Harding Army Hall

Walton Street And Robert Street, Whangarei

  • Harding Army Hall.
    Copyright: New Zealand Defence Force.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7473 Date Entered 15th September 2000

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Whangarei District

Region

Northland Region

Legal description

Lots 1 & 5, sec XIII on Plan W22, being part Allotment 1, Parish of Whangarei and Part Allot 1, Parish of Whangarei DP21032

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

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

Historical:

In May 29 1879 the first company of Whangarei Rifle Volunteers was formed, with a company of 40. In 1890 the Whangarei Rifle Volunteers built the hall utilising donated trees from the Maungakaramea area, felled and sent to Whangarei for milling. In September 1891 the company was re-designated the Whangarei Defence Rifle Club.

On 20 March 1914 conveyance was signed by liquidators of the Whangarei Rifle Club for part of the land, plus the buildings, transferred to His Majesty The King for the sum of 900 pounds. The Hall has been used by the territorial armed services and as a Northland Office for the Army.

The Hall was later named Harding Army Hall at a special service in memory of Brigadier Ralph Harding, regarded as Northland's most distinguished soldier. A former Colonel of the North Auckland Regiment, he served with distinction in both World Wars.

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

Cultural:

The Harding Army Hall has been associated with New Zealand voluntary and regular armed services for over 100 years. For many soldiers the Harding Army Hall represents the start of their careers. The utilitarian style of building with high roof, corrugated iron exterior and large warehouse interior set the building apart from others in Whangarei.

Many community groups have utilised the Hall for various activities including;

Whangarei Agricultural and Pastoral Society's Winter Show

Auckland Blood Bank donations

Whangarei Badminton Club

Prince of Wales Trust

NZ Returned Services Association

Northland Officers Club

NZ Police

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

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

The Harding Army Hall is representative of the continuous tradition of community based volunteer and regular New Zealand armed services in Whangarei and Northland since 1879.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

Brigadier R.W. Harding was born in his family homestead at Aoroa near Dargaville in 1896 and enlisted for service overseas shortly after World War I commenced.

As a corporal he was awarded the Military Medal on June 7 1917 for his leadership qualities at Messines. During his service in France he was a member of a North Auckland Company of the Auckland Battalion.

On his return to New Zealand he carried on the occupation of farmer and maintained his military interest through the Territorial Force. He gained a Commission and was later appointed Officer Commanding the Hokianga and Kaitaia Companies in the rank of Captain.

In 1940 he enlisted again and left New Zealand as Officer Commanding 'C' Company 21st Battalion NZEF. He was later appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Commanding Officer. While holding that command he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his inspiring leadership and decisive action at Halfaya in 1942.

He relinquished command of 21st Battalion on promotion to Brigadier and took 5th Brigade to Italy. Brigadier Harding remained with 5th Brigade until his return to New Zealand in 1945.

Again he resumed his farming activities and when a Territorial Force was reformed in 1949 he was appointed to command 1st Brigade. He was active in the reorganisation of the Brigade and in 1951 he retired from the service.

Brigadier Harding was appointed Colonel of the North Auckland Regiment following the death of Colonel White, and held that appointment until 1962. However, even after his career as a soldier ended, he continued to take an active interest in military affairs in

Northland.

At the direction of the Chief of General Staff, Major General EM, Poananga MBE, the building was named after Brigadier R.W, Harding DSC, MM, ED (Harding Army Hall).

Brigadier Ralph Harding is regarded as Northland's most distinguished soldier. The Hall was dedicated to his memory at a special ceremony attended by his family.

Volunteer armed services have occupied the Hall since its inception. The Territorials use the Hall as a base during training and manoeuvres.

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

A number of letters from former army officers and Returned Services Association confirm the high esteem for the Hall. Local newspaper articles during 1999 and 2000 also reiterate the community value of the Hall.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

The Harding Army hall is recognised as symbolic of armed services in the North and of those who have fought in various wars and conflicts around the world. The commemorative values are associated to the life and achievements of Brigadier Ralph Harding.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

The Harding Army Hall is one of very few army drill halls remaining. Few survive today and fewer have current associations with the armed services. The Trust does not currently have any drill halls on the register.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1890 -

Information Sources

Whangarei Leader

Whangarei Leader

2 May 2000, pg 10

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

'Veterans fear 'bomb' ticking under historic hall', 14 February 2000.

Field, 1960

Harry Field, A History of the Northland Regiment and its Forebears, 1960

Other Information

A copy of the original 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.