Wainuiomata Historical Museum

Main Road And Homedale Road, Wainuiomata, Wainuiomata

  • Wainuiomata Historical Museum.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Kim Rio. Date: 1/10/2017.
  • Wainuiomata Historical Museum.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Kim Rio. Date: 1/10/2017.
  • Wainuiomata Historical Museum.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Kim Rio. Date: 1/10/2017.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7508 Date Entered 30th August 2002


City/District Council

Hutt City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 2 Wainuiomata SD (CT WN352/180)

Location description

Wainuiomata Primary School Grounds


The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed 20 Feb 2003 by Helen McCracken:

The Wainuiomata Historical Museum is one of the oldest purpose-built school buildings remaining in the Wellington region. The first Wainuiomata School was built on this site in 1861-1862 and was also used as an unofficial town hall. The building which is the subject of this registration was built by James Burrow in 1908 to replace the first school building. The new school building was a simple wooden structure, a typical educational building of its day with generous window space. The 1862 school building was demolished in 1916. In 1938 an additional classroom was added to the 1908 building.

The population of Wainuiomata increased in the years following World War Two. In 1948 and 1953 new school buildings were erected on the site to cope with an increase in demand for accommodation. The 1908/1938 building became known as the 'old school'. From the 1970s, the 'old school' was used as an art classroom. Later, as additional schools opened in Wainuiomata and crowding eased, it was used for storage.

In 1987 the Wellington Education Board gave the use of the 'old school' to the Wainuiomata Historical Society. In September 1989, the building was opened as the Wainuiomata Historical Museum.

The Museum has historic significance for its age and links to early education in Wainuiomata. There has been a school on this site for over 140 years. The building has social significance for its association with the Wainuiomata community and their efforts to preserve the building and convert it into a local museum. The 1908 portion is set out as a classroom and provides a rare opportunity to experience a typical schoolroom from the past. No other museum classroom of this kind exists in the Wellington region. The 1938 addition contains a collection of 'colonial artefacts', with an emphasis on Wainuiomata's history. The Museum is open to the public on Sunday afternoons and at other times by public arrangement.

The following text is from the original Proposal for Registration 30 August 2002.

Brief Description:

The former schoolroom of the 'new' Wainuiomata School was built in 1908 alongside the original school of 1861/2. For a few years the original school was used as a hall, but the building was in a rapid state of decay and tenders were called for its removal. In 1938 a second room was added onto the 1908 replacement, and these rooms remained the only school in Wainuiomata until the 1950s.

In 1982 the Wainuiomata School celebrated its 125th. Jubilee, identifying itself as one of the oldest schools in the Wellington Region.

In February 1987 the Wainuiomata Historical Society was given, by Transfer from the Wellington Education Board, the use of the two-room school building in the Wainuiomata Primary School grounds. The Wainuiomata Historical Society's Museum was opened in these former classrooms in September 1989. The Museum is open to the public between 2- 4 pm every Sunday (except Christmas Day), and at other times by arrangement. The Museum has retained the two rooms, the original 1908 room being kept as a period classroom with a variety of wooden desks, slates, blackboards, books and school journals. It is here that children can experience schooling of past years. This room is unique in the Wellington region.

The 1938 addition holds a collection of colonial artefacts common to all New Zealand, but with an emphasis on Wainuiomata pioneers and community history.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance:

There has been a school on the same site since 1861/2. The 1908 schoolroom sat alongside the original school. Some 80 years on from the construction of the 'new school' the Wellington Education Board transferred it to the Historical Society. Use of the two-room building was to promote the history of early education, the pioneers of the Valley and the growing community. By retaining an old time classroom with a variety of education materials and structures of the time, the Historical Society is providing a unique opportunity for today's children to experience the schooling of past years. There is no other classroom of its kind in the Wellington region.

Architectural Significance:

The wooden classroom block in its original form is typical of the education constructions of the day. Brick buildings gave way to timber constructions, originally with brick chimneys for the fireplaces, double hung sash windows, the long corridors with double coat-hooks and hand basins being typical features .

