Warkworth Town Hall

19 Neville Street And 2 Alnwick Street, Warkworth

  • Warkworth Town Hall; 1911 element (centre right), with 1937 addition (left) and 1971 kitchen (foreground).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 6/12/2006.
  • Warkworth Town Hall; 1911 element – detail of stoneware block construction.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 6/12/2006.
  • Warkworth Town Hall; 1937 addition, with mid 1960s extension to left (brick clubrooms excluded from registration on extreme left).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 6/12/2006.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7709 Date Entered 22nd June 2007


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT NA527/92 (as shown on Map A in Appendix 3 of the Registration Report) and the Town Hall, its fixtures and fittings thereon. The registration excludes the brick clubrooms fronting Alnwick Street in the northeastern part of the site, but includes the land beneath this structure.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Rodney District Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Lots 3, 4 Sec 1 Subdivision of Allot 67 Parish of Mahurangi (CT NA527/92), North Auckland Land District


The Warkworth Town Hall is a rare Australasian example of construction using glazed hollow stoneware blocks, and is linked with a strong tradition of technological innovation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Warkworth. Erected in 1911, the building was commissioned by the Warkworth Town Board, which had been established shortly before in the wake of New Zealand's transformation from British colony to Dominion. In the early 1900s, Warkworth was the largest settlement in Rodney District, and a major centre for the production of building lime and related materials. A key figure in its development was Nathaniel Wilson (1836-1919), who produced the earliest Portland cement in New Zealand and possibly the Southern Hemisphere from his industrial complex in Warkworth. Wilson was chairman of the Town Board when the hall was commissioned and laid its foundation stone on 22 June 1911, the coronation day of King George V. A symbol of civic progressiveness, the hall replaced a timber venue that had fallen into disrepair. It was erected close to a new post office and the offices of the Rodney County Council, helping to reinforce the existence of a public nucleus to the settlement.

The single-storey building was erected at a cost of £1200 by T.E. Clark (1887-1964) of R.O. Clark Ltd, a pioneer in ceramic production in New Zealand. T-shaped in plan, it incorporated a large hall with a stage wing at one end and a covered porch at the other. It was constructed using Clark's recently patented Glazed Stoneware Hollow Building Blocks (1910), an early rival to modern concrete block technology. Borrowing from American precedents, these large rectangular blocks were salt-glazed on the outsde and had a hollow interior separated into two compartments by a vertical divider. Rarely used for the construction of whole buildings in Australasia and elsewhere in the British Empire, the blocks were visually prominent in the design of the Arts and Crafts-influenced building, effectively advertising the value of Clark's products as well as promoting Warkworth as a centre of technological expertise and innovation. Clark and his father, R.O. Clark II had previously erected residential housing using such blocks close to their industrial works at Hobsonville, Auckland. However, the construction of the Town Hall and a more modest building for Rodney County Council (since demolished) in Warkworth appears to have represented a bold attempt to demonstrate the value of these products for a broader range of building types, and in a township noted for its rival, concrete technology. The structure was designed by Arthur Herrold, an Auckland-based architect who had previously overseen construction of the Cambridge Town Hall (1909).

Officially opened in October 1911, the Town Hall subsequently became a major focus of community events, including recreation, public meetings and the celebration of civic occasions. This encompassed the showing of silent films, a new medium for supplying information and entertainment to rural communities. The innovative nature of the building was reinforced in 1937 with the addition of an avant-garde extension at the front of the building, replacing the earlier porch. This was designed by Llewelyn Piper, a noted New Zealand-born architect of the mid twentieth century. Incorporating offices for the Town Board, which had previously been located in an adjacent library building on the site, it can be seen as a conscious attempt to project an association between civic administration and progressive thinking. Nationally, new political ideas introduced by the first Labour Government in 1935 were increasingly accompanied by the adoption of more contemporary forms of architecture such as Art Deco and Moderne for civic buildings.

The hall's remodeled interior of streamlined design soon became a place of recreation and gathering for large numbers of American and New Zealand troops stationed near Warkworth during the Second World War (1939-1945). Subsequent alterations have included a Council office extension in the mid 1960s and a kitchen addition in 1971. Vacated by the local council in the 1980s, the hall remains in use for community functions. Its former offices are currently tenanted.

Warkworth Town Hall is architecturally significant for its adaptation of a rare and innovative building material of American influence to a traditional New Zealand building type. It is the only civic building erected of Clark's stoneware blocks known to survive. Both its 1911 and 1937 elements are notable for expressing progressive ideas and modernity in provincial civic architecture. The place has historical value for its connections with pioneering attitudes to construction-material technology and leading figures in the field of structural innovation, notably T.E. Clark and Nathaniel Wilson. It also has associations with the development of local government, and events such as the coronation of George V and military activity in the Second World War. The place has cultural and social value for its function as a major venue for community activity and social gathering over nearly a century. It has very considerable technological importance as a rare and well-preserved example of hollow stoneware block construction in Australasia, an early rival to modern concrete block technology. It is also highly significant as part of a network of places in Warkworth that demonstrate the production and use of innovative building materials.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Warkworth Town Hall has considerable historical significance for its connections with the development of local government, particularly the creation of Town Boards in the wake of New Zealand's transformation from colony to Dominion. The place has particularly strong historical value for its connection with pioneering attitudes to construction-material technology and leading figures in this field, notably Nathaniel Wilson and T.E. Clark.

