Historical Significance or Value
The Gisborne Club has significant historical value, as one of two gentlemen's clubs in Gisborne, that are built reminders of the isolation of the area, the independence of its citizens and associated need to develop such a social infrastructure. The Club is synonymous with a patriarchal social structure that has largely disappeared in New Zealand. The Club was strictly the preserve of the male population, with an occasional 'ladies night'. The Club survived for 109 years being wound up in December 2004.
The former Gisborne Club is a significant building as part of the Gisborne built and social heritage. It is significant as one of few known surviving public building designs by Graham & Brown and as the work of Patrick (Pat) Graham demonstrates the architect's technical innovation and his ability to design commercial scale buildings. Although a number of Graham's designs for residential buildings survive, particularly in Gisborne, most of the public and commercial buildings he designed have been demolished such as the Gisborne Opera House (c.1913) Gisborne High School (c.1914) and Patutahi Grandstand (c.1908).
The building is a typical and well-preserved example of Colonial Italianate architecture, built in native timbers. It has richly timbered interiors and the quality and bulk of the main billiard room is impressive. The building spaces and facilities reflect the status of such gentlemen's clubs in nineteenth- and twentieth-century New Zealand.
The former Club building contributes to the townscape of the original commercial area of Gisborne being one of eleven heritage buildings in the block bounded by Customhouse, Childers and Lowe Streets.
Social and Cultural
The Gisborne Club has significant social and cultural significance to the region. Members of the Gisborne Club were drawn from a wide range of men from different occupational and social backgrounds. The Club grew and prospered as Gisborne itself grew. Likewise it struggled during times of economic downturn. The building is the physical embodiment of the dreams, memories and aspirations of the people who helped make Gisborne what it is today. As such the building is quintessentially Gisborne.
Its members and regular visitors included men from all spheres of business and other endeavours, some of who went on to represent New Zealand in sport and other pursuits.
The Club also had a special association with the New Zealand Navy and had a formal hosting arrangement that enabled the men from vessels in port, to be welcomed at all times, as special visitors.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
As a gentlemen's Gentlemen's Cclub it is an important representation of the past patriarchal society of New Zealand and its close ties to English institutions.
The Club reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand history, including the social culture amongst the male members of such Clubs, and the importance men placed on sporting endeavour, in particular, New Zealand's national sport of rugby union but also horse racing and breeding, equestrian eventing, rowing, cricket and game fishing. It also strongly reflects New Zealand's associations with international snooker championships.
It is representative of important aspects of colonial society, such as all-male associations and business networks. It demonstrates the implanting and nurturing of patriarchal based social traditions introduced from Britain.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
A regular visitor at the Club was the Honorable Sir James Carroll, Prime Minister for periods in 1909 and 1911; members included a number of All Blacks among them Ian Kirkpatrick and Maori All Black Kahu Bullivant; three members of the 1964 NZ equestrian team for the Tokyo Olympics; several Governoers General visited and in recent times the city's current Mayor, Meng Foon was a member. The Club has some significant associations with the NZ Navy and other visiting navies.
The place was designed by a technically innovative New Zealand architect, Patrick Graham who around the time he designed the former Gisborne Club building was constructing buildings in reinforced concrete at a time when timber was the norm. Graham was an adaptable architect able to design in the style of a particular era and did this competently.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
There is strong community association with the placeThere is very high public esteem for and association with the place; the calibere of its members in business and political arenas over the past 109 years has meant that the Club has had a major influence over the economic and social development and growth of the town and beyond. Members actively supported local sporting clubs such as rowing, game fishing, horse racing and breeding and cricket.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The design of the former Gisborne Club building is of value as an example of a Colonial Italianate design and of the colonial emulation (on a lesser scale) of the grandeur of gentlemen's Gentlemen's Clubs in Britain.
The building's well-preserved interiors provide information about nineteenth early twentieth-century life in New Zealand from the use of décor to social strata attitudes. Significant amounts of early 1900s fabric remain intact within the building.