Social Significance:

There is a strong community association with the school rooms and there are many families and descendants still living in the Valley who attended the school. Past pupils still write to the Historical Society for information about the school and send photos for the Museum collection. Present day pupils play their part in keeping an eye on the Museum building in their grounds and are quick to report anything unusual. The local community strongly supports fundraising to maintain the Museum's activities.

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

The school building in the form of a local museum and its contents reflects the type of school room built in a country area. One room contains desks, slates and other school equipment. The other room shows household effects, clothing, photographs and day-to-day paraphernalia from an early era through to the modern day.

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

The first Public Library in the area was established in 1865 with the first books being supplied from settlers' own collections. The Library was, for a time in the school building now occupied by the Museum. In 1914 a Public Hall was built adjacent to the present Wainuiomata Primary School Hall. This Hall was the centre of social activities of the day - there were dances and receptions and later films were shown there. The Library was subsequently established there.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

The 1908 schoolroom and the 1938 addition have been a museum since 1989. The earlier classroom has been kept as a period classroom with a variety of desks, slates (one with an early family name engraved ), blackboards, books and journals. Many photographs show earlier classes through to modern times.

The corridor attached has original hand basins, pegs for clothing and the old school bell. The second room shows early artefacts such as tools, doctors items, clothing, machines, and other items from settlement in the Valley.

The Museum is open every Sunday from 2 - 4 p.m. (except Christmas Day) and by arrangement for groups and school classes from around the region to visit during the week.

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

There are several families and descendants of past pupils still living in the Valley. Present pupils of Wainuiomata School maintain a security watch over the Museum building and the local community supports the Museum with fundraising activities.

(f) The potential for the place for public education:

The two school rooms are used for education with the older of the two rooms set up as a period class room, while the second room is used to display colonial artefacts.

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

The old school building is still on its original site amongst modern buildings. Arson attacks on the school in 1990 and 1991 fortunately did not touch the Museum complex. The building is still being used for education purposes, with school groups regularly coming to the Museum to learn about earlier education and the local Wainuiomata community at the turn of the last century. The building is cared for by dedicated persons who are committed to the place and its history.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

The Wainuiomata Historical Society obtained considerable information on the early history of the area and the school from local people who were brought up in the Valley and who attended the 1908 school. Other sources of information have been the National Library of New Zealand, National Archives, the Ministry of Education, the Jubilee Booklet - Wainuiomata Centennial Jubilee 1857 - 1957. The Society has also published several history publications (six booklets of local Wainuiomata history). The Society's collection of photographs have been used for these publications.

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

The 1908 and 1938 school rooms are on their original site replacing the early 1862 school. The school rooms are in the primary school grounds surrounded by numerous modern school buildings.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The Museum building is still part of the Wainuiomata Primary School education area. The school is in a part of Wainuiomata known as 'the Village', the area first developed with sawmills and farming. Originally there was a cheese factory, creamery and Post Office. The old Methodist church built in 1863 still stands nearby. Roads were built by the early settlers who also set themselves up as the Road Wardens for the area.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The following text is from the original Proposal for Registration 30 August 2002.


On 19th June 1863, Hugh Sinclair, the landowner, arranged for the transfer, without consideration, of an area of one acre of Section 2 to William Alfred Fitzherbert and Nathaniel Grace, upon trust for the purposes of a common school. In September 1875 Fitzherbert and Grace arranged to convey the lands described to the Education Board. The Wainuiomata School was established upon this site by late 1861, and today operates on the same site as the Wainuiomata Primary School'.

The Minute Book for the Wainuiomata Road Wardens notes, for the meeting held January 1862, 'First meeting held in new Town Hall '. The 'Town Hall' was in fact the newly built school, which continued to serve a multitude of functions until 1914 when a separate local hall was erected.

The building of the school was a community effort. Timber was donated from a local sawmill and labour drawn from the many residents who could see the advantages that could be gained from schooling for the Valley's children. While the community was never a wealthy one, it was always focused on the 'good of the community'.

This school cum 'Town Hall', served the Wainuiomata District for over 40 years, until a new schoolroom was built in 1908. The replacement building was still the only school in Wainuiomata, and remained so until the 1950s. With the building of the 1908 replacement, the 1862 structure was known as the 'old school' while the 1908 building was the 'new' school. However, with the demolition of the 1862 school in 1916, and the building of a new block of classrooms at the Wainuiomata School in 1948, the 'new' school consequently became known as the 'old school' a name which is still in use today. The second classroom which was added onto the 1908 building in 1938 was, by common usage, included in the 'old school' appellation.

