Poverty Bay Club (Former)

38 Childers Road And 53 Customhouse Street, Gisborne

  • Poverty Bay Club (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: J Blackburne.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 810 Date Entered 22nd June 2007


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT GS2C/596 being Sections 22 and 23 Town of Gisborne, and the buildings, their fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Secs 22-23 Town of Gisborne (CT GS2C/596), Gisborne Land District

Location description

Southwestern corner of intersection of Childers Road and Customhouse Street.


The Poverty Bay Club building, situated on a street corner in Gisborne's central commercial district, is an imposing structure reflecting the importance of a major social institution that functioned in Gisborne for 129 years. Built in 1898 for the gentlemen's club founded in 1874 by the Resident Magistrate Sir William Nesbitt, the Poverty Bay Club's clubhouse is a local landmark that reflects the wealth and prosperity in the district. Many of the Club's members were prominent landowners, sheep farmers, businessmen and local body politicians; they used the male only club for social and business purposes. Facilities for members in 1898 included a reading room with current periodicals and newspapers, a card room, writing room, billiard room, bar and meeting room. It was serviced by a steward and other staff.

Designed by local architect W.P. Finneran , whose work includes Opou Homestead (Historic Places Register # 7170, Category I), the former Masonic Hall (now Gisborne Amateur Operatic Society, Historic Places Register # 3524, Category II) and the band rotunda in Gisborne, the Poverty Bay Club building sits on two adjacent sections 2023msq in area. The main gateway sits diagonally to the intersection of Customhouse Street and Childers Road, with the front of the building facing Customhouse Street. The original building was a square, hipped-roof, two-storey colonial villa with ornately-decorated verandahs on three sides and with a single-storey gable-roofed extension at the rear. Within three years of completion, the first of many additions were made. Despite the extensions, enlargements and internal modifications, some of which were major, the building's integrity remains, as with each addition the core elements of the building's interior and exterior fabric that reinforced the 'gentlemanly ambience' of such clubs was retained. A separate single-storey cottage for staff, also built in 1898, was incorporated into these changes in c.1904 with an additional storey and linking rooms to the rear of the main building so that the cottage now forms part of the whole.

Another local architect, Patrick H. Graham, designed the major addition, built in 1910, that forms the lower storey of half of the Customhouse Street elevation; the upper storey of this addition was designed by Burr & Mirfield and built in 1920, as an accommodation wing providing bedrooms for out-of-town members. Patrick Graham's work includes the Gisborne Club (Historic Places Register # 7648), his own house and other residences in Gisborne, and buildings in Wellington, the Hutt and Hawkes Bay. Local builder W.O.Skeet was employed by Finneran for the Poverty Bay Club and also for Opou and Whataupoko Homesteads; Skeet designed and built some of the early extensions to the Club building as well. Burr and Mirfield were also local architects of high repute and several of their Gisborne buildings are extant.

Burr & Mirfield also designed the impressive billiard room, built in 1913, which features three large glass domes in its ceiling. The domes have stained glass leadlight around their lower edges and are back-lit by skylights in the roof above. The room, known as the Dome Room, was large enough for three full-sized tables. Billiards and snooker matches were key elements of the Club's activities with competitions between members and also between the other men's clubs in Gisborne. A further billiard room was built in 1954, to accommodate one more table. The Dome Room remained in use for its original purpose until 2003.

Most of the building is clad in rusticated or bevelled weatherboards; it has a corrugated steel roof. The 1910 addition has a square bay window that reflects a shallower bay in the original front verandah; the 1920 roof includes a gable feature that reflects that of the original building.

Indoors, stained timberwork contributes to the richness of the spaces. Rimu-panelled dadoes are a feature in the main rooms, as are Rimu mantelpieces and fire surrounds. All the main rooms have open fireplaces, with decorative tiles and cast iron registers. The original ceilings (1898) are board and moulded battens with decorative ceiling roses; the ceiling in the reading room (1910) features ornate plaster cornices; elsewhere the ceilings are soft board with battens, tongue and groove with Vee joint, or plasterboard. Cast iron and moulded ventilators are set into some ceilings and upper walls. The main rooms have moulded skirtings and architraves; the 1920 wing has plain architraves. Wooden archways are features of the 1898 and 1910 hallways and the main hallway is divided from the vestibule with a wooden and glazed screen with a pair of swing doors. The stairwell is lit by stained glass windows.

In 1914 after pressure from several Club members, a squash court was built at the rear of the building. This is believed to be the oldest extant all-wooden court in New Zealand, and possibly the earliest squash court ever built in New Zealand. A private court is known to have been built in 1919 in Palmerston North, but as squash did not gain much popularity in New Zealand until the 1930s, other early courts date from that period. These include the Canterbury Club (c.1930), Timaru (1935) and Palmerston North (1936). The Poverty Bay Club squash court remains in excellent condition.

The Club building has provided commodious surroundings for local businessmen and politicians, plus various visiting dignitaries and society figures. Membership initially was for managerial classes, but this rule was changed in 1963 to allow for men of sufficient standing to be nominated as members. Women were invited only for special functions such as the opening ball in June 1898, other balls, celebratory dinners and cocktail parties. Membership was opened to women in 1988, a development partly reflecting changing social customs and partly a bid to increase membership. Other drives to increase membership included modifying and enlarging the bar at various periods, installing a new bar upstairs with music suitable for younger people in the 1980s, offering lower subscriptions and joining fees, and lessening the subscription rate for country members.

From 1920 the Club provided accommodation for long-distance members, the room bookings and related services being undertaken by the steward (later called manager) and part-time staff. In 1975 financial considerations associated with fire-proofing led to the closing of the accommodation wing. Staff provided lunches and dinners for individuals and for functions. Many of the Club meetings were preceded by dinners and formed part of the social intercourse for which the Club was renowned.

The Club's association with the building ended in 2003 when the Club was wound up and the building sold. The name Poverty Bay Club has been retained as the name of the building. Witters Partnership, owners from 2003-06, undertook many renovations including re-painting the exterior and partial replacement of the roof. Interior changes included the installation of a large commercial-standard kitchen and the facilities for a small café in the former Strangers Room, bar and parlour (opened up as one room). Under their management, the Winston's Bar was opened, and the building and facilities leased for functions and for offices and meetings. The property was sold again in 2006, to local company Winston PBC Ltd; its use is under review but will entail revenue-earning activities including the continued lease of rooms as offices.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Poverty Bay Club has significant historical value, as one of two remaining gentlemen's clubs in Gisborne that are built reminders of the isolation of the area, the independence of its citizens and the associated need to develop a strong social infrastructure. It has strong links to early colonial institutions, such as the provincial government through its founder, the Resident Magistrate, and militia regiments engaged over land issues, as well as prominent individuals in national and regional history. It is representative of important aspects of colonial society, such as all-male associations and business networks. It demonstrates the implanting and nurturing of traditions introduced from Britain, particularly among the social elite. The Club is synonymous with a patriarchal social structure that has largely disappeared in New Zealand.

The Club building is significant as the oldest surviving gentlemen's club building in Gisborne and one of the oldest surviving buildings in the central city.

The Club building contains a squash court, built in 1914, which is believed to be the earliest extant all-wooden court in New Zealand. It is possibly the earliest court ever built in New Zealand, other known examples dating from c.1919 and the 1930s, and is material evidence of the beginnings of this major popular sport.

The Club's increasing emphasis on billiards and snooker for social and competitive recreation is representative of New Zealand as a whole and is reflected in the history of the construction and enlargement of purpose-built billiard rooms in the clubhouse, the most spectacular being the Dome Room which could accommodate three full-size tables.

The building's well-preserved interiors yield information about 19th - and 20th-century life in New Zealand, from the use of decor to attitudes about gender and class. The relative simplicity of the steward's quarters and the service areas reflects the social stratification pertaining at the turn of the 20th century in its contrast to the richness of the architectural detail and room size of the members' rooms.

The Club was founded by the Resident Magistrate, the most important government official in the area in 1874. The building was constructed and fitted out by prominent local tradesmen one of whom became a major political figure in Gisborne.

The Club's archives and chattels such as honours boards, presentation trophies and cups are a material record of the history of the activities of the Club and an integral part of the building.

The former Poverty Bay Club is a significant building as part of Gisborne's built and social heritage, being a prominent landmark on a highly visible corner site in the commercial district. Its site and its architecture with its colonial detailing, rare in Gisborne's streetscape, give it strong aesthetic and visual appeal.

It is significant as demonstrating the architectural work of three major practices operating in Gisborne in the late 19th-early 20th centuries and the design and construction work of a leading local builder. The Club building is one of few known surviving public buildings designed by local architect W.P. Finneran, others being the band rotunda and the Masonic Hall. The style is reminiscent of that of Opou Homestead (NZHPT register # Category I historic place). A major part of the main frontage was designed by Patrick (Pat) Graham; this demonstrates the architect's ability to design commercial scale buildings and his keen eye for decorative interior detail. Although a number of Graham's designs for residential buildings survive, particularly in Gisborne, most of the public and commercial buildings he designed have been demolished such as the Gisborne Opera House (c.1913) Gisborne High School (c.1914) and Patutahi Grandstand (c.1908). The billiard room designed by Burr & Mirfield, also a local practice, is an impressive room lit by recessed domes set below skylights, with a raised platform around three sides and dadoes and two fireplaces in native timbers.

The building is a typical and well-preserved example of colonial villa architecture, built in native timbers. It has richly timbered interiors featuring rimu dadoes, arches and doors. Stained glass windows have been used to major aesthetic effect in the main staircase. The design reflects the social mores of the time at which it was built in the erection of a separate building for staff. The building's spaces and facilities reflect the status of such gentlemen's clubs in 19th - and 20th-century New Zealand and the progressive enlargements and alterations required to fit with increasing membership and changing needs.

