Southland Hospital (Former)

75 Kew Road, Kew, Invercargill

  • Southland Hospital (Former). Part of the Nurses’ Home (left), Administration Block (centre), Inpatient Block (right).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Michael Kelly.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7747 Date Entered 14th May 2008 Date of Effect 14th May 2008


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes part of the land described as Pt Lot 2 DP 1860, Southland Land District and the following buildings associated with the Southland Hospital, Kew: the former Nurses' Home, the Administration Block, the Inpatients' Block (Wards 1-6), the ancillary buildings thereon, and their fittings and fixtures. (Refer to Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Invercargill City


Southland Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 2 DP 1860 (RT SL9A/420), Southland Land District


Southland Hospital's original buildings are nationally significant as the most intact group of hospital buildings dating from the first half of the twentieth century. There are a number of individual hospital buildings of considerable age still extant in other parts of the country, but none match the collective value and coherence of those at Southland Hospital.

Planning for a new hospital began at Kew as early as 1918. Kew, some distance from Invercargill central, was originally the site of a Fever Ward, established in 1907. The architect of the new hospital was local architect Edmund Wilson, whose designs went through considerable changes before work began in 1935. The Minister of Health, Peter Fraser finally opened the buildings in 1937. The first buildings consisted of the Nurses' Home, Administration Building, Inpatients' Block (Wards 16) and ancillary buildings to the rear, all linked by one long corridor running eastwest.

The buildings were set well back from Kew Road, and were characterised by their brick construction and slate roofs, although a fire in 1939 led to the replacement of the roof on the Inpatients' Block. From the beginning, the complex, which occupied a generous site, was expected to expand and change. Although World War II and manpower shortages constrained initial growth, there were major extensions to the Nurses' Home in 1946. The pace of growth picked up considerably in the 1950s. The two wings housing Wards 16 were extended in 1950. There was a major addition to the Nurses' Home in 1954 (followed by another wing in 1971, both of which were later demolished). To the rear, over a lengthy period, the ancillary buildings were extended and adapted. The most significant additions to this part of the hospital was a dining room in 1955, which linked to the Nurses' Home addition of the previous year, later augmented by a kitchen.

The original core hospital was extended through the addition of a series of buildings constructed on various parts of the site in every decade of the second half of the twentieth century. Most of these buildings are not included in this registration, but they form a nearly complete record of the incremental expansion of a New Zealand hospital. This record culminated in the construction of a new regional hospital on the land in front of the original buildings, which opened in 2004. Its completion raised issues about the fate of the hospital's oldest buildings.

The original hospital buildings at Kew share a common building material, red brick, but are all distinctly different in design. The triptych of main buildings faces north, with the balconied Nurses' Home to the east, Wards 16 to the west and the former Administration Building between. To the rear, the collection of ancillary buildings is arranged with somewhat less formality, partly because of their function, their location and the number of additions and alterations that have been undertaken there. Along with the brick, most of the buildings have another distinguishing feature in their roofs. With the exception of Wards 16, the roofs are hipped, all with 450 pitches, and all clad in slate. This imparts the buildings with an homogeneity and understated elegance. It also makes it easy to distinguish the original buildings and their early additions from the rest of the complex.

The survival of the hospital's founding buildings, all generally intact and in good condition, is significant. Before the construction of the new regional hospital in 2004, the buildings were the face of the hospital, the centrepiece of a row of buildings. No other collection of hospital buildings in New Zealand from the first half of the twentieth century has survived to nearly the same extent as this group. The buildings have historic significance for the 70 years they have been used to provide health services to the people of Southland, for their association with past hospital staff and patients, and their many changing uses.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

New Zealand's reputation during the twentieth century as one of the world's most successful social democracies was predicated on the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens. This rested partly on the quality of provision and access to health services. From the 1840s, when provincial governments first built hospital buildings, hospital facilities gradually improved and expanded throughout the country. It was no different in Southland, where the Kew Hospital was built to replace Dee Street Hospital at the tail end of the Depression, during the term of the first Labour government, although the hospital was long in the planning.

The move to Kew from Dee Street was a significant event in the history of medical services in the region. It led to a gradual centralisation of Invercargillbased services, although it took a number of decades for this to happen. Kew also stands as a representative example of the kind of upgrading of hospital facilities that has been a regular feature of the country's hospitals since the 1840s.

The provision of public health services in Southland is historically outstanding also because so many of the region's hospital buildings, starting with those of the 1860s in Dee Street, Invercargill, remain intact. As a result, there is a tangible record of the development of health services still standing in the Invercargill landscape. This is almost certainly unique nationally.

The historic status of the Administration Building is reflected in its partial reuse as the home of the Southland Hospital Museum. The museum has been operating for 20 years, a significant period in its own right.


The core buildings at Southland Hospital have considerable aesthetic significance, derived from the use of red bricks and slate tiles on well designed buildings. This appearance defined the hospital for a long period until the new hospital was built in front and obscured the old buildings from Kew Road. All the buildings are different in style and have fine touches that add to their visual appeal, for example, the small hippedroof additions to the rear of the Nurses' Home, the Art Deco lampstand in front of the Nurses' Home, and the clerestories of the ancillary buildings. All add immeasurably to the elegance, variety and distinction of the complex's buildings.


