new icn messageflickr-free-ic3d pan white
Parliament bonfire | by National Library of New Zealand
Back to photostream

Parliament bonfire

Photographer unidentified, 1907 fire at Parliament buildings, 11 December 1907, Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference: 1/2-008517-F


Published in the Capital Times, 18 January 2012


In the very early morning of 11 December 1907, faulty wiring started a fire in Parliament buildings. They were mostly made of wood and the fire quickly spread. This slightly unfocused photograph captures the chaos. It was early dawn and the walls on the left were just about to disappear into the flames. Soon nothing was left but chimney stacks. Luckily a fire wall helped save the new General Assembly Library wing on the right.


In front of the building you can just see some of the furniture, books and documents rescued during the night. Historical records were lost, though, including nearly all the Government’s nineteenth century correspondence with Maori – one of the great tragedies of New Zealand archives keeping.


Big plans were made for a suitable replacement. Unfortunately the design chosen proved too ambitious and the building was never quite completed. That means that our Parliament buildings now comprise the Library wing of the old Parliament, in Gothic revival style, a neo-classical centrepiece with the southern wing missing, and an upturned flowerpot. Few other countries can boast such an eclectic mix.


Take a closer look


See more images of the fire


Permission of the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga O Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.


Wellingtonians: From the Turnbull Collections contains revised and expanded entries, and some new ones too. This high-quality publication is available for just $29.99. You can pick it up from from good bookshops or get it straight from the publisher, Steele Roberts.

3 faves
Taken on December 11, 1907