journal of museums aotearoa
On target for Torpedo BayThe Navy Museum has operated out of premises on Spring Street in Devonport since April 1982. Prior to this, it was sited in old naval huts within the naval base for about eight years and there was no public access. It has long since out grown the Spring Street site, so the forthcoming move to dedicated premises in Torpedo Bay is somewhat overdue.
Planning to redevelop the Navy Museum at Torpedo Bay began ten years ago and is now moving apace. To date, Opus International Consultants Limited have been engaged as the principal Design Consultants for the project. OPUS partnered with Ken Davis of Herriot Melhuish Architects and Dave Pearson of Dave Pearson Heritage Architects Ltd to provide specialist design input. Rick Pearson of Pearson and Associates Architects Limited has also been engaged to design and fit out the interior permanent exhibition spaces. Design of both the new Museum and the exhibitions is proceeding well and it is programmed to have the Museum completed and open by early March 2010.
Torpedo Bay, on the South West of North Head/Maunga a Uika has magnificent sea views across Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour to Bastion Point, out to Bean Rock and inwards to downtown Auckland. A significant heritage site, it has many layers of history and relevance to both local history and the naval history of New Zealand. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate location for the new Navy Museum.
A Maori anchorageChoosing an appropriate site for a new museum is not a task to be taken lightly. Maori recognised the potential of Torpedo Bay long ago. When the first Maori settlers arrived at the Bay, there was a small stream draining the low lying swamp and a fresh water spring at the head. Kupe, the great Maori navigator, is understood to have landed his canoe here. He named the bay Te Hau Kapua (cloud bank carried along by the wind). About 200 years later (1150AD) another great navigator Toi te Hautahi, following Kupe’s directions, also reached the Bay. His grandson settled at North Head at the Harbour entrance, giving the name Maunga a Uika (Uika’s hill). The next significant arrival was the Tainui canoe, part of the great ‘seven canoe’ fleet and commanded by Chief Hoturoa. The Tainui people are credited with naming the spring ‘Takapuna’, which later came to refer to the surrounding area. North Head was fortified by the Maori inhabiting the area. However, being difficult to defend and open to siege and attack from sea-going war canoes, Maori seem to have gradually abandoned it as a fort.
European landfallLater arrivals were also attracted to this safe anchorage. The French explorer Dumont D’Urville was among the first Europeans to set foot on North Head in 1827. Around 1835, the descendants of the Takapuna people came back to the three high points of Mt Victoria, Mt Cambria and North Head. Their food pits and middens are still visible on the slopes of North Head. By 1878, George Beddoes established a ship-building yard at the bottom of Te Hau Kapua, now also being called Pilot Bay. Nearly 20 years later, Pilot Bay became the location for a Torpedo Base (today we would describe this as a Mining Base) for the defence of Auckland. Workshops, a jetty, offices and stores were built by the military, and by 1897 the complex had undergone two expansions, including a barracks building built by convict labour and a seawall faced with stone. Plans of the time show what is essentially the present layout.
Built to last – early naval heritageThe buildings at the Torpedo Bay mining base were substantial structures. They had to be as defending New Zealand was a serious job. While these buildings to not appear on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust register, they are registered with the Defence Heritage Register. The Connecting-up Shed and Loading Shed are both Category B and the Mine Store and Test Room are registered as Category A. The Connecting-up Shed, dating from 1897, is nearly 36 metres long, 18 metres wide and eight metres high. It has timber-framed walls and a roof structure consisting of a series of steel and timber trusses. The entire building was clad with corrugated iron with natural light being provided by a series of skylights and two small windows in each gable end. Over the years, a number of changes have occurred with lean-to structures and various windows being added. The original external sheathing has been changed and the interior repartitioned.
The Loading Stores have concrete walls and three sets of doors on opposite sides of the building through which the trolleys loaded with mines passed. Although the building has been altered in later years with partition walls being added, the original structure remains intact. The Mine Store at the base of the cliff consisted of two stores at either side of a test shed. The roof and the walls of the structure are 600 mm thick and built of concrete reinforced with railway lines to withstand enemy bombardments.
The current Shipwright’s Shop may have replaced an earlier building in the same location. It has similarities to the military buildings on North Head and probably dates from the 1940s. The building has timber framed walls and a truss roof. The walls are sheathed with weatherboards and the roof is corrugated steel. The former Test Room, later known as the ‘Ye Old Chippy Shop’, was excavated into the cliff. It is this structure that may have served as the prison for German officer Count Friederich von Luckner whose daring escapes turned him into a rather dashing popular hero, despite his enemy status. The walls appear to be plastered masonry and the roof is concrete, reinforced with railway lines. The front wall has a pair of double hung windows and a single door.
These heritage buildings will form the core of the new museum development.
Creative re-usePlanning for the new museum is at a preliminary stage with sketch plans already prepared. The historic buildings are all to be preserved and will become exhibits in their own right, as well as being adapted for new uses as part of the museum complex.
Under the current proposal, the Connecting-up Shed is set to become the main exhibition space with an entry and café in one corner. The building will be reclad with corrugated steel and relined inside. New windows will be provided for the café. The important heritage elements of the building including the roof trusses, the original windows and the surviving railway tracks in the floor will all be retained.
The Loading Stores area will also be kept and is destined to become a classroom, although the doors through which the mine trolleys passed will be retained. The Shipwright’s Building will be refurbished for use as the Museum’s administration centre. Elsewhere heritage elements such as the exposed internal roof trusses, the majority of the existing windows and the weatherboard walls will all be preserved. The Mines Store at the foot of the cliff will await restoration at another time. The Test Room, his former prison, will house a permanent exhibit about Von Luckner.
Safe harbourThe Torpedo Bay Boatyard is one of Auckland’s most significant historic military sites and the Navy Museum has the potential to become one of Auckland’s foremost visitor attractions. The Navy acknowledges and values the history of the Bay in pre-European times, in Auckland’s early colonial period and as part of Auckland’s military record. It recognises the contribution this rich heritage can add to the new Museum, and the potential of the Museum to enhance the heritage trails in Devonport and complement the historic sites managed by the Department of Conservation.
As the premier museum on Auckland’s North Shore, the Navy Museum is set to become the heritage flagship for all North Shore City residents. Its most appropriate waterfront setting in Torpedo Bay has the blessing of the North Shore City Council and will surely appeal to Aucklanders as well as tourists from overseas. The Navy Museum team is excited about the prospects and eager to follow this new course. Roll on, 2010!
Te Ara - Journal of Museums Aotearoa ; Volume 33; Issue 1 & 2; November 2009
Figure 1: The Torpedo Bay Boatshed, looking across the Waitemata Harbour to Auckland City, is being developed as the site of the new Navy Museum. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: NICOLA PAYNE, THE NAVY MUSEUM.
Figure 2: The Submarine Mining Base and general store at Torpedo Bay, 1886.
|The new Navy Museum will open mid 2010. Further information can be found on the museum’s website www.navymuseum.mil.nz. To subscribe to the museum’s on-line newsletter Te Waka email email@example.com. For a free subscription to The White Ensign, the Navy Museum’s heritage journal email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
LAST UPDATED: 28/06/2010