Bishop's School

43 Nile Street, Nelson

  • Bishop's School.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 30/07/2008.
  • Northern portion of the western wall and porch.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 30/07/2008.
  • Interior of classroom.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 30/07/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1546 Date Entered 25th November 1982

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 8120, Nelson Land District and the building known as Bishop's School thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the review report for further information). The following chattel is also included in the registration: the original bell. (Refer to map of extent in Appendix 1 of the review report for further information).

City/District Council

Nelson City

Region

Nelson Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 8120 (CT NL3D/1043), Nelson Land District

Location description

Bishop's School is located on the same title as the Marsden House Funeral Home (41 Nile Street). The Bishop's School building is situated between Marsden House and the neighbouring building at 45 Nile Street. Nelson City Council lists the address of Bishop's School as 43 Nile Street.

Summaryopen/close

Bishop's School, Nelson, was built in 1881 to replace the brick school building completed in 1844 as part of an education programme established by the Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn (1809-1878). The new school building retained the original 1844 brick porch and used the bricks from the first school to complete the western wall, making Bishop's School a very rare and important example of early brick construction in New Zealand.

The first New Zealand Company settlers arrived in Nelson in February 1842 and in August that year the Rev. C. L. Reay, Nelson's first Anglican Minister, arrived in Nelson in the company of Bishop Selwyn. He quickly established a small school for boys and girls. At the end of 1844 Selwyn arranged for the construction of a permanent brick building for the school on land especially purchased for the purpose. The new school, completed by the end of 1844, measured 12 metres x 6 metres (40 feet x 20 feet) with a bay window at the south end, a gabled porch and a central bell tower. Selwyn had definite ideas on the role of the church in education and wanted to establish a network of schools under the control of the recently established St John's College in Auckland. St John's School, Nelson, as it was to be called, was the first such school that Selwyn established under this system.

During the late 1840s over 100 children were enrolled in the school, although many did not attend on a regular basis. By the 1850s the school was experiencing difficulties maintaining teachers. In addition many settlers were attracted to non-sectarian schools established by Matthew Campbell and the Nelson School Society. St John's finally closed in 1855.

In 1859 the Rev. Edmund Hobhouse, the first Bishop of Nelson, arrived in the settlement. He was also a keen advocate for the church being involved in the education of the young. In 1860 Hobhouse reopened a school for boys in the old school building, which eventually became known as Bishop's School. In about 1863 a timber extension was erected to house a Diocesan room (later also used as a schoolroom).

In 1881, Rev. Andrew Burn Suter, Hobhouse's successor as Bishop of Nelson, decided that the brick schoolhouse was unsafe and should be replaced. A new timber building was completed by June 1881 and it appears that it occupied virtually the same footprint as the brick building. The new buildings were designed by a Mr Bethwaite and carried out by Messrs. Good of Nelson. As a way of connecting the old with the new, the original porch from the 1844 building was retained, and the original bell was installed in the new building. It appears that original 1844 bricks were also used to create the western wall.

The school was finally closed in 1895 due to a lack of income and difficulties in finding teaching staff. By this time Bishop Suter, who had been a major supporter of the school, had died. Following the closing of the school the Diocesan Library used the school building for a time. The Diocese eventually moved into Marsden House (opened 1923, Category II historic place, Record no. 3019) adjacent to the school. The school building was apparently then used by a small private primary school for thirty years.

In January 1973 the Nelson Diocesan Trust Board sold the land on which Marsden House and Bishop's School were sited to P.A. Day and Sons, Funeral Directors. The latter agreed to the retention of the school building as long as the southern wing was removed. The work was undertaken in 1975 with the assistance of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. For the past thirty years Bishop's school has been run as an educational museum by the Nelson Branch Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Bishop's School, Nelson, has special historical value for its association with the very first years of the settlement of Nelson by the New Zealand Company. Bishop's School is also significant for its association with Bishops Selwyn, Hobhouse, Suter and to a small extent Bennett. Although substantially rebuilt in 1881 and altered in the 1970s, it is understood that the current structure occupies an almost identical footprint and orientation as the original 1844 school. As such the building is an important historical reference point in the development of Nelson as a settlement. Bishop's School has special technical value or significance as a rare example of early brick construction in New Zealand. The building also has high community esteem through its role as an educational museum and makes a significant contribution to the wider historical and cultural landscape of Nelson.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value:

Bishop's School, Nelson, has outstanding historical value for its association with the very first years of the settlement of Nelson by the New Zealand Company. Bishop's School was the first such school set by Bishop Selwyn as part of his proposed educational programme. Bishop's School is historically important for its association with Bishops Hobhouse, Suter and to a small extent Bennett. A number of other notable people either taught or were pupils at the school.

