Tamahere School (Original Building)

37 Devine Road, Tamahere

  • Tamahere School.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: L Williams. Date: 29/04/2010.
  • The northwest elevation showing the original windows with their hood mouldings and a c.1970s door at right.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: L Williams. Date: 29/04/2010.
  • .
    Copyright: Raymond McNickle. Taken By: Raymond McNickle.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 742 Date Entered 2nd March 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Sec 2 SO 58001 (CT 142445), South Auckland Land District, and the building known as the original building of Tamahere School (Original Building) associated with Tamahere Model Country School thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. The extent includes a 1.5 metre curtilage around the footprint of the building but does not include the 2009 ramp access. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration

City/District Council

Waikato District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Sec 2 SO 58001 (CT 142445), South Auckland Land District

Location description

The building is within the grounds of Tamahere Model Country School, visible from each of the main gates i.e. from the two parts of Devine Road.


Tamahere School (Original Building) is the oldest building of Tamahere Model Country School, having been built in 1884 to provide an educational institution for the children of the growing rural community of Tamahere, (near Hamilton) in the Waikato. Tamahere had been intensively occupied and cultivated by Ngati Haua, one of whom was Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipi Te Waharoa, who signed a peace contract between the Kingitanga and the colonial government at Tamahere in 1865, to end the Waikato war. The deal was brokered by George Graham, who immediately afterwards leased land from Ngati Haua chief Te Raihi. Graham’s son and interpreter, William Australia Graham, purchased the land in 1868 and gifted three acres (1.2 hectares) for the school to the Auckland Education Board in 1883.

Designed by the Education Board architect Henry Allright and built by Aucklander James Furey, the original building was a simple, one classroom, kauri weatherboard clad structure, with a shingled gable roof. It had a very high stud and Gothic decorative elements such as finials, hood mouldings over the windows and pointed tops to the doors.

Tamahere School (Original Building) represents the early period of public education provided under the 1877 Education Act and the growth of the rural settlement of Tamahere. In its establishment and early years it was associated with William Australia Graham, his brother Samuel Sargeant Graham and other people of importance in the local community, including Hamilton, and the development of Waikato’s rural economy. It was designed by Henry Allright and remains as an important legacy of his educational institution work. Several design features indicative of Allright’s work remain, especially the high gabled rooves and elevations and the distinctive Gothic decorative elements. The strong appreciation of the historical associations and architecture and the public esteem felt for the building is demonstrated by its representation on the school’s publicity material and by making it a centrepiece in anniversary celebrations.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Tamahere School (Original Building)’s establishment owed much to the support of influential Tamahere settlers, brothers William A. and Samuel S. Graham. They donated the land for the school and participated in the school’s governance. Both men were involved with Kingitanga affairs through their relationships with King Mahuta, Wiremu Tamihana and Te Raihi. They were involved with the development of Waikato land in the European farming tradition, crop experimentation and the establishment of a farmers’ co-operative. W. A. Graham was also prominent in political, church and social affairs in Hamilton.

From 1960 Tamahere School, was used as an example of a normal or model country school as part of the teachers’ training schemes established along with the Hamilton Teachers’ College.

Architectural Significance or Value

Tamahere School (Original Building) is a well preserved example of early, purpose-built school architecture in New Zealand. It was designed by Henry Allright in 1883 and retains the distinctive Gothic elements typical of his style.

Social Significance or Value

Since its establishment the school has been the basis for many strong social networks and relationships in the community, with the involvement of many local farmers and businessmen on the first and subsequent committees, and their children’s attendance at the school. Its importance has been shown by the large attendances at anniversary reunions, with the old building featuring in displays and forming the backdrop to group photographs as an icon synonymous with the school.

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

The growth of the school, and the changes to the old building’s use and its additions, reflects the increased population resulting from changes of farm size in the rural districts close to Hamilton.

