Police Station (Former)

1183 Matawai Road, Ormond

  • Police Station (Former), Ormond.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/03/2003.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7706 Date Entered 22nd June 2007


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT GS1A/1041 (as shown on Map B in the Registration Report), and the main house, its outside toilet and their fixtures and fittings thereon. It does not include other buildings including a garage and implement shed. The registration incorporates potential archaeological deposits linked with its use as a nineteenth- and early twentieth-century police station.

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Sec 19 Town of Ormond (CT GS1A/1041), Gisborne Land District

Location description

Located on the corner of Matawai Road and Gascoigne Road.


The former Police Station at Ormond is closely linked with the history of law and order in rural Poverty Bay and the development of early civil policing in the region. Located alongside the main road connecting Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty, the timber building is traditionally considered to have been part of the Armed Constabulary Barracks at Ormond from circa 1873 to 1877, and the base for the civil police force from 1877 to 1885. It was certainly used as the police residence and station in Ormond from the time the station was reopened at the building's current site in 1886 to its closure and the transfer of policing functions to Te Karaka in 1904. From that time the building was rented as a residence and finally sold. It was occupied by the Parsons', a well-established local family, from the 1930s to 2000.

The Armed Constabulary Barracks at Ormond was integral to the resettlement by Europeans of the Poverty Bay interior and the protection of Gisborne, following attacks on the district by Te Kooti Te Arikirangi Te Turuki (?-1893) and his followers. The Armed Constabulary played an important role of the history of military European control of New Zealand, through their deployment to protect vulnerable European settlements. Ormond was the main barracks for the Poverty Bay District, the others being Gisborne and, from 1875, Te Awanui on the East Coast. Following the creation of the New Zealand Constabulary Force in 1877, the barracks incorporated a small police station which was manned by a single constable. The station served the surrounding colonial township of Ormond -at one time a larger settlement than Gisborne- as well as its rural hinterland.

In 1886, a new police station was established on the site of the current property in Ormond township. This operated as the only inland police station in the Poverty Bay District, supervising an area some 80 km across. Occupying a one-acre section, the station initially consisted of a combined dwelling and office, housed in a three-roomed rectangular building. Unusually long in its dimensions, the single-storey structure is traditionally believed to have been relocated from the earlier Barracks site, reflecting a re-use of Armed Constabulary buildings seen elsewhere in the North Island. Following concerns that the building layout was inadequate, its office was moved into a detached lock up constructed in 1887. A rear lean-to and gabled extension were also added prior to 1902, converting the main building into an irregular, L-shaped bay villa.

For most of the period until its closure in 1904, the station was occupied by a mounted constable, John Farmer, and his family. After its decommissioning, the lock up was removed and the property rented out to private individuals. Occupants included a local mechanic and handyman, Harry Parsons. Sold by the police in 1958, the main building has subsequently been added to on its southern side and at the rear. It remains in use as a private residence.

The former Ormond Police Station is considered to be both architecturally and historically significant. Thought to be a rare survival of an Armed Constabulary building, the structure's re-use by the newly-created New Zealand Constabulary Force from 1877 reflects the demilitarisation of European control. At this time, the Armed Constabulary and their stations were converted to a civil police force with a military branch. The building is also the product of an early phase of civil policing in New Zealand. It particularly reflects the history of law and order in rural areas during the late nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The former Police Station is historically significant for its likely association with the Armed Constabulary and the aftermath of Te Kooti's campaigns in Poverty Bay. The place is important for its connection with the history of policing and law and order in Poverty Bay. The building is also significant for its close association with the development of Ormond as a European settlement. It has value as a likely example of government building re-use during the New Zealand-wide economic recession of the mid 1880s.

The former Police Station is considered to be architecturally significant for incorporating a rare surviving example of timber Armed Constabulary construction. Limited other examples of Armed Constabulary construction are known in New Zealand, but include a timber courthouse and a stone magazine at Taupo (NZHPT registrations # 941 and # 942, Category II historic places), and former Blockhouse at Pungarehu (NZHPT registration # 818, Category II historic place). The former Police Station is believed to be very rare or unique for its likely incorporation of an Armed Constabulary mess room.

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

The former Police Station is believed to reflect important aspects of New Zealand history, including the formal expansion of colonial military control over inland Poverty Bay, later demilitarisation, and the conversion of Armed Constabulary into a civil police force. The place represents an early phase in the civil policing of New Zealand, and the history of law and order in rural areas.

On a local level, the place is believed to reflect the presence of the Armed Constabulary in Ormond's formative years, the settlement's strategic importance during the 1870s and its importance as a rural township and police administrative centre from the 1870s to the early 1900s. It is currently considered to be the only building that remains from the Ormond Armed Constabulary site.

