Jack's Mill School Historic Area


  • Jack's Mill School Historic Area, Kotuku. School House and Shower Block. CC BY 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: itravelNZ®. Taken By: Natalia Volna - itravelNZ®. Date: 27/10/2012.
  • Jack's Mill School Historic Area, Kotuku. Model Bungalow. CC BY 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: itravelNZ®. Taken By: Natalia Volna - itravelNZ®. Date: 27/10/2012.
  • Jack's Mill School Historic Area, Kotuku. Plan of Historic Area from registration report..
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Date: 28/08/1998.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7434 Date Entered 28th August 1998


Extent of List Entry

The area includes the concrete paths and lawn, statue, flagpole, original school building, shower block, toilet block, transit classroom, sheds, model bungalow and various historic trees.

City/District Council

Grey District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Reserve 698 Blk II, Bruneer Survey District


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The area proposed here for registration consists of a trapezoidal shaped piece of land comprising four acres at the site of Jacks Mill School, Kotuku. Two of the boundaries are marked by Kotuku Straight and Kotuku Bell Hill roads, while the other two boundaries are marked by farm fences at the rear of the school.

The area includes an ornamental lawn, with six marked historic trees comprising a Douglas fir, a Chinese fir, a Weeping elm, a Lawson cypress, a Holly oak, and a Cabbage tree; shrubs, including Rhododendron, planted around the borders; diagonal concrete paths; and the base of a Peter Pan statue all created by the pupils of Jacks Mill School in 1937. Also included in the area is the school building, c.190l-l9l5; part of the original boundary fence at the rear of the school as well as restored fences along Kotuku Straight and Kotuku Bell Hill Roads; a miniature Model Bungalow built by pupils during 1938-40 (registered Category I); a contemporary concrete courtyard beside the old school building; and more recent buildings including showers and water heating facilities, girls and boys toilets, a transit class room and part of a shelter shed. Please refer to the attached Jacks Mill School (1997) map prepared by the Kotuku Heritage Society Incorporated, which shows in detail all of the structures and features comprising the historic area, including boundaries.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The HP Act 1993 requires an historic area to meet three criteria:

(a) Contains an inter-related group of historic places:

The school building has demonstrated an association with the Model Bungalow, which was built by pupils from the school during the 1930s.

(b) Forms part of the historical and cultural heritage of New Zealand:

Little is known about the history of this school, which was apparently closed in 1955. The school's role in the nurturing of the ideas that produced the construction of the Model Bungalow (Cat I) have been noted in an earlier assessment, from which the following extract is taken:

"The construction of this building is an unusual example of experiential education - the 'New Education' referred to in the Christchurch Star article of 12 March 1982.

Although little appears to have been published about this movement, the link with Dr C.B. Beeby, the reforming Assistant Director of Education, and Peter Fraser, who encouraged Beeby, is significant. The 1930s were a time of great innovation for primary school education. The new New Zealand Council for Educational Research brought new ideas. Influential reformers in small rural schools - L.J. Wild at Feilding, J.E. Strachan at Rangiora and Crawford Somerset at 'Littledene', Oxford - published seminal works. In his chapter in second edition of The Oxford History of New Zealand, P.J. Gibbons observes that:

The greatest state-sponsored cultural innovations in the later 1930s were in education ... A new freedom was now introduced into primary schools: there was an attempt to diminish formal instruction in the elementary years and replace it by experiential learning.

In a later chapter in the same volume, Graeme Dunstall comments on the education reforms of the thirties:

the Fraser-Beeby credo also insisted that schools 'that are to cater for the whole population must also offer courses that are as rich and varied as are the needs and abilities of the children who enter them.' Freed from the strait-jacket of the Proficiency examination in 1936, primary school teachers sought to tailor the national syllabus to the abilities of individual children, using a range of teaching methods.

It is also interesting to note that the rural location for education innovation was not unusual. H.C.D. and Gwen Somerset's landmark work near Oxford, Canterbury, is well-known, through the publication of Littledene in 1938 and P.J. Gibbons notes that L.J. Wild, headmaster of Feilding Agricultural School, to which the Somersets were appointed in 1938, also secured the direct intervention of Peter Fraser.

The initiator and supervisor of the Model bungalow and school garden project was the headmaster of Jack's Mill School, Mr Edward Darracott. Although at the time he was noted for his achievement in the local town of Jack's Mill, and perhaps even as far as Christchurch, it is hard to judge the direct influence (if any) Darracott had on his own contemporaries in the teaching profession. It has been suggested that he derived his innovative ideas on practical education from the American educator John Dewey, and there is evidence to suggest that new ideas in this field were welcomed by the first New Zealand Labour Government under the encouragement of prime Minister and minister of education, Peter Fraser, and Assistant Director of Education, C.B. Beeby. Darrocott states that his own report of what happened at the school was "written at the request of .... Peter Fraser."

Pam Wilson notes that Mr Colin McGeorge of the Education Department of the University of Canterbury believes the Model Bungalow project "is the only example in New Zealand where pupils of a two teacher primary school undertook such a project. There are examples where similar projects were undertaken in later years, usually by secondary school students on manual training courses. He knows of nothing similar in scale and complexity from this date carried out by pupils of this age group."