The place is also of value for its connections to events of importance in the local community, including the opening of the Warkworth Bridge, the creation of a local dairy industry, and the arrival of mains electricity in the 1930s. It is linked to events of national significance including the coronation of George V, and has particularly close connections with the Second World War due to the notable local presence of the Hauraki Regiment and US soldiers.

Warkworth Town Hall also has historical value for reflecting social and political changes that occurred following the Great Depression.

Warkworth Town Hall has architectural significance for reflecting innovative and progressive ideas in New Zealand architecture in the early and mid twentieth century. This encompasses its initial adaptation of innovative building materials influenced by American ideas to a traditional New Zealand building type, that of a town hall. It also includes its 1937 extension, which can be considered significant as an expression of progressive ideas and modernity in provincial civic architecture. The latter is of value as the work of a noted New Zealand born architect, Llewelyn Piper, who was particularly renowned for his associations with Modern, Moderne and Art Deco architecture in the mid twentieth century.

The place has very considerable technological significance as a rare example of hollow stoneware block construction in Australasia, and glazed hollow block construction for whole buildings in Australasia and beyond. It is particularly significant as a well-preserved large-scale example of the use of Clark patent blocks, a local adaptation of American ideas whose initial development predated the widespread introduction of hollow concrete block technology in New Zealand.

The town hall is technologically significant as one of a group of places linked to the production and use of pioneering construction materials in Warkworth, demonstrating the role of the settlement as a centre for innovation in New Zealand building technology.

Warkworth Town Hall has significance as a major venue of cultural activity in the township over nearly a century. It is associated with a considerable variety of cultural activities from both visiting artists and home-grown talent. These have included plays, cinema, and musical recitals.

The place has considerable social value as a leading place of gathering and meeting for the local community over much of the past century. It has been at the centre of social life for several generations, encompassing political, recreational, commemorative and other events.

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

Warkworth Town Hall reflects numerous facets of political, cultural and social history over a prolonged period. It has very considerable significance for reflecting attitudes to innovation and 'progress' in early and mid twentieth-century New Zealand. Initial construction demonstrates the leading role often taken by local authorities in the wake of New Zealand's constitutional transformation from colony to Dominion. It reflects traditions of entrepreneurship and experimentation present in provincial centres, of which Warkworth is a major example.

It strongly reflects the development of Town Boards in the early 1900s, and the close links between local government and community activity throughout much of the twentieth century. Its remodeling in 1937 can be seen to demonstrate changes in political and other ideas following the Great Depression.

The place also reflects numerous aspects of community life typical of provincial townships, including the important roles played by public entertainment, gathering and commemoration.

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

The place has strong associations with important individuals in the history of construction materials and other industrial technology in New Zealand, notably Nathaniel Wilson and T.E. Clark, whose businesses erected innovative buildings for themselves and their workforce in concrete and ceramic block. It can be considered of high significance as the only known surviving building connected with both pioneers, directly linking innovation in both the concrete and brick industries in New Zealand. Nathaniel Wilson has been considered the 'father' of cement manufacture in New Zealand, being the driving force behind the development of Wilson's Cement, believed to be the first Portland cement produced in the Southern Hemisphere. T.E. Clark's ceramic business went on to become a major partner in the Amalgamated Brick and Tile Company, which ultimately incorporated Crown Lynn and was renamed Ceramco,. Ceramco became one of New Zealand's largest companies.

The place also has associations with individuals of political and cultural significance, including the Prime Minister Sir William Massey, and pianists Lili Kraus and Richard Farrell.

Warkworth Town Hall has close associations with important events in New Zealand history, including the coronation of George V, the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II to New Zealand, and the First and Second World Wars.

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

As one of few remaining Clark patent stoneware block buildings, the place has very high potential to provide information about the production techniques and constructional use of hollow stoneware blocks, an early parallel and rival to modern concrete block technology in New Zealand.

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

There is particularly strong community association with the place on account of its close links with local democratic administration, community events and recreation over most of the last century. Initially funded by local ratepayers, it was the major place of gathering for the community until recently and still hosts local events.

The place can be considered to enjoy special or outstanding public esteem, as indicated by the large number and nature of submissions received during the public notification of this registration report.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The place has considerable significance for its use of innovative and progressive technology and design. It has very high significance for its well-preserved use of unreinforced Clark patent block technology, which remains intact a century after construction, and as a unique example of the adaptation of American-influenced hollow stoneware block technology to a civic New Zealand building type. It is also significant for incorporating an avant-garde addition designed by Llewelyn Piper, one of the leading New Zealand-born architects practicing in this country in the mid twentieth century.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The place has commemorative value for its associations with the coronation of King George V in 1911, and subsequent remembrance of military service and sacrifice on ANZAC Day.

Occupying a prominent location in the local landscape, the unusual design and technology of the building can be seen to symbolize Warkworth's unique identity.

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

The place has very considerable significance as a rare example of hollow stoneware block construction in Australasia, and glazed hollow block construction for whole buildings in Australasia and elsewhere in the British Empire. It is a rare survivor of a small group of buildings erected using Clark's patent blocks and the only civic building of this construction to survive. The latter is significant for demonstrating the spread of Clark's technology and its promoted application to buildings other than domestic structures.

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

The place has high significance as one of a group of sites in Warkworth that reflect pioneering developments in the history of construction materials in New Zealand. These include the ruins of Wilsons' Cement works, Nathaniel Wilson's house 'Riverina', an early reinforced concrete Manager's House on Wilson Road, and 1880s lime kilns on the northern side of the Mahurangi River.

