Hardy Street Girls' School (Former)

319 Hardy Street, NELSON

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The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed 27 July 2007. Opened in 1860 at the beginning of the Provincial Council era, and at a time of development for education in Nelson, the Hardy Street Girls' School eventually closed in 1897 when the Education Board moved into the building. Gee, in his history of Nelson Central School 1878-1978, comments that the 'Nelson settlement can fairly claim to have pioneered education in New Zealand'. The first public school, headed by William Moore, was founded in 1842. The New Zealand Company donated a site in Bridge Street for the school and gave a pound for pound subsidy towards the cost of a building which opened in September 1842. The first private school was formed prior to this in February 1842 by 'a number of Christians' and was headed by Matthew Campbell. In December that same year it would move to premises in Tasman Street. This school would be the predecessor of the Nelson School Society's school in Bridge Street, colloquially known as 'the Matthew Campbell School'. The Nelson School Society, which aimed to encourage, promote and provide for the education of children in the settlement area, first met in 1842. It opened its school in Bridge Street in April 1844. Except for a few private and denominational schools, such as Bishop's School, a school in Nile Street founded by Bishop Selwyn shortly before 'the Matthew Campbell School' in January 1844, early education in Nelson was in the hands of the Nelson School Society. The Hardy Street Girls' School belongs to the second phase of educational development in Nelson, which was prompted by the establishment of the Provincial Council in 1853. Following the establishment of the Provincial Council, the Nelson School Society initially received more generous grants from public funds. However a Commission on Education appointed by the Council in 1855 found 'that only 600 children of a population of 6000 were attending day schools and that even where the Nelson School Society had established schools, little more than half of the children attended them'. In 1856 the Nelson Education Act, which was based on the recommendations of the commission, was passed by the Provincial Council giving control to a Central Board of Education. Many of the Nelson School Society schools would be leased to this Board and by 1857 their day schools would largely cease to exist. Construction of the girls' and infants' school in Hardy Street began after the site was conveyed to the Superintendent of Nelson on 2 November 1860. It was originally granted to George William Schroder in 1851. The architect for the building was Maxwell Bury (1825-c1892), the architect of the Provincial Council buildings, and the builder was John Scott. The school opened on 18 February 1861 and contained a girls' schoolroom, an infants' schoolroom, a classroom and a sitting and sleeping room for the mistress. A 1861 report from the inspector of schools commented that: "The infant school, established in the beginning of the year, at the outset relieved the existing schools from their greatest embarrassment and hindrance, a number of children too young to be taught much, yet requiring constant attention and watchfulness, and a peculiar mode of treatment. The mistress, Mrs Cook, had previously been engaged in similar duties in England; and the children who had been sent from the school are reported upon favourably by their present teachers. The school, therefore, both directly and indirectly, by its own training in habits of attention, order and obedience, and in giving the first rudiments of instruction, and by the indirect relief and aid it gives the other schools, is calculated to have a very useful influence". It was also recorded that the girls school was divided into upper and lower levels, or first and second division. By the late 1860s correspondence regarding the school relates to it becoming overcrowded. A verandah and outdoor toilet were added to the building in 1882. By 1886 erection of a new school building in Hardy Street had been proposed but it was eventually decided to improve the existing building. Extra classrooms were added to the north-west of the building during the 1880s, and possibly another extra classroom designed by John Scott was added in 1887. Though the situation had improved by the early 1890s staff and students left the school for others. The school would eventually close in 1897 and the Nelson Central Board of Education, (later the Nelson Education Board) moved into the building. The Nelson Education Board remained in the building until 1928 when, at the suggestion of the Education Board, the Public Works Department (becoming the Ministry of Works in 1943) occupied the building. Further extensions were made to the building in the 1950s, on the north- east side of the building . In 1986 the flat roof of this extension would be altered by the Ministry of Works to match the rest of the building. Following corporatisation in 1 April 1988, Works and Development Services Corporation (NZ) Ltd occupied the building, as well as Jamieson House, 19 Hardy Street, the residence and surgery of the late Dr Jamieson, which was purchased in June 1964 and annexed to the school building soon after. Nelson Polytechnic occupied the remainder of the building from the beginning of 1989 and in more recent times has come to occupy the whole of the building.

Hardy Street Girls' School with pillar letter box. Image courtesy of vallance.photography@xtra.co.nz | Francis Vallance | Francis Vallance



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

2nd February 1991

Date of Effect

2nd February 1991

City/District Council

Nelson City


Nelson Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 1-2 DP 558957 (RTs 983227; 983228), Nelson Land District, and the buildings known as, and associated with, Hardy Street Girls School (Former) thereon.

Legal description

Lots 1-2 DP 558957 (RTs 983227; 983228), Nelson Land District

Location Description

Located within the Albion Square Historic Area which is bounded on the north and south side by Hardy Street and Bridge Street, Nelson.

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