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

The place is believed to be associated with the aftermath of the East Coast Wars of the 1870s, when the Armed Constabulary protected colonial settlements from attack by disenfranchised Maori. It is also associated with the New Zealand police force.

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

The building is likely to be able to provide knowledge of aspects of New Zealand history through its well-preserved early fabric, including Armed Constabulary and colonial construction techniques in Poverty Bay. It also has the potential to provide information about police work and family life in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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

The former Police Station is believed to incorporate the earliest surviving structure in Ormond, which dates to an early period in the colonial history of Poverty Bay. In its present location, the building is one of a small surviving number in Ormond that was erected in the 1880s.

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

The former Police Station is considered to be a rare example of a surviving Armed Constabulary building, and very rare or unique for incorporating an Armed Constabulary mess room. It is unusual as a surviving 1880s rural police station on its original site.

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

The former Police Station is part of a comparatively well-preserved historical landscape, which includes the colonial town layout of Ormond, late nineteenth-century buildings such as Hatten House and Coach House, and the possible archaeological remains of the Armed Constabulary site beside the Waipaoa River.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


The former Police House is one of the oldest buildings in Ormond township. Located on its current site since 1886, there is a strong local tradition that the building was originally part of the Armed Constabulary Barracks, which operated at Ormond from 1870 to 1877. To date it has not been possible to prove or disprove this tradition through documentary sources. However, the architectural style and certain features of the building - as well as other circumstantial evidence - support an 1870s construction date linked to the Armed Constabulary.

Military settlement at Ormond

The Armed Constabulary arrived in Poverty Bay in 1868 in response to the escape of Te Kooti and his followers from the Chatham Islands. Responsible for garrison duty, construction projects and civil order, the force bolstered government control of the region following Te Kooti's attack on the Matawhero area and the deaths of a number of European and Maori residents. Their main base was Turanganui (Gisborne) in the first instance, to which almost the entire European population of the district moved in case of further raids. The officer in charge, Major Westrup, was keen to establish a military presence inland in order that European settlers could move back into that area, and suggested Patutahi as a base.

Land at Te Arai (Manutuke), Patutahi and Te Muhunga (Ormond) was subsequently ceded to the Crown for redistribution in 1869. As it was finally distributed, 2023 hectares (5,000 acres) at Te Muhunga was turned over to the Crown for military settlement on 9 August 1869. In 1870 the Armed Constabulary was stationed at Ormond, and built a redoubt and blockhouse beside the Waipaoa River. The township was surveyed and military settlers were awarded sections by lot.

Over the next seven years the township of Ormond and the Armed Constabulary Barracks developed side by side. The presence of the Barracks and the rapid influx of military settlers led to a boom in businesses and services, and for some time Ormond was bigger than Gisborne. The Armed Constabulary continually developed the barracks, cutting timber for and constructing their own buildings, and planting and harvesting hay and grain crops. Over the years they constructed two barrack rooms, an orderly room with attached store and reading room, two mess rooms, officers' quarters, stables, and various slab buildings including a lockup. They also carried out a number of important public works, particularly the improvement of the notoriously muddy Ormond to Gisborne road.

The Annual Reports of the Armed Constabulary showed that the number of Armed Constabulary in the Poverty Bay District varied between 41 and 24 during 1870-76. The men were divided between Ormond, Gisborne and (from 1874) Port Awanui on the East Coast, with the bulk stationed at Ormond. The 1877 Report was made following the reorganisation of the Armed Constabulary, when the number of men in the district dropped to five. Various sources state that the numbers were much higher than this in the first instance, with 96 men stationed at Ormond in 1870-71. This appears to be based on the total figures for the Turanganui district, which included Wairoa and Te Kapu (Frasertown).

Distribution of Armed Constabulary personnel in Poverty Bay District, 1870-77

Date - Ormond - Gisborne - Awanui - Total

1870 - 21 - 20 - No station - 41

1871 - 24 - 6 - No station - 30

1872 - Not given - Not given - No station - 24

1873 - 26 - 7 - No station - 33

1874 - Not given - Not given - Not given - 36

1875 - Not given - Not given - Not given - 29

1876 - Not given - Not given - Not given - 34

1877- 1- 4 - 0 - 5

Source: Annual Reports of the Armed Constabulary, AJHR 1870-77.

The number of men stationed at Ormond was gradually reduced until there was only one mounted officer present (1877). By this time, the Armed Constabulary and the provincial police forces had been merged to form a single New Zealand Constabulary Force, which had a police branch and a military branch (Reserve Division).

