St Anthony's Convent (Former)

346 Great South Road, Huntly

  • St Anthony's Convent (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: F Low. Date: 4/12/2012.
  • St Anthony's Convent (Former). Imae courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 18/10/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4345 Date Entered 2nd May 2013


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DPS 59088 (CT 302399), South Auckland Land District and the building known as St Anthony's Convent (Former) thereon. Extent does not include the 1973 garage addition. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Waikato District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DPS 59088 (CT 302399), South Auckland Land District


St Anthony’s Convent (Former) on Great South Road in Huntly is the second convent on the site; the donation of her home for the first convent had resulted in a papal blessing for the donor Sarah Ralph. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) has architectural significance as a rare example of an ecclesiastical building designed by Thomas Eli White, primarily known for his theatre design throughout Australasia. The building has a strong association with the Ralph family who developed the coal mining industry in Huntly and were arguably the most prominent and influential citizens in the region. The Convent played a major role in the religious and secular education of Huntly children in conjunction with the formerly adjacent school and is of considerable spiritual significance, being associated with the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions who worshipped in the convent chapel for over forty years.

Huntly Township was originally known as Rahui Pokeka and the area was occupied by descendants of the Tainui Canoe. The area was utilised seasonally for food harvest and possibly not permanently settled. Missionary Benjamin Ashwell established a mission near Taupiri in 1843 and was shown coal seams by local Maori; the presence of coal was confirmed by government surveys. After the New Zealand Wars the area was divided into land grants, two of which were received by Anthony Ralph and his son Robert. They discovered coal on some of their land and established what would become the primary mining industry in the area. After Anthony’s death his wife managed the family land transactions and businesses and this practice was continued by her daughters. In 1912 her daughter Sarah Ralph donated her own house for use as a convent and also completely financed the adjacent school. The site was conspicuous in its position on Great South Road, the main north-south thoroughfare, effectively at the southern gateway to the Huntly Township. The original convent burned down in 1931 being replaced by St Anthony’s Convent (Former), built for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Auckland, in 1931-1932.The convent was part of a Catholic precinct comprising the St Anthony’s Church, school and presbytery.

Small alterations were made to modernise the convent, including the addition of a car garage in 1973. Ironically, increased traffic and the development of the main road forced the relocation of the school in 1986, which together with earlier legislation requiring state-trained teachers, ultimately forced the convent’s closure. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) was briefly used as a television repair shop and later as an art gallery. An enlarged upstairs room for youth group activities was created by removing two cubicle walls. In 2006 a supermarket was erected immediately adjacent and the convent was resold. It has remained empty and unused since then.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

There is historical significance for St Anthony’s Convent (Former) in regard to the strong association with the Ralph family. The Ralph creation of wealth, through their exploitation of the region’s coal resources, allowed them to give to various philanthropic causes; the land for the Catholic Church and the presbytery was provided by Margaret Reilly Schlinker. In particular the convent owes its existence to the Sarah Ralph who donated her home for use as a convent and endowed a neighbouring lot for various school buildings. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) was once part of a group of buildings owned and administered by the Catholic Diocese; the convent is the only remaining early structure.

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) is tied to the expansion of Huntly in that the convent was part of the adjacent school, providing accommodation for the nuns who taught at the school. The necessity of the Catholic school provided the rationale for the establishment of the convent; however the establishment of Huntly township’s main road as an arterial route ultimately led to the relocation of the school and the subsequent disestablishment of the convent.

Architectural Significance or Value

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) is an excellent example of simple Spanish Mission Revival style applied to a small building. It represents a time of change for the highly reputable architect Henry E. White who was known for his design of theatres in Australia and New Zealand. The building’s simple clean lines and lack of ornate detail are a departure for White, who had a significant reputation in Australia for his ornate and technically advanced theatres, making this a rare example of his work.

The style, scale and visual presentation of St Anthony’s Convent (Former) indicates it was purpose built and designed for use as a convent. The layout of the building, on each floor and wing, indicates a close attention to the practices and requirements of the convent inhabitants.

