Sunday, 28 February 2021

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Former Gumtown School to become a recognised historic place

The former Gumtown School at Coroglen, complete with an original desk and even the hooks where children hung their coats as far back as 1900, is set to be added to the official list of New Zealand’s historic places.

Heritage New Zealand is currently consulting with the public regarding plans to classify the one-one room kauri structure as a Category 2 site recognising it as a place of historical or cultural heritage significance or value. The building currently sits near the centre of the wider Coroglen School site on Rangihau Road, where new developments have grown up around it over the years.

It is one of two buildings which date from the turn of the century township, the other being the former Gumtown Hall, now Coroglen Hall, on State Highway 25, which already has Category 2 status.

The Heritage New Zealand report notes how the growth of the timber and later gum digging industries over the 19th century led to the establishment of Gumtown beside the Waiwawa River from 1879 within the rohe of Ngāti Hei. “In 1883, the future site of Gumtown School (Former) was owned by Repiu Tokata of Ngāti Hei who claimed ownership by descent and occupation. A leading centre for the collection and shipping of kauri gum which supplied the timber camps, Gumtown was a thriving commercial hub by the turn of the century with a wide range of established businesses and supported a substantial Pākehā and Māori population. To provide an education for those families, Gumtown School opened in 1896 followed by the creation of a purpose built school in 1898 to 1899.” The school initially had a roll of 19 students.

As well as highlighting the former school as a very well-preserved example of rural schools of the era, the report also details the building’s history and how it has continued to play an education and social role in the community right through to the present day. “Classes began in the new building in early 1899 and it was also regularly used by the wider community, particularly for church services and Sunday school. As the timber industry declined in the early twentieth century, so did the population of Gumtown and the surrounding area converted to dairy farming. The new community changed the town’s name, and by association the school name, to Coroglen in 1921.

“Over the twentieth century Gumtown School (Former) was adapted for changing educational requirements. When the building was no longer needed as a main classroom in 1978, the community took over its management and maintenance. Gumtown School (Former) was subsequently repurposed for use by a playgroup for over 40 years, has hosted jubilee celebrations and remains in use by Coroglen School.”

The building has also served as a polling booth and more recently as a second-hand shop. The Coroglen School Board of Trustees along with the Mercury Bay Museum provided extensive information to support the proposal to list the site as an historic place.

The report concludes that the former school has historical significance as it is the original school building at a rural settlement and reflects the importance of education to the local community for 120 years through its community led creation and consistent use for educational purposes. “The place includes the oldest surviving building from Gumtown and demonstrates the size and relative permanence of the turn of the century settlement which was able to support a purpose-built school. Being one of only two surviving buildings from Gumtown, the place also reflects the origins of the town as a leading centre which supported the timber and gum digging industries.”

The full report is available to read at www.heritage.org.nz with submissions accepted until Tuesday, 9 March.

Pictured: The former Gumtown School at Coroglen is set to be added to the officiallist of New Zealand’s historic places.

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