104 Bridge Street And Dalziell Street, Bulls
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
11th December 2003
Extent of List Entry
Registration includes building and site.
Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region
Sec 402 SO26391 Rangitikei Dist Blk XI Rangitoto SD, NZ Gazette, 1992, p.2704, NZ Gazette, 1966, p.1304
Located at 104 Bridge Street in Bulls, on the corner of Bridge and Dalziell Streets
The Resident Magistrate's Courthouse in Bulls, the last courthouse to be constructed in the town, was erected on the corner of Bridge and Dalziell Streets in 1882.
The New Zealand legal system was first established by an 1840 Royal Charter that allowed the Legislative Council to make laws for 'peace, order and good government'. The first Resident Magistrates' Courts were established eight years later. By the 1860s the courts were part of a three-tiered court system, which consisted of the Supreme Court, District Courts, and the Resident Magistrates Courts. Resident Magistrates Courts had the power to resolve minor legal disputes. Each resident magistrate was assisted by a clerk appointed by the Governor of the colony, and a bailiff who had the powers of a police constable.
Bulls was the Rangitikei County's first township and one of the first towns in the region to have its own court. Tenders for the first courthouse in Bulls were called for in 1864, but due to the excessively high tenders received, construction was not completed until 1865. In the early 1880s, the powers and jurisdiction of the Resident Magistrates Courts were gradually increased, and it is likely that this prompted the construction of the second courthouse in 1882.
The new courthouse was built on land that was formally gifted in 1882 to the Crown by licensed victualler Alexander Dalziell, after whom Dalziell Street was named. As the structure appears on Deeds Plan 479, which was certified in late 1882, it is probable that the Courthouse was completed that same year.
The Courthouse was located across the road from the local police station. It is likely to have been erected by the Public Works Department, which was then responsible for the construction of courthouses and other government buildings around New Zealand. The single storey, 'L-shaped' building was constructed around a timber frame, clad in weatherboards and roofed in corrugated iron. The building was 30 feet (10.6 metres) wide, by 33 feet (9.14 metres) long. It consisted of three rooms, a rectangular courtroom which extended the length of the building, a magistrate's room, and an office. A small porch sheltered the entrance to the office and courtroom.
By the end of the nineteenth century the court system had become essentially two-tiered, with the Magistrates' Courts (known as the Resident Magistrates' until 1893), acquiring wider and more extensive powers. Yet as the Bulls Courthouse records prior to 1911 have been misplaced, much of the history of the building during this period remains unclear.
In 1921 concern was expressed at the dilapidated state of the building by the Clerk of Court. General repairs were carried out in 1930, and in 1940 electricity was installed when the clerk gave notice that he was forced to rely on candlelight when doing court work in evenings. On 31 May 1951 the courthouse's license to practice as a magistrates' court was revoked, and sittings were discontinued. Its records were taken to the court house at Marton, and the building, valued at £70:1:4, was acquired in July of that year for use as a police station.
From 1958, the New Zealand Playcentre Association established a playcentre in the main courtroom. The police continued to use what had been the office until 1965, when the new police station was completed on the opposite side of the street. The Playcentre functioned until 1990, when other kindergarten facilities in the town forced its closure. The building is now part of a local purpose reserve managed by the Rangitikei District Council, and has been leased to a variety of business enterprises since 1992.
Historical Significance or Value
The former Courthouse at Bulls is representative of the courthouses constructed in small towns throughout New Zealand. Constructed in the late nineteenth century at a time when the jurisdiction of Resident Magistrates' Courts was increasing, the Courthouse served in its judicial capacity for 69 years and has local historical significance. The simple structure is of architectural interest as an example of small town judicial architecture. The Courthouse is very well-preserved, and has considerable aesthetic appeal. It has stood as a landmark on the town's main street for over 120 years. Still remembered locally as the 'old Courthouse' the building is considered by the community to be an important part of the historic fabric of the town.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The former courthouse at Bulls is representative of the Resident Magistrate Court buildings that were established throughout New Zealand in the nineteenth century.
(e)The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:
The Courthouse (former) at Bulls has stood as a landmark on the main street through the town for over 120 years and served as the local magistrates' court for 69 years. Still remembered locally as the 'old Courthouse' the building is considered by the community to be an important part of the historic fabric of the town.
(f) The potential of the place for public education:
As a well-preserved example of a nineteenth-century courthouse, the Courthouse at Bulls has considerable potential to provide insight into the development of New Zealand's judicial system. This is strengthened by the fact that, despite its numerous uses since the closure of the court in 1951, the building continues to be remembered within the community as the old Courthouse.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The former Courthouse at Bulls is a well-preserved example of small-town judicial architecture.
The Courthouse (Former) at Bulls is a single storey, 'L-shaped' building. It was constructed from native timbers and roofed in corrugated iron. It is 30 feet (10.6 metres) wide, by 33 feet (9.14 metres) long. It originally consisted of three rooms, a rectangular courtroom which extended the length of the building, a magistrate's room, and an office. A small porch sheltered the entrance to the office and courtroom. The porch remains in tact but has been supplemented with a more modern timber structure. The building is lit by double hung sash windows and was originally heated by an open fire. This was replaced with heaters in 1950 and a burner in 1998. The roofline is decorated with two finials. The interior of the building features native timber floorboards and the courtroom has a decorative timber dado running the length of the room.
NZ Gazette notice revokes authority to act as a magistrates court and sittings are discontinued. Police Dept takes over building.
Playcentre established in former courtroom
Police move out of building
Sink unit installed
Roof replaced with long-run steel (P. Geurtjens Plumbing Ltd)
First courthouse constructed in Bulls
Land gifted to the Crown
Interior painted (early records lost at this point)
Fence repaired, screen in front of latrines replaced, building painted, spouting and downpipes renewed, general maintenance carried out (Public Works Department)
Electric lighting installed
The Courthouse (Former) at Bulls is constructed around a timber frame, clad in weatherboards and roofed in corrugated iron.
11th December 2003
Report Written By
Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)
Archives New Zealand (Wellington)
'M.C. Bulls', J Acc W1190 1943/24/44;
M. C. Bulls, Sittings Discontinued', J Acc W1190 1951/24/2;
'Playcentres - Bulls', ADF1 Acc W3544/124/258
R. Carter, Beyond the Call of Duty; A History of the Palmerston North Police District, Palmerston North, 1988
B. Lowthre, New Zealand Magistrates' Court Guide; A handbook to the jurisdiction, practice etc of these tribunals, with a digest of cases decided by the superior court in relation thereto, 2nd ed, Nelson, 1891
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the Central Region of the NZHPT.
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.