Cadman Bath House (Former)

Whitaker Street, Te Aroha Hot Springs Domain, Te Aroha

  • Cadman Bath House (Former), Te Aroha. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Paul Le Roy . Taken By: Paul Le Roy – Minicooperd. Date: 21/01/2017.
  • Cadman Bath House (Former), Te Aroha. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Ulrich Lange - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ulrich Lange. Date: 10/01/2010.
  • Cadman Bath House (Former), Te Aroha around 1900. Collections of the Alexander Turnbul Library. Reference Number: 1/2-171768-G.
    Copyright: No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: Unknown. Date: 1/06/1900.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 761 Date Entered 11th December 2003 Date of Effect 11th December 2003


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the structure, its footings and the ground beneath its footprint (see plan in Appendix 4). It includes all fixtures and finishes.

City/District Council

Matamata-Piako District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Sec 16 Blk IX Aroha SD (Recreation Reserve NZ Gazette 1882 p.1860)


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Hot Springs Domain at Te Aroha was the most popular geothermal resort in New Zealand. The Domain was initially established as a reserve in 1881, incorporating an area of 9.1 hectares (20 acres) on the lower slopes of Mount Te Aroha. The many hot springs in this area lay within the traditional territory of Ngati Rahiri, a hapu of Ngati Maru of Hauraki, and had long been frequented by Maori for their perceived healing qualities. By the late 1870s the site had become a popular destination for Pakeha visitors, with tourist numbers increasing after the discovery of gold on Mount Te Aroha in 1880 and the development of Te Aroha township as a mining settlement. The Domain was acquired by the government soon after the passing of the 1881 Thermal Springs District Act, with local Maori - who had played an instrumental role in initially promoting the resort - retaining the right of free access to the waters. The 1881 Act had been introduced to promote Crown ownership of New Zealand's thermal resources, partly in response to their increasing purchase and commercial exploitation by private entrepreneurs.

The earliest permanent buildings in the Domain were erected soon after the reserve was brought under the Public Domains Act in 1882, and were overseen by the Te Aroha Hot Springs Board. By 1887, there were seven bath houses and a drinking fountain, with extensive grounds laid out to plans drawn up by Henry Crump, a local engineer and architect. Government money largely financed the development of the facilities, as well as the establishment of a railway from Auckland in 1886. As the centrepiece of the now-burgeoning town of Te Aroha, the spa became the first geothermal resort in the country to receive thousands of visitors on an annual basis. People came to bathe or ingest its waters for health reasons, but also to promenade, listen to music or play genteel forms of sport such as tennis, croquet and bowls. Spas had important associations in nineteenth-century European society as places where the well-to-do could relax and congregate in refined and beautiful surroundings.

Although the health and leisure aspects of the reserve were heavily promoted when it was taken over by the Department of Tourism and Health Resorts in 1903, the facilities went into a slow decline after government funding and visitor attention were steadily drawn to Rotorua. The Domain nevertheless remained an extremely popular destination until after the First World War (1914-1918), and continued in a reduced capacity as a spa thereafter. Following closure of many of its facilities in the 1950s and 1960s, the Domain was transferred to the control of the local council (now Matamata-Piako District Council) in 1979, while formally remaining in Crown ownership.

Begun in 1897, the former Cadman Bath House was erected as the largest building in the Domain. It was designed by C. H. Pierard, a draughtsman to the Mines Department, and cost £3000 to build. Its construction was part of a larger programme of improvements to the Domain carried out in 1897-1898, which constituted the largest single development of the spa. This work was overseen by Charles Vickerman (1855-1940), District Engineer for the Public Works Department, and was undertaken using a system of cooperative labour. Cooperative labour had been introduced as a means of providing unemployment relief by the first Liberal government, and was extended for use in the construction of public buildings by 1895. The baths were opened on Queen Victoria's birthday in May 1898 by Arthur Cadman (1847-1905), the Member for Ohinemuri and the Mines and Railways Minister, who was himself known for progressive views on work issues such as the introduction of an eight-hour working day.

The building received a steady stream of customers after it was opened and was considered to contain the best-appointed immersion baths in New Zealand. The facilities incorporated at least nineteen private bathing rooms, each with a porcelain bath provided with water up to 112 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. The structure had separate waiting rooms for men and women, and an elegantly tiled floor. The quality of its finishings extended to the toilet areas in its eastern wing, which were fitted with decorated porcelain imported from Britain. The necessary disposal of excess water and sewage involved the construction a pipeline to the Waihou River.

The baths were used both for recreation and health reasons, with the science of Balneology gaining increasing currency at the end of the nineteenth century as a means of medical treatment. The Bath House underwent a number of renovations, reflecting medical and technological changes in subsequent years. In 1899 two of the bathrooms were altered to accommodate stretchers, rugs, pillows and head rests for the 'pack form' treatment of rheumatism. In 1906 electric lights were installed and an electric bell call service provided in 1912-1912. A massage room was built onto the rear of the building in 1923, while in 1929 X-ray apparatus was installed. The building was enlarged in 1947-1948 when an ex-army structure was attached to the east wing, accommodating a massage and X-ray room. A further extension was added to this wing in 1951 to allow the physiotherapist, Mr Leslie Bryant, more space. Both of these extensions were carefully constructed in a very similar style to the original design.

