Horowhenua College Main Building
Weraroa Rd, Levin
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
5th September 1985
Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region
Sec 87 Pt Secs 6, 7 DP 1656 Horowhenua College
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.
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
Library moved into classrooms and replaced with a staffroom
Remodelling of the interior, new classrooms and offices
Restoration of the entrance foyer
Repair of fire damage to a single storey block of the main south-east elevation
Alteration to entrance foyer
Physical access improvements
New entrances with access ramps onto side elevations
20th March 2019
Report Written By
Kerryn Pollock and Phillis Chih-Hsuan Chen
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.
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.