The building's architect, Patrick Graham was a technically innovative architect who designed several impressive residential and commercial buildings. using
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
It has significant local commemorative value. The two honours boards commemorating Club members who lost their lives in the First and Second World WarsWWI & II, are poignant physical reminders of the devastation of Gisborne's male population, in particular, during those periods in New Zealand's history.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The Gisborne Club forms part of a significant wider historical and cultural landscape of built heritage. The block bounded by Lowe Street, Childers Road and Customhouse Street contains 11 ten other heritage buildings that are on the Gisborne District Council's heritage schedule, of which and six five of those are also on the NZHPT Register. They are: the former Gisborne Club; N.Z.I. Building (NZHPT Registration # 3553, Category II historic place) Insurance; Nolan and & Skeet Building; Credit House Finance Limited Building; the Public Trust buildingBuilding (NZHPT Registration # 3552, Category II historic place); the Poverty Bay Club;, the Lancaster House (Bain & Sheppard Building, also known as Lancaster House, which includes its grain store/stables attached to the rear (NZHPT Registration # 3550, Category II historic place); Night Bright Engineering (Grain Store/stables) previously part of the Lancaster House building; the Allan Allen Trading Co. Building, also known as ( Murray Roberts & Co. Building) (NZHPT Registration # 3549, Category II historic place); the Bennett & Sherratt Building, also known as Escape Screenprinters; the New Zealand Shipping Co. building Building (Trades & Labour Hall); and the Tuuranganui Club, also known as the Union Steamship Co. building Building (NZHPT Registration # 3549, Category II historic place). [refer to Appendix II, IIa].
THE GENTLEMEN'S CLUB CONCEPT
Gentlemen's clubs developed in nineteenth-century Britain as a popular social convention that enabled men's social and business networks to be maintained. The concept quickly caught on in New Zealand and such clubs became popular throughout the country from the late nineteenth century.
"The role of the clubs was of course much more than that of a haven for gentlemen to escape to. As today they were places where men could meet and talk 'off the record', where it is said many a career was made and many a cabinet decision decided over a lengthy dinner. They were places where those with similar interests could meet, where ambitious young politicians could make the acquaintance of the party leaders, artists could meet patrons and poets publishers. On a less elevated level the aspiring dandy could feast his eyes on the accredited beau, sportsmen could gamble, gluttons indulge and gossips chattel... "The clubs [in Britain] were similar in style, although each tried to retain its own distinctive flavour and each was governed by their rules of conduct and honour. The facilities they offered their members were predicated by comfort and privacy. The buildings were furnished like grand private houses, with thick carpets, marble fireplaces, rich upholstery, beautiful looking glassware and extremely comfortable chairs."
Although less grand than its British counterparts, or indeed other more grandiose examples in New Zealand such as Auckland's Northern Club, the Gisborne Club was nevertheless an imposing building in its context with generous internal spaces and rich interior finishes, fittings and chattels including marble statuary commissioned in Italy by first Club President and prominent local businessman and philanthropist, William Barrington Miller. The building was no small achievement for a membership that even at its peak, did not exceed 440 in number.
It is likely that the Gisborne Club building's survival in a substantially intact, original condition, owes much to its purpose. Members of such clubs tended to be conservative and to therefore retain those core elements of the building's interior and exterior fabric that reinforced the 'gentlemanly ambience' of such clubs.
FORMATION OF THE GISBORNE CLUB
The formation of the Gisborne Club is believed to have occurred at a meeting on 26 December 1895. The Club was destined to remain an integral part of Gisborne society for 109 years, being wound-up in December 2004. It was supported through both good times and bad; in its first century it endured a major fire, two World Wars, the Great Depression, various earthquakes and more minor annoyances such as Cyclone Bola. Many ex-members fondly remember the full Friday nights, playing cards and snooker and the great friendships that evolved between members. From 1904 the Club had its own premises in Lowe Street. The stately building of an "attractive appearance" was well received by its members, but burnt down in 1910. Plans for a replacement were quickly put in place for a similar building in style and scale and on the same site and footprint of the original building. These plans were in doubt when the costs for the design were received, but the grandeur of the replacement building eventually proceeded. The Club's centennial publication notes that the Honorable Sir James Carroll (1857-1926) wired the Club with an offer of financial support. Carroll was the MP for Gisborne, and New Zealand's first Maori-born Minister of Native Affairs at the time. The new building was formally opened with a dinner on 12 July 1911. The Club's association with the building ended in 2004 when the Club was wound up and the building sold.
