- ARTICLE -Coastal Defence artillery and Army Base.
in Seatoun, Wellington , New Zealand.
© Darcy Waters 1999-2002
Fort Dorset was located in the suburb of Seatoun at the entrance to the harbour of Wellington. This brief profile is about the buildings and structures rather than the people who have been at Fort Dorset.
As early as the late 1870's Pt Dorset was identified as a ideal
site for a coastal battery. This was recommended by Colonel
Scratchely. However this advice was ignored and work was undertaken
to defend the inner harbour.
It was not until the 26th April 1929 that Fort Dorset was officially
declared as a military establishment in the "Gazette" No. 28.
During the 1980's the role of Fort Dorset was that of providing
accommodation for about 200 military personnel as well as transit
accommodation for members of the Air Force, Army and Navy.
Also the fort provided regimental messing facilities and personnel
administration support for the Army General Staff and Defence HQ.
Between November 1991 and June 1999 various groups and individuals
have had permission to use occupy/use parts of Fort Dorset for various
I have had access on several occasions during 1998/99 to photograph Fort Dorset as part of a photographic record of the remains of military works around Wellington. This record is an ongoing project of mine. At Fort Dorset I had full access to both the grounds and building interiors. Which is just as well as preservation of existing buildings didn't feature in the future uses of the land.
At midnight in the evening on the 2nd June 1999 the central part
of the camp from the gun bays southward to the tennis courts (inclusive)
became property of the Ministry of Education.
As at the 9th April 2000 when I visited the Fort to check on the
demolition only a hand full of buildings had been demolished. These
were 22(D) Btty HQ, 22(D) Btty Q store, Gun Bays, Squash court/hobby
hut, VIP Chalet, the 2 storey Officers Mess and it's boiler house,
Tiwaiwaka and Kereru (officers quarters) and the Armoury.
It is a great shame that Fort Dorset has disappeared. A few of it's buildings dated back to the 1920's while many of it's buildings were built during World War 2. Although many of the buildings were refurbished internally in the 1980's their exteriors remained virtually unchanged over the years with the camp appearing like it did in the 1950's. Until it's demolition Wellington had a great collection of military works remaining - although many were in various states of disrepair.
The plan I saw when photographing the buildings back in 1999 showed the school being the northern part of the camp. According to the Dominion, Thursday April 26th 2001 The Southern section of the camp will be the housing subdivision. The developers plans clearly show the subdivision being at the southern end of the camp occupying the area where the Sergeants Mess, Conferences room/gym, Matrons Quarters, Kea, Tui, Kangaw and Kotare barracks are. The drive from Burnham street to Dorset Cove will run along where the Guard House, Q Store and Fort Dorset HQ are. (And one of the buildings forming part of the Fort Dorset HQ was originally at the Featherston Camp until 1926/7).
The Dorset Cove subdivision will have 16 sections with the cheapest going for about $395,000 (section only). Resource consent had been notified with submissions to the Wellington City Council closing on May 22nd 2001. Apparently the land was sold for about $6 million. The developer is Globe Holdings Ltd and their website for Dorset Cove is at www.dorsetcove.com. At their website are various plans relating to the subdivision.
When I visited the site on Sunday the 2nd of September 2001 construction of the new school was well underway with the foundation, floor and main pillars of one built while another building has foundations and floor being done. A fence was going up running across between where the gun-bays and PWD workshops were. Meanwhile at the south end of the camp demolition work is virtually complete except for the removal of foundations. The ridgeline and scrub area is reserve land thus meaning that the observation posts, emplacements and related structures along the rudge are not in imminent threat.
Seatoun School shifted into it's new buildings at the Fort Dorset site during the April school holidays. As of the 12th of July 2002 Seatoun School had about 313 students. The school occupies the southern sports field (that was opposite the Fort Dorset HQ) as well as the area that the parade ground and 22(D) gunbays and offices occupied.
Work started mid 2002 for the Point Dorset subdivision which will occupy the land North of the new Seatoun school (from behind where the 22(d) battery gun bays were) mid 2002. This is also being developed by Globe Holdings Ltd.
The demise of Fort Dorset is very unfortunate. The land south of the new school is the Dorset Cove subdivision and the land north of the school is listed at Globe Holdings Ltd website as being for the "Point Dorset" subdivision. This means that Shelly bay is the only WW2 site that is predominantly composed of wooden structures in Wellington. And even that site is not safe from the threat of demolition.
Fort Dorset Record Book
Education Review Office -
© Copyright Darcy Waters 1999-2003