The exterior of the building remains substantially intact and unaltered. The building incorporates the popular and easily accessible local building material of Huntly Brick, which has been plastered to provide a smooth and clear exterior surface. The lack of exterior ornamental detail is appropriate for an ecclesiastic building. Small details such as the herringbone plaster and lead roof seam detail and diamond shaped downpipe fastenings provide interest.

The building was once a significant landmark on Huntly’s main road as it was a two storey building surrounded by single story buildings. Its landmark quality has been diminished by the expansion of the main road and the erection of an adjacent supermarket, however the building still has visual interest and its unaltered frontage still faces the main road.

Social Significance or Value

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) has social significance in regard to its association with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions and their establishment of a school which successfully taught not only the standard curriculum, but developed the religious faith of the students. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) was erected by the efforts of the Catholic congregation whose fundraising raised the money necessary to rebuild the convent after the original was destroyed by fire. Community efforts saved the convent furnishings during the fire, allowing them to be reused for St Anthony’s Convent (Former).

The place has social significance as a place of residence for the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions. The St Anthony’s Convent (Former) nuns belonged to the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, founded in 1861 by Adele-Euphrasie Barbier, who had a long and prominent history in regard to the establishment of Catholic schools and convents throughout New Zealand. The convent is representative of the many such convents and schools established over decades in New Zealand.

The place has social significance for reflecting the important role played by Catholic religious women in society, particularly in the education of children. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) was part of a Catholic precinct, including a select school and the Catholic Church which served the Catholic congregation of Huntly.

Spiritual Significance or Value

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) has spiritual value for its connection with the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions, who worshipped for over 40 years in a private chapel, incorporated within the existing convent building.

The donation by Sarah Ralph of her home for the original convent, and her provision of a fully furnished school in conjunction with the Convent resulted in her receiving a papal blessing.

Further spiritual significance is in relation to the role of religious education within the Huntly community. The establishment and successful continuance of St Anthony’s School was of major importance to Huntly Catholic parishioners. The contribution of the teaching Sisters who provided spiritual as well as secular instruction was fundamental within this culture.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) is the sole remaining original remnant of a Catholic precinct which included the church, convent, school and presbytery. The Convent represents the role that religious education played in some schools with spiritual teaching having a close connection with secular education. The relocation of the school and subsequent disestablishment of the convent reflect the consequences of changing educational legislation as well as the increasing importance of transport networks such as highways.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) owes its existence to the generosity of Sarah Ralph a prominent Huntly businesswoman who ran Ralph family enterprises such as the Taupiri Coal Mines, and who oversaw the vast majority of their land transactions. Like her older sisters and her mother before her, Sarah Ralph was a successful landowner and philanthropist and as a woman in business, was a rarity in what was then a male dominated society.

The Ralph family were a major employer in Huntly having control of the mining industry in the region and also had substantial landholdings. Their largesse within the Huntly community included substantial contributions to the Catholic Church.

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) has an association with Roman Catholicism in New Zealand, specifically the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions who ran the adjacent school.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) has the potential to provide knowledge about the activities of a religious life, Catholic devotions, and the decline of religious orders within modern society. Although damaged, the building itself is relatively unchanged and can offer a glimpse into the simple contemplative life as expressed by the Sisters who inhabited the building, particularly in regard to some of the original remaining features such as the revolving offertory and door grille.

The place can also be regarded as having the potential for public education about the development of the Catholic Church in Huntly, and the architecture of Thomas Eli White.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The design of St Anthony’s Convent (Former) was directly related to its purpose as a Convent. The simplicity of design and lack of adornment reflects both the architectural style chosen for the building and the religious order for which it was built. Small features such as the herringbone pattern on the plaster and lead junctures are significant small embellishments by a nationally significant architect Thomas Eli White. The importance of the place is enhanced by the existence of surviving architectural drawings by White.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

St Anthony’s Convent is a rare surviving purpose-built convent and one of only two known examples in the Waikato region. It is also the only known convent designed by notable architect Thomas Eli White, who specialised in the design of theatres within New Zealand and Australia.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

White, Henry Eli (1876-1952)

