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Manawatu Journal Of History, MASSEY COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE, 2014



Cover illustration: The Manawatu Flows On, 1993. John Bevan Ford. Collection of Massey University Library. Reproduced by permission.

John Bevan Ford (1930-2005) was born in Christchurch. His mother was of Ngati Raukawa ki Kapiti ancestry and his father of English/German descent. He lived in the Manawatu from 1974, when he came to work at Massey University. John was a full time painter for the last twenty years of his life.

This painting has its origins in an invitation to travel to the Netherlands, with a series of works commemorating, and giving a Ma-ori perspective on, the anniversary of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman’s arrival in New Zealand in 1642. The artist has used a pen loaded with liquid acrylics, on watercolour paper. The taniko border of the cloak above the land signifi es mana, and that the land is a land of distinction; the fl oating threads emanating from the sacred upper edges of the cloak symbolise the local people’s whakapapa (genealogy), and show that the space above the land is an active space. Below, the Manawatu River fl ows out of Te Apiti, the Manawatu Gorge, and meanders across the plains. The scroll-like fi gure above the gorge represents the region’s fi rst navigator, the pre-Ma-ori taniwha (spirit) Okatia, who became a totara tree and carved out the path of the river on his way from the Wairarapa, east of the ranges, to the west coast. The canoe of the next navigator, Kupe, can be seen to the left of Okatia. One of Kupe’s wives was Ruahine, after whom the ranges to the left of the picture are named. The third great navigator was Tasman, and his boat is also in the sky, to the left of Kupe’s. Constellations and single stars in the sky are the Ma-ori equivalent of the compasses that Tasman used as navigational tools. The place where the Manawatu River meets the Pohangina was the site of an outpost of the Rangita-ne people. The site has since been washed away by fl oods, but here the artist has ‘brought it home’ and populated it by including at the bottom right edge the patterns of some very old fl ax belts from the Manawatu Museum (now Te Manawa). Some of these patterns also appear in the traditional taniko borders of the cloak. The unusual vertical pattern in the centre of the cloak, which is not traditional, was inspired by a very early carved canoe prow cover found in Taranaki by Richard Cassells, when he was working at the Manawatu Museum. Shapes from that carving also appear on the fi gure of Okatia.

Lucy Marsden

ISSN 1176-9602


Massey Commemorative Issue 2014

Lucy Marsden


The Manawatu¯ Journal of History was originally an initiative of the Palmerston North Heritage Trust in conjunction with the Manawatu¯

Branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is now published annually by the Manawatu¯ Journal of History Inc.

Editorial committee: Cushla Scrivens (editor), Lucy Marsden, Garry O’Neill, Russell Poole, Margaret Tate, James Watson, Noelene Wevell, Marilyn Wightman.

Contact details:

Cushla Scrivens, 2 Seaton Court, Palmerston North 4410.

Email: [email protected]


The Treasurer

Manawatu¯ Journal of History Inc.

PO Box 1702

Palmerston North 4440.

Correspondence from readers and potential contributors is welcomed.

Copyright for the articles in this journal lies with the authors. They may be contacted through the editor.

Design: GSA Design Ltd.

Printed by Freedom Print.

Typesetting by Pip’s Prepress Services, Palmerston North.

The information contained in this journal is believed to be accurate.

The journal maintains an open editorial policy and may or may not endorse opinions expressed in articles. Neither the journal nor its editorial committee assumes any responsibility for any material considered to be defamatory or for obtaining any copyright permission necessary for the publication of articles.


4 FOREWORD Steve Maharey



Issue 9, 2013



Issue 4, 2008







Issue 10, 2014




When a university turns 50 the various world-ranking agencies start looking at it differently. Once considered young and untested, reaching the venerable age of 50 is a clear signal that the university has established its credentials and is here to stay. From this point on they join the group of universities that have, in some cases, been around for as long as 800 years.

No wonder such universities start looking carefully at their history. This is exactly what Massey University is doing. We are a child of the 1960s (1964 to be precise) along with many other universities around the world. This was a time when higher education expanded rapidly in response to growing economies and burgeoning populations hungry to gain access to the once exclusive domain of the few. All of this activity created what some have referred to as a golden age of universities. Certainly, Massey University enjoyed a long period of sustained growth as its academic programme expanded to include sciences, health, creative arts, humanities, social sciences, education and business.

It needs to be said, of course, that the Massey University story goes back further than 50 years. We did not just suddenly appear on the scene fully formed. The Palmerston North campus began as the Massey Agricultural College in 1927. The College of Creative Arts can trace its history back to the 19th century.

Distance education at Massey is into its 55th year. The Institute of Veterinary and Biological Sciences (IVABS) celebrated 50 years in 2013.

Faculties and Colleges have come, some have stayed, others have been transformed into something new.

All of this history means we will be telling stories about our past for many years to come.

Some of those stories are to be found in this issue of the Manawatu¯ Journal of

History. This issue of the journal brings together stories about a time when Massey could only be found in the Manawatu¯ on the outskirts of Palmerston North. They tell of great characters who helped shape the identity of the University like Sir Alan Stewart and Keith Thomson and of others who occupied or designed the buildings that now form our heritage and are being restored to their former glory. Fifty years of drama are brought to life and we are reminded of the once glorious capping revues that have all but disappeared from modern universities. The library, always the heart of any university, has its story told.

The Massey University community will read this Commemorative Issue with interest and gratitude. Like foundation Vice- Chancellor Sir Alan Stewart, many of the readers have Massey ‘in their blood’ and want to know more about the university they call their own. As a young university we have not always been as careful to record our history as we will be from now on. We are old enough to know how important it is to understand where we have come from and who has brought us this far. Great universities always have a great history. It is what their reputation is built on. Massey University is one of the world’s leading universities and over the next 50 years it intends to maintain that reputation.

People within and outside of the University are going to be increasingly curious to know about us. This issue will make a signifi cant contribution to their knowledge.

A special thanks to the Massey University Library and the W H Oliver Humanities Research Academy for their support of this project.

Steve Maharey Vice-Chancellor Massey University



In 2014 Massey University celebrates fi fty years as a full university, having previously been an agricultural college. This year also will also see the tenth issue of the Manawatu¯

Journal of History, which came into existence following a series of public meetings in 2004. It seems appropriate to commemorate both with this special issue, in which seven previously published articles on the history of Massey are reprinted, along with one new one.

After 35 years working in the University Library, the last fi ve as University Archivist, the Journal seemed a good place in which to record some key aspects of its history likely to be of interest to the local general reader, as well as to alumni. This appealed as a worthwhile retirement project.

The reasons for selecting these topics were partly practical: they were topics I already knew something about, and about which I knew there were adequate resources, as well as being discrete subjects that could hopefully be covered in 4,000-word articles. As well as being important in the history of Massey and its Manawatu¯ campus, they were also, quite simply, topics that interested me. I especially enjoyed exploring the family connections of Arthur and Ethel Russell of Wharerata;

perhaps historians are all celebrity columnists at heart. The easiest to do was the one on the University Library, since I was so familiar with it, the most fun that on the student capping revues, and the most diffi cult that on the Prendergast Estate, about which resources proved hard to fi nd.