The Gisborne Club is believed to have been formed at a meeting held on Boxing Day, 1895, starting with a modest subscription of 1s per week, an entrance fee of one guinea, and an outlay on furniture of £36 16s 6d. There were 31 members including well known Gisborne citizens such as the Adair brothers, Mr. DeCosta, the Pettie brothers, and Mr. Muir. The first Committee comprised Messrs Colebourne, Cole, Allan, H. Maude, Foster and Miller, with Mr. H. G. Watson as Hon. Secretary.
The man generally accepted as being the driving force behind the foundation of the Club is William Barrington Miller. He followed in his father's footsteps and took over the family tobacconist's business on what became known as Miller's Corner, on the corner of Lowe Street and Gladstone Road, upon his father's death in 1897. Although unconfirmed, this may have been the venue for the meetings of the years prior to the erection of the Club's first building in 1904. Miller was drawn to the entertainment world and was the first to introduce moving pictures to Gisborne and the first person in the district to acquire a gramophone. In 1912 he left Gisborne for a successful career in theatrical management first in Australia and then Britain. During his time in Gisborne he made many generous gifts and was involved with a number of clubs and associations. His name is still associated with a trust helping young people, the 'Barrington Miller Educational Trust'. He was the first Gisborne Club President, remaining in the position from 1895 to 1909, and was made a life member in 1917.
The founding of the Club was at a time when the vast hinterland of the district including the East Coast and demanding areas such as Matawai and Motu and other remote parts were being brought into farming by determined and independent individuals.
The small commercial community that had formed in the township seems to have provided the impetus for the original establishment of the club, but there is little doubt that many of the early members were farmers who were eager for social contact on their visits to town.
In July 1902, the members authorized the purchase of a section of land suitable for club premises and the present site of two adjoining sections in Lowe Street was secured 12 months later. Prior to this members would gather at another venue for their meetings and social occasions. Starting from small beginnings, the record of the Club was one of steady progress. From 31 members to a roll of 120 in 1905, with a corresponding strengthening of finance. This speaks volumes for the popularity of an institution in a small isolated community and as a Club that had only been in existence for 10 years.
The first Club building was completed in 1904 by Mackrell and Colley at a cost of £985-00, "The building is a roomy one of bold architecture, and has been subdivided in a way to thoroughly meet requirements in the way of private comfort, social companionship and amusement." Unfortunately, on 15 October 1910 the Club building was destroyed by fire. The fire broke out about 9am in the lavatory near the back of the building and within minutes the building was fully alight.
As news of the fire spread, Club members quickly gathered on the spot, and assisted by others, all the contents of the front rooms were salvaged, including the handsome marble statuary presented to the Club by William Miller that he had commissioned in Italy while on tour (unfortunately now sold on). The club members were made honorary members of the Poverty Bay Club after the fire and allowed the use of a room.
The Club wasted no time in holding a meeting to form a Building Committee and begin plans for the rebuilding of the Club. They decided to rebuild in the same location, and in a similar style and scale as the original building.
Graham and Brown were employed as the architects, and the tender to build the Club was won by Messrs J. Colley and Co. for £1389. It was completed in 1911 and the formal opening dinner held on 12 July 1911.
Soon after the Club was opened, extensions were added. These included a small billiard room at the back of the building in 1912 and a one-floor lean-to on the southern side of the Club in 1914 to serve as a supper room. At the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918), numerous members volunteered for active service with 77 names being listed on the Club's Roll of Honour. Many of these served at Gallipoli and some did not return. A founding member of the Club, Francis Twisleton, was awarded the Military Cross for his part in the Gallipoli campaign. He was killed in Palestine in 1917.
