Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House (Former)

55-85 Mountain Road, Epsom, Auckland

  • Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4532 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes part of the land in Pt Allot 106 Sec 6 Suburbs of Auckland - Secondary School New Zealand Gazette 1968 p.753 (as shown on Map D in Appendix 4) and the building, its fittings and fixtures thereon. It includes a stone wall along the front (east) boundary.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Part of Pt Allot 106, Sec 6 Suburbs of Auckland, - Secondary School (NZ Gazette 1968 p.753)


Auckland Grammar School and early janitors:

The Colonial Governor, Sir George Grey, initiated the foundation of the Auckland Grammar School as an early state establishment with a land grant in 1850. This occurred at a time when most providers of education in Auckland were church organisations and private establishments. The first Auckland Grammar School opened in 1869 in a former immigration barracks building in Howe Street, but subsequently occupied various other premises until a purpose-built timber school was completed on Symonds Street in December 1879. A caretaker was immediately appointed with a free house, lighting and fuel as part of his salary. Scrupulous cleanliness and maintenance of the School as one of the chief institutions of the city was considered necessary not only for the health of the pupils, but also as a matter of education in a most important detail of domestic life.

The first janitor on the Symonds Street site was J.P. Birley, who had spent 13 years in the Grenadier Guards before arriving in New Zealand. He had been an instructor for the Colonial government, drilling volunteers and cadets in Auckland. Upon appointment as caretaker he gave similar tuition at Auckland Grammar School, formally in 1880 and during the lunch break in the years thereafter. Drill, involving a combination of callisthenics and military exercises, was seen as playing a vital role in the boys' discipline and physical training. Birley's other chief responsibility was the provision of lunch, a cooked meal served to a limited number of pupils with the assistance of his wife and children.

Birley's successor, Alfred Tooley appointed in 1891, had seen service in the navy and had 'all the good habits of a man-of-war's man'. Tooley's role as janitor and school messenger kept him and his wife fully employed. In 1901 it was suggested that Tooley have the assistance of a boy at a weekly wage of eight shillings and dinner each day. Tooley's name later became synonymous with a particular type of pie, 'assuring him immortality in at least one Grammar School war cry and a place in the traditions of the school'.

By 1910 Auckland Grammar School was New Zealand's largest secondary boys' school. The increase in free secondary education after the 1903 National Scholarships Act had led to considerable overcrowding. The Act had also transformed the social composition of the school, introducing much greater representation from less affluent groups. Notwithstanding the creation of a separate girls' school in 1909, the lack of space at the institution was eventually such that the janitor was evicted from his rooms.

The Auckland Grammar School site and construction of the Janitor's House:

The pressing need for more accommodation led to enactment of The Auckland Grammar School Site Act 1911. This transferred part of the Mount Eden gaol reserve for use as a secondary school. The site was some fifteen times the size of the Symonds Street section. The land had previously been a rifle range and the site for testing ammunition made by the Colonial Ammunition Company in nearby Normanby Road.

In 1912 the School Board instigated a competition for the design of the new school. The schedule of buildings included a janitor's cottage. The competition plans were published at the end of August, with the cost of the development limited to £30,000. By the time the competition closed the following April, the Board had received 55 entries from 52 competitors. The winning design, by Auckland architects Arnold and Abbott, was described as having the best combination of layout and exterior.

Responsibility for the Grammar School design has been attributed to R. Atkinson Abbott, who became a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in the same year that work on the Grammar School began in 1913. The main block of the school is believed to have been the first instance of the application of the Spanish Mission style in New Zealand. American architectural influences were also carried over into the Janitor's House, which was designed in a Free Style Arts and Crafts style incorporating California Bungalow and Spanish Mission references. Their use represents a radical break from standard British architectural traditions in educational buildings, which generally focused on Gothic or Elizabethan Revival design. The adoption of American styles for the Grammar School is perhaps reflective of broader notions of modernity and progress at the school, including its greater emphasis on social inclusiveness. The roughcast exterior of the main block is said to resemble the adobe walls of Spanish missions at Santa Barbara and San Fernando, and of Stanford University near San Francisco.

Plans for a Janitor's House survived the trenchant pruning of the design needed to bring the project within the bounds of affordability. Nor did a request from the Education Department upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, that no further work be undertaken, put an end to the plans for the house. Work continued on construction already underway on the School site, but plans were shelved for a house for the headmaster and a hostel that would have enabled the school to accept boarders. The Janitor's House was probably erected by W.E. Hutchinson, who had successfully tendered for construction of the school in 1913. The basalt walls in front of the house may have already been erected, as part of the general clearance and securing of the site.