Readers may be surprised to note that there is nothing in here directly on agriculture;

together with graduates Lesley Courtney and Michael Bartleet I wrote Floreat Agricultura, a short history of agriculture at Massey, in 2002, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Agricultural College. This is out of print, but is available online (Google

‘Massey Jubilee books’).

I gratefully acknowledge the unfailing helpfulness of the current University Archivist, Louis Changuion, and the support of Cushla Scrivens, the Editor of this Journal, whose idea it was to reprint these articles, and who sometimes generously allowed me to exceed the word limit when my enthusiasm ran away with me.

Lucy Marsden


A S O U N D I N V E S T M E N T : S I R J A M E S P R E N D E R G A S T A N D


Massey University’s Turitea Campus currently occupies land that once formed part of a large (3,743 acres, 1514.7 hectares) estate in the Town of Fitzherbert, on the south side of the Manawatu¯ River, extending from Linton to just beyond Cliff Road. This estate was owned in the late nineteenth century by Sir James Prendergast.

As a young man in 1852 the London-born Prendergast joined the Australian gold rush, where he had some success as a goldminer in Victoria. On his return home he followed in his father’s footsteps by qualifying as a lawyer, and was called to the Bar in 1856.

London was well supplied with lawyers, however, and he decided to emigrate to New Zealand, arriving in Dunedin with his wife in 1862. Here he was to fi nd considerable status through the pursuit of his legal profession and considerable wealth through astute investment in land.

Thanks to the Otago gold rush Dunedin offered great openings for lawyers in the early 1860s, and Prendergast quickly prospered.

In 1865 he was appointed Crown solicitor in Otago and then Attorney-General; at this stage he gave up his Otago practice and moved to Wellington. His task as Attorney- General was to consolidate the criminal law, and to this end he drafted 94 acts, notable for their attention to detail. In 1870 he also became the fi rst president of the newly established New Zealand Law Society. 1875 saw him Sir James Prendergast.

Turnbull Library, 031752-F.


reach the height of his profession, when Prime Minister Julius Vogel, whom Prendergast had known in both Australia and London, appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. He was aged 49, and was to remain in that position until his resignation in 1899.

His approach to the law has been described as ‘pragmatic’, and some of his legal opinions as ‘literary labyrinths’, but one of his achievements was to clarify the land transfer system. He is nowadays somewhat notorious, fi rst for describing the Treaty of Waitangi as ‘a simple nullity’ because the Maori were primitive people, ‘incapable of performing the duties, and therefore of assuming the rights, of a civilised community’. Second, when acting as Administrator between two Governors-General he authorized the despatch of troops to Parihaka in 1880.

It has been pointed out, however, that in these attitudes he was representing the orthodox opinions of his time. His Pa¯keha¯

contemporaries regarded him as a person of courtesy, patience and tact.

Based in Wellington, Prendergast would have had intimate knowledge of upcoming land sales, and the frequent travelling demanded by his work provided opportunities to assess the potential of available land. The Ahuaturanga, or Upper Manawatu¯, Block which lay between the Oroua River and the Tararua/Ruahine Ranges was sold to the Government in 1859. The site for Palmerston North was surveyed by J T Stewart in 1866 and the fi rst sales of Manawatu¯ land took place in Wellington on 7 and 9 November 1866. Town lots varied in price from £20-£52, while rural land had an upset price of £1 per acre except along Rangitikei Line where it was £2 per acre.

Prendergast wasted no time in acquiring Manawatu¯ land, buying sections in the Sandon Block in the Rangitikei-Manawatu¯

Block and a further 41 at Bunnythorpe; as soon as the fi rst sections in Fitzherbert became available in the 1870s he bought there, and his Fitzherbert Estate eventually comprised 37 sections, ranging in size between 45 and 208

acres. Most formed a consolidated block of land, watered by the Turitea and Kahuterawa streams, with six sections further east, beyond Cliff Road. Eight sections between Prendergast’s estate and the river were owned by J O Batchelar and J C Monro (see map). All was rich, high quality land, suitable for farming, and the availability of a bridge over the Manawatu¯ River from 1877 facilitated easier contact with the nearby settlement of Palmerston North and increased the land’s value and potential. A homestead was built on section 186, adjoining what is now Summerhill Drive, and a woolshed on section 189.

Prendergast was genuinely interested in farming, and was the fi rst President of the Manawatu A&P Association, from November 1886 to July 1887. Wise’s New Zealand Post Offi ce Directory 1902 Part 1 lists him as a farmer living on his Fitzherbert estate, but Part 2 of the same publication lists him as living at his Wellington home, 14 Bolton St. It would seem reasonable to assume that Prendergast travelled to the Manawatu¯ when his position as Chief Justice permitted, but that a manager was responsible for day-to-day affairs.

Petersen reports that the estate was managed by Frank Perry, and both the electoral rolls and Wise’s confi rm that Perry was a farmer living in Fitzherbert in the 1890s. In an advertisement for sheep dip in the Feilding Star of 10 April 1897 he endorses the product and is described there as Prendergast’s farm manager. Perry must have liked the area and bought land there, since he is listed as paying rates after 1900.

Dorothea Joblin, in her book Behold the Plains, does not mention Frank Perry, but states that the farm was managed by Michael Prendergast, James Prendergast’s son. Since James and his wife did not have any children, Michael must have been a different relative, who perhaps managed the estate before Perry. He is listed in the Electoral Roll 1890 as a farmer owning the freehold of sections 219, 225 and 226, sections which were bought by James Prendergast in 1876 and formed part of his estate when it was offered for sale in 1900.


Plan of Sir James Prendergast’s Fitzherbert property, produced for the sale on 31 January 1900.

Palmerston North City Archives, PNCC7-6¬_007361.


A photograph showing part of section 203 in 1901, by which time it was owned by R S Abraham and Arthur Russell, suggests that the land had not been highly developed, and had been used for extensive grazing.

This is borne out by advertisements in the Manawatu Standard in February 1900 for the sale on Prendergast’s behalf of ‘some 500 head of well-bred shorthorn cattle’ ... ‘10,000 well- bred Lincoln sheep’ and ‘7 horses’.

Even with relatively few improvements, the Fitzherbert land was bound to increase in value. Petersen records that good land in Manawatu¯ sold for 23s to 27s per acre in 1877, but that the value rose sharply in the later 1870s with a growing appreciation of the land’s farming potential. Prendergast’s purchases refl ect this. He bought the parcel of sections 219, 225 and 226, totalling 329 acres, near the river east of Cliff Road, for

£450, or just over 27s per acre, and sections 190-197, totalling 405 acres, on River Bank Road (now Tennent Drive) for £47 10s, or just

over 20s per acre. Rate books for Kairanga County Council’s Fitzherbert Roads Board are available for 1893/4 and 1896/7, and they indicate the rateable values for some Fitzherbert sections. Unfortunately the sections listed there do not correspond exactly with the few parcels for which Prendergast’s purchase prices have been found, so it is not possible to get accurate comparisons, but they do indicate sharp increases in value. For the year 1897-8 sections 225 and 226 were together valued at £2,450 (£9 16s per acre) and sections 219 and 222 together at £1,176 (£8 12s per acre).

