Winton Great North Road Historic Area

Great North Road And Meldrum Street, Winton

  • Winton Great North Road Historic Area.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: N Jackson. Date: 1/10/2009.
  • Winton Great North Road Historic Area. Winton Band Rotunda. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 17/07/2015.
  • Winton Great North Road Historic Area. Presbyterian Church Meldrum Street. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 18/02/2014.
  • Winton Great North Road Historic Area. War Memorial gates. Top: Taken by J Phillips & C Maclean c.1986 in original position. Bottom: Taken by J Phillips post relocation to Winton's ANZAC Oval 2008. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Jock Phillips – Te Ara. Taken By: Jock Phillips – Te Ara.
  • Winton Great North Road Historic Area. Winton Post Office. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 17/07/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7527 Date Entered 13th June 2003


Extent of List Entry

The area is based around the commercial centre of Winton on Great North Road. It is an area of approximately four blocks. The majority of the buildings are on the west side of the road, with the exception of the Post Office, the Anzac Memorial Gates and the Anzac Oval. The Presbyterian Church and Sunday School building are on Meldrum Street, within one block of Great North Road. See file for map of historic area.

City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region


Summary of Significance

Within the proposed historic area twenty one heritage buildings/places are included for possible registration. These buildings/places are included because of their townscape value, their architectural style, and their contribution to the social history of Winton.

The selected buildings/places form a virtually intact and visually united historical streetscape, revealing the architectural and commercial development of a small rural New Zealand service town. This is reflective of the prosperous farming community that Winton was and still is. Winton was the first established inland town in Southland and has long served as the largest service town for Central Southland.

The proposed historic area includes representation of important aspects of community life such as - amusement, commerce, religion, recreation, memorials, travellers accommodation and government services. This diverse representation provides an insight into the typical services that developed in a small rural New Zealand town in response to the dominant agricultural economy.

The range of architectural styles represents a rural microcosm of the work of four prominent Invercargill architects whose distinctive urban designs during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were adapted to suit the rural environment and functional service town of Winton. Also represented are some later era buildings of the 1930's - 40's bringing in the art deco influences which combined with the earlier architectural styles, forms an interesting main street area.

Such an intact and diverse range of buildings still represented and used in a working rural service town is relatively rare. To our knowledge there are few historic areas currently registered by the Trust that represent so well the wealthy agricultural service town and its development from the 1870's through to the 1940's and the present day.

The importance of Winton's built heritage is noted in the Southland District Plan. Along with Riverton and Oban, (Stewart Island) it is considered to have "strong heritage features" which "justify more detailed attention." The Southland District Council notes the importance of streetscapes and precincts, and discusses initiatives such as "Main Street" designations. In the context of heritage protection within Southland, this nomination highlights the significant heritage values of the commercial heart of Winton.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Winton Great North Road Historic Area is historically important as a relatively unmodified example of a rural service town. Such towns were, and in Winton's case still are, part of the backbone for New Zealand's agricultural economy. The buildings in central Winton represent a diverse range of locally run businesses, government services, churches, and memorials typical of a rural New Zealand town during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today the relatively open nature of the east side of Great North Road is a result of the land's history as a rail corridor and it reflects the importance of the railway system to the development of towns such as Winton. Locally the history of Great North Road, and Winton as a whole provides a microcosm of Southland rural history. As a rural service town Winton provided a nucleus to the wealthy agricultural hinterland. The recognition and identification of Winton's history and built heritage within the proposed historic area helps complete the picture of Southland's rural past.

Such an intact and diverse range of buildings still represented and used in a working rural service town is relatively rare. To our knowledge there are few historic areas currently registered by the Trust that represent so well the wealthy agricultural service town and it's development from the 1870's through to the 1940's and the present day.

