Vulcan Lane was initially created as a colonial thoroughfare connecting Queen Street and High Street. It was subject to intermittent Maori occupation and the gully was originally known Horotiu. As early as the mid 1800’s a single story brick structure was erected and eventually it was leased to wine and spirit merchants till the 1880’s, this building eventually became known as Cleaves Building after Arthur Cleave who established a successful printing and publishing business there.
By the early 1920’s Vulcan Lane was aptly nicknamed ‘Vultures Lane’ due to the many bookmakers and journalists working in the lane or frequenting one of its drinking establishments.
Vulcan Lane first housed grain merchants, boot makers, clock makers, and had a general store. Eventually it was overrun with unsavoury characters such as streetwalkers, pedlars, and criminals who used to frequent the footpaths outside several of these establishments.
The oldest of one of those drinking establishments is the Queens Ferry Hotel which was founded in 1865, and is a surviving example of a continuously licensed building. It was originally erected in 1850 as a retail store then converted to a hotel in 1865. It is of historical significance as a heritage building. It was the first licensed premises in Vulcan Lane and was popular as a working class pub and popular also with literary people. In the basement in the 1800’s they kept cages in which to lock sailors in after hours thus ensuring they did not miss their boat the next day. They were smuggled through a small window in the back down to the stream that ran below and rowed from there in dinghies back to Queens Wharf. Other interesting patrons included the Scots Militia in its early days, the Freemasons in the 1800’s and it is renown in the notorious Bassett Road murder as the place the machine gun was assembled.
In the 1870’s The Occidental Hotel opened its doors and is also registered as an historical building with the Historic Places Trust.
Vulcan Lane has seen a transformation from a muddy narrow service track in the early 1800’s to a pedestrian byway, in the mid 1800’s. It then turns its focus in 1850 to more commercial redevelopment and by 1875 there were complaints of the growing congestion in the lane. By the 1890’s Vulcan Lane was overcrowded and plans in the 1920’s saw the lane widened. After the war motor traffic increased and it became a less than desirable meeting place. In the 1960’s it was transformed back to a pedestrian mall and is how we see it today.
It still flourishes as a central gathering place and we hope you will come visit us at our Vulcan Lane establishment, while your here possibly have a few pints at The Queens Ferry or The Occidental, great places to do some people watching then later grab some food at one of the many eateries situated in and around the lane. Vulcan Lane is still a great place to hang out we hope to see you here soon.
If you would like to read some additional history on Vulcan Lane click on the Heritage Places website link below