Although largely rebuilt in 1881 and altered in the 1970s, the current structure occupies an almost identical footprint and orientation as the original 1844 school. As such the building is a key historical reference point in the development of Nelson as a settlement.

Architectural Value:

Throughout its various stages of construction and reconstruction Bishop's School has retained its essential Gothic character established in 1844. Today this can be seen in the steep pitched roof, decorative bargeboards, hood moulds and window details, etc. There is also architectural value in what remains of the porch in that it provides insight into the way the original brick building was designed.

Technological Significance or Value:

Bishop's School has special technological significance as a rare example of early brick construction in New Zealand. Originally built in 1844, the west wall and porch are made from some of the earliest bricks made in the Nelson settlement. At the very least, the bricks are from the original building but it is very likely that the porch has also been standing since 1844. The survival of such a building is extremely rare due to the poor quality of early bricks and mortar, earthquakes, and demolition.

Social Significance or Value:

Bishop's School has considerable status in Nelson for its use as museum for over 30 years. It is a fixture as one of the city's many attractions and is known to locals and tourists alike. It has been recognised in the Nelson Resource Management Plan where it is ranked 'A' meaning that demolition or removal is a non-complying activity. It is also remembered by many locals as a place where they sat their senior examinations.

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

Bishop's School is associated with a number of important people in New Zealand history. Bishop Selwyn established the school as part of his plan to spread a Christian-based educational system throughout the country. Its significance is connected to that of St John's College, Auckland. The school was revived by the first Bishop of Nelson (Hobhouse), and continued by Bishop Suter. A number of its pupils were to make important contributions to New Zealand, including Bishop Bennett, the first Maori Bishop of New Zealand.

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

Bishop's School has high community esteem. This can be seen in the efforts to save the building in the 1970s. For the past thirty years it has been run as a museum on a voluntary basis by the Nelson Branch Committee of the NZHPT. It has been recognised in the Nelson Resource Management Plan where it is ranked 'A' meaning that demolition or removal is a non-complying activity.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

Bishop's School already demonstrates a substantial capacity for public education. For the past thirty years Bishop's school has been run as an educational museum by the Nelson Branch Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is currently open to the general public one day a week during the summer or by request for group visits at other times of the year. Up until March 2008 there was an arrangement with the Nelson Provincial Museum Pupuri Taonga O Te Tai Ao as part of the latter's Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) programme. Under this programme several hundred children a year visited the school to gain some understanding of what it was like to be in a classroom in Victorian times. The school is located within five minutes walk of Nelson's Central Business District and is easily viewed from the road.

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

Bishop's School has special technical value or significance as a rare example of early brick construction in New Zealand. Originally built in 1844, the west wall and porch are made from some of the earliest bricks made in the Nelson settlement. At the very least, the bricks are from the original building but it is very likely that the porch has been standing since 1844. The survival of such a building or structure is extremely rare in Nelson and nationally due to the poor quality of early bricks and mortar, earthquakes, and demolition.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

Bishop's School was built in 1844, only two years after the arrival of the first New Zealand Company Settlers to Nelson. Although substantially rebuilt in 1881 and altered in the 1970s, parts of the building (if only the bricks) still date to the period of the early colonial settlement of Nelson.

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

Bishop's School can be regarded as a rare historic place. Originally built in 1844, the west wall and porch are made from some of the earliest bricks made in the Nelson settlement. The survival of such structures is uncommon due to the poor quality of early bricks and mortar, earthquakes, and demolition. Even if the brick porch and large portion of the wall were reconstructed in 1881, historical and physical evidence clearly shows that the present porch is built of the exact same bricks and in the exact same form that existed in 1844.

