Bishopscourt and Episcopal Chapel (Former)

28 Pembroke Street And Clarence Street, Hamilton

  • Bishopscourt Chapel, Hamilton.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: W. Kellaway. Date: 22/11/2007.
  • Bishopscourt.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: K. Mercer. Date: 21/04/2009.
  • Robin Hood boiler in Bishopscourt basement.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: K. Mercer. Date: 21/04/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7801 Date Entered 30th April 2010 Date of Effect 30th April 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 2 DP 15499, South Auckland Land District and the buildings known as Bishopscourt and Episcopal Chapel (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures, including the panels in the Episcopal Chapel, and the following chattels: Champion chip heater and gas oven, Robin Hood boiler. All other buildings on this land are excluded from this registration. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Hamilton City


Waikato Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 15499 (RT SA422/176), South Auckland Land District.


Bishopscourt in Hamilton was originally a substantial concrete residence designed by noted architect Frederick C. Daniell by 1912. It served as the home of the first Bishop of Waikato and as a theological school, before becoming the Hamilton base for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) from 1954 to present day.

Daniell was an early twentieth century Hamilton architect and Bishopscourt bears many of the hallmarks of his style. In particular, Daniell is notable for his comparatively early use of the reinforced 'Camerated Concrete' construction system along with aerated concrete. His house designs typically followed the fashion of the day for villas and bungalows and Bishopscourt is an interesting hybrid of the two.

After a period as a family home, the property was bought by the Anglican Church in 1926 as the residence of the first Bishop of Waikato. Within months the Episcopal Chapel was commissioned and built from plans thought to be by the Waikato Architect H. I. Foster, in memory of the Bishop's mother and his first wife. St Anselm's Theological School was also set up early on, operating out of Bishopscourt to reduce costs. The School enabled men intending to go into the ministry, to gain matriculation, so that they would be eligible for a scholarship from St John's College enabling further study at the University of New Zealand. The large public rooms of the house could accommodate up to twenty people each, so during the Bishopscourt period the buildings were used to host visiting dignitaries such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to provide a venue for meetings, such as the AGM of the Council of the Mothers Union. The house was bitterly cold so a new Bishopscourt residence was purchased, and the chapel deconsecrated in 1953.

The property briefly became a boarding house called 'Bank View' before being purchased by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Hamilton branch in 1954. The Episcopal Chapel was used as a club room and dance studio, and the house as accommodation and office space. In 1957 White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser, architects of Hamilton, were commissioned to design upgraded facilities that included closing in the spacious verandah to create more office and bedroom spaces which were completed in 1963. The YWCA programs were expanding along with Hamilton's population, causing space problems, but the membership were outraged at the suggestion of the Building Advisory Committee that Bishopscourt should be demolished, believing that the building should be preserved at all costs. Thus the YWCA complex has grown around the two original buildings. A wide variety of services to women and young children were run out of the two buildings, including a crèche for about thirty years and accommodation for other not for profit groups.

In 1997 a joint project unique to Hamilton, between the YWCA and Whakahou Services began, that saw the chapel transformed into Te Whare Wahine, a Maori women's space, decorated by Maori women who had experienced family violence and their supporters. The National Women's carving group helped with designing and making carved panels featuring atua/goddesses which tell stories of courage, survival and hope. The renewed space was opened in 1999 and the project won Hamilton City's Civic Trust premier project award. This initiative has very rapidly become recognised as part of the cultural history of the place.

Bishopscourt has architectural and technological significance with the residence being a representative example of an early domestic building using the reinforced 'Camerated Concrete' construction system, by noted Waikato architect Frederick C. Daniell. Architect H.I. Foster's design for the Chapel created a sympathetic and affordable ecclesiastical building to accompany it. In addition to architects Daniell and Foster, the site is also associated with the significant Waikato architectural firm, White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser. There is substantial material available on some of these firms, providing an opportunity for research and education using the buildings. The place also provides a window on the transformation of a substantial residential building on the edge of a small rural centre, to the first Bishop's residence of the newly created Waikato Diocese, then becoming the home of an organisation committed to the provision of affordable accommodation, training and social services for young women and their children in the central business district of New Zealand's fourth largest city. The site has a history of ownership and management by Waikato women, Maori women, and the not-for-profit sector that serves them.

