Cosmopolitan Club

30 Drews Avenue And 3 Rutland Street, Whanganui

  • Cosmopolitan Club, Whanganui. The original building (1900) is in the foreground painted white; the 1911 extension is the tan building at the rear.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 14/04/2011.
  • Cosmopolitan Club, Whanganui. 1911 extention. CC BY-SA 4.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Schwede66 - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Schwede66. Date: 15/11/2018.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 2741 Date Entered 13th December 1990 Date of Effect 13th December 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 A 594 (RT SRS 358025), Wellington Land District, and the building known as Cosmopolitan Club thereon, comprising the original 1900 building and 1911 extension. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 30 May 2019.

City/District Council

Whanganui District


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 A 594 (RT SRS 358025), Wellington Land District


Whanganui’s Cosmopolitan Club, built in 1900 and extended in 1910, possesses architectural significance as well-executed and intact example of the Italianate style. It represents the development of Whanganui as a regional centre and has historical significance for its long association with the working men’s club movement.

Whanganui is home to Ngāti Tūpoho, Ngāti Tūmango and Ngā Paerangi, hapū of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. Ngā Paerangi were early inhabitants and intermarried with the descents of Turi, captain of the ancestral waka Aotea. What became the city of Whanganui was the second settlement founded by English immigration firm the New Zealand Company after Wellington. Land was purchased in 1840 and the first Pākehā settlers arrived the following year. The purchase was contentious, with conflict occurring between Māori and Pākehā in the early years of the settlement, and the Whanganui region went onto become a major site of conflict during the New Zealand Wars period of the 1860s.

Following the end of conflict, Whanganui grew rapidly to become a regional centre over the last decades of the century. In 1893 the Whanganui Cosmopolitan Club, the town’s second working men’s club, was founded. British imports, these clubs were social and self-improvement organisations for working class men, with self-improvement receding over time in favour of drinking. ‘Commensurate with a daily increasing membership’, local architect William Pinches was commissioned to design a new club building, which opened on 18 August 1900.

Pinches’ two-storey building was Italianate, a style commonly used for social clubs throughout the British Empire. Characteristic features included the porticos, pediments over the ground floor windows, ornamented cornices and conspicuous chimneys. The curved roof was unusual on a New Zealand building. In 1910 a major extension designed by Whanganui architect George McLachlan doubled the size of the club. It shared many of the same decorative features of the 1900 section but the rusticated stonework around the ground floor windows and main entrance and increased use of pilasters were points of difference. Amenities included a library, reading room, a billiards room, a cards and games room, bowling greens and a bar. The cosmopolitan club was in residence until 1979, when a new building was opened on Ridgway Street.

The Cosmopolitan Club’s exterior is largely intact. One of the ground floor pediment windows of the 1900 building on the Rutland Street side has been partially replaced with a door and modern portico and the service lane arch of the 1910 wing has been covered over. In 1992 the top-lit space on the roof of the 1910 wing, originally the billiards room, was badly damaged by fire and replaced.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Pinches, William


George McLachlan

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1900 -

1910 -

1992 -
Roof of 1910 addition

Completion Date

16th September 2020

Report Written By

Kerryn Pollock

Information Sources

Rolfe, 2000

J Rolfe, In the club: a history of the Chartered Club movement in New Zealand; Celebrity Books, Auckland, 2000

Anon., 1946

Wanganui Cosmopolitan Club: Golden Jubilee (50 Years of Progress), Whanganui, Wanganui Chronicle Print, 1946.

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.