The single section 207 was valued at £462 (£8 2s per acre).

Prendergast’s wife died on 5 March 1899, and he retired from his position as Chief Justice in May that year, aged 72. He put his Fitzherbert and Bunnythorpe lands up for sale. They were auctioned by Williams and Abraham on 31 January 1900. The Palmerston North City Archives hold a poster advertising this sale, describing the Fitzherbert estate as Prendergast’s land, partly developed, soon after the sale. Craiglockhart is on the hill and Whare Rata is being built.

Massey University Archives.


very good farming land which, despite having been farmed, had not been overstocked.

Detailed descriptions are given of each section as to its fencing, water supply, bush and road frontage. While the land had not been cleared of timber this was not seen as a problem, since the high value of fi rewood in Palmerston North meant it could be done at minimal cost. Purchasers were to pay 10% in cash at fall of hammer, 10% in one month, and the remainder could be covered by a fi ve-year mortgage at 4.5%.

There would have been intense local interest in the outcome of this sale of an extensive estate so close to the town; it was advertised widely in lower North Island newspapers.

The Feilding Star of 25 January 1900 predicted that it would be ‘the most successful held for years’, and the Hawera and Normanby Star of 22 January 1900 wrote that the quality of the land and its close proximity to Palmerston North made it ‘one of the most important land sales ever held in the North Island’. Refl ecting the wide interest it aroused, the sale was held at the Theatre Royal instead of at Abraham and Williams’ rooms as advertised. Unfortunately local newspapers for the week after the sale are missing, making it impossible to work out exactly how much Prendergast received for his land. However, the Evening Post of 1 February 1900 reports that the sale was very successful, the Bunnythorpe sections being sold at £15 to £18 per acre, the Fitzherbert sections realising £10 to £18 per acre. The Manawatu Standard of 31 March 1900 reports

that all the sections had by then been sold, at an average beyond the owner’s expectations, and that the buyers were all local residents.

Sections 194 and 197 had by then been sold to F Harris and Jno Harris respectively, for £12 an acre. As early as 17 February, the Standard had reported that one purchaser had already sold his land at a profi t of £700.

Some of the sections were broken up soon after the 31 January sale. For example, the prime section 203, just over the bridge on River Bank Road with views across the city and plains, was initially bought by Richard Cobb, of Raukawa, then divided into three. Twenty- eight acres of it were acquired by the Russell family (in Mrs Ethel Russell’s name) for £785 10s 3d (about £28 per acre) and they soon built their homestead Whare Rata and established a Lawrence Bourke, who bought sections 189 and 190 for dairy farming.

Pataka Ipurangi, 2007N_Pi138_PEO_1184.

Sale notice for Abraham & Williams sale of the Prendergast estate.

Palmerston North City Archives, PNCC7-6_007361.


striking garden. A second part of this section was bought by Richard Slingsby Abraham (of Abraham and Williams) who erected the magnifi cent 24-room Tiritea homestead, with its long elegant drive curving up from the road. Percy McHardy of Hawke’s Bay acquired it in 1920 and it was subsequently bought by the Palmerston North Council in 1926 for £10,000, 21 acres being gifted to the new Massey Agricultural College which came into being in January 1927. The third part of section 203, high above the road, was bought by Charlie Loughnan, then sold to the Keiller brothers, who overcame diffi culties of access and built the Atawhai homestead there.

Even the rather scanty details outlined above indicate that Prendergast’s investment in Fitzherbert land would have yielded him a substantial capital gain. The Sandon and

Bunnythorpe sections would certainly have sold at a good profi t, but the Fitzherbert estate could have been the star performer in his investment portfolio. While not every section would have sold in 1900 for as much as the

£28 per acre paid by the Russells to Richard Cobb, every indication is that they would have sold for several times what Prendergast had originally paid for them. Proof of his astuteness as an investor in land is that when he died in 1921 his estate was valued at £132,605, the equivalent of over $11 million today.

No doubt plenty of other land speculators made substantial fi nancial gains from the rise in land values in late nineteenth-century Manawatu¯. Since the area was opened up relatively late there could have been several with the ready cash just waiting to invest. But Aerial photo of Massey Agricultural College, c1945-55. Prendergast once owned most of the land shown in this photo.

Pataka Ipurangi, 2008P_Ma66_TER_1393


the location, quality and size of Prendergast’s estate made it especially notable, and probably especially profi table.

He might have been surprised had he known the use to which his land would later be put. Apart from small areas in private hands and Bledisloe Park (part of section 203) which belongs to the Palmerston North City Council, Massey University now occupies all the sections between the Old West Road and Tennent Drive. Some belong to Massey, while others are owned by the Crown, Massey having the right to occupy. The campus itself has expanded from its original site over the remainder of section 203 and most of section 189; the other sections are now farms used for teaching and research. The magnifi cent area of bush on section 169, mentioned in the 1900 sale notice, has been preserved as a reserve and is known as Keebles Bush, after the family who farmed the surrounding area for many years.

The area is still offi cially known as the Town of Fitzherbert. Nor has Prendergast himself been totally forgotten, since the road giving access to the south-western corner of the campus from Tennent Drive is called Prendergast Road.


Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 1, 1769- 1869. Wellington, Bridget Williams Books/

Department of Internal Affairs, 1990. pp. 354- 355.

Gisborne, W. New Zealand Rulers, Leaders and Statesmen from 1840–1897. Rev. ed. London, 1897.

Joblin, D. Behold the Plains: The Story of the Old Houses of Massey. Auckland, Longman Paul, 1970.

Petersen, G. Palmerston North: A Centennial History.

Wellington, A H & A W Reed, 1973.

Scholefi eld, G. H. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Wellington, Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1940.

Newspapers and Journals

Papers Past. (www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz) 1850–1910.

Primary Sources

Documents, rate books and paper clippings, Massey University Archives and Palmerston North City Council Archives.

Electoral Rolls, 1887-97.

New Zealand Gazette, 1877-80.

Probate for James Prendergast, Knight, Archives New Zealand, AAOM 6029 Box 442, 30510, 1921.

Wellington Provincial Gazette, 1867-76.

Wise’s New Zealand Post Offi ce Directory, 1892/3-1902.


Murray Adams, National Capital Manager – Finance and Asset Management, Massey University.


Painted in 1914, it shows a beautiful and elegantly dressed woman in her prime (she was then aged fi fty or fi fty-one) gazing across the room with a distinctly patrician air. Small wonder that both staff and students of Massey have been known to refer to her, erroneously, as Lady Russell. Arthur and Ethel were in fact plain Mr and Mrs Russell.

They were, however, closely connected, by birth and marriage, to some of the well- established pastoralist families of the lower North Island, all of whom made considerable contributions to the area’s development.

Arthur’s parliamentarian brother and soldier nephew were both knighted, and Ethel’s sister Githa married James Fergusson, brother of Sir Charles Fergusson, Governor-General of New Zealand 1924-1930. James became an admiral in the Royal Navy and was also knighted.