The original buildings of Southland Hospital form an outstanding collection of interwar public buildings, characterised by their distinguished appearance and the general homogeneity of building materials and scale. These buildings are now the country's most complete and best surviving of all hospital complexes from the first half of the twentieth century. Few hospitals in the country contain even a handful of buildings from that era, let alone a purposebuilt group.

The buildings are predominantly neoGeorgian in style, although that can only be a loose descriptor, and suitably institutional in appearance. Today, despite additions and alterations and the presence of new buildings interspersed amongst the old, Edmund Wilson's original concept is still intact, with most of the buildings he designed easily identified by their brick walls and Welsh slate roofs. The slate, a roof cladding more commonly associated with buildings from nineteenth or early twentieth century, adds to the refinement of the buildings' appearance.

The three main buildings are distinctive in character, each adding a different flavour to the hospital. The informality of the Nurses' Home, highlighted by its recessed balconies, is in contrast to the Administration Building's relative severity, which provides a suitably formal entry point for the old hospital. Wards 16's relatively plain appearance befits its functional purpose. To the rear, the quality of building materials continues, although the various buildings and additions obscure the original layout. The original buildings and their early additions are easily distinguished by their appearance.


Hospitals are among the most familiar of all public buildings, being visited at some point or another by a greater part of the community. As the centrepiece of Southland Hospital for over 60 years, the original buildings have been a familiar landmark for Southlanders, most of whom would have entered and used the buildings for one reason or another. For much of its history, the Administration Building was the principal point of entry for hospital users.

The Nurses' Home has a particular significance for those nurses, or trainee nurses, who lived in the home. This group has a special affinity with the building; some of them went on to establish the Southland Hospital Museum in the former Administration Building in the late 1980s.

Ward 2 was the Children's Ward and as a sign of its significance to the community, it was regarded as adorned by 38 sets of nursery rhyme tiles donated by the community.

The advent of the new hospital building has sharply reduced the general public's contact with the building, but other uses are being made of at least parts of the building by the Southland District Health Board.

Section 23 (2) Assessment:

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The core buildings of Southland Hospital reflect both important and representative aspects of the provision of public health in this country. The provision of medical services, particularly the building and maintenance of hospitals, has always been regarded as a significant role of government, provincial and central alike. Kew has been the site of Southland's principal hospital since 1937 and in that time has received considerable government funding for that purpose. Many buildings have been erected and a range of health services provided for the people of Southland and visitors. This is the largest Governmentbuilt complex in Invercargill. These buildings are the earliest of a collection of buildings at Kew which demonstrate how hospital care was provided for the people of Southland Invercargill from the 1930s onwards.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The original Kew Hospital buildings demonstrate the kind of buildings erected for hospital practice from the interwar period of New Zealand history. At the time, they were the most uptodate facilities at a New Zealand hospital. They show how important the investment in 'bricks and mortar' by successive governments was and today that legacy is a substantial hospital complex that serves much of Southland.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

There is undoubtedly some community association and public esteem for these buildings. First and foremost, the Nurses' Home is a place of considerable importance to those who lived and trained in the building during its heyday. The era of hospital based nurse training is over but the shared experiences of those nurses who trained at Kew is such that many retain a strong camaraderie.

Likewise, those who long worked at the hospital share an association with the buildings.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

The old buildings demonstrate hospital practice from the first half of the twentieth century, with the variety of buildings offering a range of visitor experiences. The many changes to those buildings also demonstrate how they were adapted for changing needs.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The Kew Hospital buildings represent a considerable achievement in design and arrangement. The buildings are carefully designed for their purpose, achieving a satisfying outcome, both aesthetically and practically. They are cleverly linked by a long corridor that allows unfettered movement under cover. The curve of the corridor between the Administration building and Wards 16 is a particular highlight both from within and out, although additions have reduced its visual appeal somewhat.

The hospital buildings address Kew Street but are set a long way back from the road. From the time of their construction and for the following 65 years this very generous setting allowed the buildings to sit grandly on the flat Southland plain. The construction of the new hospital building has by and large interrupted that view but it is still possible to see how the architect intended the setting to enhance the buildings' status.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

Hospital buildings of any antiquity are now rare in New Zealand, a product of the ongoing pressure to provide suitably modern facilities at hospitals. Such is the turnover of hospital buildings, most do not last much longer than 50 years. The survival of the original Kew hospital buildings is therefore outstandingly significant because so few buildings of this kind remain in any of the country's hospitals, except as isolated examples. Possibly the only parallel to the Kew buildings is the Queen Mary Hospital at Hanmer, begun in 1916, but which is no longer in use.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

Kew Hospital is today a much larger complex than the original buildings. It was always envisaged that the hospital would expand so that all the hospital services could be provided from the one site at Kew. The natural growth of Southland's population meant that services would have to be expanded anyway. Heading in a westerly direction, a succession of blocks was built from the 1950s onwards. Each block reflects, to some extent, the prevailing architectural style and hospital design of the day. There are other later buildings at other locations within the hospital grounds. Development culminated in the opening of the new regional hospital in 2004. With a few notable exceptions, all the buildings that were constructed for the hospital still survive on the site, a remarkable legacy of social and architectural history and unique to Kew.