Given the poor survival of early brick structures, what remains of the original school is an important remnant, even in its current state. Very few buildings remain of this date in Nelson and nothing substantial in brick, making Bishop's School a rare and special historic place. In addition Bishop's School is the earliest remaining example of the first schools established in Nelson in the first years of the New Zealand Company settlement, before the introduction of the Education Act of 1856. It is the last remaining structure that represents the aspirations of a community creating a new settlement and the importance that education played within it.

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

Although rebuilt in 1881 and altered in the 1970s, it is understood that the current structure occupies an almost identical footprint and orientation as the original 1844 school. As such the building is a key historical reference point in the development of Nelson as a settlement. It is located next to two other church buildings, Marsden House and the 1875 vicarage, and is not far from Nelson's Anglican Cathedral.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: b, e, f, g, i, j, k.

Conclusion:

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

Bishop's School, Nelson, has special historical value for its association with the very first years of the settlement of Nelson by the New Zealand Company. Bishop's School is also significant for its association with Bishops Selwyn, Hobhouse, Suter and to a small extent Bennett. Although substantially rebuilt in 1881 and altered in the 1970s, it is understood that the current structure occupies an almost identical footprint and orientation as the original 1844 school. As such the building is an important historical reference point in the development of Nelson as a settlement.

Bishop's School is the earliest remaining example of the first schools established in Nelson in the first years of the New Zealand Company settlement, before the introduction of the Education Act of 1856. It is the last remaining structure that represents the aspirations of a community creating a new settlement and the importance that education played within it.

Bishop's School has special technical value or significance as a rare example of early brick construction in New Zealand. The building also has high community esteem through its role as an educational museum and makes a significant contribution to the wider historical and cultural landscape of Nelson.

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Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Nelson was the fourth New Zealand Company settlement to be established. The new immigrants, who arrived in Nelson from February 1842, quickly set up the town. Surveyors laid out the grid pattern of the town acres and public buildings were erected. Edward Jerningham Wakefield (1820-1879) visited the settlement not long after the arrival of the first immigrants and wrote the following description:

'In the midst of the great amphitheatre was a low isolated mound. Here a long range of wooden houses served as a hospital, survey-office, and emigration-barracks; and a constant stream of immigrants, with their bundles, was flowing either way between the summit of this Acropolis and the nearest point of the lagoon to which the tide would allow the large boats to ascend the channel of the Maitai. Wooden houses, tents, sheds formed of boughs, frames of clay walls and thatched roof, and heaps of goods and chattels of various kind, were scattered over different parts of the flat. Here and there a newly arrived party might be seen cutting a square encampment out of the high fern, and erecting their sheds and gipsy fires in the space thus formed. But the principal cluster of population was along the banks of the Maitai, and on the edge of the wood.'

As part of the price paid by the land selectors a sum was set aside for religious and educational purposes. However, the money set aside for education was intended for a college, primarily for the benefit of the sons of the land purchasers. No provision was made for primary or elementary education for the children of the working-class.

In as early as March 1842 the first discussions were held for the establishment of a public elementary school, which would be open to all children regardless of religion. The funds to build the school were raised by public subscription and the building opened in September 1842. In the meantime a group calling themselves the United Christians set up an elementary school. The running of this school was taken over by Matthew Campbell from about October 1842. In 1843 land was obtained to build a permanent brick school, and the Nelson School Society was formed by Campbell and others to assist in this. The school was completed in 1844. Another school, the British and Foreign School Society School, opened in September 1842 but did not last long. A Catholic School was temporarily opened in the vacant school building before it was offered to the Nelson School Society and transported to Waimea.

At the same time these schools were being formed the Church of England was establishing its own school for the children of the settlers. In August 1842 Rev. C. L. Reay, Nelson's first Anglican Minister, arrived in Nelson in the company of Anglican Bishop of New Zealand George Selwyn. Reay quickly established a small school for boys and girls. At the end of 1843 Selwyn returned to Nelson bringing with him the Rev. H. F. Butt. It was intended that Butt replace Reay as teacher and eventually as Nelson's minister. Selwyn acquired part of Town Acre 438 facing Nile Street for £50 from Dr. Joseph Foord Wilson as a site for a permanent school building. Three months were given to Wilson to remove the cowshed and fruit trees that were on the land.

In January 1844 Butt established the 'Nelson Grammar School' to provide a secondary education for boys, the first such school in Nelson. It was run from Butt's residence in Trafalgar Square. It was hoped that some of the pupils would eventually go to St John's College at Waimate (see below).

