Karangahake School

Armstrong Street, Karangahake

  • Karangahake School.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 26/03/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 127 Date Entered 15th February 1990


City/District Council

Hauraki District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Sec 32 & Pt Secs 3 & 4 Blk IX Karangahake Tship Blk1 ArohaSD


The Karangahake School was originally intended to be sited at MacKaytown, but the existing site was chosen when it became apparent from the successful field testing of the cyanide process of gold extraction that Karangahake would become the major settlement. Karangahake in 1907 reached a population peak of 3000 with a school roll in excess of 500. By 1919 the school roll had fallen to 180 as a result of the decline and eventual closure of most of the nearby mines. Classrooms were removed to Waikino and by 1943 the school had become sole charge, as it is today.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Karangahake School, one of the few surviving major buildings of the gold mining settlements of Ohinemuri, is a monument to the community's attitudes to the education of its children. In its growth from a single room in 1890 to a five roomed institution in the first decade of the century and its subsequent decline to single room status again by the 1940s, it mirrors the initial prosperity and ultimate demise of so many communities based on major extractive industries.


The original Karangahake School is an excellent example of a simple early New Zealand school. With little applied decoration, it is an unpretentious and functional building. The surviving later additions exhibit a stylistic harmony with the original structure maintaining a cohesive unity in the existing complex.


Because of its siting on a terrace overlooking State Highway 2 at the entrance to the Karangahake gorge, the school is a prominent building and well known landmark.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Allright, Henry

Allright (1827-1906) was born in Kent in 1827. After training as an architect, he emigrated to New Zealand in 1854. From 1856 he was employed in various positions by the Auckland Provincial Board of Works, becoming Provincial Engineer in 1874. In 1877 he was appointed architect to the Auckland Board of Education. He held this position for 15 years during a period of major building expansion following the passing of the 1877 Education Act. In 1883 he was appointed engineer to the Waitemata County, although he retained his position with the Education Board. He retired from the Education Board in 1892 and entered into practice as an engineer, from which he retired in 1901. He died in 1906.

From 1881-85, he was a member of the Auckland Institute of Engineers.

Mitchell, John

Mitchell (1859-1947) was born in Ramelton, Northern Ireland, and received his architectural training in Ireland before emigrating to New Zealand in 1888 and settling in Auckland. He became known for his early use of reinforced concrete. In 1893 he invented a baked earthenware block which was used in domestic construction.

From about 1892 Mitchell was in partnership with Robert Martin Watt (1860-1907) and the firm of Mitchell and Watt was appointed architects to the Auckland Education Board in that year. Mitchell undertook new work while Watt was responsible for rebuilding projects and renovations to existing buildings.

The partnership was appointed architect to the Auckland Education Board in 1892 and is best remembered for designing the former Bayfield School, Herne Bay, built in two sections in 1896 and 1904. The partnership also designed the Mount Eden Congregational Church (1900), Australis House in Customs Street East (1903-1904) and the Leys Institute, Ponsonby (1904).

Mitchell and Watt were also responsible for schools at Te Mata (1905) and Maungatautari (1905), additions to schools at Cambridge (1900) and Dargaville (1905).

Mitchell designed the Seddon Memorial Technical College block (1907 - now part of the Auckland University of Technology) before returning to England in 1912, where he was associated with a pre-fabricated concrete housing project at Bournemouth. He retired in 1922, and upon his return to New Zealand, settled in Rotorua where he died in 1947.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


1890 - Henry ALLRIGHT (1827-1906)

1907 - John MITCHELL (1859-1947)


The original building was a simple Victorian school room with a steeply pitched room with finials, and regular fenestration comprising square-headed sash windows without labels and featuring the small panes typical of school design of the period. The additions of 1895 and 1907 continue this basic architectural style.


The school originally consisted of a single room (1890). It was added to several times, but, as the population of the settlement declined the school was reduced to the present three rooms which date from 1890, 1895 and 1907 respectively, with two rooms being shifted to Waikino. These three rooms were extensively modified in 1980, including the removal of a brick chimney, and the replacement and relocation of some windows, doors and walls.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1890 -

1907 -

Construction Details

Timber framing and weatherboard, kauri throughout. Galvanised corrugated iron roof.

Information Sources

Kellaway, 1981

J. Warwick Kellaway, Education 150: From Schoolhouse to Classpace in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty, Hamilton, 1981

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

Swarbrick, N. n.d, History of the Karangahake Gorge, Lands and Survey Department

Barber, 1985

L Barber, 1985, No Easy Riches : a History of Ohinemuri County, Paeroa and Waihi 1855-1935, Ohinemuri County Council and Richards Publishers

Climie, 1969

N S Climie, (ed) 1969, Karangahake 1889-1969, Paeroa

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.