White was the son of a Dunedin building contractor and spent his early years learning a wide range of trades including bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry, joinery and painting. His first major project was in 1908, a tunnel on the Waipori River hydro-electric scheme. He developed a fascination with theatre design and educated himself in its principles while also attending Art School night classes. With the contract to build His Majesty's Theatre, Wellington, for (Sir) Benjamin Fuller in 1912, White moved his thriving practice to that city where he also built the Midland Hotel. White's reputation as a popular and innovative theatre designer grew to the extent that he became one of the most prominent in Australasia. He was to design over 130 theatres as well as a number of commercial buildings. Among his most notable designs were (builder of) The Press Building, Christchurch (1908), architect of His Majesty's Theatre, Wellington (1912), now the St James, and at the time the largest theatre in Australasia, the now demolished Midland Hotel, Wellington, (1916) The Strand, Christchurch (1917), the Tivoli, Brisbane, and his masterpiece, the State Theatre in Sydney. Much loved by audiences for its excessive Art Deco ornamentation, its interior made lavish use of marble, gold and ivory decoration, and featured paintings, sculpture and exotic objects (such as the 'Fujiyama cameo', removed during the Second World War).

The Depression marked the end of White's architectural career. He won a competition to design a college at Auckland, but plans were shelved; he closed his office and lost money through farming in New Zealand. By 1937 he had returned to Sydney. Although a cement manufacturing project near Bathurst fell through, dolomite was discovered on the site and during the Second World War his company supplied it for windows and light bulbs made in Australia. White spent much time sailing and big-game fishing.

Survived by his wife and two sons, he died on 3 March 1952 at Kings Cross, Sydney, and was cremated with Anglican rites. He had reputedly earned over £1 million in architectural fees, but was not an astute businessman; his estate was sworn for probate at £1147.

Source: Registration Report for St Anthony's Convent (Former), Register No. 4345, February 2013.


Clements, Thomas (?1858-1952)

Clements began building work in Otahuhu in 1912 and built up his business until by the 1940s-50s he was employing over 200 tradesmen and other staff. He built a range of residential, industrial and commercial buildings from Kaitaia to Te Kuiti, but mostly in Auckland and Hamilton. He built the Matangi Glaxo Works in 1917, later erecting the Casein Storage Works at Frankton. Other contracts included: David Nathan’s house in Manurewa, St John’s College in Bombay, Star of the Sea Convent in Howick (Register no. 5430), Dalgety and Co’s Woolstore in in Manurewa and the Commercial Hotel in Hamilton.

Source: Registration Report for St Anthony's Convent (Former), Register No. 4345), February 2013

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Huntly Township was originally known as Rahui Pokeka and, like much of the Waikato, it was occupied by descendants of the Tainui Canoe. Settlements are said to have been present on either side of the Waikato River at Rahui Pokeka. It is possible that the area was mainly occupied seasonally during times of eel harvest and that the main occupation areas were in Taupiri. Rahui Pokeka means ‘reserved area’, or ‘a closed season’ and the area is thought to have been named as the result of dispute over resources by the two settlements. Missionary Benjamin Ashwell established a mission near Taupiri in 1843 and was shown coal seams by local Maori. Government surveys of the area were carried out prior to the New Zealand Wars and later published in the 1870s.

Amongst the military settlers invited to settle in New Zealand were Anthony and Margaret Ralph who were initially based at Onehunga. Anthony Ralph was a former sergeant who had been stationed in India. Ralph served in the Waikato Militia and received a 300 acre land grant in Huntly, at the end of the New Zealand Wars, of land confiscated from Tainui. Their eldest surviving son Robert also served in the militia and received a land grant. The Ralphs established the Coal Mine Hotel and in the early 1870s, Robert discovered coal on some of the family land. Anthony Ralph died in 1873, but Margaret and her children continued in business owning and running Waikato hotels and coal mines in Huntly. Margaret remarried in 1876 to a farmer named Albert Schlinker.