Ethel’s family, the Williams family, was a clan so numerous and close that they were once referred to by Arthur’s brother as ‘Ngati Wiremu’. Her father was Thomas Coldham Williams (1825-1912), fourth son of missionary Archdeacon Henry Williams and his wife Marianne Coldham. Henry Williams, anxious to provide for his many offspring, had bought land in the Bay of Islands area, and Thomas (known as ‘TC’) farmed this land. He proved an astute businessman as well as a good farmer, making money initially from selling produce

to the military during the New Zealand Land Wars, and later from his landholdings. He married Anne Palmer Beetham, daughter of William Beetham, a Royal Academician

C O N N E C T I O N S : T H E


In the Russell Room of Massey University’s Wharerata hangs a life- size portait of Ethel Russell, who with her husband Arthur built the house in 1901.

Ethel Russell, 1885, aged 23.

Photograph: Massey University Archives


from London who had settled in Wellington in 1855, and in partnership with the Beetham family established and farmed Brancepeth estate near Masterton between the 1860s and 1903. Brancepeth Station was, at 56,000 acres, the largest single property in the Wairarapa.

TC also acquired town sections in Pahiatua, Eketahuna and Masterton.

When the Brancepeth estate was split up between 1903 and 1905 Ethel received the Rawhiti Block, making her a substantial landowner in her own right. Her brother Guy leased this block from her, and farmed it together with his own block and one belonging to another sister. At some stage Rawhiti Farms became a limited company, of which Ethel was still a shareholder at the time of her death.

Ethel’s uncle George Beetham (1840-1915) entered politics and served as Member of the House of Representatives for several Wairarapa electorates between 1877 and 1890. He was also a noted alpinist, the fi rst to reach the top of Mount Ruapehu, a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, and one of the founders of the Masterton hospital.

Her uncle Samuel Williams (1822-1907) was ordained deacon. During time in Otaki he organised a system of Ma¯ori schools, and supervised the building of Rangia¯tea church, begun by Hadfi eld. He later went to Hawke’s Bay, where he was closely involved with the establishment of Te Aute and Hukarere schools, and acquired land for his own use.

In 1888 he was appointed Archdeacon of Hawke’s Bay, and in 1889 Canon of Waiapu.

James Nelson Williams (1837-1915), a son of William Williams, Henry’s brother, was both Ethel’s second cousin and her uncle, since in 1868 he married her mother’s sister Mary Beetham. Initially farming with Samuel Williams, he soon acquired land of his own, fi rst at Kereru then at Frimley, where he pioneered techniques of draining and clearing swampy fl ax-covered land. Like Ethel’s father, TC Williams, James was an entrepreneur, involved in the establishment of commercial fruit-growing and an early canning factory

in the Hawke’s Bay. He also served on many local bodies and made a great contribution to the development of the Frimley district.

The Russells were a family with a strong tradition of military and public service. One researcher has described them as bringing ‘a

“gentlemanlike” tone to Hawke’s Bay’. Arthur’s grandfather and father, both named Andrew Hamilton Russell, served in the British army;

his father (1812-1900) came to Wellington in the 1840s, and was appointed superintendent of military roads in 1846, constructing several important roads in the Wellington region.

While he did not come from a wealthy family he had the good luck, or good sense, to marry an heiress, which meant he was able to take the fi rst step towards fi nancial security by leasing the Mangakuri station in Hawke’s Bay when he retired in 1859. The wool cheques enabled him to freehold Mangakuri later.

He served as Minister of Native Affairs and Defence in 1865-6.

Arthur Russell.

Photograph: Massey University Archives


Arthur’s elder brothers Andrew Hamilton Russell (b.1873) and William Russell Russell (1838-1913) had military careers like their father. Both left the army to take up farming in Hawke’s Bay. William, and Andrew Hamilton’s son Andrew Hamilton, known, helpfully, as Guy, (1868-1960) eventually became the titled members of the family, both gaining knighthoods.

William and Andrew Hamilton initially farmed together at Tunanui, but William later settled on land at Flaxmere. Active in local politics, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1875, and held several ministerial posts before his fi nal defeat in 1905.

His long service was recognised in 1902 by being made a Knight Bachelor. An unsigned typescript in the Massey University Archives, of which he is most probably the author, tells of a trip made in 1884 along the proposed route of the Main Trunk Line; the route was approved by the North Island Main Trunk Railway Committee in October 1884, so the trip must have been made very late that year.

The author and Sir Walter Buchanan were

in the House when this decision was made, and wished to see the route for themselves.

They were accompanied by a Mr Beetham (presumably the George Beetham mentioned above) and two others. Travelling on horseback, they went north from Hunterville, following the proposed railway route as far as the present National Park, where they turned east past Lake Rotoaira to reach the Turangi area. The return trip took them down the present Desert Road to Waiouru, with a side trip to Erewhon station owned by the Birch brothers, William John and Azim, then back down to Marton. This was not an easy trip, suggesting an adventurous spirit as well as physical fi tness.

Arthur’s nephew Andrew Hamilton (Guy) continued the family’s military tradition, serving with the British army in India and Burma before resigning to return to New Zealand to farm with his uncle William at Tunanui and Twyford, taking ownership of both properties in 1909. In 1900 he formed the Hawke’s Bay Mounted Rifl e Volunteers, and in 1914 accepted command of the New

Wharerata before the 1930 alterations.

Photograph: Massey University Archives


Zealand Mounted Rifl es Brigade that fought at Gallipoli. He served with distinction there, and later as a general in France, being awarded a KCMG, and a KCB.

So how did Arthur and Ethel, with strong connections in both Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa, come to build in Palmerston North?

Arthur had a quarter share in Mangakuri so when it was sold in 1876 for £50,000 he was fi nancially secure, and with his younger brother Herbert bought land at Te Matai near Palmerston North.1 He sold this land in 1899 or 1900, and in 1901 built Wharerata on land formerly part of the Prendergast Estate. This twenty-eight acres was bought for £785 6s 3d in Ethel’s name.

The twenty-eight-room Wharerata was designed by Charles Tilleard Natusch, an eminent Napier-based architect whose fi rm designed many large houses for rural landholders, such as Gwavas at Tikokino, and Bushy Park at Kai Iwi. It was in the mock-tudor style popular at the turn of the century, and built of solid native timbers. The 1930 extension was designed by Heathcote Helmore, another architect experienced in designing for the rural gentry. The magnifi cent grounds were planned largely by Ethel herself with her gardener John Cameron, recreating the semi- formal structures of an English manor house garden.

In common with other settlers of the period the Russell and Williams families tended to cling to British traditions, including sending the sons ‘home’ for a public school education.