This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f, g, j, k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

This hospital complex comprises a singular and outstanding collection of preWorld War II hospital buildings. This is almost certainly the only hospital in the country to retain a core of its original buildings in one place, and mostly intact. The significance of this group of buildings is enhanced by their visual appeal: the combination of brick and slate adding a special character to the group. The hospital's historic significance to Southland is important too as these buildings have been a part of the hospital's operation serving public health for 70 years.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wilson, E R

Edmund Wilson was born in Invercargill, the son of Henry Fitz Wilson, a merchant and Dorothy Eleanor Richardson. The Wilson family was prominent in Invercargill: Henry Wilson was chairman of the Hospital Board, the Bluff Harbour Board and the Invercargill Savings Bank. He was a warden and choir member of St John's Church. Edmund Wilson served a seven-year apprenticeship with the local firm of McKenzie and Gilbertson. He may also have served some time with noted Wellington architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. In 1902 he married Elizabeth Alice Mary Dickinson. They had three sons and two daughters.

Amongst Wilson's commissions in Invercargill were the Town Hall and Civic Theatre (1906), St Catherine's Girls' College, the fire station, and various retail stores. He designed many churches, both in Southland and elsewhere. These included St John's Anglican Church, Invercargill (1913), St Mary's, Merivale (1927), St Andrew's in Southbridge, Mid-Canterbury, and St Michael's, Kelburn, Wellington (1920). He designed town halls in Otautau and Bluff. Kew Hospital, which came near the end of his career, was among his most important commissions. Edmund Wilson was also a vestryman, lay reader and choir member of St John's. Two of his brothers were Anglican clergymen. Wilson was a President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects. Wilson died on 13 October 1941 and was buried in St John's Cemetery, Waikiwi, Invercargill. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1955. Wilson's practice was inherited by Baxter Hesselin McDowell, now McDowell Architects, who retain his original plans.

McClellan, William

William McLellan was one of three brothers (the others were James and Duncan) who formed a construction business with Louis Joel in Dunedin in 1910. William was the managing director, and the firm went on to become one of the city's most successful, gaining many significant contracts in Dunedin and further afield. The first major commission was the King Edward Technical College, completed in 1913. Following that came, among many others, St Paul's Cathedral, the Otago Medical Centre, Otago University Physics Block, the Sargood Wing of the Art Gallery, Mosgiel Knitwear Factory and the Rakaia Bridge. They worked on the upgrading of buildings such as the Octagon Theatre and the Empire Theatre.

After securing the contract to build the Kew Hospital in 1933, the firm opened a branch in Invercargill. From this base, the firm secured work building the Invercargill Post Office, State Fire Office and the Kelvin Hotel. In Gore, the firm built the Gore High School, Nurses Home and Post Office. The firm undertook maintenance work and held a long-standing contract to maintain Speight's Brewery.

The firm's last major contract was the State Fire Office on the corner of Rattray and Princes Streets. None of the family members had been trained for the building trade, and shortly after the death of Mr William McLellan, the last surviving member of the partnership, the company went into voluntary liquidation.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


The official history of Southland Hospital, published in 1968, states that the first government hospital in Invercargill was located in The Crescent, near the corner of Dee and Tay Streets. It was established by the newly created Southland Provincial Council in 1861, while the Council planned a purposebuilt hospital at Dee Street. Just what building this first hospital occupied is not known. Likewise, what Invercargill people did for medical care before the hospital was established is unknown.

The first of the buildings at Dee Street opened in 1864, and the hospital was added to considerably over the next 50 or more years. New wings were built in 1876 (the year central government took over health services from provincial councils) and 1879, while the Victoria Wing was added in 1897. More accommodation was built in 1902, including outpatients and consulting rooms, while a surgical block was added in 190910.

The Dee Street Hospital struggled with overcrowding for most of its history. Each extension barely improved the situation. The proximity of the site to the central city meant that growth would always be constrained and that it would ultimately struggle to meet the city's future needs. In 1901, to relieve some of the pressure, a children's ward was built at Lorne Farm. This hospital later housed an old people's home and was still functioning after the main hospital at Kew opened. In 1917, during the height of a diphtheria epidemic, the InspectorGeneral of Hospitals, Dr T.H.A. Valintine, suggested Dee Street be abandoned in favour of Kew, describing the latter as 'one of the best sites in the country.'


The south Invercargill suburb of Kew had been identified as a useful location for health services in the first decade of the twentieth century, when a fever hospital was constructed. The site was chosen because it was sufficiently isolated from Invercargill proper, a necessity of course. Land was bought in 1907 from farmer H. Suferts for £2000 and the new hospital was opened the following year. Until the opening of the main hospital, the fever hospital operated from Kew, apart from a period when it was briefly returned to Dee Street. It was only demolished in more recent years.

