Palmerston North Technical School (Former)

135 King Street And Princess Street (State Highway 3), Palmerston North

  • Palmerston North Technical School (Former). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 12/12/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1266 Date Entered 2nd July 1982


City/District Council

Palmerston North City


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 53-54 DP 223 (RT WN56A/398), Lot 55 DP 223 (RT WN56A/399), Wellington Land District


The red brick Palmerston North Technical School (Former) in the central city has historic and social significance as the face of various important local educational institutions since it was completed in 1909, including previous incarnations of the Universal College of Learning (UCOL). Prominent architect, Frederick de Jersey Clere, combined Classical and Queen Anne architectural features to create a distinctive two storey Edwardian building, which has some landmark qualities and architectural values. The façade was restored in 1997-98 and a new campus building was created behind it so the site’s educational traditions could continue.

Despite efforts to establish technical school classes in Palmerston North in 1902, it was only in 1906 that they began in earnest. Classes were held in various places around Palmerston North until a government grant and a site for the Palmerston North Technical School’s permanent home were acquired in 1908.

The resulting purpose-built building was anticipated as being ‘a striking addition to the architecture of the district’. The School was officially opened on 29 September 1909 by the Minister for Education, George Fowlds, and in 1911 the Evening Post heralded it as ‘Palmerston [North]’s finest building’. Clere designed the building’s King and Princess Street street-front gabled sections with large arched windows and populated those façades with Classical features, such as square column window mullions, pilasters and rusticated brickwork. This provided a sense of tempered importance benefitting its use as an educational building.

Because of the School’s popularity, space was soon an issue and extensions were created in the subsequent decades. Following the devastating Hawke’s Bay 1931 earthquake the School was strengthened and the 1909 roof was reconfigured to remove the gables and their distinctive gable-ends. This resulted from seismic assessments which stated the building was ‘incapable of wholly resisting the forces induced by violent earthquake movement’. Classes were held in temporary accommodations until the works were completed in early 1932.

In 1956 Palmerston North Teachers’ College took over the building because the School, which changed its name to Queen Elizabeth Technical College, removed to another location in 1955. The Teachers’ College continued to operate from the site until its campus in Hokowhitu was ready for use in 1971. Transitioning into the use of yet another tertiary education provider, the building then become the home of the Palmerston North Technical Institute, later known as Manawatu Polytechnic (1983) and then UCOL (2000).


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1931 - 1932
East and south gables removed and roof reconfigured.

1997 - 1998
North, east and south façade retained and restored and structure behind demolished. New building constructed behind the façade.

Structural upgrade
- 2011
Seismic strengthening

Completion Date

25th March 2019

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Dougherty, 1999

Ian Dougherty, Bricklayers and Mortarboards: A History of New Zealand Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology, Palmerston North, 1999

Historic Manawatū-Horowhenua, 2013

‘Palmerston North Technical College (now UCOL)’, Historic Manawatū-Horowhenua, 2013, p.27,, accessed 18 Sep 2018.

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.

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.