Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970

By C.W. Malcolm, B.A.

It was 3 o'clock, that bewitching hour of our schooldays, the hour when school is out, and we turn our faces homeward. At this hour, on 20 November 1769 [corrected from 19th as suggested in Journal 14 – E], Captain Cook, having been ashore since noon, ended his brief sojourn in the vicinity of Netherton on the west bank of the river, named it the Thames, and dropped downstream with pinnace and longboat to rejoin the "Endeavour" at anchor in the firth. The first white man had seen what was to become Netherton.

Netherton has another link with history. In one of his well-remembered speeches, Lord Cobham, then Governor General of New Zealand, reminded us: "Today the Black Country represents the industrial heart of England, the home of progressive and enlightened industry. But for centuries before the Black Country was heard of, the old traditional English crafts had been plied in the North Worcestershire villages. From Cradley came the nails and from Netherton the anchor-chains which were used in Drake's ships which defeated the Armada. Today those same things are being made, rather differently it is true, in Cradley and Netherton, by the descendants of those old craftsmen".

In the 1880s, Netherton's first settler, Mr. Samuel Chalton, arrived and commenced to carve his farm out of the bush that Cook had seen on the river bank over a century before. When the writer was headmaster of the Netherton School (1937-1945) he used to visit with his senior pupils a spot on the river bank not far from where the dairy factory stood for many years; here very old fruit trees appeared to identify the site of the first homestead. Passing steamers on the way to and from Paeroa threw the Chaltons mail ashore, the bag sometimes falling into the river. As other settlers arrived, the Chalton home became the post office with the local Maori name of Te Kopuru, but confusion arising with another similarly named place, Mr. Chalton adopted the name of "Netherton" after his old home in England. Thus Netherton became one of the few places in the district not bearing a Maori name.

Somewhere about the same spot Netherton's first school was established in the 1880s. The settlers had arranged for the education of their children by private tutor, each pupil paying a shilling per week. The building, 14 feet by 12 feet, had been erected by two of the settlers, Messrs Moore and Adamson.

Records of the Auckland Education Board which were made available to the writer, show that in March 1889, Messrs William Moore and John Adamson made application for the establishment of a public school at Netherton. There were then nine inhabited houses and fifteen children between the ages of five and fifteen years. The applicants offered to hand over their building being used for the private school, or to provide land for a new school in a more central position.

Mr. Fidler, Inspector of Schools, was directed to report. His experience indicates the inaccessibility of Netherton in the 1880s. He reports how he rode from Karangahake to Netherton, arriving on the right bank where he "spent two hours bawling to try to make the punt-keeper, Mr. McKee hear". But Mr. McKee did not hear, neither did he appear to ferry this important visitor across the river. It was May 24, the Queen's (Victoria's) Birthday perhaps the ferryman was celebrating the occasion by taking the public holiday. Mr. Fidler describes what he calls "a disagreeable adventure scrambling in the bush" in an attempt to make himself heard by some other settler across the river - without success. He returned to Auckland the next day, Saturday, with the intention of again trying to reach Netherton when next in Thames.

But the settlers, ignorant of Mr. Fidler's heroic efforts, complained of his non-appearance, and it was Inspector Goodwin who, in December, 1889, recommended to the Auckland Education Board that an "Aided" School be established in the existing building. Mr. Moore asked the Board to send furniture and teacher by the next steamer, stating "I will look after both".

The school was to open in May 1890, Miss. Annie Lamb to be the teacher. But now a hitch occurred! The Turua School Committee, hearing of these developments, objected, on the grounds that they should have been consulted as the area lay within their boundaries. They stated that they were unable to pay any part of the teacher's salary and declared that the district was unsuitable for a young lady teacher. Miss Lamb was, nevertheless, quite willing to take up her appointment but, strangely enough, was unable to find accommodation. Mr. A.J.C. Hall therefore became the first teacher, opening the school at the beginning of July, 1890, in the original building which had in the meantime been removed to a new site. (On the Old Netherton-Paeroa Road - see sketch-map).

The school was a nine-day wonder! On 9th July, with all its furniture and effects, it was destroyed by fire. A defective chimney was blamed. But this would not happen again, for the building which was quickly erected to replace it was to have no fireplace! The settlers immediately ordered timber to build the new school for which the Auckland Education Board granted the sum of ten pounds! In this building school resumed in the middle of October, 1890. What the pupils must have endured is revealed when in March 1893 the parents complained to the Board that their school was badly constructed, needed renovation, required raising 18 inches from the ground, was ill-ventilated, and had neither fireplace, porch, nor shelter-shed! The Board on this occasion granted a more liberal sum to enable the work to be carried out - £24- (twenty-four pounds).

The roll by April 1895 had reached 28 pupils and an agitation for a better site for a larger school was begun. A petition was supported by the Turua School Committee which also recommended the creation of a separate School District for Netherton. This was constituted in January 1898, a householders' meeting electing Netherton's first School Committee on January 22nd.

In March 1901 school opened in a new one-roomed building costing £194-, on two acres of the present site, a valuable corner section given free by Mr. F.J.D. Adamson. In 1910 a five-roomed teacher's residence, costing £425, and still in use (1970), was built. In 1916 with the roll over 70, the school and its porch were extended to make a second classroom. Serious overcrowding was suffered from 1919 till 1921 when a third class-room, costing over £700 was added. About the same time the grounds were extended by the purchase of a further two acres from Mr. Adamson at a cost of £300, the increased area being necessary to paddock the horses on which the children rode to school.

In 1941, in view of the condition of the original part of the school, an openair type infant block with staffroom, storeroom, and cloakroom was built, later to be extended by the addition of further classrooms. In 1940 with the coming of the Hauraki Plains Water Supply, the school was provided with a concrete swimming pool, one of the first in the Auckland area.

On 19th and 20th August 1966, the old school building was divided into its three historic sections and removed to become the property of an Awaiti farmer. There was no ceremony, except that the writer was granted leave by the Auckland Education Board to be present to bid farewell to the school where he had served his first headmastership, and a school building in which so many splendid citizens and brilliant scholars had received their education – a Rhodes Scholar (Dr. Graham Jeffries), a couple of B.E. s, a B.Ag.Sc., a George Medal winner (Hamish Wilson), a woman pilot (Lois Mudford), and many more – since prominent in many walks of life. The old school has been replaced by a modern block parallel with the main road and opened by the Minister of Education, the Hon. A.E. Kinsella, on 9th December, 1966.

Many will miss the old landmark as they also lament the sad disappearance of the majestic oak and plane trees that once lent their grateful shade to the lawns that gave so picturesque a setting to the school for so many years but which had to give way before the modern buildings!


Alfred J.C. Hall


Sophia Wilson


Edward H. Mackay


Thomas D. Rice


John S. Phillips

(1916-1917 during absence of Mr. Rice at War)

Fergus G. White


Charles W. Malcolm


Ernest C. Morgan


Bowen C. Miller


John M. Thornton


Gordon S. Bayly


William A. Paul



SCHOOL RECORDS: Unfortunately there appear to be no records in existence of the early School Committees who so well served the School and District. When the writer was head teacher there were, fortunately, still in existence all the early rolls and from these the following list was made of the earliest enrolments in order as they were placed on the roll of the School:


James McKee


Beatrice Moore


Emily Wyatt


Robert McKee


Robert Styles


William Eyton


William Moore


Horace Styles


George Fisher


Emmett Jamieson


Grace Johnson


James Fisher


David McKee


Mabel Johnson


Gordon Fisher


Samuel McKee


Frederick Johnson


Gladys Fisher


Walter Moore


Margaret Styles


Frank McKee


Frank Moore


Joel Fisher


Alicia Fisher


Clara Moore


Francis Fisher


Colin Fisher


Isabella Adamson


Mary Fisher


Lily Fisher


Louisa Adamson


Amos Fisher


Lorie Fisher


Ellen Moore


Walter Fisher


Hare Hautonga


Alexandra Moore


Ellen Fisher


Stanley Fisher


Emily Adamson


Mabel Fisher


Violet Fisher


James Hamilton


Lucy Fisher


Zillah Johnson


Annie Styles


Stephen Fisher


Arthur Fisher


Joseph KcKee


Frederick Wyatt


Among the second 50 names are to be found: Fishers, Johnsons, Adamsons, Dennerlys, Northcotts, and others familiarly known: Mary & Vida Vowles. Mabel & Bertha Stock. Dulcie Elsby, Gordon & Eric Chalton. John& Alexander Morrison.

NOTE: Mr. Rice was H.M. of Puhoi, Waitekauri, Waihou and Netherton schools. He left the latter to join the forces in World War 1, was wounded and returned to teach there again till 1931. He died in 1947 and was given a military funeral by the Paeroa R.S.A. There were 6 children; survivors being Mrs. K.A. Handley, (Paeroa) and Mr. Howard Rice, (Auckland).

Hand Drawn Sketch of Netherton District

Hand Drawn Sketch of Netherton District

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970
Hand Drawn Sketch of Netherton District