Albert Barracks Wall

Albert Barracks Wall (1846)

War scare relic

Governor William Hobson may have moved the capital from the Bay of Islands in 1841, but his successors still had to keep an eye on the troubled north. These 85 m of the Albert Barracks Wall survive from a wall begun in 1846 and completed in 1851-52 to counter any raid by anti-government Māori. It used basalt quarried from Mt Eden and, ironically, relied heavily on Māori labour for its construction. When finished, the 3.6 m-high walls enclosed a large complex of buildings spread across 9.2 ha. Never tested by hostile action, the barracks nevertheless played a big role in Auckland public life. Barracks Square and the adjoining buildings hosted balls, sporting 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 pillars at the north gate, with their Māori inscription, but something went wrong and all but this stretch of wall fed the city’s public works. Most of it 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 m long; the stub of another flanking angle survives at the southern end. You can see the rifle loopholes quite clearly.

Occasionally this old symbol of Māori-Pākehā conflict has made the news. You can no longer read the 1915 plaque whose wording (‘to commemorate the union and comradeship of Pakeha and Maori during the Great European War this tablet was fixed by the Auckland Civil League Sept 1915 on the remnant of the barrack wall built by friendly Maoris in 1848 after the burning of Kororareka’) sparked protests in the 1970s. 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.

Further information

This site is item number 18 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



  • Una Platts, The lively capital, Avon Fine Prints, Christchurch, 1971

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