In 1918, with Dr Valintine's endorsement still resonant, more land was purchased at Kew and authority was sought by the Board to borrow money to build a new hospital. The following year, a general plan of a new hospital at Kew was prepared and the Minister of Health agreed to the construction of the first part of the hospital and nurses' home, at a cost of £37,000. The Board was given the authority to borrow £80,000 and by the end of 1919, tenders were sought. However, the first of many delays interrupted progress. In the words of the Board secretary, it was decided to hold over the work because of 'continued high building costs and the uncertainty of labour'. The former might simply have been the result of the high inflation prevalent at the time.

During this period, planning was centred on having a medical hospital at Kew and a surgical hospital at Dee Street. By 1923, things had changed; the entire hospital would be built at Kew. However, the estimated cost had risen to £140,000, and with the larger hospital, that figure rose to £169,400. The tenders received were considerably in excess of that at nearly £200,000 and the Board balked at the cost. By June 1927, it had been decided to put the project on hold indefinitely, following a warning from Wellington to be careful with hospital expenditure.

Despite the enforced delay, Dr Valintine weighed in the following year with a suggestion of a smaller hospital of 137 beds. That figure was then downgraded to 124. A revised plan was then initiated with the help of the Board's architect, Edmund Wilson.

It is not known how long Wilson had been engaged by the Board. One source suggests that his first design was prepared in the late 1920s. There is no evidence that his involvement stretched back as far as the development of the first hospital plan in 1920, although who was responsible for that design is not known. It was not until 1933 that tenders were sought for the new hospital and the building would not be finished until 1937, four years before Wilson's death. If Wilson was the Board's architect from the beginning, it is also not known to what extent his design changed over time.

Planning was well advanced when the Hawke's Bay earthquake struck on 2 February 1931. The response to the destruction of so many of Napier and Hastings' masonry buildings was a rethink on the Kew buildings' design, which led to yet more delays. The revision of the plans was quickly undertaken by Wilson and completed by 27 March of that year, when they were presented to the Kew Hospital Building Committee. In his accompanying report, Wilson called for increased reinforcement of the brick and concrete portions of the buildings. The committee approved the approach and sent the revised plans to the Department of Health in Wellington for approval.

The approved plans called for three main blocks: a nurses' home, general medical wards, and administration block, along with ancillary buildings to the rear. Tenders were sought in 1933 and the lowest was submitted by William McLellan Ltd., of Dunedin, whose quote of £134,694 was also below the estimate.


Work on the new hospital did not start immediately. The foundation stone was not laid until 13 January 1935, by the Duke of Gloucester, and it still took another two years before the buildings were completed. The delay must have caused some frustration for the government. The Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives of 1936 noted that the hospital buildings were 'still not completed', inferring that a deadline had come and gone.

The buildings were finally opened on 20 March 1937 by the Minister of Health, Peter Fraser. Three main blocks were built, interconnected by one main corridor, later dubbed Ross Corridor, after Matron Ross, a longstanding director of nursing. The buildings faced Kew Road but were built a substantial distance back from the road edge. From east to west the buildings were the Nurses' Home, Administration Block and Inpatients' Block (later Wards 16). To the rear (or south) were the various ancillary or service buildings.

These descriptors disguise the varied roles the buildings played. The Inpatients' Block housed operating theatres, xray and physiotherapy services, along with the various wards, numbered 16, viz. 1, 3 and 5 to the east and 2, 4, and 6 to the west. Ward 2 was the children's ward and when the hospital opened, 38 sets of nursery rhyme tiles were donated by 'Little Southlanders' to the ward.

They were commissioned from H. & G. Thynnes of the Victoria Tile Works, Hereford, England. The tiles were later removed from the walls when Ward 2 closed in 1978 and put into storage at the museum. A number of them have been restored and now hang in the children's ward of the main hospital building.

The Administration Block housed not only the hospital's executive and clerical staff but also the Medical Superintendent's office, House Surgeon's office, outpatients' waiting room, and the consultant's room and surgery. Piercy states that a pharmacy, House Surgeon's private quarters (upstairs), and a laboratory were part of this building.

The Nurses' Home had a capacity of 70 and incorporated lecture rooms, sitting rooms and studies. This building was a substantial structure and its status within the hospital demonstrates how important such facilities were at the country's hospitals. They were to be found at all the country's major hospitals and provided accommodation for both staff and trainee nurses. All training was undertaken in the hospital system at this time.

The various buildings to the rear were used for a range of essential functions, including a kitchen and laundry (with associated stores), a servery, and four dining rooms, one each for nurses, doctors, maids and porters. There was accommodation for maids above the kitchen. This was later converted into classrooms for trainee nurses.

An elaborate garden plan for the hospital grounds was prepared in 1937 by A.W. Barton, a landscape architect from Christchurch, but was clearly not pursued, although some landscaping was undertaken at the site over time.


