Christchurch West High School (Former)

510 Hagley Avenue, Christchurch

  • Christchurch West High School (Former). CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: kez - Flickr. Taken By: kez - Flickr. Date: 13/04/2008.
  • Christchurch West High School (Former). Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Ann McEwan. Date: 16/10/1992.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1874 Date Entered 26th November 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Sec 32 Town Reserve Christchurch (NZ Gazette 2006 p. 200, CT 271307), Canterbury Land District and the building known as West Christchurch School (Former) thereon. The extent is the 1924 building and does not include later extensions.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 32 Town Reserve Christchurch (NZ Gazette 2006 p. 200, CT 271307), Canterbury Land District


Now operating as one of the main blocks of Hagley College, the West Christchurch School (Former) at 510 Hagley Avenue in Christchurch, was constructed in 1924 and has historical and social significance for its long association with progressive style education in the city and architectural significance for its inter-war neo-Georgian style.

Christchurch High School was first established in 1858 on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Antigua Street but relocated to the site now occupied by Hagley College in 1863. Ten years later the school was purchased by the newly established West Christchurch School, which offered primary schooling. In 1874 the original school building was demolished and replaced by a timber Gothic building designed by Samuel Farr. Initially the school catered for students between the ages of four and 13 but in 1904 a secondary department was established at the school ‘to provide an education to fit pupils for business life’ as opposed to being a training ground for university. The school was then variously known as West Christchurch School, West Christchurch High School and West Christchurch District High School. In 1924 Farr’s building was replaced by the present main brick building on the site. Designed by Canterbury Education Board architect and school old boy, George Penlington, the new West Christchurch School building was built using the ‘day labour’ system as opposed to a tender system, and opened in September 1924.

The building is built of decorative brick enlivened by quoins and extensive fenestration and is surmounted by a slate roof. It has some reinforced concrete in its construction. The façade is neo-Georgian, a style popular for secondary and tertiary educational buildings between the world wars in England, the United States and New Zealand. It has a symmetrical ‘centre and ends’ composition, whereby projecting entrance and terminal bays emphasise the formal symmetry of the gabled building. Ionic columns frame the entrance beneath a decorative pediment surmounted by a fleche and flagpole. The building’s fenestration and ventilation system were based on new ‘open-air classroom’ principles that were encouraged as a building standard for schools at the time. The interior is made up of classrooms, offices and corridors.

In 1930-31 an additional two storeyed wing was built at the south-east rear of the building. Primary and intermediate classes ceased in 1932 and 1939 respectively. In 1936, under the control of Canterbury University College, the school became Christchurch West High School and then in 1966 it was renamed Hagley High School. It has continued its liberal approach to secondary education and, since the 1970s, the school has been a leader of adult and community education. In circa 1993 the 1930-31 extension was demolished and replaced by a new three-storey wing to house offices and classrooms. Penlington’s 1924 building was refurbished and earthquake strengthened during this time. Now known as Hagley College, the school continues to have a distinctive educational philosophy and open style of learning.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Penlington, George

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1924 -

Completion Date

12th October 2016

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Amodeo, 2006

Amodeo, Colin, West! 1858-1966: a social history of Christchurch West High School and its predecessors, 2006.

Anon., 1959

Christchurch West High School, Christchurch West High School Centenary 1858-1958, 1959

Williams, 2014

Williams, Murray Noel, ‘BUILDING YESTERDAY’S SCHOOLS: An analysis of educational architectural design as practised by the Building Department of the Canterbury Education Board from 1916-1989’, PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 2014

Anon., 1934

West Christchurch School Diamond Jubilee 1874-1934, 1934

Other Information

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.

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