
Many of the parks in Lower Hutt were developed as part of the garden city concept. The concept was a new system of town planning which incorporated parks and reserves and open spaces among the street plans.
Some park land was donated to the city by local landowners and some was purchased by council to specifically develop a park.
What is the difference between a park and a reserve?
The terms are used interchangeably. Parks are usually developed areas with features like playgrounds, and reserves are usually less developed spaces like bush or scenic reserve.
Council needs to produce a Reserve Management Plan for all parks to guide their development and maintenance.
Avalon Park, c 1978 [ARCH44725-4]
When were individual parks created?
The origins of a park are not always known. Opening ceremonies would normally be publicised in the local newspapers, and Council minute books may tell you the origin of the name. Sometimes the names have been in use for so long that their origin is not known.
Lower Hutt park names
Parks are often named after prominent personalities as a commemoration. They may have been local landowners or early settlers in the region. Sometimes park names may commemorate a special event eg. Jubilee Park. Traditional Maori names for pa sites and natural features, and prominent figures are all considered when naming a park.
Name suggestions may come from councillors, council officers or from members of the community. New names have to go through a public consultation process before being approved by a council resolution. A few names have been commonly used for decades and have not been formally approved.
Te Whiti Park, 1978 [ARCH44761-3]
Avalon Park (initially the Avalon subdivision) was named by James Stellin who owned the land in the 1920s. Stellin named the subdivision after his daughter Beatrice Avalon Hart Stellin. The origin of Beatrice’s name is unknown but the island of Avalon is mentioned in Tennyson’s poetry about King Arthur. Hutt City Council acquired the land in 1957 and created Avalon Park which officially opened in 1963. The park is located between Fairway Drive and Taita Drive.
Ewen Park was named after former councillor (1923-25) and landowner Sir David Ewen. He donated the land for Ewen Park in 1951 and was awarded a knighthood for public service the following year. The park is located on the eastern bank of the Hutt River, north of the Melling Bridge. Sir David Ewen was a keen supporter of the bridge built in 1929 which is also named after him. The original bridge was replaced by the current one in the 1990s, and it is still known as Ewen Bridge. Sir David Ewen died in 1957.
Hikoikoi Reserve on the eastern end of Petone foreshore was named after the Te Atiawa pa on the western side of the Hutt River mouth. The reserve was developed in the 1990s and includes the Lions Park playground.
Jubilee Park opened in 1941 to commemorate Lower Hutt’s 50th jubilee since it was established in 1891. 1941 was also the year that Lower Hutt became a city and was also celebrated with a pageant and church services. The park included a fernery and the Hutt Minoh Friendship House. Jubilee Park is in Normandale on the hill above State Highway 2.
Memorial Park and Sladden Park
Memorial and Sladden Parks opened in 1960 as a memorial to World War II soldiers. Sladden Park was named after the two Hutt River Board engineers, Hubert and Edwin Sladden. The cenotaph (World War I memorial) was moved to Memorial Park in 1962 and the Garden of Remembrance established in 1966 to commemorate those lost in World War II.
Percy’s Reserve was named after the Percy family who acquired the land in 1842 when they arrived in Petone. Joseph Percy and his son ran a flour mill and also built the second Hutt bridge in 1847. In the early 1900s the three Percy brothers ran an orchard and market garden. They developed the gardens using native plants and it became a popular local attraction. The Reserve was officially opened in 1949 and was often used for dances and concerts. Percy's Reserve is located on the western side of State Highway 2 with access from Dowse Drive.
Te Whiti Park
Te Whiti Park was named by Ihaia Porutu Puketapu after the Te Atiawa prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai of Parihaka in Taranaki. The park has been home for several sports clubs since the 1950s and sits opposite Waiwhetu Marae which opened in 1960. Ihaia Puketapu was a driving force behind the establishment of Waiwhetu Marae where the meeting house Aroha Ki Te Tangata sits. The park is in Waiwhetu between Riverside Drive and Whites Line East.
Walter Nash Park
Walter Nash Park was named after the long serving local MP (1929-68) and Prime Minister (1957-60) Walter Nash. Originally known as Molesworth Reserve, the park was officially opened as Walter Nash Park in 1954. Nash was knighted in 1965 and died in 1968. His community service has also been commemorated by Nash Street and the Walter Nash Centre. The park is located between Reynolds Street and Tocker Street in Taita.
Here are stories for two of our parks in Lower Hutt:
In 1923 Lower Hutt mayor William Strand purchased a block of land bordered by Laings Road and High Street to become Lower Hutt’s first public park.
The Riddiford family donated £9,000 to build the Riddiford Baths which were open between 1926 and 1987, and the park was named after them. The Riddifords were early settlers and landowners, and a well known local family.
Amenities such as croquet greens, a playground and a rock garden were soon added. The building of the town hall, council administration building, library and theatre created a civic centre which removed open space from the park but added public facilities. The formation of Queens Drive also decreased the size of the park.
Later additions included a new playground, fountain, orchid house and aviary. The city’s Anzac memorial was moved to the park in 2015 and a major upgrade followed with a skate park, half basketball court and a new water feature added. Riddiford Garden is on the corner of Laings Road and Queens Drive.
Riddiford Park behind the Town Hall, 1970 [ARCH78449-1]
In 1894 J. H. Williams, owner of the Wellington Steam Ferries Company and operator of the harbour ferries purchased Days Bay from the Todd family for £1,000.
He built a wharf for the ferries and ran excursion trips for picnickers and campers from 1895. He began adding amenities to the resort in 1897 including a pavilion for dances and concerts. Other attractions included tennis courts and sports fields, shooting galleries and a miniature zoo, donkey rides and boats for hire. A water chute into an artificial pond was particularly popular. In 1905 Williams sold his shares in the Wellington Steam Ferry Company although the Company continued to operate the resort.
By 1913 many of the attractions had reached the end of their life and closed, so the Company attempted to sell the land for subdivision. However, a public outcry rose and the Wellington City Council resolved to acquire the land if the government and citizens contributed funds for the purchase. Mrs M. A. Williams, the mother of J. H. Williams donated £1,000 plus more when there was a shortfall at the last minute. In commemoration of Mrs Williams’ generosity, the park was named Williams Park. The amusement park was not reopened but the bay and its natural attractions were freely open to the public. In 1989 ownership of the park transferred to Hutt City Council as part of local government reforms.
Postcard of Days Bay
Naming of Bell Park, 1933 [ARCH28678/12234]
What information is available?
For historic information about parks and reserves have a look at:
- The Archives - for information on land acquisition and development, use and maintenance, local history, local government, sports clubs, memorials, fires and vandalism.
- Historic aerial photographs to see the physical development of a park.
- The parks and reserves section of this site.
How do I search?
Start by searching the Archives online for free. Many of the items in the archive have been digitised and are available to be viewed online.
The original records used to produce the online database are held in the Council Archives. If the records you'd like to see have not been digitised, you can make an appointment to visit the Archives. Digitisation can be requested, but it will depend on the format and condition of the original item.