Bishopscourt and the Chapel's, now Te Whare Wahine's, survival has been despite many past attempts to have it demolished and replaced with more modern facilities. However, present day management of the YWCA of Hamilton have proactively sought to retain the buildings and have community support in this, as shown by a number of positive letters and articles in local media.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Architectural Significance or Value

At the time of Bishopscourt's construction, villas dominated the style of housing in Hamilton and with it's predominantly bungalow style, Bishopscourt is unusual for Hamilton houses of the period. Its architecture demonstrates how the influences of several styles can be successfully melded into an overall, cohesive design. It has elements of both the Arts and Crafts and English cottage styles, as well as a style used in Medieval English houses made of timber exposed frame with infill, that lent itself well to the type of concrete construction Daniell favoured. Its aerated concrete construction with a plaster finish making this house a typical example of this material as Daniell's oeuvre. The house also features arches that take their cue from a popular Mediterranean style as well as being a common feature of Daniell's designs and a style unusual for Hamilton at the time. It is a notable example of Daniell's work, who was one of a few architects practising in the Waikato in the 1900s-1920s. His portfolio of work is significant, and evident throughout the Waikato and Wairarapa. A number of his buildings are listed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and scheduled by Hamilton City Council.

Although designed by a different architect, the chapel as an early (1927) addition to the site and adjacent to Bishopscourt, is sympathetic in its materials, its scale and its external and internal design features. The timber and roughcast exterior finish are very much in keeping with Bishopscourt and with an Anglican church. It is of interest that the architect appears to have been more concerned to blend the chapel's architecture sympathetically to that of the house rather than to stamp his own particular preferences onto the design. A medieval tradition of Celtic cruck frames, seen also in English tithe barns is evoked inside, with exposed stained wooden beams, curved angle braces between the wall and tie beams and sarking, evoking a sense of a long English tradition, appropriate in an Anglican church.

In combination the two buildings incorporate elements of a range of architectural styles and periods, but in a way that is successful with the two buildings and their various elements melding to a very pleasing whole.

Technological Significance or Value

Daniell is cited in Geoffrey Thornton's survey of concrete construction in New Zealand for his early adoption of the use of concrete, and in particular his early use of the 'Camerated Concrete' construction method that was first promoted in New Zealand c1909, making Bishopscourt an early example of use of this technology in New Zealand. It was a new construction technology patented in 1905 and consisted of walls with inner cavities formed with removable steel cores. There had been a call for concrete housing in the Waikato in 1879 with architect T.H. White to provide advice, but the call was largely unanswered. Daniell is considered to be an early leader in the use of concrete in a range of structures including domestic buildings. Whilst considered probable by students of Daniell, it has not been proven that this method of construction was used for Bishopscourt.

The house also reflects changes in space heating, cooking, and hot water heating technology, by retaining the solid fuel burner stove with a (converted) gas oven, the boiler from a central heating system (the radiators are still in use).

Social Significance or Value

'Family history, religious and social history at a community level are represented on this site.' The Parr family were well known in the Hamilton community of their time, through their involvement in local politics; Mr Parr senior served a term as Mayor of Hamilton and both father and son served as borough councillors. Lilie Parr's ownership is the first of a long association of the site with women.

'The use of the place, known to older generations of Hamiltonians, as Bishopscourt, the place of the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese in the Waikato, is still evident, but is not so well known.'

The YWCA considers the Bishopscourt building a 'hidden gem' and has been associated with the site for over 50 years.

A theological school also operated from the buildings for several years, whilst Bishopscourt and the grounds were used by the church to host many church and community activities and events. It was important as a place that drew people together with a strong sense of community goodwill through the church and its teachings.

Spiritual Significance or Value

The place is a landmark of the development of the Waikato Diocese as distinct from the Auckland Diocese of the Anglican Church. It was the home of the first bishop of Waikato and the chapel was expressly built as the spiritual place of worship.

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

The transition from a substantial farmer's home on the edge of town, into the first residence and chapel of the Waikato Diocese of the Anglican church at the time it was created separate from the Auckland Diocese, and its further transition to a large community complex in the central business district, is reflected in the expansion of the city, and repurposing of the structures on the site, as seen in other houses in the area. The multitude of activities and not for profit groups associated with the buildings is another reflection of the growth of Hamilton from a small rural service centre into New Zealand's fourth largest city.

The concrete construction of the house is an important example of early use of reinforced concrete for domestic buildings in New Zealand.

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

The buildings have provided accommodation for the activities of a variety of not for profit groups, most prominently the Waikato Diocese and the YWCA , which means they have been visited by a large number of members of the community, and have had significant roles to play in terms of education; personal development; entertainment; accommodation; social, physical and spiritual support. They are well recognised and appreciate by a diverse range of local people and particularly women.

Associated with, and in response to an increasing Maori population in Hamilton during a time of Maori renaissance and urbanisation, the YWCA became increasingly important as a place supporting Maori women in Hamilton and their cultural identity from the mid 1950s.