The Poverty Bay Club building is significant in its mainly intact architectural integrity, with the additions and alterations undertaken over the years maintaining the ambience of a well-to-do gentlemen's club.

The building's well-preserved interiors yield information about 19th - and 20th-century life in New Zealand in the use of decor and architectural detail in the finishing of the rooms according to their function and status. The relative simplicity of the steward's quarters and the service areas in its contrast to the richness of the architectural detail and room size of the members' rooms reflects the social stratification pertaining at the turn of the 20th century.

The squash court is highly significant as possibly the earliest built, and probably the earliest surviving, wooden court in New Zealand and as such is a unique resource for architectural research in this field.

The former Club building contributes highly to the townscape of the original commercial area of Gisborne being one of eleven heritage buildings in the block bounded by Customhouse Street, Childers Road and Lowe Streets.

The Poverty Bay Club has significant social and cultural significance to the region. Members of the Club were drawn initially from the social and business male elite. The Club is representative of important aspects of colonial society, such as all-male associations and business networks. It demonstrates the implanting and nurturing of traditions introduced from Britain, particularly among the social elite. The Club is synonymous with a patriarchal social structure that has largely disappeared in New Zealand. The Club grew and prospered as Gisborne itself grew. Likewise it struggled during times of economic downturn. The building is the physical embodiment of the dreams, memories and aspirations of the people who helped make Gisborne what it is today. As such the building is quintessentially Gisborne.

The history of the Club's membership rules relating to women's involvement echo changes that occurred in wider New Zealand society. From being strictly the preserve of the male population at its founding in 1874, the Club slowly changed to more acceptance of women. Initially women were admitted as visitors, and then only on special occasions such as the opening ball in 1898, other occasional 'ladies nights' or balls and the more frequent cocktail parties in vogue in the wider society in the 1950s. In the late 1960s-early 70s when women's rights were being strongly advocated world-wide, the Club considered a plan to include women as members but as elsewhere in small town-rural districts it was several more years, not until 1988, before membership was opened to women.

The building is significant in continuing in the same use for its first 129 years and in similar use for the last few years.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

As a Gentlemen's Club it is an important representation of the past patriarchal society of New Zealand and its close ties to English institutions.

As at 4 December 2006, four club buildings were registered as Category I and 18 as Category II. The four Category I buildings are Hawkes Bay Club (#180), Wellesley Club (#233), Christchurch Club (#292) and Northern Club (#663). Of these, only the Hawkes Bay Club is of similar style and context. The Wellesley Club, purpose-built in 1925-27, is a 4-storey Georgian style building in reinforced concrete. The Northern Club was not purpose-built as a gentlemen's club. The Dargaville Club (# 472, Cat II historic place), erected in 1903, has had its upper storey removed and has less integrity. The Hamilton Club (# 773, Cat II historic place), constructed in 1904, is a plainer building with an unsympathetic extension and much less streetscape appeal. The Poverty Bay Club was purpose-built to the needs of its members in 1898. It has a high level of exterior and interior integrity, exhibits the substantial structural changes required over the years to accommodate the Club's increased membership and success.

The Club building contains a squash court, built in 1914, which is believed to be the earliest extant all-wooden court in New Zealand. It is possibly the earliest court ever built in New Zealand, other known examples dating from c.1919 and the 1930s, and is material evidence of the beginnings of this major popular sport.

The Club's increasing emphasis on billiards and snooker as social and competitive recreation is representative of New Zealand as a whole and is reflected in the history of the construction and progressive enlargement of purpose-built billiard rooms in the clubhouse, the most spectacular being the Dome Room.

The Club reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand history, including the social culture amongst the male members of such Clubs, and the importance men placed on sporting endeavour in particular.

It is representative of important aspects of colonial society, such as all-male associations and business networks. It demonstrates the implanting and nurturing of patriarchal based social traditions introduced from Britain.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The Poverty Bay Club has important and strong links to several events and prominent people in New Zealand's history. The Club's finances, its membership fluctuations and material development and building maintenance programmes reflected economic trends and events, influenced especially by the two major depressions and two World Wars.

Prominent visitors and members included governors-general, members of parliament or provincial councils, local body politicians and officers from visiting naval ships.

The 1910 addition was designed by a technically innovative New Zealand architect, Patrick Graham, who around this time was constructing buildings in reinforced concrete at a time when timber was the norm. Graham was an adaptable architect able to design in the style of a particular era and did this competently.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The Poverty Bay Club has strong potential to provide knowledge through study of changes to its physical structure over time and changes to use of recreational facilities such as billiards, snooker, squash and cards.

The building represents the one-time emphasis on the male, Pakeha, social and business elite and the slow process of change in this regard. The Club's history and structure of the building and its facilitiesreflect the effects of societal and legislative changes in the 1980s and 90s particularly in relation to alcohol: alcohol licensing, drink-driving restrictions, longer opening hours of public institutions and more emphasis on mixed-gender socialising.

The site has potential to yield information through archaeological evidence of its former occupants and users. This may include activities of the tangata whenua who occupied the general area. Known use from the mid-1870s include the erection of a large two-storey building at one time occupied as a residence and store. Previous features relating to the first decades of occupation by the Poverty Bay Club include an earth closet in the southwest corner of the property, an ablution block, septic tank and water tank. Rubbish pits from each period are likely to exist and would provide material evidence of substantial value.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

There is strong community association and esteem with the place; the calibre of its members in business and political arenas over 129 years has meant that the Club has had a major influence over the economic and social development and growth of the town and beyond. Members actively supported local sports such as cricket. Snooker, billiards, squash, horse racing and horse breeding.

The Club served as a venue for networking, in business, politics, and family matters.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

There is ample scope for future interpretation for the building's lessees, their guests and clients. Such interpretation could include descriptions of the building's architectural features; the history of the operation of the Poverty Bay Club specifically and of gentlemen's clubs generally; and could feature specific members and their influence in the development of Gisborne and district and the roles some played in national politics and governance.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The design of the former Poverty Bay Club building is of value as an example of a colonial villa design and of the colonial emulation (on a lesser scale) of the grandeur of gentlemen's clubs in Britain.

The building's well-preserved interiors provide information about late 19th and early 20th-century life in New Zealand from the use of décor to reflect attitudes towards social strata. Significant amounts of 1890s and early 1900s fabric remain intact within the building.

The building's early architects, William P Finneran, Patrick Graham, Joseph H Burr and Israel Mirfield, designed many impressive residential, public and commercial buildings.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The Poverty Bay Club has significant local commemorative value. The two honours boards commemorating Club members who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars are poignant physical reminders of the devastation of Gisborne's male population, in particular, during those periods in New Zealand's history.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The squash court within the building is an extremely rare historic place. Built in 1914 it is believed to be the earliest all-wooden court in New Zealand, and is the oldest known surviving squash court in New Zealand.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The Poverty Bay Club forms part of a significant wider historical and cultural landscape of built heritage. The block bounded by Lowe Street, Childers Road and Customhouse Street contains ten other heritage buildings that are on the Gisborne District Council's heritage schedule, of which five are also on the NZHPT Register. They are: the N.Z.I. Building (NZHPT Registration # 3553, Category II historic place); Nolan & Skeet Building; Credit House Finance Limited Building; the Public Trust Building (NZHPT Registration # 3552, Category II historic place); the Gisborne Club; the Bain & Sheppard Building, also known as Lancaster House, which includes its grain store/stables attached to the rear (NZHPT Registration # 3550, Category II historic place); the Allen Trading Co. Building, also known as Murray Roberts & Co. Building (NZHPT Registration # 3549, Category II historic place); the Bennett & Sherratt Building, also known as Escape Screenprinters; the New Zealand Shipping Co. Building (Trades & Labour Hall); and the Tuuranganui Club, also known as the Union Steamship Co. Building (NZHPT Registration # 3549, Category II historic place).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Finneran, W P

(1) William Peter Finneran (c.1837-1911) practised in Gisborne as an architect since 1878 and “designed and supervised the erection of a large number of public and private buildings in the district”. Several buildings known to have been designed by Finneran are still in existence, but records of his work are incomplete.

In 1879 Finneran was calling for tenders for building the hospital and in 1881 tenders for the brewery. The brewery with its four-storey tower was a significant landmark and lookout point over the town. It is assumed he designed these buildings. In 1901 he supplied designs for a new building. Some uncertainty existed around whether he designed the band rotunda, as entrants for the design competition had entered anonymously. However, it was disclosed at a council meeting that “Mr Finneran was the designer of the beautiful plan selected by the Council” even though he had submitted his design anonymously under Parnell & Co.'s name.

His other work includes the Masonic Hall, still standing but modified, in Childers Road, built 1895 and opened 2 January 1896. The Hall was enlarged in 1897 and is registered as Category II. The Poverty Bay Club is stylistically very similar to two of Finneran's better-known works, the Opou Station homestead (extant) and Whataupoko sheep station homestead (burnt down), the home of Percival Barker. Opou Homestead, Manutuke, (formerly known as Riverslea when built for owner Thomas Bloomfield in 1883; Register # 7170, Category I historic place) is described as “restrained Victorian classicism...[with] stately proportions and vast room heights”. Another more modest building attributed to Finneran [cited as P Fineran] is a “Two-way Bay Villa for Captain Martin” in 1900, the drawings for which “show a preoccupation with details such as the half-drawn blinds and curtains”.

Finneran was responsible for designing the enlargement of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (subsequently the Anglican Church Hall) with the chancel and transept of the wooden church being added. However, these changes were not approved by all: “some details of decorative style were introduced by the Gisborne architect, Mr Finneran, which marred the “pure” Gothic style of the first stage of the building.”

