Historical Significance or Value
The St Bathans Hall has historical significance. The Hall is associated with the town's mining days, being a social centre for dances, the Lodge and other community events. The Hall also links with the mining history of St Bathans in that it housed the offices of the Scandinavian Water Race Company, a major company in the mining history of the area. Its historical significance was recognised when the Hall was included as a site in the Otago Goldfield's Park in the 1970s.
The building is of architectural significance. Its mud brick construction and simple rectangular plan design demonstrate vernacular construction with available materials, in this case mud brick, found in many of Central Otago's historic towns, but of which there are a dwindling number as mud brick buildings do not survive unless they are kept weather tight.
The Hall has social significance, representing a social centre and focus for the small St Bathans' community and surrounding district, and is the only public hall in the settlement. This is a theme common to many rural towns where a hall was important for many community functions. The Hall social significance as a a community hall, a building representative of small communities where the hall formed the hub of the town and had an important public function, and was used for a variety of social and community functions.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Hall reflects aspects of the history of the town of St Bathans. It is representative of St Bathans' gold mining past, when the town had a thriving population and required the infrastructure of community buildings such as the hall. As the location of the Scandinavian Water Race Company's offices the hall played a direct role in the town's mining history.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:
The St Bathans Hall has high public esteem. The building has been a centre for the community for over 110 years, and the local interest in and concern for the Hall was noted in the Department of Conservation's 2006 Conservation Plan for the building, and also in its inclusion in the Otago Goldfields Park in the 1970s.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The Hall forms part of the wider historical and cultural complex of St Bathans township itself. Situated in the town's main street, the building is one of the more significant in the historic streetscape. The building's simple façade and mud brick construction connect it not only to other structures in St Bathans but also to similar streetscapes throughout Central Otago's historic gold mining towns. This is demonstrated in the Hall's inclusion in the Otago Goldfields Park, managed by the Department of Conservation, and the Department's efforts over the years of its ownership of the building to conserve and restore it.
St Bathans Hall, built in the early 1890s for local publican Michael Nolan, has served as the public hall in the former gold mining settlement of St Bathans for over a century. It is located on Loop Road, the main street of the former busy gold mining settlement of St Bathans in Central Otago. The Hall is constructed of mud brick and has a simple rectangular plan. It sits within the historic precinct of the small town and contributes significantly to its historic landscape. As well as providing a community meeting place the hall also originally housed the offices of local mining companies. It has had many uses over the years, including a Masonic Lodge, a classroom, a roller skating rink and a cinema, reflecting the diverse entertainments and services provided in small rural towns. It became a government owned building in 1958. In 2006 it continues to be used as a hall, administered by the Department of Conservation.
The building is part of the gold mining history of the town. Gold was discovered in St Bathans in 1863 leading to the birth of the town. First known as Dunstan Creek, the name was changed to St Bathans in 1866, after St Bathans in the islands of Iona in Scotland. At the height of the rush, the population in the area numbered around 2,000, with thirteen hotels catering to local demands during the 1860s. The town had two banks, a police station, courthouse, jail, hospital and many businesses. A Tyree photo dated c.1864 shows St Bathans' main street with timber, stone and corrugated iron buildings opening directly onto the footpath.
The land on which the Hall stands was first granted to George Purton in 1877. Three years later the title was split into two parts, and that part on which the Hall was to be later built was purchased by the United Mountain and Enterprise Company.
There is little information on the early history of the Hall, but it is clear that in 1892 the site was leased to Michael Nolan, Proprietor of the Ballarat (now Vulcan) Hotel for a period of twenty one years. The Hall appears to have been erected around this time. An advertisement from the 1894 Stones Directory of Otago and Southland for the Hotel records, 'Mr Nolan has erected, at considerable cost, a Public Hall suitable for Theatrical and other Entertainments'. The lease was transferred to Nolan's wife Rose Ann on his death.
In 1902 the St Bathans' Masonic Lodge was formed in the Hall. The Lodge used the Hall for its regular meetings, until 1909 when they vacated the building, taking up new premises in Becks. The lease was transferred to Ellen Saxton when she took over the lease of the Ballarat Hotel in 1913.
The Scandinavian Water Race Company, which mined the rich Kildare Lead from approximately 1904, once had its offices in the rooms at the front of the hall. As mining declined, so did the town, with buildings demolished, facilities diminishing, and the population shrinking; the Hall remains one of the most substantial buildings on the main street.
