Hawke's Bay Provincial Hospital (Former)

2 Sealy Road And Harvey Road, Middle Hill West, Napier

  • Hawke's Bay Provincial Hospital (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2797 Date Entered 7th April 1983


Extent of List Entry

The physical extent of the registration includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 16159, Hawke's Bay Land District and the building known as the Hawke's Bay Provincial Hospital (Former) and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 of the Information Upgrade report for further information).

City/District Council

Napier City


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 16159 (CT HBH4/732), Hawke's Bay Land District.


Now a private residence, this building on Napier Hill was the first purpose built Hawke's Bay Provincial Hospital. The hospital opened in 1860 and operated as such for twenty years before the construction of a larger hospital on the site of the old Barracks Reserve.

Napier Hill is known to local Maori as Mataruahou and is a place associated with healing. The outlook, height, sea and the wind are important to the healing process 'to uplift the spirit, the wairua of an ill person.'

During negotiations with the Crown over the purchase of the Ahuriri Block Maori were reluctant to include Mataruahou but it became part of the 1851 agreement. In 1855 a plan of the Town of Napier was submitted by Alfred Domett, Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Hawke's Bay. A number of reserves were set aside for public institutions, including a Hospital Reserve. Domett described the reserve as 'a small suburban section on the hills..the site is healthy and cheerful.' It was situated on Harvey Road, with Sealy Road being constructed at a later date.

The Province of Hawke's Bay was created in 1858 and a Provincial Council was elected in that year to oversee the needs of the Province including healthcare. The 65th Regiment stationed in Napier requested a military hospital and the Council provided the funds to rent a house in Emerson Street which catered for military and civilian patients. However, a purpose built hospital was required and the Provincial Government allocated £250 for its construction.

In 1859 tenders were called for the erection of a hospital on the allocated reserve in Napier. The tender was won by Thomas Shepherd for the sum of £299. Further tenders for the construction of a detached wash house and dead house, a water tank and fencing around the hospital were also awarded. By 3 December 1858 it was reported in the Hawke's Bay Herald that the hospital was 'beginning to 'loom large' on top of the hill'.

By the end of May 1860 the hospital was occupied, with a Mr and Mrs Bell as the first Matron and Master, and Dr Thomas Hitchings, the Provincial Surgeon the attending medical officer. Hitchings was an elected member of the first Hawke's Bay Provincial Council. He was appointed as the Provincial Surgeon, Native Surgeon and for a time, the Coroner for Hawke's Bay.

In Dr Hitchings' first report to the Napier Superintendent he described the hospital building as consisting of two wards, one male and one female, each with five beds. The building was one storey, constructed of wooden weather boards with a high stud that allowed for good ventilation. The building had a kitchen, a surgery and accommodation for the Master and Matron.

Hospital services were charged at two shilling a day but were free to those that were destitute and unable to pay. Financial constraints and disputes between the Napier Town Council and the Provincial Government over the levels of funding caused problems for the small hospital that was expected to cater to the health needs of a dispersed and expanding population.

The hospital was stretched to capacity to care for those wounded during the hostilities at Omarunui Pa in 1866. A force of militia, volunteers and friendly Maori commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel G.S. Whitmore engaged Hau Hau fighters who occupied the Pa, and up to twenty five Hau Hau were removed to the hospital and once recovered sent to gaol or shipped to the Chatham Islands. Military settlers and soldiers who fought in battles around Poverty Bay were also treated at the Provincial Hospital in 1868.

By 1875 the inability of the Provincial Hospital to accommodate the needs of its constituents, or the capability to deal with outbreaks of disease, were reported by Dr Hitchings. He discussed the need for more attendants and the use of canvas tents and the absorption of a pre-existing building to accommodate an influx of patients, many of them being sick new immigrants and seaman. The issues of overcrowding and the need for a larger hospital led to the Hospital Trustees offering a prize of £50 for the design of a new building to be erected on the old Barracks Reserve. The new hospital was opened 30 June 1880.

The Hospital Reserve was divided into five lots and offered on 35 year leases. The hospital and associated buildings located on Lot 1 Napier Hospital Reserve were sold to George Scarfe for £175. In 1935 it was noted that the building was constructed of heart-Kauri timber and had stood the test of time. The history of hospital use was evident during work on additions and the dismembering of partitions, where it was noted that the sawdust packing in the walls 'smelt very strongly of ether'. The building has had a number of modifications over the years, including additions and alterations to reflect its use as a private residence.

The building at 2 Sealy Road is historically significant as the first purpose built Hawke's Bay Provincial Hospital which served the community for twenty years before becoming a private residence. Sited on Napier Hill, it was recognised by both Maori and early European settlers as a place of healing and convalescing. An important public and charitable institution, hundreds of patients were treated there including those wounded at the battle of Omarunui Pa. The hospital is historically important for its association with the first Provincial Surgeon, Dr Thomas Hitchings, who was an advocate for health services and a community leader in Hawke's Bay.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Shepherd, Thomas

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1860 -
Construction of the Provincial Hospital

1880 -
Ceased to be a hospital and became a private residence.

1932 -
Substantial alterations and additions.

1962 -
Substantial alterations.

Completion Date

14th December 2009

Report Written By

Natasha Naus

Information Sources

Campbell, 1975

M. D. N. Campbell, Story of Napier, 1874-1974; Footprints Along the Shore, Napier City Council, Napier 1975

Conly, 1992

Geoff Conly, A case history: the Hawke's Bay Hospital Board 1876-1989, Hawke's Bay Area Health Board, Napier, 1992.

Wright, 1994

M Wright, Hawke's Bay: The History of a Province, Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1994

Other Information

A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.