Horowhenua College Main Building

65-73 Weraroa Road, Levin

  • Horowhenua College Main Building.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Robert McLean. Date: 6/11/2009.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Robert McLean. Date: 6/11/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4078 Date Entered 5th September 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 329514 (RT 120706), Wellington Land District and the building known as Horowhenua College Main Building thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 30 April 2019.

City/District Council

Horowhenua District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 329514 (RT 120706), Wellington Land District


Horowhenua College Main Building in Levin, which opened on 6 February 1940, has historic significance for its connection to politician Peter Fraser and the expansion of access to secondary school education under the first Labour government (1935-49). An architecturally significant building designed by prominent educational architect Bertie Fleming Kelly, its distinctive rectangular form enclosing a grass quadrangle has not been substantially altered. The building has aesthetic value as a local landmark and is treasured by the school community past and present, affording it social significance.

Horowhenua College was preceded by a secondary school department added to Levin School in 1905, a practice common in rural areas. By the mid-1920s student numbers exceeded capacity and the government was petitioned to create a separate secondary school. The lobbyists gained little traction until the Labour Party became the government in 1935 and Peter Fraser was appointed to the education portfolio. Under his watch access to secondary education was greatly improved; now children had to just complete Standard Six rather than pass an exam. Horowhenua College was a tangible expression of Fraser’s well-known 1939 statement ‘that every person…has a right as a citizen, to a free education….’ The previous year he had laid the school’s foundation stone, in his speech noting the government’s commitment ‘to bring to every child…equal facilities for education.’

Designed by architect to the Wellington Education Board, Bertie Fleming Kelly, and constructed by McMillan Brothers Builders, Horowhenua College Main Building is a multi-level rectangular weatherboard-clad building with a large grassed quadrangle in the centre that is completely enclosed on all four sides, a feature which affords generous light and ventilation. This unusual design was shared by King’s High School in Dunedin, though unlike Horowhenua College, the buildings enclosing a quadrangle were built over three years (1936-39) and are no longer extant. It faces Bath Street, which acts as an extended view shaft from State Highway 1 (Oxford Street), making the building something of a local landmark.

In 1965 the library on the first storey of the main south-east elevation was shifted into three classrooms and this space became the staffroom. The interior of the main building was remodelled in 1977 to accommodate new classrooms and offices. The entrance foyer was restored in 1989 and escaped damage when a fire was deliberately lit in the single storey block to its immediate left. The badly burned roof and back wall were repaired to match the existing fabric the following year. In circa 2010 a recessed entry on the quadrangle side of the foyer was removed. Six years later new entrances with ramps were added to the north-east and south-west-elevations, classrooms on the north-east elevation were reworked to accommodate five science laboratories and the original main double doors were replaced with replicas. Jubilee booklets published in 1965, 1990 and 2000 have recorded the main block’s history, indicating the importance placed upon the building by the school community over generations.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

McMillan Bros Limited

Builder J L McMillan originated in Dunedin and later moved to Wellington. In the early 1900s he won the contract to build the Miramar Gas Works and a Wellington tramway building, most likely the 1908 Corporation Tramways head office formerly at the corner of Lambton Quay and Thorndon Quay. In the mid twentieth century McMillan’s sons James and Lloyd established McMillan Brothers. This firm was responsible for the construction of a number of North Island freezing works and buildings particularly in the Manawatu. In World War Two the firm was co-opted by the government to construct the Ohakea Hangars. The firm is now part of McMillan and Lockwood Group.

Bertie Fleming Kelly

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

- 1989
Restoration of the entrance foyer

- 1990
Repair of fire damage to a single storey block of the main south-east elevation

- 2010
Alteration to entrance foyer

Physical access improvements
- 2016
New entrances with access ramps onto side elevations

- 1940
Building opened

- 1965
Library moved into classrooms and replaced with a staffroom

- 1977
Remodelling of the interior, new classrooms and offices

Completion Date

20th March 2019

Report Written By

Kerryn Pollock and Phillis Chih-Hsuan Chen

Information Sources

Jones, Howard J., 1956

From Bush to Borough: A Short Story of the Growth and Development of Levin, New Zealand, Golden Jubilee Celebration 1906–1956, K. B. H. Ltd., Levin, 1956

Horowhenua College Jubilee Committee, 1990

Horowhenua College 50th Jubilee 1940–1990, Turners Print Limited, Levin, 1990.

Horowhenua College Jubilee Committee, 2000

Horowhenua College Reunion 2000: 60 years, Levin: Horowhenua College Jubilee Committee, 2000.

Other Information

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

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.