The place is part of a comparatively well-preserved late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century township, which incorporates a variety of buildings of similar date. These include a former Post Office opposite the town hall on the northern side of Alnwick Street.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Piper, Llew

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Herrold , Arthur B (1874-1943)

Comparatively little is known about the early life of Arthur Bibra Herrold, although his family may have come from colonial Bengal. By 1908, Herrold was practicing architecture in Auckland, winning a competition for the design of Cambridge Town Hall (erected 1909). He also gained first prize in a competition for Parnell Library in 1909, although this was never built.

Subsequent structures for which Herrold was responsible included Monavale Homestead, Cambridge (1910), Warkworth Town Hall (1911), Taihape Town Hall (in conjunction with H.J. Doherty, 1912) and commercial premises of steel frame design in Queen Street, Auckland (1915). A keen bowls player, he also provided the plans for a Bowling Club Pavilion in Cambridge (1914) free of charge. Herrold appears to have been involved in several legal wrangles during his career, including a court case in 1916. He is believed to have left New Zealand approximately at this time, becoming a sugar plantation owner in Ba, Fiji.

Clark, T.E.

Thomas Edwin Clark (1887-1964) was born into a prominent brick-making family, based in Hobsonville, Auckland. He took over the family business of R.O. Clark Limited in 1911 following the emigration of his elder brother R.O. Clark III to Canada. Clark is generally recognised as a pioneer in New Zealand clay product manufacturing. As factory manager, he was partly responsible for the production and patenting (1909) of Clark's Patent Stoneware Blocks, a ceramic parallel to modern concrete block technology. He also patented a method of construction combining the use of the blocks with metal reinforcing rods in November 1911.

As a means of advertising the new product, Clark undertook the construction in Warkworth of the first permanent Rodney County Council office and the local town hall, both in 1911. Buildings owned by the Clark family in Hobsonville were also erected using the blocks. Although these materials were overtaken by concrete block technology, Clark continued to prosper making conventional bricks and pipes. By 1931 the Hobsonville works had closed, its clay supplies exhausted. Two years previously R.O. Clark Ltd had spearheaded a merger of four West Auckland works to form the Amalgamated Brick and Tile Company. Subsequently incorporating Crown Lynn, a noted domestic ware venture established by T.E. Clark junior, the company was renamed Ceramco in 1974. This became one of New Zealand's largest companies.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early Warkworth

Warkworth lies within the Mahurangi Purchase, a 100,000-acre coastal strip between Auckland and Te Arai, obtained by the Crown in April 1841. The purchase deed was signed by leaders of Ngati Paoa, Ngati Maru and Ngati Whanaunga, who had previously obtained the land by conquest. The area in which Warkworth was established was initially reserved for Parihoro of Ngatirongo, but sold in 1853 for £150. It was soon subdivided by the Crown and onsold to colonial settlers at a significant profit.

One of the purchasers was entrepreneur John Anderson Brown (?-1867), who formally established Warkworth with the sale of sections beside the Mahurangi River in 1854. Some years earlier Brown had erected a sawmill and workers' housing on the site, setting a precedent for Warkworth as a leading centre of technological activity in the district. The layout of the settlement followed a rectangular grid, which by 1864 contained a flour mill and store by the river at its northern end by the river, and a village green adjoining a public hall on higher ground to the south. It soon became the major settlement in Rodney County, fuelled not only by Brown's milling enterprise but also pioneering industries such as the nearby lime and cement works established by John and Nathaniel Wilson in the 1870s.

The town accordingly became the seat of early local government bodies in the area, including the Upper Mahurangi Highway Board (later Warkworth Road Board) in 1863-64 and the new Rodney County Council in the late 1870s, which encompassed much of modern Rodney District. By 1909, the settlement was sufficiently populous to merit becoming a separate town district administered by its own elected body - the Warkworth Town Board. This was facilitated by the passage of the Town Boards Act in 1908 as New Zealand sought to improve its local administration after becoming a British Dominion in 1907. In April 1912, the Warkworth Town Board became fully separate from county control.

Construction of the Town Hall (1911)

Warkworth Town District covered approximately 485 ha (1200 acres) and contained a population of about 750. Its initial electorate numbered 281 people, symptomatic of the small scale of local democratic bodies at the time. The new Board took over responsibilities for roading, sanitation and reserves, as well as the upkeep of the local public hall.

Constructed in 1864 in Bertram Street, the hall was at the centre of civic life having served variously as a library, school and general meeting place. In the early 1900s, it was used by organizations as disparate as the town band and the Rodney Mounted Rifles, but was in a state of significant disrepair. Discussions were held by its owners at the time, the Warkworth Road Board, to determine if a replacement building such as the local Masonic Lodge could be purchased, or if a special loan endorsed by ratepayers could be raised for a new structure elsewhere in the town. However, it was only with the institution of a Town Board in 1909 that action was taken.

Almost as soon as the Board was constituted, it sought authority through a poll to raise a loan of £1200 for a Town Hall. This was initially proposed to be either on the site of the old hall or on nearby land purchased in 1905, known as Section P. While the vote was carried, a further poll was undertaken in 1910 after a new site was made available on the corner of Neville and Alnwick Streets. Following approval, this land was purchased for £90. The new site was located close to the Rodney County Council office, in which the Town Board initially met. It also lay at the same road junction as a new post office under construction by the government. More centrally located than the previous hall, its proximity to these buildings helped to reinforce the existence of a civic nucleus to the settlement.

The section on which the new structure was to be erected had initially been purchased from John Anderson Brown by John Southgate in 1865, and after a spell of ownership by William and Isabella Bowen, store and boardinghouse keepers (1880-1894), it was held by trustees of the Methodist Church for fourteen years. Bought by Alfred Falwell, chemist, in 1908, the section was offered to the Town Board in July 1910 at a significant profit from Falwell's perspective.