The streetscape of Winton is dominated by the built up nature of the western side of the street, and the relatively undeveloped east side, which was formerly the site of the Railway Terminus Reserve. (refer 1871 map)The east side of the road remains largely devoid of commercial buildings, retaining its historical openness. This openness arose from the development of the rail corridor, which was vital to the development of the town. The relatively open view of this side of the road continues to be a significant historic and aesthetic component of the streetscape, and is now characterised by parks, memorials and other community facilities, two of which, the memorial gates and the Anzac oval, are included within the historic area. Great North Road in its current state still echoes the physical development of Winton, its layout reflecting the historical connection between rural town and railway. The recreational spaces have now replaced the railways as an important aesthetic for the town.

The concentration of buildings which line Great North Road in Winton provide representations of prominent architectural styles as developed in a rural service area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The range of commercial styles - from late Victorian, through Edwardian to Art Deco, as well as the range of building types provide insight into the commercial enterprises and community life of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of Southland's more prominent architects such as E.R. Wilson, F.W. Burwell, E.H. Smith, and C.J. Broderick left their mark on Winton and their designs reveal how urban architectural styles were adapted in a more rural setting. The size and scale of many of the buildings also reflects the confidence that the people had in the development and ongoing progress of the agricultural economy in Southland.

The agricultural industry and the lifestyle that it supports strongly underlies New Zealand's culture. The physical character of Winton and its interconnected history illustrates the importance, both past and present, of rural life in Southland and small town New Zealand.

Winton has a strong sense of community and has acted as an important meeting place and rural service centre for a significant proportion of Southland's farming population for over a hundred years. The town provided the necessary services of Post Office, banks, a wool store, saddlery, churches, farm suppliers, hotels, a theatre, and later community war memorials, and reserves- services typical to small town rural New Zealand. The survival of this cross-section of services still clearly depicted within Winton's commercial heart, continues to connect us with the practical realities of life in rural New Zealand.

The architecture and heritage of Winton in general is valued highly by its community, as reflected in the community co-ordination of a heritage trail brochure (2001), which describes the heritage features of the town, street landscaping, and the presentation and continual use of many of the historic places in the main street. The Winton community appears to strongly value its heritage features, which clearly contribute to the community identity of this rural Southland town. Also included within the historic area are the war memorial gates and Anzac gardens which are highly valued by the community and commemorate the role Winton and its inhabitants played in World War I. Winton's survival, and the relative intactness of its commercial premises, service buildings, churches, and memorials represent important aspects of community life in this small rural town.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Winton is the largest service town for Central Southland, with a population of 2,094. It is thirty two kilometres north of Invercargill. Winton was a borough from 1877 to 1989, and is now administered by the Southland District Council. It is estimated that ninety two percent of Southland population lives within an eighty kilometre radius of Winton. The town is one of the few urban areas of Southland District that has experienced both a population increase and an increase in the number of dwellings over the past ten years. It is a popular retirement locality.

Winton's past forms a part of the history of rural Southland, and the rural history of New Zealand in general. Rural history is an area largely neglected by scholars. The township of Winton was surveyed in the mid 1860s by Clement Johnstone. It was initially a bush clearing on the route from Invercargill to the Central Otago goldfields. The town's development was spurred on by Southland's wish to capture the gold trade from Otago, but its efforts were unsuccessful. It was, however, one of the first established inland towns. Settlement was based around servicing the supply route to the goldfields, and later sawmilling. As the land was cleared farming and flax milling became more important. The sawmilling provided excellent timber for the building trade, and provided employment for many years. Milling contributed largely to the growth of the town.

Winton's development has much in common with other nineteenth century rural towns. Winton's location was governed by travel time - it was on the route between Invercargill and Kingston. As D Hamer has noted, New Zealand's topography "presented the traveller with many obstacles to movement, the surmounting of which imposed upon him considerable delay." Travel from Invercargill was very difficult due to the swampy nature of the surrounding land. Travellers could take two or three weeks to get from Invercargill to Kingston. Winton stood on the boundary between the swampy, muddy coastal tracks and the drier inland ones. In time it also became important to the developing agricultural settlements such as Browns and Hedgehope, to the east. Lime and coal deposits were found in the surrounding districts.