The 1880s architecture is a tangible reminder of the period of European settlement established in the Waikato after the land confiscations, and the high value rural European communities placed on the provision of education for their children.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

The local community and former teachers have a strong association with the old building of Tamahere School (Original Building), evidenced by celebrations of the institutions anniversary that have been held over the years. The place also has strong community associations due to its use as a local school for over 125 years.

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

Tamahere School (Original Building) is a relatively intact and representative example of the work of architect Henry Allright who worked for the Auckland Education Board in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, g.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Allright, Henry

Allright (1827-1906) was born in Kent in 1827. After training as an architect, he emigrated to New Zealand in 1854. From 1856 he was employed in various positions by the Auckland Provincial Board of Works, becoming Provincial Engineer in 1874. In 1877 he was appointed architect to the Auckland Board of Education. He held this position for 15 years during a period of major building expansion following the passing of the 1877 Education Act. In 1883 he was appointed engineer to the Waitemata County, although he retained his position with the Education Board. He retired from the Education Board in 1892 and entered into practice as an engineer, from which he retired in 1901. He died in 1906.

From 1881-85, he was a member of the Auckland Institute of Engineers.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Tamahere School was established in 1884 in a rural Waikato settlement in a purpose-built structure that still exists today as part of a larger campus now known as Tamahere Model Country School. The school was established by the European settlers in the region, to ensure their children had access to free and secular education as promised by the Education Act 1877. The school has remained community focused for the subsequent decades.

The Tamahere district was once intensively occupied and cultivated by Ngati Haua, with Tamahere village estimated to have 300-400 inhabitants in 1863. The area is associated with Tainui leader Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, as not only was it his birth place, it was at Tamahere that he met with Brigadier General G.J. Carey to discuss terms of peace between the colonial government and the Kingitanga in 1865. Tamihana’s cousin Te Raihi Toroa-a-Tai remained with his hapu at Tamahere throughout the 1863-64 conflict and into the 1880s. Although their land was confiscated in 1864, 6070 hectares were subsequently returned to members of Ngati Haua, in the form of individual holdings. Allotment 1 of 1550 acres (627 hectares), plus other large parcels, was allocated to Te Raihi and others, the size reflecting their status within Ngati Haua.

George Graham, the facilitator of the meeting between Carey and Tamihana, leased Allotment 1 from Te Raihi. His sons William Australia Graham (1841-1916), and Samuel Sargeant Graham (?-1895) farmed it from 1865 as a cattle station. W.A. Graham purchased the land in 1868. The Grahams maintained close friendships with Tamihana and both their home and Te Raihi’s village played important roles in hosting dignitaries and officials of the government and Kingitanga during this period.

W.A. Graham, a surveyor who surveyed the town of Hamilton East and large areas of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, became a prominent and influential member of the Hamilton community. He was a member of the Auckland Provincial Council, mayor of Hamilton Borough, chairman of the first Waikato Hospital and Charitable Aid Board and a strong influence in the establishment of Waikato Hospital. He was a close friend and adviser to King Mahuta and a strong supporter of Maori rights. He and his brother Samuel experimented with sugar beet and other crops at Tamahere. Samuel Graham was also influential, being on the Tamahere Highway Board, both the Hamilton and Cambridge Licensing Committees and the Farmers’ Co-operative Association. Samuel left the district in 1889 after declaring insolvency. William owned land at Tamahere until 1892.

By 1872, nearly 5000 hectares had been sold by Tamahere Maori to Europeans and pastoral farming developed. A mill was erected at Tamahere to process Maori-grown wheat. There was a natural landing place for the Waikato River steamers on Graham’s land. In 1879 a bridge built over the river at the Narrows provided the stimulus for development: a store, smithies, a hotel and a church were opened by 1883. By the early 1880s the larger farms were being split up into smaller holdings. By 1882 the community had grown sufficiently to warrant a local school, the nearest school being at Hautapu. In September 1882 the Education Board of the District of Auckland, responsible for the district’s education under the provisions of the 1877 Education Act, was petitioned by community members for a school at Tamahere.