During at least part of the inter-war period, subscriptions for men under 25 was half price with free entrance. At the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945), free entrance to the Club was extended to all those who volunteered for military service. Along with many other district organisations the Club went into a temporary decline during this period with so many members serving overseas. Over 100 individuals are mentioned on the Club's Roll of Honour from the Second World War. But with the end of hostilities they began to drift back, eager for the fellowship the Club offered. The years following the war could well be described as "the golden years" for the Gisborne Club, which enjoyed something of a renaissance, with growth in membership and associated prosperity that endured until the end of the century.
A few of the many social reminiscences recorded in the Club's centennial publication and gleaned from recent interviews with long standing Club members create a strong sense of the social aspects of the Club, are worth highlighting.
The membership was made up of a diverse range of people. They were mainly business and professional members of the community - accountants, lawyers, shop owners, stock agents, and also a strong representation of farmers. In the Club's early days there were two categories of membership, country and town, with those living over 20 miles away obtaining a reduced subscription rate because of the traveling involved in coming to town.
This diverse membership meant that it was common for members to see each other around town, resulting in many great friendships being forged. The members interviewed have all commented on the great friendships made, stating that this was the greatest asset of the Club together with the family atmosphere that it provided. As Eric Trafford put it, "When you met anybody else (who was also a member) you sort of felt like you were brothers, nothing special, but you just felt that way."
The members were of various ages, although most did not join before they were 30. It was quite common to find within the membership two generations of the same family, for example a father and son. The Trafford family set a record within the club, as four brothers were members at the same time, and two were made Life Members.
ASSOCIATIONS WITH PROMINENT CITIZENS
There have been many prominent members of the Gisborne community that have had associations with the Gisborne Club and who contributed to the town's growth and development. There were lawyers and businessmen, many of whom became the chairman of the Club, and who were involved in a number of other clubs and organizations, locally and nationally. For example F. Wrey Nolan, the first crown prosecutor appointed in Gisborne, Keith Woodward, chair for more than three decades, also a local lawyer, for whom the Woodward Lounge was named. Other members included Alan Harry (Bill) De Costa, who had huge involvement in the community and was awarded the MBE in 1971 for his many services to the community; Arthur Toye, now a well-known name throughout New Zealand for his retailing endeavours, Dick Kearney, a local lawyer and various members of the City Council including Noel Bull, Gisborne Mayor from 1941-50. Gisborne's current Mayor, Meng Foon was also a member.
There have also been well known visitors to the club, such as the Governors General Sir Dennis Blundel and Sir Bernard Fergusson.
THE CLUB'S SPORTING ASSOCIATIONS
Throughout its history the Gisborne Club has been closely associated with the game of snooker, and the tables, sold on closure of the club, were a focal point for both serious and friendly games for many years.
Some of the country's finest players have enjoyed a game at the Club's tables, along with world-class professionals. In the 1960s and 70s the club played host to the professional players who toured the country, often visiting annually. Touring professionals that played at the Club included Paddy Morgan, Eddie Charlton, Hurricane Higgins, Ray Reardon, Clark McConachie and Walter Lindrum. In the last few years a highly popular mercantile teams' snooker dash gave many locals the chance to take up the game and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the billiards room with its giant red couches, high ceilings and ornate paneling. The club had four billiard tables and most members were avid players, each having their own cue that would grace one of the wall brackets.
The Club has strong associations with rugby football at a local and national level with several members who became All Blacks, including Maori All Black Kahu Bullivant, Keith Bagley, Ian Kirkpatrick, John Collins, Hamish McDonald and Mike Parkinson. Club member and international referee Birnie Wolstenholme, later became president and then patron of the NZ Rugby Union. Other life members of the "Union" from the Gisborne Club were the late Judge Geoff Jeune of the Maori Land Court and Martin Lynch who served as treasurer of the "Union". In 1995 Club member Richard Harris was the chairman of the "Union" and Richard Crawshaw was elected to the council of the NZ Rugby Union.
On an equestrian front, three Gisborne Club members were part of the 1964 Olympic Games team to go to Tokyo. Gisborne's Bruce Hansen lead a team consisting also of his brother Graeme and Charlie Matthews along with Hawkes Bay equestrian Adrian White.