Hamer notes that initially the staging post towns quickly developed an infrastructure reflecting the needs of the travellers. The early buildings of the town reflected the important economic bases of the town. The first building was a police barracks in 1862, with hope of escorting gold back from the gold fields. Blacksmiths and saddleries were also important early developments, as were hotels to accommodate travellers. The Railway Hotel opened in 1861, the Commercial Hotel in 1870, and the Winton Hotel in 1876. They are still operating now, albeit in different buildings. These Hotels were a focal point for the town. Hamer argues that the way they functioned, and the entrepreneurship of the licensee were often "critical to the evolution from wayside village to permanent township." They were often "the public building for a wide range of essential early community purposes." The store was also important, providing supplies, but also often extending credit, and a place for news, gossip and advice.

Winton's hotels had wider relevance to the history of Southland and Invercargill. Invercargill went "dry" in July 1906, and stayed that way until July 1944. During this period those who wished to drink went to areas such as Winton. Holders of wholesale licences shifted from Invercargill to Winton. Hotels in the Awarua Licensing District became "virtual goldmines."

To ease the transport difficulties, a railway was put in, first a wooden line to Makarewa, and more successfully, an iron line to Winton in 1875. The line to Kingston was completed in 1878. With the establishment of the railways, the town developed quickly. The construction of the railway made Winton very busy with large construction teams. The wooden line construction began in 1863, but ceased in 1864 due to the bankruptcy of the Southland Province. The delay in the construction caused problems for the town:

one morning the works were stopped like a thunderclap, and the unfortunate settlers who had cast their lot in the district were left, not for months, but for six years, to plod through water and mud as best they could, to reach Invercargill.

With the establishment of rail, travelling times changed, and towns such as Winton had to adapt to changing circumstances in order to survive. It changed from a staging post, to the centre of a rural community. Farmers still required facilities close at hand. General merchants and other such suppliers were important centres for the farming community. A more settled community also meant that there was a need for more services - schools, churches, stores, post offices and courts. As government functions were more centralised, a postal service developed with a purpose built building completed in 1905.

A retrospective written in 1925 noted "wide streets, modern appointments and substantial buildings." The general prosperity of the area was reflected in the variety of businesses.

After the bush was cleared, dairying was the first industry to develop, with many dairy factories within the distance horses could travel to farms. As more pastures were cleared sheep farming increased, and along with this came the freezing companies. By 1910 the better land of the plains was "intensively occupied" by small farm cropping, dairying and sheep raising. Climate, the market, and the economic situation effected the development of the area. The development of the township was dependent on the fortunes of the surrounding countryside, and the town grew only as the needs of the surrounding districts expanded.

Winton remained an important service town in the twentieth century, although the industries that it served waxed and waned. During World War II, for example, it was a centre for the linen flax (Phormium tenax) industry. Britain needed the material for its war supplies, and New Zealand answered the call planting 15,000 acres. The land around Winton was planted with some 1,600 acres being under production in 1940-1. The linen flax factory was in operation from 1940 until 1957. The industries come and go, but Winton's commercial heart remains, reflected in the surviving late nineteenth and twentieth century architecture.

Architectural History

Construction work centred on Great North Road, the main street of Winton. The commercial centre was built mainly on the west side of the street. The east side was cleared later. It was the site of the railway and its associated reserve. An early settler, James Welsh, noted that if you went up the west side of the road, you would pass "nearly all the dwellings and shops in Winton at the time." The early businesses were small. The development of the town centre was focused on the railway precinct. The two main hotels, a block from one another, mark the commercial heart of the town, with handy access to the travel terminus - both coach and rail.

The early twentieth century saw streetscapes change from double storied wooden structures to plastered brick shops and offices. In Winton single storey wooden buildings were replaced with brick and plaster shops. Neoclassical styles and features were favoured for commercial concerns. Architectural developments in Winton reflected the building trends in Invercargill. In Invercargill, "commercial premises were designed to inspire confidence with their use of strong form and intricate detailing."

