The Hawkins Basin Reserve
Above: The Hawkins Basin Reserve as it is today
The Hawkins Basin Reserve hosted its first test match on 24 January 1930 and as at 1 February 2012 had hosted 52 test matches. It has been the venue for four Boxing Day Tests. The oldest first-class ground in the country, it staged its 400th first class game in the 2009-10 season, and its significance has been acknowledged by it being the only sporting ground in New Zealand registered by the Historic Places Trust (as of 1 April 2010). It remains a beautiful international cricket ground with a distinctive name known throughout the cricketing world.
When the first settlers arrived in Wellington in 1840 there was a shallow lagoon that was linked to the harbour by a stream in what is known today as Kent & Cambridge Terrace. The plans of the colonists to turn the Basin into an inland anchorage for the city were upset when the 1855 earthquake raised the Te Aro flat by two metres and the lagoon became a swamp.
One of the major problems with the disposing of the town allotments of Wellington was that no attention was paid to the selection of reserves for public purposes. In 1857 a group of prominent citizens petitioned the Wellington Provincial Council to set aside the site of the canal and basin at Te Aro as a public park and cricket ground. The petition was granted and the first steps were taken to drain the 9 acres and 3 roods in what is now called the Basin Reserve.
Prison labour from Te Aro gaol was used for many years to implement the drainage that was paid for by the subscriptions from the cricketers of Wellington, supplemented by an equal amount from the Provincial Government. In December 1866 a meeting was held at Osgood's Hotel for those people interested in forming a cricket ground in Wellington. A committee of six, plus three trustees, met a sub-committee of the Board of Works, and the Basin Reserve was leased for three years as a cricket ground at an annual rental of €25. Thus, on 11 December 1866, the Basin Reserve formally became Wellington's home of cricket. It was another 13 months before the first game was played at the Basin Reserve. On 11 January 1868 the officers and men of HMS Falcon played the Wellington Volunteers.
At the instigation of the Caledonian Society, a grandstand was built in 1868 which also housed the ground custodian. Under the direction of a prominent cricketer, John Marchant, who was also the Surveyor-General for New Zealand, the cricketers raised and spent in excess of €200 in the years 1871 and 1872 on improving the ground.
On the 30 November 1873 the Basin Reserve played host to the touring Auckland side in Wellington's first first-class game. The first general meeting of the Wellington Cricket Association was held at the Pier Hotel on 22 October 1875, and thus the first cricket association was formed in New Zealand. The first international cricket match played at the Basin Reserve was against Lillywhite's All England XI on 5 February 1877.
A Deed of Conveyance of the Basin Reserve between the Crown and the Governor-General of New Zealand to the Wellington City Council was approved in 1884 that established that the ground was to be "forever used for the purposes of a cricket and a recreation ground by the inhabitants of Wellington." As the game developed the resources of the Wellington Cricket Association expanded. A new grandstand was opened on New Year's Day 1925 at a cost of €16,710. Today this houses the New Zealand Cricket Museum. In 1979-80 the present configuration of an oval shape, the R.A Vance Stand, the eastern bank and the current seating were undertaken. In 2003 the Wellington City Council undertook to restore the William Wakefield Memorial and after public consultation resolved to return as near as possible to its original location inside the ground. Restoration work began on the memorial in May 2006. It was finally relocated in September 2006 and its restoration officially celebrated on 7 October 2006. A new electronic replay scoreboard, named after New Zealand cricket historian Don Neely, was installed at the end of 2007 and was officially opened on 11 January 2008. The ground continues to play host to First Class and Test Match cricket. It is the home of the Wellington Firebirds and continues as the players’ favourite ground in New Zealand.
This article was first published with the kind assistance of the New Zealand Cricket Museum.
The Basin Reserve 1875
Wellington v MCC 1955
Cricket at the Basin Reserve 1976.
New Zealand v India, 1981. The first Test Match after redevelopment
Wellington Firebirds v Otago Volts, February 2009