Pridham Hall (New Plymouth Boys High School)

95-103 Eliot Street, New Plymouth

  • Pridham Hall.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 22/04/2011.
  • Interior of Pridham Hall.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 1/11/2002.
  • Pridam Hall.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 22/04/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 147 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Pt Lots 3-7 DP4911 Secs1704- 1712 1719-1731 etc-NPBHS


Since it was completed in 1919 Pridham Hall has served as a symbol of New Plymouth Boys' High School.

The school was established by an Act of Parliament in 1878 and officially opened four years later on a reserve set aside for the purpose on the first plans of the city of New Plymouth. The first headmaster was Ernest Pridham, a Master of the Arts graduate from Dublin who ran the school until his retirement in 1911. The school became increasingly popular after this date following the establishment of boarding facilities, an official uniform, and the segregation of girls, first admitted in 1885, from boys. Attempting to overcome the perception of the school as a class institution for sons of wealthy farmers, the headmaster had also made it known that no boy would be refused entry provided he was of good character and had an incentive to work.

In 1916, three years after girls attended the school for the last time, a disastrous fire started in the school gymnasium and destroyed the main buildings of the school. Temporary accommodation was found in the nearby racecourse buildings until the new building envisaged by Headmaster William Moyes and the school board could be erected.

It was agreed that the new building should be a comprehensive complex that would include all the facilities required by the growing roll and embody the spirit and rich prospects of the school. The board applied to the Institute of Architects for a suitably eminent architect to design the building. The president, William A. Cumming, was selected. As the official architect for the Auckland Grammar School Board, Cumming had considerable experience in designing buildings for educational purposes. The cost of Cumming's proposal was £12,350 and as the board only had £3500 insurance money, it applied to the Government for the remaining funds. The government, still recovering from the vast expenditure on defence during the First World War, refused to grant the amount requested. Months of negotiation resulted in an agreement that the government would provide just £5000 towards the costs, which meant that 'luxuries' such as the assembly hall, west wing and the bell tower would have to be omitted. Convinced that a hall was an integral part of a school, Moyes initiated a public appeal that resulted in sufficient funds to erect both the hall and the west wing of the building.

Construction started in early 1918 and was completed the following year by Boon Bros. of New Plymouth. The two storey building is built side-on to the road and overlooks the cricket pavilion. Made of reinforced concrete with a roughcast exterior, the front façade of the building includes a large balcony designed to allow spectators to watch the cricket. The west wing of the building is dominated by a large Elizabethan style window. The east wing remained unfinished until the Napier earthquake of 1931 destroyed all hope of erecting the bell tower. It was then built to the same height as the west wing and capped with a battlement-like finish. The roof is of pressed metal tiles, a material meant to resemble the more expensive slate, and features a large roof lantern on the north façade. Edwardian Freestyle in design, the building includes several classrooms and laboratories built around a large assembly hall. Timber panelling and wooden columns are a feature of the hall. Named after the first headmaster, Pridham Hall was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Sir James Allen [1855-1942] in 1919.

Pridham Hall allowed the entire school to be taught in a single building. The assembly hall became the spiritual and physical heart of the school. Yet the school role continued to increase beyond all expectations of the school board, and in 1923, two extra classrooms were incorporated into the building. Three years later a fire destroyed the new classrooms in the east wing and badly scorched the roof of the assembly hall. The students were transferred once more to the racecourse buildings until the damage was repaired later that year, again by the Boon Bros. By 1927 an enlarged curriculum and increased number of students meant Pridham Hall could no longer contain the entire school. Extra classrooms were erected on the school grounds. By 1965 the assembly hall was too small to hold the entire school safely. Funds for a new hall were approved and the government agreed to contribute a larger amount than was usual towards the new hall as it had not been able to fund the full cost of the original hall. The first school assembly was held in the new building in 1972. Although the assembly hall in Pridham Hall continues to be used for house meetings, the building is now primarily a class-room block used for lessons in English, history, geography, and social studies. The building has been recently renovated and is in excellent condition.

Pridham Hall has national significance as the work of eminent New Zealand architect William Cumming. New Plymouth Boys' High School is one of New Zealand's best known secondary schools and, as the oldest remaining structure in the school and the primary building for the majority of the school's history, Pridham Hall is significant as the focus of the school's identity. The size and layout of the Hall is of historical interest as a indicator of the size of the school in the early twentieth century. Its unique façade is historically noteworthy as a permanent reminder of the financial stringencies practiced by the government following the First World War, and the assembly hall stands as testimony to the generosity and support of the local community.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

New Plymouth Boys' High School, established in 1882, is one of New Zealand's best known secondary schools. Pridham Hall, and the school proper, have had long historical associations with the Taranaki community, many of whom are old boys of the school.


The Edwardian Free Style adapted and modernised the historical architectural styles of Britain such as Gothic, Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Baroque. Pridham Hall combines the Elizabethan and Jacobean influences from palaces, mansions and collegiate buildings built in Britain.

Pridham Hall is a substantial example of the Edwardian Free Style in New Zealand and shows the continuing influence of British trends on New Zealand architecture well into the twentieth century.


Pridham Hall is the northern-most building of New Plymouth Boys' High School and is partly concealed by trees and by the Word War I Memorial Gates. In itself the building is not a landmark but the school as a whole forms a large complex in a residential part of New Plymouth and contributes much to streetscape quality in this area.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Cumming, William Arthur

Cumming (1860-1947) became a member of the Auckland Grammar School Board in 1903 and served as the Board's architect and property supervisor until his retirement in 1932. It was in this capacity that much of his work, including the designs for Auckland Girls' Grammar School in (conjunction with Goldsbro' and Wade, 1907), Mount Albert Grammar School (1922) and Takapuna Grammar School (1926 and additions 1931), was carried out. Cumming also designed the grounds at Auckland Grammar School and supervised the construction of the school's memorial library.