Arthur and William Russell were educated in England before coming to New Zealand, but Arthur’s nephew was sent back to Britain to be educated. Ethel’s father and uncle Samuel were educated in New Zealand, but her cousin James was sent to school in Britain, suggesting a rise in status for the family as well as the availability of more regular transport. Arthur and Ethel brought an English nurse out to look after their children; later their son Guy

was sent to Wellington College in England for his education, then, following the family military tradition, to Sandhurst. The whole family packed up in 1910-11 and went with him, taking a house in Eaton Square, one of London’s better addresses. The two girls were presented at Court, like English debutantes, then travelled to Europe to be ‘fi nished’ and learn languages. When war intervened the family stayed on until early 1918, returning to New Zealand after young Guy’s untimely death from pneumonia. Following Arthur’s death in 1924 Ethel had another trip ‘home’, this time acquiring a large collection of antiques that made necessary the 1930 extension of the house.

Ethel Russell, passport photograph, 1916.

Photograph: Massey University Archives

Their social patterns were also typical of their times. It is clear from Russell family correspondence, and from the Main Trunk Route document described above, that the Williams, Beetham, Russell and Caccia Birch families socialised extensively together. These

1 At some stage he also bought a property near Mangaweka, called Te Kapua, ownership of this passing to Ethel on his death.


links were reinforced by business dealings and intermarriage. The Russell property at Mangakuri was sold in 1876 to James Nelson Williams, ownership later passing to Samuel Williams. James Williams, like Ethel’s father TC, married a Beetham. Arthur and Ethel met when she visited James and his wife at Frimley. Their 1885 engagement was met with great approval by Arthur’s brother William, who described Ethel as ‘...an exceedingly nice girl ... strong and well grown and nice-looking and graceful’. Andrew Hamilton Russell (Guy) married Gertrude Mary Beetham Williams in 1896. Weddings in these families must have been magnifi cent family gatherings.

Following their move to Palmerston North Arthur and Ethel led a busy social life, mixing especially with close neighbours the Monros

of Craiglockhart, the Abrahams of Tiritea and the Strangs of Woodhey (later Caccia Birch House). Dorothea Joblin, in her book Behold the Plains describes in detail the balls and parties at Wharerata that Ethel clearly enjoyed organising, but gives the impression that she regarded her family as just a cut above the others in the neighbourhood. Joblin refers to her stately appearance, regal presence and class-consciousness, and reports that she was regarded as ‘a lady through and through’. Arthur was seen as both a gentle man and a gentleman, like his brother William who was known both in the House and in his electorate for his courtesy and gentlemanly demeanour.

There is no doubt that Ethel and Arthur were one of the wealthier couples in Palmerston North, and they must have handled their wealth well. Despite a reasonably lavish lifestyle Ethel’s estate amounted to some £70,000 when she died in 1949. It would be wrong, however, to consider them or their relatives ‘idle rich’.

Arthur recounted in detail the hard work and diffi cult living conditions involved in breaking in Mangakuri, and he was in his mid fi fties when he fi nally retired from farming. His brother William’s letters to his father are full of details about the work on his farm, suggesting a very hands-on landowner. The activities and achievements of other members of the Russell, Beetham and Williams families outlined above indicate that they all worked hard for their money and status, and had strong service ethics. Ethel, who was a fi ne needlewoman, did not restrict her sewing to fancy embroidery, but made exquisite dresses for her daughters, and even hats for all the stallholders at a church fete held in the gardens of Wharerata. She supervised her household staff with a fi rm hand, and appears still, through that magnifi cent portrait, to oversee all the ceremonies that take place in the Russell Room. The artist who painted it knew what he was doing when he gave her that patrician, even aristocratic, air.

Mrs Russell ‘oversees’ the signing of the agreement formalising the merger between Massey University and Palmerston North College of Education in the Russell Room, Wharerata, 16 June 1995,

Photograph: Massey University Archives



Boyd, M. B. City of the Plains: A History of Hastings.

Wellington, Victoria University Press for Hastings City Council, 1984.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Industrial, Descriptive, Historical, Biographical Facts,Figures, Illustrations.

Vols 1 & 6. Wellington, Cyclopedia Co., 1897- 1908.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vols 1 and 2. Wellington, Bridget Williams Books/

Department of Internal Affairs, 1990-93.

Eldred-Grigg, S. A. Southern Gentry: New Zealanders Who Inherited the Earth. Wellington, Reed, 1980.

Joblin, D. Behold the Plains: The Story of the Old Houses of Massey. Auckland, Longman Paul, 1970.

Macgregor, M. Early Stations of Hawke’s Bay.

Wellington, Reed, 1970.

Mooney, K. History of the County of Hawke’s Bay.

Napier, Hawke’s Bay County Council, 1973.

Scholefi eld, G. (Ed.), Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vol 2. Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs, 1940.

Yerex, D. They came to Wydrop: the Beetham and Williams Families of Brancepeth and Te Parae, Wairarapa 1856-1990. Masterton, published on behalf of Hugh Beetham of Brancepeth and Tom Williams of Te Parae, 1991.


Campbell, M. D. N. The Evolution of Hawke’s Bay Landed Society, 1850-1914, PhD thesis (Victoria University of Wellington), 1972.

Primary Sources

Miscellaneous History Box. Massey University Archives.

Probate for Ethel Russell. Archives New Zealand AAOY W3298 137/1949.

The Russell Saga vols 1 & 2. QMS 1820-21, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. W.R.

Russell Correspondence. MS Papers 1711, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Wharerata, Massey University, Palmerston North:

Conservation Plan. Report prepared by Chris Cochran, Conservation Architect, for Property Management Section, Massey University, 30 March 1998.



Andrew Hamilton Russell m. Eliza Ann Hewlett 1811-1900 Andrew Hamilton Russell William Russell Russell (KB) Arthur Edward RussellHerbert HenryEllen + 4 others b. 1837 m. Katherine Tisley (1838-1913) m. Harriette Julia (1846?-1924) b. 1847 Hodgkinsonm. Ethel Alice Williams + 7 others Andrew Hamilton Russell 6 children Ethel Ida Beatrix Hamilton Gerald Arthur Guy Campbell (1868-1960) (Guy) (KCB) (1886-1973)(1888-1971)(1889-1896)(1898-1918) m. Gertrude Mary Beetham Williamsm. C. V. Birch 1924 Thomas Williams m. Mary Marsh (of Nottingham, England) Henry Williams (1792-1867) William Williams (1800-1878) 7 other children m. Marianne Coldham m. Jane Nelson

Samuel Williams (1822-1907) Thomas Coldham Williams9 other children m. Mary Williams(1825-1912) m. Annie Beetham 6 children Ethel Alice Williams (1863-1949)12 other children m. Arthur Edward Russell Mary WilliamsJames Nelson Williams7 others d. 1900 (1837-1915) m. Samuel Williamsm. Mary Margaret Beetham


They are not unique in New Zealand, the earlier Auckland Grammar School and Dilworth house in Auckland, and the work of Louis Hay in Hawke’s Bay, being in similar style. The Massey buildings are in this style because they were designed by an American architect who learned his craft from followers of the great Chicago School architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Roy Alstan Lippincott was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1885, and after graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University in 1909 joined the Chicago team of Herman Von Holst, Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffi n. They were busy on projects that Frank Lloyd Wright had handed over while he travelled in Europe, and Lippincott worked particularly closely with Marion Mahoney on a number of house designs. In 1911 she married Burley Griffi n.