By this time patronage of the baths had begun to dwindle and they were closed in the early 1960s. From 1962-1963, major modifications occurred when the building was converted to a bowling pavilion. Most of the bath rooms were removed at this time, as well as many of the building's fittings. In 1971 the Te Aroha and District Museum took over the eastern wing of the building, and now occupies the whole structure. The Bath House holds displays on numerous aspects of local history and is open to the public.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It is historically significant for its association with the development of the spa at Te Aroha, the history of bathing practice and balneology in New Zealand, and the first Liberal government's use of cooperative labour for public building.

The former Cadman Bath House has high aesthetic value for its visual aspect and contribution to the appearance of the Domain. It has architectural significance as probably the best-appointed immersion baths in New Zealand prior to the construction of the Rotorua Bath House in 1906-1908.

The Bath House also has technological value, bearing well-preserved elements of sanitation and other technology.

The structure has cultural value, having been used as a local museum for more than 30 years.

The former Cadman Bath House reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand's history, including government involvement in the development of New Zealand's spas, and bathing as a recreational and medicinal activity in nineteenth-century society. It is associated with people and ideas of importance in New Zealand history, notably the Minister of Mines and Railways, Arthur Cadman - after whom it is known - and the beliefs of the first Liberal government. The Bath House has the potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand history, notably nineteenth-century bathing arrangements and technology. As a functioning museum devoted to local history, the building has considerable potential for public education. The design of the building has been considered probably the most attractive in the country until the Blue Baths were built in Rotorua in 1933. The Bath House is a rare survival of a lavishly-appointed bathing facility from nineteenth-century New Zealand. It is also a centrepiece of the important historical and cultural landscape at the Hot Springs Domain, which is considered to be the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian spa in New Zealand. This landscape has been recognised in the Domain's registration by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust /Pouhere Taonga as a Historic Area (#7012).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Vickerman, Charles

Charles Ranken Vickerman, District Engineer of the Public Works Department.

Pierard, C.H.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The Cadman Bath House is located in the central part of the original 1881-1882 Te Aroha Hot Springs Domain. Sitting on an elevated platform, it overlooks the formal croquet lawns and bowling greens that adjoin Whitaker Street. The building is dramatically positioned, with Mount Te Aroha and its foothills rising immediately behind the structure. To the front of the building is a balustraded walkway with central steps leading up from the croquet lawns.

Designed as the centrepiece of the Domain's facilities, the former Cadman Bath House is a single-storey structure with an irregular H-plan. Its rear (eastern) wing is shorter and thinner than the western wing, which contains the main entrance and facade. Looking westwards over the formal Domain grounds, the main elevation has a gabled portico over its central entrance, with projecting gables at either end of the building, following classical design principles. There are similar gables facing north and south at either end of the main wing, and also facing the rear. Each gable contains pierced fan and flower ornamented brackets and is surmounted by a finial. It also bears groups of vertical timbers foreshadowing the much more extensive use of Tudor-style timbering in the 1906-1908 bath house at Rotorua, reflecting comparisons with European spa resorts. The rear wing contains identical details, although much of it is of later construction.

Of timber-framed construction, the bath house is externally clad with rusticated weatherboards. It sits on concrete footings, except where there are later additions. The roof has overhanging eaves and ventilators, and is covered with corrugated iron. The building's sash windows are many and large, with some surmounted by bracketed hoods clad with roofing tiles.

Internally, most of the original bathing rooms have been removed to form large open spaces in the western wing, although one has been retained as a sample. Evidence for the disposition of rooms can be seen in wall lines visible on the ceiling timbers and the survival of central vents allocated to each bathing space. Its striking red, black and yellow tiled floor also survives, incorporating a mosaic pattern just inside the main door forming the words 'Te Aroha Domain'. The best-preserved areas are the men's toilets in the eastern wing, which retain important elements such as imported Shanks & Company urinals, and blue-patterned porcelain toilet pans and cisterns of 'Mulberry-Chrysanthemum' design from the same makers. Part of the women's toilet also survives. Other rooms in the northern section of the east wing are more recent in origin.

The bath house lies on top of the site of an earlier band rotunda, whose archaeological remains potentially survive. Archaeological features linked to water provision, drainage and sewerage for the building are likely to exist.

Construction Dates

Site of band rotunda.

Original Construction
1897 - 1898
Original construction of Cadman Bath House.

1923 -
Massage room added at rear.

1947 - 1948
Extension to eastern wing.

1951 -
Further extension to eastern wing.

1962 -
Internal modifications, including removal of most bath rooms.

Construction Details

Timber frame with weatherboards, concrete footings and corrugated iron roof.

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Mackay, 1993

Jamie Mackay, 'The Te Aroha Hot Springs Domain Conservation Area, Te Aroha, New Zealand', NZHPT report, Wellington, 1993.

Rockel, 1986

Ian Rockel, Taking the Waters: Early Spas in New Zealand, Wellington, 1986

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Antony Matthews, 'Te Aroha Domain Conservation Plan', Auckland, 1997.

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office.

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.