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Thorndon, New Zealand facts for kids

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Thorndon in front of Kelburn andTe Ahumairangi Hill. Karori in the distance
Thorndon in front of Kelburn and
Te Ahumairangi Hill. Karori in the distance
Country New Zealand
Local authority Wellington City Council
Electoral ward Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward
Established 1840
 • Land 148 ha (366 acre)
 (June 2021)
 • Total 4,440
Railway station(s)
Ferry terminal(s) Wellington Interislander Terminal, Wellington Bluebridge Terminal
Wilton Wadestown
Kelburn, Pipitea


Thorndon is a historic inner suburb of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Because the suburb is relatively level compared to the hilly terrain elsewhere in Wellington it contained Wellington's elite residential area until its best was destroyed in the 1960s by a new motorway and the erection of tall office buildings on the sites of its Molesworth Street retail and service businesses.

Before Thorndon was Thorndon it was Haukawakawa and in 1824 Pipitea Pā was settled at its southern end. More recently Pipitea Marae and the land under the Government Centre have been separated from Thorndon and the name Pipitea returned to them in 2003. The reclamations have been included in the new suburb Pipitea.

Thorndon combines the home of government and upmarket residential accommodation. It is located at the northern end of the Central Business District.


The buildings (dating from 1899) of the New Zealand Parliament are located in Thorndon. Thorndon is also the location of many Government departments including the National Library (1987) and Archives New Zealand (1957). Thorndon is surrounded by major transportation links. To the west, towards the foot of Te Ahumairangi Hill (formerly known as Tinakori Hill) which hangs above the suburb, is the Wellington Urban Motorway, part of New Zealand State Highway network. Schools located in Thorndon include Wellington Girls' College (1883), St Mary's College (1850), Queen Margaret College (1919) and primary schools Thorndon School (1852) and Sacred Heart Cathedral School (1850). Thorndon is home to two Cathedrals: Anglican St Paul's Cathedral (completed in 1998) built to replace the former pro-cathedral, Old Saint Paul's (1866) and Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral opened in 1901 to replace the destroyed St Mary's Cathedral dating from 1851. Katherine Mansfield Birthplace is located in Thorndon, and is the house where Katherine Mansfield grew up. The Thistle Inn is one of New Zealand's oldest public houses, originally built in 1840. Artist Rita Angus lived in Thorndon from 1955 to her death in 1970. Her 1877 cottage is now used to host the Rita Angus Residency for visiting artists. Westpac Stadium, one of New Zealand's top sports venues, is located nearby and the Thorndon Tennis (and Squash) Club, established in the 19th century, is one of the oldest in the world. Many embassies, high commissions and consulates are located in Thorndon including: the US, Chinese, Cuban, German, Italian, Philippine, Thai and Turkish Embassies; the Australian, British, Canadian, Cook Islands, Fijian, Indian, and Niue High Commissions; and the Norwegian and Swedish Consulates-General.


The Thorndon Fair is held annually, usually on the first Sunday of December. The fair has many stalls selling crafts and second-hand goods and is held for the benefit of Thorndon School. It has taken place for many years and is one of the main community events held in Thorndon. Parts of Tinakori Road and Hill Street are closed during the fair.

Geographic boundaries

Land reclamation Thorndon
Port facilities reclamation 1925
Pipitea Point, Thorndon Quay and the Hobson Street houses above it

Thorndon occupies the northern end of the narrow coastal plain that makes up the heart of Wellington. It is flanked by the green hills of Wadestown to the west and the port facilities of Wellington Harbour to the east.

The boundaries of Thorndon form an approximate triangle. Starting from the lower south-west corner, at the intersection of Glenmore St and Collins Tce, the boundary goes up through Tinakori Hill, across through Weld St and along to Baker St. Then the boundary follows the west side of Thorndon Quay down until Hill St, where it goes across to Bowen St, Tinakori Road and Glenmore St (until Collins Tce).


One of the few comparatively flat areas on the harbour, Thorndon became a significant part of Port Nicholson's first organised European settlement in 1840. European settlers built their houses alongside the Maori settlement of Pipitea and named their portion after Thorndon, the family residence of W H F Petre, a director of their organisation, The New Zealand Company.

Sir Robin Cooke, who grew up beside the Thorndon tennis club, took the title of Lord Cooke of Thorndon when raised to the peerage - although prior to his death on 30 August 2006 he lived in Karori.


