The Richmond Lock-up: a case of mistaken dates

The Richmond Lock-up at Washbourn Gardens, Richmond was first entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero in 1982 and recent new research by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has revealed that it was built in 1908 not 1860 as thought.

Richmond Lock-up with red roof and surrounding bush.
Richmond Lock-up (Former). Photo: 13 Feb 2014, Helen, Flickr, CC BY 2.0expand/collapse

Richmond’s first District Constable was William Stanton who lived on central Wensley Road and served from 1845 to 1854. For imprisonments, Stanton made use of a temporary lock-up (a small mud hut) on the corner of Wensley Road and Crescent Street until a purpose-built kauri lock-up was erected on the corner of Wensley Road and Oxford Street in 1860.

In 1902 Constable James Cameron argued for the lock-up to be relocated to the police station as it was understandably awkward having it at a separate location. As it transpired, a new police station was erected on the same site as the lock-up in 1908. Publications on the history of Richmond and Nelson Police District indicate that the police station was built in front of the 1860 lock-up but Public Works Department plans reveal that the 1860 lock-up was moved off site and replaced by a new lock-up as part of the police station development.

Black and white plans for the lock-up.
Lock-up at Richmond. Photo: Archives NZexpand/collapse

The Richmond Police Station was designed by Government Architect John Campbell, though the lock-up plan is signed by George Vesper Venning who worked under Campbell’s aegis from May 1903 to 1913. It comprised a police residence with attached office/station, outbuilding to the rear (housing a washhouse, coal storage and toilet) and two-cell lock-up and with separate toilet. 

The two-cell lock-up was a standard design which was used across New Zealand in the early 20th century, a time when public buildings such as police stations ‘were being erected with a renewed Vogelite enthusiasm’ according to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Director Policy Peter Richardson who did a PhD thesis on Government Architecture from 1840-1922. A review of digitised Public Works Department plans from the late 19th to early 20th century revealed this same design was used for numerous lockups across Aotearoa New Zealand such as those at Feilding (1899), Mangaweka (1903), Tākaka (1908), Blackball (1909), Pongaroa (1909), Lincoln (1909), and Shannon (1909). The design is notable for the Boyle’s roof ventilator.  

The Richmond Lock-up was only used occasionally due to the town’s low crime rate and in 1956 a new police station (with cell block) was constructed nearby on Queen Street. The former police station on the corner of Oxford Street and Wensley Road transferred into private ownership in 1959 and in 1992 the lock-up was relocated to Washbourn Gardens where it was restored by Richmond Rotary in partnership with Tasman District Council.  

Joanna Barnes-Wylie