The only other architects known to be working in Gisborne in the 1880s-early 1900s are W J Quigley from 1882 , James O Barnard , and Andrew Y Ross.

Little is known of Finneran's life and family. In an 1881 New Zealand-wide directory, W.P. Finneran is listed twice, once as a carpenter in the Napier electorate with freehold qualification in Gisborne; and again as an architect with residential qualification in Gisborne, in the East Coast electorate. His name is listed in directories for 1883-84, 1894, 1896 (in Gladstone Rd) and 1898-99. He and his wife Margaret are listed on the Waiapu electoral roll for 1902, and in the Borough of Gisborne Roll 1901 as being at 34 Lowe Street, Gisborne, but are not listed for 1900 or 1903. However, in 1904 he is again listed as being architect, Gisborne, but is not in the nationwide directories for 1906, 1908 and 1909.

William P Finneran died on August 25, 1911, at Ponsonby, Auckland, aged 74 years and survived by his wife Margaret Ann. The funeral cortege was to leave from his former residence at Mason's Rd, Herne Bay for the Waikumete Cemetery.

Skeet, W O

William Oswald Skeet established the City Timber Yards in Gladstone Road in 1880. W.O. Skeet, builder, was listed on East Coast electoral roll in 1881 and 1887. His 1896 directory listing is a large notice for Skeet as “Builder and Timber Merchant, Gladstone Road and Cobden Street” as well as an advertisement. Another advertisement at the time the Club was being built shows the business was a timber merchants, building and contracting, as well as supplying ironmongery. Skeet worked with Finneran as builder on several of Finneran's projects.. He designed as well as built the alterations to the Club building in 1903 and 1905.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


Gentlemen's clubs developed in nineteenth-century Britain as a popular social convention that enabled men's social and business networks to be maintained. The concept arrived in New Zealand with the earliest European immigrants: the first three clubs opened in Wellington, namely the Pickwick Club (1840), the Wakefield Club (1840) and the Wellington Club (1841). Clubs opened in New Plymouth (1853), Auckland (1854), Christchurch (1856) and Dunedin (1858). Not all clubs were successful, but the trend continued with new clubs opening in smaller towns and additional clubs being opened in main centres. The Poverty Bay Club formed in 1874. In 1894, only five clubs were listed for Auckland Province, of which one is the Poverty Bay Club. The clubs provided opportunities for men to socialise, with women being excluded; they could drink alcohol, relax, play cards, play billiards if their club had the facilities and read - most clubs supplied periodicals and newspapers.

'The role of the clubs [in Britain] was of course much more than that of a haven for gentlemen to escape to. As today they were places where men could meet and talk 'off the record', where it is said many a career was made and many a cabinet decision decided over a lengthy dinner. They were places where those with similar interests could meet .... The clubs were similar in style, although each tried to retain its own distinctive flavour and each was governed by their rules of conduct and honour.'

In the late 1870s, working-men's clubs began forming. These were based on a similar philosophy to the gentlemen's clubs: 'The club is one of those sociable institutions which do a world of good by affording social opportunity. There are absolutely no places outside his own home, except the public house, where a working man can enjoy himself after the labour of the day. ' As with gentlemen's clubs, they were funded by members' subscriptions.

Some clubs occupied existing buildings, but other clubhouses such as the Christchurch Club were purpose-built (in 1862). By the late 19th century both the Poverty Bay Club and the Invercargill Club were in strong enough financial positions to build their own premises. The Invercargill Club, formed in 1879, opened its purpose-built clubhouse in 1892; the Poverty Bay Club, formed in 1874, in 1898. Although less grand than its British counterparts, or other more grandiose examples in New Zealand such as Auckland's Northern Club (Register #663, Category I) or the Dunedin Club (Register #2151, Category II), the Poverty Bay Club was nevertheless an imposing building in its street-corner context with generous internal spaces and rich interior finishes, fittings and chattels. The building was no small achievement for a membership that numbered only 97 members in 1898 when it was built. Like the Northern Club, service rooms for employees were located separately from members' facilities - a separate cottage for staff accommodation was built adjacent to the main building. Early additions included the two buildings being interconnected on the ground floor through the kitchen area; a second floor built on the staff building had no direct access to the main building.

Many clubs formed affiliations so that members could take advantage of each other's amenities when visiting other towns. The 1969 Poverty Bay Club annual report listed the following as 'Clubs Affiliated with the Poverty Bay Club': Auckland, Canterbury, Dunedin, Hastings, Hawke's Bay and Wellesley (in Wellington), plus Union Club (Sydney), Devonshire Club (London) and Lansdowne Club (London). In 1974 the list included the Northern Club and the Professional Club, both in Auckland.

Gentlemen's clubs and working men's clubs were affected by the Licensing Act 1881. The Act defined a club as 'a voluntary association of persons combined for promoting the common object of private social intercourse, convenience, and comfort, and providing its own liquors, and not for purposes of gain'. Clubs had to apply for a charter, pay an annual fee of £5 to the local body, abide by rules governing size of membership and be managed by an elected committee. Any profit from the sale of liquor had to belong to the club and not to an individual. Changes to the law since then mean that a charter is now issued by the Liquor Licensing Authority; this allows the sale of liquor to members. In 1963, 194 club charters existed. The New Zealand Chartered Clubs Inc, formerly the Association of Chartered Clubs, continues to look after the interests of member associations.


The Gisborne Club formed in 1896 and in 1904 moved into purpose-built premises in Lowe Street almost backing on to the Poverty Bay Club. A third men's club, the Cosmopolitan Club (once called the Alhambra Club), was formed in 1904 and moved into purpose-built premises on the corner of Palmerston and Bright Streets in 1906.

A Soldiers Club was formed during World War One and in 1922 the Savage Club had rooms in the NZI chambers in Childers Road. A Town and Country Women's Club was formed also, occupying a villa at 25 Fitzherbert Street. The Professional Women's Club was operating by the 1980s (or earlier).

The Poverty Bay Club is the only entry listed under Club in the local 1896 directory, and is listed under Societies also. Other social men's groups at that time included Masonic Lodges, Oddfellows, Knights of Labour, Druids, Foresters and Rechabites. Many recreational and sporting clubs such as the Dramatic Club, Orchestral Society and the Caledonian Society provided opportunities for Gisborne residents to relax and socialise.


Gisborne's period of fastest growth was between 1870 and 1914 and in 1901 was described as: 'the capital of Poverty Bay, ... one of the most progressive of New Zealand towns ... in [a] vast and fertile district.' Initially called Turanganui or Turanga, the first 1000 acres of the town of Gisborne was surveyed in 1868. Businesses were soon established and by 1874 several hotels and a courthouse had been erected and the Poverty Bay Herald established. The harbour development began in 1884, the freezing works were established in 1889 and the first section of the Auckland-Gisborne-Napier railway opened in 1902. Improved access through better wharf facilities, the railway, roads and bridges expedited the import of materials for building and the export of produce. By 1902 the district was primarily pastoral but cropping was developing. Exports that year included maize, linseed, oats, barley, frozen beef and lamb, wool, timber, fruit and butter. By 1902 the population of the town, including the suburbs of Kaiti and Whataupoko, had reached 5000. By 1939 the population was 14,200. The population now is 32,000 with an additional 13,000 in the immediate district.

The block in which the Poverty Bay Club is located is one of the earliest commercial blocks in Gisborne with close links to the wharf, early shops and residential areas. Now, it stands in the central city, but during discussion of the purchase of the property one member complained that they would be moving into the backblocks. 'The site chosen is a particularly convenient one, for whilst the Club is but a few steps from the centre of business, it is secluded from the rumble and bustle of the town ...'.

In August 1902, when Williams & Kettle auctioned off two large properties in Childers Road, the Club's neighbour on Childers Road was a foundry, with the Gisborne Hotel and Williams & Kettle opposite, the Supreme Court diagonally across the intersection and the Post Office further along Customhouse Street. Later, other neighbouring buildings on Childers Road included the Public Trust Office and an exporter and shipping agent. Neighbours on Customhouse Street were de Pelichet, McLeod & Co., general merchants, with Smith & Smith's bulk store next again ;

L D Nathan & Co. took over the de Pelichet property. Other principal buildings in the vicinity were the Gisborne Hotel, the Borough Council chambers, the Union Steam Ship Co., the Gisborne Club, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Public Trust office. Its relative proximity to the wharves also meant several large warehouses and merchants in Childers Road, e.g. L D Nathan and Co., and Williams & Kettle who were wool brokers, stock and station agents, auctioneers and general merchants.

Today the block continues to be occupied mainly by commercial premises. The building sits in a block of eleven surviving and significant heritage buildings, including the Gisborne Club, five of which are on the NZHPT Register, but regrettably, a number of heritage buildings have been lost in this area.

No reference has been found for the existence of stables provided by the club; a neighbouring building often referred to as the stables was L.D. Nathan's bonded store. A building at the adjacent Gisborne Club may have been used as stables for both clubs, but this has not been verified. However, in 1898 when the Club was built, several stables in the neighbouring district were advertising their facilities, including Victoria Stables (Thos. Quinn, Peel St), J.R. Redstone (Lowe St), and Masonic Stables (Lowe St).

W P Finneran seems to have been one of the earliest architects in Gisborne. The only other architects known to be working in Gisborne in the 1890s-early 1900s are W J Quigley from 1882 , James O Barnard , and Andrew Y Ross . Architects listed as practising in Gisborne in 1910 were Patrick H Graham, J Greig & Son, Albert Williams, Chas de L Varnham, Franc [sic] J Wilson and Reg. O Skeet; and in 1911 Brownlee & Grenfell.