An initiative unique to the YWCA of Hamilton was set up in partnership with Whakahou Services. It was a program to assist Maori women to move beyond their experience of family violence. The physical expression began with the former Chapel being renamed Te Whare Wahine and it being used to teach Maori decorative art skills. The National Women's carving group, Nga Roopu Wahine Kai Whakairo guided the designing and making of carved panels featuring atua (goddesses) that tell stories of courage, survival and hope. Opened in 1999 the project won Hamilton City's Civic Trust premier project award. The impact this initiative had on the original project participants and future generations of Maori women has been and will continue to be, wholly positive. The physical manifestation with the decorative panels within the chapel's interior, is another special element of the program that has already become an important historic element within the overall complex.

Amongst a century of marked social change for women, the buildings provide a focal point in respect to their long association with providing services for women. There is a particular connection for female Maori unique to the YWCA of Hamilton. The building represents the emergence of female leadership for Maori women who were given the tools to transform their lives, in particular through the conversion of the chapel into Te Whare Wahine, and the physical expression of this in the redecoration of its interior.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

'As an extant example of one of FC Daniell's designs [Bishopscourt] is a resource for architectural and historic research in association with the large body of FC Daniell's plans, specifications, other archives and objects existing in the collections of the Waikato Museum of Art and History, Alexander Turnbull Library, Te Awamutu Museum, Wairarapa Archive and the Daniell family.

The archives of the longstanding Hamilton architectural firm White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser are held at the Waikato Museum of Art and History, and some oral history material related to the firm is held by Hamilton City Libraries, so Bishopscourt, the Episcopal chapel and the hall attached to the chapel provide a tangible resource for historic and architectural research about the firms work.

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

As an early New Zealand example of the use of reinforced ['Camerated Concrete' system] aerated concrete construction with plaster finish for a domestic dwellings, is the property's most notable technical feature. Daniell worked without the aid of a structural engineer. Although reinforced concrete (ferro-cement) was more widely-used by the initial years of the twentieth century, particularly for bridges, larger buildings and industrial sites, its use for houses remained unusual.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The Episcopal Chapel has commemorative value as a place funded personally by the first Bishop and built by the Waikato Diocese as a memorial chapel to his mother and wife, both of whom had died not long before he took up his role as the first Bishop of Waikato.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Daniell, Frederick Charles

Fred C Daniell was born in Wales and came to New Zealand as an infant in 1879. His father Charles operated a large timber mill in Masterton and after being educated at Wellington College Daniell joined the family business. At various stages he managed another sawmill in competition with his father, was involved in the survey of the Napier-Taupo Road and was a corporal in the Masterton Mounted Rifles. Of the eight children born to FC Daniell and his wife Helen Gordon-Donald, Trevor Hamilton Daniell also became an architect.

In 1908 Daniell established a practice in Hamilton, where he opened an office in the Waikato Times Building. At various times he was in partnerships with local architects J. Anderson (1912), T.S. Cray (1914-17) and T.Y. Lusk (1920-26), although the specifications for Knightstone are under his name alone. Daniell became a member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1915 and, having helped to establish the South Auckland Branch of the NZIA, became its first secretary in1923-7.

Among the many buildings he designed in Hamilton, Daniell is best known for Wesley Chambers (1924, NZHPT Category II Register # 5301), St Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1914) and his own home 'Ingleholm' at 11 O'Neill Street (1911), both in Hamilton East. The 1911-12 Parr house (now the YWCA) on Pembroke Street in Hamilton West is very similar to Knightstone in its current form, suggesting that Daniell was also responsible for the design of the latter's 1919 addition. His prolific output included designs for residences as well as shops, commercial premises, churches, farm buildings and dairy industry buildings.

Winston Daniell recalled in a 2002 interview that his father 'was always keen on concrete'. In his survey of early concrete construction in New Zealand, Geoffrey Thornton lists Daniell amongst those New Zealand architects using Camerated Concrete in the early twentieth century and he goes on to observe that 'no doubt FC Daniell is typical of a number of lesser known architects of the first two decades of the twentieth century who worked quietly in the design of reinforced concrete without the services of a structural engineer'. Thornton also records that Daniell designed a number of dairy factories for the NZ Co-operative Dairy Company, including the 1917 Matangi Dairy Factory just outside Hamilton (Category II, Reg # 4935, see also reg #4302 former Matangi Dairy Co. house).

