Thompson House

4 Kent Street, Levin

  • Thompson House, Levin. Exterior shows house and historic gas lamp.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Karen Astwood. Date: 1/05/2018.
  • Thompson House, Levin. From:
    Copyright: Horowhenua Historical Society Inc.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4083 Date Entered 5th September 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 1-2 DP 45727 (CTs WN18D/261, WN18D/262), Wellington Land District, and the building known as Thompson House thereon, and the associated former carshed.

City/District Council

Horowhenua District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 45727 (CT WN18D/261) and Lot 2 DP 45727 (CT WN18D/262), Wellington Land District


Thompson House, officially named the Thompson Memorial Cultural Centre and located at 4 Kent Street, Levin, was constructed in 1922 as a residence and a doctor’s surgery. The building is of social significance as since 1974 it has been a well-used community centre with at least 20 regular user groups and a popular venue for exhibitions, functions and other special events. The level of its community esteem is also demonstrated by the ongoing community and local government commitment to funding its maintenance. In addition, the building has commemorative value as a memorial to Dr Samuel James Thompson’s extraordinary contribution to the Levin community. He not only provided long-standing medical service for the people of Levin but also gave his time and energy to at least 24 local organisations.

Dr John Graham Gow was the original purchaser of this property in 1920. Construction of his residence began in 1921. Dr S.J. Thompson, OBE, came to Levin and commenced practice at the house with Dr Gow in 1924, and purchased the house and practice in 1926. From the 1920s to the early 1970s, Dr Thompson continuously provided medical services for the Levin community, and became a member of the Levin RSA Committee and St John Ambulance Division. In addition, Mrs. Thompson was known for her hospitality. Dr Thompson died in 1973. In 1974, the house was bought by the Levin Borough Council, renamed ‘Thompson Memorial Cultural Centre’ (known informally as Thompson House), and opened to the community.

Thompson House was designed by notable architects Frederick de Jersey Clere and Llewellyn Edwin Williams, and was built by Mr. J Harvey of local company Harvey & Co. It is a two-storeyed, multi-gabled, typical English Cottage style house featuring characteristic steeply pitched roofs and dormers. The two chimneys are located in the offset right and offset left of the roof. The entrance is in the north of the house and is sheltered by a gabled porch. A garage is to the south-east of the house. In the early years, electricity was supplied by a dynamo in the garage.

To create accommodation downstairs for a caretaker, alterations took place in 1974. Some walls were also removed to create a large dining room, new kitchen, and exhibition area; a doorway was walled up to block up the bedroom from the main landing; and most of an upstairs kitchen was removed. A historic gas lamp was installed outside Thompson House in 1980. Before the completion of the hydro-electric power station at Mangahao, this gas lamp had been used in Levin from 1909 to 1924. In 1991, coloursteel tiles replaced the original Marseille tiles. To improve accessibility, a new entrance ramp was built at the northern-west corner of the house in 2011. Five years later, the Horowhenua District Council undertook a major upgrade, including seismic strengthening, a new concrete access ramp at the main entrance, a new fire escape, and exterior building repairs. Inside, the staircase and its finely turned handrail, the built-in cabinetry upstairs, the panelled entrance hall and the characteristic door latches are the most prominent original features; the exterior has had little change. The community centre’s four meeting rooms are well-used and can be booked for meetings, classes and events; the garage is used by the Levin Pottery Club.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Clere, Frederick De Jersey

Clere (1856-1952) was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to R J Withers, a London architect. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Feilding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church; he designed more than 100 churches while he held this position. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction; the outstanding example of his work with this material is the Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), Wellington.

As well as being pre-eminent in church design, Clere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including Wellington's Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store (1891) and Overton in Marton. Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years. He was a member of the Wellington City Council until 1895, and from 1900 a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Williams, Llewellyn

Mr Llewellyn Williams of Wellington, who had special experience in the Art Deco style of architecture. Williams migrated to New Zealand in 1919 after studying in France and Italy (Embassy Theatre website). He was well known as an architect in Wellington. He was also responsible for the design of many new theatres around the country, including the De Lux (now the Embassy) Theatre in Wellington (1924), The Regent (1926) and Kings (1936) cinemas in Wellington (both demolished), and the Avon cinema in Christchurch (1934)(Embassy Trust website and NZHPT on-line register).

J. Harvey

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1922 -

1974 -
alterations to the interior to form a caretakers’ residence, including walls alteration, and kitchen upstairs removed.

2016 -
seismic strengthening, a new entrance, a new concrete access ramp, and a new fire escape.

Completion Date

1st May 2018

Report Written By

Phillis Chih-Hsuan Chen and Blyss Wagstaff

Information Sources

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Kete Horowhenua

Kete Horowhenua

Medical History of Levin, Kete Horowhenua, (accessed 28 June 2017)

Thompson House Website

Doreen, W. F., Sewell T. G., and Chetwin A.H., 1981

75 Years in Levin, K.B.H. Ltd., Levin, 1981

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

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 Central Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand