Stone Store (Former)

Pepperill Road And Vospers Road, Lichfield

  • Stone Store (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 26/03/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 5/04/2006.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2689 Date Entered 30th June 2006


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes all of the land in CT SA39/85 and the buildings, their fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

South Waikato District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Lot 474 DP 335 (CT SA39/85), South Auckland Land District


The Stone Store and the Lichfield Hotel

The former Stone Store, believed to have been constructed in the early to mid 1880s, is a remnant ancillary building of the former Lichfield Hotel and is one of three surviving masonry buildings erected during the first years of Lichfield's development. The settlement planned for the centre of what became known as the Selwyn Estate, was part of 80,000 ha (200,000 acres) purchased from Ngati Raukawa by speculators known collectively as the Patetere Land Association (later the New Zealand and Thames Valley Land Company). The township was initially planned as a city of 8,000 people, aiming to take advantage of the opening up of the Waikato through the construction of a railway, including a 68km (42 mile) line between Morrinsville and Lichfield, which was begun by the Thames Valley and Rotorua Railway Company in 1884. The route was intended to eventually extend to Rotorua, following the government's decision to promote the resort as an international tourist destination.

A survey plan of Lichfield incorporating over 700 lots was completed by 1 September 1884. Lot 474 - on which the Stone Store is located - was purchased by hotel proprietor Alexander Heany in April 1885. Heany came from nearby Cambridge, like many of the entrepreneurs behind the Patetere Land Association. The lot provided a prime site for a hotel, being located on the corner of Penkridge Street (now Pepperill Road) and the main street - Selwyn Street - opposite the proposed railway station in Lichfield. The railway line was in advanced state of preparation by the time of Heany's purchase and was eventually opened on 21 June 1886. Heany's two-storey hotel was evidently the only such premises in the nascent settlement and was well established by 9 April 1886, when 30 members of a group of 50 prospective land purchasers visited Lichfield and were accommodated in the building overnight. The hotel may have been built as early as 1882, prior to Heany's formal purchase of the land.

The Stone Store is believed to have been erected after the main premises as a detached structure to the rear of the hotel. The most commonly given date for its construction is prior to 1886. The structure is said to have been built by two stonemasons as a way of paying Heany for their board and lodging. The stone was quarried from a local outcrop, pre-dating the more commercial exploitation of Putaruru stone that occurred from the 1930s onwards, when it was used to clad numerous government buildings. The employment of stone differs from the timber construction of the main hotel, and could have been partly due to the vulnerability of outbuildings to fire as a result of the consumption of alcohol on the hotel premises. Another stone structure erected at a similar time in Lichfield was used as a bakehouse, where fire was also a significant risk. The main façade of the Stone Store looked out towards the railway station and was designed to be accessed directly from the street.

The original function of the building is believed to have been that of a shop or store, presumably selling general provisions and equipment to settlers in the surrounding area. Its comparatively ornate Italianate façade and heated interior is consistent with a retail or similar commercial use. Other forms of public activity could have been accommodated, and at one stage, Heany is said to have operated a billiard saloon from the building. Billiards was a popular game associated with public houses in the early colonial period, although the introduction of the Licensing Act of 1881 curtailed some publicans from entertaining their customers with such amusements, particularly in areas where the prohibition movement was influential.

Unfortunately for Heany, Lichfield failed to develop as a large township as planned. Rather than passing through the settlement, the rail extension from Morrinsville to Rotorua was commenced from Putaruru, leaving the Lichfield station as a terminus at the end of a minor branch. The economic depression of the late 1880s also created difficulties, as did the effects of cobalt deficiency on farming in the surrounding region. By December 1890, Heany was bankrupt, and in 1891 or shortly thereafter, his hotel was destroyed by fire.

A smaller hotel was subsequently erected on the site, with beer being served in the Stone Store in the meantime to maintain the licence. A photograph of the newer hotel shows it as a hip-roofed single-storey building, with a verandah on two sides and possibly a kitchen to the rear. The same image shows the Stone Store in the background, with a chimney and a roof that is hipped at both ends.