There are no comparative registered examples of a model bungalow built at that, or at any other time.

Whatever the ultimate significance of Darracott' s personal achievement, there seems every good reason to believe that what he did was radical in New Zealand education for the time, and therefore his position in New Zealand history may yet turn out to be of some considerable importance.

(c) Lies within the territorial limits of New Zealand:


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Jacks Mill School is located within the precinct of an ornamental lawn and garden originally created in 1937 by pupils of the school. The school building, Model Bungalow (also created by students of the school in 1938-40) and garden have recently been restored revealing the pleasing geometrical design layout of the lawns and paths as conceived by the students sixty years ago, as well as the aesthetic qualities of the place evident in the historic trees planted by students at the same time. The principal aesthetic appeal of the Model Bungalow is its remarkable size, having all of the standard features of a contemporary modern house, but only in three-quarters the size they would normally be.


Jacks Mill School.

The Jacks Mill School is a timber building designed in the Edwardian Carpenter Gothic Revival style, 1901-1915, which characterised small town school buildings during the nineteenth century. It has a medium pitched gabled roof with finials at the apex of the gables. The bargeboards project from the face of the building but are undecorated. This was in keeping with the Carpenter Gothic style which usually had little non-functional decoration. Style indicators are:

- Timber frame with rusticated weatherboard cladding.

- Medium pitched roof.

- Prominent timber gable.

Designed by an Education Board architect to a nineteenth century formula, the school reflects a system of education in which all the students were taught in one room by a single teacher. When the school role increased a lean-to and later a further addition were added to the building. There is also a toilet block which is a later addition. The original building has four-light, double and single opening, sash windows.

The original building has been altered with the addition of two 'fifties' side doors with louvered windows above and the later additions already mentioned.

Model Bungalow.

The Model Bungalow, built 1938-40, relates comfortably in technical and design terms with a set of contemporary ideas, both social and architectural, which broke new ground in the housing design and construction field in new Zealand in the late 1930s. It drew on certain established architectural precedents that were coming into fashion here in the late 1930s, e.g., International Modernism and standard house design and materials, but remarkably, the place is, as far as anyone knows, the only example of a school project by Primary School aged pupils that set out to design and build a complete, contemporary, model house. The rarity value of the building on this score would have to be seen as being exceptional.

Other examples of a model bungalow like this are non-existent and if one were looking for examples to compare it with, the nearest parallel one could make is with the first State Houses produced by the Department of Housing Construction of the first Labour Government after 1937. The style of the Model Bungalow and that of the first State Houses is approximately the same, essentially fitting into the English Cottage style with (as Peter Shaw comments) an oblique reference to Modernism. There is of course no known connection between State Housing ideas and the Model bungalow at Kotuku and it would be misleading to suggest, even on a comparative basis, that there was. The extraordinary fact is however, that somehow a twelve and a half year old girl, Rosemary O'Brien, managed to put into her design all of the ideas that were in the minds of private architects like Swan & Lavalle, Horace Massey, and the England Brothers, who at precisely that point in time were submitting their first open plan English Cottage style State Housing designs to the D.H.C.

A cursory examination of the standard 1930s house features embodied in Rosemary O'Brien's design, e.g., the standard joinery, window casements, architraves and doors, and the modem 'Cubo-eclectic' interior decoration, makes this fact seem a little less extraordinary although it doesn't alter the fact that she was working in isolation on the

remote West Coast, did not have any major contact with an architect - except where Darracott mentions that a Christchurch architect assisted them later on, apparently with the design of the bathroom - and that the ideas she had for a model home were new in 1938 and were only just being accepted by more advanced architects in New Zealand. Perhaps this begs the question as to what extent Darracott himself had influence over the final design. It must have been there in some degree although he doesn't say so in his report and modestly gives all the credit to the children. Still, one is tempted to think that if Darracott was a radical in the education field, he must have known about Modernism in the architectural and fine arts field. One can only guess. the photograph he took of the 7' x 6' carpet square which the children designed (still

surviving in the Canterbury College of Education) shows a Modernist abstract design of surprisingly high quality.

In summary, the Model Bungalow project, as an exercise in practical education, was conceived in terms of designing a model, ideal home of the 1930s. In achieving this objective the finished building in fact represented a modem, quasi-standard style of cottage architecture which was coming into vogue at the time and which became embodied in the first state houses of the first Labour Government. In keeping with this style, the Model Bungalow incorporated contemporary ideas concerning the use of standard joinery and, in a limited sense, ideas of open planning, all of which were relatively new at the time (1938) but which characterised a "modern" home.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


It is clear that the Model Bungalow is sufficiently esteemed by the ex pupils who built it, and by their families, for them to have formed in 1994 a small working committee for the purpose of restoring and maintaining the building in the face of continuing neglect by the owners. Restoration of the Model Bungalow, School House, and garden has been ongoing since that time, with numerous articles on the committee's work appearing in newspapers and magazines for children.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Completion Date

1st March 1998

Report Written By

Gavin McLean & Wayne Nelson

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern 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.

Historic Area Place Name

Jacks Mill School
Model Bungalow