Flourmill Store (Former)
1C Old Taupiri Road, Ngaruawahia
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
28th June 1990
Lot 3 DP 448755 (CT 567971; Local Purpose Reserve (Esplanade)), South Auckland Land District
The former Flourmill Store is the only standing remnant of one the most important colonial flour mills in the Waikato, and is a pioneering example of mass concrete construction. It was commissioned in 1878 for use as a granary within the riverside complex at Lamb's Mill, Ngaruawahia. The mill had been established in 1871 at the confluence of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers to grind wheat and other grains produced by Maori and other farmers. Its foundation reflected a significant change in flour processing after the third New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-1864), with Pakeha mills replacing smaller Maori-owned operations in the region. The concrete store was erected soon after the installation of steam-operated production at the mill, demonstrating substantial investment and confidence in the plant during the economic boom of the 1870s. Optimism was increased by the arrival of the railway from Auckland to the town in 1877, enabling distribution to be carried out by train as well as by river.
Promoted as the first concrete building in the Waikato, the store was erected alongside the Waikato River, close to the mill and other structures. It was designed as a two-storeyed granary, rectangular in plan, with a series of small windows lighting its upper floor. Its concrete walls were chosen for their fire- and rat-proof qualities, incorporating imported Portland cement. They also contained strands of ungalvanised barbed wire, leading its architect - T.H. White - to claim it as the earliest reinforced concrete building in the Southern Hemisphere. The subsequent history of the store is less well-known, but it was evidently used for storing finished products rather than grain after the mill was taken over by the Waikato Steam Navigation and Coal Mining Company in 1883. With the regional flour business in decline, it was then employed in association with a local revival of flax production, being part of the Walsh Brothers' operations from 1889 to around 1915. The building has since been adapted by the Ngaruawahia Regatta Association to house canoes for their annual regatta. The Association was formed in 1896 to preserve Maori customs, at a time when it was feared that they would disappear.
The building is of considerable historical value for its connections with the development of agriculture and flour production in the Waikato, as well as the late nineteenth-century revival of flax. It is significant as the only visible remnant of the largest colonial flour mill in the region, demonstrating changes in ownership, technology and the scale of production after the third New Zealand War. It is particularly important as it is the oldest known concrete building in the region, and a pioneering example of rudimentary reinforced concrete construction in New Zealand. It is the earliest known concrete building erected by T.H. White who trained in Britain and France, the main centres of innovation in nineteenth-century concrete technology. The building has strong connections with the development of Ngaruawahia, reflecting the town's commercial importance in the nineteenth century. It is highly significant for its historical and cultural links with the Waikato River, including the activities of the Ngaruawahia Regatta Association.
White, Thomas H.
Thomas Henry White (1843-1923) was born in Birmingham, England, and was educated there and in Paris before briefly spending time in New Zealand in the early 1860s. After practising as an architect in Birmingham, he returned to New Zealand in 1873. White undertook architectural work in the Waikato from at least 1875 and was based in Hamilton from 1877 until 1881. He lived on his farm at Taupiri but maintained an office in Auckland as well.
White undertook numerous architectural commissions in the Waikato, Auckland and Opotiki. His work ranged from bridges and substantial brick and plaster commercial buildings to timber shops, churches and dwellings. Notable buildings were the Catholic Church, Hamilton East (1877), Volunteer Hall, Hamilton (1879), the Waikato Cheese and Bacon Company factory (1882), a grandstand at Cambridge (1878), the re-build of the Royal Hotel, Hamilton East (1890) and a hotel at Runciman (1887). He was responsible for the design and construction of a concrete flour mill store at Ngaruawahia (1878), Firth Tower, Matamata (1881-82), St Peter’s Hall, Hamilton, the Royal Hotel, Opotiki, and St John's Presbyterian Church, Opotiki (1907). He designed shops in Matamata (1886) and Hamilton (various dates); houses in Hamilton, Ngaruawahia, Pirongia, Huntly, Waitoa, Whatawhata and Tamahere and six workman’s cottages, Huntly (1888). White was a trustee of the Kirikiriroa Highway Board, an elected member of the Kirikiriroa Licensing Committee, Honorary Secretary of the Taupiri Domain Board and a Justice of the Peace. He was also a musician, playing clarinet and violin.
He died 16 June 1923. see obit Waikato Times 19 June 1923 p.4.
Source: Registration Report for Woodside, List No. 2693, 12 July 2010, with additional biiographical information about his origins and training added by Heritage New Zealand in May 2019.
Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications.
Removal of upper floor and large access hole cut through end wall
16th November 2001
Report Written By
Auckland Weekly News
Auckland Weekly News
19 April 1879, p.16
A.C. Barnes, 'Former Flour Mill Store, Ngaruawahia: Condition Report', Auckland, 1994 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
A.M. Latta, Meeting of the Waters: The Story of Ngaruawahia, Ngaruawahia, 1980
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
'Flour Mill Store, Old Taupiri Road, Ngaruawahia', Buildings Classification Report, Wellington, 1990 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
H. Norris, 'Ngaruawahia Flour Mill Store', NZHPT Waikato Regional Committee Report, nd [c.1976] (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.