The £1200 loan for construction was raised through the issue of debentures, purchased by Mildred Bennett and J. T. Wilson. Bennett was daughter of ex-Provincial Councillor John Shepherd, while James Wilson was a co-owner of John Wilson and Company, the town's main employer. The successful tender for the building exactly matched the loan amount, although only after an orchestra pit was removed from the specifications. A grant was also received from the government for an associated acetylene gas plant for lighting the hall.

The building's designer was A.B. Herrold, an Auckland-based architect who had previously been responsible for the Cambridge Town Hall (1909) and other structures. It appears that Herrold was invited to prepare a design for the new building in April 1910. The successful tenderer was T.E. Clark (1887-1964) of R.O. Clark Ltd, a pioneer in ceramic production in New Zealand. R.O. Clark Ltd. and their successors, the Amalgamated Brick and Tile Company Limited, were one of Auckland's major brick and ceramic producers, noted for their innovative approach to new products.

T.E. Clark erected the structure using his Patent Glazed Stoneware Hollow Building Blocks, an unusual and innovative product in Australasia and elsewhere in the British Empire. Patented in 1910, the stoneware block consisted of a large hollow rectangular brick with vertical dividers, of similar design and size to modern concrete block technology. The patent was accompanied by specifications for production, which involved extrusion and wire-cut methods. Development of the blocks was evidently influenced by hollow terra cotta precedents in the USA, which were used for whole building construction in the 1890s. The blocks, or their precursors, were first used by T.E. Clark's father, R.O. Clark II, for the construction of his family residence in 1897-1902 and other domestic structures near his large brick and ceramic works at Hobsonville. Following his death in 1905, however, it was T.E. Clark who sought to expand the use of this product as he endeavoured to rebuild the company after a period of falling revenue. He carried this out by registering new patents, creating a company to specifically handle production, and undertaking commissions such as that for Warkworth Town Hall. As produced, the blocks incorporated a salt glaze, generally mid to dark brown in colour, which made them both waterproof and distinctive in appearance.

In circa 1909, Clark's blocks were being advertised as 'artistic and everlasting', sound-absorbent, warm in summer and cool in winter, and free from dampness. They were also claimed to be clean and hygienic, and capable of being laid in a quarter of the time as bricks, saving considerable cost. The materials were touted as particularly suitable for places where sanitation was essential, such as hospitals and dairy factories, although also 'eminently suited for Gentlemen's Villas'.

The use of these blocks for the Warkworth Town Hall can be seen as a significant step in Clark's promotion of their value for building types other than residential housing. The first tender notice for the Warkworth Town Hall had specified that local lime and cement should be used, but the resulting quotes were considered too high, at £2376 and £2285. T.E. Clark subsequently stepped in to offer construction of a modified building at half of this cost. The resulting structure, built of Clark's blocks but on concrete foundations fused both ceramic and concrete technologies. Clark also gained a contract in 1911 to rebuild the adjacent Rodney County Council office in ceramic blocks at a cost of £440. Both buildings effectively advertised the value of his products, as well as promoting Warkworth as a centre for the application of technological expertise and innovation. The use of such materials appears to have built on an existing tradition of pioneering civic construction in Warkworth. The previous county office is reported to have been erected of fired clay, presumably similar to the innovative burnt clay and lime construction of Nathaniel Wilson's own home 'Riverina' in circa 1901. A post office at nearby Pohuehue is also believed to have been built of similar material.

By May 1911, the foundations of the new town hall were in place. The laying of a foundation stone on 22 June commemorated not only the new building, but also the coronation of King George V in London. Local celebrations included children saluting the flag and singing a 'Coronation Ode' at the local school in the morning, followed by a procession to the town hall, a rendition of the national anthem, and the unveiling of the hall's foundation stone. The latter was carried out by the Town Board's inaugural mayor Nathaniel Wilson (1836-1919), who had also been the first Chairman of the Rodney County Council. Wilson has been considered the 'father' of cement manufacture in New Zealand, being the driving force behind the development of Wilson's Cement, believed to be the first Portland cement produced in the Southern Hemisphere. The technological novelty of the building matched Wilson's own role at the forefront of major developments in construction fabric, and its commissioning under Wilson's guidance can be seen as an expression of interest in the effectiveness of Clark's products in relation to the development of hollow concrete block technology, which emerged in New Zealand at a similar time, and ultimately triumphed. At the foundation ceremony, Wilson promised a piano for use in the hall.

The building appears to have been finished by 14 October 1911, when it was officially opened. A contemporary photograph shows a structure of symmetrical, single-storey design incorporating a large front porch and flanking windows. Its glazed block finish is prominently displayed. The adjacent post office had also just been completed, and the buildings were together heralded as reflecting 'a rising Auckland country town' and 'progress in the Auckland country districts'. Internally, the hall contained a voluminous open space measuring 15m) x 12m (50' x 40'), with a 4.5m (15') stage at its southern end and two anterooms, each 4.5m x 3.7m (15' x 12') in size. The building was large in comparison with the town's population, and incorporated gas lighting installed by the Transcendent Acetylene Contracting Company. Other town halls in New Zealand were inaugurated as flagship buildings at a similar time, reflecting a desire to display effective civic leadership. The symbolic importance of the Warkworth hall to its community is demonstrated by the anniversary of its opening being commemorated for many years afterwards.

Following construction of the new building, the old public hall was sold to local farmers.

