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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, November 1955

The Lands of Nelson College

page Ten

The Lands of Nelson College

(Read before the Nelson Historical Society on 20th April, 1955.)

I have in the main part of what I am to say relied on information drawn from the minutes (1) of the Board of Trustees of the Nelson Trust Funds, made available to me originally by Dr Bett, now in the Dominion Archives; (2) of the Council of Governors of Nelson College; written auhority to examine is in my possession.

Perusal of these minutes indicated that they were not prepared for the complete enlightenment of research students.

I think that in any discussion about Nelson and its beginnings we should bear in mind that there were 3,100 free emigrants; but that the allotments of land sold were in the hands of 238 absentee landlords and the 80 landed proprietors who really emigrated.

  • 315 bought allotments.
  • 80 emigrated. They did not all remain.
  • 3,100 free emigrants came out.

From among the 80 the Trustees of the Nelson Trust Funds were appointed, the body first concerned with the establishment of Nelson College. When the new school was definitely launched legal arrangements were made for its permanent control and administration. A Council of Governors consisting mainly of the trustees was set up and a deed of foundation provided. This received the sanction of Parliament in 1858.

In the establishment and developing of Nelson College two bodies were concerned: (1) The Board of Trustees of the Nelson Trust Funds; (2) The Council of Governors of Nelson College. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees pursuant to proclamation was on February 2, 1852. It was announced that land was to be set aside for College purposes: 17 ½ acres (2 blocks to the south of the present site and 1 block back from main road) with endowments at Motueka, Massacre Bay (Motupipi) and Wairau. An acre of land at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square came under the control of the Trustees and there was a grammar school site where the Hospital now stands §§942/948 (and 6 acres §§677/687 in Vanguard Street).

The first indication in the minutes:

June 28/1853. "That the Board do take into its consideration at its next meeting on Friday next, July 1st, the subject of education and the educational institutions." The Board had much to do besides considering educational matters. It, however, created a trust of over £8000 invested at 10%. Towards the end of 1854 a sub-committee was set up to consider the best steps to secure a master for the High School, and it was decide to procure a prospectus and the regulations of the Hobart Town High School and College at Bishop's Bourne. In 1855 the January meeting was adjourned as only 3 turned up owing to "the late earthquake". At the March meeting (March 1, 1855) it was resolved "That in the opinion of this Board it is desirable to take immediate steps for the establishment of a permanent high school." Fell, Wells, Picard, Monro were a committee for this purpose and their report was adopted 13/3/55. The Board met on the site (17½ acres) to consider site, clearing, ploughing, fencing.

April 17, 1855. A plan of the ground was considered. The tenders of Jones for ploughing and that of Ockley for clearing were accepted. Hawthorn was discussed as a hedge.

July 2, 1855. Dr Monro's recommendation of the centre of the ground as the best site was accepted. Advertisements: 1. for a design of a school of lath and plaster out and in to hold 100 pupils; due date November; premium of £40; 2, for fencing grounds, ditch, bank, post and 2 rails.

November 21, 1855. The design of Clarke (Motueka) was placed first and the tender of Shephard for fencing was accepted.

page Eleven

December 10, 1855. David Burn was asked for an estimate of the cost of Clarke's design. A suggestion was made that temporary classes should be started.

January 1, 1856. "That as a considerable time must elapse before the College buildings can be erected and fit for occupation the Board, considering the great want which presently exists of teachers in the higher branches of education, deems it desirable that immediate steps be taken for the appointment of a master." Elliott and Fell were to find a suitable building.

January 8, 16, 30, 1856. The Rev. John Charles Bagshaw (who had come to Nelson from Adelaide in April 1855 and was an officiating minister in the diocese) was called into conference with the Board and after lengthy discussions at several meetings he was appointed to enrol pupils and organise a school which was to be non-sectarian but to open and close with prayer.