By the turn of the 19th. Century the Wainuiomata Valley had a population of barely 500 people. In the 1940s and especially after the World War II, the Valley blossomed with new housing. By 1949 the population was 1000 with 800 hectares of land available for homes. By 1955 the population had increased to 3000. Today growth has settled down. There are approximately 5500 homes and as at 07.02.2002, 17061 people.

With the growth of the Valley, additional school buildings were completed in 1948 and 1953, although on 10th. November 1990 a large portion of these later buildings were destroyed by arson. With the construction of the 1948 and 1953 school buildings, the 'new school' became known as the' old school'. From the 1970s the 'old school' was used as an art classroom. Later, as additional schools opened in Wainuiomata and crowding eased, the' old school' was used for storage.

In February 1987 the Wainuiomata Historical Society was given, by Transfer from the Wellington Education Board, the use of the two-room school building in the Primary School grounds. After a lot of voluntary hard work and fundraising, the Society's Museum opened in the building in September 1989.

Physical Description


James Burrow Junior (1908 room)

Physical Description:

The 1908 building stands on totara piles, is clad in weather board and has a steeply pitched iron roof. The 1938 addition stands on concrete piles. Renewed guttering is plastic, with some downpipes still of the original iron. At the time of the 1938 addition, the western wall of the original building was moved inwards (east) approximately two metres and the new room, of an equivalent size to the now smaller 1908 room, incorporated part of the original floor.

The windows on the northern side of the 1908 building:- 12 panes in each of four double hung windows with an additional three panes top-hinged rope and screw opening above each.

On the northern side of the 1938 building - four sets of two sashed windows with six-paned windows in each sash, three independently placed double hung windows with six panes in each sash.

On the western end of the building there is one window in the 'teacher's room' double with six panes in each sash. On the eastern end, three small windows, upper half with wood trim above. These windows are boarded over from the interior.

A corridor runs east-west the length of the two classrooms on the southern side. Double half-glazed doors open to the outside at the eastern end. A portion of the western end of this corridor was closed off to provide a small room for teacher's use - now used for museum storage. The remainder of the corridor is the original cloakroom complete with original double coat-hooks and two hand basins.

The classrooms have a modern flush interconnecting door and each room has a potbelly stove in the north-eastern corner standing on a concrete hearth. Each room has a small double door store cupboard, the 1908 cupboard being a modern addition with flush doors, while the doors on the 1938 cupboard are panelled. The original tongue and groove flooring of the 1908 room was covered over with hardboard during its Education era.

This floor has not been uncovered due to wear in sub-floor surface. A similar scenario in the 1938 room has meant that the Wainuiomata Historical Society has carpeted this room.

The 1908 schoolroom had all open brick fireplace in the north-east corner. Following the addition of the second room in 1938 an iron pipe type chimney and pot belly was a replacement, and a similar arrangement exists today.

With the addition of the second classroom in 1938 the three small windows on the western frontage and the decorative wooden architecture under the apex of the roof line at both the west and eastern ends were removed. The three small windows at the eastern end with a very simple wooden decorative line have been retained.

In 1987, when the Wainuiomata Historical Society obtained the school building, some work was done on the interior of the second room on the west (road facing) wall.

The Society has retained all original fittings in the building especially the coat-hooks, hand basins and the old school bell, along with the wooden floor, school cupboards and blackboards. All the windows are original, as are the wooden doors.

Current physical condition:

Building in good condition - has new roof, recently repaired and painted. May need totara piles replaced in the future.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
- 1908
And formally opened

- 1938
Second classroom added

Construction Details

Timber walls and iron roof

Completion Date

20th February 2003

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Information Sources

Alexander, 1992

Vicky Alexander, Wainuiomata Valley Discovery Trail, Wainuiomata Museum Society, Inc., Petone, 1992

Daley, 1978

James Daley, Hutt County Centenary 1877-1977, Hutt County Council, Wainuiomata, 1978

Hutt News

Hutt News

22 July 1997

Other Information

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