“Clubhouses on the Move”.

Foundation of the Star Boating Club, 1866/1867:

In this Blog I outline the history of the establishment of the Star Boating Club and the Clubhouses and sites occupied from the first in 1867.

In opening I have sought to clarify Star’s actual founding date. One finds this most often cited as 1866. In fact here we are in 2016 celebrating an Anniversary of 150 years. Research confirms that 1866 is the formally recognised date of inception, and it recognises that the significant moves to found the club were initiated in 1866, with its incorporation being undertaken at a Special Meeting held in March 1867. New Zealand Rowing records use the incorporation date, but in historic terms 1866 is the valid founding date.

On the very first page of Minute Book 1 of the 8 volumes held at the Alexander Turnbull Library we find the following undated resolutions:
1. “At a Meeting of Shareholders in the “Faugh a Ballagh, Empire City &’whaleboat’
Present Mr Robert Kirton in the Chair. Messrs H F Logan W Alnuth Thos Hoggard
It was proposed that the Proprietors of the several boats should amalgamate to form one club. That Messrs R Kirton H F Logan E Cook J C Boddington E C Donovan and L Buck be appointed to a sub committee to bring up a Report at a future meeting.”

This was followed by:
2. “Meeting of Sub Committee held on (no date recorded)
Present Mr Robert Kirton (in the Chair), Messrs Logan, Boddington, Cook and Buck.
It was resolved that the following proposition be brought before the next General Meeting, eg: That the several boats should be thrown into one propriety and taken to account of the new Club at the following prices viz the “Faugh a Ballagh” and “Empire City at £25 each the whaleboat at £15 and the new Gig (Rua Laura) at cost price.”
It was further resolved that the name of the Club be the Star Regatta Club. This was changed however to Star Boating Club before the next meeting. The member­ship of the Club was fixed at £5 with an annual subscription of £1 payable quarterly.
In addition to the sub-committee other original members at the meeting were: Messrs. Walter Grey (in chair), John Hoggard, A. E. Grimstone, Thos. Hoggard, H. Owen, Jas Aimes and W. Alnuth. The first President was Capt. R. Sharp and for the first year only the Vice Presidents were Capt. R. Johnson and Mr J. F. Hoggard. No other Vice-Presidents were elected until 1910. The first Commodore, or Club Captain, was Mr Edmund Cook, the Secretary Treasurer, Mr J. C. Boddington and Messrs. R. Kirton, E. C. Donovan, H. Owen and John Hoggard formed the first working committee.

The owners of the four boats were in fact shareholders in the club, their shares being taken out as debentures. In addition to many of the above named, other original shareholder were: Chas Willeston, C. P. Powles, J. McTavish, Isaac Plimmer, T. C. Taylor, J. C. Bethune, Chas Borlane, E.C. Batkin, Jas Warburton and W. F. Parsons. In all, 29 individual shares were issued, 7 of which belonged to H. F. Logan. It was permissible to transfer the shares to another person but in 1871 all outstanding shares were surrendered or purchased by the Club and the shareholders became normal members.

The last of the four original boats, the “Empire City”remained in service until 1888 when it was sold for £3 to the Grey River Rowing Club. Some of the original members held administrative positions in the Club for some years, particularly Messrs H. F. Logan and E. C. Batkin who as Secretary from 1878 to 1888 was largely responsible for the formation of the NZ. Amateur Rowing Association, along with Mr William Fitzgerald, Club Captain, 1886 – 1888, who became known as “the Father of Rowing in New Zealand”. As far as can be ascertained Mr Batkin was also the last surviving original member until his death in 1914.

FirstClubhouse18671867 – the first Clubhouse:

During the first few months of its existence the Club had its boats stored in various sheds around the then waterfront. In March 1867 an instalment of £30 was paid toward the cost of erecting a new shed, the total cost of which was estimated at £52. This shed was completed by May 1, 1867, on a site very near the present Cenotaph on Lambton Quay, opposite Bowen Street. The shed was a basic wooden structure sited right on the high tide mark and was one of few buildings on the seaward side of Lambton Quay.

The need for a waterside site, combined with the changing waterfront, necessitated the first of what became ultimately 3 moves for the Club.


1874 – the second ClubhouseStar1stsite1870Lambton Quay:

On 20 April 1874 £100 was borrowed to settle accounts due on a new shed which had been built alongside Plimmer’s Wharf, at the other end of Lambton Quay, with frontage to Customhouse Quay, close to the old site of the Bank of New Zealand. Interest on the loan was to be a first charge upon the annual subscriptions.  Other fund-raising included a Soiree held in the Oddfellows Hall “for the purpose of providing funds to liquidate the debt incurred in the building of the new shed”.

The new shed was constructed from the old Star and the Telegraph Boat Sheds. The Club had received Government approval to acquire the Telegraph Club.

The prominent building two back from the Star Shed in the photograph to the left, is the Wellington Club established in 1841. This is possibly the first of its 3 Clubhouse buildings, all of which have occupied The Terrace site.

THE STAR BOATING CLUB.”, Evening Post, Volume X, Issue 203, 14 October 1874 In the Report of Oliver Wakefield, Hon. Secretary and Treasurer, presented to the Annual General Meeting, he very eloquently outlines the circumstances of the sudden move after the addition of a large extra wing to the original shed.

On 7 December of the same year fresh water was connected and a number of lockers constructed. Due to an increasing membership and the acquisition of more boats the shed was extended to twice its size and a dressing room was added during June 1878.

Star Boating Club seen from the harbour looking towards Jervois Quay, photographed on 11 July 1888 by Frederick James Halse of Wellington.
Star Boating Club seen from the harbour looking towards Jervois Quay, photographed on 11 July 1888 by Frederick James Halse of Wellington.