For a period in the 1920s the Hall was used as a temporary classroom.
In December 1928 the land titles were transferred to the Kildare Consolidated Gold Mining Company. In August of the following year Mrs O'Dowd, proprietress of the Ballarat Hotel took legal action against the mining company after they locked out both her and her agents from the hall. The company was ordered to take the padlock off the hall door, and to allow it to remain open.
Around the 1930s a projection box was installed in the ceiling void over the front offices.
In February 1931 the title was transferred to farmer John Morgan, hotelkeeper John Whetter and miner Michael Webb.
In June 1958 the land was transferred to Her Majesty the Queen in terms of Section 100(4) of the Reserves and Domains Act and the land title cancelled. In 1974 the Department of Lands and Survey took over management responsibility, and the Hall later became an Otago Goldfields Park site. In 1978 the land and Hall became assets managed by the Department of Conservation.
In 1983 the Department of Conservation 'substantially restored' the Hall. In 2003 the Hall was temporarily closed while deformation in the mud brick walls was investigated. Engineering reports indicated that the structure was sound, and the Hall reopened in October 2005.
In 2006 the Hall remains an important local facility. It has been used as an assembly point for the 'Ghost to Ghost' multisport event, and local community groups and individual residents remain keenly interested in the future of the building.
The St Bathans Hall sits on the west side of Loop Road in the centre of the small Central Otago settlement of St Bathans. It is immediately adjoining the Vulcan Hotel with the former Gold Office and Post Office located a little further up the street. The main façade opens immediately onto the footpath.
The Hall is a simple rectangular-plan single-gable building constructed of mud brick on stone foundations (with a lean-to store to the north-west). The front façade has a central panelled door with arched fanlight over and a decorative lintel. The door is flanked by two symmetrically placed two-light double hung sash windows. The gable end has timber framing as a decorative feature.
The windows on the north-west and south-east elevations (the two sides) are all six-light double hung sash windows: there are three on the south-east elevation and five on the north-east, although this wall is partially built against the neighbouring wall of the billiards room of the Vulcan Hotel.
The front vestibule has rooms opening on either side that once housed the Scandinavian Water Race Company (as indicated by the sign writing on the entrance), one of the companies that worked the lead where the Blue Lake is now. The former office to the right hand side was converted for a toilet block in 1985.
The 2006 Conservation Plan notes that the subfloor bearers and the auditorium flooring has been replaced at an unknown date, likely because of the decay resulting from the timber flooring sitting on the ground. While it has been suggested that the floor was 'sprung' the Conservation Plan considers that the springiness was rather due to 'less-rigid floor support members.' Some of the original stone foundations have been replaced with concrete.
The main body of the interior is a large auditorium space with a stage. The interior is largely lined to dado height with varnished match-lining, above which there appears to be a coloured lime wash finish on the plastered mud brick surface. The proscenium arch is timber framed clad on the auditorium side with varnished match-lining. There is a painted fabric mural at the rear of the stage which is considered significant.
The hall has been subjected to a number of conservation reports and repairs over past years, due to concern over the building's subsidence and movement and shallow, damp foundations. The exterior has been repointed in a number of places, and the interior replastered. Most recently, in 2004, a new retaining wall was built beside the south wall, and drainage and underpinning of the foundations carried out.
1892 - 1894
Hall 'substantially restored' according to Draft Reserves Management Plan 1983.
Office converted to a toilet block.
1993 - 1995
Areas of brickwork and mortar replaced.
Rear wall underpinned and cut-off drainage installed.
New retaining wall was built beside the south wall, and drainage and underpinning of the foundations carried out.
Stone foundations with mud brick walls and a corrugated galvanised iron roof.
Public NZAA Number
22nd June 2007
Report Written By
Janet. C. Cowan, Down the Years in the Maniototo: A Survey of the Early History of Maniototo County and Naseby Borough, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Whitcombe and Tombs, Dunedin, 1948
R. Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago Whitcoulls, Christchurch, 1978
N. Harwood and P. Woodmansey, Historic buildings appraisal, St Bathans, Otago, Department of Conservation Science Internal Series 185, 2004
Department of Conservation, 'St Bathans Hall Conservation Plan' February 2006
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area 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.