Gleniti Library

20 Gleniti Road, Timaru

  • Gleniti Library.
    Copyright: Timaru District Council. Date: 1/03/2008.
  • Gleniti Library. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 19/01/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2060 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as RS 40849 (CT CB18B/1391), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Gleniti Library thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 3 September 2015.

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

RS 40849 (CT CB18B/1391), Canterbury Land District


In the late nineteenth century Gleniti was a small rural community some three miles inland from Timaru. Originally called Wai-iti, the name was changed in the 1880s when the Post Office was established here. Because there was already a Wai-iti Post Office in the Nelson District it was decided to give the locality a combined Scottish and Maori name and it was called Gleniti.

A handsome two-roomed school was built to serve this district on a two acre reserve. When it opened on 28 July 1879 there were 26 pupils which gives an indication of the size of the community. In November 1885 a meeting was held in the school to discuss the village's need for a Post Office and daily mail service. After it was resolved that their request be relayed to the Post Master General, attention was turned to the provision of a public library. The school committee had already discussed this issue and one of their members, David Fyffe, had promised to provide stone for the building's construction. Mr Timaru Rhodes from the nearby Hadlow Estate showed the meeting a plan for a library building which he was prepared to erect and present to the district.

The plan showed "every accommodation" for the library which would have a "large, well-lighted, comfortable reading room together with another most convenient room at the main entrance". Permission was obtained from the South Canterbury Education Board to site the library on the school property and the facility was completed in 1887. Mr Rhodes was a public spirited landowner who concerned himself with all local issues and was active in advancing community interests.

With 28 subscribers to the library in the 1880s the lending library contained over 300 volumes, with newspapers and magazines provided in the reading room. Lectures were frequently held here.

Over the years Timaru developed and the small village became part of the city. In 1961 the library committee handed over the building, its contents and funds to the school. The school could no longer accommodate the increased numbers of pupils and for a brief period the library was used as a classroom. In 1975 a new district school was opened and this site was vacated. The two buildings on their two acre site were transferred to the Timaru District Council. Since that date the South Canterbury Arts Society has leased the two buildings and the school grounds are now a public park. In recent years the Arts Society has made little use of the library which is currently used by the council for storage.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It has historical values as it was built in the earliest days when the township of Gleniti was being established.

It is unusual for a pioneering settlement to build such an imposing structure of stone and this adds architectural value.

The former Gleniti Library has cultural significance as it demonstrates the ambitions of a small community to provide themselves with such a facility.

(a) In many small settlements around New Zealand the local residents worked together to establish the facilities they needed, like schools, churches, public halls and libraries. The importance of having a library was recognised by the people in the Gleniti District who organised the construction of this building in 1887, and this represents an aspect of the district's history.

(c) A knowledge of New Zealand's early history can be gained by learning of this building's early usage at a time when the library was a vital source of practical information, entertainment and culture. Everyone was able to access the material held in the library so it provided educational opportunities not available in the 19th century as they are today.

(e) The public esteem for the place was demonstrated through the 1960s when the future of the building seemed uncertain and the local residents lobbied for its retention. Various schemes were suggested for its use to encourage the District Council to take responsibility for it.

(g) The building is of simple design but is very well constructed of bluestone blocks at a time when there were few people available with the necessary skills to use this material. This gives it technical value.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

It is a single storeyed, gable roofed structure with a small separately roofed entrance porch facing Gleniti Road. The porch is lit by a single two paned sash window and there are two windows on each side of the main body of the building. The library originally contained two rooms but the dividing partition was removed in the 1960s. Limestone quoins outline the building's corners while plain limestone blocks form the window surrounds and the base structure of the front section.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1887 -

Internal partition removed.

Construction Details

Bluestone with limestone dressings, Corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Charteris, 1979

W. Charteris, Cheerful Yesterdays: A Centennial History of Gleniti (Wai-iti) School, 1879-1979.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT File 12015-040.

South Canterbury Museum

South Canterbury Museum, Timaru

Local history files

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.