While they were still on their honeymoon they heard about the competition to design a new Australian capital city, and decided



The three original buildings of Massey Agricultural College (now Massey University) are still in daily use. They are highly distinctive, two of them in a style best described as ‘Spanish Mission’, and the other as ‘American Prairie School’.

Roy Alstan Lippincott.

Photograph: Architecture Library, University of Auckland.


to enter. Late that year they completed the drawings, which were sent off just in time to meet the deadline, and in May 1912 it was announced that they had won the competition.

Lippincott and Griffi n’s sister Genevieve were part of the draughting team, and in 1913 Lippincott became chief draughtsman for the fi rm. In 1914 he was made a junior partner and married Genevieve. The Lippincotts and the Griffi ns then departed for Australia, where from 1916 Lippincott managed the fi rm’s Melbourne offi ce, and was closely involved in the planning of Canberra. His Australian designs, including those for his own house, are very similar to those of Griffi n.

In 1920 he and Australian Edward Billson, from Griffi n’s offi ce, won the competition for the design of Auckland University College’s buildings, and he moved to New Zealand in 1921 to oversee their construction. The most distinctive of these, the Arts Building, has been described as ‘abstracted Gothic’ in style, with a tower infl uenced by the design of Wren’s Tom Tower of Christ Church, Oxford.

It was, however, modern in being constructed of reinforced concrete, and fi rmly anchored in New Zealand by the use of decorative moulded concrete motifs of local fl ora and fauna such as kea, fl ax and mamaku (black tree fern). This type of ornamentation came to be typical of nearly all Lippincott’s New Zealand buildings, and is present on all his Massey buildings.

Following the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement, Lippincott believed in functionality, simplicity, respect for materials, and that a building’s decoration should be intrinsic to the whole design. He also believed in the stylistic integration of both architecture and furniture, and designed all the furniture and fi ttings himself. He considered the Arts Building to be his most important work.

Another interesting building for Auckland University College was the Biology Building (1936-39), which included seventy sculptured snails as stair brackets, and simple geometric ornamentation typical of his later 1930s style.

New Zealand architects, who favoured British styles, were not impressed that the

Auckland University College contract had been awarded to an American architect. The New Zealand Herald of 21 June 1921 described the Arts Building as ‘an architectural monstrosity’, and the Government Architect, J T Mair, reportedly considered it ‘not in harmony with our national character’. The controversy did not, however, damage Lippincott’s career. In 1925 he set up his own practice in Auckland, describing himself on his letterhead as ‘Architect - Town Planner’.

He remained there until 1939, and designed several notable buildings including Smith and Caughey’s Department Store (1927-29), the Berlei factory (1930-31), various private houses such as the Scott House in Orakei (1935), and St Peter’s Preparatory School, Cambridge (1936-37). His entry in the Sydney Law Courts competition in 1938 was placed second.

His infl uence on local architecture was considerable since he was closely involved with the New Zealand Institute of Architects and was instrumental in establishing university training for architects in this country. Following the 1931 Napier earthquake, he was part of the committee that inspected the damaged buildings and gave advice on designing earthquake resistant buildings. His publications in the Institute’s journal were infl uential in helping New Zealand architects move from conservative to modern styles, and he was a strong advocate of town planning. His interests ranged across all the arts, including drama and music, and he played an active role in Auckland’s cultural life. In 1931 he was introduced to Steiner’s anthroposophy, a philosophy whose unifi ed approach to the arts suited his thinking.

The Palmerston North connection came about because Sir George Fowlds, Chairman of Auckland University College Council from 1920-33, was an admirer of Lippincott’s Auckland work. When Massey Agricultural College was established in Palmerston North Fowlds became Chairman of its Council by a 1926 statute, so understandably Lippincott was favoured for the design of its buildings.

At some stage in 1926, in the expectation that he would be involved in the design of the new College, Lippincott spent three months


studying the layouts and buildings of similar colleges in the United States and Canada.

The fi rst site for the College was the Batchelar farm, on the fl at land between Riverbank Road (now Tennent Drive) and the Manawatu¯ river. The homestead was hastily altered in 1927 to provide teaching space for the fi rst student intake in 1928, and the land developed as the college farm. Negotiations were underway, however, for the acquisition of the McHardy property on the hill south of Riverbank Road. At the fi rst Council meeting in February 1927 Lippincott was asked to do layout plans for this site; he was clearly not one to waste time, since three small, delicately drawn, sample plans were ready for the Council meeting on 22 March. They show teaching buildings and quadrangles in traditional style on the upper site, with a drive sweeping down to a dairy factory on the other side of the road. One of these plans also shows the College expanding onto the Russell property next door, something that was not to happen until the 1950s.

Three buildings were to be built immediately: a Dairy Factory, a Refectory, and a building for teaching and research referred to then as the Science Building,

and now known as the Main Building. In mid-1927 the Department of Agriculture was keen to have all the College’s building plans and works under the control of the Public Works Department, and there was at one stage a proposal that a competition be held for the design of these buildings. The Council, however, resolved at their 17 August meeting to insist on complete freedom from the Department of Agriculture, and asked that the College be placed under the Department of Education. Sir George Fowlds recommended in October that Lippincott be appointed as architect for all three buildings, and on 22 October Cabinet agreed to this. The three buildings were to be quite different in function and detail, but being all designed by the same architect have a pleasing harmony of style. All were constructed of reinforced concrete, and tiled with red Marseilles tiles.

Priority was given to building the Dairy Factory, because one of the justifi cations for establishing the College had been to carry out research to assist the dairy industry, which was having problems with such matters as unreliable starters for cheeses. For this reason it was to be partly funded by the Dairy Board, and jointly operated with the Dairy Research Institute. It was also expected that

Dairy Factory, c 1930.

Photograph: Massey University Archives.


the operation of the Factory would earn some money for the College.

The site, north of the main road and directly opposite the main drive to the McHardy property, was confi rmed in September, and a Dairy Factory Manager, G M Valentine, appointed in October.

Lippincott was urged to proceed with plans as fast as possible, and these were accepted at the Council meeting of 13 December. Tenders were called, closing in late January 1928, with an estimated completion time of 22 weeks. A very functional single storey building, it was designed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘American Prairie School’ style, with strong horizontal lines, wide eaves, brick cladding inside and a hipped roof. A ventilator provided a strong vertical element, and as in his Auckland University College buildings, Lippincott used Ma¯ori motifs for decoration on either side of the windows.

There was some controversy about foreign timbers being used for the building, and it was agreed that New Zealand timbers should be used, provided seasoned timber of the necessary quality could be obtained immediately. By 20 March 1928 the fi rm of Trevor Brothers had started construction, and tenders had been called for the equipment and for the electrical wiring of the Factory.

The latter contract went to E P Wix for the sum of £310. Construction took longer than the estimated 22 weeks, and the building was not fi nally completed and occupied until January 1929.