The house was prominently positioned beside an entrance to the school grounds, allowing the caretaker to keep an eye on arrivals and departures. Its external walls were originally plastered and scored to resemble ashlar, providing it with a solid and durable appearance. The high quality of the building, both internally and externally, can be considered to reflect the significant role played by the janitor in school life and the greater sense of social inclusion engendered by the 1903 Act and perhaps broader early twentieth-century political reforms. The structure was evidently completed by 1915, after which Alfred Tooley - transferred from the Symonds Street site - became its first occupant.

Alfred Tooley lived in the house until at least 1930 when his son, Harold A. Tooley, became janitor. Harold's departure in the 1940s severed a father-son association with the post that had extended over some 53 years. Between 1944 and 1969 David Maconaghie and then Alan Jobson occupied the residence. The name of janitor appears to have been swapped for that of caretaker when Jobson took occupancy of the house, and presumably the position, in circa 1958. Alterations to improve the ancillary facilities were carried out during the 1960s, when a laundry and garage were added, connected to the house by a covered way. The house was converted to office use in 2003, but to all outward appearances retains its character as a residential building. It is currently used as the Auckland Grammar School's development office.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The building has historical value for reflecting the early twentieth-century development of Auckland Grammar School, New Zealand's largest boys' secondary school at the time.

The Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House (Former) is aesthetically significant as a well-designed and well-maintained building with few alterations to the exterior. It is of considerable architectural value for reflecting the early use of American styles in educational buildings, incorporating very early evidence of Spanish Mission design. It is also architecturally significant as the likely work of Richard Atkinson Abbott, who is credited with introducing Spanish Mission architecture to New Zealand.

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

The former Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House reflects the growth of state education in early twentieth-century New Zealand, and the development of large secondary boys' schools in particular. It demonstrates the importance placed on providing free housing for key staff, and the presence of a greater egalitarian emphasis in educational ideas in the very early 1900s. It also reflects the role played by janitors in the care and running of significant institutions.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

Being located beside a main road in a busy suburb of Auckland and part of a state educational institution, the building has potential for public education about the history of Spanish Mission architecture, aspects of state education and the development of Auckland Grammar School.

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

The building is important for its very early incorporation of Spanish Mission design, and broader use of American-influenced architectural styles. It is part of a wider design concept of high significance, which incorporates the main block of Auckland Grammar School.

(k)The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The former Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House is an integral part of a wider historical and cultural landscape that reflects early twentieth-century attitudes to education. Other surviving elements of note include the Auckland Grammar School Main Block (NZHPT Registration #4471, Category I historic place) and the Auckland Grammar School War Memorial (NZHPT Registration # 4472, Category I historic place).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Abbott, Richard Atkinson

Abbott (1883-1954) began his career in the office of C L N Arnold and became his partner in 1910. Abbott, whose career began prior to the passing of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Act in 1913, became registered under that Act.

He is best known for the design of Auckland Grammar School (1913) which is one of the earliest Spanish Mission style buildings in New Zealand. He also designed several branch buildings for the Bank of New Zealand including the Upper Symonds Street branch (1937) and several buildings at King's College, Middlemore, including the Memorial Chapel (World War I), the Memorial Library (World War II) and the Assembly Hall (1954).

Abbott was active in the New Zealand Institute of Architects, serving on its Council (1926-28), and on its Education Committee (1926-36). In addition he was Chairman of the Auckland branch of the Institute (1927-28).

Abbott was born at Parnell, Auckland. He was educated at St John's College and King's College after which he joined the architectural firm established in the 1870s by Charles Le Nevre Arnold. Abbot became Arnold's partner in practice in 1910. After Arnold's retirement in 1927, Abbot remained in sole practice for a time, but was later joined by G.I. Hole.

Abbott's first major achievement was in 1913 when he submitted the winning design for the Auckland Grammar School. The janitor's cottage was part of the design brief.

Abbot became a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1913. Five years later he prepared the winning site layout for the King's College site at Middlemore. In contrast to Auckland Grammar School, the buildings on the King's College campus were designed in a more conservative Gothic collegiate style. In addition to the main building at King's (Kings College Main Block, NZHPT Registration # 529, Category II historic place), Abbott designed the memorial church to Old Boys who died in the First World War (Kings College Chapel, NZHPT Registration # 90, Category I historic place); the library; a memorial to old boys killed in the Second World War; and the School's assembly hall.

For over 25 years Abbot was the architect for the Bank of New Zealand in the Auckland region. He is also remembered as the designer of the One Tree Hill Obelisk (NZHPT Registration # 4601, Category I historic place), constructed on Maungakiekie, One Tree Hill in 1939-1940.

