Historical Significance or Value
The former Naseby Courthouse has historic significance as the centre for the administration and justice for this rural community. The building served as both Wardens and Magistrates Court for around ninety years, and is therefore a tangible link with the town's goldfield's past. As a court it was one of the public faces of government in this rural area. While the first court in Naseby was set up in the 1860s, this later structure, with its formal composition, demonstrates the historic importance of the law in the goldfields, where wardens administered mining law and were concerned with the registration and enforcement of miners' rights. They also had the power to adjudicate on disputes over resources such as water races, claim jumping, and forgeries.
ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE AND VALUE:
The Naseby Courthouse has architectural significance. The building was designed in 1876, and in its simple design and detailing is a representative example of government architecture associated with the development of administrative infrastructure in gold fields Otago. It sits with other courthouses, for example those at Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell as local examples of architecture associated with the justice system.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The former Naseby Courthouse is representative of important aspects of New Zealand's history, when the courthouse played an important role in small rural communities like Naseby. Historically, towns such as Naseby were geographically isolated, separated from other gold mining settlements by long distances that could only be travelled on foot, on horseback or by coach. In this context the courthouse represents the establishment of law and governance in a previously unsettled terrain.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The former Naseby Courthouse is part of the historical landscape of Naseby. It sits within the NZHPT registered Naseby Historic Area, and is within the historic precinct in the Central Otago District Council's District Plan. Sitting as it does adjacent to the exuberantly detailed Naseby Post Office and other historic structures; it provides insight into the provision of government services in this now quiet rural town.
SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANCE AND VALUES:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a and k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
The history of Naseby's former Courthouse is linked with the history of the discovery and mining of gold in Central Otago. In May 1863 four men walked across the Maniototo from the Dunstan and found gold in the vicinity of Naseby, near the present day junction of Coalpit Road and the Ranfurly-Naseby Road. By the beginning of July, five gullies were being mined and by the end of the month a canvas town had sprung up. By August 1863 5,000 men were reported prospecting there. The name Naseby was evidently taken from the English town that was the birthplace of John Hyde Harris, Superintendent of Otago in the 1860s.
With the discovery of gold came the associated administrative system. The District Court of Otago Gold Fields was established by proclamation in November 1864. In February 1864 tenders were called for a wooden courthouse, wardens quarters, gold receivers office and quarters, clerk, bailiff and inspectors quarters, but no clear record has been found which shows which structures were constructed, but it seems that at least a courthouse was built as there is reference in the Mt Ida Chronicle from the late 1860s of sittings in the building, which was found to be too small, with inadequate seating. By 1869 the building was referred to in the Mt Ida Chronicle as 'a monument to the Government's folly', with papers and documents 'with a value of much more than the building stored in any open hole including the floor and within inches of the stove pipe.' The overflow of cases for the Warden's Court meant that these cases had to be held in the Masonic Hall.
The District Court covered all the territory within the goldfields, and held sessions at Queenstown, Clyde, Lawrence and Naseby. A District Court judge presided over the Court, and dealt with civil cases (with consent from parties), or those with claims between £20 and £500. The Court also handled some administrative matters and had a limited jurisdiction over criminal cases.
In addition the Wardens Court system administered the Gold Fields Act 1862, with the Wardens Court for the Mount Ida District based at Naseby. The Warden's Office was responsible for management of gold mining and dispute resolution. The Warden also allocated residence and building sites, water rights, administered pastoral leases and heard civil and criminal suits - acting as Resident Magistrate.
These joint functions made the court building the centre for much community activity and illustrate the significant role of the warden and district court judge in these small isolated communities, such as Clyde, Alexandra, Lawrence and Naseby. The courthouse was an important structure in a goldfields town.
Calls for a new Courthouse with appropriate facilities were made to the Provincial Council in the early 1870s. Land for a new courthouse and neighbouring post office was first surveyed and gazetted in 1870. A survey plan dated July 1870 shows the 'Court House Reserve' with the adjoining 'Telegraph Office Reserve' and 'Survey Office Reserve.' Both the Courthouse reserve and that of the Survey Office have buildings on them, built to the street frontage of Derwent Street.
Tenders were finally called for a new building in February 1875, closing the end of that month. The tender from local man George Stephens with a price of £538 10s 6d was accepted. There was some confusion with the tendering process when Stephens threw in his contract as he had priced on 12ft high stud, whereas the specifications indicated a 14ft stud. A report in the local paper hoped that Stephens might gain the readvertised contract as 'he possesses the rare qualification of finishing his work within the specified time.' Stephens tender was confirmed in April, apparently with a price of £775. By mid-May the materials were on site, and the building completed to painting stage by July.