While the detail was not as ornate as in Invercargill, the surviving commercial buildings in Winton do represent the range of styles adopted by prominent architects in the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Four of Invercargill's leading architects are featured - E.R. Wilson (1871-1941), C.J. Brodrick (1867-1946), E.H. Smith and F.W. Burwell (1846-1915). Burwell designed Winton's Holy Trinity Church (1876), the earliest surviving building in the commercial heart, and one of the few remaining wooden buildings. Brodrick designed the Central Southland Lodge (c.1910) and the Invercargill Savings Bank (1939-40). The Bank of New Zealand (1930) was designed by Wilson, as were the Anzac Memorial Gates (1929). Smith designed the Bank of New South Wales (1938). (now known as the REAP building at 278 Great North Road) These buildings, with the remaining historic frontages, represent the way these urban architectural styles developed in a more rural setting.

Fire was a serious threat to wooden buildings, particularly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the struggle to organise and equip brigades. There were substantial public and private losses. The early wooden buildings in Winton suffered a fate common to many towns. Whole blocks were burnt to the ground. There were major fires in 1878, 1901 and 1921. Despite these setbacks the town continued to progress, and as one writer noted, "its handsome buildings are worthy of the prosperous, advancing community which it holds."

The 1901 fire destroyed all the buildings fronting the main street between the Bank of New Zealand in the north, and Jamiesons in the south. The toll listed in the newspaper gives an idea of the extent of the commercial development:

ER Kidd's general store, McWilliam Brothers' general store, Perry's Winton Hotel, P & F Vernon's fish shop, Kennedy's tobacconist, WJ Lyon's Fancy Goods, National Mortgage Company store and office, Moore's Hall, butcher and bakery, FA Cole saddler, Cameron photographer, Perry's livery stable.

Again in 1921 fire destroyed the butcher's, the saddlery, a joinery, McWilliam's Store, and a bulk store of McWilliams. After the fire an ordinance was passed declaring that all rebuilding had to be done in brick rather than wood. The brick regulation meant that the majority of historical buildings in the town were rebuilt in brick, with the exception of the Holy Trinity Church, which was further north than the fires reached.

The social history of the area is reflected in the buildings - the hotels in particular, relate to community concerns, and legal requirements. The physical structure of the hotel buildings related to the Licensing Act. The 1881 Act stated that the minimum requirements of for a publican's license were: a front door separate from the bar entrance; six rooms for public accommodation, beside the billiard room and the family room; adequate fire escapes; place of convenience; and where required by the committee, stabling for horses.

The surviving historical commercial buildings centred on the main street also reflect the development of the area. Winton has long been proud of its quiet prosperity. On the rebuilding of the Bank of New Zealand in 1933, it was written that the building was "testimony to the confidence the institution possesses in the future prosperity of the town and district."

A committee established to consider the history of the area and options for its promotion, noted that the main street was particularly important with a large number of nineteenth century frontages. These were what they called "genuine buildings from the district" and represented the kind of life people in the past led. There were a good range of buildings, representing a range of commercial pursuits - butcher, post office, bar, hotel, general merchants and bank. The details of the frontages were also seen as important. The committee noted the attraction of Winton to the Sunday drivers from Invercargill - something that allowed some commercial success in the town.

The commercial centre of Winton provides a good example of small town late Victorian and Edwardian architecture. As Michael Kelly has noted such buildings were once very common but the "general destruction" in the 1970s and 1980s has meant that some buildings which "might have attracted comparatively little attention in the past, are now considered of much greater significance, again by virtue of their rarity." The Winton commercial buildings represent the range of commercial activity earlier this century. Their continued survival and use, provides insight into the survival of small town rural Southland.

Physical Description


See attached photographs with physical descriptions and modification dates. Also refer cadastral map showing boundaries of the area which show historical buildings to be included as well as non- heritage buildings which fall into the proposed area zone. See page 35 for a list of these and associated Certificates of Title.

Each historic building that has been identified within the proposed area is included in the main nomination in some detail. The historic buildings in the proposed area form a cohesive representation of original buildings including a green space and memorial gates. On looking at the early photographs of the town, many places are still identifiable.(refer especially 1932 panorama of the town taken from the Post Office verandah.) Many of these replaced the early wooden buildings that succumbed to the numerous early fires that wiped out parts of the main street.