The long awaited hospital had been operating only a short time when expansion was mooted by the Board. There was plenty of room to build, but as things stood, it would be a while before the Board could dispense with the Dee Street site. In 1939 the services block was extended to accommodate a laundry, which allowed the hospital to dispense with the services of a commercial laundry.

With the opening of the hospital at Kew, Dee Street Hospital (later Queen Victoria Hospital) functioned as a dual maternity and convalescent hospital. In 1957, when the western wing at Kew opened, Queen Victoria became solely a maternity hospital. It was decided that maternity facilities would ultimately move to Kew but this did not happen until 1979, when the Obstetric Unit was completed. Some of the Dee Street buildings, including what are today known as the Central Block (Category I) and South Block (Category II), remain intact.

Kew had been operating a little over two years when it was threatened by a near catastrophe. A fire took hold in the roof of the central portion of the Inpatients' Block on 1 August 1939. Fire crews contained the fire but the damage was severe in the roof and upper storeys, while water badly affected the lower storeys. Patients had to be evacuated and those that could not be sent home were moved to Dee Street Hospital. Lorne Street Hospital also had to be reopened. There was a considerable delay before Kew Hospital could be reopened, partly caused by the insistence of the Health Department that the entire building be reroofed in asbestos rather than slates and that it be strengthened to comply with higher standards of earthquake resistance. A truss roof was employed. It was not until December 1940 that the building was reopened.

With labour shortages and financial pressures, expanding Kew was not possible during World War II, a time when capacity was stretched to the limit. However, plans were made for additions in the expectation that an opportunity for work to start would soon arise. As an example, tenders were let for additions to the Nurses' Home in 1943 but they were not constructed until 1946. Built in brick and slate to match the existing, the additions, containing 47 rooms and a dispensary store, were to the southern end of each wing. It is assumed that the architects for these additions, as they were for almost all the subsequent changes, were Ford Gray and Derbie, or later incarnations of that firm. Also completed in 1946 was an addition for a butchery, which was connected to both the stores building and the original kitchen / dining rooms.

On the other hand, a planned maternity ward was not proceeded with and this remained the case for many decades, forcing the hospital to stay at Dee Street far longer than was anticipated. Exigencies in the wake of World War II continued to hold up planned projects, with a manpower shortage the biggest issue.


In 1950, a full height extension to the wings of Wards 16 was completed, in concrete rather than brick. While the extension did provide an extra 60 beds, it required the removal of the balconies, a distinctive feature of the northern end of the wings. In 1968, a schoolroom was added to Ward 2, in the form of a singlestorey addition to the front of the east wing. This also allowed for a balcony / terrace on the roof. Later, in 1974, a considerable upgrading of the building took place, with replacement of mechanical and electrical services, and internal spaces upgraded and refurbished. In 1989, the longclosed Children's Ward (Ward 2) was converted into an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) suite.

In the early 1950s, not long after the completion of the extension to Nurses' Home, work began on planning new facilities for nurses. Tenders were called for a kitchen, dining room, school and a new domestic block for a site just to the east of the existing home. It was completed in 1954. In 1972, this building was extended via a 60bed wing, at a cost of $284,919. First mooted in 1963, this extension was built to the immediate east of the existing building. The distance of the hospital from town clearly remained an issue, and many nurses were still coming from places outside Invercargill and required onsite accommodation.

In 1953, more land (7.28 hectares) was bought to the south of the hospital, plus another 1.6 hectares opposite the main elevation. Extensions were built to the Stores Department and Laundry that year.

In 1957, a block housing Wards 811, to the west of Wards 2, 4, and 6, was opened. This was the first major addition to inpatient facilities since the opening of the hospital, although the lower ward was used by pathology. That same year plans were prepared for alterations to the cafeteria and dining rooms (porters' and domestic) as well as changes to the stores, all within the existing building. Records do not confirm that this work took place, although it is assumed it did. It involved the replacement of timber floors with concrete, partitioning, the forming of new offices and a fire escape, among other things.

In 1958, an extension to the medical ward (on the opposite side of the corridor from the chapel) was undertaken to provide room for the bootmaker, later the Orthotics Department. This building was further extended in 1989. In 1959, alterations were made to an unspecified 'building' for medical superintendent. This may have been the Administration Building.

In 1961, a fire in the dispensary bulk store caused considerable damage to that facility and to the supply department. Plans were drawn up for their reinstatement. It is not known when this work was undertaken, although permits for the work were issued in October and November 1961, suggesting it may have been 1962 before the work was finished.

The hospital did not have a chapel as part of its original layout. A campaign was run to raise money for a chapel from public subscriptions. In 1962 a permit was an issue for the construction of a chapel on a site halfway between Ward Block 26 and Ward Block 811 on the northern side of the corridor. It opened in 1963. That same year an extension was built on to the kitchen.

In 1967, a building was constructed on a narrow site between the Nurses' Home and Administration Building for Occupational Therapy. This building was demolished in 2002 as part of the construction of the new hospital.