Early use and modification (1911-1936)

The town hall served as a focal point for community activities, including recreation, public meetings and the celebration of civic occasions. From soon after its construction it was used for showing films, a new medium for supplying information and entertainment to rural communities. The first moving pictures were introduced to Warkworth by A. Rayner and F. Civil in 1913, apparently the only screenings in the district due to problems in transporting equipment to smaller venues. By 1931, 'talkies' were being shown.

In April 1914, Prime Minister William Massey (1856-1925) was entertained at a banquet in the hall after he had opened a new bridge over the Mahurangi at Warkworth, a structure commissioned by the Town Board. Massey was one of New Zealand's most significant politicians, founding the Reform Party in 1909 and serving as Prime Minister from July 1912 until his death in 1925. The bridge added to the Board's impressive list of improvements in its early years, as did the construction of a concrete-fronted library immediately east of the hall in 1913-1914. The public reading room of the library served as the Board's meeting chamber until a Board room was added to the town hall in 1937.

The hall also has close connections with the community's involvement in the First World War (1914-1918). After the outbreak of conflict, it is believed to have been used to farewell local troops, and to welcome them back on their return. Those who served were subsequently commemorated in a Roll of Honour, which hung inside the building until at least the 1950s. Later commemorations of ANZAC Day (25 April) are also said to have taken place in the hall in wet weather. Other events and receptions included the celebration of weddings, such as that between local identities Alice Ashton and Harold Leslie in 1925.

Public meetings held in the hall included those involving important decisions in the town's history. In 1918, Wilson's cement business amalgamated with other firms to form Wilson's (N.Z.) Portland Cement Co. Ltd, after which depopulation occurred as the company gradually deployed its workforce to a new base of operations at Portland, Whangarei. Within ten years, the Warkworth plant had closed down. As the local economy stagnated, townsfolk endeavoured to find ways to stimulate employment.

In May 1922, a public meeting was held in the hall to discuss the formation of a co-operative butter factory. This became a reality after a further gathering at the hall attended by 50 settlers in December 1924 appointed the first provisional directors of the Rodney Co-operative Dairy Co. Ltd. By August 1925, a factory had been built and had 66 suppliers, which doubled to 121 by the 1926-1927 season. After winning the Weddell Cup for the best quality butter produced in the Auckland region in 1928, the factory was able to expand. Dairying remained a mainstay of the local economy for a considerable period afterwards.

Depopulation exacerbated by the Great Depression appears to have had an impact on the hall. During the early 1920s, it is described as having had a seating capacity of 600 at a time when the town's population was approximately 750. By 1933, the capacity had been reduced to 420. This still remained a high proportion of the total population of 500, reflecting the ongoing importance of the building to the community. It is currently unclear what changes a reduction in capacity may have had on the physical fabric of the hall. Extensive modifications were, however, made soon after the Depression lifted, as Warkworth's economy began to improve.

1937 additions

During the mid 1930s, plans were hatched to include civic administration within the building. This followed the election of the first Labour Government of Joseph Michael Savage in 1935, which introduced a self-consciously progressive and 'modernising' approach to government along more egalitarian lines. In 1936, the Town Board raised a loan of £3300 to enable additions to the hall to be made, which would incorporate a clerk's office, a new meeting chamber for the Board, and a strong room. Prominently positioned to flank the hall's main public entrance from Alnwick Street, construction of the new rooms could be seen as bringing about a closer identification between civic government and other community activities carried out in the hall.

The architect chosen for the venture was Llewelyn Piper, who went on to design important structures of modern architectural style such as the Auckland Electric Power Board headquarters in Newmarket (1946-1951). Piper's design for the addition to Warkworth Town Hall was of self-consciously modern appearance, deliberately contrasting with the 1911 structure. Nationally, the new political ideas introduced by the first Labour Government were increasingly accompanied by the adoption of more contemporary forms of architecture such as Art Deco and Moderne for civic buildings, as shown by the Public Works Department's landmark designs for the Stout Street and Jean Batten Place Departmental Buildings in Wellington and Auckland respectively. Designed prior to December 1936, Piper's plans for the extension to Warkworth Town Hall can similarly be seen as projecting an association between civic administration and progressive thinking.

As well as providing municipal rooms, plans for the two-storey plastered brick addition involved demolition of the previous porch and incorporation of a ticket box, foyer, stall shop and toilets at downstairs level. Stairs in the foyer led to a new upstairs gallery and projection box, improving the room and facilities available in the hall. The gallery was to hold 217 people, bringing the total capacity to 779. The internal appearance of the hall was further modernised by redecoration and the removal of earlier columns, although other elements such as ornamental pressed metal screens either side of the stage were retained.

As part of the modernisation process, the refurbished building was to incorporate electric fixtures and fittings, including internal power points designed to have a decorative as well as functional effect. The arrival of mains electricity in Warkworth had been commemorated by a ceremony in the Town Hall on 10th December 1936, a week before tenders were due to be received for construction work. Rural electrification was itself symbolic of the progress made under the first Labour government to deliver practical improvements to outlying communities. It also allowed the integration of an increasingly large and prosperous rural area into the Auckland economy. The official opening for the modified building took place on 17 September 1937.

Activities carried out in the remodeled hall were similarly affected by policies introduced by the first Labour government, which placed a greater emphasis on cultural issues and education. The government renewed funding to the Workers' Education Association (WEA), whose programme led directly to the formation of the Warkworth Playreading Club prior to 1938. The Club regularly used the hall for practice and shows and, as the Warkworth Players, still produced plays into at least the 1950s. Other groups founded at a similar time included the Warkworth Junior Players, who won the British Drama League's Cup in Auckland and went on to present a wide variety of children's plays.

