The exact origin of the Upper Hutt Rifle Club is lost in the mists of time. As a result of the turbulent events which developed between the indigenous Maori and the settlers who arrived in boat loads from 1840 onwards under the Wakefield settlement plan, the first Upper Hutt settlers felt particularly vulnerable. All able bodied men were obliged to join the volunteer militia and train regularly.
A protective Block House was eventually built a little south of what became Upper Hutt Township in the early 1860s. By the 1870's local farmers, bush and mill workers who were all members of the volunteer militia established a rifle range in the area of Dunlop's Factory and Maidstone Park. Shortly after this the railway connecting Wellington to the Wairarapa was constructed. A substantial railway goods shed adjacent to the rifle range was built and this was often used as shelter for the shooters
Following the lead of the first official national rifle shooting competition ever staged at Wimbledon Common in England,( the first shot being fired by Queen Victoria in 1861), a New Zealand equivalent competition was held in Taranaki in 1862. It was an all military affair, but later was opened up to all the volunteer militia settlers around the country and they formed the first defence rifle clubs.
It is now generally acknowledged that sometime between 1885 and the 1890 was the genesis of the Upper Hutt Defence Rifle Club. This is shown by a membership list dated in 1891, hence the centennial anniversary of the present club was celebrated in 1991.
The Upper Hutt Rifle Club made the goods shed its club base. Ironically the railway goods shed and the rifle range were the first recreational facility established near the town and pre-dates the first proper railway station which was later built on the town side of the track. Eventually New Zealand's oldest sport had to give way to a different sort of recreation as Maidstone Park was developed as a picnic area. In 1908 the club venue and range moved to McGhie's farm at Maori Bank but ceased its activities as a result of the first world war.
After the war, shooting resumed at yet another venue -Burrell's farm in Mangaroa. The club's activities split between Mangaroa range with only one target and the vastly expanded and improved Trentham rifle ranges. By 1923 shooting had ceased at Pat Burrell's farm and except for later war contingencies, has remained at Trentham to this day.
Over the years the Upper Hutt Rifle Club has featured in many provincial and national championships, both individual and team performances. One of the strongest contenders for the Ballinger Belt New Zealand's top individual championship trophy was Ormand Whiteman who was runner up for the second time in 1964. However it was nearly a decade later before the club produced its first Ballinger Belt winner when Barry Price in 1973 swept all aside winning nearly every other individual Masefield and Queens trophy. The club also won all of the teams matches to cap off one of the most successful national meeting ever.
John Whiteman became the Upper Hutt Clubs second Ballinger Belt winner in 1988. Rick Fincham was next in 1999. John Whiteman again won the Belt in 2000, this time with a record score of a 50 at each of the 10 counting matches over all ranges, a feat never achieved by anyone, before or since. John won the Ballinger Belt for the third time in 2005 becoming one of New Zealand's most successful rifle shooters and certainly the best in the club's history.
The Upper Hutt Rifle Club is proud to have won the national BNZ Champion Teams match more times than any other club in the country. The prestigious Hawkes Bay Collins Shield has also been won more times than any other club. The Commonwealth postal match has also been won several times in the past, and the Upper Hutt Rifle Club been named the city's "sports club of the year" and was the Wellington Region's Sports Club of the year in 2006.
Foundation members include the first Upper Hutt school headmaster and the Reverend J Sykes of St John's Church along with seven members of the Whiteman family. Several years ago, Town Clerk Bob Vine took an active role in the club being President for several years. Mayor Dorris Nicholson had been Patron whilst her husband Harold was an enthusiastic senior member for many years . The present Mayor Wayne Guppy has proved not only to be one of the most effective and supportive patrons of the Upper Hutt Rifle Club but also to the Wellington Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association. We owe Mayor Guppy and his staff a great debt of gratitude for their support.