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Wellington Harbour Board buildings during the 1913 strike


A crowd gathers on Jervois Quay in front of the gates to Queen’s Wharf during the 1913 strike. The Wellington Harbour Board’s boardroom was on the first floor of the building on the right, which is now the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. The Harbour Board’s wharf offices were in the building opposite. The ship Northern can be seen in the background.

Strikers frequently protested outside these Harbour Board buildings and gathered at mass meetings in nearby Post Office Square. On the opposite side of Jervois Quay, facing the Harbour Board buildings, was the Queens’ Chambers building, which housed the offices of the Wellington Waterside Workers’ Union and the Federated Seamens’ Union.

A block north of Post Office Square, on the corner of Johnston Street and Customhouse Quay, was the Union Steam Ship Company building. This was the venue for meetings of the Shipowners’ Strike Committee, which later expanded to become the Employers’, Farmers’ and Citizens’ Defence Committee. This group included Robert Fletcher, the chairman of the Wellington Harbour Board, W.A. Kennedy, the Wellington manager for the Union Steam Ship Company, and John-Pearce Luke, the Wellington’s mayor. The committee co-ordinated opposition to the strike in Wellington.

In 1913 there was a large shed, X Shed, located to the north of what are now sheds 11 and 13, beside the Customhouse and the Eastbourne Ferry terminal. X Shed, known as the ‘Donkey Room’, was where wharfies waited to go to work. It was also used by watersiders for union meetings. Two meetings were held here on on 22 October: the stopwork meeting that sparked the employers’ lockout, and a meeting that afternoon at which the watersiders voted to strike in response.

After 10 November the Harbour Board prevented the union from using the Donkey Room. It was converted into a dormitory in which ‘free labour’ or ‘scabs’ could live and sleep between shifts without having to cross any picket lines. The shed had bunks and hot baths, and could accommodate nearly 400 men.

See more images of Wellington during the 1913 strike here (Flickr)


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference no:1/2-048927-G
Photograph taken by Sydney Charles Smith
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image

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Wellington Harbour Board buildings during the 1913 strike, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated