$ FREE ADMISSION

OPENING HOURS: MON - FRI 10 - 4, SAT - SUN 10 - 2.

OPENING HOURS: MON - FRI 10 - 4, SAT - SUN 10 - 2.

$ FREE ADMISSION   24 Victoria St, Cambridge , NZ

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Cambridge Town

Learn about the history of town and its districts, schools and roads over the years.

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Business Area

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  1. The Old Courthouse building:  Built in 1909 by Fred Potts, was used until 1979 when all local court proceedings went to Hamilton and Te Awamutu. (The previous courthouse had been the officers’ mess and Armed Constabulary barracks left over from the military days).  Cambridge Borough Council (now Waipa District Council) bought the building and lease it to the Cambridge Historical Society at a peppercorn rent.The Cambridge Historical Society Inc. own the Museum Collection and have been gathering Cambridge artefacts and photos, and recording and preserving information since 1956. There had been talk of starting a Museum at the beginning of the 1900s and the local Library displayed pieces of Cambridge history.  The current Museum has been shifted from pillar to post – it was once in the Leamington Sub Power Station (now demolished); under the Town Hall stage; in the old Carnegie Library; and since 1984 in the Old Courthouse.The two cell Lockup now behind the Museum was built in 1905 and was moved from behind the Police Station. At first the Station was attached to the Constable’s house, then in the Drill Hall until a new Police Station was opened in 1954. (Now occupied by Hogan’s, a local Accountant.)The gardens, designed to complement the era of the building are kept by Waipa District Council parks and reserves staff.

  2. Souter House‘ on Victoria Street:  This residence belonged to Captain William Souter, a retired sea captain, whose family in 1877 established a wholesale general store and later a Motor Garage – which later became PGG Wrightsons in Duke Street.  Souter House was designed by Mr James and built about 1875 of Rimu and Kauri, with 13 foot studs, small-pane windows and finials on the roof. These are still intact. With additions to the family over the years, the house grew. In 1991 it was converted to become an elegant restaurant and now, accommodating an accountant’s firm, it is part of the Cambridge business scene.  Protected trees near Souter House are a Coral tree, Black walnut and Copper beech. The Japanese Momi Fir (which looks like a Christmas tree), was planted in 1905 and is considered to be the best specimen in the North Island.

  3. Fort Street – the New Zealand Historic Places Trust:  Around the corner in Fort Street the New Zealand Historic Places Trust have erected a plaque which reads:“On this height in 1864 the 3rdWaikato Militia Regiment built and occupied the Cambridge Redoubt”.  This 9 acre block was the hub of Camp Cambridge when the township was founded in 1864 as a frontier post for the 3rd Waikato Militia. The Star Redoubt was used by the Militia and Armed Constabulary and many families took refuge inside the walls during the Te Kooti scares of 1869 and when j was murdered in 1873.  The redoubt covered 2½ acres and was surrounded by a ditch, 3.6 metres deep by 4.3 metres across. The Armed Constabulary erected walls 4.3 metres high with a double parapet inside. This also protected the men’s huts, stables, cookhouse, blacksmith’s sheds, horses’ forage store and loose box.

  4. The Hitching Rail:  On the corner of Duke and Anzac Streets is one of the last originals in town. Anzac Street began as Chapel Street, as the Wesleyans built the first chapel in Cambridge on this rise in 1867.  It was used by all denominations until the other churches were built. The name Chapel Street was changed in 1916 to commemorate the ANZAC landing on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.  This end of Duke Street has always had a link to the transport industry. It became the domain of the Souters and the Wilkinsons. William and Edwin Souter took over their father’s business in 1888 and became very successful general merchants. They moved into the motor industry and stayed until 1961. The Wilkinsons were in business in Duke Street for 91 years. The firm was started by Arnold Wilkinson in 1888 as plumbers and cycle dealers, and later moved into the motor industry.