Formation and operation

The formation of the Club is believed to have occurred in 1874, the founder being Dr William Nesbitt, Resident Magistrate of Gisborne. Nesbitt arrived in Gisborne in 1870, during a period when the district was in fear of raids by Te Kooti and his followers - it has been suggested that this influenced Nesbitt's decision to found the club 'In spite of, or perhaps because of, the unsettled state of the district'. The founding of the Club was at a time when the vast hinterland of the district including the East Coast was being brought into farming by determined and independent individuals.

The small commercial community that had formed in the township seems to have provided the impetus for the original establishment of the club. Many of the early members were farmers possibly motivated by the need for social contact on their visits to town. The Club provided opportunities for forming social and business networks, and in the small population many interconnections were forged through marriages of the offspring of Club members. Many Club members belonged to other political, sporting, religious or social groups and influenced the development of many aspects of Gisborne and district. According to long-term member Ronald Graham, in the 1920s-30s 'The Poverty Bay Club was the place they gathered to meet and talk business. Practically every business person and every farmer of standing in the community belonged... The club provided both communication and entertainment... It also provided a pleasant place for members of the medical profession to relax and share their problems... In hard times the club's fellowship provided support and an opportunity to talk over problems'.

The Club's early records were lost in a fire at the Albion Club Hotel in 1879, but minute books, registers and other material from 1880 onwards have been preserved. The earliest meeting place is unknown, but in January 1875 it was announced publicly that the Club was to remove to the Albion Hotel, the owners building 'a suite of rooms for the exclusive use of the Club'. This building, later called the Albion Club Hotel, burnt down in 1879; it was re-built and on 1st March 1880, the Club took possession of new premises in the hotel. This too burnt down, in 1887, upon which the Club moved across Gladstone Road into the Union Bank building. It was here that the first Club bar was opened, in May 1887, the Club having been officially chartered on 21 March 1887. The next move was into the Albion Buildings in March 1888. After a long period of debate regarding the building of a permanent clubhouse the Club purchased Sections 22 and 23 in the Town of Gisborne on 16 March 1898.

From June 1898 the Club had its own purpose-built premises on the corner of Childers Road and Customhouse Street. The stately building of an 'attractive appearance' was well received by its members. At the first meeting at the new clubhouse, on 12 August 1898, Chairman Thomas Chrisp congratulated the members for possessing it and asked that any suggestions for management be addressed to the meeting. The Club had just £20 credit at the bank.

The Club was destined to remain an integral part of Gisborne society for 129 years. It was supported through both good times and bad: two World Wars, two economic depressions, several earthquakes, the loss of its records and furniture in two fires in rented premises and two minor fires in its own building. The record of the Club was one of steady progress, membership increasing from 64 members in 1880 to a roll of 425 in 1972 with a corresponding strengthening of finance and facilities. This speaks volumes for the popularity of an institution in a small isolated community.

The Club was regulated by rules which have changed periodically following resolutions made at meetings. A quarterly general meeting was held; these were at times accompanied by dinners to encourage members to attend. Annual meetings, special general meetings and committee meetings were customary. The Poverty Bay Club was registered as an incorporated society on 12 May 1939 (number PBIS 1939.3).

In their 1997 application for a Lotteries Grants Board grant, the Poverty Bay Club stated it was the only one of 40 chartered clubs left operating under a permanent charter. However, due to increasing financial difficulties, societal changes and competition from a wider range of social and recreational venues, the Club was wound up in 2003.

Social and Leisure Activities

The Club maintained a programme of social activities as well as the daily provision of services and amenities. The first event in the new building was the ball which formally opened the premises, on June 7, 1898. The ball was seen as a 'happy idea ' [for] the ladies to invade Club-land and see for themselves the enticing pleasures and comforts of Club life'. Over 100 couples attended what was reportedly 'the event of the season in social circles'' with the dancing spilling out from the billiard room into adjacent rooms and the hallway. The balcony, which formed 'a fine promenade', was closed off from the inclement weather by canvas awnings and in seats 'placed at intervals' and in cosy corners couples were to be seen enjoying good fellowship and whispering 'sweet nothings' . Supper for the ball was served in a large marquee erected at the rear.

In February 1904 the Club held its first 'At Home' to which women were invited. A Club ball was held in 1907 and another in 1909. Women were invited to a cocktail party on 12 June 1948 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Club building, and again in June 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Further cocktail parties were held during the 1950s and became an annual event.

A special dinner was held in 1935 to celebrate the Club's Diamond Jubilee, and another in 1937 to celebrate the coronation of King George VI Royalty was celebrated again in December 1953 in honour of the Queen's visit. In 1964 a '50 years luncheon' was instituted and became an annual tradition. The luncheon was hosted by the committee for men who had been members continuously for 50 years or more. In 1969 there were 19 such members.

From the opening of the first bar in May 1887, the consumption of alcohol played a major role in the Club's social activities. A bar room was included in the new building, with a cool cellar beneath for storage. The location and size of the bar has altered over the years as the number of members grew. From 1935 whisky was imported directly from Scotland, and apart from losing some shipments during the Second World War, which resulted in rationing, supplies have always been ample. The squash court was used for many years to store bulk supplies and break it down into usable quantities. This continued until 1953 when the Club stopped the direct importation. In 1954 a wine store was built along the Childers Road frontage, accessed from the Churchill Room.

One strong custom was the 'Rule of three': 'if a person was on their own members had to invite him to join their group or go and join him. A loner was always made to feel at home... The club enforced a strict code of gentlemanly behaviour... Dress standards were always high, members always wore a jacket, collar and tie.' Prospective members were screened to ensure standards were kept high.

Card playing was a popular activity, a room being set aside just for this use. In 1938 cards must have had increased patronage, as the large reading room upstairs became a combined reading and cards room with the proviso that card players had to withdraw if a reading member wanted to use the room.

The 1967 manager's diary shows the club hosted 250 people for a wedding, a Ladies Club cocktail party and the interclub snooker tournament. In 1977 the manager's diary noted the number expected for lunch and dinner each day. Dinners or refreshments were arranged for club cricket players and other groups such as the Law Society.

The Reading Room held a prominent place in the functioning of the Club. The Club purchased a variety of newspapers and periodicals for members. These included the Fortnightly Review, The 19th Century, Punch, The Sketch, Whittaker's Almanac, and The Graphic. Many of these were bound annually with the PBC crest embossed on the spine; they remain on site together with bookcases Also available were reference texts and Chamber's Encyclopaedia.. A newspaper reading stand with labelled shelves remains in the Reading Room. Letters for posting were deposited in a designated box, now on display in the hallway. A change reflecting changing custom and technology was a room being set aside as a 'wireless' room; it was changed to a visitors' room in 1967.

Facilities in 1994 included a dining-room that could seat 90 people, with the fully licensed restaurant open for dinners, snacks and casual lunches. Smaller rooms for other functions were used for seminars and meetings, and the snooker and billiards tables were still popular. Tradition of sounding the dinner gong at midday remained in 1988. The clubhouse was open from 1-6pm on weekdays, but members had access at any time.

Commercial photographers used the main stairs as a backdrop for photographs of wedding parties. The Dome Room 'was also in big demand for photos'.

Patriotic activities

The Club participated in the First and Second World Wars at home and abroad: 104 members saw active overseas service, 14 of whom lost their lives. The Club commemorated this service in Rolls of Honour, now displayed in the Reading Room. In the First World War the Club 'gave a large sum to the local Defence Committee... and a levy on all members was made in aid of the Red Cross Funds'. In the Second World War, members who remained at home joined Home Service groups and assisted various patriotic organisations.


At the Annual General Meeting in 1914 permission was granted to build a squash court on the Club premises. The court 'was built in that year with financial assistance from the Club. For two years the court proved very popular, but probably owing to the war, its use was neglected and never sufficiently revived to warrant its upkeep. It was finally decided to close it in 1950 and it was used as a storeroom.' The court was re-opened in 1954 though unfortunately it was shortened to make room for a billiard table in the new addition next door, the Churchill Room - this stresses the stronger emphasis on snooker and billiards. A viewing gallery was included when built, but this was removed during the 1954 renovation. In 1969 it was reported that the squash courts were used extensively 'but with the public courts now in full operation our returns have declined'. Squash is still a popular sport in Gisborne with at least two venues, one a 5-court facility. In 1994 the court was still used regularly.

The Poverty Bay Club squash enthusiasts seem to have been in the vanguard of what was still a new sport in 1914. Harrow School, England, built four courts in 1864, but squash clubs were only being established in England, the United States and Canada at the turn of the 20th century. National championships were played in New Zealand from 1932, yet it was not until 1939 that the New Zealand Squash Association was formed, with 15 member clubs including private court owners. The Poverty Bay Club court is believed to be the oldest wooden court in New Zealand, or possibly in the Southern Hemisphere, but this has not been substantiated. Known courts are Herbert N Watson's private court at Palmerston North (1919 or earlier), private courts on farms e.g. Waikite and Maketu (dates and locations not known), the Canterbury Club (c.1930), one for the Timaru squash club (1935) and the Palmerston North squash club (1936). RNZAF Wigram built a court in 1936 (now demolished), and other service bases around the country have a long tradition of their own courts (details not known). The first squash courts in Australia were established in 1913, at the Melbourne Club.

Tennis and squash had upper class connotations. The earliest squash courts in Christchurch 'appear to have been at the Christchurch and Canterbury Clubs and at Christ's College, all 'upper-class' institutions.'