The Ralph family were prominent in the area and unusually for the period it was the women in the family who controlled the finances and decision-making. Three of the Ralph daughters became landowners creating both personal and business wealth and contributed greatly to the economic prosperity of the region. Daughter Louisa Ralph and her husband Lewis Harris were at times proprietors of the Royal Hotel in Hamilton East, the Delta Hotel in Ngaruawahia and the Huntly Hotel. Daughter Rosanna Ralph and her common-law husband William Lovell owned substantial land holdings in Taupiri and built a store and hotel there. Youngest daughter Sarah had entered a convent near Dunedin but returned to Huntly in 1903 and helped Robert and another brother, William, to run the coalmining business, called Taupiri Coal Mines Limited. Robert died in 1905 and the business and land holdings were managed by Sarah and William.

By 1884 the future Convent site and other considerable areas of land in and around Huntly had been acquired by the Ralph family. In 1884 Margaret Schlinker had 86 acres of her landholdings surveyed and subdivided; this was almost all the area covered by today’s Huntly business area, and extending south of the convent. On 20 February 1890 title for 86 acres, being Sections 52 and 53 Parish of Taupiri, was given to Margaret Reilly Schlinker. On 1 September 1890 she transferred ownership of Lots 28 and 29 to the Roman Catholic Bishop Diocese of Auckland for the sum of five shillings. The Ralph family also provided land for the courthouse, a hospital, a Presbyterian church and the Miners Union.

The Catholic Church was established in the Huntly area first by Antoine Pompallier, nephew of Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier, Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland. Antoine Pompallier set up a mission in 1861-62 at Ngaruawahia, but vacated it in 1863 in advance of the government’s military forces. After the Waikato wars a church was built at Ngaruawahia, but it was 1903 before a priest was stationed there. Mass was celebrated at the public school in Huntly.

In Huntly on 3 August 1903 Bishop Lenihan laid the foundation stone for St Anthony’s Church on Lots 28-29. The church was opened in December 1903, built further back from the road than the convent now is. The church’s name was that of Margaret’s first husband. The Huntly and Ngaruawahia parishes were then separated.

In about 1908 Sarah Ralph built a large two-storey house to the south of the church, on Lot 31, and although she is believed to have lived in it, this has not been substantiated. In 1912 Sarah Ralph donated the house, the land on which it stood, and neighbouring lots to the Bishop of Auckland. She intended the house to be used as accommodation for the Catholic nuns who would teach at the school. In late 1912 a schoolroom was under construction to the south of the convent, also on land donated by Sarah Ralph. It was not until the beginning of 1914, however, that a party of Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions arrived from Christchurch, and four stayed to live in the convent and teach at the school.

The Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions (Religieuses de Notre Dame des Missions - RNDM) was a religious congregation founded in 1861 by Adele-Euphrasie Barbier. In 1865 four French Mission Sisters arrived in New Zealand and established a school and convent at Napier. Several other such schools and convents were established over the next decades, including in Hamilton in 1884, successfully teaching Catholic primary school children in religious faith and practice in addition to the standard curriculum. Catholic schools provided an environment for “the socialisation of the young into the social reality of the nation, and the development of their religious formation as members of the Roman Catholic Church”. As such, it can be seen that the establishment and successful continuance of St Anthony’s School was of major importance to Huntly Catholic parishioners. The contribution of the teaching Sisters was fundamental within this culture.

St Anthony’s Convent School first opened for the new term on 2 February 1914 with 62 pupils. Sarah Ralph had equipped the school with kauri desks and other furniture and equipment, and had also furnished and stocked the convent, which was also known as St Genevieve’s. At the official opening on 22 February by Bishop Cleary, it was stated that this was the first time the Auckland Diocese had received from one donor the unsolicited and unconditional gift of a school with its site and furniture. Bishop Cleary bestowed an Episcopal blessing upon Sarah Ralph.

A presbytery, a wooden villa, was built in 1912 on Lot 27, the site of the current church building. Fund-raising was undertaken for the presbytery on at least two occasions, a dance, auction and a bazaar being well supported by the community. The school participated in the war effort during the First World War, including entering a pupil in the Queens Carnival. During the influenza epidemic in 1918 the school and rooms in the convent were used as a hospital with the nuns tending the sick.

