Co-operative Cheese Factory

53 Pleasant Valley Rd, Rd21, Geraldine

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1980 Date Entered 11th December 2003


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes building on its site.

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt RS 16672 (CT CB255/206), Canterbury Land District


Early dairy factories are significant for the important role they played in the economic development of New Zealand in the latter part of the 19th century. The Geraldine Co-operative Dairy Company's factory was built in 1884 and is the oldest existing dairy factory in New Zealand.

An enterprising group of local Geraldine farmers decided to build a dairy factory on a co-operative basis. They chose land at Pleasant Valley for their building which is reputed to be constructed following a Canadian plan, provided earlier for use by Mr. John Grigg of Longbeach. At the time this plan was considered to be the most up to date in the South Island. During the 1890s with the dramatic rise in the number of new factories, the Department of Agriculture (1892) issued a free set of plans and specifications for both cheese and butter factories as well as creameries to anyone interested. However, in 1884 the Geraldine group had to fend for themselves.

The building is constructed of basalt with limestone dressings, making use of materials available in the vicinity. The result was a handsome building which differs from the usual butter and cheese factories of that era, which were commonly built of wood. (Later, the main material used was concrete as it could be easily hosed down for cleanliness.) In the "Memorandum of Association" under which the Co-op. was established, it was stated that a training school of animal and dairy husbandry would be formed, but this was not achieved.

The name of the factory, "The Geraldine Cheese, Butter and Bacon Factory", indicates the differing products that were manufactured here. Mr. A. Twigg, newly arrived from England with a reputation as an expert in the field, served as the first manager. For a number of years the factory flourished and then production declined leading to the operation ceasing. In 1904 dairy farming revived and a new larger co-operative project began as the South Canterbury Co-op. Dairy Company, with the registered trademark, Filbert "Sweet as a nut". Focussing chiefly on butter production, they built a butter factory in Timaru and creameries (skimming stations) were built to serve the various districts. The existing building at Pleasant Valley was purchased and reopened as a creamery in 1906 with Mr. J. M. Craig as manager.

In later years the factory was owned by the Geraldine Co-op. Dairy Factory, making cheese until its closure in 1959. Now in private ownership, it has served as a home and had various functions. Apart from some problems with leakages it is in very good structural condition.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The former Geraldine Co-op cheese factory is of historical importance as the oldest existing dairy factory in New Zealand.

Though relatively small in scale it is of architectural value as a rare instance of a building of this function constructed of stone, with some qualities of style rather than the more usual utilitarian structures.

It has social values as an example of farmers joining together to provide a business which served a wide section of the community.

The former cheese factory is worthy of Category II registration because it reflects an important aspect of New Zealand history, the development of the dairy industry in New Zealand. In fact, Geoffrey Thornton in New Zealand's Industrial Heritage has established it is the oldest extant example of a dairy factory in the country.

Built in 1884 by a group of local farmers to process their produce, the solid stone building has potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand history. It also has technical value because of the quality of its stone construction. Its fine design and small scale make it an unusual example of a dairy factory.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

A single storeyed structure, the factory's overall form is rectangular under a group of gabled roof forms. One gable section extends the full length of the building with three further sections projecting at right angles to create a triple gabled facade on the principal fa├žade where the milk was unloaded. Double hung sash windows are surrounded by limestone facings and the limestone provides further detailing for door surrounds and quoins.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1884 -

Construction Details

Basalt with limestone dressings, corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

6th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Devey, 1952

A. J. Devey, Daybreak in Geraldine County: a record of progress during seventy-five years under local government, 1877-1952. Timaru: Timaru Herald Coy, 1952

Geraldine Historical Society

Geraldine Historical Society

Geraldine Museum

Geraldine Museum

Wilson, 1991 (2)

J. Wilson, South Canterbury historical guide : including the towns of Timaru, Temuka, Geraldine, Pleasant Point, Fairlie and Waimate, their surrounding country districts, and the Mackenzie Country, Timaru, 1991.

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern 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.