Thorndon statistical area covers 1.48 km2 (0.57 sq mi). It had an estimated population of 4,440 as of June 2021, with a population density of 3000 people per km2.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 3,477 —    
2013 3,687 +0.84%
2018 4,020 +1.74%

Thorndon had a population of 4,020 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 333 people (9.0%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 543 people (15.6%) since the 2006 census. There were 1,860 households. There were 1,923 males and 2,097 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.92 males per female. The median age was 32.9 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 312 people (7.8%) aged under 15 years, 1,443 (35.9%) aged 15 to 29, 1,833 (45.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 432 (10.7%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 79.0% European/Pākehā, 6.9% Māori, 2.5% Pacific peoples, 17.2% Asian, and 3.7% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 36.6%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 55.1% had no religion, 29.9% were Christian, 3.1% were Hindu, 1.3% were Muslim, 1.7% were Buddhist and 4.0% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 2,193 (59.1%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 114 (3.1%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $52,900, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 2,469 (66.6%) people were employed full-time, 435 (11.7%) were part-time, and 129 (3.5%) were unemployed.


Schools located in Thorndon include Wellington Girls' College, St Mary's College, Queen Margaret College and primary schools Thorndon School and Sacred Heart Cathedral School.

The Central Regional Health School, a hospital school, is located in Thorndon. It has a roll of 22 as of July 2016.

Notable residents

Old Government House Thorndon MA I081661
Old Government House Thorndon
circa 1877 on the site of the Beehive.
Old Parliament Buildings at the left
on the site of the Parliamentary Library

Ex officio

Private citizens

French Embassy, Wellington
Residence of the Ambassador of France

Hobson Street

  • Charles Abraham (bishop of Wellington)
  • Charles Barron
  • Harold Beauchamp #8
  • Alfred Brandon (politician)
  • Alfred Brandon (mayor)
  • Alfred Brandon (lawyer)
  • William Henry Clayton
House of Robert Pharazyn, Hobson Street, Wellington
Robert Pharazyn's house
T C Williams's tower in the background
  • Charles Clifford
  • John Duncan (1839–1919) now the site of the Australian High Commission
  • Robert Hart (politician)
  • Charles Beard Izard
  • Walter Woods Johnston #6
  • Jacob Joseph (merchant)
  • Arthur Myers, Cabinet Minister
  • Evelyn Margaret Page #20
  • Robert Pharazyn merchant and runholder
  • William Pharazyn merchant and runholder
  • Robert Stains
  • Thomas Coldham Williams (1825–1912) runholder now Queen Margaret College

Tinakori Road

W H Levin's house and drive from Tinakori Rd
W H Levin's house in Tinakori Road
  • Harold Beauchamp #25 and 133
  • Elsdon Best
  • Isaac Featherston land now Newman Terrace
  • George Hunter (mayor)
  • Nathaniel Levin merchant
  • William Levin merchant and runholder now Pendennis, #15 Burnell Avenue
  • Douglas Lilburn #22 Ascot Street
  • Katherine Mansfield
  • Andrew Todd (New Zealand)
Queen Margaret College, Wellington
Queen Margaret College 2012
T C Williams's house is said to have had more than 30 rooms

Fitzherbert Terrace

  • John Johnston (New Zealand politician) merchant and runholder, driveway Katherine Avenue, Queen Margaret College and Thorndon tennis club courts
  • Harold Beauchamp #47

Hawkestone Street and Portland Crescent

  • Joseph Nathan merchant, founded Glaxo now GlaxoSmithKline

Hill Street

  • Charles Hayward Izard #21
  • Jonas Woodward
Sydney Street West, Thorndon (14401399832)
Sydney Street West. Rita Angus's cottage with red roof and yellow walls

Sydney Street West

  • Rita Angus #194a

Bowen Street

  • Alexander Turnbull #25
  • Bowen Street Hospital

Murphy Street

  • Arthur Donald Stuart Duncan
  • Robin Cooke took the suburb's name when raised to a life peerage

Thorndon Quay

  • George Friend

Glenmore Street

Many embassies, high commissions and consulates are located in Thorndon including: the US, Chinese, Cuban, German, Italian, Philippine, Thai and Turkish Embassies; the Australian, British, Canadian, Cook Islands, Fijian, Indian, and Niue High Commissions; and the Norwegian and Swedish Consulates-General.

Thorndon Esplanade

Postcard. Thorndon Esplanade and Baths, Wellington. New Zealand post card. G and G Series no. 105. Printed in Berlin (ca 1905) (20986497464)
Thorndon Esplanade ca. 1905

"Wellington's Show Walk". Thorndon Esplanade with its baths and shrubs lies beneath Aotea Quay. Its band rotunda was sent to Central Park in 1921. Built at the end of the 1880s on the reclamation of the Manawatu Railway Company and intended to be a place of fashionable display it did not survive the first World War. It had become dirty and disreputable suffering from the increased activity in the smoky railway yards alongside. Its coprosmas and "gallant pohutukawas" never grew larger seeming to lack any care from the City Council but the wind and the poor soil and the grimy railway yard discouraged plants and visitors. "Lovers seemed to monopolise the gardens in the evenings".

The salt water baths were closed in 1920 and the superstructure moved to Evans Bay for dressing sheds. New baths opened in Murphy Street in November 1924 with certain hours set aside for mixed bathing.

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