Billiards and snooker

Billiards was popular in Gisborne as elsewhere in New Zealand. By the turn of the 20th century billiard saloons were established in Gisborne hotels and the three clubs; a billiard saloon was operating in Erskine's building in 1908. Throughout its history the Poverty Bay Club has been closely associated with the games of billiards and snooker, the billiard rooms being a focal point for both serious and friendly games for many years. A one-table billiard room was incorporated into the original building, enlarged within three years to allow for two tables, and expanded again in 1913 with a major architecturally-designed addition, the Dome Room, which could accommodate three full-size tables. An additional room, the Churchill Room, was built in 1954 so that a fourth table could be set up. The billiard room (Dome Room) still had three full-size tables set up in 1990.

Snooker increased in popularity over billiards, with the first inter-club tournaments with the Gisborne Club held in 1906, and the first snooker championships held in 1910. Billiards had a resurgence of popularity for a few years only in the early 1920s and then again in 1951. In 1951 the Club began a 'Town versus Country' snooker match between members. Several cups and trophies were played for, winners having their names engraved for posterity. Further evidence of the importance and pride the games inspired was the introduction of an Honours Board in 1965. Six cups in snooker and billiards were awarded in 1969 for competitions within the membership. Inter-club championships in both snooker and billiards have been held with the Gisborne Club on a regular basis, and also with the Soldiers' Club during the First World War and the Cosmopolitan Club.

A register was kept for snooker and billiards for the 'Best Qualifying Break', the minimum break score being set at 35 points - the players seem to have treated this with some fun, with modest winners' comments such as 'Too Lucky', or 'A very nice table' - the latter for a qualifying break score of 84. A running competition for the highest combined total of ages of the oldest four playing snooker at one time was recorded as 333 years on 27 May 1992, all the men being in their 80s.

Other sports

Competition between the Gisborne and Poverty Bay Club members was friendly but intense in snooker but also in other sports. An annual cricket match that was played between the two clubs was another serious affair with players appropriately attired in cricket whites and striped blazers and all the protocol of the game properly followed.

The 1969 report noted activities and results of the various tournaments. Four cricket matches had been held against local teams, but it was noted that numbers participating were declining. Other sports that year were squash, billiards and snooker, with tournaments held against the Gisborne Club. A Snooker School was held that year, with 29 students.


Tradition has it that 'in its earlier years the Poverty Bay Club was considered the domain of bank managers, with the Gisborne Club suitable for their assistants. The Cosmopolitan Club was considered the place for bank clerks to meet'. This perception is substantiated in part by a comment at a 1963 general meeting, that while managerial status had been a requirement, 'good standing' would now be sufficient. By 1988 any such occupational class distinction had eased with men in all walks of life being welcome. Numbered amongst members of the Poverty Bay Club in the early decades were many well-to-do and influential businessmen and professional members of the community - accountants, lawyers, shop owners, stock agents and a strong representation of farmers. Many of the men were local body politicians, and at least one was a member of the Legislative Council. It was common for members to see each other around town, resulting in many great friendships being forged. It was also quite common to find within the membership two or more generations of the same family: many surnames re-occur in the membership list over the decades.

In the Club's early days there were two categories of membership, country and town, with those living over 50 miles away obtaining a reduced subscription rate because of the travelling involved in coming to town. In 1895 the distance was reduced to 30 miles.

Membership subscriptions altered little during the first 44 years of the Club's existence, apart from recognition of out-of-town members. In 1880 the subscription was four guineas; an entrance fee was also imposed. The 1880s and 1930s depressions were acknowledged by a reduction in the entrance fee and/or the subscription. The Club's district was defined, and fees set according to residence in town, country or long distance. In 1970 the entrance fee was reduced for members under 30 years of age; in 1971 the subscription rate for Long Standing Members (members for 50 years or more) was reduced. These represent attempts to assist retired men, who may have reduced incomes, and to encourage more participation by younger men. In 1970 the subscriptions were $40 for Town members, $25 for Country and $10 for Long Distance. During both World Wars members on active service had their fees remitted.

Numbers of members increased to 100 by 1899. In the 12 years since the building had opened, membership numbers almost doubled, to 193 members in 1910, possibly influenced by the excellent facilities and atmosphere offered by the new building. In 1911 there were 200 members and 300 in 1921. Many members resigned during the Depression such that by 1933 there were only 197 members, but numbers again increased, slowly with many fluctuations. A boom in interest after the Second World War meant that in 1946 it was decided to limit numbers to 300 (with exceptions made). In 1956 the limit was placed at 400 members. Membership numbers peaked at 443 in 1967 but were falling slowly by 1970.

Nominations for new members were voted on at meetings, and nominees were turned down occasionally. A specially-made ballot box was used at meetings; from 1905 a postal ballot was implemented for the election of officers.

The members were of various ages, although most did not join until after 30 years of age. In the mid-1980s the room off the Terrace Room (Club Room) was done up to attract younger members. One man who joined with his two flatmates at this time, when all were in their mid-20s, said he was encouraged to join by the president during a membership drive. As inducement the Club offered a reduced membership fee, redecorated one of the upper floor rooms, provided more modern music and had a makeshift bar upstairs. The room was crowded but was open to both sexes, also to guests. Prospective members still had to be approved. When the informant went overseas in 1989 he allowed his membership to lapse; also by then the fee had gone up. He had been to the Club prior to becoming a member, as a guest. He enjoyed the Club's atmosphere and facilities for 2-3 years: 'Cheap feed, a couple of drinks and a bit of snooker - fantastic... The atmosphere in the Dome Room almost made me want to smoke a pipe'. At that time the Dome Room was referred to as the snooker room.

When the neighbouring Gisborne Club burnt down in 1910, its members were made honorary members of the Poverty Bay Club and allowed the use of a room. Honorary membership was conferred on nominated people and lasted for one month. Recipients included Dr Maui Pomare in 1907; the Minister of Labour in 1953 and the Bishop of Wellington in 1962.

As with other such clubs, membership was for men only. In 1971 a comprehensive plan to make provision for women was drawn up. Financial implications, which included redecorating and providing carpet in the cloak room, small lounge and large lounge, as well as improving the toilet facilities, were considered. However, the plan failed at a Special General Meeting; instead it was decided to allow women to visit the Club as guests. In 1975 women were permitted to enter the Club in parties of diners, on Saturday nights only.

In June 1988 women were allowed to join the club as members, with equal rights to men. At that time the club had 'quality entertainment facilities, including a bar and dining room, conference room, snooker and billiards room, card room, library and a squash court.' The upper floor bedrooms were being earmarked for refurbishment as meeting rooms. The then president, Simon Cave, felt that allowing women to become members was not a sudden change but a natural progression.

By 1997 spouses of members had full membership rights. However, membership numbers continued to fall in the late 1990s due to several societal factors. Changes in licensed premises' closing times from 6 pm to 10 pm, legislative changes that saw many sporting clubs obtain bar licenses and changes in shop closing hours took members away from the Club. Stricter enforcement of drink-driving laws also encouraged people to relax at home. Over the last 10 years the Club's administration endeavoured to take a progressive approach and showed a willingness to change and be innovative. Despite this, as times changed so did the attraction of the Club. This, plus the high maintenance costs of the building, saw the closure of the Poverty Bay Club as an association in 2003. Its neighbour, the Gisborne Club, also closed in December 2004, by which time its membership had declined to 95 members.


Visitors were permitted, but only under strict rules, including being hosted by a subscribing member. Visitors' Books (sub-titled Honorary Members Book) recorded both the name of the visitor and his host. Like the other registers, these were leather bound with engraved titles. A sample of visitors in January 1928 shows occupations such as sheep farmer, solicitor, auctioneer, accountant, doctor and general manager; they hailed from Christchurch, Ashburton, Melbourne, and Adelaide as well as many North Island towns. Visitors were entertained in the Strangers Room, a custom prevailing in other men's clubs too, for instance at the Soldiers Institute in Rotorua.

The Club has had many notable visitors over the years. One of the earliest was the Marquis of Normanby, then Governor of New Zealand, in 1876. Other eminent persons included 'His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, Governors, Governors-General, Prime Ministers and Ambassadors. Officers of His Majesty's Navy, Army and Air Force have right of entry to the Club'. The Club hosted the Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson in 1967. During the Cook Bicentenary Celebrations in 1969, the crews of visiting warships made use of the club's facilities.


The Club's financial situation fluctuated over the years depending on the number of members and expenditure on major items such as furniture, the building, redecorating, repairs and renovations, and compliance with fire regulations. Income was received from subscriptions, joining fees, the sale of liquor and papers, and an occasional levy imposed on members. A loan was taken out to assist with costs of building the clubhouse; this mortgage was increased in 1910 and despite levies on members was increased again a few years later. Finances improved during the 1940s such that the mortgage was finally paid off in 1950.

In 1989 it was considered the Club may have to close, but new staff and an energetic president turned the fortunes around, especially with the inclusion of women members helping to boost numbers. However, maintenance costs proved too great for the Club to meet, and on 21 October 2003 the property was transferred from the Poverty Bay Club Incorporated to Witters Properties Ltd. The Club's association with the building ended, however the name Poverty Bay Club has been retained as the name of the building.

Management and staff

From 1898 the Club employed a steward (later termed manager) to look after the building and club services on a daily basis, and the importance of this position was noted: 'It is apparent that we have been very fortunate in our staff... the service to and the comfort of members, even in times of stress, have been maintained at a high standard, which has helped to create that atmosphere of good fellowship so desirable in Club life.' In the early years the steward and his family lived in the accommodation provided: initially a separate cottage and then the upstairs flat above the service area.

One manager, Harry Norris, was described as 'the last of the gentlemen butlers'. Mr and Mrs H (Harry) A C Norris left in November 1968 after 29 years of service and Mr H C Pilkington took over management. In May 1971 it was reported that Mr Pilkington being near retirement, the Club might look at employing a full time managing secretary.