The new elementary school building on Nile Street, built of brick and completed by the end of 1844, measured 12 metres x 6 metres (40 feet x 20 feet) with a bay window at the south end, a gabled porch and a central bell tower. It is more than likely that the bricks came from the local brick works, of which four had been established by March 1842; at least two brickyards were located nearby to the school.

Brick making in New Zealand was begun very early in the nineteenth century. As early as November 1819 the Church Missionary Society began making bricks at their newly established settlement of Kerikeri. The brick maker was a Maori, referred to in John Butler's journals as 'George', who had learnt his trade in Sydney. This initial attempt at brick making, which most likely involved the firing of bricks in a clamp kiln, had to be abandoned less than five months after they started when George left the settlement. Hand-made bricks continued to be made in the missionary settlements in the Far North. These were mainly used for chimneys and wells. The bricks for the Te Waimate Mission House, Waimate North, built 1832 and the second oldest standing building in New Zealand (Category I historic place), were most likely hand-made on the site. Bricks were also imported to New Zealand from Australia prior to 1840. By 1840 there are references to people seeking brick makers at Korarareka, but how established and extensive this brick making industry was is not known. It is also not known whether any brick structure, apart from chimneys and perhaps a few wells, constructed in New Zealand prior to 1840 has survived.

In the early colonial settlements of Nelson, Wellington and Auckland, sources of clay, and certainly in Nelson's case, lime, were located relatively quickly after the first settlers arrived in the early 1840s. In Wellington brick making was started in Thorndon as early as May 1840. However, constructing buildings out of local bricks only really began in Wellington in late 1841 early 1842. By 1844 there were four brickfields in Wellington. In Auckland the first brickyard was established in the Freemans Bay area in about September 1840. By 1844 there were two brickfields in Auckland and in the following year it had doubled to four.

In Nelson by the mid 1840s brick buildings were not uncommon. In an account of the settlement published in March 1845, it describes a number of buildings of all sorts in the settlement, including 'a few superior ones of brick of different kinds...' (probably referring to the two schools among others). Mention was also made of a brick flourmill. In the Government statistics of Nelson for 1846, 35 buildings out of a total of 243 buildings in the town of Nelson were identified as brick. Nelson brick and limestone was even exported to other settlements around the country. In 1847 15 000 bricks and twenty tons of limestone were shipped by the government brig Victoria to New Plymouth for the construction of the Colonial Hospital (now known as the Gables, Category I historic place).

It is not known for certain who designed Nelson's new brick Church School, but it is possible that Rev. Reay was the architect. Certainly the school was built under his direction. It appears that a larger building was planned but lack of finance reduced the finished structure by more than half. In the end the total cost for construction was nearly £200, of which one third came from local parishioners and the remaining amount from the Bishop.

In March 1845 the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle reported that:

'We have five schools. A Church School, under the superintendence of the deacon attended by about 60 boys and girls, workdays and Sundays. No charge is made. One wing of the building is completed; the whole to be 100 feet by 20, with gable-fronting centre projecting 6 feet, of moulded bricks, in the Elizabethan style of architecture. It is a great ornament to the little town, and we hear is immediately to be proceeded with.'

The construction of what was to be later known as Bishop's School can be attributed to the philosophies of Bishop Selwyn. Selwyn had definite ideas on the role of the church in education, which were developed during a period of considerable theological debate regarding the English education system and the role of the Church within it. In 1811 the National Society was established which believed that the teaching of principles other than those endorsed by the Church would result in people becoming indifferent to it. By the 1830s the views of the National Society had widespread support among Church of England clergy.

Another influence on Selwyn was the reform of the English public schools. Thomas Arnold at Rugby established the model for this reform. Arnold believed that moral and religious formation was key to the development of a national character, and could be brought about through the contribution of the graduates of public schools. Similar ideas were attempted at Eton under the direction of Edward Craven Hawtrey at the time Selwyn was on the teaching staff (1831-1841) and fully supportive of these ideas.

One other influence on Selwyn was the reorganisation of the Cathedral system and involved the use of Cathedral endowments for other purposes. Selwyn, who produced one of a number pamphlets on this subject, advocated for the Cathedral to be the heart of educational, social, charitable, and missionary work in the diocese.