This proposal also includes some later era buildings that reflect the needs of the community and the changing architecture over time. The buildings/places dates range from 1876 through to 1940 with a concentration in the early part of the 20th century. However a number of buildings included show art deco influences during the 1930's - 40's.

Also note historical plans of some of the buildings, copies of early street photographs and the 1871 plan map of Winton in appendices. .

Current Physical Condition:

The buildings are generally in good condition and are currently all in use apart from theTheatre Royal building which is in a less well maintained condition and unused at present (Dec 2002.)

Construction Dates

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources



King of Counties, Southland County Council, Invercargill, 1977.

Winton Heritage Trail brochure, Winton Promotions Incorporated.

Archives New Zealand (Dun)

Archives New Zealand (Dunedin)

DAHG 9001 353d 24/69 Winton Post Office and Block 1915-1950. DAHG 9001 373L 24/153/0, Postal Building Winton 1947-50.

Baird, n.d.

E C Baird, 1870-1970 Winton Primary School and District High School.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Davis, 1991

Davis, Colin, and Peter Lineham, The Future of the Past: Themes in New Zealand History, Department of History, Massey University, Palmerston North, 1991.

De La Mere, 1981

A. J. De La Mere, Drink or Drought: Liquor Licensing and the Prohibition Movement, Craig Printing Co, Invercargill, 1981.

Grey, 1994

A. Grey, Aotearoa and New Zealand: A Historical Geography, Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, 1994

Griffin, 1978

R H Griffin, BNZ Winton: A Century of Service 1878-1978, BNZ Archives, Wellington, 1978.

Winton Public Library

Winton Public Library

Notes from Minutes of the Winton Borough Council, History File, 3 August 1954, 14 September 1954 and 14 December 1954.

'Winton Local History Prominent People and Businesses'.

'Suggestions and possibilities' Report of the History Sub-committee: Central Southland Pioneer Village, nd. Held in Tui Morris Thesis folder.

Winton Early Settlers Historical Records1913-1929, compiled by James Welsh.

Research by Sandra Adams and Elizabeth Pagan.

Hodgson, 1991 (1)

T. Hodgson, Looking at New Zealand Architecture, Grantham Press, Wellington, 1991.

Invercargill City Council

Invercargill City Council

Gray, J. and A. Morton, 'Invercargill City Centre Heritage List', 1998 (unpublished).

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

Miller, 1964

F.W.G Miller, Centenary 1864-1964: A History of the Southland Savings Bank, Invercargill, 1964.

New Zealand Journal of History

New Zealand Journal of History

Hamer, D.A., 'Towns in Nineteenth Century New Zealand', April 1979, 3(1)

Richardson, 1988

Peter Richardson, 'An Architecture of Empire: The Government Buildings of John Campbell in New Zealand', MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 1988

Rickard, 1991

J Rickard and Peter Spearritt, Packaging the Past? Public Histories, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1991.

Sorrell, 1999

P Sorrell (ed), The Cyclopedia of Otago and Southland, Volume 2, Dunedin City Council, 1999

Southland District Council

Southland District Council

Property Files: 2718/11, 2728/206,

2728/212, 2728/214, 2728/218,

2728/220, 2728/222, 2728/232,

2728/240, 2728/246, 2728/260,

2728/264, 2728/280, 2728/286.

Southland District Plan, April 1999, p.17 and p.66 .

Trapeznik, 2000

A. Trapeznik (ed.), Common Ground? Heritage and Public Places in New Zealand, Wellington, 2000

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this 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

Annie's Building (Annie's of Winton)
Anzac Memorial Gates
Anzac Park Oval
Bank of New Zealand
HD Farm Direct and Associated Out Buildings
Holy Trinity Church (Anglican)
Jamieson's Restaurant (Former)
Lidell's Building (Lowe Brothers, Grasshoppers Gift Shop)
McWilliam Grocery / General Merchants Building
Metzgers Building - Central Sports
Millwood Turnery
Post Office (former)
Presbyterian Church and Sunday School Building
Railway Hotel (Former)
Reap Building
Southland Savings Bank
Statesman Restaurant
Theatre Royal
Winton Hotel
Winton Pharmacy