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 a Category II registered building with the Heritage New Zealand. 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 Street, which he completed in 1883 using local kauri.
Former pupil Elsie Fitz William (nee Rendell) 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 enclosed to form a 4-metre by 5-metre room.
Then in 1906, as the roll had moved up to 64, a new classroom was built in kauri to the left of the old porch. With the roll reaching 100, a fourth classroom was built using rimu timber onto the right side of the building in 1929.
Teaching ended at Stewart Street in 1962 with all classes taught at the Norrie Avenue site of the Raglan Area School.
1910 photo shows a timber lath roof on the original RHS room built in 1883 and a corrugated iron roof on LHS 1906 addition.
In 1961 the building and land were vested in the Waikato District Council’s predecessor, the Raglan County Council. The following 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.
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.”
Elsie Fitz William recalls, “…halfway 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.”
The Raglan County Council then looked at demolishing the building. But a campaign led by Glen Young – first chairperson of the RCAC, and Tuaiwa Eva Rickard (nee Kereopa) – a local kuia, saw lawyer Ronald Young (a former High Court judge) achieve legal protection for the Old School under the Historic Places Act. Leading up to that Eva Rickard, Shelley Sikisini, Yvonne Latrobe and other young women came in to the building and occupied it. They set up a committee (The Whaingaroa Arts & Works Centre) and then negotiated with the Raglan County Council.
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.
In the room to the left of the front entrance, the first Kohanga Reo for Raglan began with 8 children in 1985. In 1986, in the room to the right of the front entrance, Marizio Sarzini tutored art classes for Whaingaroa Kite Whenua Trust. Literacy classes held by Mike Bell and Jackie Keelan Davies saw unemployed youth publish the Karioi Times, predecessor of what is now the Raglan Chronicle.
In what is now the Arts Centre office, the Whaingaroa Credit Union operated for a few years in the 1980s after the Post Office closed.
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.
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/ Clay Shed 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 Heritage New Zealand.
In 2010, the St Lararus building with a commercial kitchen and art studio was built behind the Old School. The new building was opened by Tex Rickard. The small kitchen was removed from the entry foyer of the Old School building in conjunction with this and the foyer was redecorated.
In 2018 work began on the Creative Space building to replace two metal weatherboard garages used by Raglan Lions and the Clay Shed group. This building came into use from January 2020.
Information and photos from Raglan Community Arts Council archives and notes provided by Angeline Greensill. Some photos courtesy of Raglan Museum.