Use during the Second World War and later modifications (1939-current)

The onset of the Second World War (1939-1945) had a considerable impact on Warkworth, especially from May 1942 when the settlement became a base for the Hauraki Regiment. From November 1943 to May 1944, Warkworth was also a stationing post for a large number of American troops until the Japanese campaign in the Pacific had been reversed. At this time, the hall was at the hub of the community's social life, with dances and daily showings of films for the troops. A temporary hospital was also created in a marquee next to the hall in order to treat wounded from the Hauraki Regiment. As a result of the influx, further extensions were evidently proposed.

Immediately after the war, formation of the Adult Education Centre in Auckland (1946) led to the direct sponsorship of Community Arts Centres in rural communities. In Warkworth, a committee was formed to bring more music, art and drama to the town. Visiting artists included internationally-acclaimed pianists such as Lili Kraus (1903-1986) and the New Zealander Richard Farrell (1926-1958), while touring companies performed drama as diverse as Shakesperian plays and marionette shows. Sports were also encouraged. In 1948, a badminton club was formed.

Films, however, remained a mainstay, with some screenings such as a feature about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1953, drawing nearly 700 people. The popularity of the Queen was demonstrated when she visited Warkworth in December 1953, shortly after her coronation, at which time the town hall was decorated with coloured lights for the occasion. In 1954, the town hall was described as 'civic centre, picture theatre, dance hall, concert chamber-it has for more than 40 years been of the greatest value to the community'. It was also employed for other occasions, as diverse as flower shows held by the Warkworth Beautifying Society and polling booths on election night. In the same year (1954), the Town Board was reconstituted as the Warkworth Town Council.

A small concrete block extension to the east of the council offices was added in the mid 1960s, to a design by Rodney Design Service. In 1971, a brick-clad supper room or kitchen was added onto the southern side of the hall in order to enable greater funds to be gathered from social events held in the hall such as weddings. This was designed by Brooker and Whitmore on a tender of $5150. In 1976, the Town Council became the Warkworth District Community Council. Council activities were taken over by the Rodney District Council ten years later, since when the municipal offices have been used for other purposes.

The town hall currently remains in use for community events with a restriction on use of the stage and on audience size to a maximum of 75 persons. In March 2003, the venue was employed for the finals of the Northern Golden Shears sheep-shearing competition. Spaces at the front of the building, including the former municipal office, are occupied by tenants. These include a unisex hairdresser and a Womens' Resource Centre. The building remains in the ownership of Rodney District Council.

Physical Description


Warkworth Town Hall is located in the centre of Warkworth, a sizeable township some 65 km north of Auckland. The building stands in the southern part of the town centre, in a prominent location beside Neville Street, a major access road connecting the central business district with State Highway 1. The site lies on the southeastern corner of a junction between Neville and Alnwick Streets, on the opposite corner to a 1911 former post office (NZHPT Registration # 496, Category II historic place). Several other historic structures are located further north on Neville Street, including Broomfield House (formerly known as Gino's Restaurant, NZHPT Registration # 485, Category II historic place).

Many other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century structures are located nearby. These include a Masonic Hall (NZHPT Registration # 492), Courthouse (NZHPT Registration # 489), St Columba's Church (Presbyterian) (NZHPT Registration # 500) and the former Warkworth Hotel (also known as the Warkworth Establishment, NZHPT Registration # 502). All are Category II historic places. Warkworth contains a comparatively high proportion of historic places (and, potentially, nineteenth-century archaeological sites) within its central business district.

The town hall occupies the western part of a large rectangular plot, bounded by Neville Street to the west and Alnwick Street to the north. The ground surface of the plot is comparatively flat. The town hall building is orientated with its main axis running parallel to Neville Street, and is surrounded by a sizeable area used for car-parking. A detached, single-storey brick building, used as clubrooms, lies in the northeastern corner of the site. It occupies the position of an early twentieth-century library. The land beneath the brick building is included within the registration, although the building itself is excluded.


The town hall building is approximately T-shaped in plan, incorporating two main sections. The earliest element, constructed in 1911, consists of a large single-storey hall with a stage wing extending east and west from its southern end. This element is constructed of Clark patent stoneware blocks, and has concrete footings. A short, 1937 concrete addition is appended to its northern end, extending the building to the pavement of Alnwick Street. This is of two-storey appearance, although a similar height to the earlier hall. A corrugated iron roof spans both the 1911 and 1937 sections. Shorter, single-storey additions are appended to the eastern side of the building, along its Alnwick Street frontage (mid 1960s), and to the western side of the hall (1971). The first of these is built of concrete blocks, the second of timber framing with brick cladding.

Stylistically, the building presents a variety of influences. The 1911 element incorporates aspects of Arts and Crafts architectural design, including shingled gables at each end of its stage wing. The 1937 addition, however, is of cubic 'Moderne' design with Art Deco-influenced ornamentation. The contrast between the two demonstrates attitudes to 'modernity' and 'progress' in the late 1930s, where changes in political and social ideas were often reflected architecturally by the adoption of consciously new, forward-looking styles.

North elevation

The 1937 northern façade dominates the view of the building from Alnwick Street. This contains the main entrance to the building, with large flanking windows at ground floor level on either side. There are three sets of windows at first floor level, separated by verticals containing relief decoration of Art Deco style. The single-storey addition on Alnwick Street to the east contains two sets of windows of similar, though not identical, design to those on the first floor of the main façade.