  5. The Masonic Hotel:  Built of timber in 1866 for Archibald Clements as Duke Street was the predominant street in early Cambridge. Behind the Masonic is a Box Elder tree which has brilliant yellow bark just before the leaves appear in the spring and ‘helicopter’ seeds in autumn.Anzac Street began as Chapel Street, as the Wesleyans built the first chapel in Cambridge on this rise in 1867. It was used by all denominations until the other churches were built. The name Chapel Street was changed in 1916 to commemorate the ANZAC landing on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

  6. Legal Chambers:  The brick two storey building with a classical facade and Corinthian capitals, was built as Legal Chambers in 1899 for W F Buckland, and was possibly the first brick building in Cambridge. ‘The quoins around the windows, the paired upper floor pilasters with Corinthian capitals and the accentuated cornice mark this as a Beaux Arts style which is typified by elaborate decoration. (ref: NZHPT)

  7. 55 Duke Street: Built in 1928, has an intricately patterned pressed zinc ceiling on the veranda. On the corner of Victoria and Duke Street is the Veale Buildings, also built in 1928 for £4600 from plans by architect James T Douce.

  8. Central Court:  Opposite on the corner of Duke and Empire Streets, is Central Court – formerly the Central Hotel which was formerly the Criterion Hotel, built by Ned Hewitt in 1877.The name changed from Criterion to the Central Hotel in 1908 and today’s building was erected after a fire in 1926, from plans by James T Douce. It was converted into shops in 1977 after being auctioned off when the DB licence went to the Cambridge Tavern in Leamington.  Empire Street was called Brewery Street when a large brewery (which was run by the Hally brothers from 1872) flourished where the Webb Trust block of buildings is now.  The new “old” octagonal Telephone Box on the Empire Street corner was erected in 1990 for Telecom by Gus Wackrow’s Joinery. It was adapted from a 1911 plan and has the nostalgia of the old but convenience of the new. It has since been converted into a open library box, where residents can borrow or trade books.

  9. Chemist’s Mural:  The impressive Mural in Empire Street was painted in 1993 by Kirsten Roberts and portrays a Victorian view of the shops which used to front Victoria Street.

  10. Duke of Cambridge Lodge:  The old meeting hall for the Duke of Cambridge Lodge has been transformed into a retail store.

  11. The new shops in Empire Street are built onto the back of the old Calverts Building.

  12. The Power Board Building:  Built by Speight Pearce Nicoll Davys and joinery man Jack Savory in 1925, from plans by the architects Edgecombe and White at a cost of £3174, 4/6d.

  13. The former RSA:  The former Returned Services Association building was built for an overall cost of £1000 and originally opened, on 20 October 1877, for the Waikato Farmers Club.

  14. SPND: On the corner of Queen and Lake Streets (Bunnings Warehouse) was SPND – Speight Pearce Nicoll & Davys.  Harold Speight bought out the timber department of Souter & Co in 1908 and shortly after went into partnership with a rival timber merchant, Arthur Pearce. In 1910 an accountant Arthur Nicoll joined the firm and then in 1913 builders Henry J Davys and son Henry E Davys completed the quartet. Many talented craftsmen have worked with SPND and their quality workmanship can still be seen in businesses and houses throughout the district.Over the years the firm has changed to Taupo Totara Timber, Benchmark and now Bunnings Warehouse.

  15. The Kissing Gates: The kissing gates and the Cambridge sign are all that is left to indicate that this was the site of the Cambridge Railway Station.


  16. The Pink Church:  The old Presbyterian Church or Cambridge Country Store, was also known as the ‘Pink Church’ until 2016, when it was sold privately in 2017.


  17. The Red Victorian Letterbox:  The Red Victorian Letterbox on the Church of England corner was installed about 1898.The Dr Stapley Memorial Seats also on the Church of England Corner were built by his friends after his sudden death in 1925.

  18. The Town Hall:  The Town Hall was designed by architect A B Herrold and built by Chappell & Woolley with the foundation stone laid 21 April 1909 and the opening ceremony held on 14 December 1909. Originally a Public Hall was built in 1877 for £450 on government land on the corner of Victoria and Duke Streets. The locals raised over £300 and the government gave £100 on the understanding the hall could be used by the Cavalry Volunteers. The architect was David Richardson and builders Simms & Gray. The hall was moved to Empire Street, became a sample room, then a billiard hall, and burnt down in 1939.

