Collingwood Courthouse (Former)

Elizabeth Street And Gibbs Road, Collingwood

  • Collingwood Courthouse (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 13/08/2007.
  • Collingwood Courthouse (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • Collingwood Courthouse (Former). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 4/01/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1544 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building, its fixtures and fittings, and land on CT 121/90 Nelson Registry

City/District Council

Tasman District


Tasman Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 13776 (CT NL8C/155), Nelson Land District


Collingwood Courthouse was built in 1901 to replace the original 1882 courthouse, which was required because of the perceived lawlessness in the area.

The discovery of gold in Collingwood in the 1850s brought gold miners to the district. An estimated 2500 miners are thought have have flocked to the township at the peak of the gold rush. No police nor magistrates then monitored the district and, as the population grew, residents became increasingly concerned at the absence of law and order. By 1857 a lock-up, constable's rooms, and a magistrate's house had been constructed to control the district's miscreants.

In the late 1870's, Collingwood was exposed to a second influx of miners, who were attracted by newly discovered coal deposits in the area. The issue of law and order was raised a second time and, in 1882, a courthouse was constructed in the area. Eight years later, in 1900, a decision was made to replace this courthouse with a new, more accessible building in Collingwood proper. The new structure was designed by the now renowned architect John Campbell (1857-1942).

Campbell was born on 4 July 1857 in Glasgow, Scotland. He embarked on a career as an architect, serving his apprenticeship under John Gordon between 1872 and 1876. Campbell came to Dunedin in 1882 then transferred to Wellington in 1888, where he became a draughtsman for the Public Building Department in 1889. The Department merged with the Public Works Department in 1890, and Campbell's title became 'Architect' in 1899. He remained in charge of the architectural design of government buildings in New Zealand until his retirement in 1922. Campbell is particularly well-known for his establishment of Edwardian Baroque as the official style for New Zealand government buildings in the early twentieth century.

In contrast to John Campbell's later designs, the new, single-storied Collingwood Courthouse reflects the more homely style of English Domestic Revivalism, although aspects of other styles are also present. A Tudor influence, for instance, can be seen in the gables and the battens on the wall extending from the roof eves to the bottom plate of the building, while the small scalloped double valances placed above the exterior window frames are influence by the Queen Anne style. The segmented windows are a reference to the Italianate villa, whilst the division of the upper sash of the window into twelve lights is very much an English Georgian Revival aesthetic.

The building was constructed on the corner of Elizabeth and Gibbs Street, Collingwood, on land owned by Nelson builder Thomas McNabb. The building was completed by McNabb on 23rd February 1901 for just over 417 pounds. The land was leased by the Crown for the Courthouse until 1963 when it returned to the management of McNabb's descendant, Ivor McNabb. Ivor McNabb sold the land in 1979 and the building is now used as a café.

Established to control the lawlessness brought on by the influx of miners, and one of the few buildings to survive a disastrous fire in 1904, the Collingwood Courthouse forms a significant link to the early days of the Collingwood settlement. The Courthouse also has architectural value, as a building designed architect John Campbell, and because of the distinctive mix of styles present in its design.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Collingwood Courthouse has architectural value as an example of English Domestic Revivalist styling with a mix of other styles such as Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian Revivalist and Italianate incorporated into the building design. The building has further architectural value as it was designed by the then Public Works Department's draughtsman John Campbell (1857-1942) an influential New Zealand architect in the early 1900s. The Courthouse has historical significance as one of last remaining links to early Collingwood history, due to the 1904 destruction of most of the town in a fire. It also has social significance as a reminder both of Collingwood's heyday, and of the effort put in by the residents in 1904 to try and stop the fire that swept through the town.

a, b, g

Established to control the lawlessness brought on by the influx of miners, and one of the few buildings to survive a disastrous fire in 1904, the Collingwood Courthouse forms a significant link to the early days of the Collingwood settlement. Collingwood is an early settlement that peaked during the gold rushes of the 1850s and 1860s. The Courthouse is a reminder of the changeable nature of such towns, whose permanent residents had to deal with a constant influx of strangers, with uncertainties such as these the presence of law enforcement officials and buildings, such as the Courthouse, would have been reassuring.

The Courthouse also has architectural value, as a building designed architect John Campbell, and because of the distinctive mix of styles present in its design. Campbell held the position of Government Architect from 1909 till his retirement in 1922, and successfully established Edwardian Baroque as the official architectural style for government buildings in New Zealand in the early twentieth century. He was responsible for the design of both Government House and the new Parliament Buildings after the original buildings were destroyed by fire in 1907. He played an important role in establishing the office of government architect as a respected architectural practice in New Zealand.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Campbell, John

John Campbell (1857-1942) served his articles under John Gordon (c1835-1912) in Glasgow. He arrived in Dunedin in 1882 and after a brief period as a draughtsman with Mason and Wales joined the Dunedin branch of the Public Works Department in 1883. His first known work, an unbuilt design for the Dunedin Railway Station, reveals an early interest in Baroque architecture.

In November 1888 Campbell was transferred to Wellington where in 1889 he took up the position of draughtsman in charge of the Public Buildings Division of the Public Works Department.

He remained in charge of the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand until his retirement in 1922, becoming in 1909 the first person to hold the position of Government Architect. Government architecture designed under his aegis evidences a change in style from Queen Anne to Edwardian Baroque. His best-known Queen Anne design is the Dunedin Police Station (1895-8), modelled on Richard Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard (1887-90). Among his most exuberant Edwardian Baroque buildings is the Public Trust Office, Wellington (1905-09). Although Campbell designed the Dunedin Law Courts (1899-1902) in the Gothic style with a Scottish Baronial inflection, he established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand. In 1911 Campbell won the nation-wide architectural competition for the design of Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Although only partially completed, Parliament House is the crowning achievement of Campbell's career.

McNabb, Thomas

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The Collingwood Courthouse is a timber building. It is single storied and features broken rooflines - a Queen Anne stylistic feature. It has three gable ends (a feature of Tudor style houses) which are inserted into the three sides of the simple hipped roof design. There are battens set against the wall under the verge boards.

The building reflects the homely style of the English Domestic Revival movement, which was inspired by Victorian architects such as Phillip Webb and Norman Shaw. The carved eaves brackets are a notable Domestic Revival feature.

Notable Features

Registration includes the building and the land comprised in Lot 1, Deposited Plan 13776, Nelson Registry.

Construction Dates

1900 -
Decision made to erect courthouse - contract awarded to McNabb

Original Construction
1901 -
Courthouse completed

1904 -
Fire destroys Collingwood township - but courthouse is spared

Construction Details

The building is constructed from timber and has a corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

8th September 2004

Report Written By

Penelope Laurenson

Information Sources

Armstrong, nd

D. Armstrong, 'Collingwood Courthouse and Lock-Up', research notes, NZHPT file 12007-053

Brereton, 1952

C. Brereton, 'Vanguard of the South, Nelson', New Zealand, Wellington, 1952

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Richardson, Peter. 'Campbell, John 1857 - 1942', updated 16 December 2003


Nolan, 1976

T. Nolan, Historic Gold Trails of Nelson and Marlborough, 1976

Petyt, 1976

C. Petyt, Collingwood: the old cemetery and early history, Terracottage Books, 2003

Other Information

References for this information are available from the NZHPT Central Region 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.