It was these views that Selwyn brought with him to New Zealand in 1842 and they found fruition in the establishment of St John's College at Waimate (1842), later relocated to Auckland (1844). Here it was intended that clergy studying for ordination at the Theological College would also be trained as teachers. Graduates would eventually become deacons and be expected to be in charge of their own parish school. In this way the Church of England would take a central place in the education of the colony's youth. St John's School, Nelson, as it was to be called, was the first such school that Selwyn established under this system. After his visit to Nelson in 1845, Selwyn wrote:

'Nelson is the only place at which I have been able as yet to carry out the plan of Education, which will, I hope, in time be generally adopted, viz. The placing of the whole education of the young under the charge of a deacon; with proper assistants under him for the mechanical routine of the school.'

During the late 1840s over 100 children were enrolled in St John's School, although many did not attend on a regular basis. There was also a night school for adults. The pupils were taught 'reading, spelling, slate and mental Arithmetic, writing, English grammar, geography, vocal music, general and religious history' and principles of Christianity as espoused by the Church of England. Butt managed the school with the help of a committee of congregational members. The school was also a venue for community meetings. For example between 1848 and 1854 the school was used for an annual 'Widows and Orphans Tea Party', and twice a year, again from 1848 to 1854, the school hosted the Horticultural Shows.

By the early 1850s the St John's School was experiencing difficulties maintaining teachers and finance. Many settlers were attracted to non-sectarian schools established by Matthew Campbell and the Nelson School Society. St John's was briefly shut in 1851 and again in 1854, and then finally closed in 1855. In 1856 the Nelson Provincial Council passed the Education Act which led to the public funding of education through a universal education tax. Under this system the Provincial Government took over the running of the schools set up by the Nelson School Society through a Central Board of Education. While new school buildings were being built, St John's School building was used by the Board for a Boys School (May 1856- 1858) and by Nelson Girl's School (May 1858 - 1860). The Girls' School eventually moved to their purpose-built facilities in Hardy Street, which still exist but have now been incorporated into the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. The brick Nelson Society School built in 1844 was eventually incorporated into the Suter Memorial Art Gallery. It was demolished in 1975 as part of renovations to the Gallery.

In 1859 the Rev. Edmund Hobhouse, the first Bishop of Nelson, arrived in the settlement. He was also a keen advocate for the church being involved in the education of the young. In 1860 Hobhouse reopened a school for boys in the old school building, which eventually became known as Bishop's School. In about 1863 a timber extension was erected to house a Diocesan room (later also used as a schoolroom).

Bishop's School proved to be more successful than the previous St John's school. Between 1860 and 1895, 610 boys attended the school, mostly as day pupils but some as boarders. Funding came from fees and church funds. It provided an education for boys at a junior and senior level. About one-third of the boys went to Nelson College. Of the remaining number, those that wanted to continue their education could attend the senior school, which offered lower fees than Nelson College.

In 1881, Rev. Andrew Burn Suter, Hobhouse's successor as Bishop of Nelson, decided that the brick schoolhouse was unsafe and should be replaced. A new timber building was completed by June 1881 and it appears that it occupied virtually the same footprint as the original brick school. However, the new building was taller and had a 12 metre (40 feet) long wing across the southern side. The new buildings were designed by a Mr Bethwaite and carried out by Messrs. Good of Nelson. The majority of the costs for rebuilding the school were met by Bishop Suter.

It is unclear just how much of the original 1844 brick building remains. There can be little doubt that remaining bricks of the western wall date to 1844, based on their appearance and the historical information. It is also certain that most of the western wall was rebuilt in order to remove the window spaces evident in earlier images. At the time the school was reopened in June 1881, the local parish newsletter, the Church Messenger reported under the title 'Bishop's School - Entire Re-building, Enlarging and Re-opening' that the building was built of wood, 'except the porch and western wall which are rebuilt from the old school and connect the present with the past.' In 1892 Lowther Broad in his jubilee history of Nelson, stated that the 'building has been enlarged and almost entirely reconstructed during the Episcopate of Bishop Suter.' Thirty five years later the Nelson Diocesan Gazette related in a history of the school that 'except the porch and the western brick wall, which had been erected by Rev. C. Reay in 1844, the building was of wood.'