In December 1894, Auckland brothers, Lawrence D. Nathan (1847?-1905) and Nathan Alfred Nathan (1849?-1931), wine and spirit and general merchants, purchased Heany's property. L.D. Nathan and Company had been established by the Nathans' father, David Nathan, one of New Zealand's most influential citizens of the Jewish faith. In December 1895, the Nathan brothers transferred the licence, the hotelier - James Sherley - and probably the store business to Putaruru's first hotel. Sherley had been manager at Lichfield for two years and went on to operate a store adjoining his new premises, following the same pattern as at the Lichfield Hotel. It is possible that the timber hotel was moved to Putaruru as the nucleus of the new premises, a fate not technologically possible for the stone outbuilding. Following Sherley's departure, it is said that the Stone Store was vacant for some time.

Use as a Bank

During the later 1890s, ongoing economic depression continued to thwart any prospect of Lichfield developing into the city envisaged by its early promoters. Prior to 1902, the railway track between Lichfield and Putaruru was removed. The assets of the Thames Valley Land Company were forfeited to the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), itself in great financial difficulty. The BNZ's interests in the land passed to the Assets Realisation Board. Ultimately, much of the Selwyn Estate was subdivided by the government in 1906 for close farming.

It may have been during this difficult period that the Stone Stone was initially used as a bank. The Bank of New Zealand, which was advancing money to the Thames Valley Land Company, is believed to have used the building - still owned by the Nathans - as a base from which to pay Company employees as well as hands from the Waotu sawmill, established in 1900. A photograph taken in 1926 shows the words 'BANK' on its main façade. The building's use by the BNZ may have straddled changes in its ownership: in April 1916, the building was purchased by Thomas Parker of Lichfield, a stock inspector, and six months later it was onsold to William Yendle, a Putaruru butcher. Yendle seems not to have used the premises as a retail outlet.

The second of two name panels on the building visible in 1926 bears the lettering 'AARD', a long distance tourist motor coach and service car enterprise that operated mainly in the North Island. Formed in 1918, the AARD Motor Services Association declined in 1928 when many services were purchased by New Zealand Railways Road Services. The Stone Store may have been an AARD depot at Lichfield during the 1920s. Emptied again during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s, the building became a rendezvous for unemployed men looking for work. A photograph published in the same year shows it in a substantially run-down state.

The Stone Store and New Zealand literary figures

In the summer of 1927-1928, New Zealand literary figures A.R.D. Fairburn (1904-1957) and R.A.K. Mason (1905-1971) are said to have carved their names into the building's stone front. Both Fairburn and Mason were major poets with active political interests. Rex Fairburn is considered to have been one of the most important writers of his generation, whose output was extremely diverse, embracing literature, the visual arts and politics. Ron Mason has been described as New Zealand's 'first wholly original, unmistakably gifted poet', who later became a playwright and prominent trade unionist.

In 1912, Mason went to live with his aunt, Isabella Foster Kells, attending school at Lichfield for four years. As a young man he returned to stay with his aunt at the end of 1922, and worked harvesting on the nearby farms haymaking for the next seven summers. Rex Fairburn joined Mason for the harvesting season at the end of 1927, staying at the 'abandoned and semi-derelict stone store, popularly known as the Bank ... which now provided shelter for passing swaggers'. The Bank's inhabitant at this time was George Parks, sometime 'rabbiter, "hobo", railway porter, bushman, hawker, harvester, road-mender, carter and slaughterman' - Mason's first acquaintance with a casual rural worker, a type that would later recur in his writing.

At the time of Fairburn's stay the stone walls of the store were intact, the roof was serviceable, but the floor had huge holes. Parks, who occupied one corner of the building, found Fairburn his own piece of floor and gave him a bed of sacks filled with straw. Meals were cooked over an open fire. Rabbit traps and old car parts hung on the building's interior.

Fairburn returned to Auckland after a short stay, incapacitated by hay fever and long working days. Although harvest work was not conducive for him, Fairburn's experience in this countryside emerged eight years later as part of a major poetic statement. 'Dominion', a poem consisting of five loosely related sections, was a critical analysis of New Zealand society and history, and is considered to be the most significant New Zealand poetic work to emerge in the 1930s. Both Fairburn and Mason made a substantial contribution to the development of New Zealand literature. Mason's best poems, in particular, are still numbered as among the finest in New Zealand literature, and marked the beginnings of serious modern poetry in this country.

Conversion to a church and subsequent use

The building's fortune's improved in 1946 when it was renovated for use by the Lichfield Interdenominational Church, the Trustees of the Yendle Estate having gifted the property. Divine service had previously been held at the local school. The stone building was given a new floor, and the interior walls were lined with timber. The kitchen lean-to probably also dates from this time or shortly after. The roof, similarly, is likely to have been repaired and modified. An official opening and a combined denominations' dedication service was held in June 1946.