On 20 June 1931, when five Sisters and the Mother Superior were living there, the wooden convent burnt down. All the contents were salvaged, thanks to helpers including a team of footballers. The Sisters lived in the presbytery until a new convent was built. By September 1931 the first draft of plans for a new convent had been prepared by architect Henry E. White. The community rallied around with fund-raising, including a dance and card party in November.

Henry E. White was a successful and prolific architect working in New Zealand and Australia, known primarily for his theatres. Two versions of the convent plans exist; one dated 27/10/31 is titled “Convent at Great South Road Huntly for Rev. Father Curley; Revised Plans” but this is not the as-built version; the plan which shows the as-built design has lost the corner which would have shown its title and date. The blueprint that shows details and a locality plan is dated 13.9.1931. The plans, therefore, must have been drawn three times. The 27 October version is essentially the same as the as-built plan but the northern wing is much shorter and did not include the music room. The archives office of the Sisters of the Mission has the construction schedule. The application for building consent was sent to council on 29 October 1931. The church building was moved to the south and the convent built on Lots 28 and 29 over the summer of 1931-32.

The new convent building was built by Thomas Clements of Otahuhu. He built one other convent, the Star of the Sea Convent at Howick (Register no. 5430).

The new St Anthony’s Convent was two-storeyed with accommodation for six nuns. Upstairs were the bedrooms and downstairs there were living rooms, service rooms, a music room, a parlour for visitors, and a chapel on the northern side. Provision was made for the secluded nature of the nuns’ lifestyle, with grilles in the inner front door and in the wall dividing the parlours. The music room had a separate external door for students to enter. Teaching piano and violin to parishioners and non-Catholics was a major activity for the Sisters.

The Sisters moved into the new convent on 5 February 1932 and it was officially opened on 13 March 1932. In 1934 St Anthony’s Church was renovated and clad in brick. The school was enlarged in 1923 and in 1941 the school building was shifted south and turned at right angles to make better use of its narrow site. As the school role continued to grow other buildings were added, in c.1943 and 1959.

The rear (west) end of this and neighbouring sections was swampy, the swamp being bordered on the west by the Waikato River. Floods were common, inundating the school buildings and convent garden. In February 1958 the former convent building was inundated.

A septic tank was positioned to the west of the building. The property appears to have been connected to the town sewerage reticulation in approximately 1959. In 1962 the convent was painted, a light green for the walls and dark green for the doors, and red for the roof.

Sometime in the 1960s new kitchen units were installed and a new stove installed in place of the range. In 1967 a new church was built to the north of the convent, officially opened in February 1968. A car was purchased for the nuns’ use in 1964 and in September 1973 a garage was built.

In 1975 the Private Schools Conditional Integration (PSCI) Act was passed; this enabled Catholic and other schools to receive full state aid. However, it also meant a requirement for state-trained teachers and the state curriculum, and most of the Sisters were not sufficiently qualified. Lay teachers were brought in (from 1961 as the number of nuns had dwindled nationwide) and the role of the Sisters diminished except for religious instruction and support. In November 1978 the Sisters were informed that the convent now belonged to the parish, as opposed to the diocese, although this is not reflected in the ownership of the land. The “Huntly House Book” records that the Convent of St Genevieve closed on 15 January 1979. Only two nuns still lived in the convent when it finally closed. Two Sisters remained, living in a private house and doing Catechitical work in the community. The parish continued to use the convent building, for example as a library for the school.

St Anthony’s School was designated as having insufficient land for the number of students. In addition, a new by-pass (Tumate Mahuta Drive) on the west side and the noise levels from the ever-busier highway on the east made for uncomfortable study and teaching conditions and access for pedestrians became more dangerous. In 1986 St Anthony’s School shifted across Huntly to Bailey Street, with 140 pupils. The original school buildings were removed and a new presbytery was built in Russell Road.

The property was resurveyed in December 1990 to separate the convent site off from the church and parish land to the north. A new title was issued on 30 April 1991 to the Roman Catholic Bishop Diocese of Hamilton. On 13 March 1992 title was transferred to Thomas Turton, television serviceman, and Patricia Ann Chubb, bank officer, both of Hamilton. Tom and Lesley Turton made some interior alterations and ran a television and video repair shop from the building. The business, ‘TV Town’ also sold secondhand televisions and videos. The alterations included the removal of interior walls in the main part of the building on the ground floor to make two larger spaces, one at the northern end and one at the southern end. The floor of the sanctuary was re-laid in 1992-93.