In 1988 Terry Martin was manager. Alan Drake was appointed manager in c.1989, with Mrs Pat Neshausen in charge of the kitchen. In 1994, eleven staff were employed. In 1997 the club employed no-one full-time but had 10 paid part-time employees to cater for the needs of its 194 members.

According to Robert Graham , members of the committee took turns to assist by mowing lawns and tending the gardens, and in the 1980s more of the duties were performed by the committee. In 1995 the position of manager was dispensed with in order to reduce operating costs. The manager's accommodation was no longer used.

Associations with Prominent Citizens

Many prominent members of the Gisborne-Poverty Bay community who contributed to the town's growth and development have had associations with the Poverty Bay Club. There were lawyers and businessmen, some of whom became the chairman (president) of the Club, and who were involved in a number of other clubs and organizations, locally and nationally. The Club's founder, Dr William Kerr Nesbitt, was Resident Magistrate at Maketu for seven years prior to his appointment at Gisborne in 1870.

A significant number of early members were owners of large sheep farms in the district. The committee of the Club in 1893 comprised James Booth, A.C. Arthur (sheepfarmer, Tokomaru and Waikanae 10,000 sheep), C Evans (sheepfarmer, Te Arai, large flock of 8564 sheep in 1877). Arthur Beetham Williams, a member from 1893 and elected an Honorary Life Member in 1946, was a sheepfarmer at Puketiki, Waipiro Bay; he was also chairman of the Waiapu County Council, chairman of the Hospital Board and owner of several successful racehorses. James Busby Williams. President of the Club in 1965, was also a sheepfarmer; he was director of Williams & Kettle at Napier and Adair Bros. Ltd in Gisborne; he served on the Waikohu County Council from 1935-47, on the Cook Hospital Board from 1944 and its chairman from 1947 until at least 1968, on the Gisborne City Council 1956-62, deputy mayor 1959-62; he was awarded the Coronation Medal and the OBE.

An early member of the committee was William H. Tucker. Tucker's career spanned working with surveyors in the Bay of Islands in 1858, managing Woodlands Station in Hawkes Bay in 1859, serving as lieutenant with the Waipawa Cavalry Corps and later commanding the Poverty Bay Militia No.1 Company, and working with the land courts as a licensed interpreter; he was a councillor with the first Gisborne Borough Council and mayor for two years; he was appointed MLC in 1907. Irish-born Dr Henry Pollen, who was on the Club committee 1880-84 and 1887-89, was surgeon-superintendent to the New Zealand Emigration Department before settling in Gisborne in 1876; in 1890 he moved to Wellington where he became the port health officer.

The family of W.O. Skeet, builder of the original building and designer and builder of early modifications, were relatively early European settlers in the Gisborne district, with E Skeet accepting an invitation to a Pioneers' lunch in 1872; and F Skeet on the football team in 1879. F. Skeet was a Poverty Bay Club committee member from 1892-1898 - his relationship to W.O. Skeet, builder for the new building, is not known. R M Skeet was a county engineer. William Oswald Skeet established the City Timber Yards in Gladstone Road in 1880. His 1896 directory listing is a large notice 'Builder and Timber Merchant, Gladstone Road and Cobden Street' as well as an advertisement. Another advertisement at the time the Club was being built shows the business also supplied ironmongery. The newspaper report for the opening of the Club praised Skeet's work: 'like everything that Mr Skeet undertakes the workmanship has been well done and the contract carried out to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.' W O Skeet was president of the Gisborne Cricket Club in 1900. The family's associations with the building trade continued for some years, with C R Skeet & Co. advertising as timber merchants in 1924. Local law firm Nolan and Skeet was associated with the Club from at least 1898; the firm has provided “at least two presidents and a current [1994] committee member Mr John O'Leary.

John Townley, who provided the furniture and furnishings for the Club building in 1898, came to be known as Gisborne's 'Grand Old Man'. According to the Cyclopedia Gisborne 'owes a great deal of its civic prosperity to his energy'. In 1887 John Townley was elected one of the first borough councillors and was mayor from 1892 until 1907. He served also as chairman of the Harbour Board for 28 years, was superintendent of the Fire Brigade and chairman of the Permanent Building Society. His service to the community and the 'large heartedness' of 'Honest John' was acknowledged with a citizen's presentation a few years before his death, which occurred in 1920.

George Grant, honorary secretary of the Club from 1886-1901, was educated as an engineer in London. He worked in the 1870s for the Public Works Department in railway construction and overseeing the opening of the Kaitangata coal mine. After establishing the firm of Dennison and Grant, based in Oamaru, he moved to Gisborne in 1881, worked for some time in connection with the Native Lands Settlement Company, then worked in private practice from 1886. He was Government Valuator for 12 years and also engineer for local road districts. Member Richard James Reynolds was also a civil engineer.

J.W. Bright, committee member in 1893 was also president of the Gisborne Bowling Club. Thomas Chrisp, Vice- President 1895-1900 and President 1901, was a farmer and land agent; E.J. Chrisp was auditor for the Club 1901-03 and on the committee from 1904. E.J. Chrisp, who was made an Honorary Life Member in 1936, was Borough Solicitor for Gisborne, having set up practice in the town in 1885. He married a daughter of John Townley.

William Fitzgerald Crawford was prominent in the town as a politician, businessman and photographer. He ran the Albion Club Hotel from 1896; owned a brewery which he sold in 1897; was a shopkeeper, councillor and mayor, town fire brigade superintendent. Crawford left a large body of photographs of Gisborne and district's people, buildings, activities and changes in the landscape. He and his family arrived in Gisborne in 1874, where he remained for 40 years. Crawford was Gisborne's first mayor, elected in 1877. Interestingly, despite his involvement with the Poverty Bay Club, his send-off on a visit to England in 1913 was at the Cosmopolitan Club. The respect with which he was regarded is evidenced by the fact that Sir James Carroll gave the chief toast. Crawford gifted his large library of books to the Cosmopolitan club.

Alexander Francis Kennedy, another long-serving committee member from 1892 with service as president, was a member of the Gisborne Borough Council, a Trustee of the Hospital, on the Charitable Aids Board, president of the Gisborne Horticultural Society and Gisborne Rowing Club, and vice-president of the Gisborne Beautifying Association and Caledonian Society; he was a Freemason of Lodge Abercorn and was a Grand Senior Deacon of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. He was the accountant for Williams & Kettle and married a daughter of Mr W. Adair, another well-known Gisborne identity.

More recent association has been with Dan and Dean Witters, prominent local businessmen who with their wives Sam and Lesley bought the Club in 2003. Dean Witters owned several properties in Gisborne; he was behind two high-profile events in the region, the Rhythm and Vines music festival held at New Year and the Taste Gisborne wine and food festival. The Witters had family ties with a founding member of the Club, Thomas Adair. Adair Bros (Thomas and Charles) had a substantial drapery business in Gladstone Road. William Adair was on the Club committee from 1882-85; he was a member of the first Borough Council.


The Poverty Bay Club acquired Sections 22 and 23 on March 16, 1898. When purchased the sections were clear of buildings, but a large two-storey building had been on the corner section (Section 23) from c.1874 when the property belonged to James Buchanan of Auckland. In April 1875 Edward Knight Brown acquired the section and E.K. Brown's grocery and drapery operated from the enlarged building until at least 1887. Brown also owned Section 22 from 1878, but transferred this and Section 23 to Ellen Donner in 1889. The sections were empty by 1896.

The Poverty Bay Club commissioned the design for a permanent clubhouse, apparently asking local architect W.P. Finneran. The building was erected within 13 weeks from purchase of the land at a cost of £1805. It opened on 7th June 1898. Contemporary reports considered it 'substantial and commodious... with a handsome and imposing exterior [which] must strike visitors arriving by steamer with a very favourable impression, and show them that life in Gisborne is not without its comforts and luxuries.' It was described as a 'fine building' [with] eleven rooms, a billiard room, a bar, and a large reading room. The dining room will seat thirty persons, and there are three sitting rooms, besides comfortable accommodation for the stewards; and the grounds surrounding the club are tastefully laid out' ... According to a contemporary account: 'The money expended... has not all been sacrificed on outside adornment, for the interior looks just as substantial and comfortable and well-finished '.

The original building comprised a square, two-storey, hip-roofed wooden building with verandahs on three sides and a gable-roofed annex on the west (rear) side to house the billiard room and dining room. The front of the main building faces east onto Customhouse Street and when built was symmetrical about a projecting single bay on the ground floor, accentuated by a gable bay in the roof with a flagpole at its apex. In addition, a single-storey gable-roofed cottage for staff accommodation was offset very close to the southwest corner of the main building. Near the cottage was 'a shower-bath and dressing room and offices [toilets] screened by a high fence from the front of the building.' A concrete water tank is visible in early photographs of the building, only partly screened by the fence.

The front entrance opened into a wide vestibule which continued through a pair of cedar doors set in a glazed and timber screen into a lofty hallway 'cut off from the approach to the staircase by a nicely drawn arch' ; on the left were two rooms, one for the secretary and the other a reading room. The original 'Strangers' Room' was to the right of the front vestibule, with the Bar in the adjacent room; beneath this room was a large cool cellar. A small parlour was adjacent to the bar room. At the end of the hall was a door into the billiard room, 'a large chamber, brilliantly illuminated by means of Wade's patent skylights, well-ventilated, and in every way most suitable'. The room had rimu dadoes, a panelled ceiling with a cove and angle break, its dimensions were 30ft x 24 ft with a 14ft stud, and 'a handsome mantelpiece, worked in fancy woods, and neatly stained, surmounts the fireplace and gives a finish to the room'. The dining room was adjacent to the billiard room; this and other lower floor rooms had a stud of 12 feet.

