St Bathans' School Ruins


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Where once some forty children tried to scrawl out their lessons using frozen ink in a cold classroom, there stand the ruins of St Bathans’ School. The stone building, built as a single room school with an addition added to accommodate junior pupils in the 1890s, saw generations of St Bathans children through their primary education until closure in the 1940s. Having at first held classes in a church building, by 1874 the St Bathans’ community was pushing for a purpose built school. In August 1874 the St Bathans’ School Committee applied to the Otago Education Board for a £90 grant to aid in the construction of a stone school. The building was designed by the Otago Education Board architect John Somerville (1834-1905). Scottish born Somerville arrived in Dunedin in 1858, and began business as a carpenter and joiner, doing his own design work. He was appointed architect to the Otago Education Board by the Provincial Council, a position he held for until around 1900. The school buildings in Otago were designed by him and he supervised their construction. The contractor was Richard Wheeler. In April 1875 the new stone building, located on a rise behind the town, was opened, a ‘Grand Ball’ marking the occasion. As gold mining declined, so did the population and the school roll. By the 1930s only the smaller room was needed as a schoolroom. The final blow came for the school building itself in 1943 when it was damaged during an earthquake. Teaching was transferred to the vacant two-storied post office, but in 1949 the school was finally closed and leased to the local pest destruction board. The ruins are now in private ownership. The building originally consisted of a single roomed stone structure with lancet style windows (the traditional Gothic style). A second room was added later. This had gabled end walls, rectangular windows and a chimney and fireplace. The stonework appears to have been random rubble brought to course. The original schoolroom, at the north end of the ruins closest to the neighbouring St. Patrick’s church and cemetery is now in a very poor condition. Most of the stone has tumbled into the former structure, and some no doubt has been removed, although on the north elevation the wall remains standing to above the height of the windows, with the lancet design of the windows still evident. The walls of the second schoolroom remain standing to roof height, along with the chimney, with the rectangular windows intact. The St Bathans’ School Ruins have significance illustrating the importance of education for the local community and is a reminder of history of this once bustling township. Attending school and being part of the education system is a universal experience for New Zealanders. The St Bathans’ School, built shortly after the establishment of free compulsory secular education under the 1877 Education Act, represents the experience of many New Zealanders in rural schools in small country towns, and its design reflects the teaching methods of the time. Additions made to the school over time reflect the changing fortunes of the community, and the school’s later closure is part of the history of the decline in rural populations, which saw the closure of a number of small schools, including others in Central Otago. In 2011 a roofless ruin remains, providing locals and visitors alike with a poignant reminder of the once bustling gold mining town.

St Bathans’ School Ruins | Sarah Gallagher | 03/12/2020 | Heritage New Zealand
St Bathans' School Ruins. Image courtesy of | PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite | 20/02/2013 | Phil Braithwaite
St Bathans’ School Ruins. Image courtesy of | Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl | 01/08/2015 | Shellie Evans
St Bathans’ School Ruins. Image courtesy of | Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl | 01/08/2015 | Shellie Evans



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 2011

Date of Effect

6th June 2011

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 343888 (RT 180203) and Legal Road, Otago Land District and the structure known as St Bathans' School Ruins thereon. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 343888 (RT 180203) and Legal Road, Otago Land District

Location Description

The St Bathans’ School Ruins are located alongside unformed legal road off Cross Street in St Bathans.

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