Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

What will I find on this page?

Wondering about the local history of Island Bay? On this page we aim to collect relevant library resources and interesting local history websites about Island Bay, as well as highlight notable persons and organisations long established in Island Bay that have a strong community link.

Origins of Name

The suburb shares its name with the bay, called this because the island Tapu Te Ranga Motu sits across its mouth, and shelters it from the Cook Strait.

Features Historical & Current

Erskine College

Originally named Convent of the Sacred Heart, Erskine College was built 1905-6 to serve as a Catholic boarding school for girls. The name was changed in the 1960s to Erskine College and the boarding school was closed 1985. It is now used as an art school and function centre. Here are some links with information about Erskine College:

Erskine Chapel

Built between 1929-1930 and designed by John Sydney Swan in the French Gothic Style. Refurbished in 2003, Erskine Chapel is one of the finest chapel interiors in New Zealand, not only for its beautiful interior, but also for its superb acoustics.

Erskine Chapel on Wellington City Council's Heritage Buildings Inventory (see page 6).

Home of Compassion

The Home of Compassion was founded by Mother Mary Joseph Aubert. Home to the incurables and terminally ill, it closed at the end of June 2002.

Photo of the old Home of Compassion (Sisters of Compassion website).

Memorial Rotunda

"1914-1918. Erected by the residents to gratefully commemorate the services rendered to their King and country by those who enlisted from the Island Bay, Houghton Bay and Happy Valley districts" (plaque).

Visit NZHistory.net's Island Bay war memorial page for photos of the Memorial Rotunda and names recorded there.

South Coast Marine Reserve & Red Rocks

Located in Owhiro Bay. The red boulders are a product of undersea volcanic activity. A very good coastal walk through the Owhiro Bay Quarry to see the fur seal colony. In winter many seals can be found around Sinclair Head. Some early Wellington baches still exist beside the quarry, these are designated as a historic reserve.

Taputeranga Marine Reserve (Department of Conservation website)

Tapu Te Ranga

A pa of refuge, surrounded by a stone wall. Tamairangi (the wife of Ngati Ira chief Whanake) sought refuge here, when Ngati Ira were attacked in the tribe's final battle.

Notable persons

(Please note, this list does not include people who are still alive.)

Rita Angus, (1908-1970)

Artist - realist painter of landscapes, particularly of Otago and Christchurch, and portraits. She lived in Wellington from the 50s until her death. One of her best known works is a painting of fishing boats at Island Bay.

Suzanne Aubert, (1835-1926)

Founded The Home of Compassion. She came to NZ in 1861 from Lyons, France. She studied Botany and established patent native plant medicines.

Alan Brunton, (1946-2002)

Poet and dramatist. Founded the Auckland Freed Magazine (1969-1972). He had a modernist view of poetry not following the traditional verse forms. His poetry work started with 'Messengers in Blackface' in 1973, his last work was the play 'Goin' to Djibouti' (1996).

Robin Hyde, (1906-1939)

Born Iris Wilkinson. Journalist, novelist and poet. Her first poetic work was 'The Desolate Star' (1929) and first prose 'Journalese' (1943). Her best work is 'The Godwits Fly' (1938). She wrote a poem called 'The beaches' featuring Island Bay.

More biographies?

For more notable New Zealanders, visit The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.


Heritage Links (Local History)