Find these steps – From The Terrace, follow along from Allenby Street, between 223 and 225 The Terrace. From Dixon Street, follow the street level of Percival Street to the end of that street. At the lower level, come along Boulcott Street from Willis Street, near the Majestic Centre, and turn left just before the St Mary of the Angels church.
That’s the hill to The Terrace ahead, Backpacker’s lodging on the left, and St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church on the right.
One of the more extensive patches of hidden staircase and pathways lies behind the St George Hotel and St Mary of the Angels church on Boulcott Street, and very near the grand Church Street steps.
The brisk climb from Boulcott Street allows time to ponder the unexplained (by my research) lower case “r” in O’reily Avenue, named for the first Catholic priest assigned to Wellington, Father Jeremiah Joseph Purcell O’Reily, O.S.F. Both Google and the city map at the top of Allenby Terrace list the little avenue without a capital “r”. Father O’Reilly was the only Catholic priest in Wellington from his arrival in 1843 until 1850, and he secured the location for this, the first Catholic church in Wellington.
Steps up to Flagstaff Hill
And there it is – the flagstaff!
According to The Streets of My City, in 1843 “in fear of native attack, a battery mounted with two 18-pounders was erected.” Apparently they never saw action here.
A few years ago the surround was a bit more colourful. But now it is a picnic spot and a place to simply enjoy.
It’s a tiny part of Wellington – reported by the Dominion Post to be 1630 square metres and now owned by Wellington City. In 2017 it was designated as an official public open space; it was previously owned by a brewery.
The little parcel is historic, as reported in the Wellingtonian newspaper (20/5/2010):
“After the Wairau Affray, a bloody confrontation between Maori and Pakeha near Blenheim in 1843, settlers established a series of flagstaffs in Wellington to warn of impending Maori attack.”
The Dominion Post (12/12/2017) reports that the first flag was raised at the site in 1857 and the name came about in 1891.
The parcel was owned by Victoria University, then sold to the developers of the nearby hotel, but finally acquired by Wellington City Council in 2017 to be maintained as a public park.
The steps up from Flagstaff Hill toward upper Percival Street.
Percival Street forms the upper level of the walkway and steps surrounding Garden Terrace.
It was built in 1878 by Thomas K. Macdonald (of nearby McDonald Crescent and Kennedy Street in Mt Victoria) and named for his business partner, Percival Johnston. Mr Macdonald was a land and estate agent and according to Ms Irvine-Smith, his telephone was No.1.
From Dixon Street walk to the end where the staircase leads down the hill. Turn to the right at the bottom of the stairs then continue to another staircase, turning to the left at the bottom to follow on to the concealed little park, and the location of Flagstaff Hill, and its flagstaff.
View towards Garden Terrace park from the top of Percival Street.
The small precinct of this collection of pathways and stairs is laid out around a small meadow, Garden Terrace. When viewed from the stairs at Percival Street, with Dixon Street to your back, the Garden Terrace forms one side on the right, and Percival Street, as a footpath, continues along to the left. Both join and ascend to emerge at either Percival Street or Allenby Street on The Terrace.
Unexpected bush in the Wellington CBD formed around Garden Terrace park.
Looking back up the steps to the street level of Percival Street.
More views of Percival
A surprise – you suddenly come into such a different aspect to the surrounding city. You turn a corner and there is a glen, a miniature meadow. As Ms Irvine-Smith notes dryly, “more terrace than gardens,” it is, even so, a welcoming one.
Garden Terrace – A peaceful and usually quiet little park. Sometimes evidence of partying can be found as well.
And the long walk to the steps up to Flagstaff Hill – To start the walk again.
Concern about the condition of the Gardens is historic – here a clipping from the Evening Post 11 April 1934.
(Paperspast, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga O Aotearoa)