In 1970 the Clinical Services Block (also known as the Howard Hunter Clinical Services Block, for long serving medical superintendent of Southland Hospital) was officially opened, although it had been slowly occupied over the previous year. With the completion of such a large building, much needed space was freed up in other areas of the hospital. Among the many buildings vacated, or partly vacated, was the Administration Building. Plans were drawn up in 1970 to convert the ground floor of the building into accommodation for district nurses and the supply department. Later, the building was renamed the Equipment Officer's building, which suggests that the ground floor was primarily occupied for that purpose. Part of the upper floor was converted into the Southland Hospital Museum in the 1980s. It retains that use to this day, with rooms given over to displays of old equipment, clothing, nursing memorabilia, archives and artefacts from Southland's others hospitals, photos and paintings, and many other items.

Other moves into vacant space came in 1971 with the conversion of the old pathology area, above the Supply Department offices, into staff flats. Also in 1971, temporary facilities were provided for the physiotherapy department, including a gymnasium, and pharmaceutical stores in the former laundry area. In 1974, plans were drawn up for changes to the kitchen and tutorial areas, including a substantial extension to the rear. Piercy indicates that this did not take place until 1978.


In 1976 there was an upgrading of the electrical services in the Nurses' Home. This was one of the last improvements made to the building before a relatively swift change came over nursing training. Nationally, within a decade, most aspiring nurses had turned to the polytechnic system to gain their nursing qualification and in Invercargill it was no different. The Southland Polytechnic (now the Southern Institute of Technology) was established in 1971 and its first nurses graduated from the institution in 1980. Nationally, hospitalbased nurse training ended in 1993. It is not known when the Nurses' Home finally closed its doors as an accommodation facility but new uses of the building were planned by the early 1990s. These included alterations for a hospice, in 1991, and providing accommodation for a forensic psychiatric unit in 1992. It is thought that these proposed changes may refer to the newer, eastern wings of the Nurses' Home (now demolished).


Despite the incremental additions, alterations and upgrades of the hospital buildings, the Southland Area Health Board and a proportion of Southland public wanted a new hospital. Pressure grew during the 1990s and finally in 2001, the government announced that Southland would get a new regional hospital. Health Minister Annette King described the people of Southland as 'waiting for years for a decision on the future of their hospital services'. She said that although the hospital had 'served the community extremely well over many years...some of the hospital buildings are up to 80 years old, and much has changed in the way health services are provided over those years. It is essential that our hospital buildings are designed to take full advantage of the advances that have been made in health care delivery.'

Work on the new hospital began in July 2002 and finished in August 2004. As part of the work, the eastern (later) portion of the Nurses' Home was demolished. The completion of the new hospital left the future of the older buildings uncertain, although the remaining portion of the Nurses' Home has been partly reused for administrative purposes. In 2006, the Southland Hospital said it was spending $40,000 a year on maintaining its unused buildings and announced that it was drawing up a demolition plan, with hearings regarding the demolition to take place in early November 2007.

Physical Description

The portion of Southland Hospital identified for registration is made up for four blocks and / or groupings of original buildings, plus additions. The original buildings are all still intact, predominantly neoGeorgian in style, although most have been altered or added to, to some extent or another. The predominant aspect of the buildings' appearance is the distinctive combination of brick and slate, which was used on all the earliest buildings to give them an homogeneity of appearance, but which appears not to have been used much thereafter, except for some additions.


The former Nurses' Home, the most westerly of the buildings, is Hshaped in plan and largely symmetrical on a northsouth axis, with a central core and flanking wings. There are two leanto, hippedroof structures (rear entrances) attached to the rear of the central core. The two wings extend a considerable distance to the south as a result of additions undertaken in 1945/46. The principal building material (and exterior cladding) is brick. The roofs are moderately pitched (450), hippedgables, clad in slate. From the revised design work done by Edmund Wilson, it is known that additional reinforced concrete was used to stiffen this and the other buildings completed in 1937. The windows are generally doublehung multipane sashes, an important detail on a neoGeorgian building, although the windows beneath the first floor verandah have been replaced in aluminium. The windows beneath the ground floor verandah are generously proportioned, presumably to allow more light to enter.

The most distinctive features of the front façade are the ground and first floor verandahs, which run the length of the central block. On the ground floor they resemble, to a certain extent, monastic cloisters, albeit that the courtyard in front is not enclosed. In a grassed circular area in front of the building sits an Art Deco lampstand, adding a flourish to the building's setting.

The building's wings (on its northern elevation) originally ended at the conclusion of the hipped roof. At a date unknown, an extension was added to the front of the wings. These additions, a full two storeys high and well lit by windows, were used as communal sun rooms, among other things.