Upstairs a card room, reading room and the club room opened off the landing. The club room was described as 'a sumptuously decorated apartment of fine proportions ... a dome cove runs around the ceiling, which has been artistically picked out with pretty tints, and contains an ornamental centrepiece of chaste design. Rimu panels, tastefully arranged, surround the wall of the apartment, and also of the adjoining writing room (15ft x 14ft), which is connected by a wide archway.' Other features of the rooms were the mantelpieces and folding doors which opened onto the wide balcony. A lift operated from the card room to the bar below.

Within a few years of the opening of the Clubhouse, extensions were undertaken. The first extension was the lengthening of the billiard room annex in 1901, with a steep gable fronting onto Childers Road and an entrance vestibule facing east. In 1903 the card room was enlarged and the lift removed. In 1904 the steward's quarters were added to and a new lavatory installed. Probably also in 1904 a second storey was added to the steward's quarters; this contained six bedrooms, one with a fireplace, and a bathroom. The roof line of this addition does not reflect the ground-floor plan, as the southeast quarter overlaps the former dining room (now kitchen). Three tubs and a copper for water heating were in the washhouse-scullery off the kitchen. The dining room was extended by twice its width so that it connected to the previously-built steward's quarters; the ground floor of the steward's quarters then had two bedrooms downstairs, a pantry and servery, a kitchen and a scullery-washhouse. At that stage there were outbuildings against the western boundary fence and an earth closet. During 1905 to 1907, further changes were made in the steward's quarters to allow for the enlargement of the dining room. Builder W. O. Skeet was again employed for some of this work, which he designed as well.

To these buildings, a major single-storey addition designed by Pat Graham was built in 1910 onto the south side. The new addition 'echoed the original building in its details, repeating at a larger scale the projecting bay window beneath a decorated gable roof.' The new addition accommodated a larger reading room, a dressing room for out-of-town members, four toilets, urinals, a bath and basins. The south end of the front verandah was glazed in to create a sheltered link to the new addition from the vestibule, while access to the rear of the extension was achieved by converting the northern of the two rooms off the hallway into a passageway, with arches at either end. A septic tank was installed also, northwest of the bathroom area.

The next significant change was in 1913, when the billiard room vestibule was demolished and a major lean-to addition was built along part of the Childers Road frontage. The addition housed a new 16 metre long billiard room with daylight supplied through three large domes set into the trussed roof space, with skylights above. A raised floor along the sides of the room served as a viewing platform; fireplaces were installed at each end. The billiard room was designed by Burr & Mirfield, although they may have based their work on plans and specifications supplied by A. Atkins of Wellington.

In 1920-21 the first-floor bedroom wing was added above Graham's 1910 reading room extension. This entailed removal of the western verandah to allow for a new staircase and the blocking-in of the window in the card room off the landing. Access to the front verandah is possible from the upstairs passage of the bedroom wing. The new wing provided seven bedrooms, two bathrooms and two toilets. An original built-in large linen cupboard remains in the passage. Recent changes have involved the removal of bath and other plumbing fixtures in the upper floor accommodation.

In 1936 the dining room was enlarged and subdivided to make a new bar, with further additions to dining room and bar in 1950. In 1990 a garden bar was added. The dining room has recently been reduced in size to accommodate the new kitchen plus two small internal rooms used as a chiller and storeroom. The folding doors that subdivided the dining room have been removed.

A major addition was built in 1954: the Churchill Room with the wine store leading off it. The wine store was built on the Childers Road side of the billiard room. The Churchill Room was built as an additional space for a billiard table, but this entailed shortening the squash court by 2 feet 5 inches.

The laundry was renovated in 1963 with new gas fittings and plumbing fixtures, new architraves and skirtings and a new bench unit. A 1975 plan drawn for fireproofing work shows part of the ground floor of the services area; a laundry in the corner with kitchen to the east; and to the south is the stairway to the manager's flat, then a short passage accessing a store and an ironing room. These rooms are disused now or used for short-term storage only.

The building suffered minor damage from fire in 1955 and 1960, and a small amount of damage occurred during the 1933 earthquake, resulting in the removal of a chimney. Earthquake damage in 1966 required repairs to two chimneys and some plasterwork. In 1950 a fire alarm system was installed; in 1952 fire escapes added. The cost of further fire safety measures required in 1975 could not be met and as a result the bedroom wing was closed.

The use of some rooms has changed over the years, for instance the Strangers Room may have once been the manager's room ; the dining room is now the kitchen; the upstairs writing room became a bar. Other changes included the dressing room being subdivided through the central line of the paired windows in 1936; this wall has been removed recently to re-create one larger room. The original lockers still stand against one wall. In 1947 a whisky store room was built by internal modifications; in 1951 there were changes to layout and doors in the storeroom and the Strangers Room. The three rooms (Strangers, Bar and Parlour) originally on the north (right-hand) side of the main hall now form one long room, furnished as a bar and with French doors opening onto the verandah. The accommodation wing, the card room off the main landing and manager's accommodation were no longer in use in 2006.

In 1997, the Club applied for a Lotteries Grants Board grant for two conservation plans - these were a building plan, undertaken by Salmond Architects, and a conservation assessment of the chattels undertaken by Nick Tupara.

In September 2003 the Club decided to sell the property to Witters Family Partnership, the sale being effected on October 3 2003. The Witters intended the club building to remain available for functions and venue hire as part of an endeavour 'to provide a more invigorating recreational atmosphere for Gisborne residents and visitors'. The property was owned by Witters Properties, initially partners Dean and Lesley Witters, and Dan and Sam Witters. Subsequently Dean and his wife Lesley had 100% ownership.

In 2004 -05 various improvements were undertaken by the Witters Partnership, including interior painting and decorating, installing the new commercial kitchen with modern equipment, replacing the roof, painting the exterior and replacing rotten weatherboards. The Partnership built a café, undertook landscaping changes particularly in the back yard, and opened the Winston's Bar.

In early 2006 several businesses were operating from rooms in the buildings e.g. Logistical Solutions, a dressmaker, computer services, and Rhythm and Vines. The building was described as having seven studios, café (office), Terrace office including four rooms; library, Winston's bar (sharing the lawn), PBC club bar, Dome, and Old Office including five small rooms.

As a result of financial difficulties, staff were given notice on 23 February 2006 and the Club was closed by the Partnership's accountants. The popular Winston's Bar, which provided live entertainment, stayed open initially. The property was to be sold by auction on 28 April but this was postponed until May 12. At the time of the auction the building was tenanted on a month-by-month basis by Logistical Solutions Ltd, Bay Watch Campgrounds and Rhythm and Vines. Chattels were offered for sale by separate negotiation. The Witters sold the clubhouse to Frank Alderton in 2006 by private arrangement after the building had been passed in at public auction

The building continues to be used occasionally for social functions e.g. funerals, weddings, a charity art auction; rooms are rented out for small businesses; Rotary uses it as a meeting place; it provides storage for Club archives. The kitchen and cooking facilities are used by catering firms for large local events e.g. a school reunion. The courtyard at rear is used as an extension to the dining area and bar.

The building was a Registered Historic Place Category II, no.810.

Outdoor features

In the early years a neat picket fence marked the edge of the property on both Childers Road and Customhouse Street, with a recessed gateway facing diagonally into the street intersection. Within the fence was a hedge, cropped just higher than the fence. Plantings of conifers in the Customhouse Street front garden were removed prior to August 1910. Wisterias were planted along the two frontages, trained to extend up to the upper floor verandah rail. In 1957 the fence was rebuilt in Cyclone netting on a concrete base with roses planted along it; by then the wisterias had been removed.

In 2005 WPL received a resource consent for the establishment of a café and use of front and rear court yards including a portion of adjoining property on 40 Childers Road (Public Trust building) for dining and sale of liquor. Outdoor furniture is used on the rear lawn for functions.


Several items of furniture remain from the Poverty Bay Club era of the building's use, and some may date from the late 19th century. It was not known which pieces were supplied by John Townley for the opening. Tairawhiti Museum made an inventory of chattels in 2003, however many of the chattels were sold in two public auctions, including beds bearing the PBC monogram, and a few items were excluded from the sale by Witters Properties in 2006. Witters Properties had also purchased the Gisborne Club and furniture from there was moved into the Poverty Bay Club. No record was kept as to which pieces relate to which club, although provenance is known for some items.

Remaining in the building in 2006 were bookshelves, a newspaper desk, bound periodicals, embossed books, sofas, chairs, small occasional tables and other items. Significant furniture reminiscent of the Club's heyday and penchant for billiards are the eight large black leather-upholstered sofas. These are approximately 4 metres long and were presumably acquired for the viewing platform in the Dome Room. They are in a scuffed condition, as are several smaller matching armchairs, armless chairs and a shorter sofa.

An earlier list of chattels made for valuation purposes included 114 large white ceramic dinner plates and 52 small, 34 dessert bowls, Poverty Bay Club flag, 104 PBC wine glasses, 17 waiter's aprons. Some crockery, glassware and cutlery with the PBC logo remain, and are still in use for functions.

A set of caricatures of members drawn between 1911 and 1916 by W J Bowring, and another 25 portraits done in 1948 by New Zealand Herald cartoonist J C Hill are in the reading room, along with photographic portraits including 44 of past presidents. A portrait of the founder Dr Nesbitt, commissioned in 1880 to replace the one lost in the hotel fire, hangs in the Reading Room.

The billiard room walls at one time supported two stag's head trophies.

Only one of the set of matching marble-topped wooden occasional tables remains. Several small tables are placed around the Dome Room, dining room and elsewhere, but it is not known whether these belonged to the Club or not. An umbrella stand/hall stand is believed to be not from the Club. Red leather sofas and chairs in the Clubhouse came from the Gisborne Club, as did the large dresser in the present dining room. A small snooker table currently in the squash court is also a more recent acquisition.

