I’ve always been curious about the very decorative little building you can see from the bypass so I thought I’d stop, take a photo and do some research……
It’s a small but spectacular little gem near the main street in Temuka. This amazingly ornate little building was constructed in 1900-01 and used up until as recently as 1979 as a functioning courthouse. Currently used as a museum, although it is only open to the public on Sunday afternoons from 2-4pm Oct through to June. It has a Historic Place Category 2 listing and is considered to be on of New Zealand’s finest small town public buildings.
A Government architect of the age, John Campbell designed many public buildings throughout the country during the time of his employment between 1890 and 1922. Campbell was a very busy character and often had little time to create new designs for such buildings so sometimes he approved transitional Baroque designs draughted in the late 1890’s to be erected again. Therefore the approved design for the Temuka Courthouse built in 1901 was redraughted in May 1903 and constructed in 1905 as the Bluff Court house….a twin? The authorship of the original design is uncertain. While the Temuka Court house has been credited to a George Schwartz, John Campbell's signature appears on the drawings for Bluff Court.
Regardless of the authorship the design the increasingly popular and more overt Baroque style of the court houses would no doubt have appealed to Campbell in the first two decades of the twentieth century.
The building is constructed completely of red brick. Many Baroque elements were incorporated in the design, such as the oversize keystones near the door. The gable capped with a scroll pediment and pierced by a finial. The curved aprons under the windows, the fanlight over the doorway and the reference to it in the impressed decoration in the design of the gable. The blind arcade incorporated in the parapet; and the ribbed chimney stacks with triangular pediments, testify to the growing Baroque eclecticism the Public Works Department's architecture.
It’s just lovely to see it there, well maintained and in good order, it has a purpose and is worth a look when you are passing through Temuka on your next trip.