Despite the evident success of his Hamilton practice in the 1910s and early 1920s, Daniell's financial situation became increasingly precarious. A farm at Te Mawhai, south-west of Te Awamutu, was at first a secondary occupation but in the mid-1920s the family moved out to the farm and Daniell effectively stopped practicing architecture. In 1935 he returned to Masterton and thereupon resumed his architectural career. Here Daniell was also involved in community and local body affairs, serving on the boards of Wairarapa College and the Electricity and Catchment Boards. Daniell's Masterton practice was continued by his son Trevor after his death in 1953.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

In 1864 the land on which Bishopscourt would be constructed was confiscated from Ngati Wairere as part of the establishment of the military settlement of Hamilton. Te Rapa Pa had been to the south east. By at least 1867 Private William G. Holden was granted Lot 363 as his Militia entitlement. In 1886 the lot was transferred to John Parr, who along with his family, arrived in Tauranga from London in 1881. John Parr served as a Hamilton Borough Councillor from 1889 until 1892, followed by a term as Mayor of Hamilton (1892 to 1893). After his death in 1899 the land was transferred to his widow, Mrs Frances Ann Parr of Cambridge. Her son, Robert Parr, followed in his father's footsteps and was elected a borough councillor in 1901 remaining until 1905. In 1909 Frances Parr transfers the lot to her daughter-in-law, Lilie Marion Parr (d.1938), wife of Robert, a farmer.

By 1911, and perhaps as early as 1908, Mrs Lilie Parr engaged the Hamilton architect Frederick Charles Daniell (1879-1953) to design a house for the site. Its concrete construction is a typical example of this material as Daniell's oeuvre. Unlike most houses in Hamilton of the period, Mrs Parr's house is predominantly of bungalow rather than villa style.

It has distinctive features that belong to Daniell's styling, but also to other influences such as elements of the Arts and Crafts style, and some English cottage. But it features distinctive and early use of a concrete construction system patented by Henry Goddard in Australia in 1905, known as, 'Camerated Concrete' that began to appear in New Zealand advertisements around 1909. Daniell finished the exterior with a plaster coating, a finish he favoured. He also incorporated elements of a style taken from Medieval English houses made of timber exposed frame with infill slab. Arches, as appear in this house, are also a common feature of Daniell's designs, at the time, an unusual style for Hamilton. Daniell draws these various style elements together and combined with his preference for concrete construction, created a style distinctive and recognisable to students of his work, as 'Daniell'.

From 1920 - 1925 there were various subdivisions of the land around Lilie Parr's house with the remaining house property being gifted to Rubina Mather.

Following Rubina Mather's death, the property was purchased by the newly created Diocese of Waikato in 1926, as the first Bishop of Waikato's residence, and became known as Bishopscourt. That same year Cecil Arthur Cherrington was elected Bishop. Plans for the chapel began immediately, as a personal gift (at a cost of £607) to the Diocese in memory of the Bishop's mother and wife who had both recently died. Probably designed by the architect, H.I. Foster, the chapel was consecrated on 30 June 1927. It was described as 'an example of simple yet dignified ecclesiastical architecture, which might well be followed by any who contemplate building a small Church'. On 16 October Cherrington opened St Anselm's Theological School. The intention of the school being to:

enable young men who have a vocation for the ministry, but are without means, to matriculate with a view to taking a degree at the University of New Zealand. If they have matriculated they are able to obtain a scholarship at S. John's College, Auckland, which will practically support them during their course. Five students have been accepted by the Bishop, all of them well recommended by their clergy. For the present, students will reside at Bishopscourt owing to the difficulty of securing a suitable house, and also in order to save expense in the initial stages. the minimum cost of each student will be £50 annually, not including the necessary books and examination fees; and the Bishop is fortunate in having the assistance of able lecturers who are giving their services in their spare time.

The school ran for several years. Cherrington had rapidly become an unpopular bishop, being more high church than most of his parishioners, and sparking gossip when he married his housekeeper. However, Cherrington liked a ‘good drink' and many ‘tea parties' were hosted on the rolling front lawn of his home. Furthermore, ‘the second Mrs Cherrington was a charming and efficient hostess',' all of which helped to somewhat soften the attitudes of his congregation. Bishop Cherrington saw the Diocese through the tough times of the Great Depression, with careful financial management. For the first time, deacons boarded at Bishopscourt in an attempt to minimise church costs and Cherrington acted as the Dean to save on wage expenses. Yet it was not just money that was low; morale of the congregation was also at an all time low. With this in mind, Bishop Cherrington and the Vicar of Frankton inaugurated a Queen Carnival to provide social engagement and fun during the depression, and to raise money to help pay off debts for both parishes.

Just as things had started to improve for the Diocese, the Second World War was declared, attracting younger clergy to enlist as chaplains. As senior clergy died, there were no young men available to replace them. In 1948 another milestone was reached when three new parochial districts were formed.

Cherrington died in 1950, aged 77, having resigned earlier that year for health reasons. He was succeeded by a much younger, Oxford educated John Tristram Holland, who had moved to New Zealand in 1938 when his father was made Bishop of Wellington.