On 1 August 1994 Chubb’s ½ share was transferred to Philip G. Ludwig and Louise M. Ludwig of Huntly (½ share jointly). The Ludwigs installed the protective grilles across the windows, using some of the southern rooms as an art gallery; this business closed before the television repair shop which occupied the northern rooms.

On 4 April 1995 the Roman Catholic Bishop Diocese of Hamilton again acquired the title, intending to use the former convent as a parish centre. This did not eventuate although the walls of two cubicles upstairs were removed and St Anthony’s Church youth group used the enlarged room for meetings and social activities. By August 2006 General Distributors Ltd owned the property along with the larger parcels of land to the south on which a supermarket was built.

On 6 November 2006 the current owners, G.P. and N. Harkness bought the property; the former convent has remained empty and unused since then.

Comparative analysis

The NZHPT Register includes nineteen former or current convents. One of these is Wahi Tapu, three of these are buildings included in Historic Areas. Only ten are individually registered, purpose-built convent buildings. Of these ten purpose-built convents, one has been relocated, five are located in the South Island; one is in Auckland, two in Wellington and one in Jerusalem. St Mary’s Convent in Hamilton remains, however it is not registered with NZHPT. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) will be the only registered purpose-built convent in the Waikato.

Physical Description

St Anthony’s Convent (Former) is located on Great South Road at a bend joining part of State Highway One, by-passing the town centre to the east. A large Countdown supermarket sits to the south. Adjacent to the north of the former convent is St Anthony’s Church and north of that is the Church Centre for St Anthony’s Parish. Visually, the former convent retains some Catholic links with its proximity to the two parish buildings. Positioned very close to the road, the convent building is a striking and distinctive landscape feature, particularly for north-bound travellers.

The former convent is built in Spanish Mission Revival style “typical of other Catholic buildings of the era, which drew their inspiration from Spanish missions of California and Texas. The convent/chapel complex in Hamilton East and St Mary’s in Auckland share the same pedigree.”

The convent is comprised of a two-storey rectangular building with two single-storey wings forming a U-shaped footprint. The main building is aligned approximately north-south, stands slightly north of due east and faces the road. The main building and the wings have gabled ends with their ridges running north-south and east-west respectively. The two wings partly enclose an exterior courtyard. The north elevation of the main building has a vaulted single-storey extension (originally the chapel sanctuary) with a half-octagonal floor plan and a hipped roof. The main building is 15.24 metres (plus the 2.4 metre sanctuary) long by 4.5 metres wide. The southern wing is 1.2 metres longer than the original northern wing (7.10m and 5.88m respectively); the wings are 4.75 metres wide (north-south). The end of the northern wing includes a 1973 addition, a garage with metal roller door facing north onto the access drive, with a door in its southern elevation opening into the courtyard. A small porch is positioned in the angle between the west elevation of the chapel and the northern wing. From this porch is a door leading into the former sanctuary and another into the former music room.

The building is constructed of pale yellow Huntly brick plastered with a smooth finish and painted. The piles are also of Huntly brick. The roofs are corrugated iron, much of which needs replacing. Window sashes and doors are wooden, likely rimu as are the four-panelled interior doors. The rimu floor boards are 14 cm wide. The garage is in concrete block, also smooth-plastered, on its north and south elevations only. The gabled roof of the garage has a lower pitch. A feature of all the roofing is the herringbone effect of the plaster work and lead flashing around the chimneys and at the joins of gables to vertical walls. The downpipe fittings have diamond-shaped brackets.

Two plastered brick chimneys protrude from the ridges of the wings. A double chimney served the kitchen fire place (presumably a coal range) and a copper in the laundry, and a single chimney served the open fire in the community room – the latter would have been on the end gable wall; the base of this is now visible inside the garage.

The floor of the north side porch is pale Huntly brick. There are vents around the footing of each wall, to provide under-floor aeration.