East elevation

The eastern façade incorporates an entrance and two small windows to the mid 1960s addition. There are no windows at first floor level on the 1937 addition above, although it does contain doors for an emergency exit.

The remainder of the elevation consists of the 1911 hall and the eastern part of its stage wing. The hall contains four windows, and a double door at its southern end next to the stage wing. The latter has been inserted in the place of an earlier window, probably in or before 1937. An earlier entrance immediately to the north has been blocked up and replaced by a window, evidently at the same time.

The stage wing has a window and external steps to a door at stage level. Glazed Clark patent stoneware blocks form the external finish throughout the 1911 elements, showing signs of their production process in the form of linear wire-cut marks. The blocks vary in colour, but are generally a brown or dark brown colour. They have been constructed using stretcher bond coursing. The top of the stage wing gable incorporates a timber bargeboard and shingles.

Southern elevation

The southern facade contains double doors at stage level for loading and unloading scenery and/or other equipment. The elevation also incorporates flanking windows, and small access doors for importing goods and/or materials at basement level and to the western wing of the stage. As with most of the eastern façade, the finish consists of brown-glazed Clark patent stoneware blocks. Blocks towards the southwestern corner of the building with a more orange hue may represent a repair.

Western elevation

The western façade largely mirrors the eastern elevation, although it incorporates a single-storey brick addition erected in 1971 rather than a concrete 1960s extension. The 1971 addition is lit by several small rectangular windows and is accessed externally from a door in its northern end. The door and window arrangement of the hall behind is identical to that on the eastern side, with the same stoneware block finish.


The town hall interior contains a lobby with flanking rooms at its northern end, and a large hall with raised stage at its southern end. The hall is flanked to one side by a kitchen, and there are two rooms beneath the stage at basement level. A balcony for the hall is located at the southern end of the building, immediately above the lobby.

The central lobby contains an ornamental tessellated floor and Art Deco-style ceiling, and provides access to downstairs toilets and a staircase to the balcony. The former ticket office is on its western side. Other flanking rooms, now used as a shop and offices, are accessed from outside doorways on either side of the lobby entrance. Most of the rooms to the east are located in the 1960s extension. The lobby also provides access to the main hall.

The hall is a large space with a timber floor and streamlined ceiling of Art Deco-style design. It contains lined walls, incorporating ornamental detail, also of Art Deco design. While most of its features appear to be linked to remodeling in the 1930s, it incorporates details of the 1911 hall. These include ornamental pressed metal screens and remnants of a timber dado and lining on either side of the raised stage. An original double door on the western side of the stage leads up to stage level.

A plaster lining pre-dating the 1937 modifications also exists to the south of the double-door exits on both the east and west elevations. This incorporates outlines of original features, such as covered staircases to the stage area. That on the western side also contains a pencil sketch of a cowboy, of unknown date. Chalk drawings pre-dating the installation of modern elements also survive on the southern side of the timber framing for the proscenium arch of the stage.

A kitchen to the west of the hall is of modern design, while the northern wall of the hall currently contains photographs and other information outlining the history of the hall and aspects of its community use up to the present day.

Both the behind-stage area and the two rooms beneath the stage are unlined and, like much of the town hall exterior, display the Clark patent stoneware bricks. The basement area is currently reached by a staircase at the eastern end of the stage. One of the basement rooms shows evidence of concrete footings beneath the stoneware block walls.


Clark's glazed stoneware block buildings, and hollow block construction in Australasia

Internationally, systems for erecting whole buildings of hollow terra cotta blocks were developed in the USA during the mid 1890s, where they remained in use into the 1920s and 1930s. Versions with ornamental finishes were advertised in America at an early stage, although most appear to have been designed for concealment beneath stucco and plaster. Glazed hollow terra cotta blocks may have been mostly used as a facing material for structures of alternative construction, where they became known as 'ashlars', laid similarly to bricks. Clark's blocks appear to have been a rare and groundbreaking variant in Australasia and elsewhere in the British Empire for whole building design. Hollow terra cotta blocks never became a primary structural material in Australia and they appear to have been rarely, if ever, used as an exposed wall finish in England. Their use in New Zealand can be considered to reflect a pioneering adaptation of American building technology to local materials and building types, with a particular emphasis on glazing for a quality finish.

In spite of T.E. Clark's heavy promotion of glazed stoneware blocks, most of the recognized examples using their construction for entire buildings are connected to the Clark family themselves and the buildings they erected for their employees near their works at Hobsonville, on the northern Waitemata Harbour. Clark's Patent Blocks Ltd, the company formed to make the stoneware materials, went into liquidation in 1914, just three years after completion of the Warkworth Town Hall.

Buildings known or believed to have been erected of Clark's stoneware blocks, include:

i) - Clark House (also referred to as Ngaroma), 25 Clark Road, Hobsonville, 1897-1902 (NZHPT Registration # 126, Category I historic place). This is the earliest structure currently known to have been erected using Clark's stoneware blocks, and was built by R.O. Clark II as an imposing home for himself and his family. It overlooks the site of Clark's former brick and pottery works and is still standing.

ii) - Outbuildings for workers' cottages, Clark's Lane, Hobsonville, circa 1902. At least two outbuildings of stoneware block construction were erected to the rear of a row of detached timber houses by R.O. Clark II in circa 1902. More may have existed. When visited in 2000, the outbuilding behind the house at 6 Clark's Lane contained a washhouse with copper wash tub in one room and a toilet in another. The outbuildings appear to have been recently demolished.