There are certainly features in the porch which indicate an earlier or different period of construction, including the saw marks in the timbers, and the use of hand-made nails in the floor boards. In addition the floorboards of the porch are clearly different from the rest of the school. Comparisons with early images and sketches show that the porch in the 1881 building is in the same location and of the same appearance (including the door) as the 1844 building. It may be that it was important for the members of the parish to maintain a physical connection with the 1844 school by retaining an original feature as its main entrance.

The school was finally closed in 1895 due to a lack of income and difficulties in finding teaching staff. The increasing provision of free places in the national education system made it difficult for the school to attract pupils. By this time Bishop Suter, who had been a major supporter of the school, had died. There were some attempts to restart the school, and in 1897 a Miss Meek opened the Suter Memorial School, which lasted less than a year.

Other than the clergy already mentioned, a number of notable people were also associated with Bishop's School either as teachers or pupils. Perhaps the most notable was Frederick Bennett who attended Bishop's School from c.1886-1890. Bennett was later to become the first Maori Bishop of New Zealand. From an index of the school roll held by the Bishop's School Museum it is clear that other well-known Nelson families attended the school, including members of the Griffin family who established Griffin's Biscuits.

Following the closing of the school the Diocesan Library used the school building for a time. During the occupation by the Diocese a brick strong room was built at the back of the building to hold the Diocesan records. The Library moved out in 1905. The Diocese eventually moved into Marsden House (opened 1923, Historic Place, Category II, Record no. 3019) adjacent to the school. The school building was apparently then used by a small private primary school for thirty years. In 1923 the Shelbourne Street Sunday School was moved to the site and joined to the east wall of the front wing of the School. Later it was used as venue for Scouts and Girl Guide meetings. Nelson schools also used the school as a place to sit senior examinations.

In January 1973 the Nelson Diocesan Trust Board sold the land on which Marsden House and Bishop's School were sited to P.A. Day and Sons, Funeral Directors. The latter agreed to the retention of the school building as long as the southern wing was removed. The work was undertaken in 1975 with the assistance of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. John P. Knijf Ltd undertook the removal of wing, as well as the strong room and northern lean-to under the supervision of Alex Bowman. The windows from the west wall of the wing were reused on the southern wall of the remaining structure that had been exposed by the removal of the wing. It is interesting to note that at the time of the renovations it was believed that parts of the building were original structures (i.e. dating to 1844). The publicity surrounding the renovations to Bishop's School attracted the attention of members of the local church community, resulting in the return of the school bell, which is now on display in the school.

For the past thirty years Bishop's school has been run as an educational museum by the Nelson Branch Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is currently open to the general public one day a week during the summer or by request for group visits at other times of the year. Up until March 2008 there was an arrangement with the Nelson Provincial Museum Pupuri Taonga O Te Tai Ao as part of the latter's Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) programme. Under this programme several hundred children a year visited the school to gain some understanding of what it was like to be in a classroom in Victorian times. Bishop's School has also been the venue for school celebrations. Most recently 300 students and staff of Tahuna School celebrated their school's centenary in Bishop's School.

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:

1844 Rev. C.L. Reay (architect) [?]

1881 [?] Bethwaite (architect), Messrs Good of Nelson (Builders)

Environs:

Bishop School is situated on the northern side of Nile Street West in Nelson, around 50 metres from the slopes of Cathedral Hill. The street is lined with plane trees. A number of other heritage buildings are located nearby. Immediately to the west of Bishop's School is Marsden House (the former offices of the Diocese), and to the north east is the former vicarage (1875). The School of Music is across the road; the Trinity Church is in the next block and Albion Square is not far away.

Exterior:

The school is a single-gabled building with a gabled porch. The main gable runs north-south with the southern gable end facing the street and set back from the footpath around eight metres. The site is almost level and paved with pressed concrete paving. The closest neighbouring building is 0.5m to the east - the recent steel-framed canopy to Marsden House, an imposing two-storey brick and concrete building.

The roof of the school is steeply pitched, timber-framed and clad with corrugated iron in 2-length drops of metal. A timber belfry is mounted at the south end of the roof and comprises an octagonal steeple, with weathervane and obelisque cap, over a square belfry (or mini broach spire) sheet metal roved with corner cappings. Open timber louvres to the belfry have scroll-cut heads over a rectangular frame. The belfry sits on a moulded plinth with roofing astride the main gable.