Research work, on openness in cheese, started immediately, under the auspices of the Dairy Research Institute. The Manawatu Standard of 12 February 1929 described the Factory as follows:

It is a commodious edifi ce, designed mainly for experimental work, and provides ample accommodation for the manufacture of butter, cheeses of various kinds, and casein. It is equipped with the most up-to-date machinery, and forms one of the most modern experimental dairy factories in the British Empire.

For part of the year the College used the building and its equipment for teaching students enrolled in the Diploma of Dairy Manufactures, and the Dairy Research Institute used it for the remainder. By 1968 it had outlived its original function, and in the 1970s it was occupied by New Zealand Pharmaceuticals. Then it housed various research projects before being sold to the Department of Scientifi c and Industrial Research in 1987, ownership passing to AgResearch in 1992. In 2005 it was refurbished inside for the Bio Commerce Centre and is used as a biotechnology business incubator.

Many interior surfaces have been retained, and the exterior is still virtually as Lippincott designed it.

Massey Agricultural College admitted its fi rst students on 2 March 1928, with a total roll of 85. Teaching accommodation at the Batchelar homestead was limited, and there was nowhere for the social and dining functions also considered important for an academic institution, so a refectory building was seen as the next priority. Lippincott drew up plans in 1928 for a building on the McHardy property gifted to the government for the College. It included a hall, servery, kitchen, staff dining room, games room, stores, common room and staff quarters.

These plans were submitted to the Education Department at the end of that year. The estimated cost was £9,500.

By the time Cabinet gave approval for the Refectory in March 1929, enrolments were rising, and the College successfully argued that tenders should be called for the Science Building as well. Fletcher Construction’s joint tender for the two buildings, totaling

£96,500, was accepted in October 1929, though Lippincott had to reduce this price by £4,085 before building could start.

The Refectory was designed to be seen across the Oval, a wide expanse of lawn surrounded by trees. Of reinforced concrete with brick and terracotta panels, it is in

‘Spanish Mission’ style with tiled roof and semi-circular headed windows. While it is basically simple, Lippincott decorated it with


his trademark plaster foliage and stylised Ma¯ori motifs. It is a two-storey structure, with the imposing central dining hall originally occupying both storeys. Lippincott designed the tables and benches for the building, detailed drawings for some of which survive, as do some actual benches. It is believed that the furniture was made by Pegden Furniture in Palmerston North, and, as can be seen from the photograph, the dining room looked splendid in the 1930s.

While the Science Building was under construction in 1930 the Refectory was used for temporary lecture space, and in the absence of suitable dormitories its common room was converted into study bedrooms.

In the early years of the Second World War the New Zealand Army took over part of the College campus for a staff college, and ran the Refectory, providing meals for students and staff. By the time the building was handed back to the College in 1944 cooking facilities had been improved, and a small two-storey annex had been built. Further alterations have included the insertion of a new fl oor into the dining hall in 1963-64, substantially altering its elegant proportions. When the Student Centre was built in 1968 it took over many of the functions of the Refectory, usage of which changed to administration and teaching.

The upper fl oor of the dining space operated during the 1970s as a drama theatre known as The Grid.

Lippincott’s most signifi cant contribution to Massey Agricultural College is his design of the Science Building, a central feature of his overall plan. When the contract was let in August 1929, national newspapers carried reports describing its facilities and emphasising the urgent need for it. The Dominion of 10 September 1929 reported that its construction would provide employment for a hundred men, and many newspapers reported the laying of the foundation stone on 4 December 1929.

The choice of site for this building was crucial. It was originally to go behind the McHardy homestead, a substantial 24-room building at the top of a cliff, approached by an imposing curved drive, and with a magnifi cent view across Palmerston North and the Manawatu¯ plains to the north. In a report to the College Council of March 1928 Lippincott made the radical suggestion that the homestead be moved back, and that the Science Building be erected in its place. This, he said, would give ‘a personality and meaning’

to the site and the College, and make it clear that the College was not just ‘a makeshift affair in somebody’s backyard’. Generations Refectory front entrance.

Photograph: Massey University Archives.

The Refectory dining room.

Photograph: Massey University Archives.


of Massey staff and students have been grateful for his vision, and for the fact that the College Council and administrators shared it. The homestead was duly divided into two and moved back on rollers, and Lippincott remodelled one part as the Principal’s (later Vice-Chancellor’s) residence, keeping its original name of Tiritea. The second part has served over the years as teaching and accommodation space, the Registry, and as administrative offi ces.

Lippincott’s plans for the Science Building are dated 10 June 1929, and the granite foundation stone of the Science Building was laid with due ceremony by the Governor- General Sir Charles Fergusson on 4 December 1929. Underneath was deposited a sealed copper capsule containing various records such as the Massey College Calendar and copies of the local daily newspaper.

The building was designed as a hollow square on three levels plus a basement, with staff offi ces, lecture rooms, twelve laboratories and a library with the capacity for 23,000 volumes opening off the corridors. It was estimated that one fi fth of its accommodation would be used for research purposes.

Careful attention was paid to the provision of

laboratory fi ttings, and adequate ventilation.

Since it was not possible to place all related rooms on the same fl oor, the architect argued for a staircase at each corner to provide quick and easy access between fl oors without the need to walk long distances along corridors.

A major feature of the building was a central Assembly Hall, 65 feet by 42 feet, occupying two fl oors with a balcony on its upper level, and a fl oor of heart matai.

Like the Refectory, this building was in

‘Spanish Mission’ style, with rounded window heads; the exterior was clad in a roughcast mixture made from various New Zealand marbles, and the step to the entrance hall was made of solid marble blocks. Even though it was designed before the strict seismic codes introduced after the Napier earthquake, the architect used advanced earthquake-proofi ng techniques. It had structural steel roof trusses, and the fl oors and staircases were of reinforced concrete.

An imposing building with a magnifi cent outlook, appropriate for a modern agricultural college that was generally expected to develop one day into a university, one of its more intimate delights is the imaginative quality of the detailed decoration. Lippincott seems Tiritea, the McHardy homestead, divided into two and about to be moved, 1928.

Photograph: Massey University Archives.


to have taken great pleasure in designing the mouldings, many of them based on natural forms. In the Assembly Hall kiwis, fantails, kowhai and bulrushes adorn the walls and beams, while birds variously described as owls or eagles appear in the entrance lobbies.

Stylised Ma¯ori designs decorate the exterior and other simplifi ed geometric features common in Lippincott’s later buildings echo the art deco style of the 1930s. The heavy wooden inner doors, fi tted with bevelled glass, were made in Auckland, and the wrought iron outer doors include the initials ‘MC’ for Massey College. As with his other buildings, Lippincott designed all the furniture and fi ttings to harmonise with the building.

Lippincott was again criticised by the Dominion Federated Sawmillers’ Association for using imported timber in this building.

He defended his plans, pointing out that he had recommended native timbers in almost all cases, the only exceptions being Douglas fi r which was less likely to deform where the wood was to be covered with plaster. The Conservator of Forests inspected the building, and was able to confi rm that only eleven per cent of the timber used was Douglas fi r. The

Sawmillers’ Association was also very critical of the fact that the contract had been given to a ‘foreign’ architect.