In October 1883 W.A. Graham and his wife Alice (circa 1853-1931) gave three acres (1.2 hectares) of Allotment 1 to the Board for the establishment of a school; the Board purchased a further two acres (0.8 hectares) from them. The Board commissioned plans to be drawn up; these were completed by October 1883. The building was designed by Henry Allright, architect for the Board. Tenders were called for its construction; James Furey’s tender for £438 was accepted on 28 November 1883 and the contract signed 3 December 1883. Construction was underway by late January 1884. The chairman of the first committee was S.S. Graham; other members included local farmers and the owners of the store and the hotel. After a celebratory concert and dance held in the new building on 7 May 1884, which was attended by large numbers of the community, Tamahere School (Original Building) opened on 12 May 1884 with a roll of 33 children.

The school was built as a single classroom with two porches. Each porch had an external door with separate entry for boys and girls. A single open brick fireplace was set in the interior wall of the classroom. The school was built on a roughly-rectangular block of land with Hamilton-Cambridge Road to the northeast and Graham Road along the northwest side – both of these sections of road are now called Devine Road. The school was erected near the north eastern end of this plot; in 1887 a teacher’s house was erected at the south western end.

The Maori community at Tamahere wished to send their children to the school as well, but as this would have necessitated an assistant teacher it was deemed not possible. In 1886 three Maori children enrolled, but no further Maori names occur in the early registers; some, possibly all, Maori families shifted to other areas in the 1880s. During the 1880s the children of both William and Samuel Graham attended. The road to the Narrows Bridge passes close to the school and this enabled children from the western side of the Waikato River to attend.

Most of the children attending came from local farms, and those administering school affairs were also involved with the agricultural progress of the district. A chairman of the school committee for 14 years, William Newell, was chairman of the Waikato County Council in the late 1920s-30s and influential in the setting up of the sale yards in Hamilton East. Also on the committee at one time were Ambrose Main, who was on the road board, and Joseph J. Barugh, a co-founder of the Farmers’ Co-operative Auctioneering Company and the Auckland Farmers’ Freezing Works. Several of the school committee members were also on the first committee of St Stephen’s Church, built at Tamahere in 1882.

The school building was used for community purposes also, one instance being a concert in aid of funds for the local church in 1885, and later for dances.

Despite a dairy factory being established at Tamahere in 1895, Tamahere remained a rural area, with further subdivision into smaller allotments supporting a larger population. In about 1914 or soon after, a partition was put up dividing the classroom, to enable two classes to operate; however in 1923 it was again one big room.

In 1930 the size of the school grounds was reduced by one acre (0.4 hectares). A small parcel of land was transferred to the Tamahere Hall Association in 1950; the hall is close to the old school building and has been used for school activities.

Sometime prior to 1947 two potbelly stoves were installed and the roofing material changed to corrugated iron. In 1955 a small room was added in the east corner and was used as a teacher’s room with sickbay and kitchen facilities. Other small alterations continued to be made and in 1955 a ‘permanent partition’ to divide the main room was added along with a suspended ceiling. This ‘put an end to many years of socials and dances conducted on the only good floor for miles around’. This was removed in 1959 when a separate classroom block was also erected to cope with increasing pupil numbers; the old building was subsequently referred to as the ‘Old Classroom Block’.

From 1960 the school was known as Tamahere Model Country School as it was used by the newly-established Hamilton Teachers’ College as a representative typical rural school for the training of teachers. It became common practice to have groups of student teachers observing in the classrooms. Land was gazetted as taken for a public school as of 21 November 1960.

By the 1970s Tamahere land was being subdivided into small lifestyle blocks (mostly four hectares), with many owners commuting to Hamilton or Cambridge for work. The increased population meant more children needing to attend Tamahere School. More classrooms, an administration block and a library were added. The old building was retained as a classroom, initially as the infants’ room.

At some time in the 1970s an exterior door was constructed in the western end of the northwest wall, partly replacing one of the original windows, and the old windows were changed from six-light to nine-light. In 1980 the staff room was described as ‘cleaner’s room’. By 1980 the school had expanded as a complex of six main buildings; adjacent were the community hall and play centre buildings, reinforcing the concept of the school being the hub of the community.