The roof has timber fascias and bargeboards with highly decorative gable decorations over floating rafters supported by decorative brackets at both ends of the building. The spherical & reverse-spire finials are mounted at both gable ends. Minimal overhangs of rafters support galvanized spouting without fascias. Rafters are spaced at about 600mm with a larger beam at every fourth rafter.

Walls are 200mm rusticated weatherboards with wide corner cappings, square-dressed, set over a plinth base of timber faced, brick and concrete foundations.

The north wall facing away from the street has a trefoil window high in the gable, a large north facing eight-sash window of many round or square headed panes. A mitred head architrave is set back from the window. A wide brick doorstep leads through a centrally placed single outward-opening door - a 10 paned sash over-mounted on a panelled frame. A porch roof with solid decorative brackets, reeded/quirked board soffit and flat roof, is mounted above the door.

The opposing south wall is similar with trefoil window and larger paned and decorated window of five six-paned rounded headed sashes over five 10-paned similar sashes. The sill is heavy. The decorations, corner cappings and weatherboards are similar to the north side.

A brick (over-plastered) chimney has been capped just below rafter level and has been flashed to the timber-framed wall.

The west wall is brickwork of long-short-long courses. High windows of eight-sash, 10-pane windows are featured north and south of the central gabled porch. Sections of weatherboards with scallop trim fill between the windows, brickwork and porch.

The porch roof is set below the main gable and is pitched and decorated with trim, rafters and brick foundations. The pair of square-panelled doors are heavy. The doorstep is worn and the brick doorstep landing is high.

Interior:

The interior of the school has diagonal, reeded dressed sarking over purlins and rafters. Full and extended semi-circular supporting arches, with heavy collar ties, extend down the walls to finish at a pedestal and bracket. Four arches divide the length into 5 sections.

All walls have wide reeded/quirked dressed boards or match lining; no scotia; modest architraves and skirtings generally but with decorative trim to the large north and south windows. The floor has nailed timber boards and is around 300-600mm above the ground surface.

The brick porch is painted on the interior and has a timber floor; two simple four-light windows and a similar ceiling; and fitted cloak hooks.

The school has three central pendant lights and door lights, internal electric outlets, internal sprinkling and school fittings such as blackboards and a bell.

Physical evidence of early construction:

Bricks:

There are a number of features on the bricks at Bishop's School which suggest that they were handmade. One of the more obvious signs appears on the inside wall of the porch where finger marks can be still be seen in one of the bricks.

Another indicator is the rough surface of the bricks themselves. In the process of making bricks by hand, sand was often placed into the mold to prevent the clay from sticking to the sides. This resulted in the imprint of the sand remaining in the brick giving it a rough face. The bricks used in the wall and the porch at Bishop's School do have a rough face. However, this could also be interpreted as a result of weathering due to the soft nature of the bricks. The soft (friable) nature of the Bishop's School bricks suggests that they were subjected to a low firing temperature in their manufacture. In the absence of purpose-built kilns, early settlers used what was known as clamp kilns. This was a wasteful process as often the kiln or parts of the kiln failed to reach sufficiently high temperatures resulting in imperfectly fired bricks. By 1843 there seems to have been at least one brick kiln in Nelson. Bricks were also being made in the surrounding countryside but most likely using the clamp kiln technique.

Another reason for the softness of the bricks can be the way in which the clay was worked. In England the clay was tempered with what was called a pug mill. In the absence of this method to early colonial settlers, the clay was tempered using spades and wetted, or trampled under foot by animals. Certainly by April 1843 there was at least one pug mill in Nelson. The clay used for Bishop's School is full of inclusions (small stones etc). This is also can be an indication of early brick production.

Note the brick steps, garden border and fireplace are not original. The chimney appears to have been rebuilt a number of times and is difficult to date to 1844. The bricks immediately above and below the window frames of the porch were temporarily removed in the 1970s to allow for the windows to be replaced.

One important point to note is the Brick Magazine in Nelson's Albion Square (included in the Albion Square Historic Area, Record no. 7201). This building dates to 1861. Of particular interest is that the bricks used in this building are of far better quality than those that appear at Bishop's School and in far better condition.