Bishop Holland oversaw a period of growth, including the start of ‘Te Rau Aroha', a youth camp at Waihi Beach. The house's rear verandah and courtyard gardens were still in existence at this time, however, the family found the house bitterly cold with the walls constantly damp in winter, so by July 1953 the chapel had been deconsecrated and the family had moved to a new Bishopscourt residence on River Road.

The old Bishopscourt property was then renamed ‘Bank View' and both buildings used as a boarding house, but in less than a year the property was back on the market.

It was purchased by the Hamilton branch of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) who had been struggling to fund new buildings, but using the £10,000 sale of land gifted by Auckland businessman John Court, they were able to purchase Bishopscourt on the 10th August 1954. The first YWCA hostel for young women was opened in Hamilton.

Formed in 1935, ‘The YWCA has three functions: to provide companionship for women, to advocate for them, and to provide social services, primarily, but not exclusively to, women and children.'

Bishopscourt provided a ‘home away from home' for 16 permanent residence and two ‘casuals'; the wide verandah could comfortably seat 100 people. The office was a small dark room with French doors onto the verandah. Bishopscourt was heated by stoking a huge boiler in the basement and lighting the two large open fireplaces. The beds and wardrobes were removed from the Chapel and it was converted to an all-purpose building and echoed to the sound of teenage dances, Golden Circle gatherings, and cane classes. A wide concrete drive led in from Pembroke Street and a large orange tree blossomed at the end of the verandah. An old green summerhouse was a prominent landmark and a popular hide-out.

One architectural drawing indicates that a stage was set up at one end.

The community served by the Waikato YWCA changed rapidly over its first thirty years of existence. During the 1950s, Hamilton was entering a period of rapid growth and associated change. Part of this growth saw a large increase in the Maori population resulting from two factors, the urbanisation of Maori and the Maori Renaissance that encouraged those of Maori descent to identify as such. In 1951 only one in fifty Hamiltonians identified themselves as Maori; by 1971 there were 6,000 Maori living in the city and by 1976 Hamilton had the fourth largest Maori population in New Zealand. Responding to this the YWCA focused activities on newcomers to the district and especially young Maori women coming to Hamilton in search of employment. Working closely with the Department of Maori Affairs, the Waikato YWCA provided live-in week long ‘charm courses' with a focus on teaching these young rural women city manners and ladylike behaviour, particularly table setting and grooming. They also held Maori Debutante balls sponsored by the Maori Women's Welfare League, an organisation that was particularly active in providing support to urban Maori during this period.

After several years of funding drives to the broader YWCA and the local community, in 1957 White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser architects of Hamilton were commissioned to design upgraded facilities.

Even into the 1960s there were still members of the YWCA who felt that the Association would be better served by being closer to the central city, however others felt that the city was growing rapidly and would come to Pembroke Street soon enough; the foresight of the latter proved correct. According to Hannah, ‘the prevailing opinion [was] that the YWCA should ‘cut its coat to fit the cloth' and continue with planning the upgrade of Bishopscourt.'

Ironically, it is the encroaching intensity of CBD growth in the area that activated the YWCA to consider future risk to these history filled places and proactively nominate the buildings for consideration for registration by the NZHPT.

A drawing of the White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser YWCA proposal was eventually published in the Waikato Times on 11 October 1960. Work started in 1961 and the new facilities were opened on the 4th May 1963 by the MP Lance Adams-Schneider. In 1971 the Hamilton Architects Smith, Grant and Associates drew up plans in conjunction with D. Rudd and Partners, electrical and mechanical consulting engineers of Auckland, for an extended heating system with additional radiators at Bishopscourt, suggesting the house still had issues with cold.

Bishopscourt's survival again hung in the balance in the 1970s with the building being perceived as hampering program development:

many on the Building Advisory Committee saw the problem as being caused by the restrictions of the Bishopscourt building; as a residential building property, it was not designed for use as office space, and its grand style was pulled down by the necessity of mundane furnishings like filing cabinets and the ilk. Thus the prospect of demolishing Bishopscourt was mooted, to much furore from the members, who felt that the building must be preserved at all costs.

The problem was solved by purchase of the adjacent Clarence Street section where a three storied 60 bed hostel was built in 1973. A kitchen adjoining the chapel was also added about this time, and the chapel functioned as the dining room for the next 15 years. For 20 years from 1974 a popular creche service was operating for women who enrolled in YWCA courses.

In the early 1980s there were further plans to expand, and ‘Architects were contacted regarding proposed additions to the existing hall, and alterations to make Bishopscourt more suitable for its primary role as the offices of the YWCA staff.'

