Post Office Box

Marine Parade And Paul Street (State Highway 2), Wairoa

  • Post Office Box, Wairoa. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Janette Asche - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Janette Asche. Date: 31/12/2009.
  • Post Office Box, Wairoa. CC Licence 4.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Alexander Klink - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Alexander Klink. Date: 16/04/2006.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4853 Date Entered 27th November 1986


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Town Sec 851 Clyde (RT HBM3/277), Hawkes Bay Land District, and the structure known as Post Box (Former) thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 30 April 2019.

City/District Council

Wairoa District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Town Sec 851 Clyde (RT HBM3/277), Hawkes Bay Land District


Installed in Wairoa in 1902, Post Box (Former) is a rare example of an extant Edwardian-era post box in the popular British ‘Penfold’ design. The post box has historical and social significance for this design, which highlights New Zealand’s close administrative ties with Britain in the early twentieth century. It is representative of a time when the postage system was the main form of distance communication, providing Wairoa with an essential link to the rest of the country. As post boxes were usually built in larger towns and cities, the presence of a box in Wairoa is indicative of the town’s rapid expansion and community demand for the service.

Prior to 1862, when the New Zealand Post Office Department made stamps compulsory for national post, all correspondence had to be taken to the post office to be issued with the correct postage cost. The stamp system quickly gained popularity and the Post Office Department began to install ‘receiving boxes’ from 1863 in main urban centres. The new post boxes allowed people to mail letters at their own convenience without having to go into the post office.

Around 1878 the New Zealand Post Office Department obtained the plans for the ‘Penfold’ hexagonal design used by the British Post Office. This design was created by British architect and surveyor John Wornham Penfold (1828-1909) and standardised by the British Post Office in 1866. The main New Zealand manufacturer of the cast iron boxes was P. & D. Duncan Ltd. of Christchurch, who began producing them for the Post Office in 1894. Wairoa’s post box was installed in 1902. Painted in the distinctive Post Office red, it is located at the intersection of Paul Street (State Highway 2) and Marine Parade next to the Wairoa Lighthouse (List No.4852).

In the 1950s concerns were raised by the Post Office Association about the post boxes, once an essential component of the New Zealand postage system, with over 125 installed around the county at their peak. The association found the boxes to be insanitary, leaky, obstructive and hard to clear in windy conditions. In response, Victorian and Edwardian-era post boxes were systematically removed and replaced by timber hutch boxes, making Wairoa’s Post Box (Former) rare.

It is a typical example of an Edwardian hexagonal pillar ‘receiving box’ in the traditional Penfold design and remains in good condition. The front face bears an ‘ER’ insignia, indicating it was manufactured during the reign of King Edward VII. The box stands at approximately 1.5 metres high and has a decorated cap with an acanthus leaf motif encircled with small spherical details. The manufacturers, P. & D. Duncan Ltd., have their name on the base. Relocated to its current position possibly after Cyclone Bola of 1988, and no longer operative, the post box is now an interesting piece of street furniture and part of the historic landscape of Wairoa’s Marine Parade.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Penfold, John Wornham (1828-1909)

Penfold was an English surveyor and architect famous for his British Post Office Department pillar box designs. There were three types of Penfold boxes produced in the 1860s and 1870s. Penfold boxes were subsequently adopted for pillar boxes manufactured in various British colonies, such as New Zealand. Although he was best known for his pillar box design Penfold was also a leading figure in his respective professional fields, becoming the President of the Architectural Association as well as being a founding member and longstanding honorary secretary of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Source: Registration Report for Post Box (Former), Karen Astwood, 2013

P & D Duncan Limited

The Duncan brothers, Peter (1838-1907) and David (1832-1897), emigrated from Scotland, arriving in Lyttelton in 1863 and 1867 respectively. They each had solid work experience in smithing and fitting by this time. The company was based in Christchurch, with a branch later opening in Ashburton. Despite going into partnership in 1870 it was not until 1874 that they adopted the name P & D Duncan. In 1894 P & D Duncan became a limited liability company. In the same year the company began manufacturing pillar boxes for the Post Office Department. However, the main focus of the business from its earliest period, and what it was most well-known for, was the repair, development and manufacture of farm machinery. Their farm implements and machines were distributed all around New Zealand by the early twentieth century. Peter retired from the company four years after his elder brother’s death, at which time the business was continued by people who were mostly relatives.

Source: Registration Report for Post Box (Former), Karen Astwood, Sep 2013.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
- 1902
Installed in Wairoa

- 1989
Moved to current location

Completion Date

26th March 2019

Report Written By

Jessica McDonnell-Buwalda

Information Sources

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Shoebridge, Tim, 'Mail and couriers', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 11 March


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.