Queen Margaret College Tower Building
53 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
25th November 1982
Pt Sec 601 Town of Wellington (CT WN598/26), Wellington Land District
The Tower Building at Queen Margaret College was originally the home of T C Williams, a son of missionary Henry Williams and a wealthy land owner. It was designed by well-known architect Charles Tringham in 1878 as an addition to an existing concrete house. Colonial Architect William Clayton had built a concrete house for himself on the site in about 1873 (one of the first concrete private dwellings and also possibly the first to have hot and cold running water in Wellington). Clayton died on 23 August 1877. In March 1878, the lease and house was sold to Thomas Coldham Williams (1825–1907), fourth son of Bay of Islands missionary, Henry Williams, who had interests in farming stations in the Wairarapa as well as other land in Wellington. Williams hired architect Charles Tringham to design additions to the house, including the tower block, portico, conservatory and balconies.
Architect Charles Tringham also designed Westoe, Kakariki (Register No. 156, Category 1) (1874), Plimmer House in Wellington (Register No. 225, Category 1) (1874), as well as All Saints Church, Foxton and St Mark’s Church, Wellington in 1876, before giving up architecture in the 1890s to become a farmer in the Wairarapa.
T C Williams’s wife was Annie Beetham, daughter of the portrait artist William Beetham, and both the Beetham and Williams families established Brancepeth Station in the Wairarapa. The Williams’s house in Wellington became well known for its social events in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After Williams died in 1912 his wife went to England. In 1915, the Presbyterian Church took the lease on the land and first opened Scots College. However it outgrew the site within a few years and moved to its present site in Strathmore and Queen Margaret College began in February 1919. The Clayton portion of the house has since been demolished.
The tower is a fine example of Victorian Italianate design. It is three storeys high and reproduces classical motifs in wood that are more usually seen in masonry. The tower is capped by a distinctive Italianate projecting cornice, heavily bracketed, with a balustraded parapet as a further cap. Such towers were designed for their landmark qualities and their evocation of the picturesque. This one is a prominent feature in photographs of 19th century Thorndon.
In the main entrance hall a ‘U’ shaped staircase with a curved landing leads to a gallery at first floor level which is lit by clerestory windows in a raised portion of the roof. The interior is finely finished with carefully chosen timbers, with the kauri panels of the doors being trimmed with Australian blackwood. A spiral staircase gives access to the tower. The tower block was refurbished and strengthened in 2005.
The tower building has historical and social significance from its association with T C Williams and the over 90 years of association with Queen Margaret College. Despite changes to accommodate educational purposes, historic elements such as the tower, main entrance hall and staircase retain high levels of authenticity. The main interior spaces, and the Italianate style tower, have high aesthetic value. The tower also has streetscape appeal.
Charles Tringham was born at Winforton in Hertfordshire, England, in 1841. Little is known of his education but it is thought that he acquired woodworking skills. Tringham arrived in New Zealand at Auckland in December 1864 and the passenger list records his occupation as a carpenter. Tringham moved to Wellington and established a partnership with a builder named William Lawes. At the end of December 1866 he left the partnership to establish himself as a builder and undertaker. Within a year he was advertising himself as an architect and gaining a considerable number of contracts for houses, churches, hotels and a variety of other commercial premises. Tringham married Margaret Hunter Bennett in April 1868, the daughter of Dr John Bennett, the first New Zealand Registrar-General, and this may have helped his social status in Wellington. Lucrative contracts followed, including the Italianate house ‘Westoe’ (1874) near Marton for Sir William Fox, and the extensions to William Clayton’s former home in Hobson Street (now the nucleus of Queen Margaret College). Tringham was nearing the end of his architectural career in the 1890s and was elected President of the Wellington Association of Architects in 1895. He retired to the Wairarapa to farm and remained there until his death in 1916.
William Clayton builds concrete house
Tower Block constructed by Charles Tringham, as an extension to the earlier building
Demolished - Redevelopment
Original concrete house demolished
Strengthening and refurbishing of Tower Block
17th July 2013
Report Written By
A fully referenced proposal summary report is available from the Central Region office of NZHPT.
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.