St Margaret's College (Former)

Chester Street West And Cranmer Square, Christchurch

  • St Margaret's College (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Robyn Burgess. Date: 26/10/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3105 Date Entered 26th November 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Res 13 (CT CB373/180), Canterbury Land District, and the building known as St Margaret's College (Former), and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Res 13 (CT CB373/180), Canterbury Land District

Location description

The Christchurch City Council give the address for the Former St Margaret's College and Setting as being 26 Park Terrace/25A Cranmer Square, Christchurch.


Constructed in 1913-14 to the designs of prominent architect, Cecil Wood, the two storeyed timber St Margaret’s College (Former) building was the first purpose-built building erected by this prominent Anglican girls’ school. It has social, historical and architectural significance and is important as a surviving heritage building in Christchurch’s Cranmer Square area following the loss of other notable historic educational buildings following the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

St Margaret’s College was founded in 1910 when the Sisters of the Community of the Church from Kilburn in London took over a previous school that had been established by Miss Johanne Lohse in Riccarton in 1874. St Margaret’s College classes were first held at 28 Armagh Street but the success of the school soon required the erection of a larger building on a new site in 1913-14. The architect chosen was Cecil Wood, the builder was George Frost and the site was the corner of Chester Street and Cranmer Square. The original design was more or less rectangular in plan but insufficient funds meant only part, an L-shaped plan building, was first built. In order to provide the school with a temporary assembly hall, the ground floor classrooms were separated by sliding partitions.

Taking budgetary constraints and educational requirements into account, the architect Cecil Wood designed a well-crafted building that is largely Arts and Crafts in style. The two storeyed building has a weatherboard and board-and-batten exterior, corrugated iron hipped roof and wide overhanging eaves. The east elevation fronting Cranmer Square features a curved canopy above a now blocked-off centrally placed front door. The south elevation contains a recessed entrance porch and a flat roofed canopy supported by curved braces. A large sloping canopy creates a covered area to the entrances on the west elevation. The east and north elevations have regularly placed groups of grid-like top-hung casement windows, and the south and west elevations have pairs of tall multi-pane fixed and sash windows.

The building was extended in 1923 by the addition of a hall and a further four first floor classrooms. The hall, with an apse at one end, doubled as a chapel. In 1926, a further addition at the west end provided cloakrooms on the ground floor and a staffroom and sixth form room on the first floor. In 1931 the three north-facing rooms on the ground floor were converted to ‘open air’ classrooms with folding panel doors which were glazed in the top portion. The building served the school until it relocated to Merivale in 1959. In the decades that followed, the building was occupied by the Education Board, and then was taken over by the neighbouring Cathedral Grammar, the Anglican preparatory school, to serve as its junior school. Following major repairs, strengthening and interior alterations after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010-11, the building is the school’s specialist block, containing music, science and art departments.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wood, Cecil Walter

Born in Christchurch, Wood (1878-1947) was articled to the local architect Frederick Strouts between 1894 and 1899. He worked for a short time as a draughtsman with the firm Clarkson and Ballantyne before travelling to England in 1901. Here Wood was exposed to a high quality of architectural design in the Edwardian Free Style, and was employed by two leading Edwardian architects Robert Weir Shultz and Leonard Stokes.

In 1907 Wood returned to New Zealand to take up partnership with Samuel Hurst Seager. The partnership lasted for only one year for Wood set up his own practice in 1908. The years 1908-1915 were dominated by domestic commissions, but it was also during this time that he began his association with Christ's College, which included such commissions as Hare Memorial Library (1915), the Memorial Dining Hall (1923-5), Jacob's House (1931) and Open Air Classrooms (1932). During the 1920s Wood's practice began to expand and a Georgian influence can be seen in such works as Weston House Park Terrace (1923-4) and Bishopscourt (1926-7).

A short lived partnership in 1927 with R S D Harman allowed Wood to travel to the United States while another in 1937 with Paul Pascoe allowed him to travel to England, Europe and the United States without neglecting his practice. During this second trip he made preparations for the design of St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Wellington, which was erected after his death.

During his life Wood had made a substantial contribution to the architecture of Christchurch, having an enthusiasm for both European and American styles.

George Frost

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1913 - 1914

1923 -
Addition of hall and further classrooms

1926 -
Addition at west end (cloakrooms, staff room and sixth form room)

1931 -
Conversion of north facing rooms to open-air classrooms

Structural upgrade
2013 -
Seismic strengthening, repair and refurbishment

Completion Date

19th December 2016

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Helms, 1996

Ruth M. Helms, 'The architecture of Cecil Wood', PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 1996

Gosset, 1985

Gosset, Robyn, From Boaters to Backpacks: The School History and List of St Margaret’s College 1900-1985, 1985

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.