Bolton Hotel is named after one of the first immigrant ships to arrive in New Zealand in the 1800s. Legend has it that one of the passengers, Sophia Harris, brought a cutting of her favourite rose which she carefully nurtured by ingeniously planting it in a potato. The rose cutting survived the long and hazardous journey and now the same species, the Harris Rose, can be enjoyed in the garden outside the hotel. The story of Sophia Harris inspires everything we do at the Bolton Hotel, using independent thought to nurture what we care about the most; our guests.


175 years ago The Bolton Ship arrived on Wellington’s shores carrying keen gardener Sophia Harris, with a piece of her homeland; a rose, which survived the hazardous journey in a potato. This historical rose, now known as the 'Harris Rose' is now set to return to the capital city and find a new home at the Bolton Street Memorial Park. What location could be more appropriate than the street named after the vessel that brought it to Wellington?

On Saturday (19 July) descendants of rose lover Sophia Harris are going to plant two rose bushes propagated from the original ‘Harris’ rose in a small area of the park on the corner of Mowbray and Bolton streets, opposite the Bolton Hotel.

Upon their arrival in Wellington the Harris family settled in the Hutt Valley where Sophia planted her precious rose. Cuttings of the original plant that have been raised for this week's planting were taken by Mary Stevens from the Christ Church Preservation Society. Christ Church is an historic Anglican church in Taita where Sophia is buried. Mary herself raised one of the two rose bushes to be planted, the other by the Botanic Gardens Nursery.

Managing Director of the five star Bolton Hotel, Warwick Angus, learnt about the rose during the construction of the now 10 year old hotel and has been involved with the plans to plant it in the small garden near the hotel. The hotel has provided a plaque explaining the history and significance of the rose for visitors and locals alike to see. “After learning more about Sophia Harris and the Bolton Ship I was convinced that we name the hotel after the street it is located on in the spirit of independence that is the hallmark of everything Bolton” Warwick said. Since then the Bolton Hotel has remained involved with the Friends of Bolton Street Memorial Park, the voluntary society dedicated to it’s preservation and development.

Warwick also says “It’s important that this significant heritage site for our city and a beautiful area of greenery in such a lively CBD is maintained. As an independent Wellington owned and operated business it is important to be part of the community. It’s a great accomplishment for the Friends of Bolton Memorial Park to see this rose brought back to the capital, to this site and I commend their efforts and continued dedication. The Bolton Hotel is very proud to be associated with this wonderful story and its significance to the heritage of Wellington.”

Botanic Gardens Manager Leanne Killalea says the Harris rose will form part of the Wellington Botanic Garden’s heritage rose collection of 214 roses, 120 of which are different varieties.

Judy Bale, from Friends of Bolton Street Memorial Park, which has a large collection of Heritage roses says there have been unsuccessful attempts to identify the rose. “As far as we know it’s a one-and-only. It’s definitely an old-fashioned rose variety, a very vigorous grower. It’s a very pretty rose and does have a glossy green foliage.”

The Bolton Hotel is pleased to be part of this historic occasion that honours the memory and independent spirit of Sophia Harris. We are proud to share how our namesake, the Bolton Ship, that carried Sophia Harris, her family and her rose to Wellington, played an integral role in the foundation of our city.