The Romanesque styled front entrance door is central in the east elevation with the windows on both floors positioned symmetrically. The door is 1 metre wide, solid wood with six panel inserts, and sits slightly recessed in a red brick arched surround proud of the walls; brick steps lead up to the door. The doors facing into the courtyard are of timber tongue-and-groove; concrete steps lead up to the doors.

As built, the ground floor comprised (from north to south across the front) the chapel complex (see below), a cubicle, a vestibule opening from the front door, a grille parlour and parlour. A corridor ran across the west side of some of these rooms, giving access to the wings and to the stairs. A small toilet room accessed from the rear corridor is beneath the stairs, and opposite is a small alcove with fitted cupboards. Opposite the front door in the vestibule is a wooden six-panel door with a grille, and a five-light ripple-glass bottom-hinged window above. Beside this door is a rotatable shelf unit set into the wall; items could be placed on this and the unit turned to receive the items from the other side of the closed door. This door opens into an alcove that connects to the rear corridor. In the ceiling of the alcove a piece of chimney pipe protrudes through, indicating a wood-burner had been positioned there. The pipe has been crudely installed with no finishing plaster work and is presumed to post-date the building’s use as a convent.

In the southern wing as built were the refectory, corridor, kitchen, laundry and pantry; the kitchen and laundry had exterior doors leading into the central courtyard. In the northern wing were a music room (3 metres square), which had an exterior door opening in the north elevation, a short corridor and a community room (4.2 metres square).

On the upper floor were six small rooms (cubicles), a bathroom, toilet and a small washing space, now a shower cubicle; a corridor ran along the west side. As built, five of the cubicles were 2m x 3.4m; the northernmost incorporated the width of the corridor and was larger at 2.1m x 4.5m. The walls between the northern three cubicles have been removed to create a larger room. The outline of the cubicle walls is traceable on the floor indicating that the floor was laid before the partitions were erected. A wooden cupboard was situated in the northwest corner of each cubicle; three of these remain. Centrally placed windows in each cubicle are 690mm wide by 1.16m high. The ceilings consist of four plastered panels. There is a vent above each of the doors into the remaining three cubicles. The brass fittings for the light are still evident. A cupboard, identified on the plans as for linen, is now part of the enlarged north room. It has a sloping ceiling and is fitted with lockers of more recent date with the same hinge plates as the kitchen and pantry cupboards.

The chapel complex consisted of a vestry opening through an external door onto the porch to the west and through an internal door to the sanctuary to the east; from the sanctuary was the chapel itself, separated only by structural features including a substantial reinforced concrete beam and a short altar rail. The chapel measured 4m by 3m wide. The south wall of the chapel had a wide grille in the wall which opened into a cubicle (2.1m x 3.3m) accessed from the front vestibule or from the corridor. A confessional booth, divided by a partition which had a grille in it, could be accessed from the chapel for one part and from the vestry for the other. The sanctuary has a higher stud height than the other rooms. The confessional booth remains, but the intermediate walls between vestry and sanctuary, chapel and cubicle have been removed to create a much larger space. The wall between the cubicle and the chapel has been replaced with a partial wall with arch. The floor of the sanctuary has been re-laid.

Other walls removed include that between the refectory and the parlour, and between the parlour and the grille parlour; both replaced by partial walls with arches. The door from the refectory to the corridor has been removed and the gap filled in. The wooden mantle and fire-surround has been removed from the community room.

The main windows are six- light double-hung sashes; the upper floor windows have smaller dimensions. In the east (front) ground floor elevation there are two windows each side of the front door; on the upper floor the windows are smaller with one above the front door and three windows either side, evenly spaced across the frontage. The central window is fitted with wooden slatted shutters. On the south elevation of the main building there is one window on the ground floor and one on the upper floor; the upper floor window, which illuminates the toilet, has arctic patterned glass. The rear elevation of the main building has casement windows; these are eight or six-light, with a double-height centrally-placed window. The downstairs toilet window is a six-light side-hinged casement with a two-light top-hinged window above. A door in the rear elevation of the main building gives access to the north-south corridor at the foot of the stairs.

