Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island

Engineering Site (eg Portland cement works, Maori fortifications)


Constructed between 1886 and 1915, Fort Jervois is an excellent example of a Victorian design fort in New Zealand.

Dominated by four disappearing guns, Fort Jervois preserves military technology from an age when five mile ranges were considered sufficient to fend off the world.

Built on Ripapa Island for the defence of Lyttleton Harbour, Fort Jervois formed part of a British plan for the protection of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific naval forces. Similar works were constructed at North Head, Auckland, Point Gordon, Wellington and Taiaroa Head, Dunedin, but none of these is as complete or as comprehensive.

The following extract is from a Defence report to the General Assembly in the 1890s:

“The fort occupies the whole of the Island, following its irregular outline. Four breach-loading guns are arranged in a quadrilateral plan and severally connected by passages from pit to pit successively, which start from either end of a wide gallery or bastion trace closing gorge, and loophold to sweep parade in rear.

From the centre of the gorge gallery is a central passage to the centre of the passage between No 3 and 4, 8 inch guns on the front of the quadrilateral. On either side of this passage are bombproof casemates (towards the rear end) and magazines (in centre of quadrilateral) with ammunition passages between No 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 guns respectively.

The whole is covered with 10 ft of earth, escarped to the sea with high wall and forming solid rampant mass which is profiled at the rear over the gorge gallery into musketry parapet (20 yards), sweeping top, with QF gun emplaced at right end. From either end of the gorge loopholed wall, musketry parapets enclose a low level terreplein (of rest of island) (total trace including loopholes about 20 yd) with escarp walls to the sea and No 6 QF gun on the left flank.

“Entrance from the jetty is by an arched gallery with drawbridge lower end and loopholed gates upper end. Bombproof accommodation in gorge gallery and casemates for 50 men in war. Corrugated iron barracks (in open) on parade for 60 men in war.”

Concept: W.F.D. Jervois, G.C.M.G., Governor
Design: Lt. Col. Boddam, Engineer for Defences
Gun Maker: Sir W.G. Armstrong & Co
Construction: Permanent Artillery, contract labour, relief workers and prison labour
Commenced 1885 – Basic fort completed 1895
Owner: Department of Conservation

Heritage Recognition
This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place (List no.5306):
Fort Jervois: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information (

IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project
This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this coastal fortress as part of the development of the nation.


No Attachments


Ripapa Island, Lyttelton Harbour


Access Info
This place is managed by the Department of Conservation. For more information and access details please click here.

Nature of Engineering
Building and Construction

Lat: -43.62038808944439 Long: 172.75458097457886