March 20, 1856. The Church of England schoolhouse (Bishop's School then in recess) was rejected. Mr Mabin's house in Manuka street and 1 acre of land was bought for £1630, opening day decided as Monday, April 7. Arrangements were made for the speedy erection and furnishing of a school room.

April, 1, 5, 20, 1856. A suggestion was discussed to buy 4 acres adjacent and make this the permanent site. A strong memorial against the change of site caused the matter to be dropped. In August hawthorn hedges were planted round the 17½ acres.

October 25, 1856. The application of the Waimea District for a grammar school was refused.

In 1857 a building committee was set up and Beatson became architect. Meanwhile 17½ acres was laid down in grass. A proposal (April 1) to buy 5 more acres to reach the main road was rejected.

April 22, 1857. It was decided to erect a large school and classrooms on College property and to erect or procure a house adjacent for a master and 12 boarders, Fell and Greenwood to find a house.

December 1, 1857. Tenders for timber for building were laid on the table (The nominated Governors received the Deed of Foundation).

December 14, 1857. The secretary is instructed to write to the superintendent of the province saying that the Board of Trustees would be much obliged if he would inform them whether in the event of the Board offering a piece of land of equal value to 3 acres Nos. 1028, 1030, 1032 reserved for a lunatic asylum opposite Mr Snow's (later known as College House) he would recommend the Provincial Council to agree, the object being to secure an unexceptionable site.

Meanwhile, a deed of foundation having been drawn up, 5 of the 7 Trustees with 4 other gentlemen become a Council of Governors for Nelson College. Building, land, mortgages and cash (£2170) to the total value of £20,000 passes to the control of the Governors (David Monro, William Wells, Charles Elliott, J. W. Barnicoat, J. W. Greenwood, John W. Saxton, C. Bigg-Wither, Alfred Domett, H. C. Daniell).

January 14, 1858. The change of policy foreshadowed by the Board of Trustees is proceeded with and the whole block on which the College now stands together with the closed portion of Ngatiawa Street (16½ acres) is secured party by exchange and partly by payment.

January 12, 1859. Tenders were called for excavation.

A school (wooden) was built. The house on Riding's section was used as a master's dwelling till 1866 when it was let to Lowe for 7 years at £100 a year. Later it was known as Jickells. A reservoir was formed on the Littlego Stream and when this was interfered with by Taranaki refugees the Governors bought from Mr Hodgson the acre of ground still in their possession and known as the Water Acre. The Manuka Street site, dwelling house and schoolroom was sold to Dr Monro for £1200.

After protracted negotiations the Governors selected 11 sections of Crown land in the Amuri District near the Conway River in exchange for its page Twelveformer endowments at Motupipi and the Trafalgar Square acre. This block contained 2780 acres (17/6 an acre). Sections 22, 23, 24, 29/33, 37, 38, 40.

Fortunately just before the Great Fire the Governors bought the property variously known as Snow's, Shorts, McKee Wrights (3/5/1904, £950).

The more recent acquisitions will be within the memory of those present.

1.The Jones property between Vanguard Street and Tipahi Street (O.B. Association and Council of Governors).
2.The property fronting on Ngatitama Street and part of Ngatitama Street. Minister of Education (Hon. H. Atmore).
3.An area on the flank of the Grampians. Minister of Education (Hon. H. Atmore).

Note on the Courthouse Acre, Trafalgar Square.—There was a very long controversy over the ownership of this acre. It caused the Governors much concern and various methods of testing ownership were devised. At one time when the Council was short of funds, a by no means uncommon thing, an effort was made to sell the acre to the Provincial Government. On 10/6/64 the Council gave orders for an advertisement to be inserted in the newspaper offering the acre for sale on a fixed date.

In the end the ownership lay with the Board; the acre was assessed at £1650.

Minutes p.271 14/3/1878. "That land in Trafalgar Square granted to the Trustees and vested in the Council of Governors be conveyed to the Crown for use as part of a public square.