Competition between the Gisborne and Poverty Bay Club members was friendly but intense in snooker but also in other sports. An annual cricket match that was played between the two clubs, was another serious affair with players appropriately attired in cricket whites and striped blazers and all the protocol of the great game properly followed.
The Club also had a long association with the Gisborne Rowing Club, many members involved in the racing and breeding industry and in game fishing.
The Club has hosted a number of dinners to farewell district sportsmen. Many members remember the one for All Black captain Ian Kirkpatrick in the 1960s and the presentation that was made to him.
THE CLUB'S NAVAL ASSOCIATIONS
An interesting social aspect of the Club was its association with both the New Zealand Navy and naval personnel visiting from other countries. The Club established a strong rapport with visiting navy vessels that often tied up in the Gisborne harbour while on duty or carrying out other tasks such as surveying. The officers were often made honorary members, and so would be invited to attend the Club for drinks, and the premises were free for their use if requested. They often stayed in port for a few days or as long as a week. Several plaques from the visiting navies that were in Gisborne for the 1969 bicentenary celebration were given to the Club and displayed on the walls.
ADAPTING TO CHANGING SOCIAL PATTERNS
By 1985 the membership of the club was 440 with a waiting list of people wanting to join.
Changes in the licensing laws and shop closing hours however were soon to have an effect. The change in licensed premises closing times from 6 pm to 10 pm, followed by legislative changes that saw many sporting clubs obtain bar licences, took members away from the club. Stricter enforcement of drink driving laws also encouraged people to relax at home. A steady decline saw the membership drop to just over 250 members during the 1990s.
Over the last 10 years the Club's administration endeavoured to take a progressive approach and showed a willingness to change and be innovative. In 1987 it was decided that members' wives and partners should be allowed into the club at all times with the use of all facilities except for the billiards room.
In 1989 members were asked if they wanted to introduce gaming machines into the club and whether they would accept more relaxed dress standards. A questionnaire produced strong support for a more liberal dress code and the gaming machines proved a useful source of revenue as well as providing entertainment. The more relaxed dress code meant people could come straight from work, instead of going home to change beforehand. One success was the introduction of a mercantile snooker competition that allowed many other people to become aware of what the club has to offer.
As times changed so did the attraction of the club. It became less and less common to see people eat lunch at the club every day and to read the papers in the morning - later the club did not open until 4pm. The front door became permanently locked for security reasons and members' access was through the back doors.
The Gisborne Club closed in December 2004, after 109 years with its closure being attributed to the declining membership combined with the state of the building itself. Maintenance costs were becoming too high and were not able to be covered by the club. The roof was leaking and because of the loss of income from subscriptions there was nothing to cover the costs and so the Club was wound up and the building sold. By 2004 the Club's membership had declined to 95 members.
The present building sits on the footprint of the original building (1904) in Lowe Street, Gisborne in a block of eleven surviving and significant heritage buildings, including the Poverty Bay Club (five of which are on the NZHPT Register). This block is one of the earliest commercial blocks in Gisborne with close links to the wharf, early shops and residential areas. Today the block continues to be occupied mainly by commercial premises. Regrettably, a number of heritage buildings have been lost in this area.
The Club is vacant. The car park for the Club to the south side is believed to have sealed the archaeological remains of a timber building, which may have been the stables for both the Poverty Bay and Gisborne Clubs.
The exterior design and footprint of the club is intentionally very similar to that of the original Gisborne Club building (1904-1910).
The structure incorporates the original two-storey timber-framed building fronting Lowe Street and at least three timber, concrete block and steel framed single storied basic lean-to additions to the east and south. Its appearance is a mixture of styles and periods, but the original building is still the dominant structure both visually and physically. [Note: some of the additions - lying outside the boundaries of the proposed registration - were demolished in late 2005].
The main elevation is to Lowe Street and features the original building with the subordinate additions evident to the south. The dominant element from the street is the main body of the building with the projecting entry tower thrusting forward. There has been no change to the original fenestration on either floor facing Lowe Street.