Timber elements:

The timber doorstep of the porch is of considerable age given the amount of wear evident. Since it is incorporated into the brickwork this would date it to the construction of the porch.

The doors are almost certainly original. Early sketches and photographs of the building prior to 1881 clearly show the pair of square-panelled doors.

The timber inserts that hold the joinery in place in the brick structures show signs of zig-zag saw marks, a characteristic of pit sawing - an early form of timber milling in colonial New Zealand. The floorboards in the porch are not the same as the main part of the school, and suggest that they were placed there at a different time. It is not know what the time gap between the laying of the floorboards in the porch and the main part of the school. It may have been short period of time or a long period of time. The nails in the floorboards appear to have a long head - common to hand-made nails of the mid-nineteenth century.

Note that the gables were repaired in the 1970s, the porch windows were replaced and the internal frame around the doors have the appearance of being new.

Construction:

The earliest sketches and photographic images of Bishop's School clearly show two large windows in the western wall. After 1881 these windows are no longer there, clearly indicating that a substantial part of the western wall of the school was rebuilt at this time. Physical evidence of this rebuilding is not easy to see as the bricks have been re-pointed at various times. However, there does seem to be a slight change in the appearance of the bricks about half a metre from the porch. This roughly corresponds with the end of each window and suggests that the wall on either side were removed up to the end of the windows leaving a very small portion of the wall intact.

Mortar can be a diagnostic feature for telling the age of a brick structure. Early settlers used ground up shells to provide the lime essential for the adherence quality of the mortar. This produced varying results. However, the Nelson settlers had a local source of limestone and by March 1843 had at least one lime kiln in operation. Although at Bishop's School the bricks have been re-pointed, there are still places where the original mortar has been exposed. However, without further expert advice it is impossible at this stage to determine whether there is any difference in the mortar of the porch believed to have been constructed in 1844 and the wall of which a substantial amount was reconstructed in 1881.

The features identified above suggest an early age for part of the building. However, it must be remembered that all of these features could be attributed to a later date. In other words they are not unique to the 1840s. What is important is that these features occur together in the porch. This makes it more likely that this part of the building dates to the 1840s. One other way of dating the brick structure is to look at the foundations. If the brick is laid on sand then it is more that likely that it is an early structure. If the foundations are concrete then this would place the date of the structure to later in the nineteenth century. This has yet to be investigated.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1843 - 1844
Brick school building constructed

Addition
1863 -
Wooden extension (Diocesan room) added to southern side

Demolished - prior building
1881 -
Demolition of most of the building

Original Construction
1881 -
Portion of the brick western wall and porch retained. Remaining building rebuilt using wood, new wing added on Nile Street. Substantial part of the western brick wall rebuilt reusing original bricks.

Addition
1904 -
Brick strong room added to east side of building.

Modification
1923 -
Shelbourne Street Sunday School moved from original site, and joined to east wall of front wing of Bishop's School.

Modification
1975 -
Northern lean-to, brick strong room and southern wing removed. Modification and restoration of remaining structure including window on western side of Nile Street wing moved to south end of remaining building.

Construction Details

Brick and Timber

Completion Date

4th November 2008

Report Written By

Helen McCracken, Alison Dangerfield

Information Sources

Broad, 1892 (1976)

L. Broad, 'Jubilee History of Nelson', Nelson, 1892 (reprinted by Capper Press, Christchurch1976)

Nelson Evening Mail

Nelson Evening Mail

September 22, 1975

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

File 12015-014, 'Bishop's School', Central Region, NZHPT

Porter, 1979

Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island, Auckland, 1979

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Heinemann Reed, Auckland, 1996

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies

Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies

Dakin, J., The Elementary Schools of Early Nelson 1842-1856, a case of community development, VI no.2 November 1982, pp.11-25

Barton, 1927

R J Barton, Earliest New Zealand: The Journals and Correspondence of the Rev. John Butler, Masterton, 1927.

New Zealand Advertiser

New Zealand Advertiser

30 July 1840.

Wakefield, 1845

Edward Jerningham Wakefield, Adventure in New Zealand, from 1839 to 1844: with some account of the beginning of the British colonization of the islands, London, 1845

Other Information

A fully referenced Registration Report is 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.