On 30 April 1931 the building was opened by the Governor-General Lord Bledisloe, an occasion marked by the students with some lively pranks. The student magazine, Bleat, in its 1933 issue, reported that:

… Lord Bledisloe had conferred upon him the Most Distinguished Order of the Bleat.

A student of piggish associations produced a Royal Show Champion Yorkshire Boar ribbon to adorn the person of Sir George Fowlds. An extra over-size key was given the Governor-General and after much manipulation he was able to fi t it into the lock of appropriate proportions and declare the building open to the students.

At fi rst there were problems with leaking guttering, and the fi xing of this was the subject of much correspondence between the College Principal, Professor Peren, and Lippincott up to December 1935. The architect assumed that the specifi cations were not fully followed by the contractors.

Main Building, early 40s.

Photograph: Massey University Archives.


After the Second World War returned servicemen swelled the student roll. To increase accommodation the top fl oor was enlarged, and in 1962 the assembly hall was converted to a lecture hall with the addition of a sloping fl oor and rows of seating. The building’s connection with science and agriculture ended in 1979-80 when substantial alterations were made to accommodate the Humanities Faculty (now part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences). The lecture hall was transformed into a dual- purpose lecture room and theatre, making use of its excellent acoustics, and many plays and concerts have been performed there.

Despite these alterations the most important original design features of the building have been retained, including the doors, light fi ttings and stair handrails, as well as some decorative tiling in the toilets. Past and present Massey students still regard it as an icon of the institution.

Lippincott’s original campus plans included dormitories, and undated plans for a building similar in style to the three buildings described above are still held in the University Archives. Intended to go next to the Refectory, and house forty-eight students, this would have added considerably to both the appearance of the College and the comfort of the students, but was never built, presumably because of the fi nancial constraints of the Depression. Instead, various makeshift buildings were moved onto the campus in the 1930s and 1940s for use as hostels, several of which survived until the 1990s. The architect’s involvement with the College extended to working on the college seal, designing cottages for farm workers, and advising on even such mundane matters as the housing of student vehicles. He made many visits to the campus.

Lippincott’s buildings have been recognised by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the Refectory as a Historic Place Category II and the other two as Historic Places Category I. Massey University also paid the architect a compliment in the 1980s by ensuring that the Business Studies

buildings, sited between the Main Building and the Refectory, were designed in a sympathetic style, with red-tiled roofs.

When a campus was established in Albany, on Auckland’s North Shore, in the 1990s, its buildings also deliberately echoed Lippincott’s designs.

Lippincott suffered in the Depression years when commissions reduced in number, and his wife’s catering business became a useful source of income. He became a New Zealand citizen in 1936, and came to think of himself as a New Zealand architect, but was Mouldings in the Main Building:

Top: Kiwis and bulrushes in the Assembly Hall, now the Auditorium.

Centre: Fantails in the Assembly Hall Bottom: Owl in the entrance foyer.

Photograph: Massey University Archives.


not to end his life here. In 1939 he travelled to the USA with his family, and when war broke out remained there, closing his Auckland offi ce in 1940, and practising in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara until his death in 1969. He had left his mark, however, on New Zealand architecture of the twentieth century, and in particular on the Massey campus.

Note. The Main Building (now known as the Sir Geoffrey Penen Building) and Refectory are now closed for earthquake strengthening and restoration, and expected to reopen in 2015/16.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES Published sources Bleat 1933.

Cochran, Chris. Old Main Building, Massey University, Palmerston North: Conservation Plan.

Prepared for Property Management Section, Massey University, Palmerston North, 5 May 1999.

Cochran, Chris. Refectory, Massey University, Palmerston North: Conservation Plan. Prepared for Property Management Section, Massey University, Palmerston North, 30 November 1999.

Coulam, A. G. The Life and Work of the Hon Sir George Fowlds, Kt, CBE, with Special Reference to his Educational Activities. Auckland, Harvison and Seymour, 1947.

Historic Places in Palmerston North: a Description of Places listed on the Register of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga. Prepared by Rosemary Harris, Margaret Tate and Pat Scrivens. A project of the Manawatu Branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga, 2007.

An Ideal City – The 1912 Competition to Design Canberra – The Griffi ns Win – Preparing the Entry. National Archives of Australia, National Capital Authority, National Library of Australia, http://idealcity.org.au/ Retrieved 9 March 2007.

Lochhead, Ian J., Lippincott, Roy (Alston) [sic]

Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, http://www.groveart.com/ Retrieved 9 March 2007.

McGill, David and Sheehan, Grant. Landmarks:

Notable Historic Buildings of New Zealand.

Auckland, Godwit Press, 1997.

Kelly, I. (Ed.), Nuts and Bolts or Berries: Early Modernist Architecture in Australia. Papers and Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, 1993 Annual Conference, 25, 26 and 27 September, Perth, Western Australia.

Shaw, Peter. A Masterpiece in Auckland. New Zealand Listener, 3 April 2004, p. 64.

Unpublished Theses

Falconer, S.A. The Ma¯ori Gothic Wedding Cake:

The Auckland University College Arts Building and the Architecture of Roy Alstan Lippincott.

Unpublished MArch thesis, University of Auckland, 1993.

Unpublished Sources in Massey University Archives

Vice Chancellor’s Correspondence 1.1/1/1 Box 3.

Council Minutes 1927 – 1935.

Newspaper clippings.


‘ M A S S E Y S E E M S T O B E I N H I S B L O O D ’



When Alan Stewart took up the position of Principal of Massey Agricultural College in January 1959 it was a single-faculty institution.

He headed 63 academic staff organised in 12 departments, teaching some 500 students enrolled in 15 degrees, diplomas and certifi cates.

At the time of his retirement in January 1983 it was a full university with 32 departments, two sub-departments and ten research centres, making up eight faculties.

Academic staff by then numbered over 500, supported by a similar number of general staff, and some 15,000 students were enrolled in 81 degrees, diplomas and certifi cates, over half of those students studying extramurally.

In 1959 the annual government grant was the equivalent of $310,000, but by 1982 it had grown to $23 million.

Alan Stewart was born in Auckland in 1917 into a family with farming connections.

He studied agriculture in the sixth form at Mt Albert Grammar School, then gained an agricultural bursary of £60 p.a. to study at Massey Agricultural College, in Palmerston North. This College had opened its doors in 1928, and had 20 degree students when the young Alan Stewart arrived in 1937,

having done his science intermediate year at Auckland University College.

The Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree in which he fi rst enrolled was designed for those seeking a career in advisory, research or teaching roles. The country was then still emerging from the depression, and his main ambition was simply to get a job. At Massey he got a good basic grounding in the sciences underlying agriculture, with some more specialised training in the fourth year.

He then continued his studies, completing a Masterate in Agricultural Science with fi rst- class honours in 1940, and being awarded a coveted Rhodes Scholarship (the second for Massey Agricultural College) the same year.


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Manawatu Art Teachers Association, August 1, Massey University College of Education, Palmerston North, NZ.. Key factors in content

New Zealand Geographical Society Conference, July 7, Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ.. Butler, K., &