The wider YWCA looked increasingly at incorporating the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori women's rights into their programmes and practice. In 1997 an initiative unique to the Waikato YWCA was begun. Chrissy Paul, the Hamilton coordinator of Whakahou (‘to make new') Services began a program to assist Maori women to move beyond their experience of family violence. The following year a process began to convert the Episcopal Chapel into Te Whare Wahine, a Maori women's space. This was a joint project between the Waikato YWCA and Whakahou Services, culminating a six month Community Work project involving seven women who had experienced family violence supported by 35 others (including whanau). Participants were taught Maori decorative art skills. Nga Roopu Wahine Kai Whakiro, the National Women's carving group helped with designing and making carved panels featuring atua/goddesses which tell stories of courage, survival and hope. These panels were surrounded by a painted mural above the dado using Maori inspired decorative patterns in earthy tones. The group also (controversially) selected the bright colours painted on the exterior of chapel still visible in 2009 to represent their own transformed lives. Te Whare Wahine was opened in 1999, with 139 people attending. The project won Hamilton City's Civic Trust premier project award, praised for being ‘not only about recreating a building, but recreating people.'

In 2009 Bishopscourt functions as both an administration and accommodation building. The accommodation is predominately assigned to shift workers, such as nurses, who need a quieter environment. The Chapel/Te Whare Wahine provides a general meeting space and quiet area.

The YWCA continues to struggle with building issues. Many of Bishopscourt's original character features are not presented as well as they could be, nor have the alterations been as sympathetic as they could be due to financial constraints. Despite constraints presented by the buildings however, they have been used by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Hamilton for over 54 years for a variety of purposes. The YWCA describes the Bishopscourt building and chapel as a ‘hidden gem'. The current management is keen to protect these buildings as unique pieces of Waikato's heritage.

Kellaway notes that, ‘the Parr house and the former Bishopscourt Chapel and grounds form a distinctive picture of the rapid change that took place in Hamilton from 1900 to 2000.' What was once a quite large residential site became home to the new Bishop of the Waikato Diocesan, recognising the growth of the region and it's subsequent separation from the larger Auckland district, the place of Hamilton as it's administrative centre (partly due to it's role as a key transportation hub), and ultimately the growth of the central city that saw the reduction of private residences in the area, and the increasing need for central affordable accommodation and social services for young women.

Physical Description

The property is part way up a hill, facing east, towards the outer edge of the original militia planned settlement of Hamilton West, not far from Lake Rotoroa.

Historically, this was a residential area, but it has become increasingly commercial, with houses being converted to business premises. It is on one of the main roads to Waikato Hospital and is next door to the YMCA complex in Pembroke Street. The two buildings are part of the larger YWCA complex that includes a hall, changing room and a commercial kitchen that curl around two sides of the chapel, and a multi-storey hostel further up the slope behind the chapel and house. The chapel runs parallel with the south wall of the house, but is set a little further back from Pembroke Street, with a path linking the two buildings. Both buildings are set back from the street and many people who regularly travel along Pembroke Street have expressed surprise at their existence. This is partly because the large magnolia tree on the corner (believed to date from the Parr period) partially obscures the view of the Bishopscourt house from the street. The 1960s hall obscures much of the view of the Episcopal chapel.


The single storey Bishopscourt house has a U shaped floor plan, with the left hand side of the U (south wing) extending further west than the north wing. Three sets of floor plans by Daniell for Bishopscourt are known to exist, one set notes the north wing as extant. The north wing has more villa type characteristics - such as a steeper roof pitch and a central hallway - than the rest of the building, which has more features associated with bungalows. Nonetheless, in the opinion of architect Laura Kellaway the entire building is stylistically consistent with Daniell's designs, and is reasonably confident that the entire house was designed by Daniell no earlier than 1908 and extensions/alterations completed by 1917.

Both the internal and external walls of the house are of concrete: Daniell had a penchant for reinforced aerated concrete with a plaster finish and although the earliest known, surviving concrete residence (Clifton) is earlier (circa 1873) Daniell was one of the few New Zealand architects to adopt these materials for domestic architecture in the early twentieth century and to use the 'Camerated Concrete' construction system. Plans indicate concrete footings, and the use of wooden formwork for the concrete floor of the verandah is clearly visible in the basement.

Daniell's design for Bishopscourt referenced Mediterranean architecture, with an arched verandah at the front reminiscent of an arcaded loggia (also seen in other New Zealand bungalow designs), arched doorways were also used in the drawing room and the remains of an arch can still be seen in the office at the far end of the south wing, while at the rear a 'piazza' opened onto an internal courtyard featuring a lily pond.