In 1984 the old school building was a much photographed centrepiece of the centenary celebrations, which attracted over 300 people on each of the three days. 2009 saw further subdivision and development of the Tamahere district with the school roll growing to 400 pupils. That year the school building was converted for use as a library and information centre for the school; the re-modelling won the 2010 Waikato Registered Master Builders Award in the education category. Also that year the 125th anniversary celebrations attracted over 100 former pupils and teachers. The building is proudly and prominently displayed on the school website.

Physical Description

The school as built consisted of a single classroom 40 feet by 21 feet (12.2 x 6.4 metres) with two porches (cloakrooms) each 9 feet by 12 feet (2.7 x 3.7 metres), the whole forming a short ‘T’ in floor plan with the porches forming the leg of the ‘T’. The main ridge ran northeast-southwest, the porches projected on the southeast side. The main ridge and side ridge over the porches ended in gables. The end walls to the top of the main gables were 30 feet (9.1 metres) high; the side walls on the interior were 15 feet high (4.5 metres). A single open brick fireplace was set in the interior wall of the classroom, between the doors that opened into the porches. The chimney extended through the ridge of the porches’ roof. Each porch had its own external door, for separate entry for boys and girls. The classroom was lit from five windows along the northwest side and two in the northeast end gable, with a single small high window in the upper wall at each gable end. Each porch had one window. There were no ceilings. The piles were to be puriri; all the roof shingles, ‘plates, runners, weatherboards and all outside timber to be strictly heart of kauri’ and all other timber to be ‘first class’ kauri. The weatherboards were to be 9¾ inches (24.8 centimetres wide, and the floorboards 6 inches (15.2 centimetres) wide. The match-lining wall boards, and the roof lining of the porches were to be 9 x 1 inch (22.9 x 2.5 centimetres) boards; the lining of the main roof was to be No.29 Auckland Timber Company sheet lining.

The exterior had Gothic decorative elements such as pointed tops to the porch doors, hooded mouldings over the windows and doors, finials at the ridge ends and decorative mouldings and brackets at the gable ends. Other examples of Allright’s work have similar features and also have very high studs.

Prior to 1947 a pot-bellied stove (or similar) with a pipe chimney was installed in the east corner of the classroom, and probably one in the south corner. The roofing material was changed to corrugated iron. At some time a double-hung sash window was installed in the southeast wall. In 1955 a small room was added in the east corner of the ‘T’ formed by the porches and part of the southeast wall. The porch was re-configured at this time, or before July 1959, such that the northeast-facing door was shifted into the position of one of the windows in the end wall of the porch, the upper part of the window with its hood mouldings being retained. In late 1959 minor changes were made to the porch by shifting the southeast-facing porch door into a central position with a new canopy and a concrete verandah and removing the porch windows; removing the dividing wall between the porches and closing up one internal door into the classroom. The wall dividing the class space was removed. A new concrete hearth was constructed, possibly for a freestanding stove, and the two (presumed) pot-bellied stoves removed from the corners. Possibly at this time an additional lower suspended ceiling was installed. By 1983 the windows in the gable end wall had hoods over them.

The building is situated within the grounds of Tamahere Model Country School and is visible from each of the main gates from the two parts of Devine Road. The distinctive original front gable elevation and profile of another gable face one gate that formerly opened onto the main Hamilton-Cambridge Road (State Highway 1, now Devine Road) and five sets of nineteenth century double-hung sash windows face the northwest gate. The old school building forms a prominent place in the campus amongst newer buildings of lower height.

