Visit us and enjoy our lovely old 19th century kauri and rimu historical building. The Raglan Old School building has a Category 1 heritage classification in the Waikato District Plan and is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is the oldest building in Raglan without significant recent modifications. The Old School has been a focus for the community as a learning and activities centre since it was built in 1883. The aim of the Raglan Community Arts Council (RCAC) is to keep this building alive by creating a thriving centre for the arts in Raglan so the building is maintained, conserved, used and enjoyed.
With the 1877 Education Act, the then church school became a public school renting a room from the Raglan Highway Board. The school committee engaged builder Jim Pearce to build a one room school with a porch in Stewart St, which he completed in 1883 using local kauri.
1898 Raglan School photo with headmaster James La Trobe on the right. Elsie Fitz William nee Rendell is second from the left in the third row from the back. Elsie recalls her time at school, “When I began school in 1898, it was a one-room, one-teacher school. No doubt Mr La Trobe was a kind old man, but with his long grey whiskers he seemed to my five-year old eyes, a figure to fear”.
With the roll continuing to grow, in 1903 the porch was enlarged and closed in, to form a 4 metre by 5 metre room.
1904 photo with child in foreground on horse in Green Street (now Wainui Rd), Union Church to right, original 1883 single classroom school in centre on Stewart Street and headmaster's house further up Stewart St hill.
1910 photo shows a timber lath roof on the original RHS room built in 1883 and a corrugated iron roof on LHS 1906 addition.
Teaching ended at Stewart St in 1962. The next year the building and land were vested in the Waikato District Council’s predecessor, the Raglan County Council. The next few years saw the Old School used for shearing competitions, beauty competitions and in 1975 the building was used as an office and smoko room for the Raglan County Council depot. Elsie Fitz William recalls, “…..half-way up a steep hill; added onto several times over the years, it long gave way to the new school, and it is now a sad old building in the grounds of the Raglan County Council yard.”
In 1978 the Raglan Museum looked at using the building for a museum, but decided that it would be too costly. Miss N Thompson reported to the museum committee, "... renovation would be a big job as the building is very run down."
The Raglan County Council then looked at demolishing the building. But a campaign led by Glen Young, first chairperson of the RCAC, and Eva Rickard, a local kuia (Wise Old Woman) saw lawyer Ronald Young (now a high court judge) achieve legal protection for the Old School under the Historic Places Act.
In 1984 upgrading for use as an Arts Centre was discussed with the Raglan County Council and workers began tidying up the building. Management of the building was given to the Whaingaroa Arts & Works Centre in 1988, a combined group of the Raglan Community Arts Council and Eva Rickard’s Whaingaroa Work Co-operative. At this time Glen Young described the building as ‘derelict’. Volunteers from these two groups started work on refurbishing and restoring the building.
Photo shows Eva Rickard opening the Whaingaroa Arts & Work Centre.In the following years, under the care of RCAC Chairperson, Marizio Sarzini, arts activities blossomed, such as the Raglan Summer School of Art started by Susan Flight. The 1989 photo below shows the cast of Godspell celebrating in the Theatre Workshop.
After the Whaingaroa Work Cooperative moved to their own building at the Kokiri Centre in 1994, management of the Old School passed to the Raglan Community Arts Council. Work has continued on enhancements including a new building behind the Old School for a community pottery in 2001. The Old School was relaunched as the Old School Arts Centre in 2005, after the first step in a new round of renovations had begun. In April 2008, the Raglan Old School was registered as a Historic Place-category II by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. (Photos courtesy of Raglan Museum.)