Physical Description

The original Poverty Bay Club building and its adjacent cottage have seen several major and minor additions and alterations in their overall structure since they were erected in 1898. Originally two separate buildings now conjoined, additions to each have resulted in a single composite structure. The history of its expansion is partly reflected in the roofs of each addition, but less so in the outward appearance, as care was taken by the different local architects who were involved in the earlier work to blend in with the original structures. Later additions were not as harmonious although similar cladding materials were used.


The design of the original square two-storey building, constructed in 1898, reflects its corner site. From the front (east, Customhouse Street) and north side (Childers Road) the original two-storey building can be identified as the northeast corner with verandahs at both levels. At the southern end of the frontage is a two-storeyed extension, the lower floor built in 1910 and the upper in 1920. A large square bay window (1910) is a feature of the Customhouse Street façade. Other external features include the bull-nosed verandah roofs, decorative iron fretwork around the verandahs and wooden fretwork around the verandahs and main gable end. Part of the original front verandah is built in and glazed, partly concealing the front door. The central section of the lower verandah projected as a shallow bay with three sets of windows.

The building is clad in wooden rusticated weatherboards, with bevelled weatherboards in the 1920 portion. The rear and south sides of the 1910 addition and the squash court are plastered brick. The roofs are of corrugated iron, except for the 1954 wine store addition which has a flat roof concealed by a parapet. Most of the roofs are hipped, the exceptions being the 1954 gable roof of the Churchill Room facing onto Childers Road and the flat roof of the adjacent wine store. The gable roof echoes two decorative gables (1898 and 1920) in the Customhouse Street façade, and a small gable trim around a chimney on the Childers Road elevation.

All main windows are double-hung sash windows. The built-in part of the front verandah has fixed windows with leadlight panes above. The main front entrance comprises a pair of wooden doors with a single window above. Paired French doors open onto fire escapes in the upper floor of the 1920 addition and from the main club room onto the 1898 verandah. In the rear (west) elevation French doors open onto the garden courtyard. Single wooden doors give access to the wine store, laundry/scullery and the service area stairwell. On the north elevation a pair of French doors has been installed recently to provide direct access into the planned café.


The interior is a network of rooms some leading off the original central hallway and upper floor landing and later corridors including a short corridor in the ground floor service area. A staircase gives access to the upper floor of the original building with a side staircase from the half-landing giving access to the 1920 accommodation wing. A narrower staircase leads from a small hallway off the kitchen up to the manager's accommodation rooms. The upper floors of the original building and the manager's wing are not accessible from each other. Some rooms interconnect: for instance the Churchill Room is accessed from the dining room and in turn the squash court and wine store open from the Churchill Room. The squash court can also be accessed through the dining room.

Four distinct periods are manifest in the interiors: late Victorian (1890s), Edwardian (1910-14), Inter-war (1920s-30s) and late 20th-early 21st century. Elements from the 1940s and 50s can also be discerned. However, during renovations doors and mantelpieces have often be re-used in a new position, helping to keep the integrity of the building.

On the ground floor of the original building, the walls between the three northern rooms have been removed to form one larger room. This retains the original fireplace and mantelpiece of the Strangers Room but has been modified with a pair of glazed doors to give external access. The room has been fitted out with a bar and small kitchen units for intended use as a café and bar.

The dining room is L-shaped with a long servery and bar fittings in the foot of the L Folding doors which once divided the room have been removed and placed in the Gisborne Club.

A large commercial kitchen leads off from the ground floor hallway with access also to the dining room, small storerooms and toilet, and the stairway to the manager's accommodation. External access from the kitchen is through glazed doors onto a deck with ramp on the south side of the building. The previous small kitchen is currently disused and being renovated, although evidence of earlier fittings remains.

The Dome Room (billiard room) is the largest room in the complex. It has fireplaces at each end, raised platforms around the sides on which stand 4-metre long leather couches for comfortable viewing of the games. (The billiard tables have been removed.) The room is lit with three large glass domes, in turn lit from skylights set into the roof above. The room has no other external lighting.

Stud height varies from 14 feet in the vestibule to 12 feet in the original rooms.

A variety of ceiling claddings are evident: board and batten (e.g. in card room upstairs 1898), plastered with decorative mouldings (e.g. in reading room 1910), plaster (or hardboard?) sheeting with beading (e.g. dining room extension) and tongue and groove (e.g. squash court). The squash court has a coved ceiling, as does the club room (1898) and Dome Room (1913).

Rimu panelling is a feature of many of the rooms dating from 1898 and 1910. In the club room (1898) and part of the bar (original dining room?) it forms a dado in tongue and groove boards, but in the reading room (1910), the dado is of wide planks with battens. The wall boards of the dressing room (1910) have recently been exposed by removal of sacking and wallpaper; they are horizontal broad planks, possibly kauri. The squash court walls and ceiling cladding was purpose-built for the sport: they are narrow horizontal tongue and groove boards.

Floor boards vary in width, e.g. those in the squash court are 5½ inch (135mm) and in the Churchill Room narrower at 3½ inch (85mm). The concrete foundations for the table remain in the Churchill Room, which was later altered as a bar. Much of the flooring is concealed with carpet or linoleum. Remnants of old lino are visible in the small rooms off the kitchen/service area. The Churchill Room floor covering was originally lino, taken up in 2005.

Notable Features

The registration includes the 1898 building with its several additions.

External features of note include vents and decorative elements around verandahs and gables.

Internal features of note include the squash court, arches, panelled dadoes, doors and windows, door handles and fittings (including on toilet doors), signs, fire surrounds, mantelpieces and hearths, tiled floor in men's toilets, portions of linoleum remaining on floors in service area, panelled ceilings, coved ceilings and ceiling roses, concrete supports for billiard tables, built-in lockers, and cellar. Three glass domes in the ceiling of the billiard room and the stained glass in the stairwell are major features.

The site may have archaeological deposits related to use of the area by tangata whenua. It probably has archaeological deposits related to previous buildings associated with former landowners in the 1870s-90s (including Brown's store); plus the earth closet, ablutions building, rubbish pits and septic tank associated with the Poverty Bay Club clubhouse.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1898 -

1901 -
Billiard room enlarged

1903 -
Card room enlarged, lift removed

1904 -
Stewards' quarters additions, new lavatory, possibly new storey on stewards' annex

1905 -
Stewards' quarters and dining room enlarged, more lavatories installed

1910 -
Major one-storey addition designed by P H Graham: east frontage (facing Customhouse St) doubled in length to include new reading room, dressing room (locker room), lavatories; septic tank installed

1912 -
Electric lighting installed

1913 -
Billiard room major extension with skylights and glass domes; designed by Burr & Mirfield

1914 -
Squash court built

1920 -
Accommodation wing built as 2nd floor above 1910 addition; designed by Burr & Mirfield

1936 -
Dining room enlarged and subdivided to make new bar; locker room subdivided

1947 -
Whisky store room built by internal modifications

1950 -
Fire alarm system installed; dining room and bar additions

1951 -
Changes to layout and doors in storeroom, Strangers Room

1952 -
Fire escapes added

1954 -
Churchill Room built, squash court shortened, wine store built on Childers Road side of billiard room

1956 - 1957
Roof replaced

1963 -
Renovations to laundry-scullery

1967 -
Strangers Room converted to manager's office; wireless room to visitors room [now manager's room]

1975 -
Fire escapes altered; bedrooms closed

2003 -
Closure of Poverty Bay Club Inc., sale of building to Witters Properties Ltd and new use.

Prior to 2004 wall between original bar and parlour removed; alley behind women's toilets closed in as storeroom

2004 - 2005
Wall between Strangers Room and parlour removed, French doors installed to verandah from enlarged room; passage door to service area shifted and replaced with archway.

Construction Details

The Club is constructed of timber framed walls with piled raised flooring.

Most of the building is clad in rusticated weatherboards except for the ground floor of the rear of the 1910 addition which is plastered, and the squash court. The roofing is corrugated steel. All external joinery is timber. The verandahs are decorated with iron fretwork.

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

9th February 2007

Report Written By

Lyn Williams

Information Sources

Berry, 1990

J Berry and Sheila Robinson (eds) Gisborne exposed; the photographs of William Crawford 1874 - 1913; Te Rau Press Limited and Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre, 1990

Bradbury, 1915

E. Bradbury (ed.), The Settlement and Development of the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, 1st edition, Auckland, 1915

Cottrell, 2006

William Cottrell, Furniture of the New Zealand colonial era; Reed Publishing New Zealand, Auckland, 2006

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Hatten, 1969

Lily Hatten, When Gisborne Was Young, Ormond, 1969

Law, 1974

GE Law and RC Parker, History of the Poverty Bay Club (Incorporated), Gisborne, 1874-1974; Gisborne, 1974. (editor of 1st edition R.C. Murphy).

Petersen, 1968

G C Petersen (ed.), Who's who in New Zealand, A.H. & A.W. Reed, 9th ed 1968

Rolfe, 2000

J Rolfe, In the club: a history of the Chartered Club movement in New Zealand; Celebrity Books, Auckland, 2000

Salmond Architects, 2000 (6)

Salmond Architects, 'A plan for the conservation and maintenance of the Poverty Bay Club, Gisborne', Salmond Architects report No.9762, Auckland, July 2000

Scholefield, 1908

Guy Schofield and E Schwabe (eds), Who's who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, Gordon & Gotch Proprietary Ltd, Wellington 1908

Scholefield, 1951

G H Scholefield.(ed.), Who's who in New Zealand, A.H. & A.W. Reed, 5th ed. 1951

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area Office

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.