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.
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 OF THE AREA:
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.)
Report Written By
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.
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, 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.
A. Grey, Aotearoa and New Zealand: A Historical Geography, Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, 1994
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
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)
Peter Richardson, 'An Architecture of Empire: The Government Buildings of John Campbell in New Zealand', MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 1988
J Rickard and Peter Spearritt, Packaging the Past? Public Histories, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1991.
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 .
A. Trapeznik (ed.), Common Ground? Heritage and Public Places in New Zealand, Wellington, 2000
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
Post Office (former)
Presbyterian Church and Sunday School Building
Railway Hotel (Former)
Southland Savings Bank