Police Station at the Ormond Armed Constabulary Barracks: 1877-86

Ormond was the only inland police station in the Poverty Bay District from 1877 to 1904. Its single constable was responsible for a large area, which covered some 80 km. (50 miles) between Ormond and Motu, incorporating Ngatapa, Kanikanae and Patutahi. The earliest station was based at the Armed Constabulary Barracks site until 1885 or 1886. From 1877, the resident constable was Edward Villars, whose tenure lasted until 1881. His departure coincided with a closing of the station, although it was reopened again on 6 August 1884. A permanent replacement, however, did not arrive until 1 July 1885, when Constable John Farmer appeared for duty.

The Barracks station evidently continued in use until at least the latter part of 1885, when it was described as being dilapidated, unsuitable and threatened by erosion by the adjacent Waipaoa River. Flooding was a considerable problem in Ormond during the 1870s and 1880s. The Barracks site lay on very vulnerable land next to the river, which has since been severely eroded and is now part of the Waipaoa stopbank system. At least one nearby building, the Ormond School, was shifted to a new location in 1876 due to the risk of flooding. The problem persisted into the 1880s, when protective works appear to have been effective. However, plans were underway for a station to be created on the current site - Section 19, Town of Ormond - by December 1885.

Ormond Police Station: 1886-1904

The one-acre section in Ormond chosen by the police occupied a more central location in the township than the Armed Constabulary site, opposite land reserved for a drill shed and beside the main road through the settlement. Taking up a flat piece of ground bounded by a side road to the east, the section is not known to have had any specific prior use. Tenders for a contract to cover work on the 'Ormond Police Buildings' were invited by the District Engineer at Wanganui on 21 December 1885. A contract was signed on the 6 April 1886, although the successful bidder was not specified. The work appears to have been carried out between April and the end of May, when a final certificate was issued. The constable, John Farmer - and probably also his family - took up residence on 28 May 1886.

The police station initially consisted of a rectangular three-roomed dwelling, incorporating a bedroom at either end. The bedrooms were separated by a combined kitchen/office/public room in the centre of the building (see 1886 sketch plan in Appendix 3). The structure appears not to have included the current right-angled extension at its southern end. Access to the building was via a central front door and porch, and both the central and northern bedrooms were heated with fireplaces. Outbuildings included a woodshed, but did not incorporate stables. The allocated cost was £200.

The Inspector of Constabulary in charge of the region expressed concern that the building, and a sister structure at Waipukurau, provided inadequate accommodation for a policeman and his family, largely because they lacked separate offices and kitchens. He also considered that the lack of any associated gaol greatly impaired the constable's usefulness 'for the knowledge that there is no place of the kind will prove an incentive for the disorderly' among both Pakeha and Maori residents of the area. Partly in order to remedy these defects, a separate structure incorporating a lockup and offices was erected to the rear of the new station by the middle of 1887.

It is unclear from the documentary evidence whether the building was new or had been adapted from a structure belonging to the Armed Constabulary Barracks, as suggested by local tradition. Other police stations erected at the same time by the Public Works engineer at Wanganui, however, made use of Armed Constabulary structures, including a blockhouse at Pungarehu and barracks at Manaia in 1886-1887. The structure's lack of suitability for its intended purpose may also suggest that it had been adapted, as might the lack of suitable building timber in the Ormond area at the time. New Zealand was in the grip of an economic recession during the mid to late 1880s, when saving costs proved to be a government imperative.

A physical examination of the surviving structure supports the notion that its core may have belonged to an earlier building. In particular, its flush eaves, twelve-light windows, ledged and braced doors, and reported use of hand made nails are all consistent with a date before the mid 1880s. Two further pieces of evidence suggest that the building may have belonged to the Armed Constabulary. These are the unusual length of the main body of the structure, and its incorporation of a coved ceiling. Rather than being typical of domestic dwellings, both can be considered features of a hall-like structure such as a Constabulary mess room or barracks.

A photograph of Ormond taken in 1876 shows three such buildings arranged in a U-shape on the Armed Constabulary Barracks site, with gable ends identical to that of the police station (see Appendix 3). The easternmost bears a stepped chimney of a similar design and in the same position as one that survives on the original western wall of the station dwelling. The dimensions of the original station dwelling (approximately 12.5 m. x 3.65 m.) are also similar to those of the mess room constructed by the Ormond Armed Constabulary in 1873-1875. Reportedly measuring 11 m. x 3.65 m., this is a more likely candidate for the origins of the station building than the slightly earlier barrack room, which was erected with the wider dimensions of 12.2 m. x 5.5 m. in 1872-1873. The mess room was erected of sawn timber with roofing shingles, and had a timber floor.

The first constable to occupy the building, John Farmer, was born in Bristol, England, in 1839. He arrived in New Zealand with the British Army in 1856, and following two years in Wellington he fought in the New Zealand Wars in Auckland, Taranaki and the Waikato. Farmer left the Army in 1865 and joined the police in 1867. He worked in Hawkes Bay for several years, and at Poverty Bay from 1880 to 1885. Operating as a mounted constable, his workload while at Ormond must have been substantial if only due to the size of the area he covered. In 1901 a district constable started working out of Whatatutu, which must have been of assistance.

Living in the building with his wife and family, Farmer may have carried out some improvements, including the construction of a lean-to attached to the kitchen in 1894. A cooking range may also have been provided in the same year. Further repairs requested in 1896 may have been carried out in 1901, incorporating internal alterations, repairs to the spouting and the provision of an 1800 litre (400 gallon) water tank. In 1902 the building was described as a four-roomed residence, either reflecting the addition of the lean-to at the rear or perhaps more likely the construction of an additional room at the southern end of the structure, creating its current 'return bay' appearance. The lack of access to the latter from the main body of the house suggests that it could have been used for administrative purposes or to accommodate visiting constables. The 1887 office and lock-up were still located behind the house, while the boundary of the section appears to have been fenced.

Farmer retired in on 8 August 1904 and was replaced by Constable Myles Doyle. The district was reorganised in the same year and the station at Ormond was closed. During the reorganisation the district constable service at Whatatutu was also discontinued and a new station was opened further inland at Te Karaka, to which Constable Doyle was transferred. The Ormond lock-up was also moved to the same station. The reorganisation partly reflects the improvement of internal transport links, which made it easier to reach Ormond from the main station at Gisborne. It also followed population shifts and the development of the Gisborne-Motu railway via Te Karaka, with its associated labourers camps.

Later occupation

Although the house was no longer used as a police station, the police did not sell it, perhaps to cover the eventuality of the station reopening. By 1908, however, it was considered unfit for habitation, and a decision was made to rent it to a Mr Numan for 2/6 per week on condition that he carry out repairs. It is likely that the building was rented out to further tenants as a private residence in the following years, with repairs costing more than £50 being undertaken in 1917 and other refurbishment carried out in 1930. The latter may have taken place when the building was first rented to Harry Parsons, a mechanic at the Waikohu County Council with a reputation as a local handyman. Harry had a comprehensive workshop of his own, and was a member of one of the oldest families in Ormond. An earlier member of the Parsons family - Alexander Parsons - was a horse trader and farmer, who is believed to have arrived in the settlement in 1880.

Harry Parsons bought the house from the police in 1958 for £280, and alterations soon after included the addition of a longer lean-to at the rear, as well as possibly the conversion of two central rooms into a combined kitchen/lounge. Previous modifications had included the removal of one of the chimneys after an earthquake, repairs to the timberwork after floods in 1948, and possibly a gate to the property which continues to bear his name. He may also have been responsible for the detached workshop to the rear of the house. Members of the family occupied the building until at least 1998, when Pauline Parsons (Ruguski) was living there. Pauline died soon after this date, and the house was in the hands of executors and heirs until it was sold to the current owner, Mr Moana Dewes, in 2001. Recent alterations have included the removal of part of the lean-to at the rear and the conversion of several twelve-light windows into two-lights. Further modifications in 2005-06 comprised an extension to the rear lean-to at its northern end to incorporate an inside toilet. An adjacent metal water tank - possibly that originally installed in 1901 - was removed and replaced by a concrete tank relocated from outside the southern end of the rear lean-to. An additional lean-to was constructed against the south wall of the house in early 2007.

Physical Description


The former Police Station is located in the front (eastern) part of a flat one-acre section, surrounded by grass lawn. It is slightly set back from Matawai Road, which forms the main thoroughfare through Ormond and is part of State Highway 2. A number of outbuildings are located to the west of the main house, including an outside toilet and a couple of larger sheds. The garden contains a few shrubs and trees, such as a tall palm tree to the south.


The former Police Station is a single-storey timber structure with a gabled roof and flush eaves. Its main body is unusually long, with a short gabled return at its southern end to form an elongated L-shaped plan. A small lean-to porch is located near the centre of the eastern elevation, while a larger lean-to erected in two stages is attached to the main structure's western wall. The building is clad with overlapping timber weatherboards, with an area of galvanized metal cladding at the southern end of the west elevation. A further lean-to of timber construction exists against the southern wall of the building.

The building contains three double-hung sash windows on its eastern elevation, which all originally contained twelve lights. Two of these and a single window in the northern elevation have recently been converted to two-light sashes. The partly-enclosed porch on the eastern elevation shelters the main access into the dwelling. It incorporated trellises on either side of the steps in 1998, although these have since been removed. A large four-light sash in the eastern gable end of the projecting return is the only window in the southern end of the building. Access to a room at this end is via a four-panelled door on the southern side of the porch.

The northern gable contains a small louvred vent near its apex, while a brick chimney protrudes from a lean-to on the western side of the building. A concrete water tank is located immediately to the west of the lean-to at its northern end, fed by spouting connected to the roof gutter. The roof covering is of corrugated metal, with that on the main body of the building having been replaced comparatively recently.


The building is one room wide, containing a bedroom at its northern end, a combined kitchen and lounge in the centre, and a second bedroom towards the southern end of the structure. The first bedroom is accessed from the kitchen area, while the second is reached from the porch. The lean-to at the rear contains a bathroom in its southern part and a storage area to the north. These can be accessed from a door in the kitchen/lounge. The lean-to at the southern end of the building is believed to be designed to incorporate further bedrooms.

The main central room can be entered from the front or back porch. Its coved ceiling is lined with tongue-and-groove boards, currently covered by more recent hardboard. Its walls are also covered in hardboard, which is said by the present owner to conceal further tongue-and-groove lining. The timber floorboards have been recently stripped, while the front of a fireplace is flush with the western interior wall. The current owner replaced the old fireplace with a small cast iron grate and bricked up the remaining hole to prevent smoking. The main body of the chimney lies in the western lean-to. The north bedroom has the same features as the main room. The southern bedroom was not inspected.

The western lean-to is irregularly shaped, and accessed through the back door of the main room. It contains a small bathroom in the southern part of the structure, lined with hardboard and bearing a small louvred window. An unlined porch and storage area to the north shelters the chimney-back, and is windowless. A small square extension at its northern end has been removed, revealing a ledged-and-braced door into the lean-to.

External toilet

This consists of a small rectangular structure a short distance to the west of the house, with a timber frame and recent corrugated metal cladding. It contains a boxed timber toilet surround, and a ledged-and-braced door.

Other elements

Other outbuildings include a large L-shaped corrugated iron garage next to the outside toilet, which may have been used as Harry Parsons' workshop. The northern part of the structure was certainly extended in Parsons' lifetime. This involved a 7 m. extension to a pre-existing building. A smaller implement shed immediately to the north of this appears to be more recent. Much of the fencing north and south of the dwelling is recent post and rail. A section of mesh fencing survives fronting Matawai Road, incorporating a hooped gateway made by Harry Parsons.

Notable Features

Main house and outside toilet. The present curtilage may incorporate archaeological deposits linked to an 1887 lockup and other features connected with its use as a nineteenth- and early twentieth-century police station.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1873 - 1875

1886 -

1886 -

1894 -
Part of rear lean-to built

Room added at southern end

Removal of northernmost chimney on west side

1960 -
Rear lean-to extended

2001 - 2002
Removal of part of rear lean-to, conversion of some twelve-light windows to two-lights

2005 - 2006
Removal of external metal water tank and relocation of concrete water tank

2005 - 2006

2007 -
Lean-to on south side

Construction Details

Timber frame with weatherboard cladding, except for galvanized cladding on part of the western elevation. The structure has a brick chimney and a corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

16th May 2007

Report Written By

Martin Jones and Anita Hogan

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

1870, D-7; 1871, G-5; 1872, G-14; 1873, H-14; 1874, H-12; 1875, H-10; 1876, H-16; & 1877, H-11; 1886, D-1, p.40; & 1887, D-1, p.43.

Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)

Archives New Zealand (Wellington)

Register of Inward Correspondence of the Police Department, Register of Inward Correspondence of the Public Works Department, Register of Inward Correspondence of the Lands and Survey Department;

Letter from Inspector Bullen, Napier, to the Commissioner of Constabulary, Wellington, 29 May 1886, including attached memo, P 1, 1419/1886;

Letter from Inspector Bullen, Napier, to the Commissioner of Constabulary, Wellington, 9 June 1886, P 1, 1505/1886.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Hatten, 1969

Lily Hatten, When Gisborne Was Young, Ormond, 1969

Mackay, 1949

J A Mackay, Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z, Gisborne, 1949.

Poverty Bay Herald

Poverty Bay Herald

29 December 1885, p.2; & 20 January, 1886, p.2.

Tairawhiti Museum

Tairawhiti Museum

Photograph A128, Ormond 1876, W.F. Crawford Collection.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration 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.