iii) - 'Wood's Place', Hobsonville, circa 1906. This cottage built for the Wood family was a square dwelling with a small service room projecting from a side wall. The building with hipped roof and a front verandah featured in a circa 1909 advertisement for Clarks' stoneware blocks, where it was described as 'a nice 5-roomed cottage'. It appears not to have survived.

iv) - T.E. Clark's house (now Monterey Park), Upper Harbour Drive, Hobsonville, circa 1908. The house was gifted to T.E. Clark by his family at his marriage in April 1908 to Margaret Morison, of a prominent Mahurangi settler family. Also known as Duke or Duke's House, the building featured in the circa 1909 advertisement as 'the Manager's villa'. T.E. Clark had been appointed works manager some time prior to 1909. The square fronted villa with verandahs to the front and rear, has a bay off one side. Ancillary buildings constructed of stoneware blocks included a servant's quarters and a creamery (the former still intact and the latter in a 'half-demolished' state in 1991). The main building has been modified by the removal of a rear wall, although this was subsequently reinstated. Other modifications have included re-roofing, the installation of replica ceilings and repairs to the verandah.

v) - Boarding House and Engineer's House (now Hobsonville Childcare centre, 18 Clark Road, Hobsonville, pre-1909. This rectangular structure with hipped roof and front verandah is also known as the 'three-unit house'. The two-unit 'Boarding House' provided housing for single men, the attached 'Engineer's House' was the third unit. The structure is still standing, but has been modified internally with the removal of at least one party wall.

vi) - House, 5 Pohutukawa Drive, Whenuapai, circa 1902-1914. The house may have been built around 1909, possibly for the Wake family. The walls were plastered in 1975 concealing the stoneware block construction material. An attic storey and garage was added in 1982. The house is still standing but is not visibly recognizable as a stoneware block structure.

vii) - Rodney County Council office, Alnwick Street, Warkworth, 1911. This public building was erected by T.E. Clark in the same year as the Warkworth Town Hall but appears to have been of smaller, domestic-style design and dimensions. The structure was heavily modified in the 1930s and demolished approximately 20 years ago.

viii) - Store/butcher shop, 2 Clark Road, Hobsonville, (n.d.). Consisting of a small rectangular building with hipped roof, the store was built by Clark Potteries to serve its workers. Located on the north side of Clark Road and the corner of Hobsonville Road, the building later became a butcher shop. The structure was removed in the early 1980s to make way for a retail development.

ix) - R.J. Pollock Panelbeaters, 634 New North Road, Morningside (n.d.). This building is of stoneware block construction, but has been partially plastered and painted. The building is visible on a 1940s aerial photo, but its age and history have not been researched. The stoneware blocks appear to be of similar size to Clark's and are partly visible on the exterior side walls.

Warkworth Town Hall is the only town hall believed to have been constructed of Clark's patent blocks, and the only civic building of this construction type known to survive. It is a rare and well-preserved demonstration of the expansion of this technology from domestic structures to other building types in New Zealand, a significant step in the spread of Clark's promotion of its products.

The building is also the only currently known example to demonstrate a close link between structural innovators in the brick and ceramic industry with similar pioneers in concrete technology. This can be considered significant in view the close design connection between Clark's blocks and modern hollow concrete blocks, which became widespread from the second decade of the 1900s.

Places linked with innovative construction materials in Warkworth

The Warkworth Town Hall is one of several places linked with experimental and pioneering construction technology and materials in Warkworth. Other registered places include Wilsons' Cement Works Ruins (NZHPT Registration # 82, Category I historic place) where the first Portland Cement in New Zealand was produced, Riverina (Formerly Nathaniel Wilson's House) (NZHPT Registration # 498, Category II historic place) which incorporates an experimental burnt clay and lime fabric, and Wilsons' Manager's House (Former) (NZHPT Registration # 2600 Category II historic place) which is a noted early example of reinforced concrete construction. The remains of several 1880s lime kilns also exist immediately to the north of Warkworth.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1911 -

1937 -
Lobby and office extension on northern side, and internal modifications

Office extension on eastern side

Kitchen extension on western side

Construction Details

1911 building - Hollow stoneware blocks, with concrete foundations and corrugated iron roof

1937 addition - plastered brick, with corrugated iron roof

Mid 1960s addition - concrete block

1971 addition - timber framing with brick cladding

Completion Date

5th June 2007

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland Weekly News

Auckland Weekly News

29 June 1911, p.49 & pictorial supplement p.4; 26 October 1911, pictorial supplement p.10

Keys, 1954

Keys, H.J., Mahurangi: The Story of Warkworth, New Zealand, Warkworth, 1954

Lewis, nd

Lewis, Miles, 'Australian Building: A Cultural Investigation', http://www.abp.unimelb.edu.au/staff/milesbl/australian%20building/pdfs/6.00.pdf

Mabbett, 1977

H. Mabbett, The Rock and the Sky: The Story of Rodney County, Auckland, 1977

Piper, 1937

Piper & Brooker, 'Plan of additional lighting points Warkworth Town Hall' [Auckland, 1937] (copy held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Rodney and Otamatea Times

Rodney and Otamatea Times,' Programme for the Official Opening of the Warkworth Town Hall, Wednesday October 4, 1911', Warkworth, 1911

Scott, 1979

Dick Scott, Fire on the Clay: The Pakeha Comes to West Auckland, Auckland, 1979

Thornton, 1996

Geoffrey Thornton, Cast in Concrete: Concrete Construction in New Zealand 1850-1939, Auckland, 1996

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.