There has however, been alteration to and removal of the more decorative features of the building. The building has steep pitched corrugated iron roofs, exposed rafters, double hung timber windows, window eyebrows, wooden rusticated weatherboards and facings, but has lost ornate chimneys, spires, roof ventilators, external wall shingles and lead light windows that gave the building its character. The Italianate style is still evident, but much of the detail has gone.
The ground floor comprises an entry, offices, two spacious billiard rooms, service rooms, toilets, a dining room, bars, chiller space and storage rooms. There are side and rear entrances in addition to the main entry off Lowe Street.
The upper floor comprises a spacious meeting room and toilets.
There are no corridors. The main spaces are the two central double height billiard rooms and a side bar and dining facility.
The original building featured one billiard room, offices and service rooms and the upper floor meeting room.
The building has seen many alterations over the years, but in the original part the essential character and detail remains. The original staircase has been relocated but was well positioned to maximize use of the lower and upper floor spaces.
The building is a series of large linked spaces generally without corridors. It is two storied only in the original part that fronts Lowe Street. There has been interior re-planning, with the relocation of the staircase being the main change. Service rooms to both sides and the rear are also more recent additions. The original building is substantially intact and features two impressive billiard rooms. The upper floor is a large open meeting room and toilets.
Significant internal features include the fine wooden staircase (relocated from its original position) exposed trusses, coffered ceilings, wooden glazed doors and joinery, the original Club honours boards (First and Second World Wars), painted wall paneling, fireplace surrounds, large ceiling beams, paneled and pressed steel ceilings, generous wooden skirtings, some of the well proportioned lead light windows, steel grilles and traditional, quality ironmongery.
1910 - 1911
The first known permit for the club was issued in January 1911. It is unknown if this reflects the completion date of construction
Addition of small billiard room at rear of existing billiard room
additions designed by Burr & Mirfield, consisting of a one-floor lean-to on south side of the building to serve as a supper room
Interior alterations, architect L G Williams, including relocation of staircase and installation of curving screens (with upper parts glazed), between lounge and stairwell
Interior alterations by Glengarry of Glengarry, Glengarry & Corson
Manager's quarters designed by Glengarry, Glengarry and Corson.
The quarters consisted of three bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, laundry and bathroom, the kitchen being the main cooking area for the club as it was the manager's wife who usually did the club catering.
Interior alterations by Glengarry of Glengarry, Glengarry & Corson.
The downstairs reading room was converted into an enlarged billiard room with new supporting beams, while the lounge was, altered into a third billiard room.
Addition of a new toilet block, and entranceway from car park.
Alterations and upgrade of bar area, Nicoll Architects.
Relocated to Valley Road, Gisborne.
The Club is constructed of timber framed walls with piled raised flooring. The roof is trussed in part and pitched over the two-storey section. The whole building is clad in rusticated weatherboards and the roofing is corrugated steel. All external joinery is timber.
1922, 1924, 1927
Gisborne District Council
Gisborne District Council
14 Dec 2012
J Jones, The Gisborne Club 1895-1995: 100 Year Centenary, Gisborne, 1995
Reece Hopkinson 12 May 2005;
Gerard Maclaurin, May, 2005,
Eric Trafford, 12 May 2005
Poverty Bay Herald
Poverty Bay Herald
Sheila Robinson and John Berry (eds.), Gisborne Exposed: The Photographs of William Crawford 1874-1913, Gisborne, 1990
Photographic Collection including Crawford Collection
University of Auckland
University of Auckland
New Zealand Building Progress, May 1908;, September 1913;, February 1914;, September 1914; June 1923;, July 1923;
NZ Architecture & Building Review;
Modern Homes of NZ;
NZ Design Review, Vol. I, NOo. 1, July-Aug, 1950
Venetia Murray, High Society - A Social History of the Regency Period 1788-1830, London, 1998.
Gisborne Club Archives
Gisborne Club Archives
Gisborne Club Minute Books from 11/01/2001 to 2004
A fully referenced version of this 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.