Read about how the Basin Reserve got its name on the Wellington City Council website.
For many years, the Basin Reserve was the venue for the sports and entertainments which followed the annual procession of unionists and supporters from the Government Building. The first Labour Day in 1890 was planned to be held in the Basin Reserve, with the venue booked by the unions, but it seems that cricket and influential councillors forced a move to Newtown Park that year. (The highlight at that inaugural Day was an appearance by the elderly Parnell, who died just a few weeks later.) From 1893, however, the procession of unionists and supporters marching behind banners and colourful floats culminated at the Basin Reserve. There, speeches by dignitaries, athletic sports, bicycle races, art union lotteries, auctions, bands, merry-go-rounds and swings for children and refreshments drew large crowds. At the first public holiday Labour Day in 1900, a record crowd gathered in the Basin Reserve to hear Premier Seddon speak and to enjoy the music and sports.
The photograph below was taken at the Basin Reserve in January 1930. It was a great day for New Zealand cricket. Batting first the New Zealand openers put on 276 for the first wicket, for many years a New Zealand record, and the scoreboard shows the moment when both openers reached their centuries.
In the background above the Basin work is just beginning on the car tunnel, while to the right the north wing of the Wellington Girls’ College building hall is nearly complete. Outside the ground a tram advertising soap rumbles along Dufferin Street, between the Wakefield Memorial and the long-demolished houses on the other side. The scoreboard and the little scorers’ shed in the northeast corner had been erected a few years before. Nowadays the scoreboard is on the southern side.
Another photo from the Basin Reserve in 1930: