09 July 2015

Wrights Hill Fortress

  • Love, W H, fl 1943. Aerial view over Karori, Wellington, showing the construction of coastal defence works at Wright's Hill during World War II [2 March 1943]
  • Hughes, E J, fl 1943. The No 2 magazine, looking toward the ammunition hoist, during the construction of the World War II coastal defence works, Wright's Hill, Karori, Wellington

Wrights Hill Fortress in Wellington was one of three long range coastal batteries built in New Zealand during World War Two. The other two fortresses were in the environs of Auckland at Waiheke Island and Whangaparoa Peninsula.

The Wrights Hill site was first identified in 1935 but authority for the work was not given until March 1942. Engineering contractors, Downer, were awarded the contract for the construction work although as manpower problems arose later in the project Public Works Department workers also became involved. The construction involved 620 metres (m) of interconnected tunnels leading to three gun emplacements for three 9.2 inch guns. The site was independently powered by two 185 horsepower Ruston and Hornsby diesel generators to manoeuvre the guns, and auxiliary generators to supply lighting and air conditioning.

Two guns were installed by the Army in 1944, but the order for the third was cancelled as the situation in the Pacific war improved. Each gun weighed 135 tons – the barrels alone weighing 28 tons. The two installed guns were not fired during the war but were satisfactorily fired after the war in 1946 and 1947 with three rounds each. Local damage to windows resulted from the firing. The guns could fire a 172 kilogram (kg) shell up to 30 kilometre across Cook Strait towards Tory channel, or up as far as Plimmerton. Each shell was about 1m long and was propelled by two half charges of 28kg of cordite.

The fortress was closed in the late 1950s, the guns sold for scrap in 1960 and the site abandoned. The fortress was rescued by the Karori Lions Club and opened for the public for the first time on ANZAC Day 1989. Subsequently the Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society was formed and has been actively restoring the site to near its former state.

Heritage recognition

This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place (List no.7543):
Wright's Hill Fortress: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information.


Find out more

Location

Wrights Hill Road, Karori, Wellington.

Access

This site is only accessible on public open days or by arranging a tour. The Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society website has information on open days and tours.

Further reading

Peter Cooke, Defending New Zealand – Ramparts on the Sea 1840-1950s, Wellington, 2000.