  19. The Jubilee Gardens (the triangle of land in front of the Town Hall) were heralded in 1897 with the fanfare, parade, pomp and ceremony that befitted Queen Victoria’s Sixtieth Jubilee. (The surveyors of Cambridge allowed for many reserves including a ‘Green Belt’ of 320 hectares which encircles the town and has been preserved to this day.)The Waikato Times reported on the Cambridge celebration 24 June 1897:’A procession was marshalled opposite the Public Hall with the old Cavalry Volunteers in the van. Captain Runciman, Lieutenant John Fisher, Sergeant Major Robert Fisher, Sergeants Howie and Forrest, Corporals T W Hicks and H Ferguson, Troopers Ed Hewett, J Ferguson, T Walker, J A Fitzgerald, B Ewen, C Potts, C Shaw, G Watts, A McFarlane, G Booth, M Hanlon and bandsman H Webber.The only distinctive mark many of them had was a felt hat turned up on one side with a feather in it.After the cavalry came the councillors, clergy, the band, school children, Domain Board, Freemasons, Oddfellows and the Salvation Army. It was the largest procession seen in the district.’A 17 metre flag pole was erected and the whole of the area fenced.The first ANZAC Day commemoration held in Cambridge was on 25 April 1916. ANZAC was used as a code name for the combined forces of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps which served in the 1st World War. It was not generally in use until after the landing on Gallipoli 25 April 1915.The War Memorial which cost £2000 has recorded 74 men from WW1, 77 men from WW11, and a memorial plaque for the South Africa, Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam wars.Architect Harold White designed the 14 metres high Clock Tower which was erected for £655 by Speight Pearce Nicoll & Davys in 1934.

  20. Victoria Square: Opposite is Victoria Square – formerly known as the Government Acre. At the time of Queen Victoria’s 60th Jubilee, Victoria Square was ploughed, re-grassed and put into order as a permanent place for recreation.The Coronation and Royal Visit Steps were let for tender to A R Hoyle in 1956. They were built to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 and her visit to New Zealand in 1953. The architect was Gorton R Stone. Cambridge subscriptions came to £200 and Council budgeted for the same. The steps were opened in December 1960.

  21. The National Hotel:  Started in 1867 by Robert Kirkwood as the Alpha Hotel. Kirkwood changed the name to the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in 1867, which remained until 1874 when William Laird became a partner and the name changed to the National Hotel.The National Hotel was started in 1867 by Robert Kirkwood as the Alpha Hotel. Kirkwood changed the name to the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in 1867, which remained until 1874 when William Laird became a partner and the name changed to the National Hotel.

  22. Victoria Street Facades:  These include the Calvert Buildings in the middle of the street and show interesting architecture, leadlight windows and pressed zinc ceilings of the 1920s and 1930s.The Median Strip up Victoria Street was added in 1984 much to the chagrin of the locals who relished the ultra wide street (especially for U-turns). The Ministry of Works were upgrading the street lights and needed the strip to protect the poles and make crossing the street safer for pedestrians.

  23. Tudor Picture Theatre:  On the old Tudor Picture Theatre site is a recent addition to Cambridge history, the Victoria Plaza. And down the Plaza is found the Prince Albert, an old-styled English Pub.

  24. Hally’s Lane:  Hally’s Lane is named after John and Helen Hally who had their handsome residence where the carpark is today.

  25. Cambridge Primary School:  The Cambridge Primary School was established and sited in Duke Street in 1869, but children had been taught, off and on, at the barracks in Fort Street.