The building was initially for the use of Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian members of the community, although the Lutheran Church was later accommodated. As well as being employed for church services by different faiths, it was also intended to be used for Bible Classes and Sunday Schools. The first burial service held there was that for Mr J.H. Burgess who had had considerable involvement in the renovations. The interment took place elsewhere. Baptisms and marriages were also carried out. The new use of the building occurred after improvements in farming techniques and the reinstatement of the railway to Lichfield as part of a line to Tokoroa had helped to revive the settlement's fortunes.

By the early 1970s, however, the building again faced an uncertain future as people began to leave Lichfield, and churches were built in other areas. Services other than those held on special occasions ceased in 1973, with the Anglicans being the last to remain. Suggestions in July 1974 for the building's future included possible use as a local museum. A timber toilet block was moved onto the site in 1976 when the Stone Store became clubrooms for the Tokoroa Vintage Car Club. The site was purchased by the Matamata County Council in 1989. The structure continues to serve as a venue for meetings of the South Waikato Veteran and Vintage Car Club, remaining in the ownership of the South Waikato District Council. Comparatively recent modifications have included the removal of timber lining on the western internal wall of the building and cement repairs on the exterior of the same wall.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The former Stone Store has historical significance as a building dating from the early years of Lichfield's development, and its various uses reflect the changing character of a small rural community over a 120-year period.

The former Stone Store at Lichfield has aesthetic significance for the visual impact of its use of local Putaruru stone, and as local landmark, visible from State Highway 1. The place has archaeological value for its association with two hotel buildings that occupied the site during the decade commencing circa 1885 - one of which burnt down - and for its subsequent commercial and residential use. The building has architectural significance as a small late-Victorian commercial building designed in the Italianate style and executed in a locally occurring material.

The Stone Store (Former) is technologically significant as a surviving early example of construction using local Putaruru stone, demonstrating nineteenth-century stone-dressing methods.

The place has cultural significance through its brief association with New Zealand literary figures R.A.K. Mason and A.R.D. Fairburn in the summer of 1927-1928.

The place has social significance as a former shop and church and, more recently, as the meeting place of a vintage car club for 30 years.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The former Stone Store is one of three surviving masonry structures in Lichfield, and one of two constructed of local Putaruru stone, that reflect grand speculative land and rail developments proposed for the Waikato in the early 1880s and the collapse of the New Zealand economy in the late 1880s and 1890s.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The former Stone Store is associated with New Zealand literary figures R.A.K. Mason and A.R.D. Fairburn. The latter stayed briefly in the building when it was in a derelict state and records that he and Mason carved their initials in its stonework.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The former Stone Store has the capacity to provide knowledge of early preparation and construction techniques associated with Putaruru stone. The place also has potential to provide information about the building's commercial and other use through examination of its surviving fabric and associated archaeological deposits.

(e)The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

The place is one of the few buildings in Lichfield to have been present since the foundation of the settlement and has considerable community association through its community functions over the past 120 years, including use as a store, a bank and a church. For the last 30 years the building has been used as a meeting place for a local community group - the Tokoroa (now South Waikato) Veteran and Vintage Car Club.

(f)The potential of the place for public education

The place has considerable potential for public education, being owned by a local authority and located in an accessible position close to a major State Highway. Its potential is enhanced by a rich history, which encompasses a variety of values including social, technological and literary heritage. Its links with major New Zealand literary figures R.A.K. Mason and A.R.D. Fairburn, particularly strengthen its educational potential.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The former Stone Store is valued as a fine and particularly early example of the use of Putaruru stone as a building material and as an example of the durability of what has proved to be difficult material.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The former Stone Store is a rare example of the early use of Putaruru stone, surviving in particularly good condition.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The former Stone Store is located in the rural settlement of Lichfield, 8 km (5 miles) south of Putaruru in South Waikato District. Lichfield consists of a scatter of low-density housing surrounded by rural holdings. The Stone Store lies slightly over 100 m to the west of State Highway 1, on a site at the corner of Vospers and Pepperill Roads, and is visible from the main highway. The land between the building and the main road is occupied by farmland and the Tokoroa branch railway line to Kinleith. An historic brick water tower (NZHPT Registration # 4235, Category II historic place) is located about 200 metres southeast of the former Stone Store, adjoining the railway line. Other registered historic places in Lichfield are the former Bakehouse (NZHPT Registration # 4237, Category II historic place) and the former Skimming Factory (NZHPT Registration # 4236, Category II historic place), both located in Kinloch Road.

