Press Release – Historic Places Trust
The Heritage of Education is the theme of this year’s International Day for Monuments and Sites on April 18 – a day that highlights and celebrates different aspects of heritage, organised by ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites). And according to the NZ Historic Places Trust’s Heritage Adviser Registration, Martin Jones, one central Auckland landmark fits the education heritage criteria perfectly.
“The former Campbell Free Kindergarten near Victoria Park is believed to have been the first purpose-built free kindergarten established in New Zealand, and was registered as a Category 1 historic place in 2004 in recognition of its importance,” says Martin.
“Besides being an early example of Arts and Crafts architecture designed by Charles Le Neve Arnold, it also has great social and cultural significance.”
The kindergarten was established in Freemans Bay in 1910 – a time when some of the poorest families in Auckland lived in the waterfront suburb. The neighbourhood was characterised by its industrial foreshore with large sheds, smoke-belching factories and timber stacks, as well as roads that quickly became muddy and rutted after rain.
“During the late nineteenth century, education was increasingly seen as a means of helping the poor to help themselves. It was felt that the poor could be taught to abandon perceived bad habits such as laziness, drunkenness and financial irresponsibility through education, and thus improve their lives. The earlier in life that this education began, the more likely it was to have an effect,” says Martin.
“It was in this context that the Auckland Kindergarten Association was formed in 1908, and the Campbell Free Kindergarten – described at the time as the ‘finest kindergarten in the Southern Hemisphere – was built two years later.”
Kindergartens were seen as a way of resolving a variety of social ills. Strategically located in the heart of Freemans Bay’s mean streets, the kindergarten provided free care and education for 60 boys and girls aged between three and five. Activities included singing, outdoor games, building model railways and experimenting with blocks and other play materials.
One of the early leading lights of the Auckland Kindergarten Association, Martha Washington Myers, wrote: ‘Here we help them to love order and cleanliness; to be obedient, courteous and truthful; to be helpful and happy, and to develop little fingers in useful work.’
Myers had powerful supporters – including Sir John Logan Campbell, who funded the construction of the kindergarten so that ‘a good work should not be delayed’. The building was named after him in recognition of his support.
“The former Campbell Free Kindergarten has tremendous social significance for Aucklanders, having played an important role in the lives of the children of Freemans Bay and their parents for half a century,” says Martin.
“The building is still a wonderful landmark, and has benefited recently from significant conservation work both inside and out.”
According to Jenny May, the Chair of ICOMOS New Zealand, the International Day for Monuments and Sites seeks to encourage local communities and individuals around the world to consider the importance of cultural heritage to their lives, identities and communities.
“Education in New Zealand was practised in a wide range of places – including densely populated, lower socio-economic suburbs like Freemans Bay. Buildings and sites associated with early education initiatives – like the former Campbell Free Kindergarten – are a significant part of our social and cultural heritage,” she says.
“The International Day for Monuments and Sites provides a good opportunity for us to reflect on the very important part education has played in the evolution of our cultural and built heritage.”