The windows of the southern wing are: on the south elevation, a single six-light double-hung sash window, illuminating the refectory, and a pair of narrower four-light double-hung sash windows, illuminating the kitchen. The rear elevation of the south wing has two pairs of small eight-light side-hinged casement; one of the pair lighting the pantry has been replaced with a tongue and groove panelled door. The north elevation of the southern wing has a small window illuminating the kitchen and doors giving access to the kitchen and laundry with concrete steps.

The windows of the northern wing are: on the north elevation, two six-light double-hung sash windows. The south side of the northern wing has the larger-sized six-light double-hung sash window facing the courtyard from the former community room, and a small window from the corridor.

The three windows of the chapel are leadlight with yellow-green and dark green ripple glass. These have been severely vandalised and the windows boarded up. Similarly, above the front door is a semi-circular leadlight window which has been damaged and boarded over. Other ground floor windows have been covered with exterior decorative iron grilles, well-designed to align with the beading between the glass panels.

The eaves are tongue-and-groove timber boards.

The ceilings are plain plaster panels, as are the interior walls. Cornicing is in two styles. Deeper cornices run across the east side of the downstairs rooms; generally, interior walls have a shallow plainer cornice with a convex profile. Thinner cornice is fitted upstairs. The architraves (10 cm wide) and skirting boards (14.5 cm deep) throughout are plain with two bevelled faces. There is a timber slatted foot plate in one of the doorways. Some upstairs skirtings have been removed.

There are picture rails in some rooms and corduroy-pattern pelmets are fitted over some windows. The double-hung windows have brass ring-pulls. The casement windows have the same fittings throughout. The light switches are a mix of 1930s Bakelite and 1970s designs.

The wooden stairs have a beaded front edge on each step. The banisters consist of a top rail with turned wood posts set into a square-section footing. The newel posts are square-sectioned. A cupboard exists under the stairs. At the foot of the stairs a wide gap leading through to the northern wing has been sealed up, the job is unfinished.

Under the stairs is a small toilet room with WC and hand basin. Another toilet room, also with a WC and hand basin, is upstairs at the south end. Both lavatories have a lead tray lining the floor; the bathroom also had a lead tray under the bath but it and the bath have been removed. The upstairs bathroom has a 1950s/1960s shower cubicle and fittings. The upstairs toilet is a New Electra fitted with a plastic cistern. A wall-mounted iron cistern is in-situ above, bearing mark: “BRITISH MAKE No. 700”.

The kitchen has a circa 1960s stainless steel bench and an electric stove in the former coal range space. The plain wooden mantel and fire surround is retained. The alcove beside the chimney piece is fitted with a wooden cupboard, Linoleum covers the floor. There are two sets of cupboards with wooden doors. The pantry is fitted with wooden shelves and cupboards, the bench cupboards are in the same style. The laundry was not inspected.

There is some damage to the ceilings due to leaks from the roof but otherwise the building seems to be in sound condition.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1931 -

1960 - 1969
Kitchen units installed

Additional building added to site
1973 -
Garage built

1992 -
Two interior walls removed; sanctuary floor relaid

1994 -
Exterior window grills installed

1995 -
Two upstairs bedroom walls removed

Construction Details

Huntly brick, red brick (source not known), concrete, corrugated iron; native timbers (including rimu) interior floor and fittings

Completion Date

20th February 2013

Report Written By

Lyn Williams, Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Smith, 2010

Smith, Susan, Call to Mission: The Story of the Mission Sisters of Aotearoa New Zealand and Samoa; David Ling Publishing Limited, Auckland, 2010

Innes, 1989

Innes, C.V., A Crown For The Lady; The Unravelling of a Pioneer Story, Moana Press, 1989

O'Sullivan and Piper (2005)

O’Sullivan, Dominic and Cynthia Piper (Eds) Turanga Ngatahi: Standing Together: The Catholic Diocese of Hamilton 1840-2005, Dunmore Publishing, Wellington, 2005

O'Donnell, 2001

O’Donnell, Susan, The Character and Culture of the Catholic School, NZ Council for Educational Research, Wellington, 2001

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area Office.

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.