  26. Volunteer Fire Brigade:  A volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in Cambridge in May 1904 after water was pumped from Moon Creek to the Water Tower in Hamilton Road. A Bucket Brigade had operated from 1879.The station was erected and opened on 24 August 1904 and a hand hose reel, made by local blacksmith John Ferguson, was put into practice immediately with a chimney fire at the Masonic Hotel. The Cambridge Borough Council bought 10 uniforms and a Leap Year Ball was held to raise money to outfit an additional 7 men. The fire siren was installed at the Town Hall in 1922 and still has a trial at 7:30 a.m. every Monday.A new station was needed in the 1920’s but it was not until 1953 that a new brick station was opened. Many volunteers have manned the brigade over the years with women filling the gap during World War Two. Over the years exceptional service has been given by many volunteers. A third station was opened in 2002.“Flick” the station’s vintage Fire Engine is a 1938 Bedford, lovingly restored by the volunteers over eight years. It has its own room at the station in Duke Street along with memorabilia of the Fire Brigade’s history.

  27. Salvation Army Hall:  With arched totara window frames and scalloped barge board, was built in 1907 for just over £400. It is now occupied by the furniture store, Simply Devine.

  28. Bank of New Zealand:  On 8 March 1875 a branch of the Bank of New Zealand was opened in a cottage in Victoria Street. The lower storey of the first BNZ was built across the road in 1875 and the Waikato Times of 23 October 1875 reported :- ‘The building recently erected at Cambridge for the new branch of the Bank of New Zealand, is a very handsome and commodious structure, and far superior to most of the country institutions of the same character. The interior arrangement and fittings have been excellently designed, and efficiently executed. Contiguous to the counting house is a most comfortable and roomy manager’s residence, which has been fitted up in a very superior style. The building was erected from designs by Mr Mahoney, architect, the contractor being Mr McConnichie, and it is highly creditable to both.”In 1885, a second storey was added, providing more spacious living accommodation for the manager. When James Hume, the BNZ manager who organised the building of the first bank, returned to Ngaruawahia in October 1875 he handed over the BNZ agency to Frank Jefcoate Brooks, who was to remain as manager at Cambridge for thirty years.By 1916 this was unsuitable, reports of much worm in the timber being sent to head office by the early 1900s. However, when the bank built new premises in 1916, the old building, by this time closely surrounded by other commercial buildings, was sold. The new brick building, designed by E Mahoney & Son and built by Fred Potts for £4,400, became the cornerstone for Victoria and Duke Streets. In 1974 this structure was deemed ‘an earthquake risk’, it was demolished and the present building put in its place. (The original two-storeyed wooden building was in use until 1990 when it was demolished to make way for a new National Bank building.)The current Bank of New Zealand building is its fourth for Cambridge.  Next door in Duke Street, the tall three-storeyed building was, until the end of 1994, the BNZ’s storage shed (originally the Bank Manager’s car shed.) The two top storeys have been added to the original concrete ‘shed’ and is an interesting example of how old buildings can be recycled.

  29. Cambridge Post Office: The opening of the new Cambridge Post Office on 15 February 1908 was a gala occasion when the Prime Minister (Sir) Joseph Ward, came to Cambridge to do the honours. NZ Post moved to Duke Street in October 2004. Outside the old Post Office building, now occupied by the GPO Bar & Brasserie, is the Surveyors’ Old Chain Measure. Two brass plaques with an arrow on each.In Queen Street there are two more square brass discs set in concrete. They are similar to the Post Office ones, but without the arrows. Perhaps these were a ‘set’?  They are very similar to the Chain Mark outside the old Government Buildings in Wellington which has a notice to say they were laid down in 1879 to set the Land Survey Standard throughout New Zealand.The NZ Historic Places magazine of 1991 says that – ‘Nelson’s five chain test base was laid in 1877 and ran across Albion Square.’ This sounds similar to our two in Queen Street.  A chain measure at Whanganui is registered as a Category 1 historic place by the NZ Historic Places Trust. The NZHPT magazine of September 1995 says that the only chains that exist are in Nelson and Whanganui. ‘The chain measure consisted of a four inch square of concrete set in the ground with a brass hook at one end to which the Gunther chain was hooked for checking.’  As well as the one in Wellington and ours in Cambridge, there is reason to believe there is another in the courtyard of the Provincial Government Buildings in Christchurch. But perhaps we have two sets? Or were the two with the arrows, now outside the Post Office, originally in Queen Street?End your Heritage Trail at the Cambridge Museum and wander through the fascinating collection of Cambridge stories.