Arnold, Charles

Charles Le Neve Arnold

The Campbell Free Kindergarten is the work of a noted Auckland architect, Charles Le Neve Arnold, who was involved in the development of the Arts and Crafts movement in New Zealand. He had joined the Auckland Institute of Architects in 1885. In 1886, Arnold supervised the erection of St Mary's Church in Parnell. He designed a number of important works over the coming years including the Mackelvie annexe to the Auckland City Council building (1892), the Admiralty House (1901), Great Northern Brewery, Colonial Sugar Refining Company Office (1903), Auckland Chamber of Commerce (1903) and the Ante-park at Cornwall Park (1903). He later formed a partnership with Mr Atkinson Abbott and this partnership was responsible for such notable designs as the Dilworth Ulster Institute (1916), the Auckland Grammar School (1913) and the Kings College Memorial Chapel (1922). Arnold died in 1955 at the age of 100.

Arnold established a relationship with John Logan Campbell in the early years of the twentieth century when he was appointed architect to the Cornwall Park Trust Board. In 1903 he designed the Ante-park at Cornwall Park which was completed in 1906. He also designed the Arts and Crafts-style Huia Lodge in Cornwall Park, which originally housed the caretaker and his wife. Campbell had a strong interest in architectural design and proved himself to be a competent amateur architect. In 1869, Campbell had personally drawn up plans for extensive alterations to his home, Logan Bank, to be built in poured concrete using a special patent process. In 1878, he designed a new home to be known as Kilbryde and sent his plans to the architectural firm of Edward Mahoney & Son where they were revised and working drawings prepared. Arnold, in his design of the Cornwall Park Ante-park, was said to have 'to a great extent carried out the desires' of Campbell. However, it is unlikely that Campbell had such a significant role in the design of the Campbell Free Kindergarten. The building was designed late in Campbell's life and at a time that his eyesight and health were failing. In June 1906 his eyesight suddenly deteriorated and he was unable to read thereafter or write anything more than his signature.

Hutchison, W.E.

William E. Hutchison (1858-?). Builder of the Bath House at the Rotorua Government Gardens. Had a large Auckland construction firm, they built large contracts in the Auckland area. Possible builder of Auckland Grammar School Janitor’s House (Record no. 4532).

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The former Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House (Former) is located in Epsom, an eastern inner suburb of Auckland. The school sits on the lower slopes of Mt Eden, overlooking Newton and Eden Terrace. The former Janitor's House is positioned next to the main entrance of the school, along the latter's eastern boundary. Standing immediately behind a low basalt wall fronting Mountain Road, the house is readily visible to passing traffic but, unlike other parts of the school, is not prominent from afar.

The building is a compact, two-storey house in a Free Style Arts and Crafts style, combining California Bungalow and Spanish Mission influences. It is constructed of brick and plaster with a Marseilles tile roof. The imposing single-storey, entry porch is built right to the front boundary. The porch's arched entrance, tapering piers, roughcast plaster and single row of Marseilles tiles along the roof are all references to the Spanish Mission style adopted for the School's main building. The exterior of the house itself is rendered brick. Vents and irregularly sized and spaced small-paned windows enliven the building's exterior.

The Marseilles-tiled roof has a shallow pitch with wide overhanging eaves and exposed rafter tails. Heavy timber brackets support the roof overhangs at the gable ends. Timber brackets also support the second-storey bay window overlooking the street.

The layout of the house reflects the Bungalow style. The hall is offset to one side and does not extend continuously through the house. The front door opens into a small lobby that in turn opens into the hall of the house proper. To the left is the former sitting room, now a meeting room. The original dining room, now an office, is located at the end of the hall. The kitchen, which opens off the dining room, retains its original form but has been recently refitted. At the rear of the house, the back wall has been extended further south to support a covered-way to a laundry and garage erected parallel to the house. This addition, undertaken in 1964, creates a small courtyard.

The timber stairway (towards the front of the house) is narrow, extremely steep and receives natural light from a narrow arch-headed window on the stairwell. Off the upper landing are a small modern bathroom and two offices. The front office, originally the master bedroom, retains its original fireplace.

A low basalt wall extends north and south from the front (east) façade of the house, with the northern section incorporating an entrance pier to the main entrance of the school. The wall is likely to be contemporary with, or earlier than the house.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1914 - 1915

1964 -
Laundry demolished. Covered way, laundry and garage addition.

Two rear bedrooms upstairs converted to one room. Window frames replaced with aluminium frames.

2003 -
Dwelling converted to office use. Kitchen, toilet and bathroom refitted. Fire surround removed from fireplace in front room (ground floor). Stair rail added.

Construction Details

Brick, with plaster finish and Marseilles tile roof

Information Sources

Shaw, 1991

Peter Shaw, New Zealand Architecture: From Polynesian Beginnings to 1990, Auckland, 1991

Trembath, 1969

K.A. Trembath, Ad Augusta: A Centennial History of Auckland Grammar School 1869-1969, Auckland, 1969.

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Salmond Architects, 'Auckland Grammar School Main Building: A Conservation Plan', February 1993.

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region 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.