The former Stone Store occupies part of a level, 1012 m² site, which is mostly in pasture. The section may contain buried archaeological deposits linked with its former use as a nineteenth-century hotel. Surface indications are that the land does not appear to have been significantly disturbed by later activity.

The Stone Store lies near the southern end of the section, directly fronting on to Pepperill Road. The section is bounded by a post and wire fence, incorporating older notched fence posts along its eastern boundary. The land immediately to the west of the section is occupied by a residential property.

The Stone Store is a single-storey building constructed of Putaruru ignimbrite, and has a corrugated iron roof. The main structure is rectangular in groundplan, with a small timber addition on its western side. The ground immediately to the south and west of the structure is paved with concrete and other materials, and is fenced from the rest of the section. The fenced area encloses a small detached toilet block of timber frame construction to the west of the main building.

The stone building has a symmetrical main façade to Pepperill Road, Italianate in style. This elevation incorporates rusticated ashlar masonry, and contains a central door and flanking windows. Its upper parapet conceals part of the gabled eastern end of the roof. The façade contains a large panel below each window, bearing large painted lettering. The southern panel contains the initials 'AARD', the northern panel the word 'BANK'. The remaining walls of the stone building are built to courses 330-550mm in height and sit on visible stone footings. The north and south walls each contain an original window, and a rear doorway lies in the northern part of the west wall. Probably originally providing access to an outside space, this currently connects a large room inside the main building and a kitchen in the timber addition. The addition is of timber frame construction with a corrugated iron roof. Its north elevation - facing the site of the former hotel - incorporates rusticated weatherboards. Its other elevations have shiplap weatherboard cladding.

The interior of the stone building contains a single open space, currently used for meetings of the local Vintage and Veteran Car Club. The stonework of the west wall is exposed, while other internal walls are believed to contain timber linings beneath existing wallboard coverings. An original stone fireplace and chimney breast with modern railway-sleeper surrounds is centrally located in the west wall. The chimney has been removed above ceiling level. The roof and ceiling timbers may incorporate some re-used material. Windows in the stone building consist of double-hung sashes, with those on the front elevation also incorporating an arched top light.

The timber addition on the west side of the building - currently used as a kitchen - is internally lined with hardboard. Its interior also incorporates a formica bench unit. The detached toilet block has a concrete floor and footings, and is divided into male and female sections.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1886 -
Stone Store erected - or some time before

1895 -
Possible relocation of second timber hotel, constructed in c.1891

East end of roof changed from hip to gable, chimney removed

1946 -
New floor; interior lined with timber, kitchen addition

Wallboard and pinex linings added

1976 -
Prefabricated toilet block erected

repairs to corrugated iron roof and west wall, timber lining removed from interior of west wall

Construction Details

Stone walls and footings; corrugated iron roof; timber extension

Information Sources

Anon, 1996

(Anon), Lichfield: From a Victorian Dream to a World Best Vision, (Putaruru), 1996.

Barker, 1984

Frank Barker (ed.), Lichfield School Centennial: 1884-1884, Lichfield, 1984

Barrowman, 2003

Rachel Barrowman, Mason: The Life of R.A.K. Mason, Wellington 2003

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT SA39/85; DP 334 South Auckland

New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Bulletin

New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Bulletin

Marshall, Patrick, 'Building-stones of New Zealand', No. 11, Wellington, 1929

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

13 August 1974

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'Vintage Car Club Building', NZHPT Historic Buildings and Structures Record Form, n.d.

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal (NZIA)

Marshall, Patrick, 'New Zealand's Building Stones', VII, No.2, June 1928, pp.35-36

Putaruru Press

Putaruru Press

18 July 1974

Scherer, 1992

Vicki Scherer, Putaruru: Home of the Owl, Putaruru, 1992

South Waikato District Council

South Waikato District Council

Property file P/F 17/8/99

Stone, 1973

R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973

Trussell, 1984

Denys Trussell, Fairburn, Auckland, 1984

Vennell, 1951

C W Vennell et. al., Centennial History of Matamata Plains, Matamata, 1951

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern 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.