The old court building was auctioned off at the end of October 1876, with the condition that the existing building be removed. In November tenders were called for erecting a fence and outbuildings for the new courthouse, with tenders for interior fittings called for that month as well.
The Naseby Courthouse was probably opened in late 1876 or early 1877 although no record has been found of an official opening. The Mt Ida Chronicle described the courthouse as consisting of a hall of justice, a magistrate's room, and offices for the clerk and the bailiff. Plans on file in Archives New Zealand give details of the floor plan of the building.
An 1877 photograph shows the new courthouse with adjoining structures alongside, sited on the post and telegraph reserve, and the survey office reserve. These are small cottage size buildings built to face Derwent Street. They sit amidst the barren mining landscape with scattered residences on the hill and flats.
The town of Naseby grew steadily with the fortunes of its gold mining population during the 1860s and 1870s, but declined thereafter: in 1878, the population was around 400. In the next decade, small farming developed in the district, with land ploughed and crops sown. A flourmill opened in 1881 and at its height the town also had twenty-five hotels, a brewery, several banks, as well as bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, drapers and general stores. Gold returns continued to grow during the last decades of the nineteenth century, peaking around 1893. From that year until 1925, when the Mt. Ida race closed, returns diminished.
While Naseby's fortunes had declined with the ending of the gold mining era, this was further accentuated when the Central Otago railway line was constructed through Ranfurly, marginalising Naseby from the main transport route, and services became concentrated elsewhere in the district.
A Survey Office plan from 1938 indicates that the courthouse was surrounded by a picket and a paling fence, and that two sheds stood on the western most boundary fence.
By 1961 a new courthouse had opened in Ranfurly and in April of that year the last hearing was held in the Naseby Courthouse. The Department of Justice, no longer requiring the building, handed it over to the Ministry of Works for disposal, 'at a nominal value of £15, suggesting that the building could perhaps be used by the Forestry Department, or failing any government use, that it could be offered to the Naseby Borough Council, which had expressed interest in the building previously. The building was described as 'in need of considerable maintenance particularly in the sub-floor structures.' The rest of the building was described to be in 'fair condition.'
At the same time the Department of Justice realised there had been a discrepancy in the titles of the post office and the courthouse, with the post office sitting on a small portion of the title of the courthouse. This was rectified with the gazetting of 5.1 perches of the courthouse title for the post office.
The reservation for the courthouse was revoked in 1963, and in 1969 it was sold into private ownership. From that time the former Naseby Courthouse has been used as a private residence.
The former Naseby Courthouse sits on Derwent Street, the main arterial access road into the small Maniototo town of Naseby. The Courthouse, along with its neighbours, the former Naseby Courthouse, and the former Masonic Lodge, sit on the north west side of Derwent Street. These buildings mark the beginning of the precinct of historic buildings which characterise the town of Naseby. Across the road is a recreation reserve, a large open grassed space with a children's play area at the rear.
The former Naseby Courthouse is a weatherboard structure with a corrugated iron roof. The roof has a wide, low-pitched single gable over a high stud, adjoined by a hip roofed lean-to at the side, which has a small porch forming the main entranceway. The central window under the gable is arched with a keystone, while the two flanking windows have plain, square sashes. Smaller arched windows are repeated in the lean-to former office portion. Ornamental brackets, widely spaced, support the exceptionally broad eaves. The flooring is of Baltic pine. The floor plan drawings show the courtroom in the centre of the building, with public seating in front of the windows nearest the street. The dais was at the rear of the courtroom, with two offices behind this, with the dais itself given natural lighting from a skylight above. The strong room was located in a small lean-to at the west side of the building and the records room and magistrate's room on the east. There were fireplaces in the clerk's room and office at the rear, as well as in the courtroom and the magistrate's and records rooms behind it.
Two small weatherboard outbuildings sit at the rear of the courthouse, both used for storage. One is reported to be the former policeman's residence, but seems very small for such a purpose. It is not known when these buildings were constructed.
In the 1980s the former courthouse was converted for use as a family home, or holiday home, but the original layout remains evident. The records and magistrate's rooms on the east side of the building were converted for use as bedrooms, the office at the rear was converted into a kitchen, and a toilet was installed in the former clerk's room. The central courtroom is now used as a living area. The judge's dais at the rear has been removed along with one of the two internal arched windows, and a door to the kitchen put in. The strong room remains in place with its original heavy door.
Conversion to a residence
Timber with corrugated iron roof.
6th May 2008
Report Written By
Heather Bauchop/Angela Middleton
R. Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago Whitcoulls, Christchurch, 1978
J Hamel, Gold miners and their landscape at Naseby. NZ Forest Service, 1985.
J O'Neill. The History of Naseby. Naseby 1976.
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.