Internally the building is formally organised around the main entrance, from where stairs lead to the firststorey, and a central corridor, which traverses both floors and gives access to what were communal rooms and shared and single rooms alike. The corridors are lined with a dado, generally either a printed linoleum or timber veneer. Pride of place on the ground floor is given to a brick from Florence Nightingale's residence in London. It is fixed in the south wall facing the main entrance and is accompanied by a commemorative plaque that reads:









This centrally located, classicallydesigned structure has the most formal front façade of the four, befitting its former status as the centrepiece of the hospital. It presents something of an austere, institutional face to the complex, primarily through its principal façade, which eschews decoration in favour of simple, bold forms. The building is in two main parts. The formal, front portion is square in plan, while behind, and connected to but obscured by the main building, is a twostorey portion, oriented northsouth. Plans and perspective drawings suggest that the north end of this portion was part of the original hospital, through which runs the external corridor that was originally built to link the early buildings with each other. There is an extension to the south end added in 1944.

The front portion of the building is constructed of brick, with a hipped slate roof behind a prominent parapet. The main façade, twostoreys high, is composed around a projecting central entrance bay (complete with sign bearing the title 'Southland Hospital'), which is surmounted by a triangular pediment. The façade's visual interest is derived in part from the way brick is used in relief to enliven the surface, with the windows recessed within vertical bands and capped by arches. Above that is an arched window with a keystone, which includes what appears to be a cross in relief. The cornice above projects directly from the building exterior, mimicking the line of the parapet.

The rear portion is a gabled structure with brick walls and a hipped, corrugated iron clad roof. The corrugated iron cladding calls into question whether this is an original portion of the building, but may suggest that the roof has been replaced at some point.

The interior is oriented around a central hallway from which corridors provide access to ground level offices and rooms to the rear. A centrallylocated staircase offers access to the top floor offices.


Built primarily of red brick, with a lowpitched corrugated iron roof, this building is composed of a number of linked parts. It is dominated by a Ushaped portion: two wings extending north from the central portion, which housed Wards 1 to 6. Like the other buildings, it is linked to its neighbours via the external corridor. The building is mainly twostoreys high, except at the northern end of Wards 1, 3 and 5, where a single storey addition is located directly behind the chapel.

The building is the most modern of the group in appearance. The dominant feature is the brick construction / cladding, relieved by the regular fenestration (mostly doublehung sashes with triple panes on the upper sash). The brick is contrasted with the white painted concrete piers and timber ledges, along with the frames of the window themselves. The piers are probably additional strengthening added by the architect to the original design following the Hawke's Bay earthquake. Both wings have been extended: the east wing with one reinforced concrete addition in 1950, and the west wing with a similar concrete addition, as well as the abovementioned singlestorey addition from 1970, also in concrete.

The now unoccupied building is divided into ward spaces on the threestoreys. The layout is typical of hospital interiors: a central open walkthrough space, flanked by what would have been wards. These spaces have the usual fittings: bathroom areas, basins and partitioning. These are functional spaces, fitted to meet modern hygiene requirements, with little evidence of the original fitout.


The collection of buildings at the rear of the main hospital buildings is a jumble of 1936/37 buildings and numerous additions. Initially the buildings were composed of structures that extended from various points along the corridor. The former kitchen / dining room is directly behind the wing housing Wards 1, 3 and 5. Built of brick with a slate roof, it consists of two wings abutting each other and built together; one is larger and two storeys and sits alongside a smaller onestorey portion with a clerestory roof. A short distance to the west is the former laundry, which consists of a twostorey portion (oriented eastwest) abutting another onestorey portion topped by two clerestories. Continuing further west are more onestorey brick structures with hipped slate roofs, also original. The most westerly of the proposed registered buildings is the onestorey former bootmakers, with its two tiledroof additions (1958 and 1989).

There are numerous additions scattered between this grouping of buildings, mostly small, but the most substantial is probably the collection of buildings constructed between the former kitchen / dining room and Nurses' Home. Composed of a new dining room and, later, a kitchen (built in 1955 and 1978 respectively), this block is not included in the registration.

The interiors of these ancillary buildings, also disused, show a great variety of finishes, reflecting the changes of use of the buildings. There is evidence of many alterations, with relining and changes in layout throughout. In some of the buildings where clerestories were built, it is possible to see timber trusses and clerestory windows, both of which are significant architectural details.


There are 29 registrations relating to hospitals on the NZHPT Register, covering 23 separate hospitals.

There are eight Category I registrations relating to a variety of hospital buildings: the oldest (The Gables 1847, New Plymouth); the oldest remaining in the South Island (the buildings relating to Dee Street Hospital in Invercargill, where the first building was constructed in the mid1860s); large psychiatric institutions (Carrington Hospital, Porirua Hospital; Sunnyside Hospital Administration Block (now demolished) and Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer); and also the Queen Victoria Jubilee Memorial Home in Christchurch which provided care to the destitute and infirm of Canterbury.

The Category II registrations also represent the range of hospital services provided around the country, from all or part of small local hospitals (for example those at Ranfurly, Greytown, Waihi and Hawera), to purposebuilt facilities such as the Wellington Fever Hospital.