The building is timber framed clad with 185-195-millimetre wide (exposed measurements) timber weatherboards, with long-run corrugated iron on the roof. The main ridge runs northeast-southwest ending in gables at each end; an extension on the southeast side has a lower shorter ridge that runs southeast-northwest and also ends in a gable. The main ridge sits over the original (1884) classroom, now the school library. The short ridge sits over the original two porches (1884), now the foyer. A lean-to structure (1955) with a gently sloping, much lower roof forms the eastern part of the building over an office and a similar structure (1961) forms the southern corner over toilets such that the original building is still discernible over their roofs. An extension from the original porch gable end wall forms a new porch, with ramp access at one side and steps at the other. The porch is positioned centrally along this elevation.

Finials extend from the ends of the ridges. The barge boards have decorative detailing and further decorative detailing and brackets at their lower ends. At the base of the original walls (northeast, southwest and northwest sides) is a wide board approximately 330 millimetres wide, with two narrower boards below that positioned with gaps in-between. The addition in the east corner has the same sized weatherboards but a narrower base board plus three lower boards. The addition in the west corner has the same sized weatherboards but a continuous skirt at the base.

The windows in the front (northeast) gabled wall consist of two pairs of double-hung sash nine-light windows. Above the windows is a single four-light window, possibly centrally-hinged. The windows in the northwest elevation consist of four pairs of double-hung sash nine-light windows with the upper part of a fifth at the south end; this is set above a c.1970s door. The original window mouldings remain, extending part way down the sides of the door. The door is tongue and groove panels. High in the rear (southwest) wall is a casement window identical to that in the front gable wall. The double-hung sash windows each have a decorative hood moulding above. Above the high rear casement window are scars in the weatherboards showing the position of a hood moulding. All the windows have plain sills with decorative moulded trim beneath the sills. The 1955 addition has four three-light casement windows in its northeast elevation and one in its southeast elevation. The 1961 toilets addition has four pairs of fixed or top-hung casement windows with frosted glass in its southwest elevation, and one facing southeast. Above this addition are a set of high casement windows in the original classroom wall. The new porch (lobby) is largely glazed, with minimal framing. The two doors face northeast and southwest from the porch.

The building now contains four rooms: the library (original 1884 classroom), entry space (formerly two porches 1884), office (1955), and the toilets (1961). The lobby (2009) forms an additional interior space beyond the footprint of the original building.

The wall lining in the 1884 classroom is 8½-inch (215 millimetre) wide tongue-and-groove with bead planks, laid horizontally. The classroom has a roof lining of tongue and groove boards with beaded edge (possibly modern replica sheeting) similar to the wall boards; the struts and rafters supporting the roof are visible. The original wooden flooring in the classroom is covered with carpet, but that in the original porches is visible. The position of the 1884 hearth is traceable in the joins of replacement boards, well-matched with the original.

Construction Dates

1961 -
Addition with girls’ and boys’ toilets, new high windows in southeast wall

Exterior door installed in northwest wall of classroom

2009 -
Conversion to library: removal of 1961 porch, addition of new porch with ramp access

2009 -
part of original porch exterior wall removed and new walls erected within original porch to create an additional room and cupboard; removal of two ceilings

1883 -

Original Construction
1884 -
Building completed by May

Installation of two pot-bellied stoves, window in south eastern wall? change of roofing material from shingles to corrugated iron

1955 -
Addition of teachers’ room; installation of suspended ceiling, classroom partitioned, replacement of northern porch window with original porch door, fireplace blocked up

1959 -
Installation of suspended ceiling, classroom partition removed, open fireplace removed and replaced with one pot-bellied stove, two? pot-bellied stoves removed

1959 -
removal of wall in original porches to form one porch and new central external door installed, closing of one internal door

Construction Details

Timber, corrugated iron

Completion Date

15th October 2010

Report Written By

Lynette Williams; Gail Henry; Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Beer, 1975

Plough of the Pakeha. Cambridge: Cambridge Historical Society, 1975.

Norris, 1964

H.C.M. Norris, Settlers in Depression: A History of Hamilton, New Zealand 1875-1894, Auckland, 1964

Kellaway, 1980

Kellaway, J.N. Cambridge School 1980, From Schoolhouse to Classpace: 100 Years of Schooling in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty

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.