Kurow School (Former)

59 Gordon Street, Kurow

  • Kurow School (Former). December 2007. Image courtesy of Kurow Museum and Information Centre.
    Copyright: Kurow Museum and Information Centre. Taken By: Jon Brocas.
  • Kurow School (Former). c1930. Image courtesy of the North Otago Museum P0025.409, 1930s.
    Copyright: North Otago Museum. Taken By: David Erskine Neave.
  • Kurow School (Former). c1930. Image courtesy of the North Otago Museum P0025.410, 1930s.
    Copyright: North Otago Museum. Taken By: David Erskin Neave.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4891 Date Entered 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 2 DP 7534 (NZ Gazette 1996, p.3212.), Otago Land District and the building known as Kurow School (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 2 DP 7534 (NZ Gazette 1996, p. 3212.), Otago Land District


Kurow School opened in 1882, providing two classrooms for the children of this small North Otago town. The school’s design is a relatively intact example of nineteenth century school architecture and as well as educating several generations of children, it has provided a social centre for the community.

The Education Act 1877 established a system of free, secular, and compulsory education for all New Zealand children aged between seven and thirteen. The Otago Education Board architect adapted standard school designs to local circumstances and a local committee managed each school. The Kurow School District was declared in December 1880, and the school site gazetted in 1881. The Education Board approved the construction of the Kurow School building and teacher’s residence in October 1881, and in November, tenders were advertised for both buildings, designed by the Education Board’s architect, John Somerville (1834-1905).

At its opening on 17 February 1882, the Kurow School stood on four acres bounded by Bridge and Robinson Streets (later renamed Ranfurly and Gordon Streets). The school could accommodate 100 pupils. According to records at the Hocken Collections in Dunedin, the school operated half time between 1882 and 1884, and full time between 1885 and 1931. Such schools were also the ‘social centre’ for the district, standing in for halls and other community facilities.

The exterior of the school remains largely intact, although flues have replaced the chimneys. The school had two classrooms (one for ‘infants’ up to standard two, the other for children up to standard 6). In the infant room, half of the floor was stepped for each row of desks and forms, while the other half was flat. In the senior room or ‘Big Room’ the floor was raised a little for each row.

As workers moved to the area to build the Waitaki hydro scheme in the 1930s, so the school roll jumped - from 63 to 339 from 1927 to 1932. Every hall in town overflowed with pupils. To meet the demand, a new school was built on the current site and it was completed by May 1931. The old school stood unused. In 1939, fire gutted the new school and the old building was reopened, with other buildings in town providing extra space. In 1940, another new school opened, this time built in brick, and the old building was once again abandoned. The site was vested in the Department of Conservation in 1999 and has since been administered by the Waitaki District Council. Since that time the building has been used for community purposes, including the Kurow scout and guide movement until 2003.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Somerville, John

Scottish born Somerville arrived in Dunedin in 1858, and began business as a carpenter and joiner, doing his own design work. He was appointed architect to the Otago Education Board by the Provincial Council, a position he held until around 1900. Somerville designed and supervised the construction of most of the school buildings in Otago Province.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1881 - 1882

Completion Date

17th April 2014

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Nordmeyer, 1981

Arnold Nordmeyer, The Waitaki: The river and its lakes. The land and its people, Waitaki Lakes Committee, np, 1981.

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Area 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.