Although Cumming was involved with many educational buildings he designed a variety of other buildings including Flackson's Factory, Karangahape Road (1922), and St Kevin's Arcade (with Thomas Mahoney and Sons, 1923-26).

Cumming was an inaugural member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects formed in 1905 and a President of the Institute. He was the first director of the School of Architecture at Auckland University College.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Established by the New Plymouth High School Act of 1878, New Plymouth High School (later New Plymouth Boys' High School) was officially opened on 30 January 1882. Ernest Pridham (d.1927) was the first principal of the school, which originally had a roll of 30. Following Pridham's retirement in 1911, William Henry Moyes (d.1949) was appointed principal. He remained there for 29 years.

The original wooden school building, built 1881, was destroyed by fire on 21 August 1916. Only the headmaster's house (destroyed by fire in 1961) and extensions to the east were saved. Alternative accommodation was obtained in the Taranaki Jockey Club buildings.

To obtain the services of a leading New Zealand architect, the Board of Governors approached the New Zealand Institute of Architects, asking for its recommendation. As a result W A Cumming, President of the Institute, was selected to design the new school building.

By late 1917 the Government and Board had come to an agreement to use a Government grant of £5,000 and £3,500 insurance for the rebuilding. While this total allowed the Board to proceed with Cumming's concept, a shortage of funds meant that the planned assembly hall and west wing had to be eliminated from the scheme. When construction began there was much agitation for the reinstatement of an assembly hall and friends of the school set up a fundraising committee. The response was so generous that the first drive produced sufficient funds for the hall plus a surplus. The Board thereupon decided to proceed with the west wing also.

The new school building, on the site of the original, was occupied at the beginning of 1919 and was officially opened by Sir James Allen, Acting Prime Minister, on 3 April 1919. It took the name Pridham Hall in honour of the school's first principal.

In 1919 the school had a role of 356 including boarders. Since that time numbers have grown considerably, peaking at over 1000. Likewise the school buildings have been extensively developed. While Pridham Hall no longer serves as the school's assembly hall, its thirteen classrooms are still used regularly and a variety of groups meet in the former assembly hall.

Physical Description


Although not of the Edwardian period this two storey collegiate building belongs in spirit to the Edwardian Free style, combining Elizabethan and Jacobean influences.

Elizabethan elements include the many chimneys and the large windows which dominate the wall area and are divided into a grid pattern by mullions and transoms. The window arrangement is orderly, with round headed windows on the upper floor of the north facade and square headed windows elsewhere. Arched entries echo the windows of the upper level. The gable ends are treated in a Jacobean manner, with curved and straight gables, exhibiting a Dutch influence, and plaster mouldings. A large roof lantern adds interest to the building and emphasis to the north entry.

The north and west facades have an irregular arrangement of masses, resulting in a variety of roof heights. By contrast the south and east facades reflect the classroom planning within, the only decoration being the grid windows, simple window mouldings, eaves brackets and roughcast surface treatment. The continuity of these four elements gives unity to the building as a whole.

A large, central hall dominates the interior. This space, originally the school's assembly hall, is lit by the clerestory of round headed windows in the north facade. Double height pilasters to the springing line of each arch are echoed by a series of octagonal columns on the opposite side of the hall. This plastered colonnade and the upper wall surface, also plastered, are contrasted by the extensive use of wood in the exposed braced arch trusses, tongue and grooved ceiling, panelled walls and matai flooring. The colonnade has a gallery at first floor level providing access to the upper classrooms. Classrooms at ground floor level open directly off the hall.


1920s: Stairwell added to west facade

1926: Reinstatement of southern classrooms gutted by fire. No structural damage

1940s: First floor addition to northwest corner, timber framed, originally designed (1917) as a tower

1987: Welsh roof slates replaced with pressed metal to resemble the slates

Notable Features

Assembly Hall

Timber panelling and wooden columns in the Assembly Hall

Balcony overlooking the cricket pavilion

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1919 -

1923 -
Two extra classrooms incorporated

1926 -
Fire damage in east wing of building repaired

1952 -
East wing completed with crenulated finish

1991 -
Renovations - window frames replaced

1996 -

Construction Details

Constructed of reinforced concrete with a rough-cast exterior and a roof of pressed metal tiles. Interior of Assembly Hall features wooden panelling and timber columns.

Completion Date

5th December 2002

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Alexander, 1982

W. Alexander, The First Hundred Years; Celebrating the Centenary of New Plymouth Boys' High School 1882-1982, New Plymouth, 1982

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT H2/681

New Zealand Building Progress

New Zealand Building Progress

April 1919, Vol. XIV No. 8 p.488.

Taranaki Herald

'New Chapel at Mangorei', Taranaki Herald, 16 Oct 1869, p. 2.

'New Plymouth Boys' High School, official opening of New Building', 4 April 1919.

'Disastrous Fire at Boys' High School, Several Classrooms Gutted', 12 June 1926.

'New Plymouth History Newspaper Articles', Vol. 2, pp.157-158, 161, 163-164, held at Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

'New Plymouth History Newspaper Articles 1983' pp. 52, 54, 56-59, 63, 75, 125-126, 130-135 held at Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.


The Taranakian, New Plymouth Boys' High School Magazine

1916 - 1926; English Department, New Plymouth Boys' High School 75th Jubilee, vol. 46, no. 1, 1957

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.