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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972

By Angus Tetley

The old Drill Hall which stands next to the Primary School in Wood Street was designed and built under the supervision of my Grandfather, Mr. William Tetley an architect who arrived in Paeroa in 1880. He was responsible for the designing and erection of many of the older buildings in Paeroa, Waihi, and the surrounding districts until shortly before his death in December 1906. That Drill Hall is exactly the same now (with one small exception) when it was built 70 years ago in 1902, which is a monument to the efficiency of the builders of those earlier days. The exception is that the original large double doors facing Wood Street, have been replaced by a sliding door.

The following account of its construction and official opening was taken from an old diary written by my Grandfather in the years 1901 - 2. Although I have no official knowledge of who authorised its construction and paid for its erection, it must be presumed that it was built as a Headquarters for the 6th Hauraki Regiment, and was therefore authorised by the Government.

Tenders for its erection were called for during November 1901. Entries were copied from the diary as follows:-

"Tenders closed for the erection of the Drill Hall. Opened them at Mrs. Capill's (Boarding House). Eight tenders were received:-

Fitzpatrick and Boyd

Paeroa

£658. 0. 0

Wm. Dudley and Geo. Frith

Te Aroha

£576. 0. 0

Jno. Clark and Company

Karangahake

£680. 0. 0

Jenkins and Cashen

Waikino

£727. 0. 0

Hector Judge

Waihi

£759. 0. 0

Sam. Craig

Paeroa

£678. 0. 0

M. W. Hayes

Waihi

£645.10. 0

F. Douglas

Paeroa

£642. 0. 0

Tues. 10th Dec. "Dudley and Frith signed the contract for the erection of the Drill Hall."

Mon. 6th Jan. 1902. "The contractors commenced putting in the blocks."

Tues. 7th Jan. "Visited the Drill Hall and found that in the way it set out on the ground, there was not sufficient room for a road to the side entrances. Saw Capt. McArthur regarding it, and he said it could not be altered and that he would try to get some more land from the Government." (During the next 4 weeks he inspected the progress 12 times).

Tues. 4th Feb. Went to Drill Hall to ascertain what amount of progress payment is due to the contractors. Estimated that £344 is the value of materials on the ground and work done, 75% of which is £258 for which amount I have made out an order."

Thurs. 6th March. "Courtney Kenny and I fixed the level pegs in the floor."

Fri. 14th March. "Inspected Drill Hall. The flagstaff was erected and the flag flying for the first time."

Thurs. 20th March. "Went to settle up with Messrs Dudley and Frith the contractors. Made out the final certificate for them on their contract amounting to £339.5.6.

Wed. 9th April. "Went to Paeroa to see about giving a few finishing touches to the Drill Hall in the way of doing a little levelling up in front. I also took some photographs and pieces of jewellery which John Wm. (J.W. Tetley) had sent from South Africa, which we have loaned to be placed in the museum at the Bazaar to be held in the Drill Hall to raise funds for the purchase of new uniforms".

Thurs. 10th April. "Went to the opening of the Drill Hall in the afternoon. It was opened by Major Reid. The proceeds of the day from the Bazaar was about £80".

Fri. 11th April. "Went to the Carnival and Bazaar in the afternoon and remained until it closed in the evening. The sale of useful and ornamental articles was energetically pushed by a large staff of ladies. The Museum was well got up; it contained many curios and mementos from South Africa, including shells made at Kimberley, Transvaal coins, and numerous photographs of British and Boer soldiers etc. The shooting gallery which was superintended by Sergeant Edward Shaw was remarkably well patronized".

Sat. 12th April. Went to Paeroa in the morning and saw Mr. Porritt and Mr. McArthur re final payment to the contractors. They were willing to pay as soon as I would certify that everything in the Drill Hall is properly finished. The carnival was continued this evening. In the three nights there was realized from the shooting gallery £6/2/0, from the Museum £5/0/0, from the Gipsy tent (fortune telling) £5/0/0. The total gross amount received is £140".

Sat. 19th April. "Went to draw fees for professional work at the Drill Hall £29 and to see the contractor re doing some little jobs".

This completes the entries in connection with the building of the Drill Hall, but the following entry on Friday 22nd August 1902 may be of interest.

"In the evening I attended a meeting of the Bradford Memorial Committee at the Drill Hall, which was called to select the fountain to be erected on Kakaipo Hill".

NOTE: We quote the following Military data from the N.Z. Cyclopedia, I900.

"The Paeroa No.1 Ohinemuri Rifle Volunteer Corps was founded in July 1897 by Captain F.D. Fergusson who had long been connected with volunteer movement elsewhere. After wide experience as a Teacher he had been appointed to represent the Govt. Insurance Dept. on the Goldfields in 1895, later being Returning Officer and Registrar of Electors for this district. He also raised the Karangahake No.2 and the Waihi No.3 Corps - all forming part of the No.2 Battery of Auckland Rifle Volunteers, after 1898 known as the Hauraki Regiment with Headquarters at Paeroa.

The Commanding Officer of the new battalion was Major Thomas Nepean Kenny, surveyor and County Clerk of Paeroa, but in 1900 he was succeeded by Major E.W. Porritt, Solicitor, of Paeroa, formerly Battalion Adjutant. (A year later he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel). It is recorded that in 1900 the No.1 Corps had the full strength of 63 members including its Officers, Captain D. McArthur and Lieu. A.C. Hubbard. Five men from this Company went to the South African War where Colour-Sergeant Bradford of Paeroa was the first British Soldier to fall. (The returned men were: Avery, Dick Hubbard, McPherson, Shaw and J.W. Tetley.)

In 1907 the Company's first battle honours, "South Africa 1900-1902" were conferred by King Edward VII, and in 1909 when Volunteer Units became merged the new Territorial organisation the Hauraki Battalion became the VI Hauraki Regiment. In 1911 Bernard Freyberg of Morrinsville, then aged 23, was appointed 2nd Lieu. in the Hauraki Regiment.