1887 – third Clubhouse and its first site:

Again in 1883, further harbour reclamation made it obvious that the Club would have to move once more. Coupled with this was an increasing number of members. The 1887 Annual Report states that 94 new members had been admitted during the year bringing the total to 251 Active.

After protracted negotiations with both the Wellington Harbour Board and Wellington City Corporation the Club was given leave to erect a new clubhouse in 1885.

Before this clubhouse could be built however it was necessary for the Club to reclaim the site itself but, even so, it was realised that yet another move to a different place would be necessary in a few years time. The experiences of having to move to follow the ever shifting harbour shoreline were taken into account. Some “bright Star” came up with the idea of rather than laying the building on piles it should be placed on skids. This allowed the new clubhouse eventually to be towed to a new site behind a contractor’s steam engine (1891).

The site was on Customhouse Quay. The cost in 1886 was £2,101/14/8 made up of: Reclaiming site £450, contract for clubhouse £1445, skids and architect’s commission and sundries£206/14/8.

The building architect was Wm. Chatsfield who was a member of the Club and the Cup which he donated for a club race is still the property of the Club.

The building was a major undertaking and Members Messrs W. Fitzgerald and E. Connal devoted much time and energy to achieve its construction.

1891 – third Clubhouse and its second site:

Star Boating Club, Wellington waterfront, showing boats on water. Photograph taken ca 1890s, possibly by Wrigglesworth & Binns
Star Boating Club, Wellington waterfront, showing boats on water. Photograph taken ca 1890s, possibly by Wrigglesworth & Binns. From Field and Hodgkins family photographs / Field album 19, Alexander Turnbull Library.

It was not long before the Club was forced by harbour reclamation to move to a site on the corner of Jervois Quay and Cable Street, next door to what is now St John’s Bar, and before that, the Wellington Free Ambulance Station.

The Annual Report, October 1887 contained this comment:

“The only matter for regret which your Committee has to report is that it has been deemed advisable by the local authorities to undertake further reclamation in the Harbour, and an Act has been passed which will enable the work to be proceeded with shortly. The progress of the reclamation will no doubt, interfere for a time with the convenient use of Club plant, but a site has been provided to which the Boat-House will be removed as soon as the reclamation is completed. The Committee has obtained the most advantageous terms it could without conflicting with the shipping and mercantile interests of the port; and it thinks it right to express its acknowledgment of the assistance given by the City Council and Harbour Board in settling this matter, and of the recognition by these bodies of the importance of fostering the interests of rowing.”

This remained the Club’s headquarters until a further shift in 1989, although alterations have been made from time to time, e.g., the change of the locker room and installation of a dance hall immediately after the Second World War. Initially a lease of 21 year was obtained and this was renewed in 1907 for a further 21 years. Since 1929 through to its next move in 1989 only a month to month lease was granted by the City Council.

Boatshed photo Close Up1989 – second (and final) site of third Clubhouse:

The Wellington City Council’s history of the Wellington Waterfront records:

“The introduction of shipping goods using containers and roll-on / roll-off shipping in the 1970s and the changing needs they brought with them meant that the waterfront quickly became an industrial wasteland, which in turn sparked interest in transforming Wellington’s waterfront.

So Wellington Harbour Board, Wellington City Council and some key players with a vision for the city came into play and – after many years, public consultations and draft plans and proposals – the waterfront started to be transformed into what it is today.

The first major step forward came in 1986 with the Harbour Board and the Council signing a joint venture agreement setting up two companies – Lambton Harbour Overview Limited and Lambton Harbour Management Limited. Their task was to manage and administer a project to develop the waterfront. In 1987 an Empowerment Act allowed the Lambton Harbour Development Project to proceed.”

This relocation of the Club Rooms to what must be its final resting place, in the centre of the Lambton Harbour Development, saw the building moved to a seaward place on the lagoon within the newly developed Franks Kitts Park at the end of the old Taranaki Street Wharf. this was followed by changes to accommodate a functions centre to encourage greater community use of the facility and to generate revenues for use in the promotion of the core activity of Rowing. The building now carries the name “The Boatshed”.

LTM LogoAaron McGuinness of LT McGuinness writes:

“L T McGuinness was engaged  in early 2015 to undertake concurrently work strengthening to both the Star and Wellington Rowing clubs. We had previously conducted the successful refurbishment and lift installation in the function room 5 years earlier.

The re-strengthening works consisted of plywood diaphragms and structural steel bracing, in conjunction with a significant fire proofing elements to the historical timber framed building. The project team went to great lengths to ensure that this was in keeping with in the character of this heritage listed site, and like for like replacements of linings and trims were installed to ensure that any new work was not obvious. This was  especially important within the public spaces such as the function room.

One of the main challenges was to maintain operation of the function centre as this was the main source of income for the club. This was achieved by careful co-ordination with all stakeholders to ensure the staging of works did not interfere with existing bookings; a presentable hoarding system was erected during the works; and disruptive works were programmed in around key dates. The project was also completed earlier than projected to tie into the first rowing regatta of the year.

This was a thoroughly enjoyment project, and a great outcome for all involved.

Project team:
Architect: Anoui Architecture

Structural Engineers: Dunning Thornton
Fire Engineer: PB Fire Engineering”.


Well that’s me for the time being. I am working from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland until 10 August but will be active with more blogs. I am thinking of creating a Gallery for the next featuring some of Duncan Cameron’s collection of photographs.

I am also occupied with a number of tasks related to the 150th Celebrations, so will be kept busy.

A torn shoulder muscle has taken me out of my recreational rowing for a couple of months. This might be good news for those who might have found themselves in the opposing Golden Oldies Eights race that is being scheduled to follow the Redding Shield Regatta on Saturday 3 September.





Replies and comment most welcome