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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, October 1980

Albion Square – The Provincial Centre of Nelson in the Sixties

Albion SquareThe Provincial Centre of Nelson in the Sixties

The accompanying plan shows other buildings in the Square. Of those buildings the ones that remain (1980) are: One of the Government Schools (Hardy St Girls), one magazine, the Hatching House, the Office Keeper's House. All the others are gone. The other Government school was pulled down in 1979 to make way for the Suter Gallery extensions. It had been used as the School of Mines, then as part of the Art Gallery.

The Provincial Buildings were for many years the centre for all sorts of Nelson activities – Balls, Bazaars, Concerts, Meetings, Classes, Examinations, and even Poultry Shows. Later they were used as Government Offices till they deteriorated to the stage where doors would not shut and joists became so rotten that they crumbled at a touch. It was not unusual for clerks in the Lands and Survey Department to arrive in the morning and find their desks awash with rain water which had come through the tiled roof. The door of the Magistrate's Court had a cautionary notice on the outside, "Do not slam." One slam and the door would have collapsed! Efforts were made to save the building but I believe it was too far gone. (Many people believed that a portion at least of the building could have been retained but the battle was lost.)

KeyAlbion Square

1.Public Offices
2.Observatory
3.Stable
4.Office Keeper's House
5.Girls School
6.Hatching House
7.Salmon Ponds
8.Flour Mill
9.Magazine (2)
10.Dog House
11.Engine House
12.Boys School
13.Pillar Box
page 9

page 10

Magazine: The old brick building is one of a pair of magazines. Its age is not known, but in 1861 the Examiner had this notice from the Provincial Government:

Powder Magazine

Tenders are called for the erection of a Powder Magazine.

A. Domett.

From the 1840s there was a Powder Magazine on the Boulder Bank. The late Charles Johnson remembered how, as a boy, he used to row out to the Powder Magazine on the Boulder Bank and bring back cases of blasting powder and ammunition for the tradespeople to collect. This would mean the Boulder Bank Magazine was in use up to this century.

The Engine House. This housed the fire engine in the 1860s. The history of this building and of the first Fire Brigade has been fully researched by Elizabeth Hansen for the Historic Places Trust and published in their "Records" No. 2, April 1978. The first fire engine (seen recently in a TV advertisement for an insurance company) was housed in an old shed. The Engine House was completed in 1866 and cost rather more than the one hundred pounds ($200) allowed for it by the Council. It was designed by the Assistant Engineer, Henry Handyside, and followed the style of the Provincial Buildings. It remained the main Fire Station for only a short time and is best known for its association with the Maungatapu Murders. "The bodies (of the murdered men) were brought down to Nelson by relays of volunteers who carried them till the dray road was reached when they were placed in a dray and brought to the Government Buildings. After the dead men were placed in the Engine House the Volunteers, headed by Mr C. Saxton, marched down the street to the rooms of the Search Committee at the Trafalgar Hotel amidst the cheers of the crowd who had gathered round them." The whole story may be read in the book – "The Trial of the Maungatapu Murderers in Nelson in 1866." – The Historical Society has some copies.