The roof space is lit and ventilated by a half-round three paned hinged window in each gable end. The gable ends are finished with painted shingles. The mock-Tudor (medieval) detailing on the front (eastern wall) around the bay window is constructed of concrete. The bay window in the drawing room has casement and fanlight windows, with decorative art-nouveau influenced lead-lighting in the toplights, featuring floral motifs on a geometric background in pinks, yellows and greens.

The window in the spare bedroom (no.2 on Daniell's original plan, now a lounge area) to the right of the bay window (NE corner) has been converted into a doorway that leads to a storeroom extension, retaining the top light (painted over). The storeroom is an unsympathetic extension added in fibrolite with aluminium joinery, so that the eastern exterior wall is now flush with the front of what was the drawing room.

The windows in the oldest part of the building (north wing, facing Clarence Street) are two panes with a single toplight. The window closest to the north east corner has been converted to a door leading onto a porch, but retaining the toplight. The windows of the south wing servant's quarters are sash windows. The rest of the house windows are predominantly two or three panes over one casement with toplight(s).

All the original exterior doors have glass panel inserts, as did Knightstone by the same architect. More villa style doors are used in the original wing, with the western door cut to form a stable door. Originally a small door provided access under the front verandah from the south wall, later providing access to the boiler. The basement door has been moved to the eastern wall. The Robin Hood boiler is still extant in the basement, but is not used as the radiators are now run from a boiler in the Hall complex.

Daniell's plans had most of the southern wing devoted to a servant's area, including the kitchen, storage areas and the seventh bedroom provided for the maid. The house also had a school room at the end of the southern wing at one time, indicating private tuition despite public schooling being well established in Hamilton at the time. The servant's accommodation and school room have been altered and extended on several occasions; currently a sunny area has been extended into the courtyard in what is currently the Meals on Wheels coordinator's office.

According to one of Daniell's original plans, the master bedroom at the front of the house featured a boudoir. The boudoir has been altered on a number of occasions and is currently an open plan office space that extends into what was the verandah.

Two of Daniell's three known sets of floor plans for Mrs Parr's residence have the note 'existing rooms' next to bedrooms two, three and four (see appendix 2), indicating a pre-existing structure designed by someone else. In 1912, 1913 and 1916 mortgages were raised against the property; the first two are likely to be associated with the cost of construction of the house, and the latter likely to be extensions of the wash room or laundry in the south west corner, as shown in the floor plan.

Shared spaces in Daniell's designs included a reception hall, dining room, and drawing room. There was a shared family bathroom and separate internal toilet for the family. Bathroom and toilet facilities, while modified, still exist in similar positions within the house, with additional bathroom facilities in what was the piazza. The maid's area had its own hand basin and toilet: these have been removed.

Apart from the removal of the 1916 addition to the south wing, (possibly a laundry) to make way for the chapel, most of the major alterations occurred in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the transformation by the YWCA. The piazza has a lean-to roof and has had internal walls inserted and shifted over the years. Currently the piazza area is divided in two, with a bathroom on the southern end complete with skylight and a kitchen on the northern end of what was the piazza. There is no longer an entrance into the courtyard from the piazza area.

The verandah had a skylight installed by the late 1950s and has been glassed in using steel frames as part of the 1960s revamp, with the original external wall removed to create larger rooms, currently used as offices. The original wide concrete front steps designed by Daniell were also removed at this time and the main entrance shifted to the southern side of what was the verandah, so the front double doors have been lost and the original entranceway now opens into the manager's office. The brick flowerbed next to the steps was also constructed at this time.

The ceilings in what would have been the most public rooms (living room, original entrance and dining room) are in typical bungalow style, with decorative exposed beams and plaster. At some point a skylight has been put into what was the original reception hall. Much (perhaps all) of the ceilings in the north wing plus what was the master bedroom are of board and batten style, reflecting in part their earlier period and different use. The area that would have been used by the servants has the least decorative ceilings in tongue and groove, narrower hallways and in some cases narrower doors, reflecting the servants' lower status and lack of public access. A wide (300 mm), relatively simple profile skirting board has been used throughout.

The original fireplaces in both the dining room and sitting room of Bishopscourt remain, although the chimney tops have been removed. Both are of brick with timber panelling, a mantelpiece and mirror above. The dining room surround has Charles Rennie MacIntosh elements and includes cupboards, but its hearth is no longer visible. The room also has tongue and groove wood panelling all the way around, topped with a narrow shelf at a bungalow-style height. The sitting room inglenook, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, still exists, but the seating indicated in Daniell's plans does not: the 1960s plans by White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser indicate some wooden panelling was to be removed. The two sets of fireplaces in the north wing have been boarded over and the chimneys removed; the decorative elements of these may still exist in behind. Only one chimney of the original five still exists in the kitchen area of the house. This may relate to the Champion wood burner which remains in the kitchen but is no longer in use. Another vent in kitchen was used within the last 20 years to vent a kiln (since removed), used by a pottery group. The servant's hallway leading to the kitchen is been painted with a mural appealing to children from the time the service areas were used by a not-for-profit child health support group.