The closest comparison to Southland Hospital is the Wellington Public Hospital Administration Block (previously a Category II registration, but originally proposed as Category I, demolished in 2004). Like Southland Hospital, the Wellington Public Hospital Administration Block was constructed in Georgian Revival style, in the period of Georgian style the first examples of which were built in New Zealand about 1913. The Administration Block was constructed in 1928 following the English style of Georgian revival used for large public buildings, making Wellington Hospital the second largest in the country at that time. The assessment recognises that Georgian Revival buildings are not well represented in hospital architecture, with the Hawera Hospital (designed by the same architects as the Wellington Hospital) being the only outstanding example. Kew Hospital is mentioned in the assessment, but is noted as Edwardian with Georgian Revival features.

Style debates apart, the NZHPT Register does not include any large district hospitals that represents the full range of facilities and services provided. A thorough search was made of webbased sources (image and word) to determine if any comparable complex survived in any other centre, and none was found. There are buildings, but no large complexes. Southland Hospital is outstanding as an entire complex of buildings representing the facilities provided at a district level in New Zealand in the twentieth century.

Construction Dates

1907 -
Land at Kew purchased for a fever hospital, which opens the following year.

1918 -
More land bought at Kew with a view to establishing a new hospital there.

1919 -
First plans prepared for Kew Hospital.

1931 -
Final plans for Kew Hospital approved after changes made in response to Hawkes Bay earthquake.

1933 -
Tenders sought and lowest submitted accepted.

Original Construction
1935 -
Foundation stone laid by the Duke of Gloucester.

1937 -
Kew Hospital opened by the Minister of Health, Peter Fraser.

1939 -
Building extended at rear to accommodate a laundry.

1939 -
Fire in Inpatients' Block badly damages roof and upper storeys, while water badly affects the lower storeys.

1940 -
Inpatients' Block reopens after building re-roofed in asbestos rather than slates and strengthened to comply with higher standards of earthquake resistance.

1946 -
Southern end of wings of Nurses' Home extended. Addition built for butchery and connected to both the stores building and the original kitchen / dining rooms.

1950 -
Both wings of Wards 1-6 extended.

1953 -
More land (7.28 hectares) bought to the south of the hospital, plus another 1.6 hectares opposite the main entrance.

1953 -
Extensions built to the Stores Department and Laundry.

1954 -
Extension built to Nurses' Home (to the east of the existing home) including a kitchen, dining room, school and a new domestic block.

Additional building added to site
1957 -
Ward block 8-11 completed.

1957 -
Plans prepared for alterations to the cafeteria and dining rooms (porters' and domestic) and changes to the stores.

1957 -
Plans involved the replacement of timber floors with concrete, partitioning, the forming of new offices and a fire escape, among other things.

1958 -
Extension to medical ward (on the opposite side of the corridor from the chapel) undertaken to provide room for the boot maker, later the Orthotics Department.

1959 -
In 1959, alterations were made to an unspecified 'building' for medical superintendent. This may have been the Administration Building.

1961 -
A fire causes damage to dispensary bulk store and supply department. Plans were drawn up for their reinstatement and work probably completed the following year.

1963 -
Following a campaign to raise money via public subscription, a chapel is built between Ward Block 2-6 and Ward Block 8-11 on the northern side of the corridor. Kitchen extended.

1967 -
Building constructed between the Nurses' Home and Administration Building for Occupational Therapy (demolished in 2002) as part of the construction of the new hospital.

1968 -
Schoolroom added to Ward 2: a single-storey addition to the front of the east wing.

1970 -
Clinical Services Block officially opened; space is freed up in other areas.

1970 -
Plans drawn up to convert ground floor of Administration Building into accommodation for district nurses and the supply department.

1971 -
Conversion of former pathology area, above the Supply Department offices, into staff flats. Temporary facilities provided for physiotherapy department and pharmaceutical stores in the former laundry area.

1972 -
Further extension (60 bed wing) to Nurses' Home.

1974 -
Wards 1-6 upgraded.

1976 -
Electrical services in Nurses' Home upgraded.

1978 -
Changes to the kitchen and tutorial areas, including a substantial extension to the rear.

Part of upper floor of Administration Building converted into Southland Hospital Museum.

1989 -
Ward 2 (former children's ward) converted into Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) suite. Extension made to Orthotics Department building.

Additional building added to site
2002 -
Work begins on new regional hospital.

Partial Demolition
2002 -
Eastern extension to Nurses' Home demolished.

2004 -
Work on new hospital completed.

Demolished - Redevelopment
2009 -
Wards 1-6 demolished.

Construction Details

Brick, concrete, slate, corrugated iron, timber.

Completion Date

10th April 2008

Report Written By

Michael Kelly

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

H31 'Buildings', 1936

Invercargill City Council

Invercargill City Council

Permit records.

Gray, Duthie and Associates to Secretary, Southland Hospital Board 8 August 1975. Summary of changes to Wards 1-6 in Gray, Duthie and Associates to Secretary, Southland Hospital Board.

Southland Hospital Board

Southland Hospital Board. Archives New Zealand.

File 78/7/05 Kew Hospital Nurses' Home.

Southland Times

Southland Times

16 October 2006

Watt, 1968

J.Watt, History of the Southland Hospital and Boards, Southland Hospital Board, Invercargill, 1968.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office.

Wards 1-6 were demolished in 2009.

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.