In 1957 White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser architects of Hamilton were commissioned to design upgraded facilities. Work on the changes were eventually begun in 1961. The plans included alterations to Bishopscourt and the chapel, as well as construction of new accommodation for twenty young women and a larger hall and changes to the entrances. The verandah was enclosed allowing the creation of new office spaces and a bedroom in what had been the entrance foyer.

In 2002 the Hamilton firm Antanas Procuta Architects were engaged to provide plans to revert the north wing offices back into hostel accommodation. Alterations included a further extension to the ablutions area at the western end and were designed by Evan Mayo (1975- ).

The house now has solar water heating panels on the roof of the north wing.

The lily pond is no longer in place and the courtyard is entirely paved in concrete. The pond backed onto a slope and may have been designed to handle the water runoff. Certainly the lack of a pond and an increase in hard surfacing led to problems with flooding in wet weather, a problem that has again relatively recently been turned into an asset (albeit a less visually attractive one): the rainwater is collected into tanks that are used to flush the toilets in the house.

The survey plan shows an outline of the house, and 'also shows established hedge and fences to the Clarence Street boundary and western boundary, with just a hedge and fence along Pembroke Street.'

Episcopal Chapel

The single storey chapel's interior was described at the time of it's consecration in 1927, as being of 'pressed red brick', (matching the Bishopscourt fireplaces) this has since been painted over, and 'the tiled roof and white rough-cast exterior are in perfect keeping with the adjacent Bishopscourt'. The original copper spouting of both the house and the chapel buildings has mostly been lost to thieves. The Chapel's high gabled roof is covered in terracotta roofing tiles and has projecting eaves with exposed rafters and purlins like the house. It has three ceiling vents. Bishopscourt's arches are echoed along the interior side walls, perhaps a nod to medieval buttressing. A medieval tradition of Celtic cruck frames, seen also in English tithe barns is evoked inside, with exposed stained wooden beams, curved angle braces between the wall, tie beams and sarking, evoking a sense of a long English tradition, appropriate in an Anglican church.

The interior retains the Te Whare Wahine decoration above board and batten panelling, the original red brick interior has been painted over. The wooden floor has been carpeted. There is a large pointed window at the south west end, and three smaller pointed windows in the gable at the other end. Of the three, the central window is larger and has four panes, the two either side have three panes each, all three windows have one pane which can be opened using a pull cord. The clerestory windows suggested in the White, Leigh, De Lisle and Fraser proposal of 1960 were not implemented. The three sets of two windows on the southern side have been blocked up with only one of the alcoves still visible: it is likely that the other window alcoves exist behind the carved panels. The three paned windows on the northern side have been retained; the middle pane of each can be opened. All the chapel windows have steel framing.

Non-original double fire doors are in the southern wall, leading into the Meals on Wheels kitchen. A single door in the northern wall has recently been replaced with a different style of door. Below the three gable windows in the eastern wall is what would have been a pointed doorway, reminiscent of English churches. It has been partially filled in with a simple rectangular glass panelled door opening into the lean-to style lobby, which has a sarked ceiling. The lobby's external exit still has the original solid double doors, facing Bishopscourt. The chapel is in need of earthquake strengthening and planning for this is underway.

The chapel's construction appears to have required the removal of the 1916 extensions of the laundry/wash room area of the house.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1912 -
Construction of Mrs Parr's house completed

Original Construction
1927 -
Chapel consecrated. Possibly changes to Bishopscourt rear SW corner as a result.

1961 - 1963
New entrances, verandah enclosed on Bishopscourt, Episcopal Chapel linked to new hall, kitchen in eastern end of clubroom by this time.

Reception and office area of Bishopscourt (originally boudoir and verandah) made open plan.

1972 -
Kitchen adjoining the chapel added.

Store room added to NE corner of Bishopscourt

2002 -
Conversion of North wing back into bedrooms from offices

Construction Details

Brick, concrete stucco, timber, clay roofing tiles, reinforced concrete, wooden shingles, corrugated iron.

Completion Date

26th November 2009

Report Written By

Kathryn Mercer

Information Sources

Gibbons, 1977

P.J. Gibbons, Astride the River: A History of Hamilton, Christchurch, 1977

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Hannah, 2003

Kate Hannah, Changing Lives, Changing Times: A History of the Hamilton YWCA, 1943 - 2003, Hamilton YWCA, Hamilton, 2003.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area 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.